I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Liptauer

LiptauerMany years ago, as a kid, I saw a recipe and photo for Liptauer in a cookbook or magazine, and I remember that it looked impossibly elegant and sounded so exotic and sophisticated to me. I didn’t understand all the ingredients –capers and caraway sounded foreign and out of reach. The picture showed a fancy mold surrounded by intricate garnishes – carved radishes and celery fans. I can still call that image to mind. For years, I’d come across recipes for Liptauer and still imagined it was above my palate and skill level. The first time I ever tasted Liptauer was in Vienna on a family vacation. We visited one of the “huerige” wine halls and sat outside under a canopy of trees. We drank local wines and enjoyed a big Viennese meal. But to start it out, our local guide ordered Liptauer. Far from the fanciful creation I had imagined, it was served in a rustic pottery crock with brown bread. And it was delicious. I knew the time to work on a recipe at home had come.

Years later, at a book signing in North Carolina for Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook, a woman approached me and said she was from Austria, and she grew up eating a spread with cream cheese and paprika, and since she’d been living in the States, she had come to liken it to pimento cheese. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I love the idea of cross-cultural, cross culinary links. Now this is totally different from pimento cheese, but it makes a wonderful party dish; since I’ve started serving it, I either get reactions from people who remember it as a 70’s party dish their parents served, or people who’ve never had it before but ask for the recipe. It’s become a staple dish for me, one I turn to whenever I need an easy to make but exciting appetizer. I love to serve this with sliced pretzel bread or rolls or rye melba toast.

Liptauer
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Ingredients
  1. 3 teaspoons capers in brine, drained
  2. 1 small shallot, peeled
  3. ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
  4. 1 Tablespoon roughly chopped chives
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
  6. 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  7. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  8. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  9. 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika (if you have half-sharp, sub it for ½ teaspoon)
Instructions
  1. Put the capers, shallot, parsley, chives and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until everything is well chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the cream cheese and butter, cut into pieces, and pulse a few times. Add the mustard and paprika and blend until smooth and well combined.
  2. Scrape the liptauer into a bowl and refrigerate until firm. This will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you would like to serve a molded liptauer, line a bowl or mold with plastic wrap and press the liptauer into it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then turn the spread out onto a platter, unwrap and serve.
Notes
  1. Makes about 3 cups
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Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard DipThanksgiving involves a lot of food. But even when I know how much will end up on the table, I like to put out a little nibble for guests before the main event, while we finish cooking the turkey, have a few friendly drinks and settle in with each other. Sausage balls are one of my very favorite snacks at any time, and a great childhood memory for me and my brother, so when I can add that type of delicious nostalgia to the spread, I like to make the most of it.

This version has an immense amount of Thanksgiving appeal. They are packed with fresh sage, which just smells and tastes like the holiday. Nutty gruyere replaces the traditional cheddar to amp up the autumn flavor and cream cheese keeps them rich. I couldn’t resist adding another seasonal touch with a cranberry mustard dip, which, by the way, is also a great spread on leftover turkey sandwiches.

And of course, they also make a great breakfast for the holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving Sausage Bites with Cranberry Mustard Dip
Yields 30
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For the Sausage Bites
  1. 8 ounces cream cheese
  2. 1 pound sausage meat
  3. 4 ounces grated gruyere cheese
  4. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (like Bell’s)
  7. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  12. 2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Dip
  1. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  2. ½ a red onions, chopped (about ½ cup)
  3. ½ cup honey
  4. ½ cup water
  5. ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  6. ¼ cup Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Place the cream cheese, sausage and gruyere in the large bowl of a stand mixer and leave to come to room temperature, about one hour. This makes the dough easier to blend.
  2. Using the paddle attachment, blend the sausage and cheese mixture a few minutes to break everything up. Add the sage, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt, garlic, pepper, celery salt and paprika and blend until everything is distributed through the sausage. Add the flour and blend until everything comes together in a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until the balls are golden brown and cooked through.
  4. The uncooked balls can be placed on a waxed paper lined tray and frozen until hard. Transfer to a ziptop bag and keep in the freezer for three months. Cook from frozen, increasing the cooking time by about 10 minutes.
  5. Make about 30 balls
  6. For the Dip
  7. Put the cranberries, onion, honey, water and ground mustard in a large pot and cook over medium high heat until the cranberries burst and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to scrape down the sides of the pan and to prevent catching on the bottom.
  8. Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the Dijon mustard and blend (holding the top of the blender with a tea towel) until you have a smooth puree.
  9. The dip will keep cooled and covered in the fridge for one week.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard

A recipe developer asks a lot of questions. It’s the best way to learn the secrets of cooking – the little tips and hints and tricks people use, things they learned from mothers, grandmothers and aunts, secrets from fathers, advice from magazines, cookbooks and the back of boxes, or lessons learned from failure. So I ask questions. In restaurants, stores, markets, from neighbors, friends and strangers. Thus this cake. I was in a bakery in London having tea on a rainy day, and the very sweet waitress said that on a gloomy day, one should always have a piece of cake. I had to agree and asked for recommendations. She suggested the apple cake – with the caveat that it was her second favorite apple cake, as her mother made the absolute best version. So I asked her to describe her mother’s cake. What struck me was the apples. Her mother, she assured me, peeled and chopped the apples and tossed them with sugar and cinnamon and let them sit for hours, until they produced their own syrup. She then put the apples on top of a simple butter cake and drizzled the juices over. I was intrigued, and wrote the idea in my little travel notebook.

