Coconut Date Bars

While reacquainting myself with the Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates cookbook I came across their recipe for spiced coconut date bars. I thought they would fit in with our holiday party buffet offerings so I set out to make the recipe. The results are pretty tasty.

Here’s my version of their recipe. I’ve adjusted the amounts and written the recipe up in my own words.

Coconut Date Bars
Servings: 25 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes (plus 30 minutes to cool after baking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 12 oz. Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup “old-fashioned” rolled oats (not instant or 1 minute oats)
  • zest and juice from one tangerine
  • 1/2 cup unsweeted coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 8″ square baking pan with baking spray.
  2. Spread chopped pecans in a single layer on an unoiled sheet pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 6 minutes, shaking pan every two minutes. When you can smell the nuts they are probably done. They should be lightly browned. Set aside for the moment.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine dates and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 15 minutes. Stir occassionally until the dates are soft.
  4. Combine the flour, spices and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk gently to combine.
  5. While the dates are simmering away you can make the crust & topping (it’s the same mixture). Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachement. Turn on to low to combine and then turn to medium for 5 minutes until butter has lightened in color. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture; beat until combined. Add the oats and pecans; beat until combined. The result will be a crumbly mixture with lots of lumps.
  6. Meanwhile, back to the dates. When they are done add the tangerine zest/juice and the coconut. Stir to combine and set aside.
  7. Dump about two-thirds of the crust into the baking pan and use the buttom of a measuring cup or glass to compact it into a firm layer. Spread the date mixture over the crust. Crumble the final third of the crust mixture over the top of the date mixture.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The top should pick up a golden hue and the edges may turn dark brown when the dish is done. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Use a knife to cut around the edge of the bars. Then cut the bars into 5 columns and finally 25 squares.

Notes:
I found the easiest way to cut the bars was to transfer them to a cutting board. You’ll actually need 2 cutting boards to accomplish this. After cutting around the edges of the pan to loosen the bars place the first cutting board over the pan. Hold the pan and board together and flip the pan upside down. Gently lift the pan; the date bars should stay on the cutting board. Now place the second cutting board on top of the date bars and, again, flip the bars upside down. Remove the first cutting board and the date bars should be upside right with the crumb topping on top.

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Holiday Party 2013

Our annual winter holiday party is done and the house is quiet once again. The gathering was a success with a mix of friends and family making merry into the next morning. We received many compliments on the various food offerings. Here’s a list what we served.

Appetizers
Baked Brie with Mango Cranberry Chutney
Cheddar & Scallion Scones (based on this recipe from King Arthur Flour)
Curried Chicken Turnovers
Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs
Roasted Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Endive Spears with Fig-Onion Jam, Queso Fresco and Pistachios
Cucumber with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Pickles & olives
Cheddar & White Stilton with Cranberries
Assorted Italian Meats

Main Dishes
Spiral cut ham
Cauliflower with Saffron and Pasta
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts
Fennel and Orange Salad
Homemade Rolls

Desserts
Petit Fours
Spiced Coconut Date bars
Mixed Nut Butter Brittle
Gingersnap Cookies
Peppermint Bark
Dark Chocolate Bark with Fruits and Nuts
Meringue Cookies

I’ll be posting recipes for some of the items here as time permits. I’ll try to come back and add links. If there’s a recipe your interested in that doesn’t have a link please let me know in the comments and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

This side dish makes a hearty accompaniment for roasted or braise meat. The cumin and cinnamon echo the earthiness of the root vegetables and the high temperature cooking helps bring out their natural sweetness.

You could also use it as part of a chicken pot pie or even the start of a tasty soup.

Roasted Winter Root Vegetables
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: less than 5 minutes (plus oven preheat time)
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lb. turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Arrange oven racks so one is in an upper-middle position and the other is in a lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat vegetables with oil and spices.
  3. Place the baking sheets in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes. The veggies are done with they are easily pierced with a table fork. Transfer vegetables to a warmed service bowl and serve.
  4. If prepping for later use transfer baking sheets to cooling racks and rest for ~30 minutes. Transfer roasted vegetables to a seal-able container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Note:
Any combination of root vegetables will work for this. In addition turnip and sweet potatoes used above there are many varieties of winter squash. Carrots, parsnips and rutabagas also make great choices.

