Some people think vegetables and salads should be dainty and light, but most veggies have a deeper, darker side – especially if you char them. The process makes them sweet but just a little bitter, like they grew up hard and have some stories to tell. Mexican cooks burn the bejesus out of tomatoes to make smoky, black-flecked salsa. Roasted red peppers get their flavor from high heat that blisters their thin skins. And when the first leeks of spring show up, Spanish cooks make a bonfire out of them and pluck the sweet, soft white remains from inside for delectable finger food. Here are three of our favorite ways to make vegetables a little edgier.
Charred Corn with Basil-Lime Butter and Salty Cheese
High heat caramelizes the corn to make this a savory dish with a sweet, chewy edge. Serves 4
- 4 ears of corn, shucked
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 to 12 basil leaves, finely shredded
- 1 lime
- Salty, crumbly cheese such as cotija, feta, parmesan, or pecorino, to taste
Fire up the grill or broiler. Lightly rub cobs with oil and place on grill or in broiler, turning as some spots char to a rich brown. Don't turn them into charcoal – half caramelized and half still bright yellow is a great balance of sweetness and fresh crunch.
Take corn off the heat and let cool. Cut the kernels off the cobs and season with salt and pepper in a bowl.
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In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add basil. When the butter foams, stir it into the corn. Squeeze half a lime's worth of juice into the bowl, and crumble in as much cheese as you like. Stir and add more salt, pepper, lime, and cheese to your taste.