Archive for November, 2010

Cranberry: Fresh Cranberry Chocolate Scones

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

This time of year I take advantage of the access to fresh cranberries by subbing them for the dried or jellied versions when possible. This recipe for fresh cranberry chocolate scones is an adaptation of my standard scone recipe that I usually use with dried fruit – currants, golden raisins, cherries, or dried cranberries.

Scones originate with the culinary fare of Scotland, Ireland and England and are linked to the Welsh tradition of cooking small yeast cakes on bake stones and griddles.

Although scones are not a part of the usual Thanksgiving fare, they certainly are lovely with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day.

Did I mention that traditionally scones are not laden with lots of sugar? For American taste buds, think more about the sweetness of a biscuit rather than those sweet, frosting covered scones found at the market and coffee shops.

Originally, scones were made with oats, shaped into a large round that was cut into wedges. More often these days, classic scones are made with flour and use currants or raisins and are eaten plain or smeared with clotted cream or preserves.

This version capitalizes on fresh, tart cranberries and also calls for chocolate – a combo I adore. I eat them plain – no extra cream, preserves or butter.

One other fact I must mention, scones are best when freshly baked. The recipe below makes a dozen or 14 wedges. If you want to freeze some to bake later, see the instructions about flash-freezing below.

Tidbits on Cranberries:

  1. Cranberries are closely related to blueberries, lingonberries and cowberries.
  2. Cranberries are tested for firmness by their bounce, which explains why they are also referred to as “bounceberries.” Those that do not bounce are discarded.
  3. Cranberries stay fresh longer than other berries because they have a waxy skin.


Cranberry: Ginger Cranberry Ketchup

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

cinnamon ginger orange cranberry sauce ketsup

Cranberries are “the” Thanksgiving berry, even though it’s unclear that they were part of the 1621 feast shared by Native Americans and pilgrims.

The meal is believed to have included wheat, corn, barley, waterfowl, deer, fish, and wild turkey. It is certain, however, that long before white settlers arrived, Native Americans had been cultivating cranberries (and other berries) for food. So, it’s possible some of those crimson berries made an appearance.

Nonetheless, cranberries are requisite today at Thanksgiving. During this time of year – cranberries are coincidentally at their peak (October through December).

No qualms from me. I like food that’s tart and bitter and I’m a big fan of cranberries – fresh, cooked, dried and juiced. Since the 19th century, the berries have found their way in desserts, sauces, jellies, preserves and ketchup.

Yes, cranberry ketchup. This interesting tidbit caught my attention too. Apparently, it’s one of the more popular non-tomato based ketchups.

My recipe for ginger cranberry ketchup is not just novel. It’ll be a staple year-round – for your turkey sandwiches , turkey burgers, chicken and turkey tacos, etc. It has both sweet and sour notes and a little kick, if you choose to add chile. It’s easy to make and the spice blend is open to your own twist: nutmeg, cumin, and Chinese five spice.

The extra bonus here over cranberry sauce is that the vinegar in the recipe not only gives it some twang but it extends its shelf life. It’ll keep for about a month with refrigeration.

Tidbits on Cranberries:

  1. Cooking: When cooking cranberries, add sugar after they have popped to avoid tough berries.
  2. Buying: Select cranberries that are firm not shriveled or discolored. Stock up on fresh cranberries while in season (October through December).
  3. Storing: Fresh cranberries can be refrigerated for up to four weeks; frozen in plastic bags for nine months to a year. Do not wash them before storing.


Pumpkin Seeds: Mexican Peanut Pumpkin Seed Brittle – Palanquetas

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

pepitoria pepitas cacahuate mexican brittle

If you checked out my Mexican Pumpkin Seed Pesto, you know that pumpkin seeds have been used in Mexican cookery since pre-Columbian times. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America about 5500 B.C.E.

Pumpkin seeds are used in many Mexican dishes, typically to make thick, rich sauces. However, they are also frequently eaten there as a snack – roasted in oil or used to make palanquetas or pepitorias, a candy brittle.

Know that generally, I turn up my nose at regular peanut brittle – something that started when I was a teenager wearing braces. So, this Mexican brittle is exceptional.  It’s packed with good for you ingredients and has less of the sugary brittle.

Palanquetas (brittle with nuts) or pepitorias (brittle with seeds) are usually flat, round disks, but they are sometimes also packaged as rectangular blocks. Candy makers load them with a single ingredient like pepitas (pumpkin seeds), cacahuates (peanuts) or sesame seeds (ajonjoli) – or, they make them with this trio of  traditional ingredients, sometimes also adding popped amaranth .

With this recipe you’ll be able to make your own at home. It’s easy.  If you’re wary about eating “brittle,” you can boil the honey for less time and your final palanquetas will be more chewy like those fancy, expensive granola bars you find at the natural/health food stores.

This weekend I made two batches – I took one chewy version to a friends’ house and they were an instant hit. The other, I made more brittle-like. Either version will make a great protein snack fit for your outdoor, air and car travels. These also make great goodie gifts during the holidays. To make them more novel, add some ground chile and a squeeze of lime to your honey before you boil.

My version uses honey as the brittle base rather than sugar or sugar and corn syrup that most recipes call for. It’s a hearty snack that’s not overly sweet.

Tidbits on Pumpkin Seeds:

  1. Pumpkin seeds are more rich in iron than any other seed and are an excellent source of zinc, an essential mineral that helps the immune system.
  2. Buy hulled green (untoasted) pumpkin seeds at health-food stores or Mexican/Latin American markets where there is frequent turnover. Untoasted pumpkin seeds are less perishable. Store them in the freezer.