On the way home from the farmer's market, Sarina and I joked that I wouldn't be able to resist playing with the molecular gastronomy toys, turning the zucchini into gel, the tomatoes into powder, spherifying the cukes and making the corn into a tableside sorbet with liquid nitrogen. But it was just a joke. With ingredients this good, and the weather this hot, it would be a crime to do much more than tie them all together with some big, bright flavors and a good beer.
So we have: quinoa cakes, spicy roasted corn relish, pan-fried zucchini, beefsteak tomato and cucumber salad, and a simple chimichurri sauce to marry them all up. The components are summer dynamite together, but any one of them could be a good side dish in a different meal, so feel feel free to mix and match.
By the way, can I mention that apparently almost no-one realizes how good zucchini is when pan-fried in a single layer? I like zucchini lots of ways – sauteed, lightly steamed, grated even… but when allowed a lot of surface area and a hot flame, it develops this completely different nutty / caramelized flavor that is addictive.
I hate to be cruel, but I have to tell you that for dessert we had strawberry shortcake, with two quarts of berries also from the market, fresh baked biscuits, and Sea Breeze Farm cream.
Quinoa Cakes with a Farmer's Market Riot
Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you use an egg-replacer in the cakes
For the chimichurri (or see this other, slightly embellished version):
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped fine or pressed
- 1 cup well-rinsed flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly packed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor and process until it forms a thin sauce, kind of like a pesto without the nuts or cheese to hold it together. You might need more oil to get it pureed. Taste and adjust seasonings and allow to rest so the flavor can develop.
For the quinoa cakes:
- 2 cups leftover quinoa, or 1 cup rinsed, cooked normally, and allowed to cool
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or leaves from a couple stems of fresh oregano, minced
- 2 eggs
- canola oil
Combine all ingredients except the oil. You should have a "dough" that you can form a wet ball with. If it is still dry and fluffy, add another egg. Bring your largest skillet, or better a flat griddle pan up to medium high heat. Add a thin layer of oil. Using about 1/4 cup each time, form pancakes and flatten on to the pan. They should only be about 1/4" thick. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then flip and finish other side. Remove and season with salt and pepper.
For the cucumber and tomato salad:
- 1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into medium dice
- 1 ripe beefsteak tomato, medium dice
- salt to taste
Combine all ingredients. You wanna put a little minced red onion in there, it is ok with me.
For the spicy corn relish:
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons (or more, to your taste) red chili flakes
- 2 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed from stem
- 1 teaspoon salt
- zest of one lemon and 1 tablespoon of the juice
Heat a saute pan over a high flame. Add the oil, onion and chili flakes and cook about 1 minute, until the onion starts to color a little. Add the corn and salt and saute for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.
For the pan-fried zucchini:
- 4 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" thick slabs, patted dry
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- sea salt
Heat oil in a large frying pan over a high flame. Lay in the zucchini in a single layer and don't crowd the pan. (You can do a couple batches if necessary). Cook until quite a lot of brown spots are forming on the first side, then flip and do the same. Remove and season with sea salt and black pepper. You may wish to cut the slabs smaller at this point.
In each bowl, spoon in a couple tablespoons of sauce or more. Top with two of the quinoa cakes, and nice piles of the zucchini, corn relish and salad. Garnish with a bit more of the sauce, or parsley or cilantro leaves.