Monday, February 20, 2012

Cilantro Pesto

I've been thinking endlessly about a future trip to Florida. Although I dearly love winter, I've been daydreaming about warmer climates. I've been embracing winter traditions and snow sports since I was a child growing up in rural Wisconsin, and for the last part of a decade, here in northern Minnesota. I have been watching my daughter relish her winter expeditions as well. There is something adorably amusing about my daughter as she thinks through strategies during our pond- curling sessions. Winter is embedded in our lives, so deeply, it is hard to envision life without frost. A coworker was telling me about her first jump of the year. She was referring to her first jump into Lake Superior. I asked if I could join her. Then I found out that the first jump will be happening soon! When the air temperatures outside reach 40 degrees! This is what I mean by winter being embedded. We can't help but rationalize these activities as part of our northern climate culture.

 I then went back to thinking about Florida. Wonder lost and eager for adventure, I can't help but imagine myself sea kayaking among manatees in warm waters. Paddling from island to island, exploring the shores with nothing more than a swimsuit and a snorkel in my backpack is my new goal. Hopefully Florida memories will be soon to follow! When I talk of memories, I'm talking about memories that include all of the senses.

I like to connect memories with my senses. The smell of pine, dampness, and moss will always remind me of my adventures in the northern Pacific. Tamales, natural hot springs, and my engagement ring will always remind me of New Mexico and the Gila Wilderness. Fresh tulips and pork rinds hot out of the fryer will remind me of the farmer's market in St. Louis. You get the picture. The combinations of sights and smells and sounds all combine to create the best memories that you just can't photograph. I thought I'd whip up a batch of cilantro pesto to inspire and provoke me into future travels. Cilantro is always in abundance. It tastes fresh and earthy, and it's vibrant green color really gets me thinking of the warmer seasons. This recipe is straight forward, and flexible. Play around with it- substitute alternative nuts like pecans or macadamias. Switch up the citrus from lime to yuzu or grapefruit. As always, have fun! Belly up!!

3 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh cilantro
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
2 Tbls fresh lime juice
1 tsp to 1 Tbls chipotle pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbls toasted sesame oil

In the bowl of a food processor, add all of the above ingredients except the olive and toasted sesame oils. Blend together, and while the food processor is still blending, slowly drizzle in the oils. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Give the pesto a taste, and add more salt and/ or more chipotle pepper depending on the level of spice that is preferred. Give the pesto a few more pulses in the food processor. Use immediately. To store the pesto, place in a small bowl, drizzle the top with olive oil, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap into the surface of the pesto eliminating air pockets. Stores for about a week in the fridge, or about 1 month in the freezer.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hot Fudge Sauce

The 'Edible Gifts Class' was great! We made dark chocolate bark with praline almonds and smoked sea salt, brown sugar & rosemary walnuts, espresso shortbread cut-out cookies, a bbq spice rub, and my favorite hot fudge sauce! 

I'd like to share the hot fudge sauce with you on this blustery winter morning. The wind outside seems to be buffing the covering of ice we have. It seems almost possible to ice skate along the beach rocks. Even the dog has a look of concern. With a toasty french press full of my favorite coffee, I am already thinking up a few adventures for the day. A snowshoe through the woods? Sledding? A brisk run down the ice covered and hilly road? Oh, let's go back to that hot fudge sauce recipe. Sticky, gooey, intensely flavored hot fudge sauce is my favorite. I like to make an enormous sized batch and give it to folks to perk up their dreary winter days.

Hot Fudge Sauce: recipe derived  from, 'The Pie and Pastry Bible'

6 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup water
12 Tbl unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
8Tbl corn syrup- I substituted maple syrup
pinch of salt

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the chocolate with the cocoa and water, stirring constantly. Add the butter, sugar, corn syrup or maple syrup, and salt. Simmer, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stop stirring and cook at a moderate boil for about 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens are reduces. Swirl the mixture in the pan occasionally but do not stir. Toward the end of cooking reduce the heat to low to prevent scorching.
Keep warm or reheat in a water bath or microwave, stirring gently.
Stores in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Belly up!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sweets for my sweets

St. Valentine's Day is just around the corner. I usually hang out at home and cook a really nice meal with my family. Then I eat chocolate in abundance. I actually do this most nights of the week, but I try to step it up a notch for holidays. One of my favorite chocolates to settle into is the 'chocolove' brand dark chocolate bar, which is 55% dark chocolate with toasted almonds and sea salt. This bar is easy for me to get my hands on in this small harbor town in which I live. However, when I return to Minneapolis, I get my hands on a 'salty dog' by B.T. McElrath. This chocolate bar is 70% dark chocolate with butter toffee pieces and sea salt. It turns any frown upside down! I do like to make my own chocolates and sweets as well. I am a HUGE fan of edible gifts, hence the 'Edible Gifts Class' at the co-op this week- Thursday @ 7pm. Check out the co-op's home page @ for more info and registration.

As I was saying- edible gifts. I love giving them. I love receiving them. Homemade jams, hot fudge sauces, flavored sea salts, sugar and spiced nuts, hand-rolled crackers, delicate and delicious cookie varieties are examples of edible gifts I like to tuck into backpacks and mailboxes to surprise folks with a little tasty treat.  In loo of the up coming class, I thought I'd share a recipe that I've been eying for quite some time. It's from 101cookbooks, and the recipe is a simple showstopper, and combines a few of my favorite flavors; rosemary, sesame, and brown sugar. You can alter this recipe to fit your tastes. I used smoked sea salt instead of sea salt. I also think that turbinado sugar would do well for the brown sugar, and add a bit of crunch to the mix. The most difficult step in this recipe is not eating these all up while they are still warm!

Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts

1 cup brown sugar or natural cane sugar
2 tsp fine grain sea salt or smoked sea salt
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 large egg whites
1 lb. about 4 cups shelled walnut halves
1/3 cup chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, rosemary, and sesame seeds.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add the walnuts and figs to the whites and toss until they are evenly coated- it will take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar- spice mixture over the nuts and toss- really well- again.

Split the nut mixture between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating them the best you can.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts are toasted golden and the coating is no longer wet. Cool for a few minutes, then slide the parchment/ nuts off of the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container. Belly up!!