Fall is here, the nights are frosty, and that means dinner is often a hot soup and bread. Soup makes a great meal. I've got a lot of favorite soup recipes, but sometimes I'll just throw something together from leftovers. Last night, I had some white beans I'd pressure-cooked a couple of nights before. Chop some leeks and kale from the garden, carrots and garlic from storage, and add a couple of glops of cooked-down tomato puree (the last of the paste tomatoes, that I didn't feel like canning so have just kept a big tupper-ful in the refrigerator), and I soon had a wonderful soup simmering on the stove (I also stirred a spoonful of basil pesto into each bowl when I dished it up). Now, for some kind of bread . . .
I buy most of my grains and flours from the bulk bins in a local supermarket. It's more economical and saves on packaging waste. In my kitchen, from years spent working in restaurants and bars, I've amassed quite a few gallon glass jars for storage (during my ski-bum days in Colorado, I worked in a restaurant on top of the mountain; occasionally skiing down after work with an empty jar in my backpack - being especially careful not to fall). Whenever I'm in a thrift store, I like to browse the kitchen area, and have picked up various measuring cups to keep in the jars as scoops. The scoops are distributed according to what will be the most useful - half-cups in the flours and oats, quarter-cup in the sugar, third-cup in the dry milk, one-cups in the rice and couscous. It makes it easy and quick whenever I want to bake something - one scoop of this, two of that.
Cornbread sounded good. By the time the kale and carrots would be done, the bread would be coming out of the oven. Here's the basic recipe, with the adaptations I made this time:
Cornbread one 8x8" pan, 10" cast iron skillet, or 12 muffins
1 cup cornmeal (I prefer yellow)
1 cup flour (I used half whole-wheat & half whole-wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup sugar (the Colorado relatives use 1/2 cup, but I don't like my cornbread that sweet)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil (I used applesauce instead)
1 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
Grease pan well, or use non-stick spray (for skillet-sizzled cornbread, see note below). Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in large measuring cup. Add wet to dry, stirring just until combined (optional: I'll often then stir in ½ cup something extra - maybe cheddar cheese, or frozen corn, or chopped chiles, but not this time). Pour into prepared pan, leveling top surface. Bake 400º 20 minutes (muffins take only about 16 minutes).
Split pieces of leftover cornbread make a good toaster-oven pizza, or it can be cut into cubes and left out to dry, then stored in a jar or bag, and used for making stuffing/dressing some other night.
Note: After being gifted The Cornbread Gospels, by Crescent Dragonwagon (a great book - a couple hundred corn-based recipes, meal menus, plus trivia, background, and wonderful tales by a gifted storyteller), I now prefer baking my cornbread in my cast-iron skillet. Preheat oven 375º, and prepare batter. Melt a tablespoon of butter in skillet on stove top until it sizzles, swirling it around to coat bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the skillet, cook another minute on top of the stove, and then bake 20 minutes.