Monday, July 25, 2011


Few things say “summer” to me more clearly than the combination of corn and tomatoes, unless perhaps it’s the incredible medley of avocado, cilantro, and lime, so even though I already have a very good corn cake recipe in my archives, I bookmarked this one (originally by Sara Foster) at Ezra Pound Cake the instant I saw the photo. Sure, I could just throw some salsa on top of my usual corn cakes and call it a day, but these corn cakes looked totally different than mine—thick like crab cakes, with lots more leavening and the added flavors of cornmeal, buttermilk, basil, and red onion. Could there be room in my life for two different corn cake recipes? But of course!

Despite our large appetite for all things fritter-like (we routinely eat them as entrees, especially in the summer), these corn cakes looked so hearty in the picture that I halved the recipe, which claimed to serve six to eight people. This resulted in the rather awkward requirement of 1½ ears of corn, but I used two smallish ears and it was just fine (I imagine one large ear would also be OK). I decided to stick with the full recipe for the salsa, mostly because I didn’t want half an avocado floating around in my fridge, but also because I figured extra salsa never goes amiss. This was a wise decision; the corn cakes are sturdy and stand up well to toppings, so feel free to pile on the salsa to your heart’s content. In fact, because the corn cakes have the drier texture of cornbread rather than the pancake-like texture of my usual recipe, the salsa provides an important contrast. The salsa has a fair amount of liquid in it, most of which I’d left behind in a bowl, spooning on the chunkier parts with a slotted spoon because I was afraid of making the corn cakes soggy, but their crispy surfaces turned out to be largely impermeable (at least in the short time it took to go from plate to mouth), so I needn’t have been so shy—the juiciness would have been quite welcome.

Following the recipe’s instructions to use heaping tablespoons of batter, I got slightly smaller cakes than I’d expected; they puffed up tall but didn’t spread much, turning out like cute sliders where Ezra Pound Cake’s photo had made them look like burgers. At this appetizer-like size, the recipe yielded eight cakes, which made for a perfect four per serving: generous enough to be satisfying, but still a light summery meal (we had something else on the side that I can’t quite recall—grilled chicken thighs, maybe?). I would definitely make these again.

For the salsa:
1 large tomato, cored and chopped
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ lime
1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

For the corn cakes:
1 large ear or 2 small ears corn, shucked
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon well-shaken buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place all of the salsa ingredients except the avocado in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days. Just before serving, add the avocado and mix gently.

2. Cut the corn from the cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release the juices into the bowl.

3. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels into a food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.

4. Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.

5. Add the egg, buttermilk, and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)

6. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and heat until sizzling hot.

7. One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes for about 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. (I got 8 small corn cakes.)

8. Remove corn cakes from pan, set them briefly on a paper towel to blot away any extra oil, and set on a cooling rack (or on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a warm oven if you want to keep them hot) until ready to eat. Serve warm, topped with a heap of salsa.

Serves: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: For the corn cakes, unknown. Extra salsa will keep in the fridge for a few days and can be eaten with tortilla chips, used on tacos, or mixed with black beans for an easy salad.

No comments: