Cooking for Labor Day? Try this Corn and Jalapeno Salsa, and other sides

Corn and Jalapeno Salsa. (Photo by MICHELLE STARK   |   Times)
Corn and Jalapeno Salsa. (Photo by MICHELLE STARK | Times)
Published August 28 2018
Updated August 28 2018

The past week or so, I have received multiple news releases that say some version of the same thing: "Well, it’s too bad that summer has almost come to an end."

These emails are clearly not sent by people who live in Florida. You can keep your joyous summer feelings, People From States with Seasons. I’ve got fall fever already (thank you, Michaels craft store), a craving for warm colors and temperatures that top out around 80 instead of 90.

But we have to get to September first, and to Labor Day, which happens this Monday and usually signals the nationwide shift from swimsuit season to light sweater season.

I hope you get to enjoy a day off from work, and with that, an excuse to hang with family or friends around a table of potlucked foods.

My contribution to this year’s festivities is this corn-centric side. I don’t know if this will be the year my husband and I finally buy a new grill for the back yard, but I do know that this recipe works both as a grill-kissed dish and as one prepared entirely in your air-conditioned kitchen.

If you’ve got the grill going anyway, use it to roast whole ears of corn, instead of cooking them in the oven. Throw a whole jalapeno, peeled red onion and even peeled avocado on there, too. The charry essence left by subtle grill marks will only enhance this side.

I’m calling it a salsa because I’m not quite sure what else to call it, and because it has tomatoes and some spice and would be yummy scooped onto a chip. It would also make a great plate accompaniment for burgers, steaks, chicken — you name it.

Need more snackable ideas for this weekend? Try these light and summery dishes. And with any luck, fall will be here before we know it.

Mini Tostadas: Tip: You could spend time frying up mini tortillas, then top them with this chicken mixture. Or you could buy some round tortilla chips and use those for a bite-sized appetizer. To make, combine 2 cups cooked chicken (shred it with a fork before adding other ingredients) with 1 diced mango (peeled) or peach, 2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt or mayonnaise, the juice of 2 limes, a large drizzle of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix really well, then serve dollops of chicken salad atop chips. Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Pineapple Shrimp Skewers: Make a marinade by combining the following in a large zip-top bag: 1 cup coconut milk, cup soy sauce, 3 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, cup orange juice, the juice from 1 lime and salt and pepper to taste. Add some peeled and deveined cooked shrimp to the bag, seal the bag, and mix everything around for a couple seconds. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Thread 1 shrimp each onto wooden skewers that have been soaking in water, then thread a chunk of fresh or canned pineapple onto the skewer above the shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp and pineapple — you want at least 2 of each on each skewer. Grill on a hot grill for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side. Use leftover marinade to baste skewers while they’re grilling. Alternatively, place skewers on a baking sheet and broil on an oven rack at least 5 inches from broiler, 3 minutes on each side.

Corn and Jalapeno Salsa

4 ears of corn, wrapped in their husks

1 jalapeno pepper

1 shallot or small red onion

2 tomatoes

1 avocado

cup olive oil

2 limes

cup cotija cheese, or queso fresco, or feta

Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Keeping the ears of corn wrapped in their husks, place directly on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool slightly. Remove husks when cool enough to handle, then set aside to cool further.

Cut jalapeno in half lengthwise, removing the seeds and inner ribs and then mincing finely. Add to a medium bowl. Wash your hands immediately after working with jalapeno.

Finely chop shallot or red onion, and add to the same bowl. Dice tomato and add to bowl. When corn is cool, hold the top of the ear with your hand and slowly work a sharp knife down each side of the ear, removing all the corn kernels. Repeat with remaining ears. Add kernels to bowl with other ingredients.

Cut avocado in half, then remove the pit and scoop out the green flesh using a spoon. Roughly chop the flesh, then add to the bowl along with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add olive oil to bowl, along with the zest of 1 lime and the juice of both limes. Stir well, and taste to make sure you like it. Adjust seasonings as needed.

You can stop here and serve this as a vegan dish, or you can add the cheese. Either way, top with a handful of cilantro. This can sit for a couple hours before serving.

Serves about 4.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times