Crunkin’ Cornbread

We’ve had visitors, lots of out-of-town visitors! Oh what fun! We LOVE showing off Nashville. We tend to eat healthier on our own but when out-of-towners visit, we have to introduce them to all the Southern gastronomical treats such as Arnold’s, Monell’s, and The Loveless Cafe. And sometimes we really need to show off our neighborhood’s own award-winning charm with hot chicken from Prince’s or Catfish Sandwiches from Eastside Fish (go East side!). Eastside Fish claims their sandwiches are the “crunkest” and I’m no catfish sandwich aficionado but I’m going to say that they really are pretty crunkin.

Speaking of Southern gastronomical treats, I have some cornbread in the oven right now. I’ve been eating cornbread for as long as I have had teeth. My Grandmother, known to us as Nana, made the BEST cornbread in the whole wide world. When I was little, my Mom tried and tried to bake it and it just never tasted like Nana’s. After Nana passed away some years back, my Mom brought home Nana’s cornbread pan (and I think there was some divine intervention involved, as well) and suddenly, my Mom now makes the best cornbread in the whole wide world! My sister and I continually watch and assist her whenever we are visiting but she doesn’t follow a recipe or use measuring cups so it is a little hard to try to replicate her exact method.

Every once in awhile, I would try a new cornbread recipe from a favorite Southern cookbook but none of them were ever too memorable until I stumbled across one in the cookbook I mentioned a post or two back, The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Their recipe for “Our Favorite Sour Milk Cornbread” is good and reminiscent of Nana’s recipe. I modified it a little, of course. It goes like this…

Cornbread

1 1/2 cups fine-ground white cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix the cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda together. Mix eggs with buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk and egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir together.

Place the butter in an large iron skillet. Place in oven to melt butter. Slightly brown the butter and then pull the skillet out of the oven and the pour the melted butter into the batter and stir. Pour mixture into the iron skillet and bake for 20-30 minutes when golden on top and the sides begin to pull away from the side of the skillet.

Oh, while we are on the subject, I need to tell you that real Southern cornbread is NOT sweet. There. I said it. There are many uses for cornbread. We eat it for lunch or dinner with soup, beans, sauteed cabbage and sausages, or anything really. We also eat it leftover and toasted in the oven with cheese, honey, or jam on it for breakfast. One traditional Southern way to eat leftover cornbread and a way I remember enjoying it at Nana’s house is crumbled in a bowl with milk poured on top!

I’ve been experimenting with some new pie recipes! I made my friend, Meg’s Grandmother’s buttermilk pie. It was delicious. I’ll be working on a buttermilk recipe of my own now. Stay tuned! This I know- buttermilk makes a good pie. And, I must share our friend Dolan’s beautiful pie-eating tradition- Cut off the tip of your pie piece and save it for your last bite upon which you can make a wish! I wished for something big on this buttermilk slice!

I baked more pies for the Red Barn Round-Up this past week, too.

And I close this post with a little youtube from our last Red Barn Round-Up that our friend Korby made…

Recipes for My Brother-In-Law

My Sister broke her foot last week. If you know my Sis, it is hard to imagine her sitting still allowing people to help her as she is usually on the go and in her spare time, can often be found helping women deliver babies on the side of the road, rescuing battered women from gas stations, or saving neglected pups from an unforeseen doom at any given moment. My brother-in-law is a good cook but I thought he could use some more suggestions for quick and easy dinner recipes especially now. So, this post is for him. Meanwhile, we’ll try to help out a few more people in need while she is relegated to the sofa and hobbling around on one foot so the world won’t get too out of balance.

My favorite recipe of last week was a Summer Seafood Cioppino. We went to Margot for our 8th Wedding Anniversary dinner a couple weeks ago and I had a similar dish there and I guess this dish was inspired mostly by that meal. It seemed a good way to use more of the tomatoes from our garden, as well. I bought three different pieces of fish- talapia, cod, and grouper. I chopped up all the veggies and the fish and then let Grant throw it all together and cook it to perfection! Grant is a super great cook. He started cooking as a kid, with his Mom, as a way to get out of cleaning (haha!), and then in college he cooked at a sorority house for his part time job. He’s much faster and more skilled than I but we make a good team as I love coming up with the ideas and shopping for the food and preparing the ingredients. Anyway, back to the Cioppino…

We used chopped vidalia onion, sliced green pepper from the garden, a variety of chopped tomatoes from the garden, 3-4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, thinly sliced yellow squash, and chopped flat leaf parsley. Also good to have on hand- crusty bread, some aged gouda (Reypanaer 2 year old is my current favorite!) and some dry white wine.

