We all need a little “Skillet Love”….Cornbread

Cornbread can fall into many categories….the good, the bad, dry or moist, sweet or not, yellow or white.  This recipe for “Black Skillet Cornbread”, from the new cook book “Skillet Love” by New York Times Best Selling Cookbook author Anne Byrn, published by Grand Central Publishing, is in my opinion, simply “the best cornbread” I have ever eaten. I always hesitate to declare anything “the best” as that concept is full of conflict in that my best might not be yours. I take exception to my rule and challenge you to make it and see if you agree or not. The recipe itself is part of the deliciousness, but the key “ingredient” is the cast iron skillet in which it is cooked.

Cover photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

 “Skillet Love” has more than 150 recipes, from “steak to cake” all baked, charred, roasted, fried, grilled and browned in a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet. Did you know that you can quickly make a pound cake in cast iron? How about the crispiest crust pizza ever? A whole roasted hen along with vegetables? These recipes, the history of cast iron cookware, how to season a new cast iron skillet as well as how to keep your old one in great shape is all to be found between the pages of this delightful book. Beautiful photography by Danielle Atkins, lively prop styling by Jessie Pickren and the food styling by me and Anne.

All book photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

When asked what is my go-to cooking pan, I always reply it is my much loved and cared for cast iron skillet that belonged to my Grandmother on my Mother’s side who I never met. It is old and shiny black with a beautifully seasoned finish. It has moved along with me in life, it has pleased me when life was not so pleasing and has cooked many tasty upside down cakes and crispy breads, never failing to satisfy. It is just a cast iron skillet, a material object, but it has a life of stories within. I have added many cast iron pieces to my collection of pots and pans over the years. Some of my favorites come from Lodge Cast Iron which is made right here in Tennessee. Lodge was the perfect skillet for this most perfect of cornbreads.

The “sizzle” is the key to success when baking cornbread. Placing the skillet, with oil, in a cold oven then turning it to 450 degrees and leaving the skillet until it is very, very hot and the oil is “shimmering” before adding the batter is how to get the crusty goodness.  Be patient. This can take a few minutes, which is when you can gather and measure out your ingredients. Maybe have a sip of wine or a cup of tea. Just be patient…see that sizzle?

A couple of things before we get to the recipe. Good cornmeal is also a key to making good cornbread. There are so many varieties on the market that it can be confusing when shopping. White, yellow, stone ground, rough, smooth, self rising or plain? I used Anne’s favorite cornmeal from “The Old Mill”. Their white self rising cornmeal can be bought from their online shop. It is stone ground, silky and grainy at the same time and makes a great skillet of cornbread as you can see.

This is how we ate it yesterday…a hot bowl of tomato soup topped with shredded Gruyere.

If you live in Tennessee you cannot get much more local than this cookbook. The author, the photographer, the prop stylist and I all live in Nashville. Lodge Cast iron is made in South Pittsburgh, TN. The Old Mill cornmeal is ground in Pigeon Forge, TN. Bon Appetit.

Black Skillet Cornbread

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease or veg oil
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup veg oil
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons water (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add bacon grease or veg oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Stir in the oil and buttermilk until smooth. If batter is too thick, thin it with the water.
  3. When oven comes to temperature, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. It should sizzle. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cornbread is deeply browned, 12 to 17 minutes.
  4. If need be, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board, bottom-side up. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut into wedges.

Recipe used with permission, from the cookbook “Skillet Love” by Anne Byrn.

 

A Clafoutis with Pears

The name of this extremely easy dessert can be mystifying when first encountered….As in, what the hell is that? Clafoutis, pronounced “kla-foo-tees”, is French and manifique! Clafoutis are traditionally made with cherries, which was how I made my very first version many years ago. I have also made them using summer berries, plums and winter tart apples. No matter what fruit you choose, you will hardly ever make an easier and more loved dessert..

I do hope if you make it you will let me know how you like it. With this post I shall bid adieu to my trio of Fall pear posts. Bon Appetit.

A Clafoutis with Pears

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons very soft butter
  • 3 ripe, but firm pears, thinly sliced
  • 1  1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Smear a 10 inch cast iron skillet all over with softened butter.
  2. In a blender mix together the milk, 1/3 cup of the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and flour  on high speed until smooth with no lumps.  Pour batter into the prepared skillet.
  3. Top batter with all the pear slices. They will sink down into the batter for the most part. Sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is puffy and golden brown.
  4. Serve warm or room temperature with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Clafoutis are also delicious cold and will keep for days chilled when sliced and removed from skillet.

