The Salsa Dance

No special promotions are needed to summon foodies downtown every Saturday morning. The July farmers’ market is alive with color, intoxicating aromas, and healthy, uncomplicated foods that require little or no cooking. You can pretty much follow your nose to find the best bargains in town.

Vine-ripened tomatoes and just-picked corn win the popularity contest, with snappy-fresh green beans; juicy watermelons; and locally-grown berries and stone fruits tied for second place.

By now just about everyone understands the flavor-advantage of letting tomatoes mature on the vine; but please don’t overlook the importance of buying corn directly from the farmer who grew it. The moment corn is picked, its natural sugars immediately begin to convert to starch. So if you are looking for the kind of corn that memories are made of, it can be found only at the farmers’ market… or possibly a rural roadside farm stand or in your own backyard garden. But that’s it.

Corn-on-the-cob—quickly steamed, boiled, or grilled—is one of those seasonal necessities few can resist. But this is no time to get into a rut. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy corn; ways that don’t involve a stream of butter running down your forearm.Alive media magazine july 2016 corn illustration market fresh peggy fallon

Californians love our naturally low-fat salsas, but the quality of ingredients is the game-changer. Forget the refrigerated plastic tubs of mushy stuff from the supermarket and create your own tantalizing flavor combinations at home. Farm-fresh cornand vine-ripened tomato, with just a hint of smokiness and heat from the chiles, make this one of my July favorites.To ensure your social standing, bring this to your next potluck or barbecue.

Roasted Corn Salsa with Poblano and Lime

2 poblano chile peppers

4 ears farm-fresh corn

1 tablespoon California olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 medium-to-large vine-ripened tomato, seeded and chopped

1 large green onion (scallion), white and green parts thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or as needed

  1. Place the peppers on a small baking sheet and broil as close to the heat as possible, turning with tongs, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, roast the peppers directly over a charcoal or gas flame, turning, until charred, about 5 minutes.) Seal the peppers in a paper bag and let steam for at least 10 minutes. Peel off as much of the blackened skin as possible; it’s okay if some of the black bits still cling to the flesh. Cut the peppers open and discard the stems and seeds. Chop the peppers into a small dice.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Shuck the corn and remove the silk.Using a large, sharp knife, cut each ear of corn in half crosswise.Place a cutting board inside of a large, rimmed baking sheet. Working one half-ear at a time, securely hold the corn cob upright on the board, with its cut-side planted firmly on the surface. Cut downward with the knife, “shaving” the kernels fromthe cob. (Halving the ear makes cutting off the kernels less cumbersome; and the rimmed baking sheet will catch any runaway kernels.) You should have around 2 cups of kernels; more is even better.
  2. Lift out the cutting board and scrape the kernels onto the baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the corn and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the corn into an even layer and bake, stirring once or twice, until some of the kernels are lightly browned at the edges, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
  1. Add the diced poblanos, tomato, onion, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss gently to mix. Taste, adding more salt or lime juice as needed. Scrape the salsa into a serving bowl. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Makes about 2 3/4 cups, to serve 10 to 12

                                                                Salsa Savvy

–Poblano chiles are generally fairly mild, but once in a while you can come across a maverick that is surprisingly hot. To err on the safe side, taste the roasted peppers before adding the full amount to the salsa.

–Feel free to add some of your other favorite ingredients to this basic salsa. Consider diced avocado, coarsely chopped cilantro, or cooked black beans. Taste before serving, adding more salt and/or lime juice if needed.

–Don’t limit your salsa intake to simply an accompaniment to tortilla chips. Salsa is a welcome side-salad or complement to grilled shrimp, salmon or other fish; grilled chicken or meats; and quesadillas or other Mexican-style dishes.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!