One of the consolations of the season’s slow fade-out is the arrival of midsummer corn. Piled high at farmer’s markets and roadside stands, it instantly banishes memories of January’s shrunken frozen kernels and the light-weight, plastic-wrapped cobs found in the supermarket. Quick to draw a crowd, people leisurely pick through the piles, looking for corn that is bright green and heavy for its size before sneaking a peak to be sure the kernels are tightly packed and fit to burst.
Wonderful on its own, boiled or steamed, with butter, fresh herbs, and salt, you can always keep your market haul simple. On the other hand, elotes - grilled corn covered in crema or mayonnaise and crumbly cheese then sprinkled with hot chili and a squirt of lime - make a good case for complicating it. Popular in Mexico and Central America, it was a novelty in the United States until recently where vendors selling these specially prepared elotes have become summer staples at street fairs and open air markets. If you’ve missed them until now, just look for the longest line of customers, grinning ear to ear, their faces covered in cheese and chili powder.
If you’d rather skip the line, elotes are easy enough to make at home. Fire up the up the grill and set out the toppings so friends can prepare their own. For a neater alternative, slice off the kernels then gently steam them to make esquites. Served in small bowls instead of on the cob, it’s the same wonderful combination of flavors with less potential for embarrassment.