(Recipe adapted from the New York Times recipe by Julia Moskin “Julia Child’s Berry Clafoutis” on line.)

Teresa Blackburn.        www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Hello October Pear, Ricotta, Honey and Almond Toast E.A.T #39

 

Weather Report – Nashville Tennessee, October 1, 2019, 5:33pm, 100 degrees.

This very quick fall pear treat, unless you call using a toaster cooking, could just as easily be eaten for breakfast, lunch or a snack. It’s just so good and uses very little energy.  You will no doubt come up with your own variations using other fruit without breaking a sweat.

A loaf of good crusty bread, sliced and toasted. Topped with a smear of ricotta cheese or mascarpone and  thin pear slices, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of sea salt or sugar and almonds are all you need.

Stay cool in all ways.

September Honey-Balsamic Roasted Pears and Climate Change

It is still extremely hot here in Nashville..call it Climate Change. You would pretty much have to be living under a bushel basket to not have caught on to this. It’s science, it’s real and it’s with us right now. Think about it, read about it, talk amongst your family and friends about it. If you know a farmer or two, ask them what they think. How is climate change affecting them?

While I was making this very simple dessert, I was thinking about the future and food. These pears are as good as any I have ever tasted. Will they always be readily available? Will they be “special” and only for a select group of people in the future? I do not have the answer, but I do know that good, healthy, fresh foods can nourish both the body and mind.  A delicious pear is one of those things.

No peeling necessary! Cut in half and the center scooped out with a melon-baller and then drizzled with raw sugar, lemon-flavored olive oil and honey-balsamic vinegar…ready for the oven.

15 minutes later…roasted and caramelized and ready to eat. Quick and easy….now turn off that oven…it’s hot out there!

You can find more easy pear recipes here: Aromatic Roasted Pears and Plums with Star Anise, Vanilla, Balsamic and Maple Syrup E.A.T #34 ;  Cream Baked Cardamom-Vanilla Bean Pears and Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Honey-Balsamic Roasted Pears

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 firm, but ripe pears, cut in half and core scooped out
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup citrus flavored olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey-balsamic vinegar (you can make your own by whisking together honey and balsamic vinegar until emulsified)
  • Ice Cream for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Roast pear halves, cut side up, for 12-15 minutes or until caramelized and a little charred on the edges. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan for a few minutes.
  3. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzle any “pan drippings” over dessert.

Note: I choose pears with the stems still attached when I find them. I like how the stems look so much.

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     foodonfifth.com

Frozen Blackberries and Ice Cream Snowballs…in Hell E.A.T.#38

Sunday, Nashville, 99 degrees hot!

We have a saying….when asked just how hot something is…we often say “hotter than hell”. Meaning, really, really, really hot. We have another saying when something is extremely odd or unlikely. We say something is “like a snowball in hell”.

The pooling of these two sayings made me think of snowballs…which made we think of ice cream…which made me want an ice cream treat because it is truly hotter than hell today in Nashville…I am pretty sure.

Vanilla Ice Cream softened,  fresh blackberries, finely chopped candied ginger is all you need.

All stirred together……

….then refrozen in a plastic box for a few hours or overnight. Scooped and formed using your hands into balls and then refrozen for a bit. They look like snowballs studded with lots of fruit and ginger. They are a bit crunchy and icy, spicy and creamy, cooling and delicious.

A little listen while you make your own snowballs. Enjoy and Chill. It’s as easy-as-that.

Frozen Blackberries and Ice Cream Snowballs in Hell

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of vanilla ice cream softened to where you can stir it
  • 1 cup of fresh blackberries (or blueberries or raspberries)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger

Directions:

  1. Stir together the softened ice cream, fresh blackberries and candied ginger until well blended. Scrape mixture into a glass or plastic box container with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Freeze for a few hours or overnight. Mixture will be very hard when you pull it out of the freezer. Let it sit on counter for at least 10 minutes before scooping.
  3. Scoop out and form into “snowballs” using your hands. Don’t worry if they are perfect. Place snow balls on a metal tray.  When all ice cream is scooped and formed into snowballs re-freeze for an hour or so before eating.

Teresa Blackburn.   http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Just Chop It Fresh and Easy Pesto

Certain foods are ubiquitous. One such food is Pesto. Of course you can buy jars of it in supermarkets and specialty food markets, but there is none to compare to what you make at home. Most pre-made pestos are too oily, too smooth without any character and with little flavor. One of the easiest things to make at home is pesto.  This is a version that doesn’t even call for a food processor. I just chopped it!

