Monday, July 11, 2011

A (Somewhat) Reformed Black Thumb

I noticed while cruising through some of my favorite food blogs that it seems to be the norm to post photos of up and coming gardens, but before I jump on the band wagon, I should probably point out that as a general rule, I don’t grow gardens.

I murder them.

Not intentionally, of course, so I guess that makes it more of a manslaughter thing?


My mother’s verdant green thumb never seemed to filter down the gene pool to any of us. At least not in the same capacity. And while I believe both of my sisters are capable of at least some level of adeptness when it comes to gardening and horticulture, I have been known to kill cacti. Repeatedly. But I always seen to succumb to the romanticism of growing my own garden. Until recent years, this has invariably been an abject failure.

A few years ago I decided to try my luck at a few herbs. Just made sense given the amount of cooking that I do. And I actually did pretty well, for whatever unknown reason. Since then I’ve kept a year-round herb garden as well as ventured out into a few hardier fruits and veggies. But I will have to say that although I can now be cautiously optimistic that something I plant may actually yield results, it always gives me a thrill when I seem to be winning out over my black thumb.

For instance, I spied this little guy this weekend…

And these little speckled lettuces actually seem to be thriving…

Go figure.

I can’t get too full of myself with zucchini, because last year I tossed a couple of plants out in a forgotten mound of dirt dug up from my patio renovation, and they went crazy. But I was happy to see some good potential for stuffed zucchini blossoms…

All of this I was contemplating while sipping coffee and munching on a couple of these biscotti. Now and then I make a batch of spiced candied nuts, which O1 absolutely loves. As I was going through the pantry over the weekend, I noticed several bags of nut ‘odds and ends’. And so the thought occurred to me that I should throw them all together and make candied nuts. But then I also wondered how well they’d fare being cooked a second time inside biscotti.

I think they came out pretty well, and they seem to store very well. This will be something I bake over and over because it actually makes a large enough batch to get me through about a week’s worth of breakfast.

Sure beats Pop Tarts.

Spiced Candied Nuts

1 cup of mixed nuts (I used pecans and walnuts)
2 Tbs corn syrup
1 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325º. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or use non-stick foil (I LOVE this stuff). Pour nuts into a pile on the cookie sheet, then add remaining ingredients. Using a spoon, carefully combine all ingredients. Spread nuts evenly out on pan. Place in oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or just until nuts begin to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Break up into small pieces.

Spiced Nut Biscotti

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs, slightly beatened
3 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup Spiced Candied Nuts (from above), chopped

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray, or line with non-stick foil. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and slowly add vanilla and eggs, mixing until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine blour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Slowly add to butter and egg mixture, mixing just until combined. Dough will be soft. Stir in candied nuts.

Place dough on prepared baking sheet, creating a flattened 'log' about 14" long and 5" wide.  Press down slightly.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow the biscotti to rest 5 minutes.  Cut into pieces about 1" wide.  Lay flat on sheet and return to oven for 15 minutes.  Flip over to other cut side, return to oven again, and bake an additional 12 - 15 minutes until golden.  Cool completely before storing.

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