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Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

68 Days of Gourmet: Day 5

jeweledrice

I was tasked with bringing a starch side dish to a family dinner last weekend. Brandon was cooking a turkey breast on the Big Green Egg as our meat. I decided not to make anything potato based since Thanksgiving is coming up so soon. I found this rice recipe when I was researching recipes for 68 Days of Gourmet and thought it sounded different. Brandon isn’t the biggest fan of rice but I love it. He also isn’t the biggest fan of dried fruit but I love that too. I thought our family dinner was the perfect time to try this since I would have a larger audience who would appreciate my rice and dried fruit side dish!

The method for preparing this rice is really different. Read the recipe directions below and you’ll see what I mean. I was pretty nervous about the final product turning out but I trusted the recipe and it turned out exactly right. I was scared the crust would be a burned mess but it was perfectly golden. The butter drenched toasted almonds on top were the perfect finish.

This rice is a great side dish for richly spiced pork and chicken and complemented our turkey breast well too. The leftovers were great with the Spiced Chicken I made for dinner on Tuesday night. A note, this recipe makes a ton of rice so you may want to half it if you’re feeding a smaller crowd.

Jeweled Rice with Dried Fruit
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, November 2004)

Ingredients:

3 cups basmati rice
4 quarts water
3 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup dried apricots (3 1/2 oz), quartered (I omitted these)
1/2 cup golden raisins (3 oz)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (2 oz)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup slivered unsalted roasted almonds

Directions:

Rinse rice in several changes of cold water in a large bowl until water runs clear. Drain in a large sieve.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a 6-quart heavy pot. Add rice and boil, uncovered for about 5 minutes – starting from the time the rice starts to boil. Stir occasionally. Drain in sieve.

Mix together dried fruit in a bowl. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a cleaned and dried pot. Stir in cardamom and pepper and combine. Alternate layers of rice and dried fruit over the butter mixture, beginning and ending with rice. Mound loosely, don’t pack it in. Make 5 or 6 holes in rice to bottom of pot with round handle of a wooden spoon. Wrap lid of pot in a kitchen towel, folding edges of towel up and over the lid (keeping towel away from burner). Cook rice over low heat, undisturbed, until tender and a crust forms on bottom, about 30 to 35 minutes. Do not lift the lid while the rice is cooking. Remove from heat and let rice stand, tightly covered and undisturbed, at least 30 minutes.

While rice is resting, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat and cook almonds, stirring, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Spoon loose rice onto a platter, then break crust into 1-inch pieces and scatter over rice. Sprinkle with almonds.

Yield: 10-12 side dish servings

Notes:
*Rice can stand off heat up to 1 hour. Just keep covered and undisturbed
* If you’re short on time, you can skip letting the rice stand after cooking. Spoon loose rice onto a platter and then dip bottom of pot into a large bowl of cold water for 30 seconds to loosen crust.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 3

acornsquash2

I love roasted winter squash. While it is time intensive to cook, the preparation is easy and pretty hands-off.  If you’ve never worked with winter squash it can look a little intimidating in the store. I will admit that it’s a bit of a challenge to cut into (I usually make Brandon supervise me when I’m using the really big knife!) but the end result is hearty and full of flavor.

I usually keep the squash simple and roast it with a bit of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. But last Friday night we decided to stay in and grill steaks and I wanted to kick it up a bit. I found this recipe for Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Currants on Gourmet and decided to give it a try. I didn’t have currants but I did have dried cranberries and golden raisins so I substituted those.

This squash is a great side dish with winter meals and goes especially well with pork and poultry. It would even be a nice addition to a holiday meal.

acornsquash

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Dried Fruit
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 1992)

Ingredients:

3 acorn squash (each about 1 1/2 pounds), halved crosswise and the seeds and strings discarded
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, or to taste
3 tablespoons dried fruit
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of butter over the cavity of each squash half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange cut side down in a large baking pan. Add enough water to reach about 1/4 inch up the sides of squash halves.  Bake for about 30 minutes.

While the squash is baking, combine remaining butter, maple syrup, allspice, dried fruit and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until butter is melted and dried fruit is plump, stirring often.

