We moved to Louisiana 4 years ago last month and I was fully expecting semi-tropical weather year-round, that I would never need a jacket; heck, I probably would never even need pants (I would wear shorts, all of you dirty-minded smart alecks out there). When our plane left Salt Lake City, it was 9 degrees and the wind was blowing our faces off, so yes, when we landed in Louisiana, the balmy 42 degrees felt positively tropical.
And then I realized that just like humid summers aren’t the same as arid Utah summers, humid cold is completely different as well. It’s like living in a basement all the time in the winter. Your blankets feel kind of damp and cold all the time. It seeps into your bones. And, at least in my particular neck of the Louisiana woods, it is rainy and dreary with no leaves on the trees, but no snow to cover up the ugliness. And I decided that in spite of the fact that even though not SO cold that I have to wear pantyhose here (usually), winter is not really my favorite season. No matter where I am.
Until this winter. It’s February and we’re hitting the 70+ degree mark on a fairly regular basis. It’s been plenty rainy, but plenty sunny and breezy as well; it’s kind of like spring that’s been going on for 3, almost 4 months. Yes, this probably means we’re in for a summer sponsored by the Prince of Darkness himself, but until then, I am grilling and eating summer produce and pretending that it’s not the dreariest month of the year. Because it’s not dreary at all–this has been the best winter in my whole life. Not being over-dramatic at all.
Between my unseasonable cooking and the fact that I’m on a Mexican food kick (which will continue on Friday…can’t help myself), this corn salad has been right up my alley. And by “salad,” I mean something that you can eat with your favorite grilled Mexican food or tacos or a spoon straight from the source, as well as “salad,” which is a word we sometimes give marinated grains and vegetables so we can feel better about ourselves when we eat them on tortilla chips. Which I totally recommend here.
You’ll need 4 cups of fresh or frozen corn (it’s about 8 cobs of corn or 2 12-ounce bags), 1 large chopped red bell pepper, 1 small minced red onion, a jalapeno pepper (seeded if you’re watching out for the heat, although there’s so much going on in this salad that even if you’re cautious, you might want to add a few seeds), 8 ounces of crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese (you can use crumbled feta if you’re having a hard time finding the other two), about 6 ounces of our Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette, a seeded, cubed, and peeled avocado, and some kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Taste. Add a little more dressing if necessary. Determine that you’re going to need a larger bowl and transfer the salad to said bowl. Realize all the bowls you’ve used and discarded are going to have to be hand-washed because they’re not going to fit in your dishwasher. Kick yourself for lack of foresight. Refrigerate your large bowl of salad until ready to serve.
Before serving, add the cubed avocado and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Corn Salad with Queso Fresco
Recipe adapted by Our Best Bites from Better Homes & Gardens Mexican
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
8 ounces queso fresco or cotija cheese
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (and seeded if desired)
1/2 recipe (about 6 ounces) Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional: For an easy one-dish meal, add leftover rotisserie chicken
Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large stock pot. When the water boils, add the corn and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse and then add to a large bowl. Toss together the corn, red bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno pepper, and crumbled cheese. Toss with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette. Chill until ready to serve. Right before serving, gently toss in the avocado and season with salt and pepper. Serves 10-12.