Savory September Corn & Jalapeno Cakes

IMG_77922 - cakes

Savory pancakes are so underrated, don’t you think?

I mean, in the pantheon of savory breads, biscuits, buns, even leavened loaves and fried hush puppies get more play than savory pancakes. It’s such a shame!

Especially when you consider that savory pancakes such as the ones we’re talking about today are infinitely customizable for picky eaters or a fridge flush with leftover produce that you’re dying to use up.

Today we’re frying up some fresh corn, tossing it with plump, roasted jalapeños, and letting those be the star of our savory pancake show.

You can easily substitute canned corn here, and perhaps you’ll want to incorporate some ripe, early-autumn Hatch chiles instead of jalapeños. You’re the boss!

Either way, you won’t be disappointed with these pancakes, whether you’re thinking breakfast, side dish, or just a deliciously filling snack.

Cakes on the griddle!

Savory Corn & Jalapeño Cakes

1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter plus more for frying
3 ears yellow corn (approximately 2 1/2 c. fresh corn kernels)
1 jalapeño, roasted peeled, stemmed, seeded, chopped
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. nonfat Greek yogurt

To prepare the corn, melt one and one half tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over a medium flame. Shuck the corn and remove kernels by standing each cob on end and carefully trimming down the sides. Add kernels to melted butter and cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 6 minutes, until tender and just beginning to deepen in color and turn fragrant. Add the jalapeño pieces and cook for 4 minutes more. Remove cooked mixture from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the buttermilk, eggs and Greek yogurt together in another large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just until you have a smooth, uniform batter. Fold in the corn mixture.

To fry the pancakes, return your large, heavy-bottomed skillet to a medium flame. Note that preparing perfect pancakes depends to a large degree on the type of cooking vessel you are using:  if you are using a nonstick griddle or pan, you will likely not need to grease it with any additional butter. If you are using cast iron or stainless steel, you may want to consider adding one tablespoon of butter to the pan before frying each batch of pancakes. Either way, be sure not to heat your pan over too high a flame or the cakes will burn on the outside without cooking through on the inside.

Once your pan or griddle is heated, portion the batter out onto the cooking surface (I chose to make larger cakes by using a quarter cup measure here). Cook for three to four minutes on each side; finished cakes will be puffed and golden brown across their tops and bottoms. Remove cooked pancakes and repeat with remaining batter. These pancakes are best served straight from the pan or griddle, and can be served with fresh crema, chopped chives, or the salsa of your choosing.

YIELD:  10-12 pancakes

Rustic Blackberry Crisp

Crisped Serving l Scarletta Bakes

When do you change up your eating routine?

Personally I find that my dietary habits vary most dramatically during the summer months.

Get me away from the heavy, the saturated, the towering and the stuffed. Bring on the juicy, the puffy and the wafer-thin.

In addition, my already minimalistic approach to plate design becomes even more basic:  we’re talking an aggressively perceptible shift from ‘make that look pretty’ to ‘it’s simply too hot for me to care especially since it all ends up in the same place’.

Which would explain why literal hot messes such as crisps, crumbles and cobblers make regular appearances at my summer dessert table.

Blackberries are abundant in this part of the country, and when they’re plump and ripe and practically perfect such as they are right now, I rarely pass them by. But the cool thing about a dessert like this is that you can adapt it to feature the berry or even stone fruit of your choosing.

Just be sure to remember the vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped stuff. And brace for a mess. Or don’t! It’s summer, and you’re having too much fun to care.

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My King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken l Scarletta Bakes

I confess that, even as the outdoor thermostat rises, I still crave casseroles; this week will be solidly in the 90s here in the Valley of the Sun, but for the past few days I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a certain cheesy, flavorful, bubbling casserole…

King Ranch Chicken (also known as King Ranch Casserole) is a Tex-Mex heirloom dish that has been around for almost as long as its namesake, although the recipe likely did not actually originate from King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas (King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, is, after all, known for its beef).

The truth is that no one knows for sure where the original recipe for King Ranch Chicken came from, but it most certainly gained traction in popular culture right around the middle of the twentieth century while canned and condensed soups were also quickly becoming mainstays in pantries throughout the United States. Which is probably why, lineage or no lineage, there is very little question about the ingredients that typically make up a traditional King Ranch Chicken Casserole:  canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes, and canned roasted green chiles. Other ingredients are common -bell peppers, chicken, tortillas and cheese- but the cans stand out.

So I suppose, both in my abandonment of the can (I didn’t kick them all to the curb!), as well as my craving of the comfort-wielding casserole just as the mercury inches dangerously close to 100º F, I am committing some type of dual heresy.

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Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

Arroz Verde

If you were to ask, I would not claim spring as my favorite season. In fact, it would probably be last on my preferred list, with one exception:  what is means for produce.

Ironically, as many of you are no doubt encountering, although spring has technically already sprung, prime growing season has yet to show its pretty little face. I think that, for some of you, unsnowcapped-ground has yet to show its pretty little face. So it must be the anticipation of things to come that has such an impact on fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of the year…  they just taste better.

A good example is this rice. Yes, rice.

I started preparing this dish several years ago during the spring after I walked by a stand of poblano chiles that were so good looking that I threw a wink their way. Next to a crate full of Mexican limes that were an irresistible shade of bright, bright green. And a stack of leafy parsley that smelled so tempting that I simply could not walk away.

I decided that mixing my finds in with some luscious rice would be perfect; the flavor of my new fresh friends mixed up with plump rice filling enough to respect the fact that spring doesn’t yet feel like it’s entirely in full effect.

So…  arroz verde.

Sticky, satisfying, tasting like sweet promise:  spring is (almost) here. We can taste it.

Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

3 large shallots, peeled and ends removed
4 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt for roasting and seasoning to taste
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded
6 stems parsley
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. medium-grain rice
4 c. vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the shallots and garlic together with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt, wrap tightly in foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes or until shallots are slightly shrunken and garlic is golden and fragrant. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the poblano chiles, parsley, and lime juice and process to a uniform paste.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are opaque. Add the processed chile mixture and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, season with salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the moisture has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff and stir before serving.

YIELD:  approximately 6 servings