Dear Mother Nature,
I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you didn’t get the memo, or that no one told you yet. So I will officially tell you now: it’s spring!! The calendar people have declared that it is officially Springtime. So with all due respect, you need to get on board. It’s no longer winter, so you can stop sending snow flurries and thirty-degree temperatures. Alert the very bare trees that it’s time to start budding. Tell the sky to stop being so gray. In general, just warm the place up a little and let us start preparing for glorious summer. Thank you in advance.
In case you couldn’t tell, I am so over winter this season. While the snowstorm situation wasn’t so bad this year, it has been bitterly cold for months now, and I’m tired of it. And spending almost the entirety of two straight weeks in Houston and then New Orleans, where temperatures were in the sixties and seventies, and the sun shone brightly but for a few hours of one day, just didn’t help my tolerance of the cold. I’m done with winter and so ready for spring and summer.
Being in Houston reminded me how much I always loved spring in Texas. Now the rumors are true, summer in Texas leaves a bit to be desired; it’s unbelievably hot. But spring is so beautiful and happy. By contrast, spring in New York is disgusting. It’s chilly (though still a welcome warm-up from the bitter cold of winter), and rainy like you wouldn’t believe. The snow pile-ups in parking lots turn to sludge and melt all over, ensuring that you can’t help but step in puddles and get your feet soaked. True, there are some sunshine days sprinkled in the midst of the rain, and we are quite grateful for them. But it’s mostly rain.
And yet, every year I welcome the grossness, for it means that summer is on its way. And summer in New York is a wonderful time. We only have a few days of unbearable heat (as opposed to three months), and not too much rain. The trees bloom and the beach beckons. We grill almost every night, and the grocery store bursts with beautiful summer produce at the peak of its season. I can’t wait!
In the meantime, enjoy some cornbread that breaks the rules a little bit. I’d never thought to put tomato paste in my cornbread batter, but fortunately for us all, Bobby Flay did. It’s very good. The tomato flavor is subtle but unmistakable, and the reddish hue is very interesting and easy on the eyes. I’m really crazy about cornbread and associate it with summer cook-outs and barbecue, so this really whets my appetite for warmer months. Whether you are experiencing legitimate spring or the last vestiges of winter, and whether your spring is gorgeous or gross, do try this cool twist on an old favorite.
Source: adapted from The Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbs sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 large eggs
3 tbs tomato paste
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Nonstick cooking spray
Heat a dry 12” cast-iron skillet in the lower third of the oven while preheating the oven to 425 F.
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
Whisk together the eggs, tomato paste, and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add to the flour mixture. Also add the melted butter to the flour mixture. Whisk all until just combined.
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and spray the bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake until light golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. To serve, either unmold the cornbread and cut into wedges, or just cut into wedges from the skillet.