The weekly email newsletter from The Queens Botanical Garden proudly announced the opening of their new farmer's market. Yippee, I am there! The timing could not be better. Not only have I been yearning for a farmer's market in the hood, but I also had to prepare a tasting for a vegan hors d'oeuvres party this afternoon and could really use some fresh produce for inspiration.
A happy sign!
The market is located on the corner on Main Street and Dahlia Street (what a great street name!) just outside the gates of the gardens. There were only a few vendors but they had plenty of beautiful things to choose from.
The surprise hit for me was Tierra Farm from Valatie, NY selling organic nut butters and toasted seasoned organic nuts that were insanely fresh and flavorful. I bought some of their Roasted Cajun Cashews, immediatly opened the container and began eating, much to the amusement of the young vendor. Be forewarned- they are ADDICTIVE!
Back to the vegan hors party. Yes all vegan. And the 100 plus guests will be mostly non-vegan eaters which means they will need some convincing. Black bean cakes with fresh corn relish seems like a crowd pleaser. The corn at the market was so appealing, the husks still pale green and tender- not grey and papery like the corn I am still seeing at the supermarket.
The relish was easy to make and really delish. I didn't need a lot for my sample tasting so I ate the rest myself (!) piling it on top of some roasted vegetables. The kernels were bursting with sweet corny juice. The relish added a lively bright note to the deeper woodsy flavor of the vegetables and is a perfect foil for the black bean cakes.
Black Bean Cakes with Corn Relish
for the black bean cakes:
2 cups cooked black beans
1 small red onion finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
1/2 lime zest
1/2 cup gluten free flour
1 cup canola oil
Mash the beans in a large bowl and add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and lime zest. Mix well. If this were not vegan I would add an egg. Just saying. Form the mash into 1 Tbs. sized little buttons and press a little depression into the center of each one to form a little cup. Dust each one with the gluten free flour. Refridgerate for 1/2 hour so the cakes don't fall apart (too much) when frying.
Heat the oil in a large skillet till very hot and almost smoking. Fry the cakes in the hot oil in batches so that you don't crowd them and have room to turn them over (carefully). The oil should come to about half way up the side of the cakes. Fry on one side for about 6-8 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for 5 more minutes. The idea is to get a light crust on the cakes which will act as a seal to hold them together (hopefully)- there will be casualties, don't fret, even the mangled ones taste good.
Carefully remove the cooked cakes from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel.
for the corn relish:
1 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1" ginger cut into rounds
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 small red pepper finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and add garlic, ginger, and thyme. Simmer 10 minutes, until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup. Remove pot from heat and strain, reserving the reduced liquid. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper and jalapeño. Cook, stirring, until pepper softens. Stir in corn. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add vinegar mixture to corn mixture; simmer 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature in fridge. Stir in chives.
Hmmmm. A Vegan Hors d'oeuvres party for mostly non-vegan people. Interesting challenge for which to prepare. I would be at a total loss of course. Would love to hear what else was on the menu! This particular recipe sounds great. It's similar to the black bean burgers I make (which do have egg). I think the corn relish would be the perfect addition to my burgers! Can't wait to try it.
For an hors d'oeuvres party, it is easiest to just pick wines that are very food-friendly in general, and will pair with a large variety of flavors. This is not a type of event where you really have to be too particular about the wines you choose. However, I would typically opt for wines that are familiar to most people. Most are not wine connoisseurs, and I just want the attendees to feel comfortable looking at whatever choices are available. Recognizable varietals are always a safe way to go.
I recommend "crowd-pleasing" wines - wines that will be enjoyable to everyone, whether they are a novice or expert. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are always good options for whites. I choose these for their crisp, light, fresh qualities. For reds, I suggest Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir. Choose simple, straight-forward wines. The crowd is not there to assess the characteristics and complexities of the wines. They are there to mingle, enjoy good food, and have a good time! The wine will certainly not be the focal point of the party. Deb, let us know how it goes!