Outrageous Roasted Rosemary Cashews

Warning: these nuts can become are addictive!

Even the reject batches turned into something absolutely wonderful.

I had been served roasted rosemary cashews twice, both times at The Nashville Food Project’s Patron’s Party for Nourish. I was smitten! After this year’s event, I cruised the Internet for a recipe and found that superstar chefs like Ina and Nigella and a slew of others had been writing about these “bar nuts” from the Union Square Cafe in New York City for years. I had to make them.

A few words about the ingredients:

The Nuts. I made this recipe using one-pound bags of raw (unroasted), unsalted, cashews from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The pound bags cost $7.99 at both stores. Be forewarned — raw, unsalted, cashews are hard to find at traditional grocery stores. At the Union Square Cafe, they use a combination of raw nuts.

Kosher Salt versus Table Salt. If you use kosher salt, you will need to add more salt. Kosher salt has larger crystals than table salt. Thus the salt takes up more volume but has less weight in a measuring spoon. Plan on using 1¼ to 1½ tablespoons of kosher salt to 1 tablespoon of regular salt.

Kosher salt has larger crystals because historically it was manufactured for “koshering” meat, a process where large crystals of salt were rubbed onto meat to remove surface blood. If table salt had been used, it might have been absorbed by the meat. Eventually, the name “koshering salt” was reduced to kosher salt.

Olive oil versus Butter. I  tried using olive oil instead of butter, but the seasonings wouldn’t stick to the nuts.

Yield: 6½ cups
Preheat oven to 350º

Ingredients:

2 pounds whole, raw, unsalted cashews
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (from about ⅔ ounce of sprigs)
½ -¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on how much heat you like
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt (if using kosher salt, you will need to use 1¼ to 1½ tablespoons)
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mise en Place:

Instructions:

Pour nuts into a large, rimmed, baking pan in a single layer. Roast for 10-12 minutes until very lightly browned.

Meanwhile, measure the seasonings and mince the fresh rosemary.

Melt the butter and add to the bowl of seasonings. Stir.

Immediately after removing nuts from oven, pour nuts into a large bowl and add the seasoning mixture. You could add the butter mixture directly to the pan and toss, but the nuts tend to spill out as you stir and much of the seasoning stays on the bottom of the pan. I think it’s better to mix in a bowl.

Let flavors meld for about ten minutes, occasionally stirring to distribute the seasonings evenly. Your house will smell divine. Serve warm or allow nuts to cool by spreading them in a roasting pan.

These nuts make great holiday and hostess gifts.

Roasted Rosemary Cashew Nut Butter

What did I do with my reject batches of roasted cashews? I tried making nut butter for the first time using my Vitamix processor. The results were amazing!! I’m so thrilled to have made something new that is so tasty. I processed the three pounds of nuts for only two minutes.
 

P.S. The seasoning mixture is yummy on popcorn.

Related Snack Recipes:
Roasted Tamari Almonds (and growing soybeans)
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful,  Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
Cooking Popcorn in a Brown Paper Bag

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

How to Make Greek Yogurt at Home

I recently stopped by my daughter-in-law’s house to visit her mother, Viji, and her grandmother, Hema. Knowing how much I love her cooking, Viji, whose kindness and generosity know no bounds, asked if I was hungry and offered to prepare a bowl of biryani and rice for me. I gratefully accepted.

Usually, when Viji makes biryani, she serves it with a bowl of raita, a refreshing yogurt-based condiment that tempers the spices in biryani. This time, Viji offered a bowl of plain yogurt (known as perugu in Telugu) which she often serves over rice and curries. I scooped up a few spoonfuls and poured them over the biryani. As I licked the spoon, I was struck by how sweet, tangy, and light her batch of yogurt tasted. It was unlike any yogurt I had had before. I asked Viji what brand it was and she told me she made it herself. As soon as she said the yogurt was homemade, my hand was already searching the depths of my purse for a pen and a piece of paper. I had to learn how to do this.

Viji explained how making yogurt was something she and her family have been doing almost daily their entire lives, both in India and in the United States. In describing how she made it, she didn’t use off-putting words like “live cultures,” “starter,” or “fermentation.” Instead, she told me simply to heat milk in a microwave until just before it starts to boil, allow it to cool until you could comfortably stick your finger in it (not scalding and not lukewarm — somewhere in between). When it got to that temperature, I was to add a spoonful of yogurt from the last yogurt batch, stir it, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the warmed microwave to set undisturbed overnight; it would be yogurt in the morning.

She sent me home me with a small jar of yogurt for “starter” and an encouraging smile. Here is a photo of Viji and our daughter, Meera, from a cooking class they taught to Meera’s friends a few years ago.

I made my first batch that same evening. When I checked the microwave the following morning, the preparation had thickened. I had made yogurt! I felt so accomplished. Surprisingly, it tasted exactly like Viji’s batch: sweet, light and tangy. Delicious in its plainness. Out of sheer delight in creating something as universally known as yogurt,  I proceeded to share a few spoonfuls with everyone who walked in the door for the next few weeks.

