I'm a little crazy these days, and in need of some serious kitchen time to calm my nerves. Why so crazy? Next Saturday is the big, year-end music recital for the students I teach in Harvey and Marrero. Nerves are frazzled, stomachs are full of butterflies. This is the time of year when I become more psychotherapist than piano teacher, and to be honest, it stretches me pretty thin. But my brain happens to be wired in such a way that when I get stressed, I like to tackle big cooking projects, like buying lots of bursting-ripe produce that must be used within 48 hours to avoid spoilage. So while I may be walking around with a furrowed brow for a bit longer, it's a safe bet that I'm well-nourished.
A few weeks ago, I heard on the Farmer's Market Minute that Louisiana has a strong blueberry crop for 2010, due to certain weather incidents we had this winter. I stopped by Golden Harvest Produce, which I pass every Saturday morning on my way to work in Marrero, specifically to purchase some blueberries. But right now, they also have huge, ripe Creole tomatoes; beautiful watermelons; lots of eggplant, green beans, and cucumbers; and plump, dusky blueberries from Folsom, Louisiana, sitting quietly in the fridge. I probably went a little overboard, buying two pints of berries and you wouldn't believe all of what else, but I figured I'd just settle in for a weekend of vegetable cookery. And baking, because so many baked goods are tastier with blueberries added--especially cornbread.
I like a slightly sweet cornbread, but I don't think it's necessary to have sugar in the batter to include berries. Blueberries are naturally tart, and add a nice amount of moisture to the bread, but they don't really contribute that much sweetness on their own. Having said that, I think that if you do have sugar in the cornbread batter, the blueberries will make the bread taste sweeter than if it didn't have berries. Maybe it's the illusion of fruit being sweet. I don't know these things. I just know that I like this bread, with beans for supper or with butter and honey for breakfast.
Use your favorite cornbread recipe, or use my favorite, below, which is taken straight from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen--one of the first cookbooks I ever owned and one of the few I still use every year. If blueberries aren't your thing, I imagine that chopped fresh strawberries would also be delicious added to the batter. I love the idea of raspberries or blackberries, as well, but I don't love the idea of the seeds. But that's just me.
A note of some interest: Apparently, when blueberries are used in baked goods that include baking soda, there can be an alkaline reaction that causes a green color around the berries in the final product. It's nothing bad, it's just a reaction. I did notice some of this coloring, but the good news is the berries sink to the bottom of the pan during baking, so the green tinge is much less noticeable than it would be if the berries were suspended throughout.
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk (shake it well first)
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly
- 1 cup blueberries
- Heat oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8"-square baking pan or a 9"- or 10"-inch cast-iron skillet.
- Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Combine buttermilk, egg, sugar, and melted butter in a separate bowl.
- Stir wet mixture into dry mixture, mixing just to thoroughly combine. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
- Spread mixture into prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until the center is firm to the touch. You can stick a knife point or a toothpick in as well, just to make sure no wet batter is still working in there.
- Serve at any temperature, with anything, to anyone.
Makes 9 big squares of deliciousness.