Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of Cornell University

 

By now, we should all be  familiar with the wildly popular Mexican version of a Seven Layer Dip.  This recipe is an equally delicious alternative, featuring the warm, fresh flavors of the Mediterranean for an exciting change of pace.

To round out a Mediterranean hors d’ oeuvres table, try serving this delicious dip along with a platter of Falafel balls, tzatziki, a gourmet selection of olives, and some baklava.

Enjoy!

 

Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip

Serves 8

1-1/2 6-inch pita pockets, cut into 12 wedges, tops and bottoms separated  to make 24 wedges in all
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup loosely packed baby spinach, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 ounces)

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, finely chopped

1/2 medium tomato, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint

1/2  C crumbled feta cheese

 

Make Pita Wedges:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a large baking sheet without overlapping the wedges. Lightly brush each wedge with olive oil; bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crisp (the pita wedges will crisp more as they cool).  Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

 

Make Seven Layer Dip:
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, process the chickpeas until coarsely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the lemon juice and process until blended. Add the water and pepper. Process until smooth.

Arrange the spinach on a serving plate. Gently spread the chickpea mixture on top, leaving a border of the spinach. Sprinkle the oregano over the spread. Arrange the tomato on the spread. Top, in order, with the cucumber, onion, olives, mint, and feta.  Serve with the pita wedges.

Tip: The pita wedges and chickpea spread can be made up to one day ahead. Store the pita wedges in an airtight container at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the chickpea mixture. The remaining ingredients can be chopped and stored in the refrigerator up to 8 hours in advance, but the dip shouldn’t be assembled until right before serving.

Posted October 26th, 2011.

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Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream

by Danica Waters

Most everyone has the “Three B’s” lying around their pantry:  Bananas, Brown Sugar, and Butter.  Cardamom, maybe not so much.  But it’s worth a wee trip to the grocery store to score some cardamom pods;  they’re inexpensive, and given the depth of flavor they add to this heavenly little dish, you won’t want to leave them out.
These warm caramelized baked bananas are delicious served all by themselves; however, they would go smashingly well served over vanilla ice cream, as well.  Served with crepes and a smear of unsweetened cream cheese, they’ll be the hit of your holiday brunch.

Enjoy!

 

Baked Bananas With Cardamom and Cream

 

4 firm bananas

4 – 6 Tbsp brown sugar

¼ C unsalted butter

4-6 cardamom seed pods, husks removed and black seeds crushed

¼ C Toasted diced pecans, or more, if desired (optional)

½ C heavy cream

 

Preheat the oven to 450.  Place 2 Tbsp butter in a large baking dish and place in oven until butter melts.  Carefully remove dish from oven and swirl melted butter to coat bottom of dish thoroughly.

 

While butter is melting, peel and cut the bananas diagonally or vertically into 3/8-inch slices.

 

When butter is ready, sprinkle pecans over bottom of prepared baking dish.  Place banana slices on top and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar.  Bake 5 minutes.

 

Remove bananas from the oven, immediately sprinkle with the crushed cardamom,  remaining brown sugar, and butter.  Place back in oven until butter and brown sugar have melted, approximately 1 min.

 

Remove from oven.  Divide banana slices equally among individual dessert plates.  Pour a bit of cream around the slices and serve immediately.

 

Serves 4

Posted October 22nd, 2011.

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Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.moosecrossinggardencenter.com

 

There are lots of recipes for sautéed green beans out there in the wild blue yonder.  Most of those recipes invite a whole lot of other ingredients to the party: tomatoes, wine, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, etc. – the list goes on and on.  It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that the good ol’ green bean can hold its own on the dinner table; its simple, spectacularly fresh flavor doesn’t need a lot of help as long as it’s treated properly.  Allowed to simply be itself, the green bean has all sorts of great things to offer:  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and a full range of beneficial B Vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidans are but a few of its virtues.

 

This recipe is simple.  It features fresh green beans sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until crisp tender, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice.  Exquisite!  .

 

An excellent accompaniment to Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, these green beans go well with French and Italian cuisines, in addition to fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes.  This preparation is so delicious, it might have you looking at that grayish green been casserole on the Thanksgiving menu in a whole new light.

 

Enjoy!

 

Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

(serves 4)

 

1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and patted dry

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Kosher Salt to taste

 

Prepare beans, be sure they are thoroughly dry to avoid splatter when they are added to the oil.

