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Holiday Treats of Distinction: Sugared Walnuts

I can’t quite face the backed-up sink and the wet “squish” noise the garbage disposal button is making right now (though I suppose I’ve not been electrocuted, so THAT’S good news…). Thus, I’m going to share one of my favorite holiday treats instead.
These sugared walnuts made their annual appearance on Christmas Eve, which we spent at my aunt and uncle’s house. There was always a broad array of tempting sweets, from iced sugar cookies to delicately twisted kringla, fragrant with cardamom. I always partook of these other offerings, but I was really there for the walnuts.

I can’t quite express to you how good they are… the contrast between the meaty, slightly bitter walnuts and their creamy, sugary cloaks pretty much makes for the most addicting thing ever. Just thinking about them makes my eyes roll back in my head a little.

What’s more, they’re kind of unpreposessing to look at, so they’re easily missed on the dessert table. I made them for our holiday party and had to point them out to a few select people–who agreed with me on their superlative tastiness: “Oh my god, I’m so glad you didn’t tell me about these earlier. They’re SO GOOD.”

Also: yes, this has demon corn syrup in it; and yes, unless you want to mess around with little plates of half-congealed sugar, you need a candy thermometer. Blah blah blah, whatever. You really should have the latter, and you just need to get over the former. It’s not like we’re making IV drip bags of double-strength Kool-Aid for preschoolers. Ok, objections dealt with. Let’s get on to the deliciousness…

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Seasonal Swing: Fall Fruit Salad

So, because last weekend wasn’t going to be busy enough, I felt the need to have people round for brunch on Sunday. It’s a good thing I’m cute when I’m getting ready for parties or I’d be so, so dumped. It’s also a good thing half my guests bailed at the last minute; the ones that DID show up were HUNGRY.

Anyway, I planned on doing my usual brunch menu: Eggs Mornay, bacon, biscuits, asparagus vinaigrette, coffee cake, and fruit salad. But, with fall in the air, my usual fruit salad (pineapple, melon, kiwi, & strawberry layered in a glass bowl) didn’t really seem appropriate.

Instead, I turned to some slightly more seasonal fruit. The WF had some gorgeous Honeycrisp apples and Asian pears (on sale-sweet!), and I grabbed a pomegranate, some figs, and a couple of Bartlett pears as well. With a few toasted walnuts on top, I figured I’d be in business for a crunchy, sweet, seasonally-sensitive salad.

I did, however, need to address the whole oxidization issue, which kind of harshed my mellow. While it’s a fall salad, I didn’t want all my fruit to be straight-up brown and mushy. THAT’S not cool.

I figured that an acidic little dressing would help keep the fruit looking its best for at least a little while. Lemon juice was the obvious candidate, but I decided to cut it with boiled cider so all my lovely fall fruits would taste like themselves and not like… lemon. And flavor-wise, this worked out really well. The boiled cider lent autumnal nuance to everything and the lemon brightened and lightened as only it can. If you don’t have boiled cider on hand, I’m sure maple syrup–the REAL thing, if you please–would be lovely as well.

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FMC: SunGas

SunchokesWithWalnuts

Well, I pan-roasted the sunchokes last night. Uh, *whew!!!* this morning. I forgot the flatulent powers these tubers pack.

Well, despite the aeration of my tubes last night and this morning, I still find them incredibly tasty. Curse you, damn, dirty inulin and your difficult digestion ways.  Curious Cook Harold McGee says that since inulin is so difficult to digest (sunchokes pack more farty-fart power than your average bean)  cooks should slice and boil them for 15 minutes with cream of tartar or lemon juice or bake in an oven at 200 degrees F for over 24 hours.

I did not get that memo.

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CARE for a Cookie? Cranberry, Walnut, & Oatmeal Hit the Road

This fall, I have a list–a cookie list. Not cookies to try, or to make,  but a list of people who need cookies. MY cookies. While, really, EVERYONE should be on this list, the pressures of reality mean that the final cut is slightly more selective: Paul our master of teh webz, Cousin Sam who just started college, Molly our fabulous designer, and Grampy J, who just needs cookies.

oatmealcookie3

This oatmeal cookie is perfect for sending off to the people on your cookie list. Perfect too, for taking camping or munching at home with milk or a glass of vin santo (really). Perfect, really for anything at all. Though the recipe started out on the top of a box of Quaker Oats, it is by now an entirely different–and I’d say better–animal. Less sweet but with more oats, nuts, and fruit, they have an almost unidentifiable lilt from the orange oil and are my Platonic ideal of oatmeal cookie-ness.

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