The waitress was Swedish, working at the bakery while she studied at university in London. I could tell describing her mother’s cake made her a little wistful for home. I don’t know if this method is typically Swedish or the whole-cloth invention of her mother, but I knew it was an idea I had to try for myself. As I was in London at the time I learned about this method, I thought I would add a classic British custard sauce – no British dessert is complete without it!

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard
Serves 8
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For the Vanilla Custard
  1. 2 cups milk
  2. ½ a vanilla bean
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4. ½ cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
For the Cake
  1. 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  4. ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  5. 3 baking apples
  6. 5 Tablespoons butter, softened
  7. 3 eggs
  8. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. ¼ cup milk
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Custard
  1. Put the milk in a medium saucepan and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into it. Heat over medium just until small bubbles appear around the edges and on the surface.
  2. While the milk is heating, mix the yolks, sugar and corn starch together in a medium mixing bowl. When the milk is warm, slowly drizzle a little into the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time, then continue to whisk in the milk slowly until well combined and smooth. Pour the custard back into the sauce pan and heat over medium, stirring frequently until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Pour the custard through a sieve back into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cold. This can be made up to one day ahead.
For the Cake
  1. Mix 3 tablespoons of sugar, the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves together in a medium sized bowl. One at a time, peel and core the apples and chop into small cubes, dropping them into the bowl and tossing with the sugar mixture to coat completely. Leave the apples, completely coated in the sugar, to sit for several hours, until some juices have been released (I usually wait about 4 hours, longer is fine).
  2. When ready to bake the cake, preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour and baking powder, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Spread the apple pieces over the top of the batter, pressing them into the cake a little, then drizzle over the accumulated juices. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool at least 20 minutes, then release it from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake can be made one day ahead.
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Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread

Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread

We are moving (slowly, but surely. It was 99° here this week) toward soup and stew season. And when we get there, it’s always nice to serve a fresh loaf of bread alongside a bowl. I only breakout my yeast bread making skills on rare occasions, and certainly not on a busy weeknight. So a good, hearty quick bread recipe is a nice compromise. Simple Irish style Soda Bread is a uncomplicated way to have a fresh loaf on the table. And I always feel exceedingly accomplished when I serve homemade bread, no matter how easy it was to make!

Here, I add some vegetables and a dose of cheese, to really amp up the flavor and interest of this relatively simple loaf. Whole wheat bread adds a nice nuttiness and chew, with the all-purpose flour keeping the crumb light. Mayonnaise adds a little tang, and the rich flavors of Worcestershire sauce add a nice depth. Sometimes I add some chopped herbs to this as well, if I happen to have some around. I love this warm from the oven with a nice swipe of butter melting into the nooks and crannies. It’s also very good with an aged cheddar cheese, so it works alongside a cheese platter. And of course, it is perfect with a warm bowl of comforting soup.

Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread
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Ingredients
  1. Cheesy Vegetable Soda Bread
  2. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon salt
  6. ¼ cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  7. 4 ounces zucchini, grated
  8. 4 ounces carrot, grated
  9. 2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  10. 1 egg
  11. 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  12. 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flours, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumble. Add the zucchini, carrots and cheese and pulse to combine, then add the egg, mayonnaise and Worcestershire until you have a rough, shaggy dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet and use your clean, damp hands to shape it into a round about 2-inches thick. Use a sharp knife to cut a few slashes in the top of the bread – it looks pretty if you do it in a crisscross pattern.
  4. Bake the bread for 40 – 50 minutes until firm, golden and cook through. Serve warm slathered with good butter.
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Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

In the kitchen, excess is often the mother of invention and this recipe is a perfect example of that principle. I went overboard buying fresh strawberries, and decided to bake them into something delicious before the overflow went bad. I hadn’t made muffins in awhile, so that seemed like a good idea. As I gathered my ingredients, I found some rosemary left from another cooking project and though why not? After I baked up the muffins, I still had a few berries and a stalk of rosemary left, so I whipped up this delicious butter to go with the muffins.

