When I’m staring down a pantry ingredient at the store, the (imaginary) conversation between us goes something like this:
Me: “If I bring you home, how will you earn your keep?”
Ingredient: “You can make that one thing you’ve been craving!”
Me: “Yeah, but like, after that.”
Ingredient: “I don’t know. Wait a bit, then make it again? Let me fossilize on the top shelf until you forget I exist and buy another one?”
Me: “Wrong answer. Next!”
I try to think of at least three ways to use an ingredient before bringing it home. I’m also always trying to figure out how to use what’s already in my pantry. More than being conscious of food waste or budget, this is really just what gets me excited to cook… I love finding new recipes or inventing my own in the name of using up that one thing. I’ll build dishes around the last dregs of a tahini jar, the last bundle of soba noodles. I’ll bake for no other reason than I must—must—use the entire carton of buttermilk some way, somehow.
A few weeks ago, that ingredient was cornmeal. I just had to have a batch of Dessert for Two’s corn muffins. After that, I snuck some more cornmeal into a lemon loaf cake. I tried to boil it like polenta. I made the corn muffins again. And, sigh, I still have about half a bag left.
And so the recipe for these savory cornmeal pancakes was born. It’s my cheat for a cornbread fix that doesn’t serve ten people or take an hour to make, with sharp Cheddar and scallions as optional stir-ins. The salsa here is Texas caviar–inspired, with a touch of sherry vinegar for extra oomph. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt brings it all together. It’s light yet super satisfying, simple yet packed with flavor. I’ll happily chip away at that bag of cornmeal just to make it again.
Cornmeal Pancakes with Black Eyed Pea Salsa
Black Eyed Pea Salsa
- ¼ can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (about ⅓ cup)
- ⅓ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (leaves and stems)
- 3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- 2 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup fine cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup grated sharp Cheddar
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- ½ cup buttermilk (or 3 tbsp plain yogurt + enough milk or non-dairy milk to equal 1/2 cup)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- In a small bowl, combine all the black eyed pea salsa ingredients. Do this first so the flavors have time to marinate and meld, and the red onion can lose some of its sharp bite.
- In another bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in Cheddar and scallion. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and oil. If you don't have buttermilk, add any milk to the yogurt and stir to combine first, then add the egg and oil.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. (In one test, I beat a leftover egg white to soft peaks and folded it into the batter. Would be delicious with or without!)
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and swirl to melt and coat pan. Use a ¼-cup measuring cup to scoop batter into pan for 6 pancakes. Cook 2-3 minutes per side. I usually work in batches: 3-4 pancakes in the first, 2-3 in the second.
- Top 3 pancakes with the sour cream and black eyed pea salsa. Save remaining pancakes for another meal, a snack, or a side.