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Grilled corn the base for a delicious salad

Recipe: Late-spring combination works for summer cookouts, too

A cilantro-lime dressing ties together the grilled vegetables in this salad. Add sliced grilled chicken or other protein to make it an entree dish.

A cilantro-lime dressing ties together the grilled vegetables in this salad. Add sliced grilled chicken or other protein to make it an entree dish. Kathy Morrison

Corn, pepper and onion
Start with fresh corn, then customize the
salad to taste.

Fresh corn is available for months, but the early crop certainly draws the most excitement. This recipe works for the entire harvest season, and is adaptable as can be. Include any favorite vegetables -- or stone fruits -- grilled or not. Double or even triple the recipe for a large gathering.

But the corn should be grilled, or at least broiled, for the salad. The kernels turn a bit chewy and quite nutty, which will be balanced by the cilantro-lime dressing. The only other "must" ingredient, I think, is the chopped celery, which contrasts so beautifully with the corn in taste and texture.

I added slices of grilled chicken breast to this, but grilled tofu or pork would be other good (but strictly optional) protein additions.

Not a fan of cilantro? Skip this dressing and use a light vinaigrette with some chopped basil thrown in.

Grilled corn salad with cilantro-lime dressing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 ears of fresh corn, yellow or white, husked

Olive oil

3 stalks celery

1 red bell pepper

1 large red onion

Optional fresh additions: 2 zucchini squashes, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 peeled and seeded cucumber, 1 ripe avocado (or save for garnish), 1 yellow peach or nectarine

Optional prepared additions: 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained and shopped); 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed), 1/2 cup sliced black olives (drained)

Dressing:

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Apple cider vinegar, as needed

For garnish:

1 avocado, sliced

Additional cherry tomatoes

Mixed baby greens, to line serving dish

Instructions:

Heat grill or broiler for high heat.

4 frilled ears of corn
The right amount of charr for the corn.

Rub the ears of corn with some of the olive oil, then grill, turning often, until all sides are lightly charred (see photo). Note: Corn can burn, thanks to all the sugar in it, so don't walk away.  Also use a little olive oil on the other vegetables for the salad that can be grilled at the same time, including the bell pepper (left whole), the onion (cut into thick slices), and/or the zucchini (trimmed and halved lengthwise).

Remove the ears from heat and allow to cool. This step can be done hours ahead of serving.

If grilling the pepper,  remove from heat when it's charred all over and place in a paper bag to steam. This will help peeling it after it cools. Remove any other vegetables being grilled when they have some charr but are still crisp. Allow to cool before chopping.

While the vegetables are cooling, prepare the dressing. The cilantro should be roughly chopped. Place the cilantro and the lime juice in a blender or food processor. With the motor running on medium, combine the cilantro and lime juice briefly. Then slowly pour in the 1/2 cup olive oil to make an emulsion. When that is well-blended, stop the blender and taste the dressing. Adjust the seasoning using desired amount of salt, pepper, cayenne and cider vinegar. Set dressing aside until ready to use.

Using a large bowl to catch the kernels, cut the corn from the cobs. Then chop and add the celery and any other fresh vegetables -- the avocado can be saved for garnish -- and any that were grilled. Stir in any prepared vegetables.

Corn being cut off cob
A sharp serrated knife is useful for
cutting the kernels from the cob.

I used the same bowl for serving, but move the salad to a serving bowl or platter if desired. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad, and stir gently to combine. Taste and add more dressing as desired. Garnish with mixed greens and the avocado and serve, or chill until ready to serve. The salad stands up to chilling but wait to garnish until serving time.

Note: If adding grilled chicken or other protein, stir it in with the prepared vegetables or use it as garnish. 

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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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