How does milk become yogurt?

Milk is made of water, fat, proteins, minerals, and a milk sugar known as lactose. When the milk is heated, its native bacteria are killed. As the milk cools and the new, live bacteria in the starter culture are introduced, the new bacteria feed on the milk’s lactose (sugar) and turn it into lactic acid. As it does this, the milk is transformed, or ferments, into a soft curd — yogurt.

It is a very simple and time-honored process. People have been making yogurt, kefir, and cheese from milk, using bacteria, yeast, or fungi, for thousands of years to preserve milk’s shelf life. It is only in the last one hundred plus years, with the advent of refrigeration, that people have been able to store milk in liquid form in their homes.

The Starter Culture
You can make your own yogurt using a starter culture that has been given to you, as I did, or you can buy commercially prepared yogurt with “live” or “active” cultures from the grocery store. To make this recipe replicable for readers,  I purchased four different commercial brands of plain, unsweetened yogurt to test the process and each brand worked. As long as the container of yogurt has these two live bacterial strains listed, you will be able to make yogurt: Lactobacillus bulgaricus ( L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus). Other strands of bacteria are often added by manufacturers to create the unique taste and texture of each brand.

This label is from a container of Trader Joe’s plain yogurt.

This label is from a container of Desi, a nice plain yogurt I bought at Patel Brothers, a fabulous Indian grocery store on Nolensville Road in Nashville.

All four brands of yogurt produced a semi-solid yogurt that tasted identical to the batch from which the starter came. Words to the wise: be sure you like the taste of the plain yogurt you choose because that is how your homemade batch will taste.

The Milk
Any whole or reduced-fat milk will do. You could also use soy or coconut milk, although I have not tried these.

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
1 tablespoon plain yogurt with live cultures

Instructions:
Pour milk into a tempered glass bowl suitable for heating.

Heat milk uncovered in the microwave, or on the stovetop, until it reaches 180º. In my microwave, this takes nine minutes. If you do not have a digital thermometer, heat milk until it just begins to boil. Do not let it boil over.

Remove hot milk from the microwave to a padded surface and allow it to cool to 115º.

Add a spoonful of yogurt starter and stir. I add one tablespoonful of starter when using four cups of milk and a heaping teaspoon when using two cups. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and let rest, undisturbed, for 8-10 hours in a warm, dark place like a microwave, an oven, or on a shelf in a kitchen cabinet.

If it doesn’t set, let it sit a little while longer. For some reason, it took twelve hours for one of the brands to form a curd. I am not sure why, but it did eventually set. Once set, refrigerate the yogurt. Be sure to set aside a small amount to use as starter for the next batch!

Yogurt Cheese (aka Labneh and Greek-Style Yogurt)

Since making that first batch, I’ve started draining yogurt to make “cheese yogurt.” This process of draining yogurt to separate out the whey is also how Greek yogurt and labneh, a Lebanese cream cheese, are made.

The resulting soft cheese is delicious spread on bread and topped with honey or preserves.

Or, it can be served as a savory dish and spread on pita or toast and topped with olive oil, freshly chopped herbs, slivers of green onion, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper. The flavor is amazing!

To make yogurt cheese, I place a cheesecloth over a fat-separator which has a built-in colander. You could also line a regular colander with cheesecloth.

Allow yogurt to drain for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

This method produced two cups of whey and two cups of yogurt cheese from a four-cup batch of yogurt.

I’ve been making two batches of this yogurt cheese, which is rich in protein and calcium, every week for the last month. Our family cannot get enough of it. The good news is if you don’t feel like making your own yogurt, you could buy commercially prepared yogurt and drain it.

Toast and yogurt cheese are delicious served with one of these preserves, too:
Roasted Strawberry with Rosemary Preserves
Crabapple Jelly
Grape Jelly

 

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

How to Cook Popcorn in a Paper Bag

I had no idea you could do this.

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Last week, I visited my friend, Nicole Maynard, author of a seductive new blog called, Our Year of Eating Local.  Nicole is a wife and the mother of two children. Together, their family of four is all in on a journey of eating locally sourced food every other week for one year. Her goals are “to raise awareness of the impact of our food choices on the environment, to better support local farmers and makers, and in so doing, to heal our planet.” She defines local as being within a 100-mile radius of 37215.

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While I sipped a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, Nicole prepared locally grown popcorn in the microwave. I was in the middle of asking her where she had sourced the popcorn when she opened a BROWN PAPER BAG full of popcorn, poured it into a serving bowl, and placed it on the table. I interrupted her mid-sentence: “Wait a sec. Did you just cook popcorn in a lunch bag?” I was incredulous.

“Yes.”

“Did you use oil?”

“No.”