In a wide, shallow sauté pan or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking.  Add green beans and cover; allow to cook for about a minute.  Beans should be lightly browned, but not charred – keep your eye on them.  Remove cover and allow condensation to run back into the pan; turn beans and cook another minute.  Once beans are browned a bit on all sides, add 2 -3 Tbsp water to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to steam until beans are bright green and crisp tender, approximately an additional 3 -5 minutes, depending on your preference.

 

Remove to a serving dish; squeeze fresh lemon juice over beans and season with Kosher Salt to taste.  Toss well and serve.

 

Posted October 20th, 2011.

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Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

by Danica Waters

When simple ingredients can be combined in a manner that inspires not just the palate, but excites the soul, this is the true magic of good cooking.  This salad is just that magical.  It is one of the crown jewels of my personal recipe collection.  The vertical presentation is visually breathtaking; the flavors and textures are nothing short of inspired.

 

While this simple salad is intended to be a first course, beware:  it is incredibly filling.   Be sure to judge your pear size according to the way you intend to serve this little culinary gem.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Pears With Watercress and Gorgonzola

(serves 4)

 

4 perfectly ripe, smooth-skinned (not overripe, not underripe) pears

2 C watercress

2 Tbsp toasted pecan pieces

1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

2 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Raspberry or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Lemon juice

Honey

 

Gently wash pears with a natural fruit and vegetable wash; set aside.

Toss watercress with pecans, cranberries and gorgonzola; drizzle with salad dressing and gently toss to combine.

Core pears from bottom, leaving the stem intact.  Slice each pear in four horizontal slices; brush all sides generously with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

On individual salad plates, reassemble pears with salad mix in the middle and between each pear layer.  Drizzle with honey.

Posted October 14th, 2011.

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Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

by Danica Waters

 

In the chilly autumn evenings, nothing beats the flavor and aroma of warm, baked squash.  While acorn squash is typically associated with winter squash varieties, it actually belongs to the same species as summer squashes, such as zucchini and yellow crooknecks.  Thankfully, the tough skin of an acorn squash allows it to keep for weeks in a cool, dark place, making it a favorite staple for the fall and winter months.

 

The best acorn squash should be approximately one to three pounds, and feel heavy for its size.  If the squash is any bigger than that, you run the risk of getting a squash that has been harvested too late in the season, which will render the squash tough and stringy.  Look for a squash that has a nice combination of green and orange coloring, that’s not too shiny.  If the squash is shiny and completely green, it’s been harvested prematurely.

 

Nutritionally, a one-cup serving of acorn squash comes in at a meager 115 calories and is packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium.  That same one cup serving will also give you 2 grams of protein and 30% of your daily Vitamin C requirements, which makes it a very attractive alternative to, say, diet-killer mashed potatoes.  While acorn squash is traditionally baked and seasoned with loads of butter and brown sugar, this recipe features a figure-friendly basting with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

And F.Y.I.:  try roasting and seasoning the acorn squash seeds for sprinkling on salads.  They’re edible and delicious!

 

Enjoy!

 

Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

 

Acorn squash, figure on serving one-half of a squash per person

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Balsamic Vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Wash acorn squash (see recipe for vinegar-based vegetable wash).  Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and long fibrous strands.

 

Sprinkle squash halves with kosher salt; place face down in a large roasting pan.  Add water to the pan to a depth of 1/4” and place in oven. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until squash is tender but still firm.

 

Remove from oven and allow to cool; slice squash halves into 1-1/2” sections on the bias and put back in the roasting pan, right-side up.  Brush each section generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and return to hot oven.

 

Bake five minutes; baste squash with balsamic vinegar.  Repeat process until squash is very tender and well-roasted.  Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Posted October 13th, 2011.

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Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Having grown up under the influence of heavy-duty Southern Sensibilities and then steeped in the sweet civility of British living once or twice, I must admit that I have come to truly appreciate the merits of a good pound cake.  While most folks shudder at the thought of what a pound cake can do to a diet, I personally feel better if I’ve got three or four of them tucked away in my freezer for gift giving and emergencies.  And tea.

My Nana was famous for handing out pound cakes to visitors.  It was just what she did.  The mailman came with packages during the summer and received pound cake and lemonade to go.  Mothers would come to pick up their kids after a play date, and they, too, received some version of a delectable pound cake.   A cake walk or a bake sale at the school?  Yep.  Pound cake.  She always spoke to the fact that a good pound cake went with everything, was admired by everyone,  remained virtually indestructible during transport, and always showed up looking good at a party.  While that sounds more like a great travel garment than something you’d eat, go figure; I now find myself collecting great pound cake recipes, baking them in wee tiny pans and putting them away for gift giving, emergencies, and yes, afternoon tea.

