A fresh, no frills recipe for grilled corn and heirloom tomato salad with chili lime vinaigrette that highlights seasonal summer produce at its best. Simply toss the corn on the grill for 10-15 minutes and add diced tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and a protein of your choice for a lightening quick lazy summer dinner that won’t disappoint!
There’s something about grilled corn that I find irresistible. Actually, I’ll admit that I kind of love corn in general…
corn on the cob
corn off the cob
creamed corn (specifically my late grandmother Louise’s recipe)
SIKE. I don’t love candy corn, you guys. Come. On.
I’m just making sure you’re still paying attention…OK. Fine. Maybe I secretly like candy corn (or I used to anyway during my sugar addiction days), but I definitely couldn’t tell you the last time I ate any. Maybe circa 1999? Shrug.
Honestly though, I really do love corn and most corn-related things minus corn syrup, which we can all agree is bad news, obviously, but the rest of it? I like.
I realize this might be shocking coming from a dietitian nutritionist because corn doesn’t exactly top the lists of most healthful foods.
I know. I get it. I hear you. I’m on your side…And still team healthy….
I have major nostalgia for corn and I’m not afraid to admit or embrace it.
It’s most likely because of my Midwestern roots. I mean, I did spend nearly a decade living in Ohio before moving to Northern California in 2012. And if you aren’t familiar with Ohio, trust me when I tell you that Ohio is Corn Country. Yes, that’s right. Capital “C,” Corn Country.
I say that because if you were to visit any large-sized city in Ohio—Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland—and drive 10 miles outside the city limits, there is be a 99-percent chance you’ll find yourself in view of a cornfield. They are everywhere.
Now that I live in Northern California, the rural countryside is speckled with hills featuring panoramic views of vineyards instead of cornfields, which I have to say is certainly more picturesque and romantic comparatively, but I’m definitely not hating on the Midwest.
I’m not saying that I miss seeing cornfields 24/7, rather that I have lots of really fond memories of summer road trips through Corn Country.
My husband and I frequently drove from Cincinnati to Chicago to visit friends and family—it’s roughly a 5- to 6-hour drive from Ohio and passes through Indiana to Illinois, two other states that could also contend for the title of Corn Country—and I loved taking the back roads through the farms. We’d often stop at roadside dairy bars for a cone or browse hole-in-the-wall thrift stores for treasures.
I also spent plenty of time trekking through that endlessly corn-filled landscape to see friends at nearby colleges, or traveling to various lakes, campsites, or other summer tourist destinations.
So not to be totally, ummmm, corny (OK sorry, sorry, please don’t leave. I’ll keep my inner nutrition nerd under wraps, promise!), but it’s for those reasons (and because it’s DELISH) that corn will always have a special place in my heart.
Plus, all corn isn’t entirely as evil as the media makes it out to be. I’ll probably get an earful for saying that (OMG. I just couldn’t resist you guys but that’s the last awful food pun I’ll use, cross my heart).
Sure, it’s one of the most controversial crops grown—second only to soy—because of the environmentally harsh agricultural practices associated with farming it, politics surrounding the abundance of skeezy genetically modified corn seeds (Monsanto, cough, cough), and the fact that most of what’s grown isn’t destined for the dinner table, rather it becomes feed grain for unethically-raised cattle and other livestock, ethanol, or high fructose corn syrup. (Learn more about U.S. corn production here.)
It’s also hardly even that nutritious considering it’s nearly pure sugar and starch, BUT I still get a little flutter in my chest when I see it show up at the farmers market. Yes. My heart beats quickly anytime I’m at a farmers market because I’m a sucker for fresh produce, but let’s not get sidetracked.
The point is that you know it’s legit summer when both the berries and the sweet corn makes its appearance.
Because nothing says summer like sweet corn, y’all, especially sweet grilled corn. NADA.
So like I said, I know that corn generally gets a bad rap and for good reason, it can still be included in a healthy diet when you make conscious effort to purchase high quality produce and when you use it in recipes like this one featuring all sorts of good-for-you ingredients.
Ingredients like antioxidant-rich superstar heirloom tomatoes, creamy avocado, spicy jalapeno, crunchy red onions, and medicinal herbs all of which more than make up for the fact that the corn available to us today isn’t terribly nutritious.
CORN 101: SHOPPING FOR HEALTHIER
Like a lot of our produce, the corn we find in the market and grocery store today isn’t as nutritious as it was for our ancestors hundreds of years ago.
The “problem” is that modern agriculture and breeding has led to super sized and super sweet corn, which contains as much as 40 percent sugar. The corn we see in stores today is also much lower in phytonutrients compared to the wild, multi-colored varieties raised by ancient farmers and civilizations.
