I meant to stay on track in Mississippi. I packed my running shoes and a Leslie Sansone DVD. I told Jeff that I was only going to drink water and order grilled things and eat lots of fresh vegetables.
That’s no way to start a Delta vacation.
Do you know what they have down there? The crispiest fried catfish. Cornbread salad. Tamales. Honey cream danishes. Fried pies. I didn’t eat all of it, but I TRIED. By the time I finished my Tabasco-brown sugar bacon at Big Bad Breakfast, I was backsliding in earnest. If we’d stayed one more day, I’d have had to retire my pants and just walk around in a bed sheet.
But, after a gloriously gluttonous vacation, there’s nothing like coming home and making something fresh and good.
The “summery” flavor comes from the freshly shucked corn, diced red onion and fresh basil.
I might be jumping the gun a little with the fresh corn, since it’s early in the season, but we’ve had good luck, and it’s hard to beat 10 ears for $3. Before you buy your corn, feel the ears through the husks to make sure there are kernels all the way to the tip, and make sure the tassels are still sticky, not dried out.
Once you’ve stripped the corn cobs of their kernels and milk, the corn cakes come together quickly. Frying them is like making a big batch of pancakes. Pour a little batter into the greased skillet, use the back of your spoon to spread it out, cook, flip and eat.
However, these cakes were really made to go with the Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa. The salsa is a symphony of big flavors – scallion, basil, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice and vinegar, as well as the tomato – that are sharp and bright and just the thing to balance the sweetness of the corn cakes. At the last possible moment, you add the cool creaminess of the avocado into the mix, and you get a summer meal that you could easily make a fool of yourself over.
If you’re eating with a meat-loving friend, add some grilled chicken or shrimp.
If you have any leftover salsa, add it to some black beans for a quick salad.
And don’t try to stay on a diet in Mississippi. It’s too hot, and the food’s just too good.
Summer Corn Cakes with Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa
Adapted from “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen”
Makes about 12 large cakes; serves 6 to 8
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal (If you can only find cornmeal mix, skip the baking powder.)
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Canola oil, for frying
- Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a brown paper bag.
- 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.
- Place 2 cups 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.
- Add flour, cornmeal, onion, basil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix.
- Add the eggs, buttermilk and butter, and stir just to combine. (Do not overmix.)
- Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough canola oil to barely cover the bottom, and heat until sizzling hot.
- One heaping tablespoon at a time, scoop the batter into the skillet. Cooking in batches of 4 to 5 to avoid overcrowding, fry the cakes 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.
- Drain on the lined baking sheet, and place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the remaining corn cakes. Serve warm topped with a heap of Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa.
Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 large tomato, cored and chopped
- 1 scallion, trimmed and minced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- Place all of the 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.