RECIPES: How pecans come to life beyond a dessert plate

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

The Georgia Pecan Commission estimates the state’s farmers produce 100 million pounds of pecans each year. In their efforts to encourage us to think “beyond the pie,” the commission partners with community organizations like the Ponce City Farmers Market to share pecans and recipe ideas.

In June, the Ponce market hosted “Pecan Day,” and market manager Taylor Mead offered tastes of dishes like squash casserole with a pecan-Parmesan topping while vendors like Sweet Lola sold focaccia with tomatoes and pecans. Those who arrived at the market early enough went home with sample bags of pecans.

It was such a success that the commission will be back at the start of this year’s pecan harvest, Sept. 28, with more bags of pecans and Mead will once again be offering samples of her pecan-filled recipes, including the black-eyed pea and pecan butter hummus she’s sharing the recipe for here.

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Mead has been working with Community Farmers Markets for almost three years, starting at the Decatur market and now managing the Ponce market full time.

As a self-professed foodie, she decided not to get a meal plan while in college but to cook for herself. As she cooked from many different cuisines, she developed spice blends that made quick work of preparing healthy meals with a range of flavors.

When Mead was fresh out of college with a degree in English, her first job was running the farm-to-school lunch program at Grant Park Cooperative Preschool. “I wanted to be a garden teacher and I had always loved to cook. Now I was preparing meals for 75 kids a day using my spice mixes and for the parents who would come into the classrooms and eat lunch, too. They told me, ‘You’re really good at cooking. I’d buy your food.’”

After four years of cooking at the school, Mead began Better Off Fed in 2018. She describes it as a constantly evolving culinary project. It began as a meal prep company, and because she was relying so much on her spice mixes in her cooking, she began selling those, too.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

When the pandemic arrived, she stopped doing meal prep but kept and expanded the seasoning mixes. Ultimately, she ended up with eight blends: her “haus” blend, BBQ dry rub, Greek, chili, taco, Thai-inspired yellow curry and ranch seasonings and a mix she calls “spicy faerie” with garlic, parsley, edible flowers, crushed red pepper, pink salt and oregano.

Mead feels a special connection to pecans as she remembers the three pecan trees that grew on the last remaining piece of her grandmother’s original homestead in Lindsay, Oklahoma, and how her grandmother would shell those pecans and mail the shelled nuts to her family every year.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Mead just planted a pecan tree at home in Atlanta’s Venetian Hills neighborhood, where she has a vegetable garden, grows a variety of fruits and mushrooms, and keeps chickens. “Two generations ago, my family was homesteading, and my grandparents think it’s wildly hilarious that I am committed to what they consider a hard way of life. They think the best thing in the world is sliced bread.”

Creating pecan recipes to share with the Ponce City Farmers Market shoppers is a way she can honor that family heritage.

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RECIPES

All too often, we relegate pecans to sweet dishes. Pecans add crunch and body to these savory recipes from Taylor Mead of Better Off Fed and the Ponce City Farmers Market. Mead calls for pink salt in all her recipes, an ingredient she prefers for the trace minerals it contains. It’s fine to substitute regular salt if you prefer.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Black-Eyed Pea and Pecan Butter Hummus

Hummus is infinitely adaptable. Add more lemon, more garlic or more salt to taste. Mead likes seasoning this with the smoky flavor of Beautiful Briny Sea’s Campfire Sea Salt, a mix of sea salt, sumac, ancho chile, cumin and smoked paprika. It’s available online or at the Chop Shop on Memorial Drive. And she uses Georgia Grinders pecan butter in this recipe, available at Whole Foods Market and local farmers markets.

Black-Eyed Pea and Pecan Butter Hummus
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pecan butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Beautiful Briny Sea Campfire Sea Salt, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • Ice water, as needed
  • Crudite and crackers, for serving
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine black-eyed peas, pecan butter, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Campfire Sea Salt and pink salt. Process until smooth, adding ice water as needed to make preferred consistency. Adjust seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with Campfire Sea Salt and serve with crudite and crackers. Makes 3 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 43 calories (percent of calories from fat, 63), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 139 milligrams sodium.

— All recipes are adapted from ones by Taylor Mead of Better Off Fed.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Pecan Pesto Grain Salad

Mead likes to cook the barley for this hearty side dish in her Instant Pot. “I was horrible at cooking grains until I got my Instant Pot. It delivers flawlessly cooked grains every time.”

You’ll want a bunch of carrots with their tops, available at farmers markets and most grocery stores, for this recipe since you’ll need the tops for the pesto. And she prefers crumbling her own feta from a block stored in brine, rather than purchasing crumbled cheese.

