Four to six side salads
You can add other things to what I’ve suggested here: Raw peppers (sweet or hot), roasted peppers, scallions or diced red onion, or swap out another herb for the basil, such as flat leaf parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, or oregano, to taste. Coarsely chopped pitted olives would work well, either green or black, as does crumbled feta cheese or cubes of fried halloumi.
If you want to make it a main course, bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken, crumbled bacon, shrimp, peeled hard-cooked eggs, or smoked tofu could be added. If you’ve got it, lobster or crab meat would be amazing.
Although it’s not often discussed, one of the secrets to a good salad, especially one that has just a few ingredients, it a good extra-virgin olive oil. The country of origin, and the price, aren’t always indicators of good-quality. In the U.S., California Olive Ranch produces reliably good oil, as does Fairway in New York. A well-respected friend in the food business swears by the Greek olive oil at Trader Joe’s, and Costco’s Kirkland olive oil gets high marks from fans, too. As always, though, buy what tastes best to you.
Update: A few people have inquired whether the corn is cooked or not, and it isn’t in this salad. Fresh, sweet corn is excellent raw. However if you do want to use cooked corn, I suggest grilling it, shucked and lightly oiled first, cooking it over a fire for 10-15 minutes, turning it infrequently to give it a bit of char so it has some texture, as well as additional flavor.
2-3 ears of fresh corn
2 cups (350g) cherry tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup (75g) loosely packed chopped fresh basil (reserve any small leaves for garnish)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-2 small shallots, peeled and minced (1-2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
6 tablespoons (90ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1. Shuck the corn and remove it from the cob. (Technique here.)
2. Remove any stems and slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
3. Peel the avocado, remove the pit, and dice the flesh. Cut the cucumber into similar sized cubes.
4. Put the corn kernels, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and basil into a serving bowl and season with freshly ground black pepper.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt, and olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette dressing over the salad and gently mix together. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Serving and storage: The dressed salad can be served right away or in a few hours. (It can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature, but should be served room temperature.) It’s best the same day it’s made.