So, no special type of non-flammable paper bag, no oil in the bag to make the corn pop, and no additives to season, improve the color or preserve the popcorn. As if to add an exclamation point to my surprise, Nicole nonchalantly drizzled a light California olive oil over it and a little salt. It was perfectly prepared popcorn, simply made, and at a fraction of the cost of store-bought microwave popcorn bags.

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I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up lunch bags.

How to cook popcorn in a brown paper bag.

Yield: 3½-4 cups popped corn (per 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce of corn)

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
1 brown paper lunch bag

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Instructions:

Place kernels in a paper bag. Fold bag top down three or four times. Do not use a staple. I recommend not using any oil, either; the kernels will pop perfectly well without it.

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Place bag upright in the microwave and use the “Time Cook” button to enter 1:50 seconds. This is the amount of time it takes to cook 2 tablespoons of popcorn in my microwave. Every microwave machine’s wattage is different so you may need to experiment with the cook time on yours.

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When you notice a slowdown of kernels popping, take the bag out. Don’t try to cook every last kernel or you will likely end up with a clump of muddy-colored, smoldering popped corn in the center of the bag. If it gets to this point, it might be best to toss the bag out, start over and cook for 15 seconds less the next time.

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You could add a little mild olive oil or melted butter and salt to the bag, shake it up, and have a “to go” single-serving snack. I tried the California extra virgin olive oil recommended by Nicole and liked it on the popcorn. It was much lighter in flavor than the Spanish olive oils I typically use.

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What Makes Corn Pop?

Popcorn kernels are seeds, and as seeds, each kernel has both water and carbohydrates in the form of starch to supply the seed with the energy needed to germinate. As the kernel heats up, the water turns to steam and the starch into a gelatinous consistency. As the temperature and pressure in the kernel rise further, the hull ruptures, the kernel explodes, the starch goo inflates, pours out, and expands like a balloon. The puffed-up goo retains its fluffy shape as it cools and you get popped corn.

Not all varieties of corn will pop. For most varieties, the outside shell is too thick. If you want to grow corn that will pop, make sure you buy “popcorn” seeds.

Meanwhile, Nicole and I did a little bartering during our visit. I gave her a bottle of locally made sorghum syrup (Cerulean, KY, 90 miles away) and she gave me a few bars of her homemade hand soap.

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Posts related to locally grown food:
How Canola Oil is Made (from plants grown locally)
Farming Equipment 101: Harvesting Winter Wheat
Raising Sorghum Cane to Make Sorghum Syrup
Growing Sweet Potatoes at Delvin Farms

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Brie Bites with Preserves and Toasted Spicy Pecans

Last night I went to a holiday party for my tennis group. Everyone was asked to bring an appetizer. I knew my day would be packed with errands, but I didn’t fret because as long as I have phyllo shells in the freezer and brie in the fridge, I can whip up a tray of warm Brie Bites in just fifteen minutes!

Having two or three boxes of pre-cooked Athens Phyllo Mini-Shells in the freezer and a round of brie in the fridge during the holidays is the key to being able to make this appetizer, with the topping of your choice, at a moment’s notice.

Here the cups are filled with a pat of brie.

My Favorite Toppings:

I LOVE the combination of brie and fig preserves. If I still have a jar of Roasted Fig Preserves in the fridge, I’ll top the brie with that. A reasonable facsimile, available in most grocery stores or on Amazon, is a jar of this burst of deliciousness:

During the holidays, I typically have some of Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney in the fridge, and I often top the brie with that. If not, I keep a jar of my tennis friend Leigh Oakley’s Oakley’s Spreadalicious Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly in the cupboard for last-minute appetizers. It is also good poured over a log of warm goat cheese, sprinkled with toasted, sliced almonds, and topped with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves for color.

My friend and fabulous cook, Mindy, makes her brie bites with Oakley’s Spreadalicious topped with yummy, lightly salted, toasted pecans. The mix of spicy-sweet pepper jelly, toasted spicy pecans, earthy brie, and crunchy phyllo shell is crazy good!

Here is how to make Mindy’s Spicy, Lightly Salted Toasted Pecans:

Preheat oven to 300º

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Turn heat off. Add one pound of pecans. Toss until evenly coated. Add one shake of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and a sprinkle of sea salt. Toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until you can just start to smell them in the oven. They are addictive!

Instructions for Preparing the Brie Cups:

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Remove the snowy white rind that covers the wheel of brie. Or not. The rind is completely edible, and whether to leave it on or to remove it is a personal choice. I think it adds a mushroomy flavor that I’m not crazy about for this appetizer but tastes fine when I eat it unadorned on a cracker. Slice the brie into small square slices to fit in the phyllo shells. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove pan from oven.

Add a spoonful of chutney or preserves, or just a toasted pecan, or both, to the melted brie. Place sheet pan back in the oven for a minute to warm the topping. Serve warm.

Other crowd-pleasing appetizers:
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
A Quick and Easy Baked Hummus and Feta Appetizer
Roasted Tamari Almonds
Outrageous Roasted Rosemary Cashews

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram @JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.