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Archive for January, 2010

As I stand here in my kitchen testing recipes for my next class, I get to thinking maybe I should at least give you something new to mull over…

I always associate Pecan Pie with my visits to Alabama as a child.  It was something I didn’t particularly like, but something my great-aunts liked to press upon me.  As a kid I didn’t appreciate pie crust, or pecans, very much.  I definitely didn’t like the corn-syrupy ooze sandwiched between those two layers.   I think maybe that’s why I’ve never been a big fan.  Until now.  This is a family recipe from my friend Kate Hodgin (thanks Kate!).  I taught a pie-making class for the Denver Public Library last year and we had a contest with the prize of a pie of choice made especially for the winner.  The winner wanted pecan pie, and this recipe was suggested to me.  I definitely appreciate pie crust and pecans as an adult, but I still don’t like the corn-syrup filling of most pecan pies.  This recipe is an old one form North Carolina – older than corn syrup!  What a difference brown sugar and butter make…for me, this is the best Pecan Pie.  Ever.  (It has converted many a pecan pie hater)  Make it and you will be loved!

Old Southern Pecan Pie

  • Pastry for one 9” crust
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1lb brown sugar (one box)
  • ¼ cup unsifted flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line 9”pie pan with pastry and crimp the edges.  Line the bottom of the pie with pecan halves.  Blend sugar, flour and salt.  Mix in milk and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, using a wire whisk.  Gradually mix in melted butter.  Slowly pour filling over pecans. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until filling is puffy and golden.  Let cool completely before serving and store at room temperature. (Recipe courtesy of Kate Hodgin)

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Cranberry Apple Crisp

I admit it – I actually made this to eat for breakfast!  Well, it does have oats and fruit…and you can use a larger proportion of fruit if you’d like.   What I like in a fruit crisp:  1.  Oats for texture  2.  Decent amount of sweetness in the topping  3. Unsweetened & un-thickened fruit in the bottom – check, check & check! What is nice is that you can use frozen fruit if you want – the cranberries I used were frozen from my giant bag of organic heirloom cranberries I’ve been getting from Massachusetts.  As far as sweets go, this is pretty good for you! I almost always use apples, but pears and other fruits work just as well.  The topping is plenty sweet enough to counteract even the tartest apple.  This recipe is a great one to make with kids – have them make the crumble topping while you slice the fruit.  Heck, it’s just plain easy – and yummy!

And don’t worry,  this makes a great dessert too!

(Cranberry) Apple Crisp

  • 8 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly (approx 8 cups)
  • 1 cup whole fresh cranberries, optional (can be frozen, no need to thaw)
  • 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (taste your fruit – if is is very sweet use the lesser quantity)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned preferably)
  • 2/3 cup butter or (non-hydrogenated) margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, optional

Preheat oven to 375F.  Place fruit in bottom of 9×13 inch baking pan (no need to grease)  In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon (if using).  Rub in butter until mixture is crumbly and scatter over fruit.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling & soft.  Serves 6-8.  Leftovers can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated, up to 3 days.

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This kind of ended up being my kitchen sink dinner!  I had a pouch of semi-dried tomatoes a little past their best by date, so I figured they should be cooked, as well as the remains of a block of local feta from Haystack Mountain that desperately needed to be used.  Mushrooms sounded good, and I thought the spinach I had hanging out in the fridge would brighten up the dish.  The base of this dish is the classic Aglio Olio – garlic & olive oil sauce for pasta.  Frequently Aglio Olio has red pepper flakes added, which would be a nice addition, but I wasn’t feeling spicy!  Feel free to use this as approximations – pasta is very forgiving!  A nice sunny, but warm and comforting meal for a cold snowy day like today…

Pasta with Feta, Mushrooms, Sundried Tomatoes and Spinach

  • 1 lb dried pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or farfalle
  • 1/2 cup Feta crumbles
  • 8oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 8oz spinach (baby or roughly chopped)
  • 1 pouch O&Co Semi-dried tomatoes, or a small jar (drained) of sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or you can use the drained oil from sundried tomatoes)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
  • Sea Salt and pepper, to taste

Fill a large pot (approx 4 quarts) with water, adding 2 teaspoons salt,  and bring to a boil over high heat.  Make sure to salt the water to add better flavor to the finished dish (and less salt in the finished dish – it takes more salt to make up for bland pasta than the pasta would absorb from the salted water).   While water is heating, gather remaining ingredients. When water is at a rolling boil, add pasta and stir to prevent clumping.  Stir again after one minute of cooking.  Cook pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the doneness you desire, as pasta will continue to cook when tossed with toppings.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium high heat (do not allow to get so hot it smokes – if it is smoking it is burning!) in a very large saute pan.  Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper,  and saute until all the liquid they have released has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to turn golden.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook one minute, or until garlic is lightly golden – do not brown garlic or it will taste bitter.  Add the tomatoes and parsley – cook another minute.  If pasta is not done, remove saute pan from heat until pasta is cooked.  When pasta is ready, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.  Add pasta and reserved pasta water to saute pan and stir to mix well.  Toss in the spinach and the feta, stirring to combine, until the spinach is barely cooked.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  With the salty feta, you shouldn’t need much, if any, salt.  Serves 4-6.  This would also be good with pine nuts or tuna added.  Mangia bene!

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