We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: A dinner combination that's impossible to mess up.
Do not be intimidated by this dinner menu. Yes, there are a number of components -- corn cakes, a corn and tomato garnish, grilled bread, spinach pesto, preserved lemon cream, and fried eggs -- but there's a bright side: All of the flavors are friends, if not family. You're free to pick and choose who gets invited to your table tonight (and to save the others for a different occasion).
Whether you decide to skip the preserved lemon cream, or to pair the spinach pesto with the corn cakes and the grilled bread with the corn-tomato salad, you are destined to succeed. Especially on a weeknight, we're fans of a foolproof, too-good-to-fail dinner plan. Plus, you can extend this dinner into tomorrow's meals: The spinach pesto keeps in the fridge, and the leftover corn cakes make a perfect breakfast.
Serves 4 to 6
For the optional toppings:
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons minced preserved lemon
2 heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup corn kernels (from about 1/2 ear)
For the bread and the corn cakes:
2 cups baby spinach, cleaned and torn into small pieces
1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves (stems removed)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups corn kernels, divided (from about 3 ears)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup basil chiffonade
6 thick slices of good Italian country bread
4 to 6 eggs, optional
Your kitchen is probably stocked with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If not, add those ingredients to the list, as well.
1. Make the optional toppings for the grilled bread and the corn cakes: For the preserved lemon cream, combine the crème fraîche and the preserved lemon. Keep the mixture in the refrigerator while you finish making the meal. For the corn cake topping, dice the heirloom tomatoes and combine them with the corn kernels, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Make the pesto by combining the spinach, thyme, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor along with 3 cloves of peeled, smashed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process until the ingredients are roughly chopped, then, with the processor running, drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil until you have a chunky pesto. Set aside.
3. Make the corn cake batter. In a blender, purée 1 cup of the corn kernels, 2 tablespoons of butter, and the buttermilk until mostly smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the corn kernels, the onion, and the basil. In a separate bowl, combine 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined.
4. Now, cook the corn cakes. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter for each pancake, and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in a warm oven.
5. Heat the grill (or use a grill pan or oven broiler) and brush the bread with olive oil on both sides. Grill the slices for a minute or two per side, until they are crusty and charred but still soft in the middle. Spread each side of bread with the pesto. If you’ve made the toppings, spread the bread with a generous smear of preserved lemon cream and the scoop the tomato-corn mixture onto the cakes.
6. For a more substantial meal, fry an egg for each person. Eat the corn cakes alongside the pesto-smeared grilled bread, or make any combination you'd like.
Photos by Eric Moran and James Ransom