Grilled leek, corn and clam salad with lemon and aioli
As we cross over from summer to autumn’s harvest, the sheer abundance of ingredients creates many opportunities to blend the flavors on the cusp between the two seasons. While I am always excited to transition my cooking to fall squash, root vegetables and wild mushrooms, I still have my eye on corn, tomatoes and summer squash. With the arrival of rain and cooler temperatures, the bright flavors of summer continue to wane, and leeks become more plentiful. Because I know they will be around all winter, I reach for them more frequently as October draws near.
The classic combination of corn, clams and leeks appears in chowders, quiche and fritters. Not wanting to mess with a good thing, I combined the trio in a salad, served at room temperature with a dollop of creamy aioli.
Purchase clams from live tanks if that is an option. Clams that have been out of their natural saltwater habitat for a few days will benefit from soaking in salt water (1 tablespoon of salt per 1 quart of water) for 10 minutes. Discard the soaking water after removing the clams.
I like to grill the corn and leeks, but they can also be cooked in a cast iron pan or on a skillet plate, which will caramelize them nicely, or under an oven broiler where they will soften and color lightly.
Makes 4 to 5 INDIVIDUAL SERVINGS, OR 1 LARGE FAMILY-STYLE PLATter
Olive oil for coating the leeks and corn before grilling
4 medium-size leeks, split in half lengthwise and rinsed of any dirt between layers
2 ears corn, shucked and silk removed, or about 2 cups frozen
Vinaigrette (recipe below)
1-1/2 pounds (about 24 small to medium-size) clams in their shells
1 medium-size shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 chives, finely minced
16 whole Italian Parsely leaves
Aioli, see recipe for Mayonnaise in Techniques
Heat a grill or broiler to medium-high heat, or place a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly oil and salt the leeks and corn and place them on the grill, under the broiler, or in the skillet. Cook the leeks and corn until they begin to caramelize and soften slightly, rotating the corn and turning the leeks over as they color. If the outer layers of the leeks get too dark, remove and discard them.
Once the corn has cooled, remove the kernels by placing the corn cob upright on a solid cutting board with its tip facing up. Run a chef's knife down the cob, pressing the blade against it to remove the kernels. Set aside.
Remove the root end the leek and discard. Cut the leeks in half, and cut each half lengthwise into long strips about 1/4-inch wide. Set aside.
Make the vinaigrette.
To cook the clams, place them in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and place over high heat. Bring the clams and water to a simmer, removing them with a slotted spoon as they begin to open. Freeze the clam water for another use. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from each shell and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the clams, leeks, corn, shallot and chives with the vinaigrette. Toss to combine thoroughly and coat all of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.
Add 1 clove finely minced garlic to make aioli. When the salad is plated, place the parley leaves around and spoon the aioli over the top and serve.
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Zest and juice of one large lemon ( 2 if they are small)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the mustard with the lemon juice and zest, and the vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside, or refrigerate for later use.