Local corn, barely cooked and eaten on the cob, is heaven, but sometimes, I like to cut the kernels off the cob and use them to make maque choux. Pronounced make shoo, this traditional mash-up of Cajun and Native American cooking gets its name from a Louisiana tribe.
A side dish featuring fresh corn, green bell pepper and onion, some versions include heavy cream, sausage or bacon. Instead, I keep this maque choux lean and vegan, adding smoky flavor by using Spanish paprika.
I also use a touch of garlic, scallions and fresh tomato that brings just the right amount of acid to balance the sweetness of the corn. A beefsteak-type tomato is ideal because of its meaty flesh, although using any firm-ripe tomato is fine. I would, however, avoid heirloom varieties that are more juice than flesh.
You must peel the tomato or tough bits of skin will mar your maque choux. Peeling a big beefsteak is a snap, particularly when you use a swivel-blade vegetable peeler with a serrated blade. Why not use the usual, straight edge swivel blade peeler? Because its blade cannot not bite into the smooth, tight flesh. The other peeling choice is using the cumbersome hot water method of dunking a tomato into a pot of boiling water until the skin cracks and lifting off the skin. I am no gadget geek, but with an investment of less than $10.00, you will find this peeler earns its keep.
Maque choux served with cooked rice and red beans makes a perfect meal. Or, toss in shrimp for a one-dish dinner.
Maque Choux (Cajun Corn)
4 ears yellow corn
1 1/4 lbs. firm-ripe tomatoes (about 3-4 medium)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only, divided
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, sweet or hot
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
Standing ear of corn in center of wide, shallow bowl, cut kernels from cob. Repeat with remaining ears of corn. There should be about 3 cups kernels. Reserve any remaining corn for another use.
Place strainer over medium bowl. Holding tomato over bowl, peel it using serrated swivel blade vegetable peeler and discard peel. Halve tomato crosswise, then squeeze gently over strainer, using finger as needed to eject seeds. Repeat with remaining tomatoes and set aside. Using back of wooden spoon, press liquid from contents of strainer into bowl. Discard contents of strainer. Finely chop seeded tomato.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add corn, tomatoes and their liquid, peppers and half of scallions. Mix in paprika and salt. Simmer until tomatoes are partly broken down and most of liquid has evaporated but maque choux is moist, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Off heat, season maque choux to taste with pepper. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish with remaining scallions and serve hot or warm.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 184 calories, 5 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 305 mg sodium.