Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a hint of winter

There's something about the scent of maple-coated oats and pecans toasting in the oven that almost makes me excited about the fast-approaching winter. Almost. I'm still enjoying what little bit of fall we have left in these parts. The trees are losing their leaves almost as quickly as they turn. Cold air is whisping in and the sky has been grey and dim this past week. Sure signs autumn is on her way out with winter on her heels. I'm thinking warm thoughts and toasting marshmallows in the wood stove these days. And filling the house with the aroma of homemade granola.

I love a recipe that is so readily adaptable - it's great fun to swap out ingredients and design to your own tastes. I'm slowly filling a recipe box with such winners. This fantastic granola is my current favorite adaptation of Molly's wonderful original.

Maple Pecan Granola with Cranberries
(Inspired by Molly's recipe for French Chocolate Granola)


3 Cups rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill, of course...)
1/2 Cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 Cup oat bran
2 Tb. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 Tb. pure maple syrup (I use Grade B habitually)
2 Tb. almond oil
1/2 Cup dried cranberries (mine are fruit-juice sweetened)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the oats, pecans, oat bran, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup and the almond oil over medium-low heat, stirring just until combined and loose.

Pour the maple syrup/almond oil mixture over the oat mixture and stir until well-blended. Spread this mixture in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1o minutes. Give it a good stir, and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, give it another good stir to keep large clumps from forming, and when cool completely, add the cranberries and store in an airtight container.

Thank you Molly for the wonderful inspiration!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

a little sweet

A big black cast iron skillet nearly full of shimmering hot oil is not normally how I like to start my weekend mornings. In fact, it's not really how I like to start any day.
I can't deny the pleasure I got from these fresh home-made doughnuts and a hot cup of black coffee on a recent cold Saturday morning. I'd been
itching to make these little cider doughnuts ever since I came across this recipe months and months (years?) ago. I finally took a deep breath and poured all that oil into the skillet, wincing with each glug of the bottle, and got to frying up these little treats. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum.
(Pardon the bite missing...I just couldn't help myself...)

Cider and Spice Doughnut Holes

(adapted from 'Cider Doughnut Holes' in the September 2007 edition of Every Day with Rachel Ray )

Makes approximately 24 doughnut holes

1 1/2 Cups flour (plus more for rolling)
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Tb. buttermilk powder (found in the baking aisle of many grocery stores)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup apple cider
1 large egg
2 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying (enough to fill a deep skillet 1/2 to 3/4 full) - I used a mixture of vegetable shortening and canola oil
2 Tb. (more or less) powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oil (or shortening) in a deep skillet (cast iron is perfect) until hot, but not smoking. (The original recipe suggests 360 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer - I can't verify this as my thermometer slid right into the oil and had to be removed deftly and relocated to the kitchen sink...) You want the oil to be hot enough that when the batter goes in it begins to brown immediately, but not so hot that it starts to burn (it's doughnuts, not blackened catfish). Watch this closely as you fry - the temperature may need to be adjusted after adding the first batch.

While oil is heating, combine the flour, sugar, buttermilk powder, spices, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together to combine. Add the cider, egg (beaten), butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Put half of the batter in the refrigerator while you work with the other half.

With the remaining batter, form tablespoonfuls into small 1 1/2 to 2 - inch balls, by rolling the dough in floured hands. Place balls on a plate and when all the dough has been formed, begin to fry the doughnuts. Carefully transfer the balls, one at a time, into the hot oil. Fry gently for about 2-4 minutes or until doughnuts are golden brown on all over, turning when necessary with a slotted spoon. Do not crowd the pan. Remove the doughnuts with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb some of the oil. Repeat with the remaining refrigerated dough. Sift powdered sugar over the doughnut holes while they are still warm, and try to save some for sharing...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

foraging fantasy

When autumn arrives and the crisp air is filled with the scent of fallen leaves and the smoke of bonfires, I start craving something warm, earthy, and fragrant. I wish I could tell you that I went out into the woods, just at dawn, clad in wool and toting a rustic basket, to forage for wild mushrooms to fulfill such a craving. The imagery is perfect. The reality, however, is that I wouldn't know where to begin in picking the edible from the poisonous. So, for now, I'll be satiated with intensely flavored dried mushrooms, a few of the old button variety, and some very good wild rices. I hope you will be too.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Fennel

(adapted from 'Wild Rice With Fennel and Porcini' originally published in the February 1995 issue of Gourmet magazine)


1/2 oz. (14 g.) dried Porcini mushrooms

3/4 Cup boiling water

2 Tb. sherry

1 Cup wild rice blend

2 Cups water

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 Tb. butter

2 small (or 1 large) fennel bulbs, chopped (1 cup), a few fronds reserved for serving

1/2 Cup shallots, finely chopped

8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced

Pinch of salt

Ground pepper

3 Tb. sherry

1/2 Cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

In a heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water over dried Porcinis. Add in 2 Tb. sherry, and let steep 20-30 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened. Remove mushrooms (reserving the soaking liquid), chop coarsely and set aside. In a small saucepan, simmer the reserved soaking liquid until reduced to 1/3 cup. Carefully strain liquid to remove any sediment.

Combine the strained mushroom soaking liquid, wild rice blend, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 45 minutes, or until rice is cooked through (if there is additional liquid left after rice is fully cooked, drain it away).

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, fennel, Porcinis, and button mushrooms. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Saute until fennel is soft and mushrooms are golden - about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 3 Tb. sherry and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook another minute or so, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, add the cooked rice and chopped parsley, and mix to combine. Serve garnished with reserved chopped fennel fronds and a grating of Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal The sherry used in this recipe (I used an Amontillado sherry) does wonders for developing the flavor of the already hearty Porcini and compliments the fennel nicely too. The aroma is heavenly. However, if you prefer not to use sherry, I'd suggest replacing it with tamari or soy sauce. Or, omitting it altogether and using a good stock instead of water to cook the rice.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

cider... continued.

Samuel Smith's vs. J.K. Scrumpy's

Scrumpy's is the clear winner.

(Not that I minded being the judge...)