No Labor Required

Always sneaking up without warning and consequently inspiring nothing but confusion, Labor Day is a bit of an odd-ball holiday that never fails to catch me off guard.  Here I am, finally getting used to the heat of summer and enjoying the abundance of tomatoes, and all of a sudden, you’re telling me that it’s officially time to transition into fall?  And, what’s this, school is already back in session?  Not so fast!  I’m not ready to relinquish my flip flops and luxuriously long days of sunlight!  To add insult to the abrupt interruption, no matter who I ask, I still can’t figure out what one is supposed to celebrate or even do on Labor Day, besides have a picnic, perhaps.

Well this year, I’m more prepared than ever, staying abreast of what my wall calender has scribbled on it in both print and my own handwriting, and noticing all of those pesky little “holidays” coming up. By the time we reach labor day though, it will be a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of new classes and an insane work schedule. Perhaps I could get into the spirit of this celebration after all.

Besides, now that the veggies are about as fresh and delicious as they will ever be, the options of easy party food are practically endless. Rather than making a big to-do about these natural beauties, I prefer to let them shine with as little adornment as possible, carried by their own unique flavors. Finally digging into fresh corn, one of my seasonal favorites, it’s time to use it or lose it! So delicate is this starchy and oft-mistreated vegetable that up to half of its inherent sweetness can be squandered simply within the passing of a day. As a friend of mine has said to me on more than one occasion, “If you plan to cook fresh corn, put a pot of water on the stove to boil first, and then go pick it!” While I wouldn’t expect everyone to have such easy access to corn fields, do try your best to buy the corn the same day you plan to serve it, and don’t leave any leftovers hanging around too long. As if that will be a real problem.

Summer Corn Salad

4 Cups Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, Halved (or quartered if large)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Ears Fresh Sweet Corn
1/2 Cup Caramelized Onions
1 Tablespoon Dried Fines Herbes, or 3 Tablespoons Fresh Chives (to keep things simple)
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

Slice your tomatoes as necessary, and spread them out in one even layer on your baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil to coat, and then sprinkle lightly with both salt and pepper. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes, until they’re slightly shriveled and browned around the edges. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, cook your corn as desired. I know that people can get very particular about this, so use whatever method you prefer. Personally, I like to get out a giant stock pot, fill the very bottom with water, and then lightly steam my ears of corn (covered) for about 10 – 15 minutes. The time will also depend on your specific corn. On the other hand, my mom tends to simply pop them in the microwave in a dish with a splash of water, and nuke ’em for 2 – 3 minutes per ear, turning them midway through. Once cooked, let the ears cool.

Use a sharp knife to strip the kernels of corn from the ears, and collect them in a large bowl. For anyone who’s counting, you should end up with about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of kernels. Mix in your roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions (which I try to always have on hand for times like these… They just go so well with everything, you may just find yourself getting into the habit of cooking down a bag of onions every weekend, too!), herbs, and lemon juice. Toss well to distribute all of the ingredients, adjust salt and pepper if necessary, and chill thoroughly before serving.

Serves 4 as a Side