Ah, corn

summer corn cakes

summer corn cakes

“What’s for dinner?” I yelled out the car window at Jason Smith. The 18 Seaboard chef was intently stuffing all sorts of vegetable matter in a van at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, N.C. this morning. “This time of year is such a cornucopia,” he said enthusiastically. “An old chef I knew told me once, get the best ingredients you can and then don’t mess them up. Actually, he didn’t say ‘mess’.” (Jason, I worked at newspapers for 15 years. There isn’t a four-letter word I haven’t heard and possibly used. But I appreciate the attempt to spare my delicate Southern sensibilities.)

The cornucopia in the back seat of my car: blueberries, nectarines, watermelon, cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. When I got home with it all, I craved corn cakes for lunch. I guess they’re sort of fritters. Sometimes I put chopped shrimp or okra in them, but I had neither on hand. This time it was a couple of ears’ worth of corn kernels, a few shakes of chili powder and smoked paprika, chopped green and yellow onion, a chopped clove of garlic, and salt and pepper. A tablespoon or so each of flour and cornmeal, some baking powder, then a beaten egg to hold it all together. I scooped the batter gently with two large spoons into hot oil and fried the cakes until they were brown on both sides. I drain all my fried foods on a cake cooling rack over a plate, not on paper towels – the oil just hangs around on the towels and gets the food soggy.

I made a salad of sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and vinegar to go with the corn cakes. That’s a summer lunch.

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