Remove squash from the oven and flip so cut sides face up. Brush generously with some of the maple mixture and return to the oven. Bake for another 20-30 minutes more, basting frequently with maple mixture and adding more water to the pan if necessary.  Squash should be very tender when done. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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applecake1

One of my all-time favorite cakes is Apple Spice Cake. I loved when my mom baked them growing up. My favorite two desserts that she made were apple cake and banana pudding. I always requested them and my chances that she’d make them got a lot better when I moved away from home :).

Now that the weather is getting cooler and apples are coming into season I found myself craving an apple cake. The recipe my mom uses calls for a lot of vegetable oil and I decided to try a new recipe that featured butter instead. I researched recipes for a while and found this recipe from Cooking Light that sounded great and had received awesome reviews since it was originally printed in 1997. Now, I kind of disagree that this is a light recipe but if they say so…I guess I’ll let myself feel better about it. But how can a cake be light when the recipe includes a stick of butter and cream cheese?

All that matters is that this cake is so good I ended up baking it three times last week. Once for us, once for my sister-in-law (who is expecting her second soon!) and once for my mom. The cake received outstanding reviews from everyone. My sister-in-law texted me the day after it was dropped off and said she’d already had two pieces for dessert and one for breakfast. And she used it as a bargaining tool to get our niece to eat her meals. She said that Emerson loved it so much she would tell her she could have one bite of cake if she ate a bite of her dinner. And I’m very happy to report that my mom approved of the new recipe and even asked for it. So it was a success all around.

The directions call for baking this cake in a springform pan and it gives it a great height that you can’t get from a standard cake pan. I changed the recipe up a bit by changing the mixing method and adding extra cream cheese, nutmeg and chopped pecans. I think the pecans are a must in this cake.

This Apple Cinnamon Cake stays moist for days and is definitely a fall crowd pleaser.I admit that I ate it for breakfast and dessert! It’s delicious served warm with ice cream!

Apple Cinnamon Cake
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 1/2  cups  sugar, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
8 ounces (1 block) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2  cup  butter (1 stick), softened
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
2  large eggs
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
3  cups chopped peeled Fuji apples (about 2 large)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together a little bit of cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar). Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter wrapper or cooking spray. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture and tap sides to evenly distribute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Whisk together well to incorporate. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 1 1/2 cups sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Mix on medium high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to cream cheese mixture a little at a time, beating at low speed until well blended.

Mix in apples and pecans. Pour batter prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 servings

applecake

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fruitskewers

These fruit skewers are one of my favorite things to serve at showers, parties and lunches. They only take a few minutes to put together, look beautiful on the plate and are easy to pick up. I vary the fruit depending on what is looking good and in season. The dip incorporates cream cheese, vanilla yogurt and powdered sugar and has just the right balance of sweetness and tang.

Try these out next time you need to bring something to a shower or luncheon! They will be a hit!

Fruit Skewers with Vanilla Cream Cheese Dip
(A Bakin’ and Eggs Original)

Ingredients:

1 cantaloupe, diced
1 pint strawberries, cut in half
1 pineapple, diced
Bamboo skewers
1 block reduced fat cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar (adjust amount to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Place six pieces of fruit on each skewer, alternating fruits. Arrange on a platter.

Combine cream cheese, vanilla yogurt, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix on high speed with a hand mixer until combined and fluffy. Sample the dip and adjust ingredients to taste.

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blueberrypeachcrisp

Some of you might remember that Brandon and I recently moved to Charlotte, North Carolina from Birmingham, Alabama. One of the things we were looking forward to most about the move to Charlotte was being close to great outdoor activities. Last weekend we decided to head to the Pisgah National Forest to hike and camp.

jensulmountain

We were extremely pleased to discover that it’s blueberry season in the mountains and the trail we hiked was FULL of blueberry bushes. You would not believe the amount of blueberries we saw – mountains full! We snacked on blueberries on our hike in and out from our campsite and picked two gallon bags full to take home. It was totally worth the extra weight in our packs!

brandonmountain

So despite being tired from the weekend on Sunday night, I was eager to bake something with my blueberries. I had been planning on making a peach cobbler and had some peaches in the fridge. I was looking for blueberry peach cobbler recipes online when Brandon mentioned he preferred cobbler with “crunchy topping.” I informed him he had a crisp in mind and began looking for crisp recipes. I saw this recipe on Use Real Butter and knew I would look no further.

