Part of what makes me feel human and keeps me grounded is cooking and eating well. When things go exceptionally wrong or exceptionally right, it’s the ritual of cooking and eating with people I love that serve as a gentle reminder that external circumstances are only a part of who I am. Cooking and eating connect us to the earth and to tradition. A home to me is a person or place to which I can turn to unburden myself from the day, a safe place where I can put my cares down for the moment and turn to other more immediate needs like nourishing my hunger in a mindful way through a well cooked meal. Eating and cooking, especially with friends or family, is a way for me to weave an unbreakable thread that extends from history and spreads itself in a delicate web to the bellies of all who partake in the event. The people at the table reflect who I am back at me in the best light because I chose them (or in the case of family chose to dine with them). I become a better version of myself around them and the food we cook and eat together.
This past week we visited Vermont, a state well known for its farms and beauty. I spent time with loved ones shucking sweet corn, exchanging ghost stories over a fire, cooking up burgers from the farm next door and fish from the lake over a grill. We shared in all the gifts that late summer in Vermont lavishes upon us from beautiful ripe tomatoes, to purple peppers, sweet corn and blueberries, cherries, local squash, farm fresh eggs and arugula. At night we (I) made s’mores, which I now know how to make from scratch using graham flour and homemade marshmallows (recipe to come). There is something to be said for sitting quietly on a dock and staring at the spiral arm of the galaxy, marveling at shooting stars–looking as deeply into yourself as you are into space, scarily, peacefully and silently for a long time, in the company of people around whom you don’t need to speak or mind the time. They’re doing the same thing. There’s something also to be said for climbing high above the water up a mountain and hiking, pushing yourself further and higher than you have in a long while.
All of this brings me to this wonderful breakfast! You MUST make this. Corn, cherries, waffles? In my travels, I have never seen so much corn. Upstate New York where I grew up and Vermont has it going on! Seriously, what more can you ask for in late summer? Any guest will think you’re a hero when he or she tastes these, but you yourself deserve these waffles. I will hoard these. I could not BELIEVE how good these were and how easy they are to make, even if you don’t have the freshest corn you’ve ever tasted. You’ll need a waffle iron, but aside from this…easy. If you don’t have one, make pancakes out of the batter. You may find that you create a memory in someone that reminds him or her of what it is to be home. And this is priceless.
I finally learned how to manipulate the iron in a way that makes round waffles from a square mold (though I secretly am loving all of you guys who have the heart shaped mold). Who says you can’t fit a round peg in a square hole? Or take a city dweller and make her long for the country.
Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles adapted from Food52
For the Waffles
- 1/2 cup flour (white or whole wheat pastry)
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup sweet corn kernels (cut off the cob)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup milk (skim or low fat is fine)
- 3/8 cups oil, vegetable or canola
For the cherry syrup
- 1 pound stemmed sweet cherries (about 3 cups)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
For the Waffles
Sift together the first six ingredients and set aside. Good cornmeal will have some chunkier bits that won’t go through the sifter; that’s fine, just dump them in. Separate the egg.
Mix together egg yolk, milk, buttermilk, and oil. Add this wet mixture to the dry.
Whip egg white with sugar and vanilla until you have soft peaks.
Gently fold egg whites into the mixture until evenly distributed. Add the corn kernels.
*Note: Not gonna lie here, me being me, I messed up the order of some of these steps. It’s totally fine if you mix the wet ingredients together and then add them to the dry and then mix the whole thing together. It changes the fluffiness a bit, but tastes just as great.
Add batter to preheated waffle iron. To make them round instead of square waffles, spoon the batter into the middle of the iron where all four squares meet and make sure you don’t put enough to fill the squares. Don’t let the photo below from my first very square attempt fool you. Start in the middle. Don’t fill the individual squares. Cook until done.
For the Cherry Syrup
Combine cherries and sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir to coat cherries in sugar, and then use a potato masher to squash the cherries and release their juice (this will be easier to do once they have warmed up a bit).
Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Cook at a simmer, adjusting heat as necessary, and cook until cherries are soft and start to break down, about 15 minutes.
Set a strainer over a medium bowl and pour cherry mixture into the strainer. Press down on the solids until all the juice has gone through the strainer. Discard solids and chill the syrup until ready to use. Syrup will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.