While it’s not easy to find, if you ever come across red or blue corn, snatch it up! It’s nutritionally superior to white and yellow corn because of another compound called cyanidin-3-glucoside or CG3, which has been shown in animal studies to prevent inflammation, slow the rate of tumor growth, lower blood sugar, among other health benefits. The same can’t be said of typical sweet corn on the cob, but it’s still a summer staple and one worth indulging in at least a few times during the season. 😉
Since it’s probably going to be difficult to find anything other than white or yellow corn, at least try to look for cobs with the deepest yellow kernels. Those are going to be the highest in carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help reduce the risk of degenerative eye disease.
Also, try to splurge for organic as often as possible. Conventional sweet corn may be on the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15 List,” but because most consumers demand that the sweet corn be practically flawless—i.e. super sweet, smooth, and crunchy—conventional farmers use high amounts of pesticide to keep bugs at bay meaning this type of corn is often highly contaminated.
Better to pay a little more for organic is this concerns you (and it should!). Plus, when you buy organic you guarantee that the corn wasn’t grown from genetically engineered seeds, which are bad news for your body and health.
SIMPLE SIDE SALAD TO THE RESCUE
OK now that we’ve got the whole corn situation cleared up and under control, let’s talk about the rest of this BEAAAAAAAUTIFUL grilled corn salad, shall we?
It’s got heirloom tomatoes, which are usually more flavorful and sometimes more nutritious than regular ones, especially if purchased at a farmers market. I’ll be honest, I’m attracted them because they are kind of so ugly they’re pretty and also I’m a sucker for striped produce. Hashtag nutrition nerd times infinity over here. Weeee.
However, if you can’t find heirloom tomatoes or prefer cherry, you’ll still win. Smaller cherry tomatoes varieties actually have the highest amount of lycopene and they are easy to find at conventional stores. Again, go for organic, especially with tomatoes!
I doubt I have to convince you to add the avocado, but if you need convincing, here’s a link to the Curated Kitchen: Health Benefits of Avocados for all your reading pleasure. 😉
As well as the health benefits of cilantro (like helping the body detoxify from heavy metals and chemicals) and basil (noteworthy for containing potentially anti-inflammatory and stress relieving compounds).
This vibrant and light grilled corn salad takes all of 15 minutes to throw together and can be eaten as a side dish or main meal with the simple addition of protein like black beans, chickpeas, chicken, grilled fish, canned tuna, or whatever floats your boat!
It can even work as a hearty salsa for topping vegetarian tacos, breakfast scrambles, or mexican stuffed sweet potatoes (HUZZAH).
So give your oven the night off and head outside to the grill, friends. Oh, and if you don’t have a grill? No worries. You can roast the corn right in the oven or use a grill pan.
Let’s get to it!
Serves: 4-6 servings
- 3 ears organic yellow corn, husks intact
- 1 avocado, diced into small chunks (look for one that's medium firm so it stays in tact in the salad!)
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced into chunks
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- 2-3 tbs organic cilantro, rough chopped
- 2-3 tbs organic basil, rough chopped
- 1 jalapeno, diced, seeds removed (or leave them in for more kick!)
- 1 tbs olive oil for brushing on the corn
FOR THE CHILI LIME VINAIGRETTE
- 2-3 limes, juiced
- 1-2 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ½ tsp chili powder (I used Trader Joe's Chili Lime Seasoning - so good!)
FOR THE GRILLED CORN
- Heat an outdoor grill to medium high or pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Simply remove part of the husk, all of the silk, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and grill, rotating the ears until nice and charred on all sides. It will take about 10-15 minutes. (More tips in the notes!)
- Allow corn to cool completely then cut off of cob and discard.
FOR THE SALAD
- Add dressing ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine. You can even toss them into the bowl with all the ingredients and combine everything at once.
- Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl, add dressing, and serve!
- Option to add protein like grilled chicken, fish, canned tuna, black beans, chickpeas, or whatever else suits your fancy.
Cheers to the start of summer grilling season, friends!
Also, FYI there won’t be a post this Friday because tomorrow (July 7th!) is my birthday and I’ll be taking the next few days off to recharge and relax. Like FOR REAL off. No email. NO work. 🙂 You’re not mad, right?
It’s WAY overdue and I’m so looking forward to it. I told my husband NO gifts…Unless it’s a case of Trader Joe’s cinnamon, which is always welcome and encouraged. And needed.
The only thing that I want is to go to my favorite yoga studio (YogaWorks in Larkspur at the Marin Country Mart in case anyone who lives locally is curious!) for my fave instructor’s class tomorrow morning. I haven’t been to yoga since we moved to Sonoma and my body needs it desperately.
Hope you guys enjoy this recipe don’t forget to snap a photo after making it and share the love on social media: Tag me @honestlynourished in your photos and use #honestlynourished so I can see! Because if you don’t ‘gram or snap it, did it even happen?!
Now I want to hear from YOU!
YOUR THOUGHTS >>>
What’s your favorite way to eat corn? How did you spend Fourth of July? What’s one of your fondest memories of either grilling during the summer OR summer road tripping?