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Lavender Adds an Aromatic Touch to Apple Rhubarb Crisp


Lavender lends flowery, herbal hints to this apple, rhubarb crisp.

“This sweet-tart dessert is especially good served with vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream to which you’ve added a little ground lavender,” says Sharon Shipley in “The Lavender Cookbook” (Running Press, $18.95).  If you love a hint of lavender in desserts, you might also try serving this crisp with Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream.

Lavender Apple Rhubarb Crisp

Topping:
1/2 cup pecan halves or large pieces
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Fruit:
4 large Granny Smith apples
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 or 5 large ribs rhubarb
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender buds
3/4 cup sugar, divided use
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

For the topping: Place the pecans in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a cup and set aside. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor. Scatter the butter on top. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

For the fruit: Peel and core the apples; cut into 1/2-inch slices (you should have about 6 cups). Place in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and vanilla. Cut the rhubarb into 1/4-inch slices (you should have about 4 cups). Add to the bowl.

Place the lavender in a spice grinder with 1/4 cup of the sugar, Pulse until the lavender is finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the flour, cinnamon and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle over the fruit and toss to combine.

Transfer the fruit mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the pecans. Sprinkle with the crumb mixture. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: Placing the chopped nuts under the crumb mixture helps to keep the nuts from burning.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “The Lavender Cookbook” by Sharon Shipley

 

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Ask a Foodie: What’s the Best Way to Make Pecan Pie?


Pecan pie

Q. Betty Crocker says to bake pecan pie at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes; Karo says 60-70 minutes at 350; a friend’s time-tested recipe says 45 minutes at 350.

What do the food gods say? I have made about a dozen pecan pies in the past two years, and some were very good. But I have a very hard time telling when they are done just right. One was downright runny; another was overbaked (good but chewy).

Any thoughts?

— Laura S.

A. We love our pecan pie in the South, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen two recipes for it that were exactly the same.

To find an answer to your question of what to look for, I consulted three cookbooks and each had a similar description of what to look for, regardless of the temperature at which you bake it.

“The Joy of Cooking” offered the best explanation: “The filling of pecan pie is actually a sort of custard composed of sugar, butter and eggs, and like all custards, it will curdle and break if subjected to excessive heat. The trick is to pull the pie from the oven as soon as the filling has thickened to a gelatin-like consistency in the center. Although soft coming out of the oven, the filling will firm up nicely by the time the pie has cooled to room temperature.”

So, don’t use the method of inserting a knife in the center and hoping it will come out clean. If it does, you’ve baked the pie too long. And don’t serve it hot out of the oven, either. It needs time beyond the baking period to rest.

“The Joy of Cooking” uses a mixture of equal parts sugar and light corn syrup, and the pie is baked for 35 to 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

In “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook,” the oven is set for 375 degrees and the pie bakes for 35 to 40 minutes. Instead of corn syrup, which Matt and Ted Lee find too cloying for their tastes, they suggest equal parts sugar and sorghum molasses, cane syrup or molasses. When it’s time to bake the pie, place it on a rack in the center of the oven and bake “until the center has risen and is quivery, like gelatin.”

A cookbook from 1960, “The ‘Best-of-All’ Cook Book,” calls for dark corn syrup and sugar and has you start baking at 450 degrees for the first 10 minutes before dropping the temperature down to 350 degrees for an additional 50 minutes. And once again, the following advice appears: “Remove from heat when filling still quivers a little; do not bake until the filling is completely firm. Let cool.”

I also asked a friend who has been baking pecan pies for decades. Judy Baum did not  like the idea of starting the oven hot and reducing the heat. Too often, the pecans burn and it mars the flavor of the pie, she says. But she does remember when that was the preferred method in the 1960s.

She also offered a couple of suggestions for making your pecan pie better. If you are making the crust yourself, add up to 2 tablespoons of finely ground pecans to the crust recipe (you don’t have to remove any flour or other ingredient). Whether it’s a handmade or store-bought crust, heat it for a couple of minutes before pouring in the filling, another tip that “The Joy of Cooking” recommends (this is not the same as prebaking the crust, which takes much longer and won’t work in the long run). To enhance the flavor of the filling, add a tablespoon of bourbon on top of the vanilla.

What are your secrets of making an excellent pecan pie? Please send them to either walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

That said, here’s the pecan pie recipe from “The Joy of Cooking”:

Pecans

Pecan Pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread pecans on a baking sheet.

Toast the nuts in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, 6 to 10 minutes.

Whisk eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and salt until blended. Stir in the toasted nuts.

