Thursday, May 21, 2015

Charred Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad

I don't know about you, but I love grain salads. They tend to be filling, nicely balanced, and tasty meals, all contained in one bowl. And they usually keep well for leftovers and pack well for taking lunch to the office, so they're a great option if you're a one- or two-person household.

This salad has all the traits I love in a grain salad. You start with quinoa, and add in some roasted corn and poblano for sweetness and a bit of heat. Then toss in some cilantro for freshness and a pop of green, a brightly spiced dressing to coat everything in its tasty goodness, and finish off with a sprinkling of salty feta and cubes of creamy avocado.

Also, this is what charred poblano skin looks like if you get up close and personal with it.

Charred Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 6-8 servings as a side, or 3-4 servings as a main

1 cup quinoa
1 poblano pepper
2 cups frozen corn
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup feta or cotija cheese
2 avocados, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil (replace 1 Tbsp. with water for a lower-fat option)
Juice from two limes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
Salt and pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions, except use only 1-1/2 cups water and add a pinch of salt. When it's cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.

Roast the poblano pepper: If you have a gas stove, turn a burner on high. Using metal tongs, hold the pepper over the open flame, turning and moving pretty often, until the skin is evenly charred. If you don't have a gas stove, roast it on a grill or in the oven. Place poblano in a paper or plastic bag and seal. Let it steam for 10 minutes to loosen the skin. Then remove to a cutting board and use a knife to scrape off the charred skin. Then cut open the poblano and remove the seeds (or leave them in if you want your salad to be spicy). Chop the poblano. Set aside to cool.

Roast the corn: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn (straight from the freezer is just fine), and spread the kernels out in the skillet. Now, let them cook for a few minutes without touching them so a good char can develop. Then give them a good stir, and let them cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. (Alternatively, if you don't feel like mincing the garlic and 1 Tbsp. cilantro, give all the dressing ingredients a whir in a small blender or food processor.) To the bowl, add the cooled quinoa, poblano, and corn; toss. Add the 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, feta, and avocados, and toss again. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • If you're planning to save this for later, hold off on the avocado until you're ready to serve.
  • If you have a grill, roast the poblano and corn on that! Use two ears of corn instead of two cups frozen kernels.
  • I've made this a couple times, and one time got lazy and left the cilantro out of the dressing, but it was noticeably better when I didn't cut that corner. I've also eaten it both with and without the avocado, and while it's definitely better with, it's also good without.
  • I almost added cherry or grape tomatoes to this salad but am really glad I didn't. The flavors are so well-balanced, I think the tomatoes could have easily taken over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Roasted Broccoli

Well, I posted the tomatillo salsa recipe that day after Cinco de Mayo, and I'm posting a grilled cheese recipe after National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month (April) is over. This, my friends, is one of the reasons I'm not a professional food blogger. However, I maintain that fancy pants grilled cheese sandwiches are good at any time of the year.

What you'll find below is not exactly a recipe. Rather, it's a list of ingredients and some directions on a good method. But when I made this sandwich (twice!) I didn't measure a thing. If you have leftover roasted broccoli, use it as a side dish for another meal--it's great on its own! The original recipe called for onion and red bell pepper to be roasted with the broccoli, and that sounds good, but the sandwiches didn't taste at all like they were missing anything by not having roasted onion and pepper.

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Roasted Broccoli
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Yield: 1 serving 

Fresh broccoli florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 slices sourdough bread
Dijon mustard
1-3 kinds of cheese, shredded (I used cheddar, gouda, and parmesan)

Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut broccoli florets into small bite-sized pieces; toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again. Spread broccoli out on the baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until broccoli is darkened and roasty.

Get two slices of sourdough bread, and stack them like a sandwich. Spray/brush olive oil on the outsides of the bread sandwich. Then place the slices of bread oil-side-down. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on one slice of bread. Grate one or two kinds of cheese, and sprinkle evenly on both slices of bread. I did cheddar on one slice and gouda on the other.

Heat a skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Using a spatula, carefully transfer each slice of bread into the skillet. Cover and cook on medium-low until cheese is melted. Check the bottoms of the bread; if they're not yet toasted, raise heat to medium and continue cooking (uncovered) until bread is toasted. Remove both slices of bread to a cutting board.