Christmas Eve 2013

As is our tradition we opened our house to friends for a Christmas Eve dinner. With the night falling midweek, and both of us working that day, we came up with a menu where we made many of the components in the days leading up to dinner. This left us with just reheating and assembly. It was rather relaxing and quite lovely.

Here is the menu, in photo form:

Christmas Eve Tablescape

Christmas Eve Tablescape

Baked Brie in homemade Puff Pastry with accompaniments

Baked Brie in homemade Puff Pastry with accompaniments

Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Pears, Toasted Pecans, Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese

Mixed Green Salad with Roasted Pears, Toasted Pecans, Dried Cranberries and Goat Cheese

Braised Lamb Shanks with Green Rice Patties and Roasted Root Vegetables

Braised Lamb Shanks with Green Rice Patties and Roasted Root Vegetables

Crème Brulée with Cranberry-Mango Chutney and Blackberries

Crème Brulée with Cranberry-Mango Chutney and Blackberries

Notes under the cut

Gingersnap Cookies

This recipe yields a cookie full of ginger flavor and just a bit of heat. It is based on a recipe from the November 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I reworked the instructions so they follow the way I made the cookies.

Gingersnap Cookies
Servings: 32 cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: approx. 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 340g (about 2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter (straight from the fridge is fine), cut into 1 Tbsp. slices
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar (used in step 8).

Directions:

  1. Combine the ground spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Add the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place butter in a cold skillet (preferably not non-stick or darkly colored). Heat skillet over medium-low heat until melted. Once melted continue to cook for 4-6 minutes. The butter will foam and take on a brownish color. The milk solids will darken as well. When foaming ends and the butter smells slightly nutty transfer it to a large bowl.
  4. Add the spices and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add the brown sugar, molasses and grated ginger; mix to combine.
  6. Add the flour/soda/salt and stir to incorporate. Don’t over mix; you want all of the flour to be incorporated into the dough however white flecks on the dough aren’t a problem.
  7. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and refrigerate for 60 minutes.
  8. Arrange the oven racks so one is in the top third of the oven and the other is in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.
  9. Put the granulated sugar in a bowl or pie plate. Scoop dough with a #40 disher. Roll each scoop into a ball and then toss dough ball in sugar. You should be able to get 16 balls on a sheet pan.
  10. Bake first tray for 16 minute on the top rack.
  11. Rotate first tray 180 degrees and place it on the bottom rack. Put the second tray on the top rack. Bake for 14 minutes.
  12. Remove the first tray from the bottom rack and transfer cookies on parchment to a cooling rack. Move the second tray to the bottom rack and bake for 15 minutes.
  13. Remove second tray from the oven and transfer cookies on parchment to a cooling rack. Cookies are tasty after 15 minutes however allow them to cool completely to get the snap we seek in gingersnap cookies.

Cranberry-Mango Chutney

This chutney can play multiple roles in the kitchen. For our Christmas week festivities it will act as “surprise” companion to creme brulee and a topping for a brick of cream cheese. It could replace the canned cranberry sauce with roast turkey (though there is a special place in my heart for can-shapped cranberry sauce) or cut the delicious fattiness of slow roasted pork shoulder.

This recipe is adapted from one Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. I adjusted the amounts and wrote it up in my own words. Enjoy.

Cranberry-Mango Chutney
Servings:  about 1 quart
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (2-3″ each)
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 large mangoes, peeled and diced into cubes

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring periodically, for 5 minutes or until the onions start to become translucent.
  2. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cinnamon, grated ginger, cardamon and salt; stir to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the cranberries, brown sugar, water and vinegar. Stir until the brown sugar dissolves. Cover and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. The chutney will look more like soup than chutney at this point. The cranberries will pop, soften and thicken the chutney.
  5. Add the mango and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for sweet/salty balance.
  6. Allow to cool for 1 hour then transfer to a storage container. Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Notes:
Frozen fruit (both cranberries and mangoes) should work fine in this recipe.  Frozen mangoes will probably disappear into the chutney more than fresh ones.

Today in Cookery

With Christmas falling mid-week I’m prepping some stuff that we can use for Christmas Eve dinner. Today in cookery…

Successes – cranberry-mango chutney, gingersnap cookies
Fail – spiced pecans; more like burnt-to-a-cinder pecans
To Be Determined – chopped liver

Recipes for the successes to follow.