A few weeks back, Caitlin and I went to Santa Fe for her Spring Break.
Driving into Santa Fe, we were greeted by breathtaking scenery, snow-capped mountains rising in the distance, with parched tracts of desert-land and spotted cacti dotting the roadside. The city itself encapsulated this sense of beauty and wonder. The entire city burst with color. Every building in Santa Fe was built in the adobe style, and the pink hues created a stark contrast with the cloudless blue sky. Dragon-red chili peppers hung from nearly every veranda, tempting both your visual and olfactory senses. The city teemed with art – from the Georgia O’Keefe Museum to the record number of galleries to the Native American artists selling their craft in the open-air downtown square.
The cuisine was yet another form of art available in Santa Fe. New Mexico is justifiably famous for its chilies, and at every restaurant we were presented with the same question: Red or Green? That is, did we want the red or the green chili sauce with our meal? If we were indecisive, or simply wanted to try both, we could answer “Christmas.” The sharp flavors that emanated from the chilies gave every meal a special bite.
On our last day in Santa Fe, Caitlin suggested we skip the traditional art of Canyon Road, and instead, head to Santa Fe’s farmer’s market, where we could sample more of the region’s culinary art. To our growing collection of Southwestern foods – blue corn meal, blue corn posole, red chili pods, and red chili powder – we added fresh red chilies and red chile ginger jam (though the latter would be confiscated by the TSA).
During our trip, Caitlin and I did not accumulate t-shirts or trinkets. Instead, we put our energy into sampling the beauty and art of the Southwest – the kind you could see, feel, wear, and taste. I bought a sand painting from one of the Native American craftsman, and Caitlin bought a peridot necklace with a copper pendant. On top of those items, we also brought home a grocery bag full of . . . groceries. As we boarded the plane, I gripped our luggage, but also held tight to our well-worn, well-traveled, brown paper bag, full of Southwestern staples.
This is the first meal born of those staples.
Yogurt & Blue Corn Cornbread
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME:25 minutes
YIELD: Serves 6
WHAT TO GRAB:
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 cup blue cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup honey
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a nine-inch baking dish.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Continuing cooking the butter until it is turning light brown, and has a nutty smell – between 5 and 10 minutes. Do not skim the butter.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and honey. Working in batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined. Finally, whisk in the melted butter.
4. Fill the baking dish with the batter, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a heaping bowl of red beans and rice or blue corn posole!