From my childhood on, cooking meant sharing and security and a way of “speaking” to people.  When I grew up I found that cooking grew also to be a means of celebrating and honoring those who would eat meals that I’d carefully prepared from scratch. Over the years as I lived and thought and learned, cooking grew even more to embrace nearly every aspect of culture and human relationships. I have been lucky to make my career as chef, consultant, and businesswoman a never-ending source of joy and fulfillment.”

                                                                                                              –Zarela Martinez

Each week for the last forty-six, a food-loving group of bloggers has been studying, choosing a recipe, cooking, photographing, and writing  about one very special food expert off the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women-Game Changers in Food.    I jumped on this yummy trolley last January at stop number 32, but a good number of these scribes started right from the beginning.   We’re near the end of the line, but this week we’re featuring number forty-seven, Mexican chef, author, teacher, philanthropist, and NYC restauranteur-caterer Zarela Martinez.

Born on a northern Mexico ranch, Zarela moved to the U.S. in the ’70’s, and to make a few bucks, began catering.  Soon she was at culinary school, studying with Paul Prudhomme, and working at Cafe Marimba in NYC!  Her famed, but currently closed, restaurant, Zarela, came next and taught more than one generation of New Yorkers about just how fine true Mexican cuisine could be, as well as providing training ground for her son, chef Aaron Sanchez.

 Here, Zarela teaches us how to roast poblanos (used in her cornbread recipe-below) and gives us her “Creamy Rice Casserole” recipe.

Lots of gorgeous recipes from Zarela out there, but I hit on Savory Cornbread for this week.  The recipe sounded perfect…lot of fresh corn, great cheese, gluten-free, but something somewhere just didn’t happen exactly as I expected.   While the bread was tasty (though quite rich), I struggled to get it done.  I baked it an extra tweny minutes and it was still underdone–more like spoon bread, which may be exactly what it was supposed to be like.  We simply enjoyed it just like that.  One thing, I did bake it in a metal 9×13 pan in the hopes of obtaining a crispy crust and if I tried it again, I’d put it in the recommended glass Pyrex casserole dish. While full of butter and cheese, the roasted peppers did shine through and provided a touch of heat usually missing from American Corn Bread recipes.  I think it would be great with a fish taco salad or a bowl of spicy chili.  Scroll down past my puppies and try it:

Gabby and Tuck waiting for mom to get done cooking.  Geez Louise, it’s walk time.

savory cornbread — Chefs Aaron Sánchez and Zarela Martínez (courtesy NY Magazine)

Ingredients

3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups rice flour (use Goya’s, not rice flour from Chinatown) I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and diced
Cornstarch 

Instructions

Grind the corn by pulsing batches in the food processor until coarsely crushed but not puréed. Set aside.

Corn ground in food processor

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat in the eggs one by one until incorporated.

 Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the creamed mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed until combined. Fold the ground corn into the batter, followed by the cheese and chiles.

I could not find Goya rice flour and subbed King Arthur…

Weighing the cheese before grating.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch Pyrex baking dish, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Pour in the mixture and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (2007)   

(Published 2007)
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If you liked this, you might like my Irish Soda Bread (with Potato Soup)

 
And, also, on Dinner Place (Cooking for One) this week is Alyce’s Killer Guac to take to the Mother’s Day Cookout:
 
Cook with a-band-on,
Alyce