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Jalapeño-Cornmeal Muffins

The thumb-sized jalapeño chili has thick flesh that may be green or red and can range from mildly hot to fiery. When working with jalapeños or other hot chilies, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves to prevent burns. The heat from a chili, carried in the membranes, can linger for hours on your skin, so thoroughly wash your hands, the cutting board and knife with hot, soapy water as soon as you finish working. For mild-flavored muffins, use 2 chilies; to add more heat, use 3 chilies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups fine- or medium-grind yellow
      cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 or 3 green jalapeño chilies, seeded
      and minced
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or sesame oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 Tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
      or Asiago cheese
  • Unsalted butter for serving

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Grease 11 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill the unused cup one-third full with water to prevent warping.

In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the jalapeño chilies and zucchini and toss to distribute evenly.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, eggs and buttermilk. Stir just until evenly moistened, using no more than 15 to 20 strokes. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each level with the rim. Sprinkle each muffin with some of the cheese.

Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately unmold the muffins onto a wire rack. Serve them hot, warm or at room temperature, with butter. Makes 11 muffins.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins, by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2003).