I want my pesto to have texture and lots of flavor. I want the olive oil to enhance the pesto, not be the main ingredient.  I often use greens other than basil such as kale or parsley. Hardly ever do I use pine nuts as I feel they are too oily. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios and pepitas are some of my favorite nuts to use. The constants in my pestos are good fresh garlic, the best olive oil I can afford and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Paired with a good short pasta noodle such as Campanelle, this pesto is divine and delicious.

First I smashed two garlic cloves using the flat side of my knife and then finely chopped them, adding toasted walnuts to my board and giving them a medium to fine chop together with the garlic. Grated parmesan was added and chopped into the garlic-walnut mix.

I harvested my first basil of the 2019 season and gave it a medium to fine chop as well. All the ingredients I then put into a bowl, adding a generous sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

All the ingredients I then drizzled with a good olive oil and smushed it all together with a wooden spatula.

I cooked some Campanelle noodles, topped them with a few spoonfuls of this chopped pesto. Bon Appetit.

Just Chop It Fresh and Easy Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 large fresh garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano – 1 cup or more divided
  • 2 cups or more fresh basil leaves
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 lb Campanelle pasta noodles or other short noodle

Directions:

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles.
  2. Meanwhile working on a cutting board, smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and then chop. Add walnuts and give them a medium to fine chop along with the garlic. Every now and then smush it all with the side of you knife. This releases the oils from the garlic and walnuts.
  3. Add half of the grated Parmigiano and chop into the garlic-walnut mix and scrape all into a mixing bowl.
  4. On the same board chop the basil medium to fine and add to the bowl tossing with other ingredients. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle olive oil over all and toss together well. Taste and adjust to suit your palate.
  5. When you pasta water boils add the noodles and cook al dente. Drain well.
  6. Serve pasta topped with a generous serving of chopped pesto and more Parmigiano, sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with additional olive oil if you like. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn.         http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Roasted Strawberry-Lemon Dessert Topping

Strawberries. Most local berries are gone for the season unless you are growing your own. The weather has been testy and now it is summer-hot. Strawberries don’t like that very much.

Here is a deliciously easy recipe I made using the the last of the local strawberries from the Farmer’s Market Downtown Nashville. “Roasted Strawberry-Lemon Dessert Topping” can be put into glass jars and frozen for enjoying later.  The results are not cloyingly sweet. This topping has a hint of lemon which brightens up things and the color is a deep crimson. This quick recipe (although lots of passive time) could be used for making other berry toppings. Blueberry, raspberry and blackberry topping would all be scrumptious, maybe even peach or plum?

I was inspired by a recipe I found in an early issue of “Sweet Paul Magazine”. Do you know this magazine? For many years now it has been an inspiration and delight for me with lots of doable good food and craft ideas, just wonderful stories of people and travel. I don’t know Paul, “Sweet Paul, Lowe, but I wish I did.3 lbs of fresh berries, lemon zest and sugar.

After 24 hours just sitting around in a bowl of sugar….this is what you have (above)….

…after a few hours in a low heat oven this is what you have (above). The berry juice cooks down and thickens to a perfect topping consistency.

Spoon into clean glass jars. Freeze or refrigerate for a few weeks. Eating some immediately over ice cream is a good idea as well. Good Eating.

Roasted Strawberry Lemon Dessert Topping

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Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled, large berries cut in half, small ones left whole
  • 3 lemons zested + juice from the lemons
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Put prepped berries in a large bowl. Add lemon zest and juice and toss well.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over berries and toss again. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 12 hours.
  3. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Put berry mixture into a large non-reactive baking dish (enamel, glass, stainless steel or ceramic).
  4. Bake berries, uncovered, stirring every now and then for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Remove pan from oven. As mixture cools it will thicken up somewhat but not as thick as jam. It will be a more “juicy” topping.
  5. Fill small (1/2 pint) glass jars with roasted berries, leaving about 1/2 headroom and seal with tight-fitting lids. Let cool completely and then store in refrigerator for a couple of weeks or freeze for using later in the summer or fall.
  6. Serve topping over vanilla ice cream or your favorite pound cake. Also good on top of pancakes or waffles.

Recipe based on “Slow Roasted Strawberry Jam” from Sweet Paul Magazine.

Teresa Blackburn.     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com