This is a lighter version of a pound cake I found on Martha Stewart’s website.  It could easily be made with any type of jam, but is completely smashing with a  fresh blackberry swirl.  As a footnote, I chose to leave my blackberries crushed but not pureed, and the result was fantastic.  Super easy to make ahead and freeze, this is a great way to get a head-start on the holiday season.

Enjoy!

 

Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

(Martha Stewart)

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. (Or, for a more rustic texture, simply crush blackberries and combine with sugar.)  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.

 

Posted October 11th, 2011.

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Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

by Danica Waters

 

Bread with soup, soup with bread – to serve one without the other seems almost an act against NATURE. (Ok. That’s totally too dramatic.  But in any case, soup without some sort of bread – even a cracker, for heaven’s sake – seems just plain wrong.)

In contemplating the virtues of soup’s trusty, crusty counterpart, I wondered: “Is it truly possible to improve upon a savory “crusty loaf”? Really?”

Yes, it is.  And this is it.

Irish Soda Bread is incredibly easy to make, with almost guaranteed no-fail results every time.  Don’t let the golden raisins fool you:  this version of Irish Soda Bread is definitely a savory.  But the golden raisins stand out on the palate like little glimmers of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.

This is the perfect accompaniment to Parsnip and Leek Soup.

Enjoy!

 

 

Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread

(Gourmet Magazine)

 

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling

¼ C wheat bran or toasted wheat germ (not bran cereal)(optional – it gives a lovely texture but don’t panic if you don’t have it!)

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ stick (1/4 C) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 C golden raisins

1 C buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

Preheat oven to 400? and sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.

 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, bran or wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.  Add butter and toss to coat with flour.  With fingertips rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add raisins and toss until coated.  Add buttermilk or yogurt and stir until dough is moistened evenly.

 

On a floured surface, knead the dough 1 minute, sprinkling lightly with additional flour to prevent sticking (dough should remain soft).  Shape dough into a ball.

 

On a prepared baking sheet, pat dough out into a 6-inch round.  Sprinkle round with additional flour and with fingertips spread lightly over round.  With a sharp knife cut a shallow X in top of round.

 

Bake bread in middle of oven 35 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Wrap bread in a kitchen towel and colon a rack 1 hour. Unwrap bread and cool 1 hour more.

 

Posted October 5th, 2011.

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Parsnip and Leek Soup

by Danica Waters

 

Here in the Skagit Valley, just over a week past the autumnal equinox, sea mists hang noticeably thicker and creep down lower to enshroud the hillsides leading to the mercurial Puget Sound.  This is my favorite time of year; the walking paths that were only recently lined with the lush emerald foliage of a hearty Indian summer are now littered with crimson and gold.

And now, as bare black branches and the wings of Canadian geese stretch themselves against the fiery evening skies, a noticeable chill to the evening air sends me to the kitchen with thoughts of all things warm and wonderful…

…like SOUP!  And happily, this is a very delicious soup, indeed.  Adapted a bit from a clipping out of Fine Cooking Magazine, it is wonderful served with a hearty loaf of bread (try Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread) and a nice glass of wine, with great music and a crackling fire in the background.

 

Enjoy!

 

Parsnip and Leek Soup

(adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine)

 

Make the Croutons:

 

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

3-4 slices good-quality white bread (French, Sheepherders’, etc.), crusts removed and cut to ½” cubes

Sea or Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bread cubes and fry, tossing and stirring, until crisp and golden on all sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, set aside.

 

Make the Soup:

 

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 C chopped leeks (white and light green parts only, from 2-3 large leeks) rinsed and drained

Kosher salt

1 lb parsnips, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ dry sherry or dry white wine

6 C vegetable broth (preferably homemade)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 small bay leaves, broken in half

½ tsp white peppercorns, lightly crushed

¼ C heavy cream (optional)

2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme, for garnish

 

Heat the oil in a wide soup pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks, season with approximately 1 tsp salt, and cook gently until the leeks have softened and just begin to turn golden, 8-10 minutes.

 

Add the parsnips and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the parsnips are fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the sherry, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the broth.  Tie the thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a cheesecloth sachet and toss it into the pot.  Partially cover the pot, bring to a boil, immediately lower the heat, and simmer partially covered until the parsnips are soft enough to mash against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Discard the sachet.

