cut cornPhoto: michelle@TNSThe requirement: a vegan side dish for a potluck full of sustainable foodies

Time to cook: less than an hour

The ingredients: fresh summer vegetables from a weekend visit to the farmers’ market

Secret ingredient: a jar of harissa 

The result: a hit

I admit it. I would normally have added feta or some other type of super flavorful cheese to this salad. And honestly, I love cheese; but it can be a bit of a cop out. So I’m always a little excited when I’m asked cook vegan because it forces me to be more creative in the kitchen.

For this recipe, I deployed two little tricks to up the flavor quotient.

Toasted crunchy things: Toasted nuts or seeds are great for adding that savory flavor that’s often missing from all-veg concoctions. I chose pumpkin seeds for their color and size, and because they are technically part of this classic New World foursome (corn, squash, bean, peppers), so it just seemed right.

Harissa: I wanted the dressing to be a little spicy and a little exciting. To achieve this I added just a spoonful of homemade harissa to my basic shallot vinaigrette. I’d made it myself earlier in the week, but you could certainly also use a good store-bought version.

This recipe may look it requires a lot of steps but if you do them in order, you can get it done pretty quickly by multi-tasking, as I’ve suggested in the instructions.

Serves: 6 to 8 as a side

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
4 small mixed peppers
1/2 pound green beans
4 ears corn
2 tablespoons parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon harissa paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

corn saladPhoto: Vanessa BarringtonThe finished salad1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.

2. Wash and trim the zucchini and then grate it coarsely into a colander in the sink. Add a generous pinch of salt, toss, and then let the zucchini sit as it releases excess moisture. (This will keep your salad from getting watery).

3. Arrange the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a small sheet pan and toast in the oven for 10 minutes until brown, crisp, and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

4. While the zucchini drains and the seeds toast, roast the peppers directly over the flame of a gas stove, turning them often with tongs, until they are evenly blackened all over (if you don’t have a gas stove, use the broiler in your oven). Then place them in a bowl, covered with a towel, to steam.

5. Snap the ends off the green beans and blanche them in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water and plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Set aside.

6. With all the other ingredients in a holding pattern, shuck the corn, cut the kernels off the cob, and place them in a large bowl. Then whisk together the dressing, adding the olive oil last, in a slow stream, so it blends in without separating. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Rinse the drained zucchini in cool water and squeeze well with your hands. Add it to the bowl with the corn.

8. Drain and pat the green beans dry. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl with the corn and zucchini.

9. With your fingertips, peel the blackened skins off the chiles and remove the stems and seeds. Cut them into a medium dice and add them to the salad.

10. When you’re ready to serve the salad, add the pumpkin seeds, parsley, and dressing to the vegetables in the bowl and toss thoroughly. Then add more salt and pepper to taste. This salad can be refrigerated and eaten the next day, but its best eaten the day it is made.