Growing up in the Midwest, there were certain rules that civilized people followed. Chief among them: No white before Easter or after Labor Day.

Today, white appears whenever it wants. But the seasons still have rules we ought to follow — particularly if we want to eat well. Chief among them: Buy what grows locally, when it grows locally.

Here in the heat of a Mid-Atlantic August, that means corn, tomatoes, peppers and squash. No leafy greens. No sugar snap peas. And for goodness sake, no asparagus. If any of those show up at the local farmers’ market, we need to scratch our heads and ask, “Where are you getting this produce?” (Or at the very least, “How are you growing it?”)

peppers & corn on sheet

The husband and I cruised our farmers’ market yesterday and came home with a big bag of sweet corn and purple peppers. We already had a bowlful of garden tomatoes sunning themselves on the kitchen table, and an overflowing herb garden just outside.

Dinner became a vegetable salad. It was fresh and flavorful. A red wine vinaigrette and those tomatoes gave it acidity; a spin on our grill gave the corn and peppers a smoky taste. A little red onion added tang; sage, rosemary, lavender and parsley brightened the entire dish.

It was a perfect side dish.

And perfect for the season.

corn & pepper salad

Grilled Summer Salad

The beauty of this salad is that you can use any seasonal vegetable and embellish it however you desire. Add some crumbled feta cheese for extra heft. Toss in cubed summer squash or roasted eggplant. Add crunch with toasted pine nuts. Likewise, season your corn, peppers and onion with whatever spices you like. I enjoy coriander’s cool burst of flavor and mustard seed’s slightly spicy kick. But stick with salt and pepper if that’s what you prefer. The salad will still be delicious.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 3 small bell peppers (I used purple)
  • Half a red onion, cut into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs, coarsely chopped (use whatever you have on hand)

Pour the 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the coriander and mustard seeds over it, then add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix everything together, then roll your corn, peppers and red onion in the mix until they’re well coated.

Preheat a gas grill or light a charcoal grill. While it’s getting hot, wrap each ear of corn in foil. Wrap all the peppers in a sheet of foil and the onion in another sheet. Make sure the foil is sealed tightly.

When the grill is ready, put your wrapped corn, peppers and onion on the grate. Grill for 15 minutes, turning the foil packets occasionally.

Remove the vegetable packets and let them cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the red wine vinegar and olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the garlic and some salt and pepper and whisk until everything is combined. Taste and adjust your seasonings if necessary.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

Carefully open the foil surrounding your grilled vegetables. The skins from the peppers have probably already come off. If needed, scrape any lingering skin off with the side of a small knife. Cut the peppers into small chunks and add them to the bowl of tomatoes and vinaigrette. Coarsely chop the onions and all them to the bowl, too.

Stand the corn on one end. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off. Add the kernels of both corn ears to your bowl, then gently stir everything together. Sprinkle the herbs on top of the salad and stir again.

You can serve this immediately, let it cool to room temperature or stick it in the fridge for a few hours. It keeps beautifully for a full day.