My universe has shifted again.
I’ve lost someone I loved. How do you deal with that? How do you go on? How do you keep finding the joy and seeing the beauty around you?
It’s really hard. There is no easy way, no shortcut. You just need to plow through the pain, and hug yourself a little closer, and try to patch the new hole that is now a part of you.
Spring is popping up all around – hard to believe that one week ago we were braving a late blizzard, and now suddenly flowers and greenery are unfolding before our eyes as the temperature soars.
. . . signs of spring that are bittersweet when hearts are aching.
My dear friend Erin is gone now – she was a part of my life for over 35 years and we shared so many huge and small moments, laughs and tears, and memories. And in trying to deal with her loss, I turned back to the kitchen, to the mundane little tasks that still needed to be done. And I looked through my grease-stained and spattered old handwritten cookbook – the one where I write out all those priceless recipes that I’ve collected over the years, the one that chronicles the favourites passed to me from friends and family in each of the places we’ve lived. Most recipes have a name attached: Mom’s Rhubarb Cake, Mabel’s Lefse, Judy’s Homemade Chocolates, Wendy’s Bacon Appetizers, Linda’s Roast, or Elsa’s Barley Pilaf.
Many recipes have Erin’s name attached: Erin’s Zucchini Pickles, Erin’s Tacos, Erin’s Corn Pie, Erin’s Macaroni & Cheese, Erin’s Cornmeal Chili Cups, Erin’s Porcupines, Erin’s Lemonade. Those recipes have become so much more precious to me now – a legacy from her that lives on, in my kitchen.
There are so many ways I will remember her, and I am glad that one of them can be when I am comforted and nourished, sharing a favourite meal of hers with my loved ones around a table.
So, yesterday, as I was trying to deal with the ache, I made Erin’s Corn Pie; a dish I’ve made many times for my family. It is a comforting and flavorful casserole, with a zesty ground beef filling and a dense cornmeal-almost-pudding top crust, all wrapped in a cheesy mantle. It’s a family favourite. Now, it will have even more meaning.
It tasted like love in our bellies.
Kitchen Frau Notes: The recipe calls for canned corn, but you can easily substitute fresh kernels cut from the cob, or frozen kernels.
I have used both the canned variety of pitted black olives or kalamata olives, which I pit by cutting each olive in half lengthwise around the seed, giving the halves a twist (like cutting an avocado) and digging the seed out. Both kinds of olives are good, but the kalamata olives are much more flavourful, giving little jolts of brightness when you bite into them. However, if you are not an olive-loving family, they can be left out altogether.
Erin’s Corn Pie
- 1 lb (450gms) lean ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 14-oz can (400ml) diced or whole tomatoes with their liquid
- 1 14-oz can (400ml) corn, drained, or 1½ cups (360ml) frozen or fresh corn kernels
- 20 to 24 pitted ripe olives
- 2 – 3 teaspoons chili powder (I use 3)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (170gms) cornmeal
- 1 cup (240ml) milk
- 1 cup shredded cheese (any kind, but I like Cheddar or Havarti)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, breaking up any chunks with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking and stirring for 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes (breaking them up if using the whole tomatoes), corn, olives, chili powder and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then tip it into an ungreased 9″x9″ (23x23cm) baking dish or a 2 quart/litre casserole dish. There will be quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of the dish, but it will all be absorbed as the casserole cooks.
In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk. Stir in the cornmeal and milk. Pour this mixture, as evenly as you can, over the meat mixture in the dish. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
Scoop out portions with a large spoon. Serves 6.
Lovely with a fresh green salad to go with it, and maybe some squash chunks roasted in the oven alongside the corn pie.
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