These muffins are not too sweet and have a subtle whiff of rosemary. A sprinkle of rosemary sugar on the top gives a nice sugary-crackle. This butter is delicious on anything (think popovers or waffles), so you may find yourself making it for other uses.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter
Yields 12
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For the Muffins
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary needles
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  5. ¾ cup buttermilk
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 ½ teas;oon baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. ¼ teaspoon salt
  10. 1 cup diced strawberries
For the Butter
  1. ½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons of rosemary sugar (leftover from the muffins)
  3. ¼ cup diced strawberries
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar and rosemary in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and pulse until the rosemary is finely ground and blended with the sugar.
  3. Cark the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the melted and cooled butter and the buttermilk until well combined. Stir in ½ cup of the rosemary sugar, then stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until combined and there are no dry ingredients visible. Fold in the diced strawberries.
  4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (I like to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop). Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon of the rosemary sugar over the top of each muffin, then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the Butter
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Ad the sugar and strawberries and blend until smooth. The butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel FrostingNothing is quite so simply satisfying as a good brownie. Even the plainest, unadorned chocolate bite can fulfill the needs of any sweet tooth craving. But the simple brownie can also be a brilliant canvas for creativity, taking on stir-in surprises, creamy frostings or decadent drizzles. Serving a plate of brownies at a party or to family and friends always gets a lively response. So I like to mix it up sometimes – take the simple brownie concept to a new and indulgent level.My penchant for baking with buttermilk comes into play here, making these rich chocolate treats tangy and ultra-moist. I add some Southern flair with a rich frosting of caramel set off with a good kick of bourbon.

These brownies are easy to make – they only use one pan and the 13 by 9 inch size makes sure there are plenty to go around (even a few to squirrel away for yourself). You can use the same pan for the caramel, but I have found that transferring it to a mixer makes for a smoother, fluffier icing over beating it in by hand. The rich, buttery notes of the caramel, enhanced by a generous tot of earthy bourbon, is a revelation. I’m sure I’ll find many uses for it.

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting
Yields 20
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For the Brownies
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  4. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  5. 2 cups granulated sugar
  6. 1 cup all purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  8. ½ cup buttermilk
  9. 2 eggs
For the Frosting
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. ½ cup heavy cream
  3. 4 Tablespoons bourbon, divided
  4. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13-inch brownie pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Place the butter, water, cocoa powder and bourbon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in the sugar until combined, then add the flour and baking soda and stir until thoroughly combined. Measure the buttermilk in a 2-cup jug, then beat in the eggs. Add this to the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan.
For the Frosting
  1. Place the butter, cream, 2 Tablespoons of the bourbon and the brown sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a slow boil and cook for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the cooked caramel into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth, then add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of bourbon, the remaining 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and the salt and beat until smooth. Spread the batter over the cooled brownies and leave to set for at a few hours.
  3. Cut the brownies into generous squares
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Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Spiced and seasoned roasted nuts are a great pleasure. The problem I’ve always encountered was baking them in the oven without burning them, or at least some of the nuts on the baking sheet. Nuts contain flavorful oils that can scorch easily. I’ve come across several recipes for cooking nuts in the slow cooker and the idea made total sense to me. Large quantities without the fear of burning. So I adapted a favorite seasoning mixture to the slow cooker method and it has become a favorite. Stirring the nuts into a seasoned butter right in the crock is simple, and the even heat brings out the flavor of the pecans and prevents burning. While this is not a totally hands-off slow cooker recipe, it is easy to have these going while you attend to other tasks. Set a timer for 30 minutes and give them a stir.

This recipe makes a big batch of nuts, so there are plenty to wrap up and give away and still have lots to snack on. These will also keep for several weeks in an airtight container, which makes them particularly handy for holiday gifts or drop-in guests.

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. ½ cup granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup light brown sugar
  4. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  5. 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  7. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  8. a few dashes cayenne pepper to taste
  9. 2 pounds pecan halves
Instructions
  1. Spray the crock of slow cooker with cooking spray and turn the cooker to high. Cut the butter into pieces and place it in the slow cooker and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until the butter is melted. Stir in the sugars and spices until combined, then stir in the pecans until they are all well coated. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 2 hours, stirring well every 30 minutes, then uncover the cooker and cook for a further hour, stirring frequently.
  2. Spread the pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Taste one and if you think it needs more salt, sprinkle some over. As the nuts cool, separate any clusters with a fork.
  3. Once cool, these will keep in an airtight container for up to a month.
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Whole Lemon Squares

Whole Lemon Squares

My mom made great lemon squares. I say did, because she just doesn’t do it anymore. They were her go to take-along to school events and family functions, and a special treat for us. She had volunteered to bring lemon squares to a school field trip for me when I was in elementary school, but shortly before the scheduled date, she broke her leg and was completely laid up. But she worried about those squares, and insisted that my Dad and I make them the night before. My Dad was a very good cook, and I was getting there, but we made a complete mess of it. The lemony filling never set up, so our cookie base turned hard as a rock. We even tried a second batch to equally disastrous results. I can’t remember how my Dad remedied the situation (probably stopped at the bakery on the way to school), but the experience scared me off of lemon squares for many a year.

