Rosemary Pecans

November 9, 2008

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Easy and so, so good you’d better have carryout bags for your guests. The basic recipe works with just about any kind of nuts. Just make sure you don’t burn them. Use your nose. When they start to smell toasty, they’re roasted.

PS You can get Szechuan peppers from mail-order houses like Penzys. Trust me, they’re worth the extra effort.

8 ounces unsalted pecan halves [or English walnuts]
1 T melted sweet butter
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1/4 tsp Szechuan peppers, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 tsp honey
2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp sea salt or to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree F. Spread the nuts in one layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and roast until fragrant and beginning to change color, 8 to 10 minutes. In a small saucier over very low heat, melt the butter. Add the curry powder, peppers, honey, and rosemary. Add the warm nuts and salt and toss until thoroughly coated.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.


Raisin Cookies

July 15, 2007

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When you really, really want to say ‘I love you,’ bake cookies! SAM

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup medium chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With an electric mixer, cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the raisins, walnuts, and vanilla. Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Breakfast Scones

June 23, 2007

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Please don’t pass this along to Healthier-Than-Thou Tim, but I love whole wheat scones! There’s butter, naturally, in these, and also yogurt, which makes them nicely moist. How healthy is that! If you like your scones sweeter, use sweetened, chopped dates. If you love chocolate, trade out half the nuts for chocolate chips. Roll the dough if you want traditional-looking scones, but here’s a quick tip: use two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheet . So much easier! And the scones will have a crisper, more interesting texture. SAM

1 cup pitted, chopped dates
2 tablespoons cognac or water
1 cup unbleached soft wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter, thinly sliced
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 1/3 cups plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Combine the dates and cognac in a small bowl, cover, and microwave on high for 1 minute to plump.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles very coarse corn meal. Add the oats, dates, and walnuts and blend well. Add the yogurt and stir until just blended. The dough will be very sticky. Turn out onto a floured pastry board and roll to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut out the scones with a sharp-sided 2-inch cutter and place close together on an ungreased baking sheet. Or, with two metal serving spoons, drop the dough onto the baking sheet in 1 1/2-inch dollops. Bake for 25 minutes, turning the baking sheet once. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 14 2-inch or 20 dropped scones.


Rosemary Pecans

June 18, 2007

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You’ll go nuts over this addictive appetizer/snack. It comes from my dear friend Cindy, a gifted cook, who just spent three weeks hiking in Italy. If you don’t have access to fresh rosemary, cultivate someone who does or plant some in a pot in a sunny window. Cindy also makes a fabulous rosemary shortbread. I’ll see if I can talk her out of that one, too. SAM

PS Feel free to substitute cashews for pecans. I’ve never made this with almonds, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t work. You might want to roast the almonds 4 or 5 minutes longer than the pecans. My favorite source of fresh nuts is the Sunnyland nut farm in Albany, Georgia. Order online and a big box shows up on your doorstep a couple of days later.

1 1/4 pounds fresh, unsalted pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

In a 375-degree F oven, roast the pecans until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt, and butter. Toss with the hot pecans.
Makes 1 1/4 pounds.


Carrot Cake

June 3, 2007

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Carrots are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you. Vegetables loom large on the food pyramid. Does this mean you can eat Carrot Cake anytime your heart desires? I believe it does. People put a lot of extra stuff in carrot cakes, like coconut and pineapple, but to my way of thinking, all you really need is carrots, spices, and nuts. Here’s your chance to use a good quality cake flour like White Lily. If you don’t have a good source of spices—and supermarket spices, in my opinion, tend to be stale—try a company like Penzys. And there’s more … Remember I told you you can make a great icing out of cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar? Here’s a recipe for that also. So wonderful! Have fun! SAM

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
1/3 cup water
3 eggs
4 large carrots, finely shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, water, and eggs on medium speed. Add the carrots and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and add to the carrot mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in the pecans by hand. Turn into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Ice in two layers with Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing.
Makes 16 servings.

Cream Cheese-Pecan Icing

1/4 cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and sugar, beating until well blended. Stir in the pecans by hand.
Makes 2 1/2 cups, or enough to ice one 2-layer cake.


Cream Cheese Pecan Icing

June 3, 2007

1/4 cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and sugar, beating until well blended. Stir in the pecans by hand.
Makes 2 1/2 cups, or enough to ice one 2-layer cake.


Banana-Nut Bread

June 2, 2007

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When bananas get spotted and soft, it’s time to make banana-nut bread. Don’t even think of trying this with a banana you would slice on your morning cereal. And yes, do use vegetable shortening. Butter won’t give you the firm, moist crumb you need to balance all those bananas and nuts. Not only will you make someone very, very happy with this irresistible bread, you’ll make your entire home smell divine. But do not dig in when it comes out of the oven. You’ll be very disappointed. Banana-Nut Bread needs a full half-day of rest for the flavors to meld. SAM

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan and set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with beaters or the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger and add to the shortening mixture alternately with the bananas, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the nuts by hand. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the center is firm and the sides have pulled slightly away from the pan. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 10 to 12 hours before serving.
Makes 1 loaf or 12 slices.