Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer on a Plate

I love food magazines. I am the first to admit it; I'm slightly obsessed. In my kitchen stands a bookshelf crammed with back issues (some seven years old) of Gourmet, Southern LivingFine Cooking, and Bon App├ętit. I particularly look forward to the winter holiday and summer issues. Staring at photos of a glistening, crispy Thanksgiving bird or a basil-flecked, farm fresh corn salad does wonders for my psyche.

This month I was particularly inspired by Southern Living's July recipes. I, along with hundreds of thousands of other readers, discovered the perfect appetizer among those glossy pages. The recipe combines my favorite flavors of our sultry, so-hot-you-peel-off-your-clothing Alabama summers: okra, tomatoes, corn, basil, and a personal staple, pimento cheese. Don't you dare use storebought pimento cheese. I will know. My sister, Emily, took one bite and said, "this is summer on a plate." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Okra and Tomato Corncakes
Recipe adapted from Southern Living, July 2012
Original recipe can be found here.

Although I pretty much stuck to the original recipe (you can't mess much with perfection), I did add a few handfuls of cooked, fresh corn kernels, cut straight off the cob, to the corncake batter. We also added more basil, because as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too much basil. I omitted the arugula because we didn't have any.

2 cups cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1 egg
2 cups okra, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced into rounds
16 basil leaves
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper

Homemade Pimento cheese (recipe here)

Mix the first four ingredients in a small bowl. Beat in water and egg and mix until batter is thick and wet. Add in okra, jalapeno, corn and stir. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking. Pour batter in tablespoonfuls and cook each cake until bubbles appear on the surface and edges look dry. Flip cakes and press down with spatula. Cook 2-3 minutes and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Salt and pepper. Repeat with all of the batter and oil.

To assemble cakes, place eight corn cakes on a plate. Top each cake with a tablespoon of pimiento cheese. Top with a basil leaf and then a tomato round, pressing down slightly. Garnish with basil and season with salt and pepper. Summer on a plate. I promise.

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