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Cornmeal Johnnycakes

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When I woke up Sunday morning, it was cold and rainy. I did not sign up for cold and rainy in August when I moved from Nebraska to Virginia. To be clear: I signed up for unbearably hot and humid summers that creep mercilessly into late September.

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Anyway, when I woke up and it was cold and rainy, I wanted to go back to bed. But going back to sleep isn’t an option on Sundays: I teach a 9am BODYPUMP class, and rain or shine, there will be a group of folks waiting for me to be all chipper and hard-core and beast out some push-ups.

At home later that morning, I decided the antidote to 60-degree weather in August was a hoodie and a big breakfast.  Surveying my  pantry and refrigerator contents, I opted for johnnycakes — essentially a cross between a corn muffin and a pancake — with a drizzle of real maple syrup, pork sausage patties and a couple of eggs over-easy. I first found this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma catalog years ago, and I like the flavor and texture the blackberries and toasted pecans add.

It didn’t make the rain go away, but it was a nice precursor to my afternoon nap. :)

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Cornmeal Johnnycakes

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Makes 12 cakes (serves about 4)

3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3/4 cup fine-ground yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
3/4 cup sliced blackberries

In a large bowl, stir together first five ingredients; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm milk until small bubble form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise; remove from heat.

Put cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add milk and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in butter and eggs. Stir cornmeal mixture into flour until thoroughly combined. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Butter, grease, or spray a griddle or large fry pan. Heat over medium heat. Pour batter in scant 1/4-cup measures; sprinkle each circle with pecans and a few slices blackberry. Cook until golden and puffy, 1-2 minutes. Flip cakes; cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh blackberries, blackberry syrup or compote, or maple syrup.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Bacon

So many summer meals growing up were just corn from my dad’s farm. I imagine that isn’t all that uncommon for midwestern farm families (sorry, carb haters — just telling it like it is).

These days, corn is usually a side dish, but it is still a must-do on my summer table. I love this chowder recipe: a few fresh, seasonal ingredients that complement one another, and just filling enough without being heavy.

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Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

Adapted slightly from Cooking Light
Serves 5

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 1/2 cups fresh (uncooked) corn kernels (about 6-7 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
8 ounces fingerling potatos, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more)
Thyme sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape; secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid to avoid splatters. Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in salt and black pepper. Season to taste, if necessary.

Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Broiled Salmon, Three Ways

Half the battle of successful weeknight cooking is an arsenal of simple, go-to main dishes. They should be simple enough to have on the table in under 30 minutes, adaptable to seasons, and versatile enough that you won’t tire of eating it once every, say, 2-3 weeks. And of course, they shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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Broiled salmon has become one of my mainstays, both on weeknights and weekends. It’s widely available fresh or frozen, and it goes well with just about any vegetable and starch. A marinade or glaze would be a delicious addition, but here, I have stuck with fresh or dried herbs and seasonings. In each case, season the fillet before cooking.

Ginger Salmon: season with dried ginger, Kosher salt and pepper. Serve with broccoli and a baked sweet potato seasoned with ginger, cinnamon, and butter.

Spiced Salmon: season with chopped fresh or dried oregano, cumin, Kosher salt, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Squeeze a lemon wedge over each fillet. Serve with summer squash.

Salmon with Corn Sauce: season with chopped salt and pepper. Ladle 1/2 cup creamy corn sauce onto each plate. Layer with steamed asparagus spears and salmon.

I broil the salmon because it’s efficient and I live in a small apartment. If you have an outdoor grill, by all means, grill!

Choose boneless, skin-on salmon fillets, with an even thickness. (The skin will separate from the flesh during cooking, so there’s no need to pay extra for skinless fillets). For superior flavor, choose wild salmon if you can find it without paying a small fortune.

Basic Broiled Salmon

Adjust oven racks so that the top rack is 4″ from the heat element. Turn broiler to high. Pat salmon fillets dry with paper towels. Season as desired. Place fillets skin-side down on a broiling pan coated with cooking spray. Place the pan on the top rack. Broil for 7 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. (Follow manufacturer’s instructions about whether to broil with the oven door open or closed.)

Creamy Corn Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup dry white wine (or use more broth)
1 3/4 c low-sodium chicken broth (or substitute vegetable broth)
1 sprig whole plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in the wine. Bring to a boil; cook until the wine is reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth and thyme and return to boiling. Stir in corn. Simmer over medium-low heat until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.

Puree with a freestanding or immersion blender until smooth. Return to the pan and stir in butter, chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste (I start with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper). Make ahead: Sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.