The fresh produce season is beginning to wind down. You can feel it in the cooler mornings around here. That means the chile roasters shift into high gear, and corn season reaches its peak. There are lots of local farmers who grow excellent sweet corn, but arguably the best comes from a little town on Colorado’s Western Slope, Olathe. The town even have a noted Sweet Corn Festival in August.
My wife was gone for a few days to tend to some family matters in Texas. To celebrate her return, I thought a good meal would be pleasant in the now-beautiful evening. Even without prompting she declared in one of our phone calls that she did not want to go out to a restaurant. She can read my mind.
The pressure was on to come up with something tasty. Steak is always the obvious choice, but I’ve fixed that so many times when she returns from a trip that I knew she would be expecting it. A pork chop makes a good substitute. That made me think of the abundance of fresh corn available right now. Then I got a cue from the New York Times. Melissa Clark had an article about elote: roasted ears of corn dusted with ground chiles along with lime juice and crema. Around here and along the border, elotes are popular street foods sold out of food carts and even little hand-pulled wagons. Delicious, but not very elegant. Esquites are nearly the same thing except the kernels of corn have been cut off the cob. That sounded great with grilled pork.
For a green vegetable, slaw made with raw Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage completed the menu.
Esquites (Corn Salad)
- 2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and silk removed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream
- 2 cloves garlic, minced with microplane
- 5 scallions, chopped
- 1 bell pepper or several snacking peppers, seeded and diced
- ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 4 ounces Mexican cojita cheese, crumbled (If you can’t find cojita, you can substitute feta)
- salt and pepper
- ground chiles, your choice of heat
- 1 lime, cut in 8 wedges
- Roast the whole ears of corn until individual kernels are browned. I used my chile roaster, but you can use a dry frying pan over high heat, turning the corn frequently. You can also use your barbecue grill if you have it fired up. Remove the roasted corn from the heat, cool, and cut the kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife. Set aside the corn kernels if you plan to make the esquites later.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium frying pan. Stir in the corn kernels and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sour cream, scallions, pepper, and cilantro. Cook for about 5 minutes until the peppers are softened.
- Stir in the crumbled cojita and stir gently until the cheese is well combined. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with ground chile. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
Brussels Sprout Slaw
- 8-10 Brussels sprouts
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 4 scallions including greens, thinly sliced
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated with a coarse grater
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (about)
- juice of ½ lime
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon minced dill fronds or dried dill weed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Using a mandoline, shred the Brussels sprouts. If there are unshredded leaves remaining, chop with a large chef’s knife until the shreds are fine enough to please you..
- Stir in the celery, apple, and carrot. Add mayonnaise to taste along with the lime juice.
- Stir in the celery seed and minced dill fronds. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.