 

Puree the soup in batches using a stand or immersion (hand) blender, being sure to combine a mix of broth and solids in each batch.  If your using a stand blender, fill it no more than 2/3 full and be sure to vent the blender so the top doesn’t pop off (either remove the lid’s pop-out center or lift one edge of the lid and drape with a clean towel).  Rinse the soup pot, return the blended soup to the pot, taste, and adjust seasonings.    If you’re using the cream, add it now (if you’re making the soup ahead, wait to add the cream until you reheat the soup just before serving).  Garnish each bowl with some of the croutons and a pinch of fresh thyme.

 

Serves 6-8, yields approx. 7 cups.

 

Posted October 3rd, 2011.

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Blackberry Cobbler: Alice Bay Cookbook

by Danica Waters
Following our coverage of the National Can-It-Forward Day held mid-August out of the world-famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, the Allspice Chronicles traveled up the West Coast just in time for blackberry season.  Called “brambles” in the UK, blackberries grow EVERYWHERE in the great Northwest.  They line the freeways, small country roads, back yards, you name it.

We were  informed early-on that the locals could spot a tourist from 100 yards away simply because they were picking blackberries at the sides of busy roads;  old-timers and people in-the-know stay away from these berries because of the contaminants they pick up from car exhaust.   While it seemed a terrible waste, there were plenty of walking paths and offbeat hiking trails that rendered  BUCKETS of these beauties.

On our first berry picking excursion, less than an hour of picking rendered over three quarts of berries.   Because blackberries are extremely perishable, they need to be frozen or cooked quickly.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was to turn the first fruits of the season into a juicy cobbler, so that’s precisely what we did.

My sister-in-law, who is an impeccable housekeeper, a fabulous cook and creative, over-the-top entertainer in her own right, produced what she referred to as the Northwest “Recipe Bible” from her kitchen cabinet.  It was a relatively small, thick, pink book called Alice Bay Cookbook:  A Savory Sampler from Washington’s Skagit ValleyInside is a collection of the most delicious heirloom recipes, each a celebration in its own right of the bounty of the land, the rivers, and the oceans that make up the Great Northwest.  Originally published in 1985, the Alice Bay Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010.   Authored by Julie Wilkinson Rousseau, it was noted by the New York Times Bestseller List as “Paperback Best Seller”, and with good reason.  No matter where you live, if you like to cook, this is one book you should have in your collection.

Please note:  before you gasp at the thought of using eight whole cups of blackberries for a single cobbler, please understand that this recipe is designed to feed a very large crowd, and is easily scaled down.  It is the most delicious cobbler you’ll ever care to taste.  Be sure to top it off with vanilla ice cream or some heavy cream – it is simply to die for.

Enjoy!

 

Blackberry Cobbler:

(Alice Bay Cookbook)

1½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups blackberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

BISCUIT TOPPING:

2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3  cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix together sugar, flour, salt, berries, and lemon juice. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and dot with butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Meanwhile, make biscuit topping:   Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add milk and beaten egg, and stir with a fork until blended.
When blackberry mixture is hot and bubbly, spoon biscuit mixture on top in 10 or 12 dollops. Return to oven for 20 minutes, until biscuits are browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Posted September 30th, 2011.

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Gigi’s Apple Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Several years ago, I found myself in the waiting room of a doctor’s office… waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  Thankfully, the waiting room was stocked with lots and lots of great magazines, most of which contained great recipes.

 

One of the magazines contained a wonderful, heartfelt story about a Jewish grandmother fondly referred to as “Gigi”, who would make an incredible apple cake just like clockwork as soon as the long summer days gave way to the shorter, chillier days of autumn.   It seems the recipe had been handed down through the family for generations; I was happy I had a pen and an old grocery list buried in my purse.

 

I don’t remember the name of the publication, nor can I recall the name of the author who shared such a beautiful living memory of her dearly departed grandmother.  I can tell you that this is the best apple cake I have ever made or tasted; it is truly an autumn heirloom your family will treasure for generations.

 

Enjoy!

 

Gigi’s Apple Cake

 

1 C canola oil, plus more for greasing

2-1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground cinnamon

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

2-1/4 C granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/3 C orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Preheat oven to 350?.  Grease and flour a 12c Bundt or tube pan.  In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon.  Ina large bowl, toss the apples with ¼ cup of sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.

 

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until just combined.  Add the apples and stir to combine.  Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.

Posted September 28th, 2011.

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