A few days ago, early last Saturday morning to be precise, Sean and I had a complete breakdown in communication.
We were at the Farmer's Market, me with one perched on my hip and another clasping my hand, and Sean across the way. It was a busy morning, so while our boys snacked on their standard sample from the nearby bakery, Sean waded into the current of people to gather our purchases.
Usually, our over-and-through-the-crowd brand of semaphore works a treat. This time, not so much. With all the hustle and bustle, our signals got crossed and the quantities of our request was lost in translation. Long story short, we ended up with a surfeit of corn. Double the intended amount, to be exact.
Not a terrible mistake, by any means, as the corn in question was fresh, local stuff, with neat rows of bicoloured kernels nestled snugly under tender green husks. Not terrible in the least.
A first impulse would be to tear back that blanket of green and roast the Dickens out of those ears atop a charcoal grill. Blistered black and concentrated sweet, I would gleefully dig in to the barbecued beauties. Or steamed tender-crisp, with a smear of sweet butter and scattering of crunchy flakes of salt - there were days of possibilities for our plenty.
The trouble was, more than a few of those possibilities included the application of heat. And did I mention to you that Summer huffed and puffed our way last week? With sweaty palms and hot breath, the season (finally) truly settled in on the 15th of August. And, no doubt about it, Summer is making up for lost time.
As I write this, it is 40°C with the humidex (104°F). While I am not all that bothered by the temperatures, by far preferring hot over cold, my boys are wilting more than a little bit. The heat has kept their mops eternally mussed, their ruddy cheeks shine with a thin sheen of perspiration and their kisses have turned salty.
You can understand then, that I am not in the least inclined to crank up the oven and overheat our happy home or add any fire to our already-sultry backyard.
As luck would have it, a little while prior to our misunderstanding at the market*, I had enjoyed this salad from Anna Olson. Served at her shop, it was subtle and sweet, but my version alters hers ever so slightly; here, there is oomph to be had.
Stripped from the cob, plump gold and ivory nuggets glisten with a slick of olive oil in a pan for nothing but the shortest of sojourns, then it's a tumble with an edible confetti of shallots, chili, green onion and herbs. The blueberries are next, an addition that brings musky depth and even more mouth-quenching moisture. Squeeze on some lime, crumble over brackish nuggets of fresh cheese, and off it all goes to chill.
In the intervening minutes between mix and serve is when everything happens. The corn turns sweeter, it's flavour amplified by the citrus and complimented by berries that shimmer onyx-bright. Fresh onion contrasts mellowed, cooked tones, the chilies release gentle heat into it all.
May all misunderstandings result in such dividends.
* It might just be the temperature finally getting to me, but doesn't The Misunderstanding at the Market sound like the title to an Agatha Christie mystery? Or at least a Harlequin romance novel?
Blueberry Corn Salad
Adapted from a recipe by Anna Olson. Queso fresco is a fresh Mexican cheese that has a mild, creamy taste.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling (optional)
3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 red chilies, finely minced, seeded if desired
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup crumbled feta or queso fresco
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, then the corn. Sauté for about 2 minutes, until the corn begins to brighten in colour. Add the shallot and cook for 1 minute more, stirring often. Remove pan from the heat, stir in the green onion and red chilies. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Allow the vegetables to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, combine the corn mixture with the blueberries and cilantro tossing gently to combine. Pour over the lime juice, along with an extra glug of olive oil if desired. Stir again, then gently fold in the feta or queso fresco. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, checking for seasoning before serving.