Pantry

 

My first encounter with gomasio was in the mid 60’s when a macrobiotic diet, popularized by Micho Kushi in the mid 1950’s, was embraced by those seeking an alternative lifestyle in the “ Age of Aquarius” and the Woodstock generation that followed. I again dabbled with macrobiotic cooking with my neighbors while living in the Netherlands and have included some aspects of  macrobiotic ideas into my cookery ever since those colorfully spirited halcyon days of youth, discovery, and change.  

Gomashiro / gomasio dates back centuries in Japan. The recipe is quite simple. All that is required is toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, a traditional ceramic suribachi, a wooden pestle, and some elbow grease.

Gomashiro / Gomasio

Gomashiro / Gomasio

There are times when only a hand tool will do to achieve the desired results you strive for. Guacamole comes to mind using a traditional wooden Mexican bean masher or making making Gomasio using a traditional Japanese suribachi.

The ridged ceramic suribachi dates back to the 6th century in Japan and, sure enough, a mostly unchanged traditional design is available on Amazon at a very reasonable price. I urge you to purchase one. The ritual of hand grinding various seeds and spices preserves the flavor and texture that an electric spice grinder would quickly over process and scorch the flavor in the process. You also have the satisfaction of being an integral part of the process as well as having one of those Zen moments that makes cooking ever so fulfilling!

Gomasio is used to season almost anything you would normally season with salt. The nutty saltiness brightens up a salad, vegetables, omelets, soups, meats, fish, rice, grains, stir-fry, sushi, and on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

    No exact recipe required and let your creativity reign free!

 

 

Pictured is a gomasio made with toasted sesame seeds ( click here for recipe), flaked sea salt, and toasted nori seaweed which is optional.

Grind the sesame seeds to break them down and then add the salt and grind until combined.

If using toasted seaweed, crumble before adding to the gomasio and then grind to incorporate.

 

Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

This rich buttery caramel sauce is so good you will find yourself sneaking off to the fridge with spoon in hand for a discreet indulgence. Friends have begged for the recipe and I have even done a couple kitchen classes for friends so they could make this caramel sauce at home. Believe me, this salted caramel sauce is unctuously satisfying !

So, with the holidays fast approaching, this caramel sauce is an irresistible embellishment to consider for all sorts of holiday treats as well as a perfect larder gift for friends.

The recipe is very easy, but a practice run is probably a good idea as it may be a little challenging for the uninitiated. That said, if you follow the steps as described in the recipe you will be successful on your very first go at it.

 

Salted Caramel Sauce    makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz 85 g) salted butter, cubed
  • ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream, well warmed 
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon flaked sea salt

Best to use a large heavy bottomed saucepan ( 4 quart or larger) with high sides as there is some bubbling up as the butter sugar mixture heats up and caramelizes.

Step 1  Melt the butter and sugar together in the saucepan set over medium heat while stirring continuously.

Step 2  Continue to cook the butter and sugar together, stirring continuously. The mixture will go through several stages, including bubbling up, separating, and finally coming together and smoothing out as the color begins to deepen. Be patient this will take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Once the mixture begins to color the process will speed up quickly. For a light colored caramel you want to promptly proceed to step 3 just before the mixture begins to smoke. If you prefer a deeper amber caramel with an almost nutty flavor you want to stop the cooking when the mixture is just beginning to smoke. There is a fine line at this juncture between browned and burnt caramel sauce so best to be cautious.

Step 3  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and begin adding the warmed cream while stirring continuously. The sauce will bubble up at first and then smooth out as you continue stirring until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt and continue to stir until the sauce until completely smooth and silky.

Allow the sauce to cool before storing in a clean glass jar with lid. When completely cool store in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve warm the sauce in a water bath or in the microwave to a spoonable consistency before serving .

The sauce stored in a lidded jar will last for months in the refrigerator, though I doubt this will be an issue!

 

Butter Pecan cookies

Butter Pecan cookies

 

Pecans are the nuts harvested from native hickory trees found throughout the north, northeastern ,southern, and southern south western United States, and Mexico. Pecans have been a part of the native American diet long before European explorers arrived in the Americas. These elegant native hickory trees can grow over a hundred feet tall and live for more than a thousand years. The name pecan comes from the Algonquin Indian word pacane, meaning a nut that needs to be cracked with a stone.

Thomas Jefferson planted native hickory trees at his home “Monticello” in Virginia and shared some of his hickory nuts with George Washington who planted them at his Mount Vernon home.

The first successful grafting of native hickory trees was done by a slave gardener named Antoine at Oak Alley Plantation in Southern Louisiana around 1846 and a pecan industry was born. Today Georgia, Louisianan, and Texas produce about 80% of the world’s pecan supply, while Mexico produces the remaining 20%.

Pecans still reign supreme with home cooks and bakers throughout the American south. Favorite recipes include southern pecan pies, pecan pralines from New Orleans, pecans topping baked sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinners, and of course butter pecan ice cream and gilato. All these southern delights go hand in hand with hickory wood smoked Texas barbecues, a Louisiana Cajun gumbo or jambalaya, or a Gulf Coast shrimp crab and crayfish boil. This is real southern food you’ve got to love!

