BLACK CHERRY HALLOWEEN BUTTER COOKIES

Last Sunday we attended the Last Bite dinner put on by Rebecca Masson, benefitting Lucky Dog Rescue, a volunteer foster-based organization providing rescue services, vet care, foster care, and placement to stray and abandoned dogs.   This was the 10th and final dinner, because Rebecca will be focusing her efforts on her Fluff Bake Bar, which will be opening in the very near future.  Chefs from Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Massachusetts collaborated to put on an amazing final dinner.

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Highlights of the 12+ course meal included this mosaic-like terrine of fall vegetables — fermented, roasted, and raw from Nathan Lemley of Parkside in Austin:

A Thanksgiving-worthy course that included smoked turducken, cornbread dressing with ham hock and greens, field pea and radish succotash, and roasted rainbow carrots with sorghum and Texas pecans from Patrick Feges of Feges BBQ and Brandi Key from Clark Cooper Concepts:

Duck Bolognese and apicius-spiced pasta from my favorite chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrance Gallivan of Pass & Provisions:

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Mint-marinated lamb with baba ganoush, spiced yogurt, and pickled onion salad from Jason Gould of Cyclone Anaya’s:

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A cheese course of St. David’s raclette, sakura boshi (?), cashew, and rye from Tim Maslow of Ribelle & Strip T’s in Boston (we’ll be on the lookout for this cheese!):

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Crème fraiche sherbet, concord grape sauce, and ras al hanout from Rebecca Masson:

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And adorable cookies from Michael’s Cookie Jar:

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I made it to the farmers market last weekend for the first time in a while.  Musical entertainment was being provided by the Grim Reaper’s brother:

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I had to ask what these were:

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The vendor told me they were jujubes.  I asked him how do you eat them, and he said, “Like this,” and popped one in his mouth.  Whatever.  A minute or two later, another lady came up and said to him, “How do you eat these?”  He said to her, “Here, try one,” and handed her a jujube.  Guess how many jujubes I bought from him?  If you guessed zero, you would be correct.  Way to blow a sale, farmer.  I will just have to imagine what they taste like, and he will just have to imagine what my money would feel like in his wallet.

I got very excited over a new item at Kroger — red walnuts from Sanguinetti Farms:

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From my interwebs research, it appears that they have been available for at least a few years.  They are naturally red, and are created by grafting  Persian red-skinned walnuts onto larger and creamier English walnuts.  They’re only red on the inside, and the shells look just like English walnuts.  They’re slightly milder in flavor than English walnuts and lack some of the bitterness.   I can’t wait to use these in holiday salads and baking.  How red are they, you ask?  Very red!

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Last year I posted how to make Black Cherries for Halloween.  I made some last week, and used them in these Black Cherry Halloween Butter Cookies.  Something a little different for Halloween, and not overly sweet.  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

BLACK CHERRY HALLOWEEN BUTTER COOKIES
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 tablespoon half & half
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Orange food coloring (I used ½ teaspoon Wilton concentrated paste coloring)
  • 24 black maraschino cherries (approximately)
  • Colored sprinkles, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, half & half, and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder and gradually add to the butter mixture. Add food coloring, and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball. Repeat with remaining dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the top of each cookie. Place a cherry in each hole, cut side down.
  4. Beat egg white lightly with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush edges of cookies with egg white and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly browned on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

 

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 Happy Halloween!

JAPANESE CAT REMIX — PISTACHIO LIME CAKE

In July 2012, I posted a recipe for Gingered Tuna Salad that was inspired by this carved Japanese cat:

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I’ve since learned that it’s not a cat.  Not even close.  Color me embarrassed.  It’s a Tanuki–a “magical fox-like dog with shape-shifting powers, trickster and spook, original evil, now benevolent modern-day icon of generosity, cheer, and prosperity found often outside Japanese bars and restaurants.”  I also learned that it’s made out of keyaki or zelkova wood.

The “fun-loving Tanuki” is characterized by a big tummy, straw hat, puzzled facial expression, and giant scrotum (no kidding), and he carries a sake flask and a promissory note.  This explains several of the features of my carved guy that I couldn’t identify, particularly the giant scrotum (no kidding).  It gives new meaning to the phrase “grow a pair,” and I’m afraid I can’t look at the little fella now without blushing.

The Tanuki is not just a mythical creature, it’s also a real animal, sometimes called the Japanese Raccoon Dog — “an atypical species of dog with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes.”  Once upon a time, they were hunted for their meat, fur, and their scrotal skin (of course), which according to Wikipedia, was “used as a malleable sack for hammering gold into gold leaf.”

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Watcha hidin’ little fella?

So I was totally wrong about the Japanese cat.  Don’t you hate when you think something is one thing and it turns out to be something else?  For example, my neighbors have a prolific lemon tree in their front yard.  I may have, from time to time, “borrowed” a lemon or two from their tree:

Well, it turns out that the lemons I’ve been “borrowing” from my neighbors are actually limes.  Color me embarrassed.

Inspired by the Japanese cat Tanuki and the juicy lemons limes that are falling from my neighbor’s tree faster than I can steal borrow them, I baked a Pistachio Lime Cake.  The recipe is only slightly adapted from this recipe from the Tasting Room in Houston, originally published in the April 2012 edition of Bon Appetit.  This cake may look like a simple pound cake, but don’t be fooled — this is an extraordinary, tender. buttery cake, with a well-defined hit of citrus and subtle nuttiness from the pistachios.

PISTACHIO LIME CAKE
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Recipe type: Cake
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, divided use
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a 9x5x3" loaf pan* with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Shake pan over sink to remove any excess flour.
  2. Place butter in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add sugar, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add juices and zests and beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled). Fold in baking powder, salt, and flour until just blended. Fold in ¾ cup pistachios.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup pistachios over batter. Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen. and unmold cake.
  4. *Can also be made in 4 mini loaf pans, and reduce baking time to approximately 1 hour. Excellent for gift-giving.

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 Pistachios add color and crunch

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 Steal borrow a few lemons limes and make this delicious cake