December 7, 2007
One of the major influences on what I cook is the season–heirloom tomatoes and grilling in the summer; fresh-from-Michigan asparagus in the spring; apples and soups in the fall; and basically the most hearty dishes I can think of in the winter. The other major influence (not quite so lovely) is leftover ingredients. I am a cook possessed when I’ve got only one ball of buffalo mozzarella bathing in its water or half an english cucumber sadly sitting in the fridge. I must find a recipe to save these ingredients from becoming waste.
The other night, I decided I had had enough of the carton of buttermilk that kept giving me a puppy-dog-look every time I peered into the fridge. It had been there since I needed a mere tablespoon or two of it a few days ago. Frankly, I think it was on to me: it knew I wasn’t going to use it. So, I launched a rescue mission to Save the Buttermilk! And thus, a dinner was born: turkey-black bean chili (recipe/photos coming soon) and buttermilk corn bread.
I chose the recipe I did not only because it contained the in-need-of-rescuing buttermilk, but also because it was one of the few out there that did not contain an unspeakable amount of butter. The end result was excellent: moist with a nice crumb. And the buttemilk, in its saved state, imparted a nice tang. I added a pinch of cayenne (as you can see in the photo above), which translated into an ever-so-subtle heat. Finally, I tossed a handful of pepitas on top of the batter before baking. I borrowed (okay, stole) the idea from one very tempting recipe (one that is perfect evidence of the aforementioned butter problem and six ounces of cheddar!). Plus, it gave me a chance to finish off the bag of pepitas that had been sitting in the pantry for a couple weeks, since my last foray into granola. So, really, I saved two ingredients. A true hero, I know.
Buttermilk Corn Bread
Food & Wine
2 ½ T. vegetable oil
2 ½ cups fine stone-ground cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 T. honey
Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan with 1/2 tablespoon of oil. In a bowl, whisk the cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the eggs, honey and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the corn bread is golden brown and springy to the touch, about 20 minutes. Turn the corn bread out onto a rack to cool completely.