Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holiday Spice, part 2

There are a series of Spices that are associated with the holiday.  I decided that I would share those with you in two posts.   I’ll give a small description of its uses and provide recipes to go with the spice.  Spices I have included are:
         Star Anise

The first half of the list was posted yesterday and the second half today. Enjoy! 

Star Anise (Illicium verum)

Star anise, probably the world's prettiest spice, is used widely in Asian cuisine. It also makes an unusual but delicious flavoring for poached fruits such as pears and plums.   I also use this spice in Backyard Patch Spice Cider /Mulled Wine Blend.

Buy star anise whole. One or two "stars" usually impart sufficient flavor to infuse an entire dish. To substitute star anise for anise seed in a recipe, reduce the quantity to one-half or one-third of the recipe's recommendation.

Coconut & Poached Pineapple Tartlets
3 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (such as Baker's Angel Flake, which has a fine texture)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups diced fresh pineapple (1/4-in. cubes)
1 cup pineapple juice
2 whole star anise
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon pink peppercorns (see Notes), lightly crushed
1.                    Preheat oven to 325°. Put coconut and butter in a medium bowl and stir until coconut is moist. Divide mixture evenly among tart pans and press into bottoms and up sides to form a thin shell. Put tart pans on a baking sheet and bake until shells are golden brown, rotating sheet halfway through, about 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then gently remove shells from tart pans and cool fully on a cooling rack.
2.                   In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine diced pineapple, pineapple juice, and star anise. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pineapple is tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pineapple to a bowl and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, increase heat to high and boil remaining liquid until thick and syrupy and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 2 minutes. Remove star anise and discard; refrigerate syrup, uncovered, until cooled to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
3.                   In a medium bowl, stir mascarpone and pineapple syrup together. In a separate bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Stir half the cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining cream.
4.                   Divide cream filling evenly among tart shells, smoothing it with the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula. Spoon diced pineapple over cream filling, dividing evenly. Sprinkle the top of each tart with a pinch of crushed pink peppercorn. Serve immediately.
5.                   Note: You'll need six 4 1/2-in. fluted tart pans. You can poach the diced pineapple up to a day ahead, then chill it overnight and bring it to room temperature before serving. The tart shells can also be made up to a day ahead; once they're cool, store them in a tight-sealing container so they stay crisp. Wait to whip the cream and assemble the tarts until shortly before serving. Pink peppercorns may seem like an unusual ingredient for a dessert, but their gentle spice highlights the tangy sweetness of the pineapple, and they add a dash of color.

Thanksgiving Star Cider
1/2 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
4 cups pear nectar
2 cups red wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups star anise
1/3 cup honey
star anise, fresh pear wedges, if desired
1.                   Pour 2 cups boiling water over 1/2 cup dried hibiscus blossoms (jamaica) and let steep 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm 4 cups pear nectar, 2 cups red wine, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 star anise over low heat.
2.                   Strain hibiscus infusion into a large pitcher, add pear nectar mixture, and stir in 1/3 cup honey. Serve warm in mugs. Garnish each serving with a whole star anise and fresh pear wedges if you like.

Allspice (Pimenta dioica)

As the name suggests, allspice's flavor and aroma are a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg with a touch of clove. Allspice grows primarily in Jamaica, where it is simply called "pepper" and featured prominently in jerk seasoning paste. I also use this spice in Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend.

In addition to adding deep, warm flavor to savory dishes, use ground allspice in gingerbread and other cakes and cookies. It's a good idea to buy whole allspice, which stores indefinitely in an airtight container, and grind as needed in a peppermill.

Caribbean Pork
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 large yellow plantains, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon habanero hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1.                   Combine soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and next 4 ingredients (thyme through pork); toss well to coat. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork mixture; sauté 4 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and butter to pan. Add onion, bell pepper, plantains, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until plantains are tender. Drizzle with hot sauce, and stir well. Sprinkle with cilantro.
2.                   Note: Use semiripe plantains--not green or soft, ripe black ones. The plantains brown better if not stirred too much as they cook. Look for bottled mango slices in the produce section of the supermarket.
Spiced Beef with Onion & Allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices (about 1/2 pound)
Cooking spray
4 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1.                   To prepare the beef, combine first 5 ingredients, and rub evenly over beef. Cover and chill the beef for 2 hours.
2.                   To prepare gratin, preheat oven to 400°.
3.                   Arrange potato slices in a single layer on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; coat tops of slices with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
4.                   Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients (broth through 1/4 teaspoon pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
5.                   Add cream cheese to onion mixture; stir until well blended. Stir in sour cream. Add potato slices to pan; stir gently to combine. Place mixture in a shallow 1-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, and spoon evenly over onion mixture. Lightly coat surface of gratin with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
6.                   Preheat broiler.
7.                   Place beef on broiler pan coated with cooking spray; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Nutmeg is the kernel of the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree. Each kernel comes wrapped in a lacy covering that we use separately as the spice mace. Nutmeg and mace share a warm, sweet, musky flavor suited to cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Nutmeg has an affinity with dairy, too—it is excellent in milky desserts and drinks.

