Recipes and Me

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spiced Holiday Nuts

Recipes that are quick and simple yet super delicious are kind of my mojo. 2014 has been a year of swallowed time, by work, by obligations, by shear exhaustion. Having these quick showstoppers I can whip out at any time the occasion calls for them is such huge life saver. You all know I have a thing for gardening. I love growing vegetables and I adore growing herbs. I find a way to work herbs into most recipes. They complement and bring out the natural flavor in so many dishes. This recipe is incredibly easy, yet so grown up dinner party classy that people will be asking you for the recipe even if there's not a ton to it. And can I just say, rosemary...rosemary is like my spirit animal. It's woodsy fragrance gets me every time. Somehow it makes me sort of enjoy winter (picturing snow topped log cabins here) which, for those of you that know this about me, is no small feat given that winter is a season that is usually dead to me. But these spiced nuts scream relaxed cocktail party snacking and, most importantly, HOLIDAY- so really, what's not to love?

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year, Cheers to 2015!
Spiced Holiday Nuts
serves 4 (as party of a cocktail party menu with other nibbles)
1 cup raw unsalted cashews
1 cup raw unsalted almonds
1/2 cup raw unsalted pecans
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine nuts in a medium bowl. Combine salt, sugar, and ground pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Drizzle the olive oil over the nuts and stir thoroughly to combine. Sprinkle chopped herbs and sugar, salt, and pepper over the nuts. Stir to combine. Transfer nuts to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring at 8 minutes, until cashews are noticeably golden. 
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Buckwheat Tart

Autumn.  Here you are in all your red and yellow hued splendor.  As the leaves start falling, crisped by the cooled air, I can't help but want to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and something a little sweet.  Right now my "something" is figs. The luscious jammy texture and adorably perfect size make figs my snack of choice at the moment. Out of my moderate obsession with this healthy and delicious culinary powerhouse, this tart recipe was born.  It combines the robust fig flavor with that of wildflower honey, slightly tangy mascarpone, and a nutty buckwheat crust.  A generous slice of this tart goes very well with tea indeed.


Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Buckwheat Tart
serves 8 (or 4-6, or decide)

Buckwheat Tart Crust:
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (pink salt recommended - it's my new thing and it's fantastic)
2 tablespoons cane sugar (use what you like but sugar with a deep molasses-y taste does well here)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons very cold water

In a food processor add the flours, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine the ingredients. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the flour mixture gathers into pea sized crumbles. Continue to pulse while slowly adding the cold water 1/2 tablespoon at a time (you may need as little as 1 tablespoon or as much as 2 tablespoons). The dough should come together into somewhat of a ball.  As soon as it does, you're done...with that. Remove the dough and, using your hands, form it into a disk 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. If you do plan to chill it longer than 30 minutes, you will need to let it sit out for 10-15 minutes before rolling it out. 

Once you're ready to roll:
On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough into a 11 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it onto a 9 inch tart pan. Lightly press the dough into the edges and sides of the pan. It may start to crack a little. If it does, you can gently push the dough back together. With your rolling pin, roll gently (I feel like I'm saying "gently" a lot. Maybe it's because I'm so heavy handed and tend to pummel things with my rolling pin?) across the top of the pan to remove overhanging dough. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Line the pastry dough with tin foil and add pie weights to the center. Bake for 17 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until the crust is firm and nicely browned. Set the crust aside to cool.

Honeyed Mascarpone Filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good honey (I use wildflower honey but I've also used buckwheat honey with seriously wicked results.)

Using a stand mixer, whip mascarpone on a low speed, slowly adding the vanilla extract and then the honey. Slowly add the whipping cream until the filling is smooth. Careful- if you overdo it, it will become a texture akin to butter (not what you're going for here). Scoop the filling into the tart and spread it evenly.
*I've used different brands of mascarpone and find I sometimes need only 1/4 cup of whipping cream and sometimes closer to 1/2 cup, which is why I've made the noncommittal notation above regarding the cream measurement.

Fruit Topping:
The crowned jewels, 12 large ripe figs
*I use Black Mission or Brown Turkey Figs. The Black Mission Figs are a bit sweeter and earthy. The flavor of Brown Turkey Figs is a bit more delicate.

Quarter the figs (or cut into 6 segments if they are very large) and arrange them on the tart in a circular pattern starting from the outside working your way towards the middle.

Above all else, Enjoy!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blackberry Rose Gin & Tonic

A fine cocktail is a wonderful thing.  That might be the understatement of the year. These days there is some serious street cred to be had for being a “mixologist." And I admit, when that urban trend started to catch steam I was all about poo pooing it, just like I was with the trend I thought had gotten out of hand, bacon cupcakes.  But alas, just like I found when I finally bit into a frustratingly mind blowing maple bacon cupcake from a favorite bakery, I was wrong. And I just admitted that in writing so that means I’m even fine with it.  I was happy to be proven wrong because mixology I have learned is, in fact, an art.  The concoctions are endless and when you really get going with all of the bitters, herbs, fruit, and endless pantry enhancements, you can really stumble onto something amazing.  That’s not to say you can throw everything but the kitchen sink into a drink and think you’re a genius.  Without some thought and basic knowledge of chemistry thrown in, you could end up with something truly disgusting (think Portlandia’s episode of The Mixologist).  But that’s all the more reason to have fun experimenting with flavors and to take notice when one of those fine experts makes a cocktail so delicious that you start to realize what you've been missing (at least in that department).

