Grilled spiced corn with feta

How to Use Middle Eastern Spices to Elevate Your Corn dish

There are many ways to season up your grilled corn. Straight-up butter and salt is a classic, and elotes have become hugely popular as well. Elotes, also called Mexican street corn, use mayo, chili powder, cotija cheese, and cilantro to transform a standard ear of corn into a culinary delight. But what may be lesser known is how spices found in other cuisines can work wonders on amping up the flavor of grilled corn, too.

Middle Eastern spices are a great example. For Lebanese-style grilled corn, try using a blend of cumin and cinnamon in equal parts as the seasoning over cobs that have been brushed with olive oil. Finish off with some parsley and lemon juice. Another mix of spices that pairs well with corn would be cumin, garlic powder, paprika, and coriander. There are also some spice blends, like ras el hanout and za’atar, that can bring Middle Eastern flavors to your corn. Ras el hanout usually features cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger, along with other warming spices, and za’atar often includes oregano, thyme, and marjoram along with sumac and sesame seeds.

Make corn delicious with spices, herbs, and more

spice market in Israel

So when’s the best time to add the spices? It depends on which ones you’re using. Most will work well mixed into the oil used on the corn before it hits the grill. If you want to use za’atar, however, it’s probably better to add that after the corn has been grilled since it contains sesame seeds, which can taste unpleasant if burnt. You can add fresh herbs, such as parsley, into your oil as well, or add after grilling.

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After the corn is grilled, you can continue to build flavor. Sprinkle some aleppo pepper on the ears or spread a bit of harissa on them to give the corn some heat. A little chopped preserved lemon would add acidity and brightness, as well. It could also echo the citrus notes of sumac if you used that in your spice rub. Tahini might be another tasty tweak to the corn after it has been grilled. And don’t be afraid to bring cheese into the equation — some crumbled feta would add creaminess and saltiness to the dish.

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