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

Green Chile Cheese Toasts (Molletes)

Green Chile Molletes l Scarletta Bakes

Let’s keep the comfort train going, shall we? In fact, let’s whip up something that doesn’t even require you to change out of your pajamas. Dig!

Are you familiar with molletes? No?

Think most delicious open-faced grilled cheese sandwich.
Think loaded toast.
Think comfort layered with comfort, then broiled in your comfort oven, and topped with a generous helping of comfort.

I think you get where this is headed.

Because molletes are basically your relaxing breakfast of choice. They’re traditionally built on crusty bolillo rolls and topped with a smear of smashed beans, then finished with a healthy layer of melting cheese, typically queso chihuahua or queso Oaxaca. Serve with salsa or pico de gallo and you’re in business in all the right ways. But molletes can also be customized to include savory meats, or even made sweet with butter, sugar, honey, agave and, of course, canela.

Today we’re going green chile because that’s how we roll around here. And don’t be fooled into thinking that molletes are only appropriate at breakfast:  I assure you that anyone coming home from a hard day at school or work is not going to turn away a tray loaded with crispy, melty green chile cheese toast for dinner. Pajamas optional.

Green Chile Molletes
Serves: approximately 3 servings
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 5 stems cilantro, minced
  • 3 bolillo rolls (Note that any crusty, oval-shaped roll will work here.)
  • 2 c. black beans, cooked or canned
  • 1 jalapeño chile, roasted, peeled, stemmed and diced (Note that I chose to retain the seeds and membranes for additional heat, you may simply remove yours.)
  • 2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  1. Preheat your boiler to low.
  2. Place the tomato pieces, lime juice and cilantro into a small bowl and lightly toss together. Set aside.
  3. Halve your rolls vertically and arrange, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Place the beans and chile pieces in a large bowl. Although it may sound strange, I have been experimenting with smashing my [i]frijoles[/i] using a pastry cutter as of late. The ‘blades’ of a pastry cutter simply yield a wonderful chunky/smooth consistency when applied to beans, and those moderately sharp tines also allow you to ‘cut’ additional ingredients into the beans, as with the chile pieces here. Whatever you do, don’t purée your beans in your blender or food processor. I’m begging you. You’re going for a smooth by slightly chunky consistency here, not a liquid. Once your beans are the appropriate texture, spread them evenly over the bread tops. Finish with even and generous mounds of shredded cheese and place underneath your broiler.
  5. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately with pico de gallo.

Late Summer Baja Salsa

A Salsa Worth Freaking Out Over

You’re freaking out about this salsa.
Don’t freak out about this salsa.
I’m freaking out about this salsa.
Let’s talk about this salsa.

You may imagine that I’m slightly selective when it comes to salsas.

Do you hear that? That’s A. snickering in the background because he knows that, in reality, I am pickier than a toothpick at a toothpick convention when it comes to salsa.

I like a sweet tomato base.
I like a fair amount of heat.
I like some herby flavor.
And I like a reasonable amount of chunky heft.

Once each of these factors is satisfied, however, I don’t mind playing with the specifics; this particular salsa is the result of my most recent playing. Which brings us back to the freaking out part.

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Central Texas Slaw

Central Texas Slaw

The truth is that I don’t like to blog about blogging. Not because of any major issue, it just feels sort of Alice In Wonderland-ish when I’m actually doing it.

That said, I’m making an exception today, because the topic du jour is only tangentially related to blogging:  I took my first trip to the great city of Austin, Texas on some recent blogging bizniz!

Admiring The Austin Skyline

Austin is bustling, busy, beautiful and incredibly humid. Coming from the desert, Austin days felt like breathing in blue cheese.

But it was delicious blue cheese! So I spent as much time as possible walking around downtown.

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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

Let’s Talk Nachos

Roasted Chickpea Nachos

Doesn’t it seem like there’s an expert on everything these days?

I even tuned into the TODAY Show the other day and found Natalie and Savannah being schooled by a dishwasher loading expert. (At which point I questioned, for the 121st time, why I watch the TODAY Show…)

Rinsed Chickpeas

I have never climbed on a surf board, I generally try to avoid snakes and coupon clipping, and, as A. will most certainly confirm, I am far from an expert when it comes to loading my poor, put-upon dishwasher.

I am, however, a confirmed Nacho Expert, both in terms of preparation and consumption.

And today, I’d like to share some of my most expert tips with you.

Expert! Get ready!

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Shrimp Tacos + Coconut Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

What You’ll Be Eating This Cinco de Mayo Week continues with some tacos, some crazy good crema, and some truth talk:  tell me true – do you ever find yourself becoming that person???

That person who insists on humming along with the radio throughout an entire 8 hour road trip?
That person who puts empty milk and juice cartons back into the fridge?
That person with that habit you swore you’d never, ever, ever, never -not EVER- be like?

Don’t forget, this is truth talk time…

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Loaded Guacamole Tostada Towers


This is a special time of year, don’t you think?

Let’s look at the facts:

1.  It’s cold outside. Which means you want to stay inside. And probably eat a little more than usual.

2.  There are a lot of entertaining things to watch on the TV these days, while you’re stuck inside. Sporting things. Like that big game coming up that’s so super.

3.  When you’re inside, watching super games, eating a little more than usual, it’s much more fun to be sitting on the couch with friends. Eating. Watching. Enjoying. Rather than cooking. Working. And hearing all of the fun being had in the next room.


What does all of this mean? Just one thing:  it’s time for some simple, super, social snacks that can be enjoyed by friends on couches in front of TVs across the land.

Towering avocado tostadas to the rescue!


I love serving these tostada towers because they are impossibly simple to prepare, incredibly fun to share with friends, and absolutely, absolutely delicious. Plop a platter in front of your couch-sitting friends and watch them disappear – each friend simply pulls off a layer and puts it in their face!

Preparing these babies is the simple work of smashing Avocados From Mexico, then stirring in a few additional ingredients designed to make the fresh, ripe flesh shine:  plump cherry tomatoes to bring out the avocados’ natural sweetness, herbaceous cilantro and chives to emphasize their earthy flavor, and of course, bright lime juice and jalapeño to kick things up a notch. Crisp tostada shells provide a vehicle for all of that deliciousness, and stacking them up means you can make a game out of your snacks. Tostada Jenga, anyone?

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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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Tipsy Weekend Salsa

Sometimes the simplest recipe can end a weekend on the right note…

or start a week off in the perfect way.

Take this salsa borracha, for example:  it’s simple, it’s succulent, and it hits all the right garden-fresh notes, with subtle hints of smoky charred chiles and earthy gold tequila. I make it in big batches on Sundays and then serve it with eggs for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, and a roast and rice for dinner throughout the week. Seriously? Seriously. Simple, simple, simple.

And don’t worry! It’s perfectly fine to make Weekend Salsa on a Monday or Tuesday – the flavor should stay the same. I can’t vouch for any Thursday salsas, though…  you’ll have to take on a Thursday Salsa at your own risk.

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