Friday, May 29, 2009

Cherry Berry Granola

Bowl-close

When I had a craving for some homemade granola but no handy recipes, my faithful foodie Twitter pals came to my rescue, showering me with wonderful suggestions and helpful links. Each recipe looked better than the previous one, and I was unable to choose one single version to try. So I printed out a handful, lined them up on my countertop, and chose the best elements from each one, adding a few of my own favorite touches here and there, to create a whole new recipe.

I love to combine honey and brown sugar, so both of those went in. I also like the way turbinado sugar adds a bit of crunch, so I threw some of that in there too. I used small proportions of each of these sweeteners, so the end result is not all that sweet. Crunchy almonds are great for providing body and substance, but they can actually be pretty subtle in flavor ~ a small boost from a tiny bit of almond extract brings them to the forefront.

Spill

I added sesame seeds for another layer of flavor, and a bit of vegetable oil to make the mix a bit more supple. You can omit it, but the oat mixture seemed a little dry to me without some oil, since it uses only 1/4 cup of honey as a liquid agent. The end result isn’t oily at all, so I was very pleased with the outcome.

The beauty of granola is that you can add (or omit) whatever you want, or whatever you happen to have on hand. Customize your mix to suit your moods, the seasons, your kids’ picky palates, whatever. Enjoy!

Cherry Berry Granola

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, brown sugar, honey, oil, sesame seeds, turbinado sugar, almond extract, cinnamon, and salt. Toss to coat all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with the tablespoon of butter. Pour oat mixture out onto baking sheet and use a spatula to smooth it down, covering the entire sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250 degrees F, stirring the oat mixture every 15 minutes. The mixture will turn golden brown and dry out as it bakes. It will firm up as it cools.
  3. Leave on baking sheet until completely cool, then pour into a large container with a tightly fitting lid. Add cherries and cranberries and stir to combine. Will keep for at least a week at room temperature ~ if it lasts that long.

Recipe Notes:

  • You want a nice slow oven for this ~ gradually, the liquid in the honey will dry out, the sugars will melt, and the oil will be absorbed, binding the ingredients into delicious sweet, nutty nuggets.
  • You can add whatever dried fruit you like to this. Try raisins, chopped dried apricots, apple or banana chips, dried raspberries or blueberries ~ whatever your heart (and palate) desires. Just be sure to add your fruit in after baking, once your mix has cooled. Otherwise, it will become leathery and tough.
  • Got a sweet tooth? Add in M&M’S, chocolate chips, peanut butter or butterscotch baking chips, chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate- or yogurt-covered raisins.
  • Want to sneak in some more protein? Try adding sunflower seeds, chopped hazelnuts, pignoli nuts, chopped pecans, wheat germ, soy nuts, or roasted peanuts.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Balsamic Browned Butter Sauce

In-pan-pile-up Home cooks take note ~ this is one dish you’ll want to add to your permanent file. It’s deceptively delicious and incredibly fast. You can use the sauce (made from ingredients you probably have in your pantry, or can easily stock there) on other types of ravioli, and this is pretty much fail-proof. Plus, it’s good enough to serve to company.

Browning the butter makes magic on its own, but adding a little balsamic vinegar simply transports this dish. Don’t take my word for it, this is one you’ll have to try for yourself.

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Balsamic Browned Butter Sauce

  • 1 package (9 ounces) Wild Mushroom Agnolotti by Buitoni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook ravioli according to package directions; drain and keep warm.
  2. While the ravioli are cooking, melt butter in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the ravioli, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter begins to turn golden brown, remove pan from heat and let sit for about 1 minute. Whisk in vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Place ravioli in butter sauce in pan, turning gently to coat. Warm over low heat, then pour out onto serving platter. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentiis.

Plump-agnolotti

Recipe Notes

  • I used Buitoni’s new Riserva-line mushroom Agnolotti, which were plump and delicious and I recommend seeking them out. If you’d prefer, you can use cheese, spinach, squash, or even chicken ravioli. Or try this simple sauce over ricotta or potato gnocchi!
  • This sauce tastes much fancier than its ingredients suggest. Don’t substitute any other vinegar ~ balsamic has the perfect balance of sweetness and acid to make this work. You may be the only one who knows what “that incredible flavor in the sauce” is!
  • Real butter for this one, please. You need to brown the butter for flavor, so do use the real deal.

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