I recently returned from a week in San Francisco visiting my lovely sister, Annie, and her husband, Jess. I planned my trip several weeks in advance so that our first stop when I got off the plane would be Zachary's Chicago-style pizzeria in Oakland. In fact, I coordinated most of the week so that I could be sure to hit up all my favorite culinary treats in between visiting friends and family.
In addition to deep-dish chicken and spinach pizza at Zachary's, I enjoyed free-range cheeseburgers and vanilla milk shakes at Berkeley's Fat Apple's; Semifreddi's baguettes; baked Sonoma goat-cheese salad at Chez Panisse; lattes and pastries at Bernal Heights' Liberty Café; pancakes and perfectly crisped bacon at Burlingame's Christie's; corn dogs and cotton candy at the San Mateo County Fair; a tostada from a Castro neighborhood taqueria … OK, I'm getting carried away. But these are my priorities for a vacation.
Nonetheless, I thought I would be a valiant houseguest and volunteer to use my newfound domestic skills to make Annie and Jess a delicious dinner based on various combinations and other recipes previously published in this space. This would save needed money (at least for one meal) and show my gratitude to them for letting me take over their entire living room during my stay.
To my surprise, though, Annie—usually not known for her culinary inclination—insisted on making dinner for me instead.
Lexi, our friend and Annie's teaching colleague, had recently given her a simple recipe for an incredibly tasty and seasonally appropriate dish, and she was really excited to share it. Corn salad was in my immediate future.
This unprepossessing name didn't make me overly enthusiastic for what my sister was about to feed me, but, as I said, I am a valiant houseguest and decided to forge ahead. Besides, fresh corn-on-the-cob season is almost over, and you have to take advantage of it as often as possible.
Step one for cooking in my sister's kitchen is always a glass of wine, so the three of us started off with healthy portions. Step two was to clear the current tablecloth off the new table so as to remove anything that Marge (the cat, not me) had tracked onto it and replace it with a clean one. Step three was to get the table set with enough plates, silverware, glasses, napkins, etc., so that Marge didn't just jump right back up there. Then we could actually start making food.
I helped chop ingredients for the corn salad, Annie fried up cheddar and goat cheese quesadillas, and Jess, as is his usual job, kept everyone calm and appeased. Ten minutes later, we had dinner on the table. It may not have been Chez Panisse, and it may not have been Zachary's, but with a sense of accomplishment, saved money and good company, it was still the best meal I had on my trip.
Fresh corn on the cob—approximately 1 ear per person
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Parsley, chopped (optional)
Basil, chopped (optional)
Juice of 2-3 limes
Lots of salt
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Ground cumin (optional)
Olive oil (optional)