Chef’s Summer Recipes: John Toulze’s Corn Cakes

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If you were to ask me for a restaurant recommendation in Sonoma, the first restaurant to come out of my mouth would be The Girl and The Fig. I still recall sitting in their outdoor area, next to a fire on a slightly brisk night. Our server offered a blanket to drape over my legs. Then the food came out. Until today, the chicken at The Girl and the Fig remains one of my favorites. This is, without doubt, the result of a great partnership. That of Sondra Bernstein and Chef John Toulze.

For Sondra “dining is an analogy to theatre. First of all, you need to start with the real thing (in theatre = raw talent) (in dining = raw product). Then it takes a lot of practice before the curtain goes up. The passion, the intensity, the teamwork, and the integrity all drive the work to a climax (guest satisfaction & personal accomplishment).

Chef Toulze has been working with Sondra since 1997 and they have formed not just a partnership but a friendship. I could have never told you that Chef Toulze was self-taught. His technique is impeccable, and his respect of ingredients is to be admired. We asked Chef Toulze to share a recipe that, in his mind, personified summer. He offered his corn cake recipe and said “Corn is one of my top five favorite summer ingredients. This dish can be served as a starter, a small bite, or as a side to an entrée. These corn cakes have a great flavor with a crisp exterior and are even tastier with marinated cherry tomatoes. The abundance of summer vegetables allows for a variety of sauces and dips that will enhance the corn cakes all summer long. These are a perfect summer bite that will please both tomato and corn lovers. If you have a jar of pepper jelly sitting in your pantry, substitute that for the Heirloom Tomato Jam. The fresh summer tomatoes are another option — a quick and easy pairing

Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Jam or Summer Tomato Condiment

Makes 36 nibbles or 6 – 8 cakes

Photo by Steven Krause

Wine Pairing:

Fess Parker Winery Viognier, Santa Barbara, California

Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery Roussanne, Carneros, California


3 cups corn kernels (from about 6 medium ears)

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

½ cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2½ cups panko, for breading

1 cup Heirloom Tomato Jam (see below) or Summer Tomato Condiment

In a food processor, purée 2 cups of corn. In a large bowl combine the corn purée, the remaining corn kernels, onion, parsley, crème fraîche, eggs, baking powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cornmeal, and lime juice. Mix well. Add 1 cup of panko and mix until the mixture is moist but not sticky, add more panko if needed. Form the mixture into 36 miniature cakes and turn each cake in the panko to coat the outside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, fill it with ¼-inch of canola oil, and heat the oil to 375°F. Pan fry the corn cakes until golden brown, flip them over, and cook, about 1 to 3 minutes per side.


To serve:

Place the corn cakes on a large platter, add a dollop of the Heirloom Tomato Jam or Summer Tomato Condiment on each one, and serve. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

Summer Tomato Condiment:

2 – 3 large heirloom tomatoes, diced or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the tomatoes:

In a bowl mix the tomatoes, chives, olive oil, and vinegar together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set

aside. (The tomatoes can be made 1 day ahead.)

Heirloom Tomato Jam

Makes 2 cups


1 pound heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ tablespoon lemon zest, chopped

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch of salt

1⁄8 teaspoon chili flakes

Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add all the ingredients. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cook until the mixture takes on the consistency of thick syrup, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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Blanca Valbuena
I am one of the co-founders of FriendsEAT. Obviously, I love to eat. Other passions include A Song of Ice and Fire, Shakespeare, Dostoyevski, and Aldous Huxley.
Blanca Valbuena
Blanca Valbuena

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