Tomatoes and cucumbers might be the last thing you want to eat right now, when our never-ending summer continues to simmer, but maybe a new recipe will add just enough fuel to get you through until pumpkin spice weather finally starts.
Chef (and Arkansas native) Rob Newton's new book, "Seeking the South," features dozens of traditional and not-so-traditional recipes from his Nashville kitchen, including these green onion hoecakes served with a fattoush-inspired salad. You could serve these green onion hoecakes all winter long, but the tomato-cucumber salad is perfect for these hot afternoons that feel like they'll go on until Christmas. When fall and winter finally come, you could center the salad around roasted squash, beets or asparagus and add sage and caramelized onions to the hoecakes.
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Green Onion Hoecakes with Tomato-Cucumber Herb Salad
This dish takes advantage of many of the Deep South’s most abundant vegetables. I grew up with most of these ingredients, but wouldn’t have thought to combine them this way until I had a chance to eat more Middle Eastern food later in life. Like many in the mountain South, I was raised to believe sumac is poisonous — which is true in leaf form — but I later learned that the plant’s dried berries can be used to make a tangy, acidic spice, which I now love to sprinkle on crispy raw vegetables. I’ve since become a big fan of fattoush, the Levantine salad of toasted pita, crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs and tart sumac. This nontraditional, deconstructed riff on fattoush uses ingredients and techniques familiar to me as a Southerner. In lieu of pita, I make green onion hoecakes, and instead of tossing everything together, I like to top said hoecakes with a light, crispy salad. The whole thing is tied together with a zippy sumac-laced dressing, perfect for a hot Southern day.
— Rob Newton
For the tomato-cucumber salad:
1 (10- to 12-ounce) cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
6 radishes, halved and thinly sliced (chop up the greens, too, if they look nice)
3 to 4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed from stems
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the dressing:
1/2 cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped and smashed into a paste with a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sumac, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the hoecakes:
1 1/4 cups medium-grind cornmeal (or fine-grind if you want a smoother texture)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Make the salad: Place the cucumber, tomatoes, radishes (and greens, if using), mint, parsley and salt in a large bowl, but do not mix. In a small bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic, sumac, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Taste for balance (it should be pleasantly tart and refreshing) and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix very well. Taste for seasoning again — you might need a little more lemon juice or olive oil, or maybe another pinch of salt. Set aside at room temperature and get started on the hoecakes.
Make the hoecakes: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper until fully combined. In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the green onions, buttermilk, egg and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix well. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until evenly combined.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering but not smoking. Pour the hoecake batter into the pan in roughly 2-tablespoon portions, like you’re making silver dollar pancakes; you should be able to fit two or three cakes into the pan at once. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the cakes are slightly brown at the edges and cooked enough to hold together when flipped. Flip and cook the other side for another 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until brown on the bottom. If the cakes are cooking very quickly or picking up any very brown spots, reduce the heat to medium. Transfer the hoecakes to a plate or cooling rack.
Using additional olive oil as needed, repeat with the remaining batter to make 10 to 12 hoecakes total. Serve family-style with the hoecakes stacked up and salad on the side or top. If you’d like, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some sumac over the hoecakes just before serving. Serves 8.
— From "Seeking the South: Finding Inspired Regional Cuisine" by Rob Newton with Jamie Feldmar (Avery, $35)