My family and I love Mexican food, and it’s something we enjoy at least twice a week. Because it’s our go-to cuisine when cooking at home, and because there are so many different ways to express the bold and exciting flavors of Mexico, we consistently have our fridge and pantry stocked with south of the border ingredients in order to whip up a fiesta at a moment’s notice.
What’s in our Mexican pantry, you ask? Here are the items we typically have on hand in our kitchen:
- Corn and flour tortillas to please everyone
- Tortilla chips
- Jarred salsa
- Hot sauce
- Canned black beans and/or pinto beans
- Can of chipotle peppers
- Sour cream
- Queso fresco and/or pepper jack cheese
- Chili powder
- Tajín (an incredibly delicious chili-lime seasoning that’s awesome on everything from fruit to coating the rim on your margarita glass)
- Tequila, of course!
The best thing about this list is that it’s versatile and can be applied to your everyday cooking. You can use several of these items in many other recipes… not just for making Mexican-themed food.
We had some family come over on Memorial Day, and naturally we decided to make a taco bar consisting of grilled fish tacos with mango-jalapeño salsa, guacamole, smashed black beans and a chipotle-sour cream sauce. I made some Spanish rice, but I also wanted to prepare a fresh and bright summery side dish/salad, and elotes came to mind. Elotes are cooked ears of corn that are smothered with mayo, rolled in crumbled queso fresco, sprinkled with chili powder or tajín, and then finished with fresh lime juice. It’s the ultimate Mexican street food!
I used elotes as my inspiration, and prepared a bright and fresh corn-tomato salad to accompany our taco feast that’s perfect for the summer months ahead.
Corn is the star of the show here, and in order to impart as much flavor as possible in the dish, I like to grill my corn before cutting the kernels off of the ears. Our charcoal grill wasn’t quite ready when I made this dish, so I used my indoor grill pan to get a good char on the kernels.
Once the corn had cooled down, I sliced the kernels from the cobs to begin the base layer of the salad (see my two-bowl set up for easy kernel removal).
You can alternatively cook your corn on the cob under your broiler to get good flavor, or even remove the kernels from the cobs and sauté them.
While the corn was grilling, I started roasting poblano peppers right over my burner.
Once the peppers were blackened all around, I placed them in a brown paper bag in order to steam the charred skin from the meat of the pepper. Once cool, remove the blackened skin, the stem and seeds, and cut the peppers into medium dice.
To the corn and peppers, I added a dice of ripe tomato, lime juice to taste, cilantro, a splash of olive oil, a very generous shake of Tajín (it contains salt, so taste the salad first before you add additional salt), and I finished with a crumble of queso fresco.
I like to let the salad sit for about 15 minutes before serving to blend the flavors, and I think it’s best served room temperature as it’s more flavorful this way.
The beautiful thing about this salad is you can add anything you like to the base ingredients as it’s a perfect template for many other flavors, textures and seasonings! Take a Greek spin and add fresh oregano, lemon juice and feta cheese. Head to Italy and add sun-dried tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese. Or, head to Southeast Asia and add spicy chili peppers, cucumbers, ginger and a fish sauce vinaigrette. Have fun and be creative!
Grilled Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Roasted Poblano Peppers and Queso Fresco
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 15 minutes
3 ears corn, shucked
1 to 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 poblano peppers, roasted and cut into medium dice (see note, below)
1 large ripe tomato, medium dice or 1/2 a pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, rough chopped
Lime juice to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
1 teaspoon Tajín, or more to taste
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill, or an indoor grill pan over medium heat.
- Brush the ears of corn with just enough grapeseed oil to lightly coat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Grill the corn, turning as needed, until golden brown and caramelized on all sides. Set aside to cool.
- Once cool to the touch, cut the kernels off the cobs and place in a serving bowl.
- Stir in the roasted peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil, and season with the Tajín to taste. Toss well, and mix in the queso fresco.
- Allow the flavors to blend for 15 minutes, and serve room temperature.
Does all this talk of grilled corn salad make you hungry? Me, too! Now’s the perfect time to attend an in-person class on our patio or a virtual class from the comfort of your own kitchen for some mouth-watering food and culinary tips and tricks you can use all summer long. You’ll learn how to specifically grill corn in our Grilling Workshop Demo on the Patio class on Sunday, June 27 at 11am at Lincoln Square, make a zesty corn salad in our Virtual Shrimp Ceviche class on Saturday, June 26 at 6:30pm CST, or elotes in our Virtual Taqueria Workshop on Friday, July 30 at 6pm CST.