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

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

#TheNewSouthwest Release Day!

The New Southwest l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Information:

The New Southwest cookbook was officially released today! And I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you.

One Quick Note:  While The New Southwest is available for purchase as of today, some online sales outlets are experiencing delays in shipment, most notably Please know that we are working as hard as our little fingers will work to get some southwestern goodness onto your cookshelf as quickly as possible, and that all orders will be fulfilled. Bear with us and rest assured that all of this deliciousness will be worth the brief wait.

Book Tour Beginnings l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Calendar:

The New Southwest Book Tour is on and popping!

The first few tour dates are shown above but more are already in the works. Check back here early and often to find out where I’ll be – I would love to meet you!

Chipotle Skillet Mac l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Grumbling Tummy:

This cheesy mac.

It involves three cups of cheese. It’s not in The New Southwest, but if you’re reading this anytime around supper on any day of this week, it is in my tummy.

Let’s get it into yours, too, K?

Happy #TheNewSouthwest Release Day!

P.S.  Have you entered to win a KitchenAid® Artisan® Series 5-Quart Stand Mixer in the color of your choice + a signed copy of The New Southwest? Uh…  why not?!? Get your enter on here!

P.P.S.  Make sure to stop by tomorrow for another awesome giveaway! Because I love you! Which is why I’ll give you a hint! Tomorrow’s contest sponsor rhymes with Le You Don’t Saaaaay…

#TheNewSouthwest Release Day!
Serves: approximately 6 servings
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile, ground
  • 1 tsp. cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper, ground
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. whipped cream cheese
  • 2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 6 cups cooked elbow pasta (I opted to use a twisted, ridged elbow shape here, but any short pasta may be substituted.)
  • 1 c. pepper Jack cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Stir in the remaining butter, flour, chipotle chile, cumin, coriander and white pepper, carefully mixing until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and whipped cream cheese. Just as the cream cheese is melting, stir in the cheddar cheese. Once the cheddar is completely melted into the other ingredients, stir in the buttermilk and finally the pasta, one cup at a time. Top with pepper Jack cheese and place under a low broiler for approximately 3 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and golden on top. Remove and serve immediately.



Life-Changing Green Onion ‘Fries’

Roasted Cebollita 'Fries' l Scarletta Bakes

A few weeks ago A. and I decided we needed a breath of fresh air. Literally. Figuratively. And a few other -lys that we just don’t need to discuss today.

So we saddled up our sturdy sedan and abandoned the Valley of the Sun for a day trip into Arizona’s mountains:  specifically, we were headed for the Prescott Farmer’s Market.

Prescott Farmer's Market l Scarletta Bakes

At the risk of sounding like a massive science nerd, the vast extremes in Arizona’s climate, topography and ecosystem life never cease to amaze me. When you grow up in and around New England, where it’s possible to drive through multiple states in a few short hours and, visually, not even realize that you’ve made the transition, this new environment feels nothing short of Martian.

I just can’t get past it. And if you’ve ever made the drive from Phoenix up into the northern mountains, you know what I mean.

Climbing from an elevation of approximately 1,100 feet to one of approximately 5,400 feet.
Watching the thermostat drop from 99° to 75°.
Passing armies of saguaro cacti that are slowly subsumed by hoards of pines.

It’s pretty fascinating even if you don’t have a destination that you’re excited about.

But we did! Or at least I did! Because farmer’s markets are kind of my jam. Especially in the fall, when they (ironically) remind me of being back home.

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Green Creamed Corn Cups

Green Esquites

I realized the other day that fresh yellow corn in the market has always, always signaled the true start of summer. There was some surprise in this conclusion given that, as an adult, I have lived in Boston, Connecticut, Virginia, back to Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and finally Arizona.

And yet, summer corn has remained a constant…

So why fight it? Summer corn was clearly meant to be a part of my summer reality.

At the risk of sounding like a dental floss-hating dental floss hater, I will admit that I do not enjoy eating corn on the cob. Which is why these creamed corn cups, or esquites, play a starring role in my summer reality show.

I like to make up big batches of esquites, troughs really, and tweak the recipe just a bit depending on my mood. Fresh corn is so sweet and so flavorful that you don’t need to add much, but I’ve found that corn’s natural flavor can be artfully enhanced by a wide variety of additives, from chiles to bell peppers to fresh herbs to cheese to sweet and savory sauces alike.

Traditional esquites involve mayonnaise, cotija cheese, a bit of ground red chile, lime juice, and possibly some cilantro; while I often like to go traditional, I’ve been loving this green version lately.

Just promise me one thing:  you won’t skip the charring of the corn! It just takes one pan and about ten minutes and you must not neglect your charring. Yes, your corn will pop and spit and fight back the whole way, but if you stay strong, you’ll be rewarded with crazy-flavorful, slightly crispened, charred summer corn. Tossed with a bit of mayo, a handful of cotija cheese, and an herbaceous green sauce.