It was awesome. The flavor of the blueberries really shined and the pecans added just the right nutty taste. You don’t toast them before adding them to the crisp topping but they get a great toasted flavor as they bake. With a scoop of ice cream, this is a heavenly dessert!

Blueberry Peach Crisp
(Recipe source Use Real Butter, originally from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened – plus more for greasing pan
3 ounces all purpose flour (this is a little shy of 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 cups (about 1 pound) blueberries, rinsed and picked through
3 medium peaches (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan, or a comparable size baking pan (I used an oval baker).

To make the topping, mix together flour, brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Work butter into the mixture until clumpy.

For the fruit, mix together blueberries, peaches, sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Sprinkle topping over fruit and bake for about 40 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned. Serve warm with ice cream.

Yield: 6 servings

blueberriesandpeaches250

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figupsidedown

I really wanted to bake something with the figs that I picked on Monday (see my fig pickin’ story and my Grilled Pizza with Fresh Figs, Prosciutto, Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese here). I was not in the mood for a pie or tart and kind of had my heart set on baking some sort of cake so I Googled “fresh fig cake.” Surprisingly, there is not an abundance of fig cake recipes but I did find one Fig Upside Down Cake that sounded like just what I had in mind.

This cake was very simple to put together and so delicious warm out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream. The “upside down” topping of brown sugar, butter and honey caramelizes with the figs to create a caramelized fig preserves type flavor. The cake is moist and buttery and still tasted great the second day warmed up a little.

Fig Upside Down Cake
(Recipe source nola.com)

Ingredients:

12 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
10 fresh figs, stems removed, cut in half (I needed more like 15)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides (I used an 8-inch pan and it worked fin). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in the microwave. Stir in the brown sugar and honey until smooth. Pour the sauce into the prepared cake pan. Arrange figs, cut sides down, in concentric circles over the sauce. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with sugar and vanilla until lightened in color and texture, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well combined after each. Turn mixer to low speed and add dry ingredients and milk in 3 parts, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon the batter evenly over the figs.

Bake until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes (mine only took 45 so start checking early). Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving platter on top of the pan and invert the cake. Gently lift off the pan and remove the parchment paper. Serve warm. Extra delicious with ice cream.

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freshfigbluepizza

I stopped by my in-law’s house today during my lunch break. Brandon was over there helping his mom cut some dead trees down to create extra sunlight for the garden she’s planning. So as he was doing back breaking labor, I was meandering around the yard and saw a fig tree I’d never noticed before – chock full of fresh, ready to pick figs. I left with a bag full of fresh figs and Brandon left sweaty and sore. Hey, fair trade for this super flavorful, delicious pizza we created tonight!

I came home and started looking for recipes to use my fresh figs. I saw tons of suggestions just to wrap them in prosciutto or stuff them with cheese. I decided to take those ideas and turn it into a pizza. One of our favorite grilled pizzas during the summer is this Gorgonzola, Walnut and Caramelized Onion Pizza from Gourmet. Using the preparation method from that recipe, I created this pizza. The flavors went together beautifully and it was a perfect light dish for this very hot summer day. I served it with a side of mixed greens.

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
(Recipe inspired by Gourmet)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought – we used Trader Joe’s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup sliced fresh figs
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. On a well-floured surface, stretch dough into about a 12 x 10 rectangle (we chose to divide our dough and make two smaller pizzas because they’re easier to handle on the grill).  Brush top with olive oil to lightly coat.

Create a platter and bring your dough and pizza toppings to the grill area. Oil grill rack and place dough olive oil side down on the grill (with no toppings on it at this point) and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Carefully remove dough from grill and turn over (grill side up). Layer toppings starting with prosciutto, followed by onions, figs and cheese. Return to grill and grill covered for another 3 minutes, until underside is golden and cheese is melted.

Let cool before slicing into squares.

Yield: 2-3 servings

figpizzaongrill

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