Chewy-edged, deep-fried plantains. Smoky, shopping-cart hot dogs. Esquites, esquites, esquites! Watermelon chaat. Falooda in the backyard. Squeaky fresh artichokes with lemon and mayonnaise. Ripe mangoes with chile and lime.
Intensely perfumed melons and soft, drippy-bottomed figs under slices of prosciutto covered with olive oil. All the berries, washed and dried and piled on softly whipped cream that’s sweetened with a little cane syrup. Green beans and green garlic, and that beautiful window when okra, corn and tomatoes are *all* at their best.
Esquites are the salad form of elotes, charcoal-grilled Mexican corn on the cob that is slathered with a creamy sauce, seasoned with chile powder and lime juice and topped with Cotija, a crumbly, aged Mexican cheese. This version doesn’t require a grill, and instead chars the corn kernels in a hot skillet until browned and caramelized. Cotija brings salty, milky accents to the salad. Ancho chile powder adds smoky notes, but you can use any type of chile powder you favor. Leftovers transform quickly into a great pasta salad the next day; simply toss with cooked pasta and olive oil.
By: Kay Chun
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 15 minutes
- 2 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
- 6 cups fresh corn kernels (from 6 to 7 ears fresh corn)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 6 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
- 4 ounces Cotija cheese (scant 1 cup)
- Ancho chile powder (or chipotle or cayenne), for sprinkling
1. In a large cast iron or heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add corn, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is nicely charred and softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for 2 minutes. (This helps the corn pick up more char and smoky flavor.)
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, crema, cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup sauce in a small bowl for drizzling.
3. Add seared corn to the large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter, spreading corn mixture in an even layer. Drizzle with the reserved sauce, and sprinkle with Cotija and chile powder. Garnish with more cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
Mango With Chile-Lime Salt
This take on the classic street food, served throughout Mexico, is encountered often in open air markets, beaches and parks in summer. The original is often made with tajín spice, a store-bought blend of ground chile, lime and salt. This preparation allows you to use any variety of mango, in states of ripeness from soft and juicy to firm, and the homemade chile-lime salt can be used for a variety of savory or sweet dishes as a garnish or topping. If using store-bought chile-lime salt, substitute the ground chile, lime zest and salt with 2 tablespoons of the seasoning.
By: Yewande Komolafe
Yield: 2 servings
Total time: 10 minutes
- 1 tablespoon ground chile, such as ancho or paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 ripe mangoes (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1. In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, lime zest and salt. Use the chile-lime salt immediately or store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
2. Sprinkle the chile-lime salt all over the mango and serve immediately, or loosely cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
This recipe for watermelon chaat, a savory fruit salad dressed in toasted cumin and dried mango powder, comes from Malika Ameen, whose Pakistani American family makes infinite variations on fruit chaat in the summer. You could swap out the watermelon for a mix of what’s in season, whether it’s stone fruit, berries or cubed apple and pear. It’s an ideal dish to break the fast during Ramadan, full of flavor and hydrating, and quick to put together.
Recipe from Malika Ameen
Adapted by Tejal Rao
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 15 minutes, plus chilling
- 2 pounds watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon amchur powder (dried green mango)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (a generous pinch if you like heat)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 orange, clementine or mandarin, juiced to make approximately 1/3 cup juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
- 3 to 4 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
1. Place cubed watermelon in a wide platter with sides or in a large baking or serving dish and spread into a single layer.
2. In a small pan, toast whole cumin seeds on medium heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle. (You can also grind in a spice grinder, but be sure not to grind to a fine powder as the coarse grains of the spice add a wonderful texture.)
3. Transfer cumin to a small bowl and add all remaining spices and salt. Add citrus juice, jalapeño and mint and mix well. Pour dressing over cubed watermelon and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1 to 6 hours. Serve chilled the same day.