Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness ~ John Keats

Royal Oak Farmers Market

Every fall at harvest time, I write about the Michigan farmers markets which are bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables.  Throngs of people converge on the markets to join in the harvest bonanza. The vibrant orange, red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, pure green zucchini, bright yellow summer squash and deep green kales, collards and chards entice the eye like a Jackson Pollock art exhibit.  My readers know how much I admire and respect the men and women who work so hard to grow this food as free from adulteration as possible.

Cinzori Farms Certified Organic Farm Okra

I’m never sure what I’ll find this time of the year at the market. The ripening of each vegetable is totally up to the predictably unpredictable Michigan weather. There are always pleasant surprises–tender young okra from Cinzori Farms one week, baby fennel from Nature’s Pace Organics the next. I realized early on in my cooking career that planning the week’s meals around seasonal crops is how life was lived before modern commercial farming–a rewarding and healthy way to nourish body and soul.

Natures Pace Organics

For me, shopping is only the beginning of the journey.  Upon arriving home, it is a pleasure to prepare dishes from vegetables harvested within twenty-four hours of reaching the market.  I then embellish the creations with tender herbs and greens right from my kitchen garden.

Kale after a Summer Rain

My dishes are prepared using simple techniques to allow the incredible flavor of each ingredient to speak for itself.  The meal reflects the colors and textures of the market and is contemplative and energizing to consume.

Heirloom Tomatoes at the Royal Oak Farmers Market

Below is a recipe good at any time of year, but best during the peak harvest of tomatoes and corn. It is a whole grain corn cake made in the style of a South Indian Uttapam or a Gujarati Poodla.

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Freshly Harvested Corn, Hemp and Chia Cakes with Fresh Tomato Relish

Serves 6

Corn Cakes

1 cup ground whole cornmeal with the germ

1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds

1/4 cup chia seeds

1 1/2 cups water

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 cup corn off the cob

1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped fine

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

Coconut oil for cooking

For best results, mix the cornmeal, hemp, chia and water, let stand for at least one hour.   Then, mix remaining ingredients, except oil, in with cornmeal mixture.  In a preheated cast iron skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 teaspoons coconut oil and 1/2 cup batter.  Using a spatula, push in the sides to form a 4 inch disc. Cook until nicely browned and carefully turn over.  When other side is brown, remove from the pan and repeat until all are cooked. Serve hot.

Fresh Tomato Relish

Fresh Tomato Relish

1 cup yellow pear tomatoes, halved

1 cup candy red cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup San Marzano tomatoes, diced in 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup tropea red onions, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 red serrano chile, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and allow the flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes.

Note:  Cornmeal, hemp and chia mixture can be made the day before.

Once all ingredients are mixed together, immediately begin cooking in skillet.

Best to make Fresh Tomato Relish before making the corn cakes.

I recommend Hampshire Farms certified organic cornmeal, fresh ground, whole and fresh ground.

Salvadorian Pupusa

The pupusa is a flavorful savory, perfect as an appetizer or addition to a meal.   Similar to the stuffed corn arepas of Venezuela and Gorditas of Mexico, they are unique to El Salvador with a two thousand year history confirmed by excavations at the Pompeii of the New World.   So basic to Salvadorian cuisine that November 13th is celebrated as “National Pupusa Day.” There are many long-standing  traditions around the world which are vegetarian or easily adapted, a number of which can be found in Pre-Columbian dishes. Central and South American societies have provided us with some of the most versatile ingredients and super-foods known to man. Pupusas are made from a masa dough. The dough is flattened in the hand, then gently formed around a filling to make a ball. I fill my pupusas with a cilantro pesto made with pepitas, chiles and lime, and serve them with a zesty Pico de Gallo style salsa made from diced tomato, lime, onion, garlic, green chile, cilantro and sea salt. While making them, I reflect on where the dish came from and the cultural tradition behind it, giving the food a story and identity.  The background music in the video below is performed by Santiago Orozco and is a beautiful complement to preparing and serving pupusas.

Pupusas

Makes 10

Masa

2 1/2 cups masa harina

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups water

Mix ingredients together, cover and allow to rest for an hour.

Filling

1/2 cup pepitas

1 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 375.  Place the pepitas evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 9 minutes.  Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer and reserve.

1/2 cup water

Canola oil for cooking

Add water to masa dough, knead together and form into 10 balls.  Take one ball and use your hands to flatten into a 3 inch wide patty.  Place 1 tablespoon filling in the center and gently work the the dough around the filling to form a ball.  Flatten the ball back to 3 1/2 inches wide by 3/8 inch thick, rinse hands and repeat. Heat cast iron skillet on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet.  Cook 4 to 5 pupusas at a time until golden brown and turn over, cooking again until golden brown.  Serve warm with salsa.

Fresh Salsa

3/4 cup tomato, diced

1 Anaheim chile, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup sweet onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped and packed

Mix together all ingredients.  Serve cold or room temperature.

Spicy Almond Creamed Corn

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This year, the peak of the corn harvest has passed.  Still, just before frost, there are still fresh ears available that are a little tougher, but retain some of the sweetness.  This recipe is ideal with peak harvest corn, but is also a good way to use any fresh corn. The level of spiciness may be adjusted by the amount of jalapeno used, even to the point of removing it entirely.

Serves 6

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh jalapeno chile, seeded and minced

2 1/2 cups sweet corn, cut off the cob

1/2 cup sweet onions, finely diced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup water

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups plain soy milk

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground

Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat, then add jalapeno, cook for 10 seconds and add corn and onions.  Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes until corn starts to lightly bown around the edges. Stir in salt, water, Dijon, soy milk, almond flour and white pepper.  Cook until liquid becomes creamy.  Serve hot as a side dish.