Venturing out to the Mission District in San Francisco for Carnaval Weekend, I stood in a long line of people, waiting to reach the front of the line. So many stands were selling delicious food all around us, but there we were, single file at the one-man food cart in the middle of the street, anticipating when it would be our turn to feast on the tasty treat he was making. Imagine my disappointment, when I finally got to the front, only to find out he had just run out.
Elote is so delicious in its simplicity that it led me to walk past the other foods stands to wait in line for the "corn man" and his food cart. A popular street food in Mexico and many predominantly Latino neighborhoods across the US, elote is so much more than just corn on the cob. Roasted or grilled, on a stick or using the husk as a handle, the corn on the cob is always generously slathered with mayonnaise, crema or sour cream, butter, chili powder, lime juice and cheese. For those who like their foods with a little extra spice, adding a splash of hot sauce can do just the trick.
While elote has become a favorite street snack for so many different people, its main ingredient holds special significance to the Mexican culture. Maize, as corn is also known, served as the basic grain for many generations, including today’s. Centuries ago, its importance gave rise to the myths, legends, and the celebrations honoring them. The Mexican culture has hundreds of traditional recipes featuring maize, including favorites like pozole and tamales, as well as esquite, like elote in its toppings, but the kernels have been removed and cooked with chicken broth and Mexican herbs.
Although the authenticity of long-standing recipes is key to keeping cultural customs alive, not all ingredients used in such recipes are conducive to heart-healthy eating. Substitutions here and there can provide similar flavors to what previous generations enjoyed, while promoting a nutritious lifestyle. Some traditionalists say that mayonnaise and sour cream or crema need to be used for elote to be called such, in many other health-conscious recipes, they are swapped out with non- or low-fat Greek yogurt, providing a source of protein along with its creamy texture. Fresh ingredients are often preferred, but dried herbs and spices can also be used to enhance the flavor of the recipe.
When given the opportunity, there is something about having elote in its natural environment- having the “corn man” make one especially for you to enjoy in its authentic form… in moderation, of course. For all those other times you crave its flavors, try out this elote-inspired corn salad to enjoy with your friends and family, or even to just make it for yourself.
Elote-Inspired Corn Salad
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins
Serving size: 1 cup
7 medium corn on the cob
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 limes, juiced and zest
½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
⅓ cup queso fresco, crumbled
1 cup chopped cilantro
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Melt butter. Remove husks and silks. Lightly butter corn and wrap in foil. Reserve leftover butter for later.
2. Place foil-wrapped corn on a cookie sheet and place in oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
3. While corn is roasting in the oven, juice and zest the limes and separate. Crumble the queso fresco and chop cilantro
4. When corn is finished roasting, let cool and then remove from foil. Remove cooked kernels from the cob. Add remaining melted butter, lime juice and yogurt to kernels. Mix well.
5. Add chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika. Mix well. Sprinkle queso fresco and cilantro and lightly toss.
6. Serve corn salad on its own or with whole-wheat tortilla chips.
Per serving: Calories 230; Fat 7 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 19 mg; Sodium 154 mg; Carbohydrate 35 g; Fiber 2 g; Sugars 8 g; Protein 9 g