Summer Sweet Corn Plays Up Global Spice Palette

Indian corn salad
Tribune News Service

Who needs mayonnaise-based salads when fresh herbs and ethnic spices can season summer’s freshest ingredients?

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. I acknowledged in my latest food section column that potato and macaroni salads always will have their place. But my preference is for hearty side salads that are livelier on the palate alongside summer’s grilled meats.

My Fresh Corn Salad, offered with the column, plays on a classic Mexican preparation known as esquites. When I added Asian sweet chili sauce on a whim about a decade ago, a new dish was born.

Similarly, adjusting and substituting just a couple of spices conjures another genre of cuisine. Indian Street Corn Salad, courtesy of Food Network, incorporates cardamom and garam masala, along with fresh mint, even as it shares Latin America’s lime juice, cumin and cilantro. It just goes to show there’s no reason to become bored with a dish when you can tweak the flavor profile slightly.

Try this one while summer’s sweet corn is at its juicy peak.



3 large ears corn

Olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon or less cayenne pepper

Big pinch ground cardamom

Big pinch chaat masala or garam masala

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup halved cherry or sugarplum tomatoes

1 or 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves thinly sliced

Small handful fresh cilantro, leaves rustically ripped into bite-size pieces


  • Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat until just beginning to smoke.
  • Rub the corn with the olive oil and carefully place in pan.
  • Cook until charred in patches entirely around and golden brown, for 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  • Whisk together the lime juice, cumin, cayenne, cardamom, chaat or garam masala and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Slice the kernels off the cobs and place in a large bowl.
  • Add the tomatoes, mint and cilantro.
  • Toss with dressing, taste for seasoning and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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