PAMAphrodisiac

I have a bad habit of throwing things into the abyss that is my freezer and forgetting they exist down there. Then I wonder where all my tupperware went …

… hmmm, oh yeah! It’s holding three gallons of freezer-burned chili …

Then there’s my two plastic bags full of frozen pomegranate seeds from these gorgeous pomegranates I picked up this past fall:

Pomegranate

So imagine my excitement when I got an excuse to use these little gems this Valentine’s Day. The folks at PAMA liqueur sent me some samples, along with recipes and news about a local cupcake shop that I may just have to visit for these little beauties.

So stay tuned for an after-V-day recap of The Great Pomegranate Cooking Experiment.

It’s all Greek to me



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I’ve botched baklava before. It’s hard to pinpoint my mistake, as I was in fourth grade at the time, completing an assignment as part of a project on Greece. My mother and I got the recipe from the owner of a local greek restaurant (unfortunately, we didn’t have the advantage of Epicurious or AllRecipes back then) and I’m afraid something was lost in translation.

The baklava was more phyllo brick than sticky, flaky pastry.

This time around, I had my redemption. Sweet, sweet, sticky, flaky redemption.



Baklava_5



Baklava

You’ll need:

several sheets of phyllo dough (one package should do)

3 cups walnuts

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

1 cup melted butter

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the filling by combining the brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts in a food processor. Set aside.



Baklava filling



Take sheets of thawed phyllo and begin layering them in a greased pan. You have to work somewhat fast here because the phyllo dries out VERY quickly. I also covered what I wasn’t using with a damp paper towel. The phylo sheets should be layered on the bottom so they hang over the edge of the pan. I used about 6-7 sheets for the bottom. When you are done layering, you’ll fold the overhanging phyllo over the top. Brush a generous layer of melted butter on the phyllo, sprinkle a layer of the filling, and cover with another couple sheets of phyllo.



Baklava



Continue layering this way until you run out of filling. Fold the overhanging phyllo over the last layer, brush with butter, add a few additional layers of phyllo and more butter.



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This part’s important: cut the baklava before you put it in the oven. I did diagonal cuts:



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Bake the baklava for about 30 minutes. While it cooks, prepare the syrup by bringing the honey, water and sugar to a boil, and then simmering for about 5-7 minutes. Let cool and pour over the hot baklava right when it comes out of the oven.



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So good. So “Baklavian.”

Cookies for Cars.comers


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Dear Cars.comers,

I wasn’t holding out on you by not posting this recipe. It was just a simple case of procrastination. I swear. I know you really like the oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies I send to work with Dave every so often, so now you can make them for yourselves. But don’t worry, I’ll still send some oatmeal love your way now and then. Bon appetit.

love,

J.C.



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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe adapted from Gale Gand’s Sweet Dreams (Food Network)

You’ll need:

3 tablespoons butter, room temp

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cup rolled oats

1-2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

Mix together the butter, brown sugar, honey, egg, water and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Drop teaspoons full of dough on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven. If you want thick, chunky cookies, chill the dough in the freezer for a half hour or more.



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Fig-get about it.



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I have a confession to make. Until a few days ago, the only fig I’d ever had in my kitchen was of the Newton variety, if you catch my drift. I know. Revoke my foodie card right here on the spot if you must.

(Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that this was also my first foray into homemade pie crust. Whoops, too late).

I hope I’ve redeemed myself, however, by creating these yummy fig and raspberry tartlets. OK, so techincally they’re not tartlets. More like mini pies—I just love that word. Tartlet.



Fig and raspberry tarts



Fig and Raspberry Tartlet

You’ll need:

pie crust dough (homemade or store bought)

10-12 ripe figs

1 small carton of raspberries

1/4 cup sugar

First, I made my pie crust using Elise’s recipe. I love Simply Recipes. It’s got the greatest instructions on the culinary fundamentals.

I cut the stems off my very ripe figs (once they start seeping sticky syrup from the bottom, you know they’re ready) and sliced them up.



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I threw them, along with the raspberries, into a pot and cooked them over medium-low heat with the sugar until they were about jam consistency. I say 1/4 cup sugar, but you may want a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you want them. The fig skins don’t cook down as well, so I threw the jam in the Magic Bullet for a few pulses to break them up.



Fig jam



When the jam was done I set it aside and worked on forming my tartlets. I tried some with a pie-crust top and some without. I preferred the ones that had the top, but I’m also one of those people that thinks you can never have too much pie crust. I used a glass to cut out circles of dough and formed them to a cupcake tin, filled them about half way with the fig/raspberry filling, and then topped them with another pie-dough circle, pinching the ends together. Then I used a fork to create perforations along the edge of the crust to help the top stick to the bottom. And because it looks cute.

Bake these on the lowest oven rack for about 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees or until the crust is nice and golden brown.

My pies may have looked a little nicer had I had some of these handy.

Here’s one of the topless tartlets.



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Oh! Oh! I almost forgot to tell you. I really wanted to add walnuts on top of jam inside the tartlets but I was out. Next time, I’ll either do that, or drizzle them with honey and sprinkle them with chopped walnuts before serving them. I encourage you to do the same.

This bread is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S



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Sometimes we buy bananas to let them sit on top of the fridge over-ripening. Because then we get to make banana bread! I adapted this recipe from Elise’s banana bread recipe at Simply Recipes.

Here are the poor over-ripe bananas.



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You know they’re ready when the entire stem breaks off when you pluck them from the fridge/fruit bowl/counter top:



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I decided to try something new with this batch:

Spiced Banana Bread

You’ll need:

4 medium-sized ripe bananas

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

dash of salt

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup walnuts

First, mash your bananas. If they’re as ripe as they should be, it won’t take more then a gentle prodding with a fork for them to disintegrate into gooey banana mush. Mix in all of your other ingredients. I, of course, used my mean, green mixing machine—not necessary, just more fun.



Banana Bread Mix



Pour the batter into a loaf pan. I’ve been scarred by some near-disasters with overflowing baked goods, so I played it safe and divided the batter among two pans. If you do this, they should only need about 40 minutes at 350 degrees. With one pan, leave it in for about an hour. You can test the doneness with a toothpick.



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It’s nutty and spicy and B-A-N-A-N-A-y.



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For all you salivating Cars.com-ers: I’m sending a loaf your way tomorrow. Enjoy.

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