Cucumber Corn Crack Salad
It was my birthday a couple
weeks months back, and I'm officially old. I'm at least old enough that people let me plan my own birthdays, so I got to mostly ignore it and then eat pavlova. My friends give me a hard time for making my own birthday cake... but also, nobody really wants to make a meringue, least of all in 100+ degree weather. Also, I'm bossy, so people let me host my own damned birthday like I want to.
This year I also made a pitcher of this cocktail, an excellent version of a Pimm's cup. I don't make drinks that often anymore, so I tend to repeat old favorites. This one in particular always reminds me of the summer I spent in Providence, living in my first college apartment. I took an EMT class, worked in a lab, made dozens of plans I wouldn't keep. It was also the first time since leaving home I'd had a kitchen, dorms notwithstanding, and we leaned in- I learned to like runny eggs, and to make hollandaise and mojitos and chile rellenos. It was a good summer.
It was also that summer I learned this salad, a classic from my roommate-friend's childhood kitchen and now a regular in mine. It was sticky-hot on the second floor of our apartment, and I watched my friend's mom make it on our brand-new kitchen island. She then left to do something useful and underappreciated, like buying us a smoke alarm, and by the time she got back we'd eaten the whole bowl and were requesting the recipe.
Unfortunately, there wasn't one- my friend's mom just messes around with vegetables until she hits on a formula that works- but the ingredient list was short and the process (chop, combine) easy enough to replicate. We named it crack salad (original, I know) and I'm pretty sure we made it twice a week for three months. It seems impossible, but so does the fact that said summer was now seven years ago, the freshman I befriended in EMT class a full fledged doctor, and myself nearing 30.
In current summer news, it’s September (!?), which means we’ve only got a couple more weeks of corn and cucumber season. So make salad while you’re young, or something. Regardless, make this salad. I promise, it’s worth the melancholy.
Cucumber Corn Salad
A quick note on amounts: the friend in question makes this thing by sight, in her words aiming for 'the colors to be balanced'. I'm not nearly as artistic, and tend to adjust recipes based on the volume of ingredients I have on hand, which is generally the size they're sold in. (The grocery closest to us in Providence sold feta in 8-oz blocks, so now I make this salad with eight ounces of feta). Feel free, of course, to play with the proportions at your leisure. I'm sure my friend's mom would approve.
1 cucumber (the size they shrink-wrap) or equivalent
4 cups corn kernels (from 2 cans, drained or 3-4 ears)
1 red onion
8 oz feta, crumbled
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and thinner stems finely chopped
3-4 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Peel the cucumber and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. If your cucumber doesn't have tons of seeds, or is smaller, this might not be necessary- I'm just aiming to make sure everything isn't super wet. Dice the cucumber and onion pretty finely; in general, I aim for the onion and cucumber to both be chopped to about the same size as a kernel of corn.
Add the cucumber, corn, onion and cilantro to a bowl and toss. Crumble the feta on top, then add lemon juice and olive oil. I like to start with only two tablespoons each of lemon and olive oil and work up from there, but it's entirely up to you. Toss again, then taste for seasoning- you want to be able to taste a little lemon, but not have it overpower everything else. Add salt and black pepper (I like quite a bit of the latter), toss again and serve.