Corn Panko & Pepper Schnitzel with Heirloom Tomato Relish – Vegetarian summer recipe for crispy corn cakes topped with sour cream and fresh heirloom tomato relish. Vegetarian alternative to schnitzel.
When summer rolls around, two ingredients jump to the top of my “must cook with” list– corn and tomatoes. When I was a little girl, my Grandpa Avey had a vegetable garden where he grew rows of corn and big, beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes. During the summer I would help him harvest, pulling the tomatoes from the vine and smelling that wonderful aroma from the stem that lingered on my fingers. We’d pull the ears of corn from the stock, then I’d help my grandma shuck them in the kitchen, peeling the whisper-soft silks from the cob. Corn and tomatoes became forever associated with sunshine, gardening and family.
Nowadays, it is almost obligatory that I cook with corn and tomatoes during the summer. Recently I combined three of my favorite foods– schnitzel, corn and heirloom tomatoes– into one delicious dish, Panko Corn and Pepper Schnitzel. I spiced up a corn batter with Mexican-style flavors and added a roasted pepper for sweetness and depth. Grilling the corn and pepper added even more summery flavor to the mix. The result was, in a word, deeee-lish!
Because of concerns over pesticides and GMO’s, I try to find organic corn whenever possible. It can be somewhat tough to track down nowadays; I tend to have more luck at our local farmer’s markets than at the grocery store. Heirloom tomatoes can also be difficult to locate depending on where you live, which is why I started growing a couple of plants on my patio. My first harvest was last week. I swear to you, I have the opposite of a green thumb, but the tomatoes are popping out all over. Never have store-bought heirlooms tasted so sweet! You can see the results of my harvest in the tomato relish picture below. I’m very proud of my little patio garden. I know Grandpa would be proud, too. If you don’t have heirlooms on hand for the relish, vine-ripened red tomatoes will work great too. Just make sure they are ripe and sweet!
This Panko Corn and Pepper Schnitzel is very easy to whip up, and the recipe can easily be adjusted based on your time frame. I prefer grilling the corn and pepper prior to making the schnitzel; it adds an extra step but also kicks up the flavor substantially. If you’re in a hurry, no worries– just skip the grilling and use a pre-roasted, peeled pepper (you can sub a small roasted bell pepper from a jar in a pinch). To save even more time, make the corn batter, cover, and refrigerate up to overnight. The refrigeration makes the batter easier to handle, and will save on your prep time right before dinner.
This recipe makes 8 corn schnitzels. They are about the size of thick silver dollar pancakes or large latkes. If we’re eating it as an entree, we usually serve 2 per person alongside lots of relish and some side salads. Bigger appetites may want 3 or even 4 per serving, so feel free to double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd. I prefer to serve them as an appetizer. They are wonderful topped with a dollop or sour cream or Greek yogurt and a scoop of fresh heirloom tomato relish. This is a terrific vegetarian alternative to traditional meat schnitzel, with so much flavor that nobody will feel deprived. Enjoy!
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Corn and Pepper Schnitzel Ingredients
- 2 ears corn, shucked or 1 1/4 cups corn, canned or frozen (you will need 1 1/4 cups corn total)
- 1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and diced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 3/4 cup panko style breadcrumbs, divided
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 scallion, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying (1/4 inch in medium skillet)
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt for topping (optional- use non-dairy sour cream for pareve)
Heirloom Tomato Relish Ingredients
- 2 cups heirloom tomatoes, diced (or sub red vine-ripened tomatoes)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp honey or agave
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
You will also need
- medium skillet, mixing bowls, grill (optional)
To Make Tomato Relish
- A few minutes before cooking the schnitzel, place all tomato relish ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Set aside at room temperature to allow flavors time to marinate. Serve with schnitzel. Use a slotted spoon for serving so that the juices from the tomatoes don't make the schnitzel soggy.
To Make Corn Schnitzel
- If you'd like to grill the vegetables (I love doing this as it adds a lot of flavor), shuck and clean the corn cob of its silks. Brush corn and pepper with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Grill both corn and pepper for 10 minutes on high heat, turning every 2-3 minutes, till corn is tender and blackened in places and pepper is softened, blackened and collapsing. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Remove corn from cob. I prefer to use a bundt pan, placing one end of the cob in the center and slicing the kernels off with a sharp knife so that they fall neatly into the pan. Measure out 1 1/4 cups corn and reserve. Save any additional corn to add to a salad, or you can add it to the tomato relish if you prefer.
- If you're not grilling the corn, steam it till tender, then allow to cool to room temperature before removing the kernels from the cob. If using frozen corn, run under warm water till it is thawed, then drain and pat dry. If using canned corn, drain and pat dry. If you're not grilling the pepper, then roast it, peel, and let cool, or use a pre-roasted peeled pepper.
- Dice the peeled cooked pepper into small pieces.
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, salt, smoked paprika, cumin, sugar and cayenne.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine beaten eggs, lemon juice and scallions.
- Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients. Mix well.
- Mix corn kernels and diced peppers into batter. At this point, you can cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to overnight (which will make it easier to handle and make into breaded patties), or you can proceed immediately with the recipe.
- To bread the schnitzel, fill the bottom of a shallow baking dish with 1 cup panko breadcrumbs. Drop ¼ cupfuls of batter into breadcrumbs using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup (I like using an ice cream scoop). Gently flatten the batter into a patty, shaping it as you go, and coat the opposite side with crumbs. The patties will be delicate and somewhat prone to crumbling, but they will hold together much better after being fried in hot oil. Remove from panko with a spatula.
- Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat till hot enough for frying. Add breaded schnitzels gently to the hot oil. Cook for approximately 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve schnitzel warm topped with heirloom tomato relish and optional sour cream or Greek yogurt.