Use nutmeg freshly grated or milled. Nutmeg mills pass the spice over a sharp blade, shaving off minute amounts. Except in cakes, add nutmeg toward the end of cooking to retain its evanescent aroma and warm, spicy flavor. I also use this spice in Backyard Patch [Cinnful Dessert Blend].

Carmel Apple Cheese cake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 cookie sheets)
1 tablespoon egg white
1 tablespoon water
Cooking spray
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (8-ounce) blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 3/4 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces)
Dash of nutmeg
1.                   Preheat oven to 400°.
2.                   To prepare crust, combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl; toss with a fork until moist. Press mixture lightly into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 6 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack. Wrap outside of pan with a double layer of foil. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
3.                   To prepare cheesecake, place 1 3/4 cups sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fat-free cream cheese) in food processor; process until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time; process until blended. Pour cheese mixture into prepared pan. Place springform pan in a large roasting pan; add hot water to larger pan to a depth of 1 inch.
4.                    Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove from oven; let stand in water bath 10 minutes. Run a knife around outside edge of cheesecake. Remove pan from water bath; cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
5.                   To prepare topping, combine 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons water, and lemon juice in a small, heavy saucepan; cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Cook 4 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Remove from heat. Add butter to pan; gently stir until butter melts. Stir in half-and-half. Cool slightly.
6.                   Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add apple to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in sugar mixture and nutmeg. Serve topping with cheesecake.
7.                   Note: Granny Smith apples lend a pleasant tartness, but you can substitute Rome, Braeburn, or your favorite apple variety. Make this cake the night before your gathering.

Fresh Fruit Salad with Nutmeg-Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large apple)
2 cups thinly sliced ripe pear (about 1 large pear)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup orange sections (about 1 orange)
1/2 cup sliced banana (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1.                   Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with juice; toss gently.
2.                   Combine syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon over fruit, and toss gently. Serve immediately.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zelanicum)

Cinnamon comes from the aromatic bark of a tree native to Sri Linka, India, and Burma.  It's a traditional ingredient in gingerbread, cider or mulled wine, and chocolate cakes & desserts. Cinnamon is also good with apples and pears, and tempers savory dishes like this lamb tagine. This is the main spice in Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend.

You can buy cinnamon as sticks, or ground; however, cinnamon sticks have a sweeter, subtler flavor and a longer shelf life than ground. Whole cinnamon is best ground in a clean coffee mill.

Lamb Tagine with Cinnamon
1/4 cup diced seeded Anaheim chili
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, minced
Cooking spray
1 (1 1/2-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed
3 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato purée
2 1/2 cups water
2 3/4 cups green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch-thick strips
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 cup cubed carrot
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2/3 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch strips
4 1/2 cups cooked couscous
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1.                   Preheat oven to 325°.
2.                   Combine first 8 ingredients.
3.                   Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add lamb; cook 8 minutes on all sides or until browned. Remove lamb from pan. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in half of chili mixture and tomato purée; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lamb and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.
4.                   Wrap handle of skillet with foil, and bake, covered, at 325° for 1 hour. Stir in bell pepper, squash, carrot, saffron, and cinnamon. Cover and bake an additional 40 minutes. Stir in remaining chili mixture and apricots. Cover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick; serve over couscous. Sprinkle with cilantro.
5.                   Note: Adding the spice paste in two stages gives depth and brightens the flavor. Leaving the cinnamon whole keeps its influence subtle. Moroccan tagines tend to be warmly and sweetly spiced rather than hot.
Cinnamon Sugar Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup cake flour (about 4 ounces)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (or brown sugar))
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1.                   Place granulated sugar and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add corn syrup, vanilla, and egg; beat 3 minutes or until well blended.
2.                   Lightly spoon cake flour and all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir until just combined. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
3.                   Preheat oven to 375°.
4.                   Combine turbinado sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough into 48 balls, about 1 teaspoon each. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 12 minutes or until golden on bottom. Cool on wire racks.
5.                   Note: If you prefer a slightly chewier cookie, reduce baking time to 10 minutes. A sprinkling of large-grained turbinado sugar makes a pretty presentation to attract bake sale buyers.

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