Last weekend after a family wedding, I stayed the night at my grandma’s before embarking on a long road trip across Texas. When I arrived at her farm, the house was rich with a savory aroma. “What are you cooking?” I asked. She said we were having ham and black-eyed peas for dinner. “And cornbread?” I said. She said yes, then asked me to make it.
We went into the kitchen and she pointed to a cast-iron skillet and containers of cornmeal and flour on the counter. “The buttermilk and bacon grease are in the refrigerator,” she said. Then I got to work. Before I started, however, I asked her if she had any blueberries for me to add to the cornbread. She said she didn’t unfortunately, but she was intrigued.
I explained that before arriving in Texas, I had made blueberry cornbread back in my kitchen in New York. Blueberries are in season now and I’d picked some up at the market. While I enjoy popping them in my mouth like candy, I needed to use them up before my travels and considered making muffins with my bounty. After seeing some cornmeal blueberry muffin recipes, however, I decided that baking a similar recipe in a skillet would be even better.
While I had started with my usual cornbread recipe, I added sugar to the mix and also changed the ratio of cornmeal to flour, as I wanted it to be a bit more tender and sweet. Of course, I’m one that feels sugar in cornbread is simply not done, so I was clearly breaking the rules. No matter, I was okay with making an exception in this case. Since I was shaking things up, for extra flavor I put in a bit of nutmeg and lime zest to the blueberry cornbread, too.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Thursday, June 30, 2016
"You can eat beans on Saturday night and attend church on Sunday without fear of embarrassment,” said the article. The piece was advising cooks to pour Coke into their beans in order to prevent any lower-gut reactions from occurring when eating said legume. I was intrigued.
While I’ve made beans with other beverages, including another fizzy one—beer, I can’t say that I’d ever made beans with Coke. As my luck would have it, I spotted a recipe card at the kitchenware store for barbecue beans made with said soda. I picked it up and decided to give it a try.
The recipe I found was for a more Yankee-style dish, as it not only called for Great Northern beans but there were also no other additions besides garlic, onion, ketchup, and molasses. Since I prefer the meatiness of pinto beans, I decided to cook with those instead. I also threw in some chili powder and smoked paprika along with bacon to give it a more fiery, meaty flavor. And being a Texan, I opted to use Dr Pepper instead of the recommended Coke.
After a quick soak and cooking the beans solo for only 30 minutes as per the recipe’s instructions, I placed them in the slow cooker along with the sauce. Perhaps I had an old batch of beans, but after eight hours the beans were still tough and crunchy, which was disappointing. I find the slow cooker usually works wonders with beans, so I decided there was too much acid in the recipe for them to soften properly. The flavor, however, was promising—a little sweet, a little spicy, and a little smoky. I decided to try it again.
Thursday, June 09, 2016
Recently, a woman at the grocery store was handing out samples of mango frozen yogurt. “It’s spiced like mango lassi,” she said. And indeed, the frozen yogurt was cool and refreshing with a whisper of something unusual and sweet. It was perfect for a summer day.
Now, some people might not realize this but Indian food is quite popular in Texas. As a matter of fact, the first time I had a mango lassi was when I lived in Austin. Occasionally, my friends and I would treat ourselves to an Indian buffet, which was expensive but delicious. While we never went beyond the basic meal, one day a friend decided to splurge and also ordered a creamy drink made with yogurt, cardamom, and pureed mangos. “This is mango lassi,” he said while handing the glass around the table so we could take a sip. It was cool and refreshing, perfect for a summer day.
At the time, I was working at a children’s bookstore called Toad Hall. On the shelves were the usual array of picture books, early readers, and young adult novels. One of the owners, however, wanted to keep things interesting so she also stocked some of her favorite books, an eclectic collection that included mysteries, literary non-fiction, and cookbooks.
One day, an Indian cookbook called From Bengal to Punjab by Smita Chandra arrived. Since I loved Indian food, I thought it would be fun to try making it at home. I bought the book and began cooking my way through it making saag paneer, various curries, and other Indian treats.