Warm the pie crust in the oven until it is hot to the touch, then pour in the filling. Bake until the edges are firm and the center seems set but quivery, like gelatin, when the pan is nudged, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack for at least 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

This pie can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator, but let warm to room temperature or warm in a 275 degree oven for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 pie.

From “The Joy of Cooking”

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The Cake Boss’ Pecan Wedges


Pecans

Buddy Valastro, also known as the Cake Boss to his legions of TV fans, is coming to San Antonio in November. He’s set to appear at the Lila Cockrell Theater at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12.

If you can’t wait until then to get a taste of his baking magic, try this recipe for Pecan Wedges, which appears in his new cookbook, which is not surprisingly titled “Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia” (Free Press, $25.99).

“These are decadent little treats,” he writes, “with a number of textures and flavors packed into fairly tight quarters: the pastry itself, a caramel-pecan mixture that’s pour into its center, and a chocolate shell.”

For tickets, which start at $96 apiece, click here.

Pecan Wedges

6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided use
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 cups whole pecans
2 cups finely chopped semisweet high-quality chocolate

To make the dough, put 4 sticks of the butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, and paddle on low-medium speed until thoroughly mixed, approximately 1 minute. Add the eggs all at once and paddle until incorporated, approximately 1 minute. Add the milk and the flour and mix until thoroughly blended, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until stiff enough to be manipulated, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out each piece of dough into an 18-inch log, 1 1/2 to 2 inches high. Transfer to a baking tray and flatten the center of the log out so it looks like a ravine. It should be about 3 inches wide, fatter at the end than at the center. Crimp the edge on both sides. Repeat with all four pieces of dough, leaving about 2 inches between the logs (you  may need to do this in batches) and set aside.

To make the caramel mixture, put the remaining 2 sticks of butter, the brown sugar and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the pecans. Spoon the pecan-caramel mixture int hte ravine in the center of the logs. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove trays from the oven, transfer the bars to a cutting board, and cut each bar crosswise into 4 or 5 wedges.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double-boiler set over medium-high heat. Dip half of each wedge into the chocolate and let cool and dry on a wire rack or parchment paper for 30 minutes. These are best enjoyed the same day, but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 16 wedges.

From “Cake Boss” by Buddy Valastro

 

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Texas Pecan and Avocado Salad Mixes Two Favorites


Avocados go great with pecans in this salad.

Texans love pecans and avocados. So, why not use the two together? That’s the secret of this simple salad, which can be made any time of year, yet it has an appealing array of spring colors. It comes from Southern Living’s latest cookbook, “1001 Ways to Cook Southern” (Oxmoor House, $34.95).

Texas Pecan and Avocado Salad

1 head Bibb lettuce
2 avocados, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
Tangy Dijon Dressing (recipe follows)

Arrange lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Top evenly with avocados and bell pepper slices; sprinkle with pecans. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing.

Makes 8 servings.

Tangy Dijon Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes about 2/3 cup dressing.

From Southern Living’s “1001 Ways to Cook Southern”

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Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie


Pumpkin pie is a fall favorite with many. This version adds the crunch of pecan and a flaming presentation.

Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Pie:
3 eggs, slightly beaten
16 ounces canned pumpkin
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbaked

Topping:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon, divided use
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the pie: Combine the eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, half-and-half, bourbon, cinnamon, ginger and salt, and mix well. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and allow the pie to continue baking for 45 more minutes or until the filling is set in the middle. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool.

To make the topping: Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan; stir and cook over medium heat until the butter melts, the sugar dissolves, and the two ingredients are mixed. Add 2 tablespoons of the bourbon and the pecans, and coat the pecans with the sugar. Szpoon the pecan mixture over the pie.

Before serving the pie, place the other 2 tablespoons of bourbon in a saucepan and gently heat until the fumes are ready to ignite. Carefully ignite the bourbon with a match and pour it over the pie. When the flames die down, the pie is ready to serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From Southern Living 1987 Annual Recipes/”The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook” by Albert W.A. Schmid

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Rosemary Pecans


Pecans made with this recipe will likely go fast in your house. But if you have any leftover Rosemary Pecans, chop them finely and use them on goat cheese. Serve with roasted red peppers and your choice of crackers.

Rosemary Pecans.

Rosemary Pecans

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, cayenne pepper and salt. Add the pecans and toss to coat.

Transfer the pecans to a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake, stirring occasionally, until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the rosemary and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Meals” edited by Lygeia Grace and Kate Merker

Chopped Rosemary Pecans on goat cheese with roasted red peppers

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Asparagus and Pecan Butter


Asparagus and Pecan Butter

Want to give your asparagus a little flavor boost? Try this version with butter, citrus and pecans added to the mix.

