corn salad with chile and lime

For July 4th, we hosted a dozen people (no, we don’t have space for this but why learn now) and I prepared six racks of ribs, a double batch of broccoli slaw, a kind of ad-hoc-ed potato salad with a mustardy-caesary vinaigrette, a charred corn salad, a flag cake, lemonade, Aperol spritzes, Suze-and-tonics, watermelon, and then we went up to the roof to light sparklers and watch the fireworks and approximately 95% of the people who slid into my DMs after seeing photos of all of this on Instagram only asked me about the corn. It’s okay, my ribs’ feelings will eventually recover.

first corn of the season

I get it though, it’s kind of cute (I’d unquestionably wear it as a printed skirt), especially with pink pickled onions, many shakes of Tajin (chile-lime salt), and cilantro on top. The corn salad is loosely modeled on esquites, the Mexican street snack. Typically, corn is cooked in butter with onions, chiles, and epazote (an herb) is served in cups with lime juice, chile powder, mayo, and crumbled cheese and I don’t care what you think, or think you think, of mayo; you will inhale it and then want another cup immediately. You often see these same ingredients slathered on to corn on the cob. But, I was craving more distinct layers of flavor — a cool dressing, warm corn, and then crunchy heat and acidity on top. (Also, I dreaded imagining the condition of my children’s okay my clothes if I made the slatethered-on version, but that’s not exactly a “culinary” decision.)

pickled red onionscharredcut from the cobmayo, sour cream, cotija

The result is basically inhale-able. Each element gets to be its best self and nothing mingles long enough to get monotonous. Or lingers, so you’ll just have to make it every weekend for as long as the good corn lasts.

corn salad with chile and lime


One year ago: Grilled Zucchini Ribbons with Pesto and White Beans
Two years ago: Grilled Pizza and Confetti Party Cake
Three years ago: Peaches and Cream Bunny Cake
Four years ago: Green Beans and Almond Pesto and Very Blueberry Scones
Five years ago: Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings and Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Six years ago: Slow-and-Low Dry Rub Oven Chicken and Grilled Bacon Salad with Arugula and Balsamic
Seven years ago: Blackberry Gin Fizz and Bacon Corn Hash
Eight years ago: Skirt Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad and Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme, and Sea Salt
Nine years ago: Bread and Butter Pickles, Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart, Zucchini and Ricotta Galette and Porch Swing
Ten years ago: Mediterranean Pepper Salad, Cherry Brown Butter Bars and Watermelon Lemonade
Eleven years ago: Chopped Vegetables, Watermelon, and Feta Salad
Twelve years ago: Rosanne Cash’s All-American Potato Salad and Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Bodega-Style Egg and Cheese Sandwich
1.5 Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies and Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2.5 Years Ago: Guacamole and Broccoli Pizza
3.5 Years Ago: Taco Torte and Miso Black Sesame Caramel Corn
4.5 Years Ago: Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas and Chocolate Oat Crumble

Corn Salad with Chile and Lime

If you cannot find cotija, use queso fresco, ricotta salata, feta, or another crumbly sharp cheese. Most cotija is salty and a little funky; I didn’t need any salt in my sauce below the corn, but with a milder cheese, you probably will.
  • 1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Slightly heaped 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 medium ears corn, shucked
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 ounces (heaped 1/2 cup) crumbled cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lime, halved
  • Tajín seasoning or chile powder
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves
Combine red onion, red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons cold water, salt, and sugar in a bowl or jar. Set in fridge until needed. Onions will be very lightly pickled by the time you’re done assembling the salad, but if you can give it 1 to 2 hours in the fridge, they’ll be moreso.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Lightly oil grill grates and place corn cobs directly on them. Cook corn until charred in spots all over, turning as often as needed. Transfer them to a cutting board to cool slightly. Don’t have a grill? I have often charred corn directly over the gas flame on my stove (be careful; it will crackle and spatter a little). You oven’s broiler, should it be more robust than mine, might also work for the task.

While you’re grilling your corn, combine sour cream, mayo, and cotija cheese. Spread on the bottom of your serving plate. Cut corn corn from cobs with a sharp knife and heap it over the cheese spread on the platter. Squeeze the juice of half a lime all over, then scatter the corn with pickled onion rings from the fridge. Generously shake Tajín or chile powder all over; if you’re using plain chile powder, season with salt and an extra squeeze of lime, too. Top with cilantro leaves. Cut remaining lime half into wedges and serve alongside. Eat right away — while the dressing is cold and the corn is hot.


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