Welcome, summer. We missed you.

Green Esquites

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 c. corn kernels (Note that this is approximately 4 ears of fresh corn, shucked and stripped of their kernels.)
3 large jalapeños, charred, peeled, stemmed and seeded
1/2 c. cilantro, packed
3 large cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
3/4 c. crumbled cotija cheese (feta cheese may be substituted here and the cheese may be grated instead of crumbled, although I find that the queso cotija most often sold in American markets largely crumbles when grated)

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan pot over high heat. Once the oil is heated and shimmering, add the corn kernels. Toss several times and then spread in an even layer, cooking until charred. Toss again, spread in an even later, and char once more. This entire process of charring the corn will generally take approximately 10-15 minutes total, depending on the heat from your stovetop and the type of pan you are using; don’t be alarmed if the corn pops and spits while it cooks. Once charred, remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the jalapeño flesh, cilantro and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process to a paste. With the motor still running, add the lime juice and remaining oil in through the feed tube, continuing to process until uniform. Remove mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, crumbled cotija cheese, and finally the corn. Serve immediately or store, refrigerated, allowing to return to room temperature before serving.

Note that esquites are traditionally served in individual portions out of small cups or even jars, but you can just as easily serve it out of one large bowl or platter if you prefer.

Note also that this recipe can easily be batched up for large crowds.

YIELD:  approximately 4 servings

In Skillets: Cheesy Sage Baked Rice

Cheesy Sage Baked Skillet Rice

Well look-uh here, finishing up Skillet Week right on Earth Day…  it’s almost like someone, you know, got their planning on!

I do find my skillet to be the most environmentally responsible tool that I have in my kitchen, mainly because it will last my lifetime and hopefully that of my cookin’ babies.

It also takes nothing more than natural oil and a clean, reusable cloth to maintain, and doesn’t emit anything other than delicious foodstuffs, unlike the toxic fumes that can be a byproduct of cooking with certain types of nonstick pots and pans.

So what better way to celebrate Earth Day tonight than by preparing a succulent cheese and rice casserole in your eco-friendly cast iron skillet? (Answer:  there isn’t one.)

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My Family’s Favorite Green Beans

I’ve been doing a fair amount of nervous-anxious-comfort eating lately. Here’s what that looks like:

Gee, that doughnut sure looks good. And so does that cupcake. Hey! You got your doughnut on my cupcake! And you got your cupcake on my doughnut! Nothing left to do but eat the whole dang mess…

It’s fifty shades of ugly. For sure.

Things came to a head the other night when I sat down next to A. on the couch with my Dignity Droppin’ Dessert du jour and he looked over and actually started laughing. Out loud.

I, of course, responded in the only way possible – with preemptive aggression: “What?!?!”

He, of course, responded in the only way possible – with a life-saving change of subject: “Uh, I just read something funny online. Have you heard this joke about the fiscal cliff?”

Well played, my friend. Well played.

So, you know, it occurred to me that it may be time to start getting some more veggies into my diet. And then I discovered this recipe.

Let’s just say that when you can get a chicken nugget-shoving, cupcake-pounding, queso fundido-funneling girl to look forward to eating fresh green beans, you’re doing something right.

The idea is to char the whole beans in a screaming hot skillet, then toss them with a light and lovely Harissa sauce. It is such a wonderful alternative to the heavy, cream of mushroom soup-laden green beans that we’re all expected to eat this time of year. You might want to considering switching things up at the Thanksgiving table, green bean-wise.

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Spicy Mashed Potatoes

Sundays are for relaxing, don’t you think?

Relaxing by tuning in to watch ridiculously beautiful people walk down a ridiculously fancy carpet on their way to receiving ridiculously glitzy awards for their roles in ridiculously silly TV shows that you never had time to watch anyway.

That’s just ridiculous.

Consider this a Sunday Turbo Post, because what Sundays are actually for, what I hope you’re doing right now, is sitting on the couch in your ridiculously silly pajamas, watching a ridiculously entertaining sporting event, eating ridiculously good Spicy Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes out of a ridiculously large serving bowl.

And since you’ve got some relaxing to do, I’m not going to waste any more of your time talking about it – that would just be ridiculous.

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Best Baked French Fries

Perfect French fries really are a science, wouldn’t you say? And maybe also an art – the art and science of the perfect French fry. With a side of perfect, spicy ketchup for dipping. This will be our topic du jour:  we’d better get started.

Now, of course, I’ve read all the rags and I know what’s what:  the truly perfect way to make French fries is to double fry them. You par cook them in oil at a lower temp then jack up the heat and get those fries sinfully crisp on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. It’s so wrong its right, and I enjoy being wrong/right every time I go to my favorite local fry spot.

But I’m lazy. And I’m not into eating deep fried foods all the time. And I still need to have some crispy taters, dang it! So I worked out a recipe that would get me where I needed to go without all the drama.

Perfect Baked French Frytown, here we come.

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