Layer some broccoli on top of one of the sandwich halves. Be generous with the broccoli. If desired, sprinkle a little more cheese in with the broccoli to help it stick together. I used parmesan. Place the other sandwich half on top and smoosh it slightly. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the sandwich in half. Transfer to a plate to serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Remember when it was a goal of mine to make something with fresh tomatillos? Wait, you mean you don't remember my food goals as well as I do? Well, it finally happened!

This tomatillo salsa tastes bright and fresh, and the recipe is quick, simple, and summery. It has just a few ingredients to whir up in the food processor, and my friends absolutely loved it. In fact, that's why there is so little salsa in these pictures--I made it, took it to a shower, we ate most of it, and then I photographed it the next day.

It seemed odd to me that the recipe didn't call for any lime or lemon, but I'm glad I trusted the recipe. The fresh tomatillos add plenty of brightness to the salsa--so much so, that my friends almost didn't believe that there was no lime juice in it. Also, the amount of jalapeno was perfect for me. It added flavor, but the salsa was still very mild. If you want more heat, use more jalapeno and/or keep the seeds in.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
From Rick Bayless, as seen on Annie's Eats
Yield: 1-1/2 cups salsa

8 oz. fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Tortilla chips, for serving

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients into a coarse puree without over processing. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve with chips.

Don't have a food processor? Simply mince the tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro by hand, then combine everything in a serving bowl.

The salsa keeps very well in the fridge. I made mine a day ahead of time and just kept it in a mason jar in the fridge until time to serve it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Persian Carrot and Apple Salad

In continuing the Persian theme, here is a far simpler recipe than the jeweled rice. It consists of just one veggie, one fruit, one kind of nut, and a simple dressing. The recipe is pretty self-explanatory, so let me share a few pictures and a rundown of our full menu from House Church Persian Night a few weeks ago!

Pardon the quality of the pictures. My living/dining room does not have awesome photography-worthy lighting after the sun goes down.

Here's what we ate, starting with the platter of naan next to the cute little boy in the second picture, and moving clockwise around the table:

  • Homemade Naan with Ghee
  • Sabzi Khordan (an herb and cheese plate; this one had feta, walnuts, radishes, and fresh cilantro and mint)
  • Bademjan (a beef and eggplant stew, served over brown rice)
  • Iranian Chicken with Turmeric, Saffron, and Lemon Juice
  • Jeweled Rice
  • Homemade Hummus
  • Carrot and Apple Salad (recipe below)
  • More Naan
  • Persian Salad Shiraz (a tomato/cucumber salad)
  • Not pictured: Doogh (a beverage made with yogurt, club soda, and mint) and chocolate birthday cake

If your appetite is sufficiently whetted and your interest sufficiently piqued, and you now find yourself wanting to make some Persian food yourself, I'd recommend exploring this site. Since I'm far from an expert, I can't speak to how authentic the recipes are. But there's a nice variety of types of dishes and beverages. And most of the recipes have a picture, which is especially nice when dealing with unfamiliar recipe names!

Persian Carrot and Apple Salad
Slightly adapted from
Yield: 6-8 servings

1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds, toasted
1 lb. carrots, peeled (4-5 medium to large carrots)
1 large granny smith apples, peeled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sugar.

Toast the almonds and set them aside to cool. Grate the carrots and apples. I did it by hand with a cheese grater. If you have a food processor with a grating/shredding blade, that would be most handy! You could also probably get away with finely chopping them with a regular food processor blade.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat well. Refrigerate for an hour or more to let flavors marry. Toss again before serving.

My assembled salad sat in the fridge for 3-4 hours, and it was great (as were leftovers a couple days later). I was worried that the almonds would lose their crunch, but they were fine. Softer after a few days, but just fine the day of.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Persian Jeweled Rice

Let’s go to Persia today! Or let’s save some money on airfare and instead make some Persian food!