I make a wonderful Blender Lemon Pie that’s uses a whole lemon, peel and all, to great results. Its an old community cookbook recipe, so when I ran across a recipe for lemon squares using whole lemons in another community cookbook, I worked up my courage to try again. And then they became a sort of go to for me as well. My mom even asks me to make them for her. This version has all the sweet-tart tanginess of classic lemon squares, but not the wobbly texture from a filling that uses more eggs. This method takes a lot of guesswork out of the baking and yields easily perfect results.

As with the Blender Lemon pie, the lemons are best with a thin skin, which can be kind of hard to tell when buying them. Too much white pith makes the filling bitter. Look at the pointy end of the lemon – if it’s very elongated, there is likely to be a thick skin. If the skin feels tough and hard, as opposed to having some give when you press on it, it’s likely to be thick. You can poke through with your fingernail to see what you’re looking at. Buy a couple of lemons with appropriate skins. Cut into them and use the thinnest skinned one. Use any other lemon for you gin and tonic. No great loss.

Whole Lemon Squares
Yields 16
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  2. ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  3. 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. 2 medium lemons
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 brownie pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place 2 cups of the flour, the confectioners’ sugar, the butter and the salt in the bowl of a mixer and blend until combined but crumbly. Scatter the crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and press evenly into a uniform crust. Bake for 20 minutes until firm and golden in places.
  3. Cut each lemon into eighths and pop out all the seeds. Drop the lemon pieces in a blender and add 2 eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Blend until smooth and the lemons are pureed, then add the remaining 2 eggs and 1 cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour and the baking powder and blend until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe if needed.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust in an even layer and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is set and no longer jiggly in the center. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle a thick layer of confectioners’ sugar through a sieve in an even layer over the bars. When completely cool, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper, then cut into squares.
  5. The bars will keep covered for up to a day. If not serving right away, I wait to cut them into squares and sprinkle some more confectioners’ sugar on before serving.
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Red Pepper Relish

Red Pepper Relish

I love good pepper jelly, the wobbly kind with little bits of pepper suspended in the jar. The kind ladies used to bring to the Christmas party to serve over cream cheese, the jar topped with a pretty little cloth circle. And as much as I love canning, jelly, made with exact amounts of liquid and pectin, are a little bit out of my league. So when I saw this simple recipe in a community cookbook, I wanted to try it, as it seemed to have everything that would produce the flavor of a good pepper jelly. In the cookbook, the recipe was titled Red Pepper Hash, but I don’t think that term really describes what this is and when I once labeled a jar red pepper jam, I could tell the recipient was very skeptical. So I went with relish. I think I like this better than classic jelly. It has more character, with body and heft and a nice tang from the vinegar, perfectly balanced with sugar. This has become a yearly ritual for me, because it is often requested by friends. I have one friend who squeals every time I give her a jar, and she keeps it hidden for her own personal use.

Try this on a burger instead of ketchup for a really interesting twist. In fact it is good on any kind of sandwich. I often serve it with a board of Southern cheeses and locally made charcuterie, but my favorite use is still poured over cream cheese. I just like to make the cream cheese from scratch now too.

Red Pepper Relish
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Ingredients
  1. 12 red bell peppers
  2. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  3. 2 cups cider vinegar
  4. 2 cups granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs from the peppers and cut the flesh into chunks. In about three batches, place the pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all the peppers are finely chopped. Scrape each batch into a colander set over a large bowl. When all the peppers are in the colander, stir in the salt and leave to drain overnight. Cover the colander with a tea towel.
  2. When ready to make the relish, place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. You’ll use this this to test the set of the jam later. Then get your jars clean. You will need 3 half-pint mason jars. I always clean a couple of extra just in case. I clean the jars and the rings in the dishwasher, and leave them in there with the door closed to stay warm. You can’t put the lids in the dishwasher, it will ruin them.
  3. While you relish is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing in a canner. When the relish is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. Scrape the drained pepper pulp into a large pot and stir in the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thick and jammy, about 30 – 40 minutes, stirring frequently, and more at the end as the relish thickens. Watch carefully, as the cooking time can vary depending on the density and moisture in the peppers. If there are any large pieces of pepper in the pot, you can use an immersion blender to break them up.
  5. When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jam on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
  6. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the relish, leaving a ½ inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands tightly, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra relish, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  7. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  8. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Notes
  1. I like to can some of this is small 4-ounce jars, which is a perfect serving for a cheese plate.
  2. Don’t throw away the juice drained from the peppers – use it to add verve to Bloody Marys, gazpacho or tomato soup. You can even freeze it in ice cube trays to add a lift cooking anytime.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/