Cook This: Mario Batali's Sweet Corn Salad
by scott feldman
It has been more than 20 years since I first met Mario Batali at Pó Restaurant. While it’s quite easy to recognize him today—he has a TV show, The Chew; numerous cookbooks and restaurants; and, of course, those signature orange Crocs—out East with his family over Memorial Day weekend, Batali prefers to keep a lower profile.
What brings you out East every Memorial Day?
I love the quiet, cool calm that is the beach at the end of May. It’s also my wife Susi’s birthday weekend, so we always have a little get-together.
What are some of your favorite Hamptons restaurants?
La Fondita for tacos—it’s simple, fresh, and very easy, plus it’s the closest place to our house—and margaritas at The Hideaway.
What ingredient most evokes summer on the East End for you?
Lobsters, corn, and wild striped bass—together, the best meal we eat.
Where does the Batali family shop for breakfast?
We go to Eli Zabar’s farmers’ market in Amagansett and get bagels, scallion cream cheese, smoked salmon, coffee cake, and fresh fruit.
What is the key to a summer dinner party out East?
Full-on chill. We spark up the Weber and grill very simple food—fish and corn on the cob—plus seaweed salad, maybe linguine with local littlenecks, and buckets of stinging-cold rosé.
After you finish cooking, what do you want to leave behind?
A clean kitchen.
Sweet Corn and Onions with Lemon Basil
SERVES 8 TO 10
3 large sweet Vidalia or Walla Walla onions, halved and sliced into ½-inch-thick half moons
3 tbsp. plus ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
12 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
1 cup fresh lemon basil leaves
4 jalapeño peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced paper-thin
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons 2 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread the onions on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake in the oven until tender, about 15 minutes, then remove and transfer to a large bowl, carefully scraping the bottom of the baking sheet to get all of the onions and their juices.
Place the corn on the same baking sheet and drizzle with 1⁄4 cup of olive oil. Roast in the oven, turning it occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool.
Using a serrated knife, trim the kernels from the roasted corn and add them to the onions in the bowl. Add the lemon basil and the jalapeños, and mix well. Add the remaining 1⁄4 cup of oil, the lemon zest and juice, and the sugar. Toss, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix gently but thoroughly. Serve cool.
*Read more from Feldman's interview with Batali here.
photography by melanie durea (batali). corn Recipe courtesy of Molto Batali: simple family meals from my home to yours (ecco, 2011)