Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter – for some reason this one seems endlessly gray, cold and dreary. But change is in sight, I think; this week I noticed that the days are a bit longer, with the daylight fading into darkness just a few minutes later than last week.

I found myself looking through my stack of cookbooks looking for some inspiration, and lingered over one with a beautiful image of a sun-soaked bowl of golden cherries on the cover: a collection of recipes from Gangivecchio, a restaurant in Sicily that dates back to Roman times. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Sicily at this time of year, but somehow I feel warm imagining myself walking around the winding streets of Palermo, shopping the outdoor markets.

Lidia Bastianach, the Italian chef and cooking teacher, describes in her book Lidia’s Italy how the North African summer sun gives food produced there here an intensity not found anywhere else in Italy

“…the tomatoes are sweeter, the oil is more deeply flavored, the fennel has more licorice, capers are nuttier, and the anchovies and sea urchins taste more of the sea”.

Sounds good to me. In the spirit of hot summers to come, I roasted a batch of cashews and seasoned them with some of the intense tastes of Sicily: fennel, cumin, anise, hot pepper and orange.


Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  3. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  4. 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  5. Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, fennel, cayenne, paprika, anise seed
  7. 3 cups raw whole cashews
  8. Grated fresh orange or tangerine zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients except the cashews and zest until combined. Toss in the cashews and stir them around until they're evenly coated.
  3. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake 20 -25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on a rack - they will crisp up after about 10 minutes. Grate orange zest over the cashews while still warm.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/sicilian-spiced-roasted-cashews/

Gingerbread Pancakes

Today A is feeling under the weather; I’m thinking it must be a touch of the flu; the same bug that has gone all around our school, neighborhood and back again.
So far, it hasn’t had any affect on her appetite – so much for starving the flu.

Whatever her affliction, she’s requiring classic comfort food; warm herbal tea sweetened with honey (my kids like Red Zinger), leftover rice, cinnamon toast and pancakes.

These gingerbread pancakes have become popular with my kids, and I guess that’s no surprise. It must be that they are sweeter and spicier than my usual no-fail buttermilk pancake recipe.

I’m hoping that a promise of gingerbread-pancakes-in-bed will be just what the doctor ordered for a speedy recovery. And if I must reveal my alternate motive for serving a sick little girl breakfast in bed, it is this: I want her to stay in bed, tucked away in her room – keeping all her flu cooties with her! Here’s to health…

Gingerbread Pancakes

Makes about 16 pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons molasses

In a large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cloves.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat together eggs, sugar, oil, milk and molasses; pour over the dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spray a griddle with non-stick spray or grease with butter; place over medium heat until hot.

Spoon about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto griddle. Cook until small bubbles emerge and start to pop on the surface of the pancakes; turn with a spatula and cook until second side is lightly browned.

Serve hot.

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Special Request: Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread

Dark, moist cake with a spiced sugary topping
A and I had a girls-only shopping expedition last weekend. Her little powder-blue shoulder bag was stuffed full of gift-card loot from a recent (10 years old) birthday, so we headed off to the mall, one of my least favorite destinations in this world.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy shopping. I do! It’s just that malls have a numbing and dumbing effect on me; I get as overstimulated and disoriented as a wayward bluejay on acid.

I must have been born without the intricate inner GPS system needed to navigate oneself in large public shopping areas, because inevitably I get lost looking for the bathroom or take a right turn out of Bath & Body Works instead of a left, finding myself miles away from the exit that leads out to the parking garage.

So it was good that A was with me. Since were focused on two stores, Limited Too and Gap, we safely pointed ourselves in their direction…right past a Starbucks counter that pulled me over like a dustball succumbing to the strong suck of a Dyson D17. I decided I really needed the fortification of a Grande Green Tea Latte (nonfat, two pump) to get me through the whole mall thing.

While standing in line, we drooled over the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread, a new addition to the Starbucks pastry array, developed by the hot Swedish-New York-Ethiopian-born chef Marcus Samuelsson.

It turns out that other food bloggers tracked down the recipe and baked it at home with good results, including Foodaphilia and Nicole at Baking Bites.

I made A very happy yesterday when I made this cake, and I have to admit it was worth a trip to the mall for the inspiration.

However, despite the word “bread” in the recipe title, be aware that this is not in any way a quick bread, but more like the dark, dense chocolate pound cake of your dreams. The crunchy spiced sugar on top is a nice touch.

Starbucks Chocolate Cinnamon Bread

From the kitchen of Marcus Samuelsson

Chocolate Batter:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
11?4 cups Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1?2 teaspoon baking powder
1?2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1?4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust:
1?4 cup granulated sugar
3?4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1?2 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1?4 cup white decorating sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and line the bottom of the pans with overhanging sheets of parchment paper (this will make it easier to remove the baked cakes.)

Make the Chocolate Batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed, until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl several times.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, water and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to butter, beginning and ending with the flour and beating just until blended. Divide the batter between the two pans, shake the pans to even the tops and set aside.

Make the Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust: In another small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, ginger and cloves. Sprinkle the surfaces of both batters with the decorating sugar. Sprinkle with the cocoa sugar mixture, dividing evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely, run a thin knife around the sides to release the breads and remove from pans.

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