Based on Mexican street corn, this reimagined Middle Eastern grilled corn is exploding with sharp spices, tangy herbs and creamy cheese. This is the Middle Eastern street corn you never knew you were missing! A marriage of cultures and cuisines.
Grilled corn, Israel style
Growing up in Israel, grilled corn never played a large role in my life. A couple of times a year, usually in the summer, my mom would pull out a large boiling pot. She filled it with water, taking care not to splash over the sides.
Sometimes asking for my help, sometimes not, she would drag the pot to the stovetop, her muscles bulging with the effort under her thin housecoat.
The pot would then sit on the stovetop, unmoving, for a few hours, sometimes days.
Then one day when she had more time, my mother would take out a plastic wrapped tray from the fridge. There, in the Styrofoam tray, lay 8 corn cobs, leaves and bristles removed, any semblance of their origin scrubbed away and tossed into some industrial trash.
She would rinse these corn cobs under yet more water, a commodity so precious I could not believe she was wasting so much of it on these puny little husks.
Then, she would gently place the corn cobs into the water-filled pot, add a bit of salt, and cover it with a lid. A high flame, some patience, and fifteen minutes later, that was it. Israeli grilled corn, not even grilled.
We'd all come to the table, serving ourselves some salad, potatoes, chicken or cutlets. And from that large pot my mom would fish out glistening, hot, shiny yellow corn cobs. On our plates they went, half a cob for each one of us, and the extras for tomorrow. A dab of butter, a sprinkle of Israeli salt, and that was it. Our corn on the cob was ready.
Grilled corn, Colombian style
In Colombia, grilled corn is a typical street food.
Proffered by vendors throughout Bogota's winding streets, it is cooked on rickety charcoal grills on the spot. Served to you in an unadorned paper napkin, street corn is a common afternoon snack, as simple and unfussy as it gets.
Drizzled with butter and sprinkled with salt, it is best paired with a cut of fatty beef or pork sausage, if you ask my husband. A cold beer? Even better.
Where the two grilled corns meet
With these simple, clean roots, you'd think both my husband and I would like our corn drenched in butter and sprinkled with salt - and that's it. And yet, we both fell head over heels with Mexican street corn, also known as elote.
We first tried it together at Diane's Fish Shack and Smokehouse in Kingston, ON, where we went for our last vacation before baby came. Covered in a generous sauce of sour cream and mayo, sprinkled with salty Mexican cheese, jalapenos and cilantro, it was the grilled corn we never knew we were missing.
As soon as I finished eating it, I knew I had to have grilled street corn again. But of course, I would put my own spin on it.
Grilled corn, Middle Eastern style
And that's what birthed this Middle Eastern grilled corn. The marriage of two cultures, Israeli and Latin American. The love for sharp, strong flavours. The appreciation for creamy, cheesy sauce. The tolerance for the fact that even though one of us may live for spice, the other can barely tolerate even a whiff of it. The understanding that two cultures blended together are better than ones apart.
So today, on our second wedding anniversary, I present to you our new favourite appetizer: Middle Eastern grilled corn.
Based on Mexican street corn, this reimagined Middle Eastern grilled corn is exploding with sharp spices, tangy herbs and creamy, salty feta cheese. This is the Middle Eastern street corn you never knew you were missing! A marriage of cultures and cuisines.
Note: this corn is best cooked on a charcoal grill, though we've cooked it also in the oven. We like this little portable grill, and we have this Weber grill on our balcony. If you are intending to grill it, then go all out and invest in some Maple wood chips. These give the corn a special fragrance and smoky flavour that feels oh-so-very-Canadian to us.
In the recipe, I specify to remove the husks for a browned, charred look and taste that is typical of street corn. However, for a silkier, smoother taste and texture, you may want to keep the husks on while grilling. In that case, just wet the corn to prevent the husks from burning.
Corn with butter and salt who?
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Middle Eastern grilled corn
- Charcoal grill (https://amzn.to/2F9W8Li) or oven
- Silicone pastry brush (https://amzn.to/2QTNraf)
- Maple wood chips, if using a charcoal grill (https://amzn.to/3lPThb2) - these give the corn a special fragrance and flavour
- Heat a grill or oven to 400F.
Prepare the sauce:
- In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic powder and lemon juice. Taste and correct seasonings, including salt if needed. Set aside.
Grill the corn:
- Place the husked corn directly onto grill or oven grates. Grill the corn for about 5 minutes, undisturbed, or until kernels begin to brown. Turn over and repeat. When all sides are browned, remove corn cobs.
Assemble Middle Eastern street corn:
- Using a brush or a spoon, cover each ear of corn generously with the cream mixture. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and minced cilantro. Serve immediately with lime or lemon wedges.
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