Monday, August 12, 2013

And Yet Another Summer Salad...Corn Cakes with a Medley of Roasted Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Bacon & Arugula

It appears that I am on a bit of a salad bender.  Today's post will be my third in a row that features a salad.  I guess that August is truly salad season.  When it's just too hot and steamy to want to eat hot and steamy foods, big platters of vegetables—raw, roasted, grilled or blanched...served chilled or at room temperature—are just what I crave.
It is possible that my definition of "salad" differs from the norm.  Perhaps most people think first of lettuce when they think of a salad.  But in my mind, it isn't really lettuce that makes something a salad.   Today's salad happens to include some, but there was none in the eggplant and chickpea salad I posted last week.  I guess I agree with the definition of salad that Deborah Madison gives in her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:  If you take a platter (or bowl) of vegetables (and/or fruit), and toss (or drizzle) it with a vinaigrette (or dressing), then you have a salad.   With this definition, salads can be light and lean affairs...or they can be hearty, substantial and filling.

Today's salad is a substantial specimen.  It does include lettuce (arugula), but the lettuce is more of a garnish than a main element.  If arugula isn't your thing, you could substitute some baby spinach.  At its heart, this salad is all about the sweet, summer corn...and the juicy cherry tomatoes....and the crisp, salty bacon.  The "vinaigrette" in this case is simply a splash of sherry vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil—both added directly to the bowl of vegetables (no separate whisking—or extra bowl—required).  The sherry vinegar serves to wake up the flavors of the vegetables and the olive oil adds richness, moisture and more flavor.  Even a determined salad hater could probably be enticed into giving this "salad" a try.  And when you add in the fact that this delicious concoction is served on top of a plate of tender and fluffy corn cakes (drizzled with just a  touch of honey), you'll have a dinner for a hot summer day that almost anyone would love.    

Roasted Corn Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Bacon & Arugula

6 strips bacon (5 to 6 oz.)
2 large ears of corn
1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes (8 oz.), halved
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 large handfuls arugula (2 1/2 to 3 oz.)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 t. Sherry Vinegar
1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 Corn Cakes (recipe below)

In a cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over moderately low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp.  Remove to paper towels and break into 1-inch pieces.  (Alternatively, cut the bacon into 1-inch squares prior to cooking.)  Measure the bacon fat and return 2 T. to the pan.  Reserve the pan until you are ready to make the corn cakes.

While the bacon cooks, place the ears of corn in a 375° oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, pull of the husks and silks. Cut the kernels from the cob. You should have about 2 cups corn kernels.

Place the corn, cherry tomatoes, green onions, bacon and arugula in a large bowl. 

Set aside while you prepare the corn cakes.

When ready to serve the salad, season the vegetables with salt & pepper.  Drizzle 1/2 T. sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Taste.  Correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinegar if necessary.  If the salad seems dry, drizzle in a bit more olive oil. 

To plate the salad, shingle three pancakes in an arc along the edge of four plates.  If you like, drizzle a small amount of honey over the pancakes (don't overdo it...this isn't dessert).  Mound a fourth of the salad in the center of each plate and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Printable Recipe

Corn  Cakes
1 large ear of corn
1 c. buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned with a bit of milk)
3/4 c. all-purpose flour (85 grams)
1/2 c. stone ground cornmeal (65 grams)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
scant 1 t. kosher salt
1 t. sugar
2 T. melted unsalted butter or bacon fat (see note)
2 green onions, minced
1 egg, beaten

Husk the corn.  Cut the kernels away from the cob; scrape the cob with the back of your knife or a large spoon to "milk" the cob.  Scoop up these scrapings along with enough corn kernels to measure 1/2 cup (set the remaining kernels aside for the moment) and purée in the food processor...adding just enough of the buttermilk to facilitate the process.  Combine the puréed corn with the remaining buttermilk and set aside.  

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.  

In a mediums sauté pan, melt the butter or bacon fat (see note).  Add the scallions and cook just until sizzling—about a minute.  Remove from the heat and add the reserved corn kernels, tossing to coat in the hot fat.  Place the egg in a medium-sized bowl and whisk in the corn-scallion mixture—scraping the pan to make sure you get all of the fat.  Whisk in the puréed corn-buttermilk mixture.  

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and fold together in as few strokes as's OK if the batter is lumpy.  The batter should be thick enough to scoop with an ice cream scoop, but if it is too thick, add more of the buttermilk.

Melt some butter in a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium to medium-high heat. Scoop each corn cake using a scant quarter cup of batter, spreading slightly to form 3 inch cakes. Cook until bubbles begin to form and pop on the surface or each cake—about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. 

Carefully flip the pancake over and cook until springy to the touch—another 1 1/2 minutes or so. 

Keep the pancakes warm in a low oven until all of the cakes have been cooked. Makes about 12 pancakes.

Note:  I like to make these with bacon fat.  Cook the bacon for the salad.  When the bacon is cooked, remove to paper towels and measure the fat.  Return 2 T. of fat to the pan (supplementing with butter if you don't have that much bacon fat) and proceed with the recipe—cooking the scallions briefly in the bacon fat instead of melted butter.

(Adapted from Mark Miller's Corn Cakes from the Coyote Café Cookbook)

Printable Recipe

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