Balsamic Rosemary Pecans

candied pecans 2 Balsamic Rosemary Pecans

Someone asked me for this recipe the other day, and so I did as I usually do – Googled it on my own blog, as if I were flipping through a recipe box. And it didn’t pop up. I searched, even in the sad, unmaintained index (sorry about that guys) and couldn’t find it. Could it be that I’ve never shared this recipe? One of our most loved, decades-old, party nibbles ever? That even my 24 year old nephew, who otherwise subsists on Mr Noodles, burgers and Sriracha, has mastered making from scratch?

candied pecan Collage Balsamic Rosemary Pecans

These are, hands-down, the best spiced nuts I know. They’re sweet-tangy-salty-rosemary-y, and perfect for nibbling, for giving, and for chopping to throw over salads. They’re super easy to make, and lovely as a gift. If you’re going to hand over $15 for a bag of pecan halves, this is the very best way to treat them once you get them home.

candied pecans 1 Balsamic Rosemary Pecans

Rosemary Pecans

2 cups pecan halves
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 drops hot sauce
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. cumin (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
A good grind of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Combine in a medium bowl and stir well. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until pale golden and fragrant.

Makes 2 cups.

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December 19 2014 | appetizers and snacks | 3 Comments »

Grandma Woodall’s Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

marmalade cookies Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.
~ Taylor Caldwell, English novelist

Our entertaining philosophy is thus: I make lots of food (party leftovers the next morning are the best) and stock the bar, and Mike picks lots of music, and if the bathroom gets cleaned before everyone arrives, it’s a bonus.

This year (OK, every year) I become mildly obsessed with the idea of a British Christmas. Perhaps because so much of our Christmas culture has roots there, or maybe Dickens has a lot to do with it. Really, any country that embraces booze-fueled pyrotechnics as a finale to dinner is the kind whose traditions I want to emulate. I’ve recently discovered Fanny Cradock, and plan to spend my holiday in PJs eating shortbread and cheezies and watching her.

Every year the same cookie recipes are trotted out, including my Grandma’s marmalade cookies, which are flat and chewy and which she only made with Robertson’s Thick Cut marmalade (“for that extra zip”) – it’s a smart ingredient, incorporating bits of citrus into your cookies without resorting to glacé mix. (And you can’t argue with anything with that “By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen” label. It’s like the original Oprah’s Picks.)

robertsons Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

It can be hard to find – I pick it up at London Drugs (you can also buy a ginger version, which I imagine would make a killer cookie for ginger lovers), along with a bottle of Rose’s Lime Cordial.

tipsy Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

This year, I discovered a line of boozy jams with Champagne! Cointreau! Armagnac! Malt Whisky! How perfectly Fanny! And so in the spirit of Gatherings and Rolling Spoon, and just for fun (isn’t that what it’s all about?), I came up with a UK-inspired party plan, complete with British Christmas song pairings courtesy of M.

Something to eat: Downton Abbey Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter Hard Sauce. If this isn’t classic Christmas, I don’t know what is.

Something to drink: A raspberry-lime martini. With fresh limes or Rose’s Lime Cordial.

Raspberry lime martini Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

Something to eat: Walker’s Shortbread. It’s not cheating – it’s its own thing.

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Food: MILK TRAY. Again, endorsed by the Queen.

FullSizeRender Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

Something to eat: Irish Soda Bread with Crystallized Ginger & Cardamom

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Irish Soda Bread with Crystallized Ginger & Cardamom

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned (large flake) oats
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cardamom (or substitute cinnamon)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, cut in pieces
2 cups buttermilk (or half buttermilk, half eggnog)
1 large egg
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom and salt; add the butter and blend with a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers until crumbly. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk and egg with a fork; pour it into the dry ingredients, add the raisins and stir until you have a stiff dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3-4 times, shaping it into a slightly flat ball. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet and cut two deep slashes across the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until deep golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, with a tea towel draped overtop to keep the crust soft.

Serve warm, in wedges.

Something to eat: Oatcakes! With some good cheddar and Wensleydale.

oatcakes 585x780 Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

Something to eat: my Grandma’s marmalade cookies. I’ll let you decipher her handwriting.

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Something to eat: Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch! From a Scottish castle, and made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

Skibo Castle crunch 3 1024x682 Grandma Woodalls Marmalade Cookies + a British Shindig

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch

from Gourmet, December 1999

Shortbread base:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Topping:
1/3 cup butter
1 Tbsp. Lyle’s or Roger’s Golden Syrup (British cane sugar syrup)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9×13-inch metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt and blend in the butter, working it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan (it will be thin) and bake until golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Just before the shortbread is done, melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the golden syrup, icing sugar, ginger and vanilla. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 seconds.

Remove shortbread from oven and pour topping over, tilting pan and using a spatula to cover it evenly. Cool in the pan, then cut into small rectangles or break into shards.

Makes about 64 pieces.

Note: This post was sponsored by London Drugs, because they have such awesome British imports there. And vinyl, too!

Hey! Let’s bring back Free Stuff Fridays for Christmas! I have a $50 London Drugs gift card to give away, so one of you can fill up a few stockings or load up on some of the food I mentioned. (And it’s where I go for my small kitchen appliances too.) To enter, let us know what kind of party food you’re stirring up this season!

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December 18 2014 | cookies & squares | 28 Comments »

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