By Yankee Magazine
Apr 18 2019
Alana Chernila’s Corn and Nectarine SaladPhoto Credit : Johnny Autry
Last summer, while filming season 3 of Weekends with Yankee, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the Berkshires with cookbook author Alana Chernila, as we prepared a picnic to enjoy on the lawn at Tanglewood. Alana grew up in this corner of western Massachusetts and has a deep knowledge of all the local restaurants, food producers, and markets, as well as an expert’s understanding of Tanglewood’s renowned picnicking culture.
Alana’s most recent book, Eating from the Ground Up, is a celebration of the seasonally driven home cooking that she loves most, and we prepared two of its recipes for our feast that day: buttermilk borscht and a corn and nectarine salad. Both celebrated fresh produce in novel but simple ways, and they’ve become regular parts of my own repertoire.
Of this corn and nectarine salad, Alana writes:
There are some recipes that have the power to transform the way you conceive of yourself as a cook. At least that’s how I went from someone who cooked out of necessity to someone who cooks well. You’d think these moments happen around the mastery of hard techniques in the kitchen, but I think it’s the moments when we take ownership of the simple everyday skills that make the difference. How to salt an ingredient well, how to brown meat so it forms a golden crust and instantly releases from the pan, how to quickly chop a carrot into perfect, regular ovals — these skills have each bolstered my confidence and given me a little kick to move on, to learn more, and to feel good about my work in the kitchen.
This recipe is a prime example of one of those essential skills: how to courageously combine ingredients. The unexpected partnership of raw corn and stone fruit is perfect, and it’s one of those ideal dishes that takes five minutes to put together and seems to surprise and delight everyone who eats it. A version of this recipe lives in my second book, and it is still, to date, one of my very favorite recipes. The concepts at work here — good produce combined in an unexpected but simple way to create something so much more than the sum of its parts — really were the inspiration for this whole book, and I had to bring this one back to take its place among these recipes. This is a broader form of the recipe, with more choices and a good level of heat from the jalapeño.
4 ears corn, kernels removed
2 ripe nectarines or peeled peaches, pitted and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (2 to 3 scallions, using all the white parts and half the green ones)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil or roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
Husk the corn, and then cut the kernels right into a serving bowl. (There’s a simple tool that removes kernels without slicing them that I keep around just for corn season, but you can also use a knife, taking care not to cut directly through all the kernels.) Be sure to catch the corn milk in the bowl as well. Add the nectarines, scallions, basil, salt, several grinds of pepper, and the jalapeño to the bowl with the corn. Drizzle the lime juice over the salad and stir gently to combine.