I’m in Mexico right now! I’ve been exploring the flavors of the Yucatan Peninsula, with roots in ancient Mayan culture and influences from all over the world. I used to think that the recipe I’m going to share with you today was Mexican-inspired. But after a couple of weeks here I’ve realized that Mexican food is broader than I thought. So I’ve decided to call this a Southwest Corn Salad Recipe, since I don’t think it comes from south of the border.
This is a dish I made intermittently as a chef on a boat in Alaska last summer. I’ll be honest, it made an appearance once or twice because I had a brain-fart and completely forgot to boil potatoes for potato salad! Which means that this dish ticks the “quick” and “easy” boxes, since my backup plans always had to do that.
Getting the Components Right
This recipe is best with fresh sweet corn, but since that’s only available in summer, the frozen stuff will work too. I’ve used both when I made it for my guests, and it was received with praise either way. If you’re using cobs, I find grilling to be the best style of cooking. It lends a smokiness that takes this dish to the next level. But boiling or steaming will also work. If you’re using frozen corn, some stores sell a ‘fire roasted’ variety that’s nice.
I’ve written this recipe as I usually served it on the boat, but at home I’ve been known to add a drained can of black beans or a diced avocado into the mix — both are excellent additions to the base recipe I shared with you here. Have fun and experiment!
Cotija cheese is something I always had on-hand on the boat for Taco Tuesday — when I’d make my signature beer-battered fish tacos. I think it’s crumbly saltiness really makes this dish, so if you can find it (most grocery stores carry it), please use it! If you can’t you could substitute feta or even grated Monterey or pepper jack.
This recipe asks you to saute the vegetables for a few minutes… but honestly, as long as the corn is cooked you don’t even have to do that! I like to soften the flavor of the pepper a little, but I’ve skipped this step many times in a time pinch and it turned out great.
Southwest Corn Salad Recipe
- 4 large ears fresh corn (or a 10 oz. bag of frozen)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the ears of corn according to your preference (grilling them is best, but any cooking method will work).
- When the kernels are mostly cooked, but still firm, slice them off the cob.
- Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
- Place the corn kernels, red bell pepper, jalapeno, and red onion in the heated oil and cook until just slightly softened.
- Place the corn mixture in a large bowl and refrigerate until cool.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing.
- Place the lime juice in a small bowl and add paprika.
- Whisk in the oil in a slow stream to emulsify into the lime juice. Taste and add more oil if too tart.
- Season with salt and pepper, whisk, and set aside.
- When the corn is no longer hot (it can still be warm), fold in the cilantro and cotija cheese.
- Season the salad with salt and pepper, add the dressing and toss.
- Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary, then serve!
I hope you enjoy cooking this one — it’s pretty easy and also pretty flexible (something I’ve found to be requirements as a boat chef!). If you have any other ideas for additions or modifications let me know in the comments!
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