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Pecan Brown Butter Cakes & A Roasted Vegetable Salad

Hazelnut cakes

Let me start this post by giving you some heads up, sort of housekeeping news if you will. The workshop that Clare and I are holding in May 2012 is indeed sold out. There is a waitlist so feel free to send us an email to get on it if you wish. You never know…We are also planning more workshops like this in the future so stay tuned!

The good news is that if you live in Charleston and surrounding areas, I will be holding a One Day Food Photography Workshop at Heirloom Book Company downtown on December 10th from 10am til 5pm. Click here for all the details and to register. Photography, food, styling, book, fun space, and great natural light!


One of the things I love about Charleston and the area where we live, is waking up to a thick layer of fog over the ocean. It gives me the impression that Winter is settling in. I know better. It means today will actually be warmer than the last. That’s ok. I’m not paying attention to those little details anymore. There is Fall and Winter happening in my kitchen, regardless of my shorts and flip flop attire.

Every morning that I take the pups out in the backyard, I bring a little basket and gather the pecans that keep falling during the night. We fought the squirrels long and hard this year but it looks like we won the battle. Well, we did not lose it too bad, I should say. They left us plenty for a few pecan pies, some pecan sandies and the Pecan Brown Butter Cakes pictured here.

Pecan Brown Butter Cakes

Fresh from the oven. Toasted the next day. A dab of Nutella. A smidge of lemon curd. With a cup of tea or coffee. We surely did not get enough… That would be partly because of a little incident involving a phone call, a step outside the studio, a puppy and a tray of cakes left at snout level. I can’t blame Bailey for not resisting. I almost inhaled three of them as they were cooling down.

If it is any testament to how good they are, I made two more batches in the last couple of days. And placed them far away from any possible puppy incident. On the same vibe the roasted vegetable I made for lunch the other day almost ended up consumed by my better half alone…

Savoy Lettuce

This salad is a riff on the salad that Clare a made many times when I was there last month for work. It is so easy, wonderfully seasonal and super comforting. Yes, comfort. In a salad. With lots of fresh ingredients. That’s my idea of comfort right now. Sometimes it’s a cup of rich chocolate mousse, a serving of spaghetti carbonara, a bowl of cheese rich onion soup. It depends on what is truly affecting me at the time.

I have loved these months traveling and staying with friends and bloggers rather than hotels. It gave me the chance to see them in their environment and learn from them. I was never as happy as when they wanted to share their cooking with me and let me in their world, their family traditions, their everyday. I’d rather chill at home with someone sharing their cooking and their story than go out to eat (unless the restaurant does feel like home).


I admit that I get the most satisfaction out of roasting vegetables for soups, salads or simply turning them into easy-do easy-come side dishes. Nothing could be easier than this salad. Roasted golden beets and fennel, a sprinkle of blue cheese, pumpkin seeds and some edamame on top of a bed of greens and Savoy lettuce. I ended up doing a shallot vinaigrette similar to the one Clare made when I was visiting. I sat down and felt a huge sentiment of peace and gratitude.

We call it Clare’s Salad at the house now. Just like we have Tami’s Lima Bean Bisque or Heidi’s Winter Pasta. Or Elise’s Braised Short Ribs.

Roasted Veggie Salad

Cooking with friends. Even if only in spirits. And to paraphrase someone we know… "it’s a good thing"….

Pecan Brown Butter Cakes:

Makes 12

1 cup shelled pecans
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest one lemon
2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease bottom of 12 muffin tins and line with wrappers. Set aside.
Place the pecans on a single baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Grind finely in a food processor. Reserve.
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, melt and cook the butter until it turns golden brown and has a nutty scent. Takes about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool. (I usually don’t strain mine since we like the little dark particles that form when it browns but feel free to do so)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the cooled brown butter and lemon zest and mix until well blended. Add the ground pecans, then the flour mix and baking powder and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth.
Pour it into the prepared tins and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Roasted Vegetable Salad:

Serves 2 as main dish

2 medium golden beets, washed, peeled and quartered
1 small fennel bulb, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
salad greens
2 oz blue cheese
handful of pumpkin seeds
handful of edamame
Shallot vinaigrette (see here for recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, toss together the beets and fennel bulb quarters, add the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a 9×13-inch baking dish and roast for about 20-30 minutes or until tender and a little charred/caramelized.

Place a handful of salad greens at the bottom of two plates or bowl, top with the roasted vegetables, add about 1 oz of blue cheese to each plate and top with some pumpkin seeds and edamame. Drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette and serve

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Anne Marie November 15, 2011 um 8:40 pm

Where did you get the cute little papers for the tins? Did you cut them from parchment yourself and shape them into the cupcake molds? They look so classy and rustic at the same time.

la domestique November 15, 2011 um 8:53 pm

The pecan brown butter cakes look so good! I grew up with a huge pecan tree and truly miss it. The roasted veg salad has such vibrant color! It's food like this that truly makes me feel alive and energized.

The Church Cook November 15, 2011 um 11:09 pm

Colors, flavors, and smell can invoke such wonderful memories shared with good friends….this is beautiful, Helene!

Unknown November 16, 2011 um 12:17 am

I am loving the look of that salad! Such an amazing combination of flavors and textures.

Sara November 16, 2011 um 12:18 am

Wow, those are some gorgeous veggies – fantastic colors!

