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Crazy for Cranberries

November 22, 1998|ABBY MANDEL

Even after years of putting cranberries in uncooked relishes, chutneys, muffins, quick breads, pies, cobblers, scones, pancakes and sweet and savory sauces, I marvel at how easy it is to find new ways to use them. Every Thanksgiving, there are cranberry dishes on my table that weren't even ideas the year before. A lot of these recipes end up among my favorites.

That's the case with these three. I made Upside-Down Sour Cream Cranberry Cake seven times until it was the perfect testament to these incredible berries. After many renditions of Fresh Cranberry Salsa, I came up with a quickly cooked mixture that brings all the flavors together. Add more jalapeno seeds if you can take the fiery bite. The Cranberry-Cider Granita is delicious and extremely refreshing.

The salsa and granita are also low-fat, making them especially welcome on the groaning holiday board. The cake, on the other hand, is buttery and rich, but it's worth every calorie.

Cranberry Basics

* Buy plump, lustrous, firm berries that are red to reddish black.

* Store cranberries in their bags, tied airtight, up to eight weeks in the refrigerator. Do not wash until ready to use.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday December 9, 1998 Home Edition Food Part H Page 7 Food Desk 2 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
Cranberry cake--A few readers called about the cooking time for Cranberry Upside-Down Cake in "Crazy for Cranberries" (Nov. 22). The cake was tested several times. The baking time is right for a correctly calibrated oven. However, many ovens run hotter or cooler than they should. It is important to follow the recipe's direction for checking doneness: When a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out completely clean, the cake is done.

* Cranberries freeze extraordinarily well in their bags up to one year.

* Cranberries cook easily and quickly in the microwave oven without sticking or burning. Four cups of cranberries cook in 12 to 14 minutes at full power, slightly longer if frozen. Stir once halfway through cooking.

* Frozen cranberries can be chopped or sliced in the food processor without thawing. Thawed cranberries become too soft to chop neatly or to slice.

Fresh Cranberry Salsa

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes * Make Ahead

This is a great-tasting seasonal variation on salsa. Serve with tortilla chips, turkey, ham or roast beef. Use it as a spread on sandwiches with mayonnaise or as a garnish on quesadillas.

1/2 jalapeno chile, minced, seeds reserved

2 cups cranberries, picked over, rinsed and chopped

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons honey

3/4 cup diced celery

3/4 cup finely diced white onion

2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and diced, about 3/4 cup


1/4 cup chopped cilantro

* Combine jalapeno, cranberries, sugar and honey in 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to boil and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

* Stir in celery, onion, tomatoes and salt to taste and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

* Add cilantro and reserved jalapeno seeds to taste. Can be made several days ahead and refrigerated.

* To serve, stir well and adjust sugar and seasoning. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

2 cups. Each 2-tablespoon serving: 15 calories, 13 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol, 0 fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 0.16 gram fiber.

Cranberry-Cider Granita

Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

This is a refreshing, full-flavored dessert that goes well with cookies.

1 quart apple cider

2 cups cranberries, picked over and rinsed

1/3 cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole allspice

1 orange, thinly sliced

* Bring cider, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice to boil in 2-quart non-aluminum saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered, about 15 minutes. Add orange slices. Simmer 5 minutes.

* Pour mixture through fine mesh sieve. Let cool to room temperature, then chill. Divide among 3 ice cube trays. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours, up to 1 week.

* Let ice cube trays rest at room temperature until cubes just begin to loosen around edges, about 8 minutes. Put 6 ice cubes in food processor fitted with metal blade and process until minced. Transfer to metal bowl and store in freezer while processing remaining ice cubes. Can be processed several hours ahead and kept frozen.

* To serve, stir granita with fork and divide among chilled bowls. Serve immediately.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 6 servings: 116 calories, 4 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol, 0 fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 0.67 gram fiber.

Cranberry Upside-Down Sour Cream Cake

Active Preparation Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This cake keeps amazingly well for about 3 days at room temperature.

1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter

2 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups (12-ounce bag) cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter in small saucepan.

* Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, water and cinnamon. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Stir in cranberries.

* Pour mixture into generously greased 9-inch springform pan and spread evenly. Wrap outside of pan with foil to prevent leakage and place pan on baking sheet. Set aside.

* Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

* With mixer on medium-low speed, mix remaining 6 tablespoons butter, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. On low speed, add 1/2 flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.

* Pour batter over cranberries in springform pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees on middle rack of oven until cake is golden brown or toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Set on rack to cool 10 minutes.

* Run knife around edge to loosen cake. Invert onto plate. Remove foil, ring and springform pan bottom. Can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature, covered airtight.

* To serve, cut into wedges.

14 to 16 servings. Each of 16 servings: 292 calories, 193 mg sodium, 58 mg cholesterol, 13 grams fat, 43 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 0.31 gram fiber.

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