created at: 2013-05-22To many, Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off to grilling season. But according to the weather forecast, it’s also going to kick off some rainstorms that may move the celebration indoors. I don’t mean to jinx it—I’m hoping for an unexpectedly sunny day as much as you are—but this salad features the flavors of a cookout without ever taking the cover off the grill.

Putting a Mexican spin on corn isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jewish food. But it’s one of my favorite ways to dress up this barbecue staple. It’s also a delicious dairy accompaniment to bring to or indulge in a party where you’re going to be eating fish or vegetarian, which many of my kosher friends are likely to do when they attend a cookout at a non-Jew’s home.

This recipe borrows some attributes from two others: Serious Eats’ Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad) and Cook’s Illustrated’s Mexican-Style Grilled Corn. Both feature many of the same ingredients, but I’ve made a couple adjustments. First, I’ve added two ingredients that aren’t usually included in Mexican street corn salad: avocado and cherry tomatoes. Next and more importantly, I’ve included a step that ensures you don’t leave any of the corn’s sweetness behind when you remove the kernels from the cob. The best way to do this is to “milk” the cob by running the back of your knife over the sides after you’ve removed the kernels. This white pulp is full of sweet corn flavor that would otherwise be left behind.

Mexican Corn Salad

Cotija and queso fresco are Mexican cheeses that can be found at most supermarkets.

Serves 6

6 corn cobs, kernels removed and set aside, cobs reserved
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 ounces cotija or queso fresco
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
½ pint grape tomatoes
½ avocado, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet until shimmering. Add corn kernels and salt and sauté until lightly charred, about 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut each cob in half crosswise. Working with one piece stripped corn cob at a time, hold cob above medium bowl. Carefully run back of chef’s knife down sides several times to “milk” cob into bowl. Continue with rest of cobs until all are milked, then add mayonnaise, sour cream, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cotija or queso fresco, lime juice, and garlic to bowl. Stir well to combine.

3. Once corn is charred, transfer to large bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add mayonnaise and cotija mixture to bowl and stir until evenly distributed. Stir in cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.