Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Cheddar Cheese Corn Cakes

The tomato blight has luckily not devastated all the local tomato farms.

My friend Jane tells me a farmer near her country house upstate (Sullivan County) lost their entire field - 18,000 plants. To make matters worse, apparently the plants grow fine and you think everything is going to work out and you're going to have this great crop then you wake up one morning to find them all infected.

I hope those poor farmers have insurance for a loss like that, although even as I type that I'm sure they don't. Not an easy life farming.

Anyway, thankfully most of the farmers at the Green market have been lucky as tomatoes are everywhere, ranging in price from $2-$4:50 a pound.

Mostly this season I have been buying the less expensive field tomatoes (as opposed to the Heirlooms) , which have been very tasty. I have a huge bunch of them sitting in front of me now that I bought in order to make salsa that I was going to put up.

When I got them home I looked at dozens of recipes only to discover that the fresh salsa that I like so much doesn't lend itself to canning. So I'm going to make another version for canning and made a batch of the fresh stuff and served it last night at a little dinner party we had here - it was a real crowd pleaser.

Corn and tomatoes are a classic combination, the corn this season has been sweet and lovely. Corn Cakes are easy, don't require the oven and are delicious. I posted the recipe here a while back, in this version I added 1 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese to the batter. You could also, instead of, or in addition to, melt cheddar cheese on top of the corn cake after you've fried them, if you're feeling cheesy and don't mind turning the broiler on in this heat.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

This is going to be a tad frustrating for those of you who require very specific measurements, so I apologize up front. Feel free to add or subtract as you see fit and remember to taste the salsa as you go along.

Chop 4 large tomatoes into a medium dice (mine was fairly rustic and chunky) and place in a large bowl (about 4 cups).

Stem, seed and finely dice 2-4 jalapeno peppers (or Serrano or any other hot pepper you like - I wear latex gloves when I do this to prevent rubbing hot pepper juice in my eye).

Add to the tomatoes. If you are worried about the heat add a small amount of what you have prepped and then later, when everything is added, you can add more if you want. Better to start with less...

Finely chop 1 large red onion and add it to the mix. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime, stir in 2 teaspoons, or to taste, of ground cumin and about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (I use the stem and leaves), salt and black pepper to taste.

If you are trying to be local and limes aren't part of your world try some apple cider vinegar, you may want to add a pinch of sugar if you do this.

I like to keep very simple recipes loose so you feel comfortable with the idea of changing it to better suit your taste. It's more a suggestion than anything else.

I love cumin, some people don't, if you do add the cumin you might want to try browning cumin seeds in a skillet and then grinding them up in a mortar and pestle (or coffee/spice grinder) instead of using cumin powder.

Some people think Cilantro tastes like soap - go figure - if one of them is going to be eating your salsa basil or parsley would both be good substitutes or don't add any herb at all.

This Salsa can be made a day before and will sit in the fridge for about 3 days or maybe a little longer, but is best used within 24 hours of making.

Once you've fried up your corn cakes, you can either serve them on a platter with the salsa in a separate bowl and another bowl of thick yogurt or sour cream (I used a Three Corner Field Farm's Sheep's Milk yogurt). Or if you are feeling fancy make them into canapes: 1 or 2 corn cakes, a spoon full of salsa and a dollop of the cream of your choice, garnish with chopped cilantro or what ever herb you used.

These little suckers can be very filling, so be warned, less is more! Or you could make a very lovely meal of them, accompanied by a simple salad , some white wine, maybe a chunk of local cheese, some pate or smoked salmon, and a blueberry peach crumble to finish.

An easy, elegant, seasonal supper: voilà!

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