I am badass.
I’m not really supposed to be eating corn right now. But here we are, with this plate o cornbready love.
Fall dessert recipes are starting to abound and my local grocery store has an aisle of Halloween candy at the ready. But I’m not about to call it quits on summer yet, even though the leaves are falling on my city sidewalks and there’s talk of a cold winter to come.
Instead, today I’m going to light up my dad’s grill and char the fresh tiny eggplant that I got at the farmer’s market on Wednesday, even though it’s a nightshade and not good for people with arthritis (me). Then I’m going to take it to my grandparents along with gigantic stems of broccoli rabe and some grilled chicken and a few cookies I made. Because, again, I’m pretty tough.
Oh, and last week I flew a plane with my little brother. Like, I lifted it off of the ground and navigated it over Shelter Island. See, here’s proof:
By the time I got home from my drive back to Manhattan, I was so exhausted from the energy expenditure that my body went into fever zone and I was disabled on my couch for a very long while, but it was totally worth it.
Because, that’s the thing when you have an illness that goes on for years and years and swings up and down and shows itself fiercely sometimes and then leaves you alone for weird stints, too. Sometimes you need to eat eggplant*. Or fly a plane. Or drink a few glasses of wine when one of your favorite chefs invites you to a small media dinner where they take you up to their rooftop garden and start pulling vegetables while you sip a cocktail while taking in the sunset over the Statue of Liberty and gazing up at the freedom tower and then they take you back into the dining room and plates of the freshest grilled vegetables come out in course after course.
Sometimes you have to do things that require more spoons of energy than you might have, just so you know you’re still alive, and worth enjoying all the good and fun that is out there to be had. And if you have to stay in all weekend or not travel on a holiday to save up those spoons again… that’s ok too.
Now, back to the corn thing.
I bought some beautiful fresh local red corn the other day, partly out of fascination for it’s deep hues and partly because I couldn’t help myself; I’ve been dealing with blood sugar issues again. Most starches have made their way out of my consumption, and corn was one that I’ve avoided for years anyway when not local and in season. My diet is very controlled, and for the most part I don’t even regret what I cannot have, because there’s so much I can. But, like that eggplant or flight or night on the roof, I wanted to get a tiny bit of summer in while I could, and I’ve barely touched an ear of fresh sweetcorn all summer. And, fortunately, I’m with a doctor I trust who actually encourages me to indulge a few times a year when certain produce is in the peak of its season – eggplant, tomatoes, corn – so I’m not putting myself in mortal danger right now. (Sigh, not that badass).
So the night after the plane adventure and a few nights before the rooftop, I did not go out on the town. Instead, I stayed in to puree these gorgeous kernels and cook them down into a sweet paste with an almost purple hue, that turned the bread almost blue. I measured and weighed and flung flour all over my kitchen (to my dog’s delight), and couldn’t be happier with the results. I may have watched Snow White and the Huntsman. Again. Maybe.
With just a few tablespoons of honey and the thickened, sweetened corn, I had a bread that was incredibly moist and full of sweet corn flavor. It has mostly a smooth-textured batter from the puree while still yielding to tiny bits of cornmeal now and then. And it smells absolutely divine. This is not a very sweet, cake-like bread. It’s a bread with a touch of sweetness. So if you want it a bit sweeter add a few tablespoons of sugar to the dry ingredients. Using some really sweet yellow corn will also add to the sweetness factor. Or, like my roommate, pour some maple syrup on it! And while I used unsalted French butter (as I can tolerate it) but used almond milk instead of cow (as I could not), employ the option of Earth Balance in place of the butter to make this completely dairy free or substitute the almond butter with buttermilk, for a very tangy, dense result.
So the next time you’re feeling badass, might I suggest this recipe? You know, if a plane or a rooftop aren’t around?
Happy Day We Do Not Labor,
Gluten-Free Fresh Corn Cornbread
This makes on 9″ or so cake. It’s best eaten the day it’s made, as it will continue to moisten as it ages. If you’re going to prepare it ahead of noshing, I’d suggest wrapping in wax paper so it can breathe a bit, and refrigerating.
- 7.6 oz stone-ground, medium cornmeal (215g – 1 1/3 cup)
- 2 0z brown rice flour (57g – 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp)
- 1.9 oz arrowroot or tapioca starch (55g – 1/4 cup)
- 2 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 3 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/4 cup)
- 6 Tbsp butter, divided (or 6 Tbsp butter-flavored Earth Balance)
- 3 Tbsp local wild honey (clover or wildflower is fine, just please use real honey!)
- 1 cup almond milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar (or just 1 cup buttermilk)
- 2 whole large eggs + 1 yolk
Preheat oven to 400°. You can use a cast iron skillet, oven-friendly stainless steel or 9″ cake pan for this. Just have it at the ready.
Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and set aside.
Blend the corn kernals in a blender or food processor until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the color deepens and the texture thickens, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in five tablespoons of the butter, and whisk until smooth. Add the honey and whisk until smooth. Add the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Finally, whisk in the eggs and yolk until all is completely smooth and somewhat thickened again.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine with a spatula until delightfully lumpy and thick.
Place remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet / pan. If using a skillet, heat the pan over medium heat until butter melts and swirl to coat. If using a cake pan, place in oven for about 3 minutes, then swirl butter to coat.
Pour in batter and smooth with spatula.
Bake for 28-30 minutes, until the edges start to color and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes before flipping onto a rack, and cool for another 20-30 minutes before slicing.
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Fresh Corn Cornbread. I find no better source for adapting recipes, as they provide the specific taste-test background for why the recipe is written as such, as well as weights for all items, which are vital when adapting for gluten-free flours.