When I was in Atlanta a few weeks ago for work, one of my traveling buddies found a Persian (Iranian) restaurant for us to visit. Boy, am I glad he did because it was good! We had a goat cheese appetizer with pistachio relish, split a lamb kabob entrĂ©e with a side of jeweled rice, and for dessert he got baklava with pistachio ice cream while I got cardamom cake (think strawberry short cake, but the cake part is flavored with cardamom, and it's garnished with fresh tarragon). They also brought out fresh naan throughout the meal, and an herb and cheese plate at the beginning (it had fresh mint and tarragon, a cube of really good feta, walnuts, radishes, and olives). If you’re in Atlanta or are planning to visit, I highly recommend Rumi’s Kitchen. Such good food, excellent service, and decently priced for the quality and quantity you get. For all that food, our total bill (with tip) was $61.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and house church friends start asking me how the trip to Atlanta was and what yummy things I ate while there. Of course I went on and on about Rumi’s, and both friends’ response was something along the lines of, “Let’s do Persian food for house church soon.” So we had a Persian feast this past Friday! Since Persian/Iranian food is less familiar to most West Texans (and probably most white U.S. Americans), I was a little worried that a few of us would get really into the adventure while the rest of the group would be skeptical of the flavors and/or the complicated recipes. But everyone was such a good sport and cranked out a truly amazing feast! As one friend said to me Friday night, “You set the bar really high with this Persian menu, and we jumped right over that bar.” Since this post is long, I'll wait until my next post to share our menu, pictures, and another recipe.

At least in my mind, Persian cuisine is most similar to Middle Eastern food, but it’s also pretty distinct. Thanks to its geographic location as well as its history, Iranian cuisine has integrated a variety of other food traditions into its own cuisine—including Turkish, Central Asian, Russian, and more. For a quick primer, check out this article on the 10 Essential Iranian Dishes.

For our house church feast, I wanted to come as close as possible to recreating the rice dish I'd had at Rumi’s. It had orange zest, pomegranate arils, and slivered almonds. I think it also had cranberries. And it had some other grated fruit that I suspected was fresh apricot. They also provided ground sumac for us to sprinkle over the top. From the 10 Essential Iranian Dishes article, I determined that “jeweled rice recipe” was what needed to form the foundation of my Google searches.

Jeweled rice comes in many different forms. But most of the recipes I found had some dried and/or fresh fruit, some toasted nuts, spices, and of course rice. Some also had fresh herbs on top. Some were vastly more complex than others. Some were yellow like this one, others were white like I had at Rumi’s. I settled on this recipe but also adapted it. This dish is pretty involved and time-consuming, as there are lots of elements to prepare separately before bringing the whole dish together. That was fun for me because it gave me the chance to explore some new techniques and flavor combinations. It also meant using a lot of bowls, pans, and counter space, especially since I was making a double batch.

That said, you will need some counter space or nearby table where you can spread out. Almost every step of the recipe concludes with “set aside.” You’ll also need a fine-mesh strainer for rinsing and draining the rice. Other than that, all tools and equipment are pretty basic. In the recipe below, I split it into two phases: Phase A is prepping and cooking all the components, and part or all of it can be done a day or two in advance. Phase B is where you put everything together.

I forgot to let my fruit mixture and rice come to room temp before layering everything in the pot . . . so after it simmered for 35 minutes it was still cold. Oops. If that happens to you, no worries! I scooped out the top layer of rice and about half the fruit and microwaved it, then turned the burner up to about medium in order to better toast the bottom layer of rice. When the microwaved portion was warmed up, I added it back into the pot and put the lid back on so it would finish warming through. And you know what? It turned out just fine. So be of good cheer. This dish is complex and has some unfamiliar techniques--and if this is your first foray into Persian cooking like it was mine, there’s a good chance everything will not go perfectly. Just embrace it, improvise, and you’ll be good.

A few random notes: I doubled the quantities listed below, and it filled my 4-quart Pyrex bowl. For house church I left out the onion due to a friend’s onion intolerance; it was really good without the onion, but I bet it’d also be really good with, so I’ve kept the onion in the recipe. If you wanted to add some greenery to this, fresh tarragon would be phenomenal, and fresh mint would also be good. See also my notes at the end of the recipe.

Persian Jeweled Rice

Adapted from The Gutsy Gourmet
Yield: 4-6 servings for a regular meal; plenty more servings for a potluck

1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 medium carrots
Peel from one orange (cut into matchsticks—not zested on a microplane)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. + 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric + about 1/8 tsp. in a later step
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)

Phase A: Preparing and cooking the various components. All of Phase A can be done the day before. That’s what I did.

