You say summer, I say corn!

Is it me or does that sound vaguely dirty?

The seed for this recipe was planted one Friday evening at the Fresh Choice Market in Lomita CA.  I drive by this newish grocery store on PCH every day on my way to work (and sometimes on my way home).  Unfortunately, it’s closed when I’m driving in and on the wrong side of the street to easily stop into on the way home.

So, it wasn’t until one early Friday evening that I finally had a chance to experience the Fresh Choice Market.  To quote Stefon, “this place has everything!”: panderia, Jerusalem bread shop, baklava station, insane carniceria, crazy exotic produce section, aisles and aisles of international ingredients that I’d previously only been able to order.  I wasn’t the only person with conchas on my mind that Friday–the place was packed with all kinds of people.  After slowly perusing the market, I somehow ended up with a cart full of interesting odds and ends I had no idea I needed.  Among them was a pouch of honey powder.  Per its name, honey powder is just dehydrated honey and can be used as a sugar substitute.  I’m always on the lookout for new things to put into French macarons so I grabbed a bag.

With the Via Corona renovation wrapping up, much of my free time is still spent on “house stuff” so macarons won’t be on the agenda until late summer.

But regular cookies I can do.  I love Christina Tosi’s corn cookie recipe and have been looking for excuses to play with it some more.  Honey powder was my in.  Honey, corn and jalapeno are great friends in a biscuit, corn bread or scone so why not a cookie?  I replaced some of the sugar with the honey powder and then  infused a diced jalapeno into the remaining sugar.  In addition to using the freeze-dried corn powder in the original recipe, I also threw in some whole freeze-dried kernels for additional texture. And there you go: you say summer, I say corn (honey, jalapeno cookies)!

So I have an admission to make about these cookies.  While I thought they were fun and tasty, when it came to offering them up to others, I completely chickened out.  I had a box ready to go in to work and couldn’t bring myself to bring it in.  The box sat on my counter for three days until I gave up and threw it out.

Jalapeno and Honey Corn Cookies

adapted from Christina Tosi, Milk Momofuko Milk Bar

Ingredients

Makes about 2 dozen smaller or 1 dozen large cookies

Note–I use the weight not volume measurements for this recipe.

  • 16 TBS, 2 sticks, 225g room temp butter
  • 3/4 C, 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 fresh jalepeno
  • 1/4 C honey powder (or 3/4 C granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 C, 225 g flour
  • 1/4 C, 45 g corn flour
  • 2/3 C, 65 g freeze-dried corn powder (I found freeze dried corn on Amazon but later saw it at Bristol Farms and used the Vitamix to make the powder)
  • 3/4 tsp, 3 g baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp, 1.5 g baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp, 6 g kosher salt
  • 2/3 C freeze dried corn kernals

Directions

  1. Finely chop jalapeno (de-rib and de-seed), combine sugar and chopped jalapeno into an airtight container.  Shake to distribute and allow to mingle for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter,  sugar and honey powder using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape-down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  5. Reduced the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, combining until the dough just comes together (no more than a minute).  Fold in the corn kernals by hand.
  6. For smaller cookies, use about a one ounce scoop (the original recipe calls for a 2  3/4 ounce scoop) and scoop dough out, placing on to a cookies sheet lined with parchment.  Leave a couple inches between each dough mound.
  7. Either pat, or use the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar to flatten-out the dough.  Wrap tightly and cool in fridge for a minimum of  an hour, but up to a week.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Arrange chilled dough on parchment-lined baking sheets (they’ll need more room between them then when you put them in the fridge).  Leave 2 inches in between each.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will puff, crackles and spread.  Done cookies will be faintly browned on the edges but bright yellow in the middle.
  11. Cool completely on sheets before transferring to a plate, storage container or your mouth.

A pico de salsa

In our household, salsa is a food group.  We eat it on everything.  And while there are as many types of salsas as there are things to put it on, during the summer months, pico de gallo is on the list of things made weekly in my kitchen.  Pico is a salsa of the uncooked variety.  Pico can be made many ways.  Here is how I do it.

