Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Canned Whole Cherries #Canbassador

I love cherries. When I was a kid, they were undoubtedly my favorite fruit. Apples and bananas were okay, but cherries were awesome.

So, when the Northwest Cherries Canbassador Program asked me if I wanted some (a lot!) of cherries, of course I said yes.

What I didn't know about cherries was how easy they are to can. Apparently cherries sit up and the tree and they say, "Hey, being in a jar would be awesome. We should make sure that we're like the perfect acidity so we can go into jars and into a hot water bath and be pretty round things in jars forever."

Or something like that.

Because when I started looking up recipes for canning whole cherries, I found out that you can use pretty much anything for the canning liquid. You don't have to add a ridiculous amount of sugar. You don't have to add lemon juice or vinegar. You can put them in fruit juice, sugar syrup, or even plain old water. Just plain water. Let that sink in.

Oh, and that's not the end of it. You can hot-pack or raw-pack and just adjust the time in the canner.

I was ... totally surprised.

And pleased. Because it's hot as Hades here and thinking too hard makes me sweat. So I liked the idea that I couldn't mess this up, no matter what I did. And YOU can't mess this up no matter what you do.

Right?

So, pit the cherries. For each quart of cherries, you'll need about 1/2 cup of liquid. But you know what - if you're off by a little, you can just add some extra boiling water since we're not worrying about acid levels.

Then figure out how much liquid you'll need. (Math ensues.)

Figure out what liquid you're using. I used a light sugar syrup (1 part sugar to 4 parts water by volume), plus a vanilla bean pod for each quart jar.

Then decide if you want to hot-pack or raw-pack.

Read up on safe canning procedures. Make sure your jars and lids are clean and hot and have everything ready to go.

For hot pack, put the liquid in a saucepan along with the cherries and bring to a boil, then put the cherries and liquid in the jars.  For the raw pack, put the pitted cherries in the jar and heat the liquid separately, then pour the liquid over the cherries. Make sure there's no excess air in the jar and the liquid is to about 1/2 inch of the top.

Process according to this chart. Or seriously, check that page for way more information about canning cherries than you can imagine.

So ... what's this stuff good for? Yeah, pretty much anything you like. They're good over ice cream, French toast, or in cocktails. The liquid is flavorful, so don't leave that behind. They'd probably be good in smoothies, too. Since I went with a really light syrup, they'd be good in recipes, too, and wouldn't add a mad amount of sugar.

So good. So simple. The hardest part is pitting the cherries, but even that isn't hard.

Hint: if you only have a quart of cherries and you're going to use them right away, you could do this without the water bath and just refrigerate the jar. Heat to a boil, maybe a few seconds more, then throw them in a jar. When they've cooled a bit, toss them in the fridge.

I received cherries at no cost to me from the folks at Northwest Cherries. Otherwise I would have been buying them. Because ... cherries.

Yum

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi. What's not to love? Butter, garlic, seafood ... yum!

For some reason, I don't make it very often, but when I saw a recipe in Gumbo Love by Lucy Buffet, I had to give it a try.

Of course, I switched up a few things. Fresh shrimp really doesn't exist here, but I buy it frozen when it looks good. I happened to have a bag of cooked, peeled shrimp in the freezer, so I used that. The recipe actually called for raw shrimp, but I knew I could make it work.

Gumbo Love is another one of the books that's getting passed around in the group I belong to. I also made a pound cake from the book that I thought was almost perfect. The texture was good - which is really amazing up here at high altitude - but I thought it was just slightly too sweet for my taste. But that's okay. I'll probably made it again and adjust the sugar level down and see if the texture remains the same.

I also made a black bean and corn salad from the book. Most of the time, I just toss things together for a salad like that, but this time I (mostly) followed the recipe.

The scampi, though ... I really need to keep this recipe. Thus, a blog post.

Shrimp Scampi
Adapted from Gumbo Love by Lucy Buffet

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (The book specifies wild-caught gulf shrimp, but here in Colorado, sometimes you take what you can get. I used cooked frozen peeled shrimp.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (I used onion instead.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I just eyeballed it when I shook it on.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided (I just eyeballed it.)
2 cups white rice, for serving (I use rice that had been cooked with saffron, so it was yellow.)

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, season the shrimp with just a little of the salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes, then remove the shrimp and set aside. (Since my shrimp were pre-cooked, I skipped all of this.

Add the butter to the skillet and allow it to melt, but be careful that it doesn't burn. Add the shallot and garlic (here's where I added salt and pepper) and saute until they start to caramelize.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any gooey bits stuck to the pan and stirring them into the wine. Add the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two, or until the liquid has reduced by a third.

Return the shrimp to the pan (here's where mine entered for the first time) and cook until the shrimp is cooked through (or warmed through, if they're precooked).

Turn off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and stir well.

Serve the shrimp over the rice and garnish with the remaining parsley.
Yum

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Addictive Salted Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

If you've read this blog at all, you probably know that I belong to a group where we mail cookbooks around in a round-robin style. When I got Half Baked Harvest, I kind of skipped past all the harvesting and landed on these cookies.
Oh. My. Heck.

These are insane. They're best when slightly warm so the caramel is a little soft, but if you make them and let them cool - because eating a whole batch would be kind of crazy - you can still have that soft. center. Just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before serving to get that soft caramel center.

I made a few other recipes from the book, but this is the one I decided to share on the blog. I don't like to share more than one recipe from a book, although most publishers are fine with up to three recipes without special permission.

This one, though, was worth saving, publishing, and making again.

Addictive Salted Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used black cocoa)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
24 to 48 milk chocolate caramels (I used Dove candies that were available for Easter. Dark chocolate caramels would also be nice, and a little less sweet.)
Flaky sea salt, for topping

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, bittersweet chocolate, and chocolate chips. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until fully melted and combined. The chocolate will be thick. Remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate cool slightly. Note: if you're comfortable melting chocolate in your microwave, you can do that here. Melt in short bursts and stir in between. 

In a small bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on high until light and fluffy, which should take 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla and the melted chocolate, and beat for 1 or 2 minutes more, until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Note: I did this in my stand mixer, using the paddle. 

Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Beat until fully combined and smooth, about 3 minutes. The batter should be thick but pourable - don't worry, it will turn into cookie dough. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. Note: I left mine in the fridge longer, with no ill effect. You just don't want to forget it in there for too long.

Scoop out a scant 2 tablespoons of dough and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Flatten the dough into small disks, about 2 inches in diameter - you can grease your hands with a little oil if this gets messy.

Place a caramel in the center. Scoop out a rounded teaspoon of dough and flatten it into a disk. Place this disk on top of the caramel, pinching the layers of dough together.

Note: I followed the instructions for forming the cookies for the first batch I made, then changed gears and did it in a way that made more sense to me. So feel free to improvise. You want the caramel neatly enclosed by the dough, with the top a little thinner, and you want the cookie somewhat flat. It will spread a little during cooking, but its nice to give it a little help.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until set on the edges. Remove from the oven and sprinkle each cookie with a little flaky salt. Note: in the second batch, I added salt before baking - it seemed easier, and the salt stuck a little better.

Let cool at least 5 minutes on the baking sheet before serving, or place them on a rack to cool completely and rewarm later.

And ... here's a little tease ...


This cake is also from Half Baked Harvest. It's a three-layer chocolate cake filled with chocolate fudge that is drizzled with caramel sauce. It's frosted with caramel frosting, and then drizzled with more caramel. This is NOT an everyday cake that you'd make for a family dinner, but if you want a showstopper for a party or event, this is it.


Yum