Pecans pack a load of healthy benefits as well. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Organic pecans are available from specialty shops and online. Pecans are a must have essential to keep on hand in your larder. Pecans are delicious roasted and salted, dded to salads, ground for coating baked poultry or fish, and of course for heavenly baked goods.

These butter pecan cookies are easy to make and a perfect accompaniment when served with a butter pecan gelato or for a summery peach and strawberry pecan short cake.

 

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

Butter Pecan cookie shortcake

 

Butter Pecan Cookies     makes 24 cookies

preheat oven to 350 f/180 c with the rack set in the middle position

Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with parchment

Ingredients:

For the pecans:

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter 
  • 1½ cups whole pecan halves
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar

For the cookies:

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon flaked / or kosher salt

To prepare pecans melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the butter begins to color. Then lower the heat a bit and continue swilling the butter until it is a medium amber color. Add the brown sugar and swirl the pan until the sugar has melted. Promptly remove the pan from the heat and add the pecans. Gently turn the pecans in the browned butter until evenly coated. Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.

Then give the pecans another turn in the butter mixture, and pick out the pecans and spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer to the preheated oven and toast the pecans for about 8 minutes. 

Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and set aside to cool. Once the pecans have cooled set 24 pecans aside to use later. Then chop the remaining pecans and set them aside to use for the cookie dough later.

For the cookies:

Place the unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer whip the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Place the egg in a small bowl along with the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.

Combine the flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined.

With the mixer set on low speed add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Ad the remaining flour mixture in two additions until combined. Scrape off the excess dough on the mixer blades and add to the dough.

Then using a silicone spatula fold the chopped pecans into the dough until evenly combined.

Take two tablespoons of the dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to form an even ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Form the remaining dough into balls and place them on the baking sheet, allowing about 3 inches between each ball of dough, generally 9 to 12 cookies to a tray.

Gently flatten the balls of dough just slightly and top with a pecan placed in the center of each cookie.

Transfer the cookies to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the tray after 5 minutes to insure even baking. The cookies will be lightly browned and will be soft, but not to worry. They will firm up as they cool. Be mindful of your timing s over backing will dry the cookies out!

Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to firm up. Then transfer them to a cooling rack and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Store the cooled cookies in an air tight container for several days or refrigerate for longer storage.

Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Butter

Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Butter

 

Apple butter is essentially a slow cooked apple sauce with a few spices thrown in. As the applesauce cooks the sugar from the apples caramelizes and reduces into a thick deep amber “butter.” Traditionally spread on breads in place of butter, thus the name apple “butter.”

Apple butter is a household staple where I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch (Deuitch) country although its origins are rooted in Europe. In Germany it is called Apfel Kraut, and in the Netherlands Appel Stroop.

Apple butter recipes came to America with German speaking Lutherans, Reformed, and Anti-baptist religious groups from Germany, France, and Switzerland when they immigrated to the United states in late 17th century. The settlers chose Southeastern Pennsylvania for is rich soil that was suitable for the farming practices they used in Europe. Both Amish and Mennonite farm communities were established which exist, mostly unchanged, to this day. Not only did these settlers introduce their sustainable farming methods in Pennsylvania, but also their hearty Pennsylvania Dutch cooking!

Apple Pie with Apple Butter

Apple Pie with Apple Butter

Apple butter is actually very easy to make and has endless applications beyond being spread on bread which is irresistibly good by the way. It is also a heady addition to pies, pastries, slow roasted meats, BBQ sauces, salad dressings, or served along with farm made cheeses. Try adding apple butter tossed in with your apples the next time you’re baking an apple pie. The results are transformative!

Traditionally apple butter is “put up” in the fall on Pennsylvania Dutch farms to last until the next apple harvest. Likewise, this is one pantry staple you will find you will want to have on hand year round, I promise.

 

Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Butter     

Makes about 3 cups

  • 2 lbs./1 kilo firm crisp juicy apples
  • 2 cups/500ml apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (or other variety)  Note: about Saigon Cinnamon (click here)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Peel, core, quarter, and chop the apples and place them in a nonreactive oven proof braising pan. Add the cider (or apple juice), the brown sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Place over medium heat on the stove top and when simmering partially cover the pan and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 250f/130c

Remove the pan from the stove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then blend the apples along with the liquid using a hand held immersion blender, or transfer the apples and liquid to a blender, and blend until the mixture is completely smooth with the consistency of apple sauce.

Stir in the lemon juice, cinnamon, and cloves until combined and transfer the pan to the oven, uncovered, and bake for several hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The mixture will slowly turn an amber color as the sugar caramelizes and the liquid reduces. I’ve found it generally takes about 3 hours, but every oven is different, so keep an eye on it until apple butter reaches a deep amber color with a thick spreadable consistency.

Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

For storage: Sterilize a couple of jars along with their lids with boiling water. Spoon the apple butter into the jars, seal tightly, and refrigerate for up to about a month.

For longer storage follow standard hot water bath canning procedures and when sealed and cooled to room temperature, store in a dark place in your pantry for up to a year.

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