My weekend escape to Washington, DC may have been the best ever. That's saying something, as I've been to the nation's capital many times — and I used to live there.
After 4 1/2 hours driving on interstate highways, I relaxed on a small patch of green outside the sculpture garden Friday evening. I enjoyed live jazz, drinks, and a few tasty snacks with friends old and new. We had outstanding sushi that night followed by fantastic crepes the next morning at Eastern Market, a food and flea market on Capitol Hill (I also walked away with a cool t-shirt and a new piece of art for the house). Saturday afternoon involved window shopping and catching up with a dear friend in Old Town Alexandria, followed by another great meal. Sunday brunch with former co-workers wrapped up the weekend.
Quick trips to a city I called home for years are always lovely, but this particular weekend was stellar. Especially remarkable: gluten-free chocolate waffles at Sunday brunch. My friend Kathleen is allergic to gluten, and this dessert was perfect for her. Rich and dark, the waffles were topped with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with hot chocolate and caramel sauces. Gluten-tolerant members of the party (myself included) missed nothing.
Back home in Chapel Hill, I started thinking about waffles. A lot. I thought about how much I like the crisp exterior that adds an interesting bit of crunch to any meal. I recalled how waffles make breakfast feel special, smeared with soft butter and drizzled with honey or maple syrup. I remembered how terrific they can be when served as dessert.
Lots of sugar in my diet is a bad thing — time to cut back on calories and crank up the exercise — so the idea of savory waffles took hold. Chicken and waffles are big in the South, and I love waffles topped with creamed mushrooms, but I needed something light. I found my favorite buttermilk waffle recipe and made a few changes, cutting back on sugar and adding shallots and fresh herbs. They were a great substitute for salad croutons at dinner, and I enjoyed one reheated for breakfast this morning.
Just a little bit of waffle to brighten my day, and to remind me to plan another trip to Washington. Soon.
Normally I would use 2 cups of buttermilk in this recipe, but I didn't have enough on hand after making cucumber soup last week. I added yogurt and whole milk to make up the difference. If you don't have buttermilk, you can make a quick substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of room temperature whole milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes.
I had a lot of parsley out back, but use your favorite fresh herbs. I love the slight heat of jalapeno — leave it out for a mellower waffle.
Fresh Herb Buttermilk Waffles
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup shallot, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons thyme, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Whisk the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk together. Add the shallot, parsley and jalapeno, and stir until thoroughly combined.
Ladle the batter into a greased, preheated waffle iron and cook for 7-8 minutes, until crisp and golden. If serving warm, place them in a 250 degrees Fahrenheit oven (on a rack) while you cook the remaining batter.
If you won't be consuming them all at once, cool the waffles completely on a rack at room temperature before wrapping. They will keep in the freezer for one month.