Market Fresh Cornbread

MS Cornbread1

Up until now, there are only two cornbread recipes that I’ve ever used. Just two.

The first default choice is my grandmother’s recipe, which is one I’ve shared on the blog before. We use it for the ‘bread’ part of every family dinner that we have, and also use it for the base of our special family dressing that we make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping it true to our Southern roots, it’s non-sweet, mainly cornmeal based and rather crumbly in texture. There is a very simple explanation for this: it’s friggin marvelous.

MS Cornbread3

The second recipe that I’ve used and actually been pretty satisfied with, is one I found on Allrecipes.com. It’s a ‘Northerner’ recipe that’s rather sweet with a more even ratio of flour to cornmeal. As a result, the crumb is more finer than my grandma’s. It’s pretty tasty I’ll admit, and when I’m trying to aim for a cornbread that caters to my more “Northern” tastebuds, I’ll throw it together on the quick.

And just in case you were wondering…no. I don’t do Jiffy Mix. It’s nothing personal, I don’t even think Jiffy Mix tastes that bad. But…no.

MS Cornbread4

I’m stuck up when it comes to my cornbread guys. The truth is, most of the time it’s a hit-or-miss game. And I can think of very few other things that are  more depressing to me than cornbread that is a big fat ‘miss’.

I really didn’t think I’d ever be saying this, but with my recent Christmas gift of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook “Marcus Off Duty,” I think I’ve found a third cornbread recipe that I’m actually going to be willing to keep on my super exclusive roster. The almost immediate appeal to me was finding out that this is the recipe for the cornbread that is served at Marcus’ Harlem restaurant Red Rooster- a place that is on my Food Bucket List to attend before I buy the farm.

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Word of warning for my Southern friends: this is not exactly what we think of when it comes to ‘cornbread’. In the first place, it’s extremely moist, almost to the point where it melts in your mouth. Secondly, us folks used to Dixie cornbread- and likely some Yankees too- will at best give a double take at the inclusion of ginger, cardamom, chile powder and paprika in a cornbread recipe. At worst, we’ll start a riot.  But just hear me out- I was skeptical too. But it works. It really does. The spices aren’t overpowering at all, and they somehow work REALLY well with the inclusion of the sharp cheddar cheese.

MS Cornbread2

Oh yeah- and did I mention there’s fresh corn baked into the batter? Cause there is. And it was a really good idea. It gives a special ‘chew’ to the bread that is absent in most other recipes that can result in a bland one-note texture. None of that here, I can assure you.

I think my favorite part of cornbread is the crust that forms on the top and sides while baking. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re doing the ‘cornbread’ thing wrong and you should rethink your entire life. This loaf’s crust baked up perfectly.

MS Cornbread6

All of that being said, I do intend to stick with just these three cornbread recipes for both the near and distant future. Life shouldn’t be TOO complicated. Some things need to be kept simple and stream-lined.  Am I right or am I right?

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Market Fresh Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cu grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 1 large or 2 small ears of corn)

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Put the butter, ginger, cardamom, chile powder, paprika, and sugar into a small pot over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and spicy butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheddar and corn, then fold in the scallions if using.

4. Scrap the batter into the loaf pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven and bake until a skewer stuck in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the loaf upside down onto a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Then lift off the pan.

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna1

My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

Zucchini Pizza Lasagna3

Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.