What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Esquites Mexican Corn Salad! Living so many years in the Corn Belt of the United States, is it any wonder I get nostalgic thinking about cornfields? Once asked, while I was dating, “Where would you like to retire?” My quick response was “On an acre of land overlooking cornfields at sunset.” Imagine the puzzled look I got as the guy shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Obviously he had no idea what I was talking about. It’s the rich smell of corn, its tingle of sweetness mixed with the earthy muskiness that saturates the senses. I don’t even mind shucking sweet corn. Gently pull back the luscious leaves. Inside are golden rows of plump kernels, dewy and sweet, with a crown of blond silky tendrils. Funny how the journey changes. Now I live in Florida, where cornfields have been replaced by orange groves. Sounds like it’s time to meander down the road to the citrus farm. Perhaps I can inhale the fresh tangy aroma of orange groves at sunset.
ESQUITES MEXICAN CORN SALAD
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Warm vegetable oil over high heat until shimmering in an iron skillet. Add corn kernels. Season with kosher salt and garlic powder. Allow kernels to cook until charred on one side, approximately 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, approximately 2 minutes longer. Transfer charred corn kernels to a mixing bowl. Add crumbled Cotija cheese, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro, jalapeño pieces, mayonnaise, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.