Mother's Day has really co-opted brunch (we get it - mimosas), but dads deserve their special thing, too. Luckily, Father's Day falls right in summer's sweet spot, just in time for June's inaugural grilling. It may be a cliche, but if your dad is like the ones we know, you're not allowed to handle the steaks. That still leaves you with maybe the most important job of all (don't tell him we said that): the sides!
Choosing a side dish often comes down to a gut feeling: do these items "go together?" When pairing sides with a main course, students at The Culinary Institute of America are taught to consider the balance of the overall menu.
This pairing process helps prevent that feeling we've all had after a plate of beef brisket, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad - and explains why the sour, briny pickles are so welcomed on that same plate. Rich, fatty proteins are especially well-suited to bright flavors like vinegar and citrus juice, because they help clean your palate of the heavy mouthfeel that can exhaust you before you've taken your third bite.
The Culinary Institute of America's recipe for Mexican-style Corn Salad is a play on elote, a popular Mexican street food. Elote is grilled corn smothered in Mexican crema, cotija cheese, chili powder, and a squeeze of lime. You can find this treat all over Mexico and in much of the southwestern United States, both on the cob or served in a cup.
This version is less rich than the dish that inspires it, subbing crema for a tangy mix of olive oil and fresh lime juice. With the addition of crisp vegetables, this cold salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled ribeye or tender pulled pork.
On the other side of the spectrum, our Warm Vegetable Noodle Salad celebrates the noodle vegetable trend. Though this recipe doesn't require a noodle maker, you can certainly use one, or buy pre-noodled veggies for a fun presentation. Tossed quickly in your saute pan, this dish takes the best of summer's bounty and transforms it into a warm salad that is a no-brainer with chicken kabobs or lightly charred shrimp.
Probably the most desirable quality of a grilling side is convenience. Grilling for a crowd can be stressful, since most of the work happens right at the last minute, and make-ahead side dishes are the key to getting everything on the table at the same time.
Make the Mexican-style Corn Salad the day ahead, or prepare the ingredients and grill the corn day-of. For the Warm Vegetable Noodle Salad, julienne your veggies the day before, and then throw them in the pan for a quick saute while your grill is preheating. If you've got the space, you can even cook it in a cast-iron skillet on the grill. That is, if Dad lets you.
Start to finish for both salads: 45 minutes
MEXICAN-STYLE CORN SALAD
5 ears corn, husk attached
1 small yellow onion, small dice
1 green bell pepper, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 scallion, sliced
1 watermelon radish, small dice
1 Roma tomato, small dice
4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Prepare a grill for medium-heat cooking. Peel back the husk from the corn, but do not remove outer leaves. Use a dry towel to remove the corn silk, then replace the husk to cover the corn kernels. Soak in cold water for about 10 minutes.
Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until the husks begin to char, about 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Once cool, remove the charred husks and slice the kernels from the cob and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
Add the onion, bell peppers, scallion, radish, tomato, and cheese, and mix to combine. Add the lime juice and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and toss to combine. Refrigerate until serving.
Chef's Note: This salad can be served in a large serving bowl or individually, as pictured. For the grilled onion cups, cut the top 1/3 from 10 yellow onions. Grill cut-side down until lightly charred, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly before removing the interior of the onion, leaving the 3 outside layers intact. Trim the bottom of each onion to make a level surface before filling with salad and serving.
WARM VEGETABLE NOODLE SALAD
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound carrots, julienned
1 pound savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 pound zucchini, julienned
1 pound yellow squash, julienned
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until the beans are vibrant in color and just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to an ice water bath to cool. Drain and cut the beans in half, lengthwise. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add carrots, cabbage, zucchini, and yellow squash, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add green beans and sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from the heat, add the vinegar and parsley, and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving of corn salad: 125 calories; 68 calories from fat; 8 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 11 mg cholesterol; 210 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 5 g protein.
Nutrition information per serving of noodle salad: 93 calories; 46 calories from fat; 5 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 12 mg cholesterol; 72 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 3 g protein.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.