Tomato and sweet corn salad is a highlight reel of summer. It is topped with pepitas for a nutty edge and drizzled with jalapeño dressing. Make it a full meal by adding Creole-seasoned tofu. Vegan & gluten-free.
When I was in Vermont last winter, I asked one of the locals about their maple syrup. I wondered whether there was a particular brand or type that she recommended.
The Vermont resident told me, “Well, all of the maple syrup is the same. So any brand will be fine. The only thing is – it has to be from Vermont. Otherwise, it’s just syrup.”
Her response made me smile, because growing up in Iowa, I had a maple tree in my backyard. There are maple syrup makers in our state too.
(I bought some local maple cream recently that was just terrific.)
I’d imagine those syrup-makers would disagree on whether or not they can call their product “maple syrup” or not.
However, coming from a small state, I totally get the Vermont local’s proprietary nature. People everywhere can be very opinionated about what makes their particular state or country special. Iowa is no different.
For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told the merits of Iowa’s black dirt.
As compliments go, it’s a rather unglamorous one. The best you have is black dirt? It’s like saying, “Have you seen that woman’s wrinkly baby feet? I mean, wow!”
And if you tell an Iowan that you recently drove to Nebraska, they will say, “Oh, the terrain of Nebraska is so boring! In Iowa we have gentle rolling hills.”
They always use those three words – gentle rolling hills.
But here are the facts – the states look the same. Some parts of Iowa are hilly, other parts flatter. But if someone transported you in a blindfold and then dropped you off on a highway in Iowa or a highway in Nebraska, you really wouldn’t know the difference.
I even had an Iowa friend get in a heated argument with a Californian over which state held claim to the best corn. More than even their black dirt, Iowans are fierce about corn.
Iowa doesn’t have a Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, tall mountains, or oceanfront to draw tourism or acclaim. (There’s a reason that a truck stop is on the state’s “must see” list.)
So watch your words when it comes to corn, dirt, college football, or the State Fair, because they will cut you.
(Okay, they won’t cut you. But they will passive aggressively give you a disconcerting side eye.)
I’ve had corn from all over the country, and you know what it tastes like? Corn.
Obviously fresh corn straight from the cob is the best, especially when it’s at its seasonal peak. When the kernels are juicy and plump, and they haven’t gotten starchy from sitting around too long, the flavor is incomparable. But the state where it was grown is irrelevant.
Tomato & sweet corn salad
That said, the sweet corn right now is pretty remarkable. Lately I’ve been enjoying it uncooked and straight from the cob in a tomato and sweet corn salad.
While tomatoes are in all of their summer glory, this salad offers the best of the season. It is topped with pepitas for a nutty edge and drizzled with jalapeño dressing.
Jalapeño dressing with cashews
The salad dressing is a variation of my recent jalapeño cashew cheese spread.
After making and re-making the cashew cheese in testing, I wanted to come up with some alternative uses. So I started taking a couple spoonfuls of the cheese, adding a splash of water to thin it, and then stirring it until it had the consistency of a ranch dressing.
So if you already have the jalapeño cashew cheese in your refrigerator, feel free to go with that method. Otherwise, in the recipe below, I share how to make the dressing on its own, instead of making cheese first.
Even though the dressing has pickled jalapeño brine in it, it’s not overly hot.
(My favorite pickled jalapeño brand is Jeff’s Naturals. Their jalapeños are slightly less spicy than other varieties, but all of the flavor is still there. Plus, the jalapeños themselves have a great crunch. I can’t abide a squishy jalapeño slice.)
Serve it with Creole-seasoned tofu
The salad is wonderful as a summer side dish. But it also can be a meal all on its own with the addition of Creole-seasoned tofu squares.
The tofu is really easy to prepare. And the whole salad can be ready in about fifteen minutes.
To season the tofu, I have been using the Creole seasoning mix that I bought in North Carolina. However, if you have a favorite brand, feel free to use that instead.
Spiciness levels vary. So if your brand is on the hot side, start with less seasoning and work up.
Make this tomato and sweet corn salad now while the produce is at its peak with corn from your favorite local grower.
And if you’re ever planning a trip to Iowa, come in June when the fields are filled with fireflies. The corn won’t be knee high by then. But I think you’ll find it’s even more magical than the World’s Largest Truck Stop.
Tomato & sweet corn salad with jalapeño dressing
For the salad
- 1 ear corn kernels cut off from the cob (roughly 1/2 cup of corn)
- 1 bunch spinach 5 - 6 ounces, roughly chopped
- 1 large tomato diced
- 1/4 cup pepitas shelled pumpkin seeds
For the jalapeño dressing
- 3/4 cup raw cashew pieces
- 1/2 cup water plus additional water for soaking if not using a high-speed blender
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 3 Tablespoons brine from a jar of pickled jalapeños
- 1 teaspoon white miso paste
- 1 Tablespoon pickled jalapeño slices
To make salad
- Combine corn, spinach, tomato, and pepitas in a large salad bowl. Serve with jalapeño dressing for topping salads individually. If using, top each salad with Creole tofu just before serving, so that the hot tofu doesn't wilt the spinach.
To make the dressing
- If not using a high speed blender, soak the cashews in water for several hours or overnight before making the dressing. That way the cashews will soften for easy blending into a perfectly creamy dressing. Drain the cashews and continue.
- In a blender, combine raw cashew pieces, 1/2 cup water, lemon juice, tamari, brine, and miso paste. Blend until completely smooth. The dressing should be thick like a full-bodied ranch dressing.
- Add pickled jalapeño slices and blend for about 30 seconds, until the slices are broken down but not completely smooth.
- Use the dressing right away or put into a covered container in the refrigerator for future use. Note that the dressing will continue to thicken in the refrigerator. So you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water to the dressing and stir if it's too thick to pour.
To make Creole seasoned tofu
- Bring a non-stick skillet to a medium heat along with canola oil. Put tofu squares in the skillet and allow them to brown for a few minutes. Once the squares are brown on one side, flip them, and add 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning.
- Brown the cubes for a few more minutes, flip again, and add the second teaspoon of Creole seasoning plus a grind of cracked black pepper. Continue flipping the tofu until it has browned on all sides, and then remove from heat.