1.  Heat a dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Spread almonds evenly in the skillet and toast, shaking/stirring periodically, until toasted and fragrant. Remove to a plate; set aside and allow to cool. If using two kinds of nuts, toast each kind separately since almonds take longer to toast than pistachios.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse the rice grains under cold water until the water turns clear. Add the rice to the boiling water, and cook for just 6-7 minutes, until the grains have lengthened but are still firm. Drain the rice and rinse well under cold water. Drain well. Spread rice on a rimmed baking sheet; set aside and allow to cool. (I think spreading it out like this also helps the rice dry out a little so the final dish isn’t too wet and mushy.)

3.  Rinse and peel the carrots. Then either grate them using a cheese grater or cut them into 1-inch matchsticks. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the outer orange layer of the orange peel, trying to get as little of the white pith as possible (see notes below). Thinly slice each piece of orange peel to make mini matchsticks. In a saucepan, bring sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the carrots and orange zest, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until carrots are tender (more time if carrots are cut into matchsticks, less time if they’re grated). Drain and set aside. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

4.  Slice/julienne dried apricots into matchsticks. Warm some water in a small bowl or 2- to 4-cup measuring cup. Add the dried apricots and cranberries to the hot water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.*

5.  Heat butter and 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes, or until onion is beginning to brown. Add cardamom, cumin, and turmeric. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Add reserved cranberries and apricots. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the reserved carrot mixture. Season to taste with salt. If proceeding immediately to Phase B, stir in the toasted nuts as well.

If saving Phase B for another day, transfer onion-carrot mixture into a container and store in the fridge until ready to use; then stir in the nuts before proceeding to Phase B. Transfer rice into another container and store in the fridge. Before proceeding to Phase B, be sure to pull everything out of the fridge at least 30-60 minutes ahead of time to let them come up to room temperature. Or warm it slightly in the microwave.

Phase 2: Putting everything together and, most importantly, serving!

6.  Get out a large heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid. Get a clean lightweight kitchen towel and lay it over the opening of the pot. Then put the lid on and fold the towel up over the top of the lid, securing with rubber band, clothespin, file clip, or whatever you have on hand. The goal is to have the towel in place (I guess to absorb extra moisture from the rice?) while keeping it from catching on fire from the burner. Set the cloth-wrapped lid aside.

7.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup warm water with a sprinkling of turmeric (maybe 1/8 tsp.?).

8.  In the large heavy-bottomed pot, heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add half of the rice and spread evenly; add the fruit mixture and spread evenly; add the rest of the rice and spread evenly. Use the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5-6 holes all the way through to the bottom of the pot (to help release steam and help the rice cook evenly). Drizzle turmeric water over the top.

9.  Put toweled lid onto pot. Cook 5-8 minutes, until pot begins to steam. Reduce heat to very low and cook, without stirring or touching, until rice is tender and bottom layer is browned and crispy, about 30-40 minutes. (I’m not entirely sure how you’re supposed to know when the bottom is crispy without messing with the rice. I just trusted the timer, went for about 35 minutes, and hoped for the best.)

10.  Spoon rice into a large serving bowl, mixing it up as you go in order to distribute the fruit and turmeric color throughout the rice. Use a spoon to scrape up the layer of crispy rice on the bottom; break into pieces if it doesn’t do that on its own; spread them around on the top of the rice (or serve them in a small bowl on the side). Apparently the crispy rice is a big deal in Persian cuisine. The Gutsy Gourmet even called it a “Persian delicacy!” Sprinkle pomegranate arils over the top just before serving.

11.  Now, dish yourself up a good-sized helping, sit down with some friends and let your feet rest, and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor!

