It’s Cement Truck Kitchen’s favorite time of the year, because we are more indulgent than usual. We experiment with new granola recipes and other treats that can be put into labeled coffee bags or spooned into cellophane packages and secured with shiny bows. And, it’s the time of year when some people appreciate a festive digestif on a cold night, so we’ve tried an experiment.
This year’s projects included a cardamom five-seed granola, roasted rosemary walnuts, and limoncello.
This was Cement Truck Kitchen’s second try with limoncello, and this recipe will be our standard. A previous experiment involved vodka and a marathon lemon zesting session followed by three weeks of waiting. But this recipe calls for Everclear or other grain alcohol, which works faster because the higher alcohol content absorbs the lemon flavor in just five days.
A visit to the package store taught me that 90% grain alcohol isn’t legal for sale in Massachusetts, so we had to settle for something called “grain neutral spirits” that boasted a 75.5% alcohol content and worked just fine. After a few days of lemon peels resting in the hooch, we strained the clear liquid, added some thick simple syrup, decanted it into flip-top bottles, and chilled them in the freezer.
And now, the granola. We’ve declared this recipe the crack of granola. It’s dessert, and once you start, well, you know. But, if you want to feel a bit virtuous, this adaptation is less sweet and not so clumpy sticky. Cutting back on the sweetness also lets the cardamom play a starring role. And, this is no time to use that dusty jar of cardamom napping in your spice rack. Get some fresh cardamom. It will be worth that Penzey’s mail order you’ve been putting off, or that trip across town to the gourmet store.
Cardamom Five-Seed Granola Recipe
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s restrained version
3 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, in pieces or roughly chopped
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 TBS chia seeds or poppy seeds
1 TBS flax seeds or ground flax
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
¾ chopped dried apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries, or chopped dried dates
Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the fruit. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet, distributing it evenly and pressing it down with the back of a large spoon. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring it a couple times during baking. Let it cool on the pan, then break into pieces and mix in the fruit.