Pecan Pesto Grain Salad
  • 1 bunch (3/4 pound) carrots with tops
  • 1 (1 to 1 1/4 pound) butternut squash
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pink salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked barley
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup 1/4-inch crumbled feta cheese
  • 3/4 cup Pecan Pesto (see recipe), more if needed
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Cut tops from carrots and set aside for pesto. Peel carrots and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Arrange on baking sheet.
  • Peel butternut squash and cut in half. Remove seeds and cut squash into 3/4-inch pieces. Add to baking sheet with carrots.
  • Cut onion into 8 wedges, then cut each wedge in half. Add to baking sheet with carrots and butternut squash. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables with cooked barley, toasted pecans and feta. Add pesto and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning or additional pesto. Serve hot, warm or cold. Makes 8 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per 1-cup serving: 326 calories (percent of calories from fat, 57), 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 22 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 213 milligrams sodium.

Pecan Pesto

If you purchased carrots without tops, you can substitute flat-leaf parsley for the carrot tops in this recipe. If using carrot tops, discard the stems and use only the feathery fronds.

If you have leftover pesto, freeze it in an ice cube tray and use to season cooked pasta or roasted eggplant.

Pecan Pesto
  • 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
  • 2 cups lightly packed carrot tops
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine basil, carrot tops, olive oil, pecans, lemon juice, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, garlic, salt or pepper as desired. May be made ahead and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 71 calories (percent of calories from fat, 89), 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 48 milligrams sodium.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Grilled Pork Chops with Apple and Pecan Relish

Mead’s Haus seasoning is available at Better Off Fed and is made of equal parts pink salt, pepper, garlic, onion and paprika.

Grilled Pork Chops with Apple and Pecan Relish
  • 2 (6-ounce) bone-in pork chops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Better Off Fed Haus seasoning
  • Apple and Pecan Relish (see recipe), for serving
  • Put chops on work surface and rub both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Let chops come to room temperature before grilling.
  • Heat grill to 450 degrees.
  • Arrange pork chops on grill and cook 4 minutes per side or until chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove from grill and allow to rest 5 minutes. Top with Apple and Pecan Relish and serve. Serves 2.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, without Apple and Pecan Relish: 318 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), 37 grams protein, no carbohydrates, no fiber, 18 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 94 milligrams cholesterol, 902 milligrams sodium.

Apple and Pecan Relish

This relish is tart and nutty. For the most colorful presentation, keep the peel on the apples. Extra relish can be served with chicken or tempeh, or added to a grilled cheese sandwich. Mead’s Aunt Katy gave her the tip about letting the apples and shallots sit in an ice water bath as a way to keep the produce crisp when pickled.

Apple and Pecan Relish
  • 2 red-skinned apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large shallot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon golden mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • Put apples and shallots in a bowl of ice water and let them sit for 15 minutes.
  • Make pickling liquid: In a medium saucepan, combine apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard seed, salt, celery seed and pepper over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering until apples and shallots are ready.
  • Drain apples and shallots, discarding soaking liquid. Add apples and shallots to the pickling liquid along with chopped pecans. Return mixture to simmer and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool before using. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 week. Makes 3 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per 1/2-cup serving: 191 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 2 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 10 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 389 milligrams sodium.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Cheesy Breakfast Tacos with Salsa Macha

Cheesy Breakfast Tacos with Salsa Macha
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • Pink salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 4 (5-inch) street-size corn tortillas
  • Pecan Salsa Macha (see recipe)
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
  • In a small bowl, whisk eggs and pour into skillet. Using a small spatula, gently push the eggs and butter together, cooking until eggs are a little softer than you like, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and season eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top with cheddar and cover skillet with a lid or plate and let sit 3 minutes until cheese melts.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Arrange tortillas on a platter and divide eggs between tortillas, then top with salsa and cilantro. Serve immediately. Makes 4.

Per taco, without Salsa Macha: 203 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 10 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 201 milligrams cholesterol, 232 milligrams sodium.

Pecan Salsa Macha

The inspiration for this dish came when Mead sampled the macha from Chico chef Maricela Vega. “It made me dream for days of crunchy pepitas and toasted sesame. I thought pecans would be a fun substitution to try.”

Mead likes a mix of half avocado and half grapeseed oil for this salsa.

Pecan Salsa Macha
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers
  • 2 dried ancho peppers, quartered
  • 4 dried chile de arbol peppers
  • 1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil
  • 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sliced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Remove the stems from the guajillo, ancho and chile de arbol peppers. Remove seeds, if desired. Cut peppers into quarters.
  • Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the dried peppers, garlic, shallot and sesame seeds and fry, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pecans, apple cider vinegar, salt and oregano. Allow to cool to room temperature, then pour mixture into the jar of a blender and pulse 6 times or until salsa retains some of its chunky texture. Makes 3/4 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 66 calories (percent of calories from fat, 81), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 98 milligrams sodium.
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