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga November 16, 2011 um 12:25 am

The roasted veggie salad pic toward the end…the purple, the vibrancy, the light, the detail…just.gorgeous.


I just left a coffee meetup with Marla and we were talking about photography and we both think you're just…beyond inspirational! 🙂

I wish you lived in CA!

Unknown November 16, 2011 um 12:50 am

Pecans falling at this time of year bring back so many childhood memories. If my brothers and I could pick up as many as possible, my aunt would take us to the town store to exchange them for a big Icee! That was huge back in the day…

Clare November 16, 2011 um 1:15 am

You call it "Clare Salad"? REALLY?! I am so honored!!
That salad reminds me of you, too. SO yummy, and such great memories attached to it.
Actually, I just made it for dinner last night….we really do share a brain! 🙂


Plane Jayne November 16, 2011 um 2:12 am

Oh, I can not wait to make those pecan cakes. My 5 year old will be in heaven. Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and fabulous photography.

Sneh | Cook Republic November 16, 2011 um 3:44 am

The pecans are beautiful and the cake sounds divine! The place where you live sounds moody and comforting, perfect for food, friends and photography 🙂

kitchencowboy November 16, 2011 um 5:38 am

Where do you get these nice cupcake tins? Or do you do them yourself. Then I really would like how to do them.

Valérie (France) November 16, 2011 um 12:08 pm

Des images qui parlent d'elles mêmes
Très appétissantes
Je te souhaite une belle journée

Vicki Bensinger November 16, 2011 um 12:59 pm

Both dishes sound wonderful but being so sugared out just from Halloween this veggie salad is what my body is craving. I love golden beets along with the other ingredients. I might opt to sprinkle my salad with goat cheese, a favorite of mine.

Thanks for sharing and congrats on your workshop selling out so fast!

Unknown November 16, 2011 um 1:03 pm

The recipe looks so good, yum.My son and his wife live in Charleston, and our favorite vacation in the spring is always Kiawah Island!
They are coming up north next week and she they are bringing a bag of pecans that have fallen in their yard, but I am most excited to see my six month old grandson!

Tara November 16, 2011 um 2:02 pm

Too funny – I just made a roasted salad last night for dinner! Roasted beets, carrots, and onions with goat cheese. So satisfying!

Jillena November 16, 2011 um 3:04 pm

I love to cook with friends especially in the winter with hot apple cider steaming on the stove. I'm salivating over the muffins. Brown buttered pecans, make perfect sense. Thanks for sharing!

SkinnyMommy November 16, 2011 um 3:14 pm

That salad looks amazing! I wish I could come to one of your workshops-your photography is amazing…

Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet November 16, 2011 um 4:46 pm

My mouth is watering in anticipation of both these dishes. Also, I would love to know if you're ever planning on doing a workshop out near San Francisco. Such beautiful inspiration!

Anonymous November 16, 2011 um 4:58 pm

They look delicious!

Dmarie November 17, 2011 um 1:29 am

stunning photography…love this post!

renee@sweetsugarbean November 17, 2011 um 3:15 am

Stunning salad! Kale never looked so pretty!

Claudie November 17, 2011 um 3:37 am

I so wish there'd be a San Francisco food photography workshop soon, especially focusing on photographing ugly foods :)) (And from the comments, I can see I'm not the only one!!)

As for your dishes: the salad is simply beautiful. The contrasting colors are so bright, it just makes you happy to look at it.

Helene November 17, 2011 um 2:34 pm

renee: maybe because it's not…:) It's Savoy lettuce.

Claudie: it's not a question of want but a question of time. My day job (photo shoots) must take precedent over the "fun job" (workshop). Wish I could be on the road all the time but it takes a toll on everything, family included. Thanks or understanding.

jb November 17, 2011 um 10:34 pm

The pecan brown butter cakes sound wonderful. Pecans are surely my favorite nut, so how could these not be amazing? And the salad sounds divine. I've been consuming my weight in beets lately, and I imagine they are even better paired with fennel.

Shelby November 17, 2011 um 10:56 pm

What a delightful entry, full of healthy, invigorating recollections, thoughts, pictures and memories…. Thank you!

Sofie Dittmann AKA The German Foodie November 18, 2011 um 1:18 am

I've developed a taste for roasted vegetables lately. I'll have to try this out soon!

Unknown November 18, 2011 um 2:07 pm

Jas, your pictures are incredible! I love your work! I really really wish i could come to one of your workshops – i just live so far away! I am really inspired by your amazing skills.

Seanna Lea November 18, 2011 um 5:11 pm

The pecan cakes look like a great little snack to have while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner next week. I might need to get more pecans!

Lauren November 19, 2011 um 6:24 pm

Oh yum. making the clare salad tonight.

Berså November 19, 2011 um 6:42 pm

Love the Savoy-picture !!!

Anonymous November 19, 2011 um 10:29 pm

since a tasted pecans, are my favourite! I'm sure this muffins are yummy 😛

kyleen November 22, 2011 um 3:32 am

Ughh, I wish I lived in Charleston so I could meet you! Every time I click through your blog, I'm overcome with awe and at the same time, jealousy! Your pictures are unbelievably gorgeous and you are my photography idol.

Dena November 26, 2011 um 3:45 am

Beautiful. The colors in your photos are amazing. The foods just leap out from the page. Delicious.

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