Calabacitas Corn Cakes with Queso Blanco Salsa
This is an absolutely delicious vegetarian appetizer or main course that uses all the best produce of summer. Its based on a recipe from one of my favorite Santa Fe restaurants, Cafe Pasqual. I lightened up the recipe but it still tastes very luscious and filling. I like to make my corn cakes small, enough for two bites, but you can make them crepe-sized and put the calabacitas inside and the salsa on top.
CORN CAKES WITH CALABACITAS AND QUESO BLANCO SALSA
(Yield: 8 appetizer servings)
For the queso blanco salsa:
2 tablespoons butter
1 white onion
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
4 fresh mild green chiles, such as New Mexico or Anaheim, roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped (or 8 ounces canned green chiles, drained)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup low-fat milk
½ pound reduced fat cream cheese
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the corn cakes:
1/3 cup finely diced red pepper
1 cup fresh corn, or frozen thawed
¾ cup milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
½ tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup finely minced scallion tops (green part)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Melted butter for cooking
For the calabacitas:
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup finely diced red pepper
1 cup finely diced zucchini
2 fresh poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. To prepare the salsa, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter sizzles, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, chiles, red and yellow bell peppers, salt and black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Reduce the heat and add the milk, stirring well. When heated through, add the cream cheese. Cook, stirring frequently until the cheese melts and the mixture is thick, about 12 minute. Stir in the cayenne pepper and remove from the heat. Let cool, cove and refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving. (You can prepare the salsa up to 3 days in advance.)
4. Just before serving, reheat the salsa by placing it in the top pan of a double boiler over gently simmering water; stir frequently to prevent scorching. Adjust to taste with cayenne pepper.
5. To prepare the corn cake batter, combine the bell pepper, corn, eggs, milk, flour, cornmeal, butter and salt in a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process for about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stirn in the Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, scallions, and cilantro. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.
6. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
7. To cook the corn cakes, heat large skillet over medium heat. Coat with butter until sizzling. Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter per cake and fry until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Slide the cakes out onto a plate and cover with wax paper and place in the oven.
8. Continue making batches of cakes and slip them in the oven as they are done. They may be fried up to 3 hours before serving.
9. To prepare the calabacitas, warm a saute plan over medium heat until hot. Brush the pan with melted butter. When it sizzles, add all the remaining ingredients. Cook, shaking the pan to rearrange the ingredients frequently, until the vegetables are just heated through and slightly softened, 3-4 minutes.
10. To assemble, place the corn cakes on individual plates (2 per serving). Place a spoonful of calabacitas on top and then ladle the warm salsa over all. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.