Simple ingredients: tomato, purple onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime, salt, pepper and cilantro.

And, it starts as many salsas do, with tomatoes.  For pico de gallo, I like to use firm roma tomatoes.  This salsa version is a little more polite than others (and by that, I mean, less saucy).  For this reason, I like to cut the tomatoes in half, give them a squeeze to release the seeds, and let them drain for a few minutes.  For your salsa making needs, I suggest investing in a tomato corer.  Well worth the $2.50 (and can secretly be used on large strawberries if you please).

Once, the tomatoes have drained, rinse out your strainer and start chopping.  For a medium roma tomato, I like to cut each half into three ring, remove the middle, slice in half, and cut into smallish squares.  You can go larger or smaller as desired.  Two tidbits here.  First, after chopping your tomatoes, return them to the strainer and sprinkle over 1/2-1 tsp salt.  Then, toss and let drain for another 5 minutes.  This not only seasons your fruit (yes, they are a fruit), it also helps to release additional juice.  Second nugget: use your tomatoes…and your taste buds to gauge the ratio of the remainder of your ingredients.  Personally, I like to add half as many onions as I have tomatoes.

I like using purple onion because they’re pretty.  Use white or yellow if you prefer.  And, please, learn how to cut an onion. It’ll help you win friends, impress potential clients and shorten your prep time immensely (for the record, I cut horizontally first, then vertically).

Now things start to heat up a bit.  When cutting hot peppers (like jalapeno), I’ve conceded and use a plastic glove on the holding hand (or the reverse side of the plastic bag they came in).  For years, I put up with burned fingers, chalking it up to overly sensitive skin.  Then, one day, TD and I were watching Jamie Oliver make salsa in that ridiculous garden of his and he mentioned that while peppers don’t bother him, they burn his wife.  Apparently, peeling skin wasn’t enough to convince me I should protect myself, but a celebrity endorsement was.  I think I’ve lived in Los Angeles too long.

Anyhow, wear protective gear as desired.  I like to add half of a large jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed) for every two cups of tomato.  Adjust your quantities to your preferred heat levels.

Next up: garlic.  I like to use the rasper to sort of melt the garlic into the other ingredients.  I find it helps to better distribute the flavor and reduces the risk of running into a “hunk of raw garlic”  while eating.

Three more very important ingredients plus seasoning.  First two: the zest and juice of a large, ripe lime.  Then, about half of a cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  Now I know cilantro is a controversial and polarizing herb.  People tend to love it (me) or outright detest it.  There is actually some evidence that we humans may be genetically predisposed one way or another.  If you happen to be one of the poor, disadvantaged variety for whom cilantro tastes like soap, leave it out (and seek help, there are a bevy of support groups out there for you).

Salt and pepper as desired.

Next comes the hardest part of all.  Once all ingredients have been mixed together, cover your dish, put it in the fridge and let the flavors marinate for at least a couple of hours.  Trust me on this part.

Soundtrack

Ozomatli’s in the house, you should know that by now.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients

  • 6 firm (but brightly colored) roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 purple onion
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper (depending on how brave you are)
  • 1 large or 2 regular cloves of garlic
  • 1 large lime (you’ll use both the zest and the juice)
  • 1/2 C chopped, fresh cilantorsalt and pepper to tastes

Directions

  1. Core and halve tomatoes.  Squeeze tomaotes to loosen seeds.  Let rest in mesh strainer for five minutes, shaking strainer occasionally to release juices.
  2. Chop tomatoes to desired size.  Return to mesh strainer and salt as desired gently shaking strainer to release additional juice and seeds. 
  3. Chop purple onione (chop should be the same size as the tomatoes).  Add both onion and tomatoes to a medium bowl.
  4. Rasp garlic into tomatoes and onions,  While you are at it, zest the lime into the mixture.  Then add lime juice.
  5. Donning protective gear (if you are a wimp like me), halve jalapeno.  Remove ribs and seeds.  Chop them into a small dice.  Add as desired.
  6. Chop cilantro, add to rest of ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. MIx gently until well-combined.  Cover and let rest in the fridge for at least two hours (over night is a good call).