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Almond Grit Cakes with Clementines & Honey

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One of the very best things about the internet is the community. It has it’s ups and downs, definitely, and sometimes having a public blog that is open to criticism leads to reading, well, criticism of my person and my recipes and my life which sucks but the trade off for the positive is huge. I’ve met people and made connections and friendships that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Not to mention of course that this blog and everything that it is and has become wouldn’t be possible without a supportive community. The readers, the commenters, the people who email to tell me that the like/love/adore the blog make it all worth it. So, thanks friends.

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Through some chain of mutual friends (real and internet) I met the lovely Carrie from Plums in the Icebox on twitter. She’s a Baltimore native and we became friends on the internet and in real life.  She’s great- sweet, intelligent, witty, talented, and a Jill of all trades. Professionally she writes for Bliss Tree and recently she reached out to me about contributing to a “Brunch Off” series she has in the works. The concept is simple- two food bloggers create a brunch menu using the same seasonal ingredient and readers vote on which one they prefer. The ingredient was clementines (something I’ve been buying in bulk for a few months) and I love a good challenge, so count me in!

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My goals with this challenge were to create something fun, tasty, and unique to my niche, Southern food. Surprise to no one I chose grits as a foundation ingredients (are you getting sick of grits?). Sweet grits made with cinnamon, ginger, and almond milk formed into cakes and lightly fried. Topped with fresh clementines that had been tossed in local raw honey. Something light, full of flavor, and designed for brunch. That is to say, complimentary to mimosas and bacon.

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Dan and I tried some this morning and I’m happy with how they turned out. The grits were the perfect base- not overwhelmingly sweet with a good crunch thanks to the slivered almonds and a richness thanks to the almond milk. The clementines in honey were so simple and amazingly delicious, the perfect tribute to two of nature’s most wonderful ingredients. I like that it isn’t anything audacious (like fried chicken eggs benedict) or overdone (like french toast), just an unassuming combination of complimentary flavors and textures. Head over to Bliss Tree to see the Brunch Off, make both recipes, and tell me what you think!

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Almond Grits Cakes with Clementines & Honey

Serves 4-6

grits:

2 cups almond milk

1/2 cup stone ground grits

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 cup corn flour

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Dash of cinnamon/ginger

topping:

3-4 clementines

2 tbsp honey

Pinch of salt (optional)

The grits cakes need to be formed at least an hour before being fried, though the night before is ideal.

In a medium saucepan combine grits, almond milk, honey, and spices. Cook over medium heat unti the grits are thick but still creamy. Pour into cupcake pans and chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Chop clementines in half or thirds and toss in honey. Let sit.

Combine corn flour, almonds, and spices and heat 1/4″ of oil in a heavy pan. Carefully (I used a fork so my hands didn’t warm the grits) coat the grits cakes in the flour mixture and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until crispy. Top with clementine mixture and a sprinkle of salt.

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Ramp & Cheddar Biscuits

The smell that always makes me breathe deep, wrap my arms around myself, and sigh in delight is, oddly enough, the smell of freshly mowed wild onions.  Nothing smells more like spring, not the Bradford Pears or the warm air.  It’s the tart, stinky smell that makes it seem like the world has come alive again.  So it is no wonder, knowing that stinky onions equate spring for me, that I love ramps so much.

Ramps are a member of the onion family, a long leafy green attached to a small bulb.  They grow wildly and are most easily found in the woods (if you know where to look) or at your local farmers market.  While there are many things to do with the bulbs (pickle them, saute them, etc) I threw mine in the freezer for future use and focused on the greens.  Like most pungent flavors, I find that ramps pair nicely with cheese, and in the form of a bread.  I’ve had ramp scones and ramp muffins, ramp cornbread and ramp sourdough, but I think that these ramp biscuits have been my favorite variant yet.

I served them with a fig jam (which by the way was amazing and got me so jazzed for figs to be in season that I cried a little in anticipation of the summer months) which was the perfect pairing.  The sweet jam played off the ramps in a fun way, and it all felt very spring.  I suggest you make them.  Go forth to your local farmers markets, pick up some ramps, and make biscuits!  Lots and lots of biscuits!

Ramp & Cheddar Biscuits

1 1/4 cups self rising flour

3/4 cup pastry flour (or cake flour)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp cold butter

2 tbsp melted butter (for glazing)

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup all purpose flour (for shaping the biscuits, not to go into the mix)

1/2 cup fresh ramp leaves, diced

1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 475(f).  Whisk together the dry ingredients, the cheese, and the ramps.  Use fingers to incorporate cold butter.  With the butter, you really just have to knead it with your fingers until the mixture has a course texture, like corn meal.  Pour in cream.  Stir (preferably with a wooden spoon) until dough forms.  It’s okay if the dough is a little sticky, you’ll work it out on the countertop.

Sprinkle the all purpose flour onto the countertop and scoop your dough onto it.  Use your hands to flatten it out.  I like to flatten it a little, flip it, and flatten it some more.  This method ensures that one side doesn’t get over worked, which is important.  If your dough (and this goes for any dough, really) ever gets too sticky and unmanageable, pop it into the fridge for twenty minutes or so.  The stickiness is really coming from the butter getting too warm, so cooling it off will allow it to firm up a bit.  Using a biscuit cutter (or whatever you have laying around), cut the dough into circular shapes.  Place on ungreased baking pan.

Now, I put aside the measuring cup that I used to hold the heavy cream and melt the butter for glazing in that.  It just gives it an extra creaminess.  Using a baking brush, brush melted butter on top of the biscuits.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 6 biscuits

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Spring Vegetable Quiche

I set out this afternoon to make a quiche with asparagus and wild mushrooms.  I thought, so seasonal! So local! So delicious! But, being me, I can never leave well enough alone.  When I got home with my groceries for the week I thought, well, I can add some chives from Tuesday’s dinner, some green onion from Wednesday night’s dinner, some cherry tomatoes from Thursday night’s dinner (I know, not seasonal).  I kept adding until it was this mass of vegetables floating in egg.  I’m not complaining.

With the exception of the tomatoes (for which you can substitute dried), this dish is a symphony of spring flavors.  The thing that I love about quiche is that it is hearty and light at the same time.  The vegetables danced in the fluffy eggs, and paired with a rich crust it is the perfect anytime meal.  Great for brunch, great for dinner.  Great for life.

Since that’s pretty much all I have to say about the quiche (except try it, it’s awesomely vegtastic), I thought I’d wax poetic about my newest accomplishment.  It’s not really an accomplishment yet, more like a lead to what I hope will be an accomplishment- I think that I’ve found a way for us to have a garden.  I’m exploring my options between community gardens in Baltimore City and yard sharing through a site called hyperlocavore.  Either way I have my heart set on gardening this season so I’m planting seeds (a little late) in these egg shells.  In the past we’ve wrestled with the biodegradable planting pots, which never seem to totally degrade, so I’m excited to try planting in egg shells.  It’s composting and gardening at the same time.  Wish me luck.

Spring Vegetable Quiche

6 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup grated american cheese

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup diced wild mushrooms, cleaned

1 cup diced fresh asparagus, cleaned

1/4 cup cherry or dried tomatoes

2 tbsp minced chives

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Pinch of cayenne

Crust (recipe here, subtract sugar and add 1/2 tbsp salt)

Prep all vegetables.  Whisk together eggs, milk, and cheeses.  Stir in vegetables and spices.

Spread crust out into pie pan and pour mixture into it.  Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 or until solid and golden brown.  Let sit 10 minutes.  Enjoy.

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