We finally have warm weather – and yesterday, even some rain! I realize that we are in a unique world here in Nebraska. Our state is nearly all covered in land used for agriculture. We think of weather patterns in terms of, “How will this affect the crops?” We also think of it in terms of, “How long can I last without turning on the air conditioner?” The answer to that last one is, “Not long” if you have a golden retriever who walks around panting and drooling once the temp reaches 85F.
We have beautiful farmers’ markets in Lincoln and Omaha, so we get to see first-hand how the seasons change and what is in season in May, versus what we can buy in October. The first time I got close to this process was making cheese at Branched Oak Farm, around 2009. The Jersey cows at this idyllic farm are grass fed. Little did I know at the time, but this greatly affects the milk throughout the year. In the spring, the milk is a little funkier and has more color to it; in the fall, the fat content is much higher (the milk is more concentrated). This means we made cheese to fit the season and that some cheese, like Krista’s Camembert, greatly change over the course of the summer. It was so fascinating. I constantly felt connected to the land around us. We skimmed so much fat off the whey when fall started – which then was part of our lunch. Oh man, sometimes I do REALLY miss eating dairy!
The first harvest I saw this year was rhubarb. I made those silly little Fruit Cocktail Cakes with some and went nuts with the rest from that harvest two nights ago.
This Wednesday, I came home from work to find my new CAST IRON HEARTS PAN (via Amazon) waiting for me. I don’t often buy cute kitchen stuff like this – mega special occasion. Even though it was late and I had just been at the gym, dinner had to wait and I immediately made cornbread hearts. Then I had to make a full-blown dessert with them, because, well, I just had to.
Rhubarb chunks went into a pot. Then a knob of ginger. Then brown sugar. Let that stew away – ohmygoodness, so good – but, UGLY. Had to add some color, so in came the strawberries. What else, what else… coconut gelato from the amazing Erin Burianek of Gelato To Go.
I don’t want to do too much tootin’ of my own horn here, but this was a damn good dessert. Cornbread is so awesome with honey, jam, and coconut oil or butter. But I think it was always destined to be a dessert.
1 1/4 c cornmeal
1 c corn flour
1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 c non-dairy milk (I used coconut)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 450F and put the cast iron pan in the oven for at least 10 minutes. Leave it in there until you’re done mixing the cornbread. You can use a skillet or little hearts like I did.
Mix together cornmeal, corn flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the egg, milk, apple cider vinegar, and vinegar. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and whisk to combine.
Grease the hot cast iron pan and portion out the cornbread mixture – either 2 Tbsp per heart, or pour it all into a big skillet. For the hearts, I baked them about 10 minutes. A skillet would take about 25 minutes. Always insert a toothpick in the center of your bread or cake to see if it comes out clean, a.k.a. it’s done! Let the cornbread cool while you make the rest!
Rhubarb Compote Recipe
2 c rhubarb, chopped
2-3 Tbsp ginger, minced
1/4 c brown sugar
1/8 c water
Put all ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Stir every couple minutes. Once this mixture starts to break down and bubble, lower heat and let it cook for about 20 minutes, or until the thickness you like. If you want, add a little red food coloring to brighten it a bit. Or: keep it brown!
Other ingredients: Sliced strawberries, coconut gelato.