CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The thrill of gnawing my way down a buttered, salted ear of freshly picked corn gradually subsides as the corn season progresses. Eventually, I'm ready to use some of those sweet kernels in recipes instead of enjoying them in their unadulterated state on the cob. This weekend, I tried Summer Corn Cakes with Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa.
The ingredient list calls for three ears of shucked corn, but the instructions mention two cups of kernels. After shucking the six ears I had on hand, I was still short and had to add about a half-cup of frozen kernels.
Perhaps the ears were small, but I'm convinced I removed them efficiently, thanks to a handy corn-shelling device that pops the individual kernels off the cob. There are no strands of connected kernels, like you usually get when you scrape the cobs with a knife, and it's more difficult to slice your hand. Although not impossible.
The OXO brand corn sheller I borrowed from a friend is shaped like a large plastic mouse -- computer, not animal. One side holds a sawtooth-edged blade you run down the side of an ear. The kernels fall though a hole and are collected in the hollow interior. The tidy process limits the number of errant kernels that typically fly off the cob when they're removed with a knife.
Corn shellers in different varieties are available at kitchen centers and gadget sections in department stores. The Purple Onion in the Capitol Market carries a corn cutter that removes kernels from the cobs.
Shelled corn in hand, I assembled the remaining ingredients. The original recipe seemed a bit bland and not very colorful, so I added about 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 cup diced red pepper to the batter.
The corncakes puffed a bit as they cooked, providing a light, moist consistency inside the crispy browned exteriors. The freshly made salsa had just the right bite when paired with the sweet corncakes.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Summer Corn Cakes with Chopped Tomato and Avocado Salsa
Makes 1 dozen cakes
4-6 ears corn, shucked
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
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
1 large tomato, cored and chopped
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
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
HEAT oven to 200 degrees. Line baking sheet with brown paper bag.
CUT corn from cobs into a large bowl, and scrape the stripped cobs with the back of the knife (or a spoon) to release juices into bowl.
PLACE 2 cups corn kernels into a food processor, and pulse several times, until corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape into bowl with the remaining corn kernels.
ADD flour, cornmeal, onion, red pepper, basil, baking powder, baking soda, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the corn. Stir to mix. Add 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 bottom, and heat until sizzling hot. Scoop batter into skillet, one heaping tablespoon at a time. Cook in batches of 4 to 5 to avoid overcrowding. Fry the cakes 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Drain on a lined baking sheet, and place in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining corn cakes.
SERVE warm topped with a heap of chopped tomato and avocado salsa.
To make salsa:
PLACE tomato, scallion, jalapeno, cilantro, basil, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and black pepper to taste 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 avocado, and mix gently. Makes about 2 cups.