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April is National Pecan month. This week’s column is going to explore the history of the pecan and provide some unusual pecan recipes. The pecan is the only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America and is considered one of its most valuable nut species.
Native Americans first cultivated the pecan tree and it was used in the U.S. and Mexico as a major food source during autumn. In the late 1600s or early 1700s Spanish colonists and Franciscans cultivated pecan tree plantings. These documented plantings preceded the first recorded plantings by U.S. colonists by about 60 years.
On Long Island, NY in 1772, the first U.S. pecan planting took place. By the late 1700s pecan plantings had traveled down the eastern seaboard and were even planted in the gardens of George Washington in 1775 and Thomas Jefferson in 1779.
By the early 1800s French and Spanish colonists were exporting pecans to the West Indies and it wasn’t long before the pecan was an important item of commerce for the American colonists. (uspecans.org)

Hot and Spicy Pecans
Diane Kester, allrecipes.com
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon chili powder
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Stir in the pecans, and gently toss with chili powder to coat.
Spread coated pecans on a medium baking sheet, and cook 30 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring approximately every 10 minutes

Green Tomato Cake
Diana Rattray, About.com Guide
2-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil or melted
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1 cup raisins
2-1/2 cups diced green tomatoes
Coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. In mixing bowl beat sugar, vegetable oil or shortening, eggs and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg; slowly beat into egg mixture. Blend well. Stir in pecans, raisins and tomatoes.
Pour into greased 9x13-inch pan. Top with coconut if desired. Bake for one hour, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 12.

Pecan Chicken Casserole
Jackie Heyer Cushing, tasteofhome.com
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) finely shredded
cheddar cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup canola oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dill seed
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Set aside 1/2 cup of crumb mixture for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom of a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. (Crust will be crumbly.)
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Yield: 12 servings.

Turkey Pecan Enchilladas
Cathy Huppe of Georgetown, MA, tasteofhome.com
1 medium onion, chopped
4 ounces reduced-fat cream
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups cubed cooked turkey
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
12 flour tortillas (6 inches),
1 can (10-3/4 ounces)
reduced-fat reduced-sodium
condensed cream of chicken
soup, undiluted
1 cup (8 ounces) reduced-fat
sour cream
1 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons canned, chopped
green chilies
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat
cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh
In a small nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir onion over medium heat until tender. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, water, cumin, pepper and salt until smooth. Stir in the onion, turkey and pecans.
Spoon 1/3 cup turkey mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine the soup, sour cream, milk and chilies; pour over enchiladas.
Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro. Yield: 12 servings.

Georgia Pecan Salad
All You, February 2007, myrecipes.com
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper
1-1/4 cups pecans (4 oz.)
4 fresh peaches, sliced, or 1-1/2
(16 oz.) bags frozen sliced
peaches (3 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
8 cups mixed baby lettuce
(7 oz.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil; coat with cooking spray. Whisk vegetable oil, hot sauce, 2 tbsp. sugar and salt to taste in a bowl; add pecans and toss to coat. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until sugar bubbles and pecans begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a rack.
Chop just enough peach slices to make 1/2 cup and puree with vinegar, olive oil, mustard, onion, 1 tbsp. sugar, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender.
Divide greens among 8 salad plates; top with peaches, dressing and pecans.

Pecan Stuffed Dates
8 ounces (approximately 24)
pitted dates
24 whole pecans
12 slices bacon - cut in half
Preheat oven to 400°.
Cut dates down the center being careful not to cut all of the way through.
Stuff each date with a pecan. Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each stuffed date and secure with a toothpick.
Bake until bacon is crisp - approximately 15 minutes. Place dates on a paper towel to absorb grease. Serve warm.

Ginger Pecan Scones
girlversusdough, taste-for-adventure.tablespoon.com
3 cups Gold Medal unbleached
all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 sticks chilled, unsalted
butter, cut into 1/2- inch cubes
1/3 cup pecan halves, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon finely grated peeled
fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, ground ginger and baking soda.
Add butter gradually, softening between fingers before blending into batter. Mix until a coarse meal forms.
Add pecans and 1/4 cup crystallized ginger.
In a separate bowl, whisk most of the buttermilk (leave about 1 tablespoon aside for later), grated ginger and vanilla. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in buttermilk mixture. Mix until just combined and the dough is shaggy.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out a generous amount of dough and place on baking sheet. You should have about 12 scones once all the dough is scooped.
Brush the tops of the scones with remaining buttermilk, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger; press to adhere.
Bake scones about 20 minutes, until golden brown and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Braised Parsnips with Maple Syrup and Pecans
Alex Guarnaschelli, fishernuts.com
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup maple syrup
8 medium parsnips, ends
trimmed and thoroughly
peeled and cut in half
lengthwise, about 2 pounds
2-3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter melts and starts to get brown, add the pecans, cumin and coriander. Stir the pecans and “toast” them with the spices for a minute. Remove the pecans from the pan and set aside. Add the maple syrup and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.
Place the parsnips in a large skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the parsnips 15 to 20 minutes or until the parsnips are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle the parsnips with salt and toss with reserved maple syrup mixture and seasoned pecans. Serve immediately.
*Note: I often find recipes don’t give me enough liquid to work with. Parsnips can vary in size so feel free to add a splash of water to finish the cooking process, if needed. Drain off any remaining liquid.
The COOK OF THE WEEK 3rd Edition Cookbook is available. Cost per copy is $10.70, plus $4.80 shipping/handling. Order a copy today by sending a check or money order, along with name and shipping address, to: Humboldt Independent, 512 Sumner Ave., Humboldt, IA 50548.