Warm summer salad without borders

Recipe by Leslie Brenner

Change up this this warm salad – a gorgeous toss of grilled corn, summer squash, sweet cherry tomatoes and okra – to your heart's delight, as it's incredibly easy-going and versatile. Leave off the okra, if you don't like okra. Use more zucchini and less corn, or more or less tomatoes, if you like. Use a different type of cheese, or leave out the cheese to make the dish vegan.  Don't feel like grilling the corn? Simply slice it off the cob and add it to the pan with the summer squash. And if you don't happen to have garlic or thyme on hand, leave 'em out – they're not important enough to buy just for this. Read the story about it on the blog for more ideas. 

Serves 6 as a first course or side dish, 4 as a main course, 8 as a garnish with grilled fish, chicken or meat.

2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing on the grill

2 ears of corn, shucked

5 ounces okra, trimmed and sliced in half vertically

3 zucchini (or a combination of zucchini and crookneck or other summer squash)

1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 pound cherry, Sun Gold (or other sweet little) tomatoes, or a combination of them

2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

2 or 3 thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons torn basil or cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or balsamic or red wine vinegar)

A couple pinches of Aleppo pepper or red chile flakes

2 ounces crumbled queso fresco or feta, or 1 ounce crumbled cotija (optional)

1. Brush a hot stovetop or outdoor grill with olive oil, and grill the corn evenly all over. Grill the okra on each side till there are grill marks on either side and they're no longer slimy in the middle. Place the okra in a bowl and set aside. Let the corn cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs and discard the cobs.

2. While the corn and okra are grilling, trim the zucchini and any other summer squash and slice it diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/4-inch batons. Cut very small cherry tomatoes or tiny Sun Golds in half, and larger cherry tomatoes in quarters.  

3. In a large sauté pan or skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic and thyme and cook about three minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and thyme. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper and sauté about three minutes; don't let the squash get too soft. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and corn and cook for one minute. Add about half the okra and the basil or cilantro, toss and cook about 30 seconds. Turn the salad immediately into a large bowl. Toss with the vinegar and Aleppo pepper, then adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and/or vinegar if needed. Garnish with the crumbled cheese, another pinch of Aleppo pepper if you like and the rest of the okra. Serve immediately, or at room temperature. (If you serve it at room temperature, you might want to add the cheese at the last minute.)