Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

We bought some seasoned pecans at a specialty shop in Gruene, Texas, last year and really enjoyed them. I've been trying to duplicate the recipe ever since. This recipe is a little different that the type we purchased, as they didn't have an egg white coating, but this looked interesting so we thought we'd give it a chance.

Preheat oven to 300°F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray

1/3 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. chili powder
3/4 t. cinnamon
pinch cayenne

1 egg white

2 cups pecan halves

Mix sugar and spices together. Beat the egg white until frothy. Toss the pecans into the egg white and stir. Sprinkle with the spice mixture, stir to coat, then the lift the pecans out of the bowl one by one and spread on the prepared baking sheet, separating them as much as possible. Discard any leftover sugar-egg mixture.
You can use as little as a heaping tablespoon of the spice mixture, or all of it, depending on how flavorful you want the final product to be. A heaping tablespoon gives a nice lightly seasoned product enjoyed even by folks who don't like spicy foods.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to another baking sheet. Break pecans apart as necessary. When completely cool store covered in a dry place. Should keep for at least a week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pozolli - Posoli - soup

Pronounced poh-soh-leh. . . no matter how you spell it this is a nourishing dish that has been a tradition in the soutwestern parts of the US for centuries. Each area from Mexico to Utah has its own variation. Pozolle has become a traditional Christmas Eve dish in New Mexico.

This is the recipe we've been using when we make it for Christmas Eve. It's from the Pueblo Indian Cookbook, by Phyllis Hughes, with a few alterations to the spices to suit our own taste, and though Hughes' recipe begins with making the hominy from scratch, we substituted the canned variety.

1/2 lb. pork meat
1 T. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, diced
2 t. salt (or to taste)
2 t. Mexican oregano (You can use the Italian type if you can't find Mexican. Look for it in the Mexican foods section, in little cellophane packets.)
1 small can diced green chilies 
Chop the pork into bite size pieces, brown in a little olive oil, then put in a stock pot with just enough water or broth to cover. Simmer seasonings and meat until the meat is very well cooked, at least four hours. Simmering all day is best if you have the time. If you like lots of chili flavor and heat, drop one or more dried chilies into the liquid to simmer with the meat. Remove the pulp when the meat has finished cooking.
29 oz. can hominy [If you like a thicker soup put 1/4 of the hominy through the blender and add it to the soup, or put half of it in the stock pot and continue to simmer until it's soft, then add the remaining hominy.]
1 can water (use chicken broth for richer flavor)
A variety of toppings
1 medium onion, chopped (save half for the garnish- I like the looks of red onion)
The diced green chilies can also be added at this point if desired.
Simmer covered for an additional 30 minutes. Serves 4

Serve in wide soup bowls with a variety of fresh garnishes

finely shredded cabbage or lettuce, chopped red onion,
chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, sliced radishes, grated cheese, tortilla chips

If you try this recipe and like it, or have suggestions for alterations, please leave a comment!

Crazy Larry's Crab Cakes

We've been in pursuit of the perfect crab cake for several years now. This recipe is from Weber's Bib Book of Grilling and is the best we've found so far.

For the crab cakes:
12 ounces fresh, frozen, or canned cooked lump crab meat
Drain in a colander, pat dry with paper towels. Flake meat with a fork, discarding any bits of shell. Add remaining ingredients.
3/4 c. plain breadcrumbs
1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
4 green onions (white part only) finely chopped
3 T. mayonnaise
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. hot pepper sauce
1/4 t. Kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
Shape into eight cakes about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Place on a plate covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. This firms up the cakes so they hold together on the grill.

For the dressing:
Mix together
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 t. white wine vinegar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Lightly brush or spray both sides of the crab cakes with vegetable oil. Grill over direct high heat until the bread crumbs are toasted (6 - 8 minutes) Carefully turn with a wide spatula halfway through the grilling time. Places two crab cakes on each plate with about 4 handfuls (about 4 ounces) of greens that have been tossed with the dressing. Serve with a lemon wedge if desired.

Pumpkin Roll

This has been a holiday favorite in our family for many years. It's easy to make, freezes well, and is always a hit at parties.

Preheat oven to 375°F.
1 c. pumpkin
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. lemon flavoring or juice
1 c. flour
Pour into 11x17 greased jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until done (do not overbake!). Sprinkle with powdered sugar and roll from the long edge. Cool in refrigerator. When cool, unroll and fill. [I admit I've always been challenged by this step. The cake often wants to crack. I have had pretty good luck turning the cake out onto a clean dish towel - the smooth cotton type, or waxed paper - and rolling it with the towel or paper, which helps to keep it supported when you unroll it.]

cream together:
1 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
4 t. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon (I often use more, or include some grated zest)
Blend until smooth, spread on the unrolled cake and then re-roll.
Roll the completed cake roll in foil and refrigerate.

This keeps well, and freezes well, so is a great make-ahead for the holidays.