Last weekend Jennifer flew home from Southern California where it’s always in the 70s and sunny. Here in the Midwest, it had just begun to be on the cooler side of fall and the temperatures were hovering in the low 50s. She had come for a wedding but I was thrilled that her Friday was free and we could spend the whole day together. We started out by riding bikes on the Monon Trail through Carmel – in Indiana, it’s pronounced like the candy! We definitely weren’t dressed warm enough; although it was sunny, the wind tore through our sweatshirts but we enjoyed the ride anyway. Afterwards we hopped in the car with the idea of finding a place to warm up and grab lunch. We ended up at the Garden Table in Broad Ripple, an all day cafe type eatery that any Australian would be cured of homesickness in. We each ordered something with the idea of sharing and the vegan beans and cornbread was definitely the hit of the day. It was so good that I was driven to duplicate it. I’m pretty close, but while my version is vegetarian, it isn’t vegan. I imagine that the cornbread recipe could use coconut oil instead of butter as well as almond milk for the regular. At any rate, the subtle middle eastern flavors in the beans and lentils surprisingly are complimented by the rich sweetness of the cornbread. The real star is the gremolata sauce though – the hit of lemony heat really makes this dish delicious!
Sweet and Rich Skillet Cornbread – 12 Servings
Ingredients and Procedure
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 stick of butter (8 oz.), divided
2 tablespoons honey
Place skillet in the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until they are golden and well combined.
Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter.
Add the milk, vegetable oil, butter, eggs and honey to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Carefully take the hot skillet out of the preheated oven and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Using a spatula, coat the sides of the skillet with the melted butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.
Check after 25 minutes to see if a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If not, bake for 5 more minutes and check again. It’s important not to over bake the cornbread so it won’t be dry. It will be done when the middle bounces back when tapped and the edges are just starting to pull away from the sides.
Ingredients and Procedures for Beans and Lentils – 6 to 8 Servings
1 medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups lentils
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 (15.8 oz.) cans of Great Northern beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Rinse the lentils in a colander and check them over for any debris such as a small pebble or twig.
Dice the onion. Add the onion and oil to a large sauce pan and saute the onions over medium heat until they are tender – about 5 minutes. Put the garlic clove through a press or finely mince. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano to the onions. Saute the mixture for another 30 seconds.
Add the lentils,chicken broth and water and increase the heat so that it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and let the lentils simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the beans, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Taste and if needed add another 1/4 teaspoon salt. If by chance it is too salty, add additional water – 1/2 cup at a time – until the broth is adjusted. Continue to simmer the beans and lentils for another 10 minutes.
At the end of the cooking time the lentils should be tender and mixture should be thicker than soup, but still have a bit of broth left. If needed, more water could be added to thin it out. Likewise, if it”s too runny, cook it a bit longer so it gets thicker.
Spicy Gremolata Sauce – Yields 3/8 Cup
Ingredients and Procedure
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, put through a press or finely minced
1 Serrano pepper – seeds and membrane removed and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Add the cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and salt to a blender of food processor. Pulse to coarsely process. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times.
Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Assemble Beans and Lentils over Cornbread with Spicy Gremolata Sauce
For each serving cut a square of cornbread in half lengthwise and place in a bowl or plate. Ladle roughly 1/2 cup of the beans and lentil mixture over the cornbread. Spoon a tablespoon of the gremolata sauce across the top.
And just for fun…