Grant sauteed up the onion in a little olive oil and then added the garlic, squash, and pepper. He then dredged the fish pieces in a little flour mixed with sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, smoky paprika, a little saffron, and thyme and placed it in the same pan. He sauteed that up and then added the tomatoes, some dry white wine, some chicken stock (fish stock would have been ideal), and then simmered. He added in the fresh parsley at the end.

We served it with some steamed asparagus!

It was so delicious, fresh and summery with the use of fresh tomatoes and much lighter  than the winter NW Cioppino version we are accustomed to. Also, the addition of squash gave it a Southern vibe. Leftovers made for a perfect lunch the next day. We just mixed the leftover asparagus right in!

I have to write about pesto again, too- not because it is something I truly love or can’t get enough of, but simply a good way to use up all of my fresh herbs from the garden. (Special note to said Brother-In-Law: you don’t have to use any of those foods y’all can’t eat to make pesto. You can keep it really simple and just use herbs, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and olive oil blended together. You can also add some good Parmesan Reggiano if desired. Maybe you already do that?) So, I’ve been trying my darnedest to come up with more uses for pesto so as to not waste all of that which I made so as to not waste all those beautiful herbs! Here are a few ways we have come up with (I have already posted some of these ideas but wanted to form a more concise thought on this and have them all together):

Pesto makes a wonderful salad dressing base to which you can add a little balsamic or lemon, sugar, and a tab bit more olive oil to:

Use it on toast for an appetizer or lunch, on sandwiches, or on homemade pizzas.

Use it on top of grilled chicken, pork, or fish.

Blend it in to pasta or rice.

Slather pesto over roasted or grilled veggies!

Or blend it into eggs…

Which brings me to breakfast. We were reminded this weekend that breakfast makes a great dinner, too! Here’s our newest pancake recipe- Blueberry Corn Cakes! This recipe is based on the recipe Grant uses for his buttermilk pancakes which he got from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking, which Bray gave us years back. This is one of our favorite go-to cookbooks. We have found so many yummy recipes here. I often get the ideas here and then try to make them a little healthier.

Blueberry Corn Cakes

1/2 cup fine corn meal
1/2 all purpose flour (White Lily)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter (organic, unsalted)
1 1/4  cup buttermilk (up to 1 1/2 cup, you can adjust for consistency)
fresh blueberries

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, give it a quick whisk. Combine the buttermilk and egg in another bowl with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the melted butter into the buttermilk and egg bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredient together just briefly, until well blended. Do not over mix. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease very lightly with a little butter. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake and then drop 10-12 blueberries in each one. Cook until bubbles appear on top. Flip the pancakes and cook for 30 seconds longer.
Serve hot with butter and maple syrup!

We used stone ground corn meal we bought at the same little mill in Virginia where we found those yummy grits!

We’ve still been able to get local, organic blueberries and they have become a staple for us! My favorite way to eat them (besides just popping them in my mouth!) is to mix them with some plain Greek style yogurt.

And, one final easy dinner recipe for my Brother-In-Law that Grant came up with… Bratwurst Sandwiches. These are man sandwiches but ladies like them, too!

The main fancy ingredient was the special roasted tomato jam he made to put on them which was so amazing, you really can make any kind of sandwich and put this magical ingredient on top and be completely satisfied!

He sauteed up some red onions with the brats…

Here’s the recipe…

Big Smokey’s Fancy Bratwurst Sandwiches

Roasted Tomato Jam:
8 small golden roma tomatoes from the garden, roasted with a little olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp organic cane sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Red onion, sauteed in a little olive oil
Bratwursts
Sauerkraut
Provolone cheese
Sandwich buns

And the final sandwich looked like this:

Happy cooking!