Menu of the week: Nuts and St Patrick’s Day!

This week we get to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, St Patrick’s Day.  I do have Irish roots and that combined with red hair makes it one of my favorite days of the year. Plus, it’s a good excuse to drink whiskey and drink hard cider with friends, be rowdy and chant Irish slogans all day in Gaelic.  I take the day off every year and will do so again this year.

St Patty's Day prep, Irish coffee and bling

The ingredient this week is nuts and our lovely host is Sea at Book of Yum who always has some tasty eats cooking.  Make sure you visit her blog to get the scoop on all the nutty menus around this week.

Sunday: The ultimate Mac and Cheese!  I found my recipe that I thought was long gone and I couldn’t remember how to recreate it as I had only made it once.  Where was it?  In my pile of recipes to blog.  Irony.  It is based on Martha Stewart’s Mac and cheese with my adjustments of course.  I will post this one.

Monday:  Pizza, when I start to crave tomato, then I start to crave pizza toppings shortly after that, so it’s time for some pizza. Using the Chebe pizza crust this go around to try it again.

Tuesday:  Happy St Patrick’s Day!  I will leave the house for the bar hopping bus crawl with a crock of Irish Stew with lamb to come home to.  Using the last of the lamb in the freezer.  Lots of leeks, carrots and potatoes.

Wednesday  Jap Chae Korean Glass Noodles ala Jaden at Steamy Kitchen and kalbi, slow braised beef short ribs.  We must have some rice and kim chi of course too.

Thursday: On the road for work, traveling with some Indian spiced cashews that I found in Chicago at the market.

Friday:  Black vinegar ribs with some of the pork ribs from our freezer, rice and maybe a green bean stir fry to go with it.

i’m out

Brittle

cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

How can something so delicious be so easy to make?  I would have been making brittle for years if I knew I could do it in under 30 minutes.  I might have made it earlier, except that, I had no cravings for brittle until now.  I am not quite sure what inspired me suddenly perusing the internet for brittle recipes, but once I did, I had to make some, but make some my way.

pumpkin seed, almond, pine nut brittle with red chile

“My way” meaning, it needed a bit of spice, a kick if you will and something to balance out the sweetness. I really don’t have a sweet tooth, but if something sweet is balanced with something salty and has a bit of spice too, I am in. I recently made some caramel truffles with fleur de sel and that is what likely set me on my way, the fleur de sel. It was a perfect end to a bite of delight. If it worked for chocolate, it will work for brittle too.   And it did.

I made a triple batch for starters, as the effort seemed too much for one cup of nuts. After that, I went a little crazy and did some smaller experimental batches. Two of those and then one more triple batch a week later as I had a lot of nuts and needed more brittle to give away for gifts.

First batch: Pumpkin seed, pine nut, almond brittle with NM red chile and fleur de sel
Second batch: Macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel
Third batch:Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle with fleur de sel – for a friend with nut allergies.
Fourth batch: Cashew, macadamia, almond and coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel.

Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne

I think I can take a week off from brittling now. Yes, I know, I just made a word up. Every once in a while you just have to make a word up.
First, toast your nuts, or not, I like a toasted nut better, but you don’t have to.  These are pre-toasting.  I won’t show you the pic of the post toast. Needless to say, I severely burned the nuts I roasted for the first batch and had to re-roast. I am pretty good at burning nuts thanks to my uneven heating oven.  They went to the squirrels.  The second post toast I have no photos of.

nuts for toasting for brittle

Brittle with Fleur De Sel and Cayenne

3 cups nuts of your choice or unsweetened dried coconut
3 TBS chilled diced unsalted butter
3 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp cayenne – more or less to taste – I like it hot.
3 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (keeps the sugar from seizing)

candy thermometer or temperature probe if you have one – it’s not necessary, just easier

Toast your nuts if you are a nut toaster. If you have a silpat, get two or three of those out and place them on your counter overlapping. If not, use three large cookie sheet size sheets of foil, over lap them slightly and butter them lightly with unsalted butter. The silpat needs no butter. In a bowl, combine nuts, diced butter, baking soda, fleur de sel and cayenne pepper. In a 3 quart pot, add your sugar, water and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil and let it cook until it is an amber color – this will be around 350F to 370F if you have a thermometer. It takes much longer to get to this point with this triple batch than with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup water. Ten to 20 minutes. No need to stir the sugar mixture, but I can’t help myself, so I do. As soon as the color starts to darken, be on red alert and ready to go in an instant. Once it appears to be the color of honey or medium amber, cut the heat and immediately stir in the nut mixture, stir fast and stir hard. The mixture will sizzle and bubble up and act very excited in a happy way. Once incorporated, start pouring it out on to the buttered foil and spread as fast and thin as you can.  Admire your work and let it cool while you clean the pot. The easiest way to clean the pot and spoon is to fill the pot back up with water and bring it to a boil. Sugar of course dissolves in water. No scrubbing. No work.
Once the brittle is cooled, about 10 minutes more or less, you can start breaking it up into whatever size pieces you want. This brittle will keep in a sealed container for at least a month if your nuts were fresh. Try making it last that long, I dare you. Make sure you give some to your dentist, just in case you eat too much of it.

cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

i’m out

Menu Swap Monday Dec 15th: Nuts and seeds!

Nuts and seeds, I really like both of them.  The majority of seeds that I use are typically spices, but I do like to use my share of sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.  I mostly snack on nuts or use them in Indian cooking but this week, since it is the festive holiday season, I am going to make a brittle with pumpkin, almonds and red chile.  I was going to use pine nuts, but they are outrageously priced at my local store right now, almonds it is. I have a giant bowlful of walnuts that I need to crack that Eby’s dad gave us from his English walnut tree – those might find there way in the brittle too. At least they are local, even if they are still in their hard shells.

This week’s menu swap host is In My Box and she blogs about what arrives in her CSA box every week. Swing on over there and check out all the menus posted – lots of cheese sauces created from nuts this week. I have yet to try doing that as I have no problem with dairy, but I am curious as to how they taste and someday will break down and try making some.

I experimented with making some liver free pate just using pork, and it failed miserably. I chalk it up to over seasoning (never thought I would say that) and using chickpea flour instead of some other flour. You know the golden rule is to never taste your batter or dough before baking if the chickpea flour is in it as it is bitter. Well, the slow cooking, low cooking nature of the pate meant that the chick pea flour still tasted raw – very bitter in a bad way. It was a big disappointment after all that work. But now I know. Next time I won’t try to add a nuttiness to my pate.

On to the menu:
Sunday: Ma Po Tofu, with stir fried broccoli and rice
Monday: Shepard’s Pie – after posting the recipe yesterday, I couldn’t resist.
Tuesday: Chicken Cacciatore with tomatoes, red peppers and baby bella mushrooms
Wednesday: Hot Tamale Soup – with homemade tamales from the freezer stock and grass fed beef and home canned tomatoes (I am in a tomato mood this week)
Thursday: Indian something with eggplant and pork (I know they don’t eat a lot of pork, but I have a lot of pork) or a fish curry, depends on mood.
Friday: Paella with chicken and chorizo – making use of the peppers I bought for Tuesday too.
Saturday: Shrimp with snow peas (shrimp for me, chicken for Eby, who won’t eat shrimp, but more for me.)

Happy Solstice to you this weekend – light a candle and appreciate the dark days, sunnier ones are on the way, after Saturday.

i’m out