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Corn from the Magic Border - Some Origins and Recipes
Petrified maize or corn cobs found in North America have shown archeologists that corn has been grown on this continent for thousands of years as a food crop.
Maize was used for food and also as a currency among Native American Nations and Native Mexican Nations for many centuries. it was very prominently used in Mexico at least 7,000 years ago and shows up in old and new recipes among the Indigenous Peoples and newer residents of the country. Today's Texas corn is enjoyed in a variety of Tex-Mex recipes. Below are some of my favorite corn recipes that use fresh, canned, or creamed corn.
Maize, Corn,and Teosinte
Corn's ancestor to corn, teosinte, is very different in appearance from modern corn developed for the best properties available for human consumption and a large crop production. Teosinte kernels were tiny and not joined into a cob, but lined up end to end like a strange grass.
Native American and Native Mexican Nations made magic by cultivating teosinte into cob-bearing corn plants and we developed them further (Some Corny Ideas About Gene Flow and Biodiversity by Dr. Allan S. Felsot, Environmental Toxicologist at Washington State University, 2002.)
Mexico City Corn Festivals - Aztec Dancers
Pepper Jack Corn Risotto
This dish serves 4 and takes less than 30 minutes.
This is a creamy, delicious dish that is one of my favorites when I can't decide between corn and rice.
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Cloves of garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 Cup basmati rice
- 3.5 Cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 Can or 1 10-ounce package of frozen corn
- 1/4 Cup half and half
- 1 Cup shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish – chopped cilantro
- Melt the butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic and cumin and sauté, stirring for 1 minute.
- Add and mix in the rice.
- Pour in the broth and corn, stir, and bring to the boil, stirring often.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until rice is tender, stirring frequently (20 minutes or so). Rice mixture should look creamy.
- Pour in the cream and cheese and stir until mixture is heated through and cheese melted.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with cilantro in serving bowls or large serving bowl for the table.
Texas Border Corn Soup
Serves 4 - 6
- 1 Tbsp butter (or margarine or a substitute)
- ½ cup onion, chopped coarse
- 1 Cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 Can creamed corn, included liquid
- 1 Can whole kernel corn, including liquid
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- Place a saucepan on a stove top burner and place the butter into it. Melt butter ove medium-high heat and sauté the onion and red bell pepper with the red
pepper flakes until tender, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, both cans of corn and their liquid, and salt and pepper.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are well heated.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed and serve.
Hot Corn Bread Scramble
Serves 6 - 8
- 1 Recipe’s worth of corn bread or a box of mix
- 4 Whole eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 Cup diced onion
- 1/2 Cup salsa (mild, medium or hot)
- 1/2 Cup Colby Jack (or Pepper Jack) cheese and 1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, both shredded
- Sour cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Make the corn bread batter.
- Spread corn bread batter into bottom of a greased baking dish about 8” x 11”.
- In a medium saucepan melt butter and scramble the beaten eggs in the butter while you add chili powder and cumin seeds. Stop when eggs are just set.
- Remove from heat and let eggs cool slightly.
- Sprinkle and break up the cooled eggs evenly over the cornbread mix.
- Sprinkle the chopped onions evenly over the eggs.
- Drizzle the salsa over the eggs and spread it evenly with a spatula.
- Top the salsa with the cheeses and bake at 20 - 30 minutes, until a clean knife pulled out of the center comes out clean.
- Remove form oven and let cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve with sour cream.
Esquite Served by a Sidewalk Vendor
Tex-Mex Corn Treat
This treat began in Mexico as esquite, with any number of toppings added to it in a small dish or a short heavy glass. Even meats such as shredded chicken or pork can be used.
Over the years, different toppings have been added in South Texas, and some are sweet and make the dish more like a dessert, especially if the corn used is very sweet to begin with. Have fun experimenting with this one!
- 6 Ears of fresh sweet-corn on the cob
- Half a stick of butter
- One sprig of epazote (an herb – check the International grocery section or a Mexican market)
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Ground chili pepper for garnish
- Salt to taste
- Water to moisten
- Toppings – mayonnaise, sour cream, shredded cheeses, shredded coconut (toasted or not).
- Cut the kernels of corn from the cob carefully.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the corn.
- Cook until heated well, gradually adding a little water, and the salt and epazote.
- Sprinkle some chili pepper over the top and add lemon juice; stir quickly and place corn into dessert dishes or short glasses.
- Serve with containers of toppings at the table.
Traditional Tortillas in Hidalgo, Mexico
Tex-Mex Corn Relish
This is one of my favorite relishes. It can be served either warm or cold and well keep several days in the refrigerator. You can add sliced green onions for an extra flavor.
- 6 Large ears of corn, cleaned
- 3-4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 Large yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp each, salt and black pepper
- 1/4 Cup white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbps sugar or honey
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 tsp chopped cilantro
- Cut the kernels of corn from the cob carefully.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the jalapeno pepper, onions, and salt. Stir and sauté until vegetables are just beginning to soften – just a few minutes.
- Add the white wine vinegar, sugar or honey, and water.
- Stir the fresh corn kernels into the pot and add the cilantro. Stir well until heated through and serve hot or chilled.