Asparagus and Pecan Butter

2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Lemon zest, for garnish

Combine the water and salt in a skillet and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until they are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain, and cool in an ice-water bath. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and orange juice and whisk to blend. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with pecans and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Pecans From Soup to Nuts” by Keith Courrégé and Marcelle Bienvenu

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Nuts for Pecans


On my first trip to New Orleans, I took a cooking class in which the instructor weighed in on one of the great questions of our time: The proper pronunciation of the nut is pa-KAWN, she said, because a PEE-can is something our ancestors kept under the bed in their time.

The authors of “Pecans From Soup to Nuts” (Pelican Publishing Co., $19.95) have a more diplomatic — and decidedly less humorous response: “It really doesn’t matter how you say the name of the nut,” they say, they just want you to enjoy this culinary delight, whether it’s roasted with butter and salt, tossed in salads or used to crust meats.

Do we ever.

When it comes to pecans, Texas is as much a part of the South as Georgia and Louisiana. The trees dot the landscape, from orchards to back yards, showering us each fall with rich treats that last us through the year.

That’s why this cookbook, from Keith Courrégé and Marcelle Bienvenu, is so welcome. The authors offer a great wealth of ideas that extend far beyond desserts. Sure, there’s a recipe for Olivia’s Perfect Pecan Pie, with molasses cutting the corn syrup; Macaroon Pie, with coconut added to the mix; and even a Pecan Martini, with vodka mixed with pecan liqueur and served in a chilled glass with pecan meal on the rim.

But there’s also recipes for Egg Salad With Bacon and Pecans, which gets a lively kick from horseradish in the dressing; Asparagus and Pecan Butter, a side dish that goes together in a snap; and Crabmeat Royale, in which lump crab is tossed with butter, lemon juice, parsley and chopped pecans. In fact, the majority of the book is made up of savory suggestions that left me truly hungry.

The authors,working under the aegis of the Louisiana pecan orchard, Cane River Pecan Company, also include some handy information about shelling and storing. (“Package shelled pecans in moisture/vapor-proof containers, such as plastic cartons, glass freezer jars, reusable cans, or plastic freezer bags,” they write. “Nuts can be thawed and refrozen without loss of quality.”)

Need a quick guide on making your own pecan meal? Just follow this simple rule: “Put pecan halves or pieces in a food processor or electric blender and pulse several times until very fine. Do not overprocess. Due to the high oil content, the meal can turn almost into butter if ground too quickly. One cup of pecan halves or pieces yields about one cup of meal. You can make a large batch of the meal and store it in airtight containers in the freezer for later use. ”

“Pecans From Soup to Nuts” is not exactly a new book. It started out in 1984 as a self-published book written by the late Courrégé, who was known as “the Crown Price of the Nut Kingdom.” Over the years, the book was reprinted and has now been revised and updated by Bienvenu. It should be welcome by anyone whose mouth waters at the mention of pecans, no matter how the word is pronounced.

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Egg Salad With Bacon and Pecans


Egg Salad

Egg Salad With Bacon and Pecans

I loved the sounds of this recipe from the moment I looked at it because the egg salad isn’t sweet. Instead of pickle relish, there’s horseradish and cayenne pepper, if you want it. I added arugula to boost the peppery quality, but you could also add tomatoes, lettuce, even more onion to taste.

To chop the eggs quickly and finely, I placed them in the food processor and pulsed it for about 10 times.

Egg Salad With Bacon and Pecans

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, (green part only)
3/4 pound bacon, chopped, cooked crisp and drained
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons Creole mustard
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Combine the egg, celery, onion and bacon in a large mixing bowl.

Combine the horseradish, mayonnaise and mustard, and fold into the salad. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Add the pecans and parsley, and mix gently.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Pecans” by Keith Courrégé and Marcelle Bienvenu

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Pecan Pralines a New Orleans Treat for Almost 400 Years


Pralines have long been a New Orleans favorite. “Supposedly, Marshal Duplesis-Preslin’s (1598-1675) cook invented pralines,” according to Leon E. Soniat Jr, author of “La Bouche Creole. “But millions of those crisp pecan goodies have been exported from New Orleans around the globe.” You will need a candy thermometer to make these.

Pecan Pralines

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

[amazon-product]0882898051[/amazon-product]Combine the sugars and milk, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the butter, vanilla and pecans, and cook until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (238 degrees). Cool without disturbing, then beat until somewhat thickened, but not until it loses its gloss. Drop by tablespoon onto a well-greased, flat surface. (A piece of marble is best for this.) The candy will flatten out into large cakes.

Makes 20 pralines.

From “La Bouche Creole” by Leon E. Soniat Jr

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