Updated: Jul 31, 2022
So many summer recipes use corn; probably because this golden grain is the epitome of the summer harvest crop. Often it can be used to bring complimentary flavors with it's burst of sweetness, offer contrasting spotlights of color, and the ears are bountiful during the hot summer months.
Growing up in Ohio, every family summer get-together had corn on the cob for a key menu item. Big baskets of green sheathed and golden-haired ears were "shucked" in the shaded garage over barrels. The pale yellow corn was set into large pots to boil and then drained and cooled slightly once it reached bumblebee yellow. Those ears were devoured in large stacks as juicy kernels bursting with sweet flavors filled our mouths. Corn will always mean (for me), "yes!" to summer.
This recipe is an easy salad that stacks tomatoes and avocado, drenches them in a vegan buttermilk dressing and tops them off of with pops of corn and smoky, crispy tempeh bacon. The family gave this a 9 out of 10 for flavor and "yum" factor; I hope you will too!
Sustainability Spotlight: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that over 90 million acres of farmland in the US is dedicated to the production of corn. Of that 90 million acres, most of the harvested corn does not go to human consumption. Instead, majority of the corn is used for feed for animals (cows, pigs, chickens) or ethanol (energy) production. "The United States is the world's largest corn producer..." USDA.gov.
What does that mean for sustainability? It means a double edged sword. Some good and some bad for sustainability. Good news! According to the US Grains Council (as reported by The Sustainability Alliance), "In the 1980-2011 period (of corn production), U.S. corn producers achieved declines per unit of production in soil erosion (-67%), irrigation (-53%), energy use (-44%) and green house emissions (-36%)" Bad news. Farmers achieved these reductions largely through genetic modification which threatens the nutritional value of the crop over time. Good news! "U.S. corn producers now supply more than 10% of U.S. automotive fuel needs (derived from ethanol)..." Bad news. Corn depletes available nitrogen and phosphorous in soil often requiring (to meet demand) man-made fertilizers to replace these valuable nutrients and continue to produce this grain.
I could continue "the good news, bad news" game, but I think you get it. Corn is somewhere in between on being sustainable. It's good for many reasons and not so good for many other reasons. Since I live in Illinois, and Illinois along with Iowa are the two largest producing states of corn in the U.S., the scales tip more towards "good" for sustainability for me as I'm supporting local farmers with purchasing and cooking with corn the whole summer through.
1 package tempeh bacon (I used Sweet Earth brand) - chopped
1 tbsp avocado oil
2 ears of corn (shucked)
1 tbsp vegan butter (or neutral oil if preferred)
2 large heirloom tomatoes (sliced into 4 thick pieces each); I used 1 large yellow & 1 large red
2 and 1/2 avocados (thinly sliced; divided into 6 equal parts
Herbamare (to taste) - or regular salt & pepper if you do not have this herbed salt
1/4 cup oat milk (Oatly)
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp fresh chives (chopped)
2 tbsp vegan mayo
1 tsp stone ground mustard
2-3 garlic cloves (chopped)
salt & pepper to taste (start with 1/4 tsp & 1/8 tsp respectively)
Heat a grill (or grill pan over Medium-High heat); coat both ears of corn with a light layer of vegan butter (or oil if preferred). Place both ears of corn on the grill (or grill pan) and grill until lightly charred (turning frequently on all sides) and softened (~10-12 minutes). Remove from heat, cool slightly, and cut kernels from the cob. Set aside.
When the corn is half-way done, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ~1 tbsp of avocado to pan and swirl to coat. Once the oil shimmers, add tempeh bacon and stir frequently until the bacon becomes crisp (~5-7 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Next, blitz all dressing ingredients in a personal blender until smooth and slightly foamy.
Now that your bacon and corn are done cooking, it's time to stack (Note, this recipe makes two stacks as outlined below - you can stretch it to 4 stacks if you use only 2 tomatoes & 1layer of avocado)!
Place 1 slice heirloom tomato onto a plate; sprinkle with herbamare
Next, place 1/6 of an avocado (all slices) in an even layer on the tomato
Stack the other tomato varietal color slice; sprinkle with herbamare
Next, place another 1/6 of an avocado (all slices) in an even layer on the tomato
Stack another tomato (1st varietal); sprinkle with herbamare
Next, place the last 1/6 of an avocado (all slices) in an even layer on the tomato
Top with the final tomato varietal
Drizzle 2 tbsp dressing over the tomato-avocado stack
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of corn and 3 tbsp of tempeh bacon onto the stack
Repeat above for second stack.
Serve each stack with a knife and a fork and prepare to enjoy every bit of this satisfying salad! I make variations of this dish throughout the summer, but this one is the easiest version so it will be on rotation many times as a quick, tasty and satisfying summer time meal. Usually, I serve with fruit and / or crusty bread.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie