A Farmer’s Market Cornbread with Sweet Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Sheep’s Cheese {Gluten-Free}

I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I rarely frequent farmer’s markets. It’s not that I don’t love the fresh produce, bustling atmosphere and support for local farms, it’s just that I’m a wimp.

When I picture a farmer’s market, I see myself strolling lazily through the stalls, clad in strappy leather sandals and a flowing dress and holding a large, woven basket. Fingers linger in bins of green beans as I laugh with the vendors, lapping up generous samples of juicy peaches. I then skip home to my spacious, sun-drenched kitchen equipped with a Wedgewood stove and twenty cats.

In reality though, my market visits (and outfit and kitchen) look a bit different. I usually wind up red-faced from muscling my way into stalls and bumping into people, hoarse in the throat from shouting over the din to surly vendors, and paranoid of the bacteria lurking in the tasting bowls. As I schlep 50 pounds of produce multiple blocks to the car, crushing baskets of berries and mashing plums to a pulp as I go, I curse myself for buying so much, realizing simultaneously that I’ve forgotten some key ingredient. The co-op, with its parking lot and shopping carts, sounds ever more appealing.

I have had idyllic farmer’s market experiences, but not in San Francisco. Here, the markets are a scene. I gave up going to the famous one in the Ferry Building when I showed up at 8 a.m. one morning, which is when the market ostensibly opens, to find shoppers already leaving, their shoulders laden with bags of goods. Apparently, one must show up at the crack of dawn to shop unfettered by crowds. While the variety there is unparallelled, I just can’t stomach the elbow-jabbing market-goers who wield strollers like weapons and shove you out of the way to get at the ripest tomatoes or tiniest little gems.

When friends who live in Berkeley or Fairfax or Santa Cruz expound on their farmer’s market finds, it makes me want to punch them. Luckily, I’ve been able to muddle by these past 10 city-dwelling years, satisfying my urge to cook with squash blossoms, stinging nettles, and pea greens from our awesome co-op which stocks much of the same produce found at the markets (and not punching people).

Occasionally though I’ll psych myself up on a Saturday morning and head to a much smaller market in Noe Valley. The market fits into a modest parking lot and comes complete with live music and many of my favorite organic vendors.

The other Saturday, Jay and I found ourselves with a sunny sky, an empty refrigerator, and nothing better to do than to brave the hoards of shoppers and bad parking. The market overflowed with all sorts of lovely summer produce and I thought as I usually do, “Why don’t I come here more often?” We loaded up bags of corn, tomatoes, lettuces, padron peppers, and a couple different types of sheep’s milk cheeses from Garden Variety, a small raw milk sheep’s cheese maker in Monterey County. I even managed to carry on a normal conversation with the vendor and fearlessly taste the cheese samples given to me in gloved hands. Jay and I staggered the 10 blocks back to our car and emerged in our tiny, dark, single-catted kitchen with minimal fruit casualties.

Some friends were coming over later that afternoon, so I baked up this cornbread to serve alongside glasses of chilled white wine. The cornbread base is mostly made from whole grains, and gets its moist and springy texture from lots of butter and plain kefir or buttermilk. I folded in a mess of corn kernels and grated sheep’s milk cheese, then topped the bread with cherry tomatoes, padron peppers, sliced red onion, and feta. I love the way the edges of feta caramelize in the heat of the oven, and the cherry tomatoes reduce to tiny bites of what Jay described as “like the best tomato soup ever.” The savory cheeses, a hit of pepper, and the padron peppers offset the sweetness of the corn, which makes the bread incredibly tender.

You can certainly use whatever vegetables and cheeses you like here. And I will be the last to judge if you purchase them in an environment other than a farmer’s market.

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Corny:

Skillet Custard Cornbread with Berries and Honey
Creamy Thai Zucchini and Sweet Corn Soup
Sweet Corn Cheddar Spoon Bread

One year ago:

Farro and Cucumber Salad with Feta, Dill and Mint

Two years ago:

Plum, Rhubarb, and Raspberry Cardamom Crisp

Three years ago:

Zucchini, Corn and Chèvre-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Four years ago:

Chocolate Rosemary Pots de Crème

Farmer’s Market Cornbread with Sweet Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Sheep’s Cheese {Gluten-Free}

Adapted from my Gluten-Free Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

Feel free to use whatever vegetables you like here. Thinly sliced sweet peppers could easily stand in for the padrons, or add chopped roasted green chiles to the batter if you like a bit of a kick. I used two sheep milk cheeses from Garden Variety; Black-Eyed Susan, a fairly firm melting cheese similar in texture to an aged cheddar or fresh pecorino, and a salty and also fairly firm feta.

I like to bake this in my 10-inch round cast iron skillet, but it should also work in a 9-inch round pan or skillet, or a 9-inch square pan. If you or your guests are severely allergic to gluten, be sure to seek out ingredients (especially oat flour) that are certified gluten-free. If you can’t find sweet white rice flour (mochiko), substitute regular white rice flour and add
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum to help the bread hold together. If gluten isn’t an issue, give this a go with all-purpose and whole wheat flours in place of the rice and oat.

All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes one 10″ round cornbread; 8-10 servings

2 ears of sweet corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup padron peppers, halved
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) tiny cubes of sheep’s feta (or other feta)
1/2 cup grated (2 ounces / 60 grams) firm sheep’s milk cheese (or
other sharp melting cheese such as goat’s gouda, gruyère, aged jack, fresh pecorino, or sharp cheddar)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces / 60 grams) gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) sweet white rice flour (mochiko)
1 cup (5 ounces / 140 grams) stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces / 295 ml) well-shaken plain, low-fat kefir (or buttermilk, or runny yogurt)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC).

Shuck the corn and remove the silk. Holding an ear in a shallow bowl, use a sharp paring knife to cut the kernels off of the corn. Reverse your knife and scrape any remaining good stuff off of the cob as well. Repeat with the other ear, discarding the cobs. Prepare the other vegetables and the cheeses and have them at the ready.

Place the butter in a 10″ oven-proof skillet and set the skillet in the oven to melt the butter, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, rice flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Whisk well to eradicate lumps. Add the eggs and kefir, and stir until just combined.

Remove the pan from the oven, swirl to coat the sides with butter, then pour the melted butter into the batter along with the corn and grated cheese, stirring quickly and gently to combine.

Scrape the batter into the buttery, hot pan, and spread evenly. Top with the tomatoes, peppers, feta, and onions. Bake the cornbread until golden on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. (The cooking time will vary depending on the moisture in your vegetables, the thickness of the kefir, the temperature of the oven, the material of your baking pan, etc., so just keep cooking it until it passes the toothpick test.)

Let the cornbread cool for at least 1 hour; the bread is still cooking from residual heat. Cut into wedges and serve. Extras can be kept airtight at room temperature for up to a few days.

70 thoughts on “A Farmer’s Market Cornbread with Sweet Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Sheep’s Cheese {Gluten-Free}”

  1. Crowded farmer's markets can definitely be a pain! I find that being in the right mood to search for treasure (either in terms of fancy food or bargains) helps a lot. This cornbread looks great! I need to get my hands on some padron peppers very soon. :)

  2. Oh my goodness, your description of working your way through the market sounds so familiar! I'm dreading the annual tomato haul, I'm usually sore the next day. And what about the ankles nicked up by strollers. ugh. Regardless this cornbread is so gorgeous and so my thing! I think I'm going to make it this weekend. xo

  3. The Ferry bldg farmer's market is NO joke. Seriously. I could never get my shopping done there. Now, if I just finished a run and wanted to stroll through for samples, a cup of coffee, and a scone, YES. But I could never shop there.
    Are you talking about the Berkeley Co-op? Because I totally love that place.

    1. I know, right?! I was actually talking about Rainbow Grocery, but I'll have to check out the Berkeley co-op! Also Monterey Market – I keep hearing great things about it but have never been. If you come back to the Bay let me know – I'd love to meet you in person!

  4. You must go to the Alemany Farmer's Market! It's very very different than the FB but I love it! Also, on Sunday's, there's the San Rafael market which gets a lot of the same vendors as the FB but is a little more sane

    1. Thanks for the San Rafael tip! I've definitely considered driving to a different county to do my farmer's market shopping. I happened on one in Fairfax one afternoon and it was a dream. The Alemany one gets hectic, too, and there are so many non-organic vendors that I get frustrated, but there is definitely a lot of awesomeness there, too. Thanks for the tips, Vijay! I'll have to check those ones out.

  5. I understand completely about your FB Farmers Market’s experience because I had those feelings, too, when I first shopped there. Though it’s not bad now that I have been there almost every weekend. Now that I have my favourites stalls that I have always visited, and I became somewhat a familiar face to the vendors, the shopping experience got so much better. The trick is to get there early when most people are still in bad, i.e. no later than 8:30 a.m. :)

    Your photos are gorgeous as always, Alanna. I always love those “in action” photos. :)

  6. Oh so gorgeous! This is everything I want, in a cast iron skillet.

    My thing with farmers' markets is scheduling–if it's a weekend morning, I already need to be cooking. Why isn't there a Friday night market?! (So basically, I'll got to Bad Food Blogger Jail with you, haha.)

  7. This is so perfectly, farm market purdy! I hate crowds, I will plan my schedule to do most all my shopping when I think there is less of a chance of crowds. Definitely gonna do a CSA basket next year, I think, I am willing to brave the crowds of the farmers market, I think the real issue for me not getting out to them more often is poor planning (read: staying up too late, then sleeping in.. I am on a teenager time this summer with my kids. )

  8. Oh girl, this is gorgeous! We love cornbread. In fact, I go through phases where I want to eat it every single day for weeks on end. This is such a lovely update on a classic. Love all the fresh veggies.

  9. I love everything about this. I'm usually not a corn bread fan. Its usually dry and tasteless. You always surprise and delight me with your inventive recipes. I'm on a gluten free kick right now, this is perfect!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! Yeah, cornbread can be really wrong, so I'm glad to have this recipe at my fingertips, which is the opposite of dry and tasteless!

  10. I've heard amazing things about the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, but now I'm scared too! I was just in San Francisco the other week, and did happen to go to a great one in Rockridge (Oakland), but I totally understand your feelings!

    This cornbread looks superb! Love all the vegetables and cheese that you added to make it different!

    1. I love Rockridge! I'll have to check out their market sometime. I'm sorry I missed you in SF – next time let's get a drink! BTW, I love your blog's name. :)

  11. As if I wasn't already in love with your blog, you go an make something like this and the infatuation just gets that much deeper. I don't often say this, but I'm PASSIONATE about this recipe! It is so completely perfect that I want to cuddle it like a newborn and look over all of its details infinitely. I'll promptly be collecting every ingredient for this at this Saturdays farmers market and making this for our afternoon eats.

  12. Well hello! It's the savory version of the berry cornbread we devoured last weekend! I'll make this tomorrow after I sneak over and steal my neighbor's cherry tomatoes at the crack of dawn.

    How fabulous to invite someone over for a glass of wine and present this lovely deliciousness.

    As to farmers' markets the problem with ours is dogs. Or not so much dogs as dog owners with the extend-a-leash. They are at one end of the market admiring tomatoes while their dog is at the other end in a dog argument and I'm playing jump rope with the leash.

    1. I was wondering about zucchini, too. I would try small ones, sliced into 1/4" thick rounds. If they're small you probably don't need to remove the seeds, but probably a good idea for larger ones. Let me know how it goes!

  13. I always wonder why I don't go more often when I finally do make it to the farmers market. Thankfully the ones here in Tucson aren't quite as crazy as the ones near you! I can just picture me getting lost in the crowd going crazy for all the produce while my husband sits waiting for me for hours! My problem is that I want to buy everything I see! I'm so glad you braved the crowd and bought all this produce to make this amazing cornbread with! Cornbread is one of my weaknesses and I have no doubt that I could devour this pan in one sitting :)

    1. I have the same problem, though your husband sounds much more patient than Jay who's like, "Ok, we bought one tomato. Can we go now?" I would be mega impressed if you ate this in one sitting – in fact, I'd be forced to help you out of the kindness of my heart. Thanks so much for the sweet note, Isadora!

  14. I am a novice cook. (I started cooking after my kid, who is now 2.5 years old, started eating food). I rely heavily on your blog and smitten kitchen for recipe ideas. She loves your creamy sesame noodles and winter vegetable curry. I want to make this for her and want to add in a leafy green, if it will taste good. Do you think it would work out? What green would you recommend? Thanks so much for blogging and making the tough task of being a working mom who needs to feed her family a bit easier.

    1. Hi Anita! Wow, thank you so much for this note – it really means so much to me, and having my blog mentioned in the same sentence as Smitten Kitchen means I can now die happy. :D I'm so honored that you make my recipes and even more so that your little girl loves them.

      As for leafy greens, I'm not certain how that would work here, but I love the idea. Spinach, kale or chard perhaps? I think they will all cook enough in the heat of the oven judging by how cooked the padrons got. If you give it a go, please let me know how it works. You can always make a half batch to test it out. Happy cooking, and thanks again for the really nice note.

  15. Ahaha so I've had this cornbread pinned for months, but I finally took the time to read your post…and it's hilarious! I guess the one perk (okay, maybe one of a few) of living in a small Bay Area city that's not San Francisco is less-crowded Farmer's Markets. I love the local San Mateo one at CSM, so if you're ever in the area (unlikely, but hey), you should try it! In any case, this cornbread looks GORGEOUS and I am lusting after it visually as well as…in the normal sense. Ha.

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