  • I adapted some of the ingredients based on what I like and what I remembered from the rice I ate at Rumi's. But in case you like any of the things I left out, here are some possible reverse substitutions: Instead of 1/2 cup almonds, use 1/4 cup almonds + 1/4 cup pistachios or pine nuts. Instead of 3/4 cup cranberries, use 1/2 cup cranberries + 1/4 cup chopped dates. Instead of dried apricots, use raisins.
  • *Let's talk about saffron. This recipe called for saffron, but that's expensive so I opted out of that. There's not a real good flavor substitute for saffron, but turmeric will give you the same color. You just have to be careful with turmeric, because if you use too much it can give an off taste to your food. If you want to use saffron: In step 4, soak 1/4 tsp. saffron threads in a small bowl with 1/4 cup water; set aside. In step 5, add 1 Tbsp. of the saffron water when you add the cardamom, cumin, and turmeric to the fruit mixture. Skip step 7. In step 8, drizzle remaining saffron water over rice in lieu of the turmeric water.
  • For the orange peel, I found it easier to peel off narrow pieces and use a gentle hand to the peeler/knife gets a pretty shallow cut. But since oranges are round and peeler blades are straight, you’ll still get some pith. To remove some excess, put orange zest strips pith-side up on a cutting board, then use a utility knife to scrape off some of the excess pith. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Do you ever get on a kick with a certain food or ingredient? I seem to get a bit obsessed with cranberries every winter. Even though cranberries are in season in the fall, I always associate them with winter. Maybe because they're red, which I associate with Christmas, which goes with snow, which goes with winter. Or maybe it's because their tart flavor is perfect for brightening even the dreariest of winter days. Besides, pumpkin keeps me plenty busy all fall, so a girl's gotta have something to obsess over when it becomes less acceptable to put pumpkin in everything.

So when my mom and I were discussing cinnamon rolls the other day while plotting to make some in our respective homes, and when I started thinking about what kind of twist I could put on them, cranberries sprang to mind. (I had just made pumpkin oatmeal cinnamon chip cookies the previous weekend so didn't think I could get away with making pumpkin cinnamon rolls that weekend.)

I poked around on Google to get a feel for good ratios of cranberries:sugar:dough. By far, Smitten Kitchen was the best version and most informative I came across, though I added some embellishments of my own. For the cranberry filling, I added a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, with inspiration from the cranberry crostini from a couple years ago. I also used butter and cream cheese in the filling, since I think cream cheese adds a delightful extra gooeyness factor to cinnamon rolls. And I sprinkled in some almonds as well.  I was also tempted to add a bit of fresh thyme, since the cranberry thyme scones recipe I found a few weeks ago was superb. That may still happen the next time I make these rolls.

For the dough, I wanted to let my bread machine do the mixing and kneading, so I used the cinnamon roll dough recipe from the little book that came with the bread machine, but added some orange zest per Smitten Kitchen's recipe.

My other adjustment to the dough was to leave out the yeast. No, this was not intentional. No, the dough did not rise very well at all without it (funny how that works). An hour into the rising time, the dough didn't seem any larger, but I attributed it to the cold weather. After a couple more hours, I started thinking through what could be wrong, and it finally hit me: I had no recollection of getting the yeast out of my fridge and measuring any into the dough. So I worked some yeast into the dough, and after another 2-3 hours of rising time, it finally puffed up a bit. So if you make these rolls, do yourself a favor and add the yeast at the beginning like a normal person.

Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and my bread machine's recipe book
Yield: 12 rolls (more if you cut them a bit thinner)

Note: Plan to prepare the dough and shape the rolls the night before, then let them rise overnight in the fridge, then bake the next morning

Zest from 1 orange or 1-1/2 clementines - use about 3/4 in the dough and 1/4 in the filling
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. oil
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
2-3 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
1 to 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries (thawed, if frozen)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 of the orange zest from above
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/16 tsp. nutmeg
A couple handfuls of sliced or chopped almonds (optional)

2 cups powdered sugar
About 1/4 to 1/3 cup water (or orange juice)
Smidge of maple extract (or vanilla)

Make the dough and let it rise: Following your bread machine's directions, measure all dough ingredients into the bread machine, then use the dough cycle. (Alternatively, if you don't have a bread machine, just use your preferred yeast dough making method. Smitten Kitchen's recipe and instructions are great and include directions for those who have a stand mixer and those who don't.) Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down before rolling out and shaping into rolls. (Note: many bread machines include this rise time as part of the dough cycle. If yours does, you don't need to let it rise twice before shaping.)

Make the filling: If they're not already out on your counter, get out the butter and cream cheese to let them soften. When they're soft, stir them together in a small bowl; set aside. Pick through your cranberries and discard any suspicious ones. Use a food processor to pulse the cranberries until they're pretty finely chopped but aren't a puree (or just chop them finely by hand). Scrape out into a small to medium bowl. Then add the brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Stir to combine well. Set aside.

