Since corn and tomatoes aren't at their absolute peak at the beginning of June, this is a great recipe to give you that wonderful summer flavor a little early. Cornmeal cakes give that delicious, sweet corn taste and cherry tomatoes are always delicious and in season. Basil is a summer herb that pairs beautifully with tomatoes. You can also use parsley, cilantro, green onion or chives.
Technique tip: Use a cast iron pan for the johnnycakes to get a beautiful crust on the cakes. Don't over-mix the batter; it can be lumpy (just like pancake batter). This will ensure tender cakes.
Swap option: You can add fresh corn kernels to the cakes for a bit of texture and more corn flavor.
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 Fresno chiles, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound fresh ricotta or best quality grocery store brand
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes (heirloom if available)
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 splash fresh lemon juice
- 8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon fine yellow or white cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided
- Chives, thinly sliced, for garnish
For the pickled chiles:
In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar, bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.
Put chiles in medium bowl, pour pickling liquid over, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours.
For the ricotta:
Combine the ricotta, salt and pepper in a bowl and gently mix to combine. Set aside.
For the tomatoes:
Combine the tomatoes, shallot, lemon zest and juice, basil and olive oil in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.
For the johnnycakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and milk together until combined.
4. In a third medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
5. Add the egg-milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the egg whites, then 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and mix until the batter is just smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes.
6. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan, cast iron pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Brush with some of the remaining melted butter. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of the batter into the pan for each johnnycake and, using a small offset spatula, spread the batter slightly to even out the top. Cook until lightly golden brown on each side, about 1½ minutes per side.
7. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Top each johnnycake with ricotta, a spoonful of the tomatoes and a few pickled chiles. Garnish with chives.