“Being a chef is strange,” says Suzanne Goin. “Throughout service, I taste a lot of food to make sure it tastes and looks right. So, I’m not really eating for pleasure most of the time. I’m eating what I need to for my job.”
Though Goin, who co-owns six Los Angeles eateries (Lucques and A.O.C. among them) and a wholesale bakery, rarely gets to eat strictly as her heart desires, sampling this sweet corn, summer squash, sliced avocado and watercress salad never feels like an occupational hazard. “I create salads that I want to eat all the time,” Goin says.
Something of a Mexican succotash, this recipe, taken from her latest book, The A.O.C. Cookbook, required some thought to get just right. “It isn’t as easy as wanting crunch,” the chef explains. “It’s about thinking, ‘what ingredients play off each other?’ and ‘what makes you want to go back for more?’ It’s also really important to get the seasoning right.” Here, that seasoning comes in the form of a lively chile-lime vinaigrette.
To create an irresistible salad, Goin says, you must taste, again and again, and add more acid, salt or herbs until the perfect balance is achieved. Seasoning in this manner will not only yield the best results, it will also focus the palate. The reception this dish receives will quickly reward such efforts. “Everyone loves this salad,” Goin says. “And it is not only because they think it’s healthy. It’s because it is delicious.”
Corn, Summer Squash and Avocado with Chile-Lime Dressing
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups fresh corn (from about 4 ears)
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
2 to 3 tablespoons seeded, diced jalapenos
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
½ pound summer squash
2 ripe avocados
¼ cup sliced spring onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 bunch watercress, cleaned, tough stems removed
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the corn, the thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Saute quickly, tossing often, for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender. Remove to a platter or baking sheet to cool.
While the corn cools, make the vinaigrette. Combine the shallots, jalapenos, lime juice and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let sit 5 minutes.
Whisk in remaining olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning. Thinly slice the squash on the diagonal, preferably on a mandoline.
Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pits, and peel. Cut into ¼- inch- thick slices, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked corn, squash, spring onion, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper with the chile- lime dressing. Gently toss in the watercress and taste for seasoning.
Kitty Greenwald is a Brooklyn-based food writer and recipe developer. She eats a lot for work and pleasure. Her column Slow Food Fast appears in the Wall Street Journal.
Photo by Shimon and Tammar Rothstein
Portrait by David Young-Wolff