A taste of the season

Sunday, December 9, 2012
The winter salad includes celery, onions, dried cranberries, pistachios and crumbled goat cheese. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

December's Seasonal Eating demonstration at the University of Tennessee Extension Office featured recipes using dried and canned items -- a cook's friend during the winter season when certain fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable.

Whitney Danhof prepared the recipes below to the delight of a large class of guests.

Spiced Cranberry Tea

1 (64-ounce) bottle cranberry juice cocktail

4 cinnamon sticks

12 whole cloves

12 whole allspice

3 cups orange juice

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 cups water

gallon size tea bag

Pour cranberry juice into a stockpot and add the cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about an hour. Strain out the spices and return to pan. Add orange juice and sugar.

In another pan, add water and tea bag. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep another 10 minutes.

Remove tea bag and add tea to cranberry mixture. Heat thoroughly, dissolving sugar. Serve warm.

Artichoke Dip with Chips

Artichoke hearts (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 3/4 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided

Drain and finely chop the artichoke hearts. In a medium bowl combine the artichokes, mayonnaise, garlic salt and 1 1/4 cups of the cheese. Spoon into a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until cheese melts and is golden brown on top. Serve warm with corn chips.

Winter Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Danhof prepares a vinaigrette using fresh cranberries. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

1/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 bag romaine lettuce

3 stalks celery, sliced

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup pistachio nuts

1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

To make Cranberry Vinaigrette: Bring cranberries and orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand until berries have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and cool to room temperature, 5-7 minutes.

Process cranberry mixture, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until smooth. With machine running, pour in oil and process until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Can be refrigerated in airtight container for 4 days.

For Salad: Toss lettuce, celery and onions with enough dressing to just coat. Divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle with cherries, nuts and cheese. Drizzle with a little more dressing.

Braised Beef Brisket with Apricots and Plums

The featured entree was a braised beef brisket, slow-cooked with dried apricots and plums. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

6 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of fat

2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup Dijon style mustard

2 cups beef broth

1 cup dried apricots, halved

1/2 cup dried plums, halved

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

In a small bowl, make a paste of the salt, pepper, garlic and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Rub all over the meat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven that will fit the brisket. Brown the brisket on both sides, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove the brisket from the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.

The beef brisket recipe calls for an olive oil-based rub before the meat is seared and slow-cooked. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

Sauté the onions and thyme until the onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, sugar, and mustard and bring to a boil. Return the brisket to the pan and pour in the broth. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place in 300 degree oven for 1 hour. Add the apricots and plums and cook an additional 2-3 hours or until fork tender. (At this point you can refrigerate the brisket and its sauce for up to 2 days or freeze for 1 month.)

Remove the brisket from the sauce and allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes. Slice the brisket thinly against the grain. Arrange the brisket on a serving platter, stir the parsley into the sauce, spoon some over the meat and arrange the fruit down the center of the meat. Serve additional warm sauce on the side.

After four hours of cooking, the meat is sliced across the grain. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

These carrot cake cupcakes feature finely-grated carrots and a cream cheese frosting. (T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2 cups finely grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons orange extract

2 cups powdered sugar

1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed

Line 24 muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs. Add oil mixture to flour mixture. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until combined. Add carrot, pecans, sour cream and vanilla, beating to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in the center of cupcakes comes out clean, 16-18 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For Frosting: With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and orange extract in a large bowl until blended. Add the powdered sugar and beat until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. You may need to add a little more sugar or a little milk to make it the right consistency.