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Enjoy grilled corn two simple ways


Grilled Mexican street corn is coated with a thin layer of garlic mayonnaise and rolled in a salty, dry cheese.

One of summer's culinary high points is enjoying just-picked corn with its garden-fresh sweetness. I always look forward to visiting my local corn stand to select the freshest corn available. It's best to buy the corn with its husk still attached for optimum flavor; just before cooking remove the husk and silk. Husked or shucked corn means that the husk has been removed. I love to make corn salsas, puddings and soups, but grilling the corn is what I do most.

Simple grilled corn that has been husked or shucked (naked) is quick to prepare and tends to be sweeter than unhusked corn since the corn kernels are grilled directly on the heat and become caramelized. Remember that husked corn cooks much faster than corn cooked in the husk. Olive oil and a splash of fresh squeezed lime juice impart a complementary flavor.

Elotes, grilled Mexican street corn, is coated with a thin layer of garlic mayonnaise and rolled in a salty, dry Mexican cheese. There are many versions of this sweet and salty classic street corn. Some add a few tablespoons of Mexican crema to the mayonnaise mixture; others add chopped cilantro as a finishing touch, while others eschew lime juice. The Cotija cheese tastes like a cross between feta and Parmesan cheese that complements the sweet corn kernels.

When I first made this dish, I thought I wouldn't like it because I generally prefer the simple corn flavor with a squirt of citrus. Boy was I wrong. Sweet, slightly smoky and salty flavors all come together in this Mexican favorite found on street corners throughout Mexico. Each of these recipes is delicious in its own way. Try both and see which you prefer.

Selection and storage tips

• Crumble the cheese with your fingers to make sure it is finely crumbled.

• You can substitute feta for Cotija if you need to.

• Don't buy ears with gigantic kernels.

• Look for fresh, green husks and tender, milky kernels that are plump and leave no space between the rows.

• Store corn very cold and for only a short time, since it does not keep well and its delicious sugar will quickly turn to starch. An ice chest filled with ice will keep the corn at its best for a few hours.

• If at all possible, eat corn the same day it is picked.

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Grilled Corn

Serves 6

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 ears corn, husked and silk removed

3 limes, halved

1. Prepare the barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling.

2. Brush corn with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Grill the ears until charred in spots, turning occasionally to cook evenly, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Transfer to a large platter and serve immediately with lime halves to squirt over the corn.

Elotes (Grilled Mexican Street Corn)

Serves 6

6 ears corn, husked and silk removed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch salt and pepper

1 cup finely crumbled Cotija cheese

Ground chile powder (I like to use chipotle chile powder for a smoky flavor)

3 limes, halved, optional

1. Prepare the barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling.

2. Grill the ears until evenly charred, turning occasionally to cook evenly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large platter

3. While corn is grilling combine the mayonnaise, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.

4. Before serving, use a knife to smear the mayonnaise all over each ear of corn. Place the crumbled cheese on a plate and drag the corn through the cheese (using tongs or your hands), making sure each corn piece is evenly covered. Then sprinkle chile powder all over each ear of corn.

5. Serve the corn on a platter along with lime halves. Squeeze the lime over the corn, if desired. Most importantly, have plenty of napkins available. It's messy to eat but so delicious!