Blackberries. Gin. Rose water. Mint. Need I say more? Maybe not but you know me- I will.  I love a good gin and tonic, probably a little too much. It's classic and reliably satisfying. But sometimes you just want to mix it up a bit.  This cocktail does the trick with tartly sweet blackberries, good gin, delicate rose water, and fresh mint.  It's a supremely summery twist on a beloved classic. Cheers.

Blackberry Rose Gin & Tonic
serves 4

16 blackberries
20 medium sized mint leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup (instructions below)
12 oz. gin
1 bottle of tonic water (a little over 1 liter)
rose water (a little goes a long way)

Use highball glasses for this drink (I find the wider ones tend to work better for the berry muddling).  Line up 4 glasses.  Place 3 blackberries, 4 mint leaves, 1 tablespoon simple syrup, and a dash of rose water in each glass.  Muddle ingredients together.  Disclaimer: It's not the best idea to wear white while making these drinks.  Also, I recommend putting a small towel over each glass as you work to protect yourself from splashing.  Fill the glasses with ice.  Pour 3 oz. of gin into each glass.  Top off the drinks with tonic water and give each a quick stir.  I like to finish the drinks with a sprig of mint and an additional blackberry speared by a toothpick and placed on each glass.

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a  small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Cool syrup before using in cocktails.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Blueberry Ginger Compote (sugar and spice and everything nice)

Hello friends. I've missed you terribly. 2013 (into much of 2014) was quite a year, and not in that generically good way. Unfortunately a lot went down that was "heavy" and I had to take some time off, readjust, find myself again, and find my way back. Back to the things I love. Like this. And you. It's like that saying, "home is where the heart is." With summer providing unwavering inspiration, I've started to see so much of the beauty that was faded for me for some time.  Sampling plump blueberries, nearly violet in color, so addictive you'd think they were chocolate candies; peaches in a spectrum of yellows and reds, dripping with sweet syrupy goodness, that you can't wait to get home and devour, and tomatoes so full of flavor you can eat them like apples, it's become much easier to find the heart of The Picky Pantry all over again. So thanks for being my people. I can't wait to share some fun new recipes with you.

Summer. That word embodies fun.  Fun trips and just plain fun in the sun. It's the season most of us look forward to because we see it as those few months when things will get a bit lighter, much needed vacation time will get nearer, and we'll be able to get twice as many things done on any given day with the sun on our side until nearly 9pm. But for me, the thing I look forward to the most about summer is all of my favorite fruits and vegetables (and flowers!) that will come into season, one right after the other.  Snap peas, Asparagus, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Peaches, Tomatoes, Okra, Corn, Watermelon.  The list is never ending it seems, not the case during winter, so I'm always thankful for the bounty of summer.

One thing I can't stop buying right now is blueberries.  I feel their season slipping away and I'm trying to savor every last moment.  As blueberries near extinction for the year I get the itch to make a compote or jam.  If you can set aside a lazy Sunday morning to make fresh fruit jam, you will compliment yourself repeatedly on your genius come November.

This is a blueberry compote (a touch less fussy and laborious than jam) with a hint of ginger. I've found ginger to be an exceptional complement to various berry desserts and preserves.  It's not overpowering in this recipe, adding only a bit of complexity to the sweet blueberries.  My two favorite ways to serve (ah hell, eat) this compote are spooned over a really good scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled on a log of goat cheese, with crackers (perfect for a party). Enjoy!

Blueberry Ginger Compote
makes 1/2 pint

2 cups fresh blueberries (preferably organic)
1 small "nub" of ginger (about 2 inches)
1/4 cup good honey
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Peel the ginger.  I find a vegetable peeler makes very quick work of this but using a spoon to scrape the peel off also works exceptionally well.  Slice the 2 inch piece of ginger in two and quarter each 1 inch segment so you end up with 8 small but sturdy pieces of ginger (you'll need to fish them out of the water so you don't want them to be too small). In a small uncovered saucepan boil the water, honey, and ginger for 5 minutes.  Remove and discard the ginger.  Stir in 1 cup of the blueberries and simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries start to burst.  Add the remaining blueberries and the tablespoon of lemon juice.  Simmer 4-6 minutes, still stirring, until the liquid reduces a bit and thickens.  This compote can be served warm (warm, not hot) over ice cream or at room temp for a variety of other uses.  As I mentioned above, I love it drizzled over goat cheese served alongside good crackers as a party appetizer.  It's visually stunning, easy to put together (especially if you already made your compote in advance), and delicious.  This compote will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.