Quirky Characters mash-up

What is zingy-bright, crunchy-chewy, butter-nutty, earthy and addictive?

Hint:  think ginger and pine nuts.  Oh, and throw in a smattering of cornmeal plus a little extra fortification from lemon and coriander. Hmmmm.

Now, you probably did not think first of biscotti, did you?  Mmmmm.

It is a startling combination, yes.  But for a biscotti lover always ready for a new taste thrill, these literally dance in my mouth.  The eggs play a major role in this cookie’s success:  they provide the binding structure and become the flavor background upon which all the disparate players blend into one quirky character.

Forget these if you don’t like ginger  gingerFreshly grated, powdered, and crystallized ginger all unite in one high-powered triple whammy.  Further, the sprightly crystallized ginger adds a distinct chewiness—the perfect foil—to the cornmeal’s earthy crunchiness.     

If pine nuts do funny things in your mouth, don’t bother pinenutsHere, smooth, elegant pine nuts strike a bewitching balance with the ebullient ginger. Essential toasting of the nuts brings out a rich, bacon-fat quality that jumps out of nowhere.  A dash of citrus from the lemon and coriander add supporting layers and rounds out these big flavors.Biscotti Ging Pine

Enjoy with a cuppa tea or a steamy latte.

Ginger and  Pine Nut Biscotti


  • 1-1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger, dried
  • ½ tsp coriander, dried
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola or walnut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, grated
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely diced

To finish:  ½ cup  white or dark chocolate chips melted with 2 tsp shortening, or 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

  1. In a small bowl combine the flour through the coriander.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, beat in the sugar until well incorporated, and then beat in the oil. Add the vanilla, grated ginger and lemon.
  3. Quickly add the dry ingredients, just to combine. Stir in the pine nuts and crystallized ginger.
  4. Divide the dough in half and form two long thin loaves (lightly floured hands help), about 12”x2”x ½”, with 2 inches between the loaves; they will spread a little. If using, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and press lightly into top.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes, until firm but springy. Allow to cool about 10 minutes.
  6. Place each loaf on cutting board, slice into ½” diagonal slices using serrated knife.
  7. Lay cookies with cut side down on sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.
  8. Turn the cookies over and bake 12-5 minutes longer, until lightly golden. Cool on sheet on rack.
  9. If desired, drizzle with white or dark chocolate heated with melted shortening. Store airtight at room temperature.   Makes 35 to 45 cookies, depending on size.

Peach Chutney with a Texas Drawl

peachesThere’s nothing like a tree-ripened peach, one so succulent that its perfumed juices dribble down your chin and slurping noises are the norm.  I have had my share of this year’s Texas peach crop and have specially enjoyed the local Hill Country beauties from Fredericksburg and Stonewall.

With visions of peach season quickly coming to an end, I decided to prolong their presence by transforming a few into mouthwatering chutney [truthfully, another mouthwatering chutney].  Perhaps this was prompted by a recent Saveur splash celebrating its 150th issue, which included a recipe for Major Grey’s Chutney, considered one of the world’s 150 most classic recipes.

Over the years plenty of purveyors have offered their versions of Major Grey’s chutney.  With its roots likely embedded in 19th century British India, it is anyone’s guess whose recipe is most authentic.

chutney 2I was intrigued:  but chutney does that to me.

Saveur’s recipe called for simmering mangoes, plenty of ginger, onion, garlic, raisins and warm spices for two hours. At one time I suspect tamarind paste would have also been included.

My own alterations started with cutting the recipe in half for a first run and the swap out of peaches for mangoes.  I reduced the amount of sugar and glad that I did, because it was still quite sweet.  I recall Major Grey’s as thick, sweet and exotic.  I further increased the lemon juice and threw in half of a juiced lemon during the cooking process.  Since I was making a smaller quantity, my chutney was well-simmered and thickly textured within 1-1/2 hours.

The results were very nice, indeed:  a dark, complex, well-rounded sauce with just enough heat to catch your attention.  Yes, I’d say that the peaches make a worthy contribution.


Texas Peach ChutneyChutney 1

A riff on Major Grey’s Chutney; inspired by Saveur’s Major Grey’s Chutney


  • 4 medium Texas peaches, peeled, chopped
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice plus rind from ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp dark chile powder
  • ½ tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg, salt
  • ¼ tsp each ground cloves, black pepper, and red pepper flakes


In 2-quart pan, place all ingredients,b ring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer about 1-1/2 to 2  hours, stirring occasionally until thick.   Transfer to clean jar and store in refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Mother of Invention: A & W Cream Soda

The old proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” proved itself true again today.  There I was, poised with my tasty, toasted English muffin in one hand and nothing in the other.    What’s a body to do when they discover they are completely out of their favorite jam or jelly?

apple ginger jam

In this case, I was missing my recent delicious find from IKEA, Sylt Flader & Apelsin, or orange and elderflower marmalade.  I cast a forlorn look about and it appeared that any hope would rest in the fate of four fat Golden Delicious apples.

With that as my impetus, I pulled up an old Bon Appetit recipe and went to town.  Here is the original recipe for Spiced Ginger-Apple Butter at Epicurious, with changes, including 4 Golden Delicious apples instead of 4 pounds of McIntosh.

By the way, in my wildest imagination, never would I think to combine A&W Cream Soda with apples.  But what’s a person to do when making apple butter and they are out of apple cider?

Add another juice or liquid, of course.  I suspect my weakness for cream soda comes from the vanilla addition.    Turns out, the claims of aged vanilla proved positive; it delivered a “subtle, nuanced flavor” that complements the layers of ginger, lemon, and apples.

Gingered Apple Jam 

Inspired by Bon Appetit, October 2000, via Epicurious


  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled, chopped
  • ½ cup cream soda or apple juice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp crystallized ginger, minced


  1.  In small saucepot combine apples, liquid, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice, and bring it to a boil.  Simmer until the apple chunks begin to soften and lose their shape.
  2. Using an emersion blender or food processor, puree to break down into a jam, but leave some identifiable bits and pieces.
  3. Return to heat, add the candied ginger and simmer until thick and no pot liquid remains, 5 to minutes.  Cool and store in refrigerator.  Makes about 2 cups.