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great tips for great menus.
Try a “buffet” of flavored pecans, paired with some savory spreads and rustic loafs or elegant scones + some small plate offerings + fabulous chocolate-y nutty dessert.
For the flavored pecan “buffet”…
Honey-Roasted Peppered Pecans
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together honey, pepper, salt, and allspice and add pecans, tossing to coat well. Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in middle of oven 15 minutes, then stir pecans and bake 5 minutes more. Transfer to a sheet of wax or parchment paper to cool and, working quickly, separate pecans with a fork while still warm. Serve at room temperature.
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
In a large nonstick frying pan, melt the butter over moderate heat.
Add the pecans and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, ginger, and salt.
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pecans in the pan and cook, stirring, until the pecans are coated with the sugar mixture and are browned and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
Don’t cook them too long or the sugar will begin to melt. Put the pecans on a baking sheet and spread them out to cool.
2 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt * or coarse sea salt for texture
Preheat oven to 325°F. Toss pecans and melted butter in medium bowl to coat. Add sea salt and toss. Spread pecans in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, about 15 minutes. Cool pecans on baking sheet.
For the savory spreads…
Basil Pecan Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well and spun dry
2/3 cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
In a food processor blend together all ingredients with salt and pepper to taste until smooth.(Pesto keeps, surface covered with plastic wrap, chilled, 1 week.)
Cherry and Pecan Cream Cheese Spread
1 cup dried sour cherries
two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
In a small heavy saucepan simmer cherries in water until liquid is reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Remove pan from heat and cool mixture. In a bowl whisk together cream cheese, pecans, lime juice, thyme, zest, cherry mixture, and salt and pepper to taste until spread is combined well. Spread may be made 2 days ahead and kept chilled, covered. Serve spread with scones or rustic rounds.
For the small plates…
Pecan Bulgur Salad
1/3 cup medium or coarse bulgur
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 small tomato
1/4 English cucumber
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill fronds
1 cup loosely packed salad greens such as frisée
In a bowl combine bulgur, 1 teaspoon salt, and water. Let bulgur soak, uncovered, until softened, 20 to 25 minutes. While bulgur is soaking, in a dry small heavy skillet toast pecans over moderately low heat, shaking skillet frequently, until a shade darker, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool pecans and chop. Seed tomato and chop. Chop cucumber. In a large bowl whisk together lemon juice, honey, spices, pepper, remaining ‚ teaspoon salt, and oil until emulsified. Drain bulgur in a sieve and press out any excess water. Add bulgur, tomato, cucumber, pecans, and dill to dressing and toss well. Divide greens between 2 plates and top with bulgur.
Deviled Ham and Pecan Tea Sandwiches
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 medium onion, quartered
3 large sweet gherkins
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
16 slices firm white sandwich bread
chopped parsley and pecans for trim
Pulse all ingredients except bread in a food processor until finely chopped and combined well.
Spread ham mixture (1/4 cup per sandwich) between slices of bread.
Discard crusts, then cut sandwiches into triangles.
…and for the decadent dessert…
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Cake
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans, toasted lightly, cooled, and chopped fine
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 pecan halves
lightly sweetened whipped cream as an accompaniment
Make the cake:
Line the bottom of a buttered 8 1/2-inch springform pan with wax paper, butter the paper, and dust the pan with flour, shaking out the excess. In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt the chocolates, stirring until the mixture is smooth, remove the bowl from the pan, and let the chocolate cool until it is room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter and the sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy, add the chocolate, and beat the mixture until it is combined well. Beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the bourbon and the flour. In a large bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks, stir one third of them into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and fold in the remaining whites and the chopped pecans gently but thoroughly. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted 2 inches from the rim comes out clean. (The center of the cake will remain moist.) Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool completely. Remove the cake from the pan, invert it onto the rack, and remove the wax paper carefully. The cake may be made 1 day in advance and kept wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature.
Put the chocolate in a small bowl, in saucepan bring the cream to a boil, and pour it over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Invert the cake onto rack set on wax paper, pour the glaze over it, smoothing the glaze over the top and side with a spatula, and arrange the pecan halves in the center of the cake. Let the cake stand 2 hours, or until the glaze is set, and serve it with the whipped cream.
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