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Pumpkin Raisin Cookies

Two sugar pie pumpkins can make more puree than you might initially know what to do with!  Continuing our exploration of the possibilities for this seasonal favorite, Chef Zach found a recipe from a “trusted” online source.  He realized, in the midst of mixing the ingredients, that the recipe had flaws.  He knew how to fix them along the way, so here, now, is a tested recipe, verified by Chef Zach, that produces a soft cookie with a wonderful balance of pumpkin, raisin, and vanilla sweetness.

pumpkin raisin cookies

pumpkin raisin cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

3 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups of raisins

1 cup of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup of pumpkin puree

1 cup of vanilla’d sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. of baking soda

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 tsp. of ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. of ground ginger

1/2 tsp. of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  These cookies will spread while baking, so if you’re not confident in depanning the cookies from your sheet pans, line two sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpats.

whisk away

whisk away

Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg either thoroughly with a whisk, or put the ingredients through a sifter.

Put the sugars and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Starting on the slowest speed, begin mixing until the ingredients come together.  Increase the speed to medium and mix until the texture appears light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, turn the mixer back on to medium, and add 1 egg at a time with 10 seconds in between each egg.  Then add the vanilla.  Mix until well combined, at least another 2 minutes so that it is fully incorporated.  Turn off the mixer, and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle again.  Add the pumpkin puree, turn the mixer to the lowest speed, and mix for about 10-15 seconds.

Add the flour and mix on the lowest speed for about 30 seconds until incorporated.  Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and add the raisins.  Mix once more on the lowest speed no longer than 30 seconds.  With an ice cream scoop, portion out 12 cookies on each sheet pan.  This dough will be tackier and sticker than typical chocolate chip cookie dough, for example, so try not to manipulate it with your hands or even pack it into the ice cream scooper with the palm of your hand.  Just scoop directly from the bowl to the sheet pan.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, and let cool slightly before depanning.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Tip: This is a semi-sweet cookie, so if you tend to like sweeter cookies, you can ice this with maple icing.  To make:

1 cup of powdered sugar

2-3 tbs. of maple syrup, depending on the thickness you desire

1 tbs. of half-and-half

Mix all ingredients together until smooth, then drizzle over the cookies.

Pan-Seared Catfish with Papaya Chutney Over Creamy Cheddar Jalapeño Grits

To impress anyone’s palate in both flavor and intense spiciness, try this recipe.  It was the entree of our Can You Beat the Heat? dinner party for family, friends, and readers, and it was a hit; making it more enjoyable was the milkshake to help cool down between bites.

Makes 6 (it’s best to make this in small batches, even if you have way more than 6 guests)

• For the papaya chutney:

chutney ingredients

chutney ingredients

2 cups of peeled and seeded papaya meat

1/2 cup of diced red onion

1/4 cup of raisins

1/4 cup of water

1/8 cup of crystallized ginger

3 tbs. of red wine vinegar

2 tbs. of Blair’s Beyond Death Sauce

2 tbs. of brown sugar

1 tbs. of soybean oil

1 garlic clove

Pinch of salt

sauteing onion and garlic

sauteing onion and garlic

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat to saute the diced red onion and garlic clove for about 6 minutes until tender.

stewing the chutney

stewing the chutney

Add all other ingredients, bring to a simmer, then reduce to the lowest heat setting and cook for about 30 minutes.

done

done

You want to achieve a consistency of a super thick and chunky applesauce.

• For the grits:

2 1/2 cups of water

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic grits

3 tbs. of Blair’s Jalapeño Death Sauce

2 tbs. of butter

2 tbs. of kosher salt

Combine the water and milk in a small saucepan with the salt and bring to a light simmer on medium heat.  Once simmering, reduce to medium-low and add the grits and hot sauce.  Cook for 6-10 minutes, depending on the desired texture (shorter time for al dente, longer for softer).  Stir frequently and scrape down the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure nothing sticks.  After 6-10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the cheese and butter.  Taste test for saltiness and add a pinch if necessary.  Let sit for a minute, then serve.

• For the catfish:

6 catfish filets

1 tbs. of butter

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and melt the butter.  Season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper, then lay each one in the pan, one at a time and 15 seconds apart so as not to shock-cool the pan and the butter.  Depending on the size of the pan, cook only 2-3 filets at a time.  Cook about 4 minutes on each side until they achieve a nice golden brown crust.  The fish will be firm and slightly flaky when done.

catfish, papaya chutney, cheddar jalapeño grits

catfish, papaya chutney, cheddar jalapeño grits

Layer the chutney over the filet on top of a scoop of grits.  Sprinkle a little more Jalapeño Death for good measure.