Go ahead and spray a baking pan. I think the pan we used was an 11 x 7 glass baking dish.

Roll and shape the dough: When the dough has risen, punch it down and work out any large air bubbles. At this point, you may need to let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes before rolling out. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide by 12 inches deep. Spread the butter and cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Then spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the dough. For both the butter/cream cheese and the cranberry mixture, I used a basic soup spoon to scatter dollops of filling around the dough, then used the back of the spoon to spread it around. It doesn't have to be perfect. Sprinkle in the almonds, if using.

Now, use a knife or pastry cutter to cut your rectangle in half, into two 9 x 12-inch rectangles (this will make it easier to roll. Starting with one of the 9-inch edges near you, roll the dough up and away from yourself, rolling as tightly as possible. There will be some cranberry juice leaking out. Embrace it. Using your knife or pastry cutter, cut the log into 6 or 7 slices, each about 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. Carefully transfer each slice/roll to the prepared baking pan. Repeat the process with your other 9 x 12 rectangle.

Rise again, then bake: Cover your baking dish with plastic wrap, then place in your fridge overnight. The next morning, remove rolls from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want them to go into the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Make the icing: While the rolls bake, measure powdered sugar, water, and maple extract into a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to mix until well combined and smooth. Start with less water; add more as needed to reach your desired consistency. When the rolls come out of the oven, drizzle with the icing.

  • If you have a favorite cinnamon roll dough recipe, just use that but add orange zest.
  • I was a little worried that the fresh cranberries would release too much juice and result in soggy rolls. But that wasn't the case at all! To quote from Smitten Kitchen, "that puddle of cranberry juice run-off jams into a gooey brown sugar cranberry caramel and winds around and through the buttery, tender yeast-raised spirals." Yes, please!
  • These rolls were quite sweet, but not quite too sweet for my taste. I think they would have been equally good with about 1/4 cup less brown sugar in the filling. 
  • For the almonds, I used a very light hand. So they were barely there but didn't add a whole lot of taste or texture. I think walnuts or pecans would also be good.
  • I made my icing with water, but orange juice would have been lovely. Also, the quantities above yielded more icing than we used; you may prefer to use more icing than we did.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spiced Roasted Nuts with Paprika and Thyme

Over a year ago, I earmarked a spiced nuts article in the Food Network Magazine's Thanksgiving edition. And for over a year, this spread sat untouched by me. Occasionally I'd see it on my list of recipes I want to try, and think, "Oh yeah, those sounded really good. I need to make those soon" . . . and then promptly decide to make something else. Well, when the time came to decide what to do for Happy Winter (i.e., Happy Late Christmas) gifts for my coworkers, these roasted nuts finally got their time to shine!

The Food Network article is a mix-and-match recipe of sorts. Kind of a like a "choose your own adventure" book, but with snack foods. They suggested a number of nuts, mix-ins, and flavor combinations, and I went with the paprika-thyme combo with almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pretzels. It seemed to go over well with my coworkers, and I've enjoyed snacking on the leftovers.

Nuts and pretzels are tricky to measure accurately, so I erred on the side of too much. After doubling the recipe below, I wound up with enough to fill a dozen half-pint mason jars plus about half of a quart jar. While I'm quite fond of the nuts/mix-in/flavoring combination I used, it's definitely worth checking out the Food Network article for more ideas.

Spiced Roasted Nuts with Paprika and Thyme
Kind of adapted from Food Network
Yield: 5-1/2 cups 

1 egg white
1-1/2 cups raw unsalted whole almonds
1-1/2 cups raw unsalted walnuts
1 cup raw unsalted pecans
1-1/2 cup mini pretzels
3 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. paprika
3/4 to 1 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350, and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the egg white with a whisk until frothy. Add the nuts and pretzels; use a rubber spatula to mix gently but thoroughly so everything is coated with egg white.

In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (sugar through pepper). Mix them well, then sprinkle them over the nut mixture; again, mix gently but well.

Spread the mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet(s). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nice and roasty, stirring every 3-5 minutes. If using multiple pans, rotate them halfway through the baking time. Let cool on the baking sheet(s) before eating or sharing.