Tag Archives: Food

Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies

17 Jan

That’s right, you heard me. I wouldn’t in a million years share these with Cookie Monster. Now, before you jump to conclusions, wondering what kind of person would say such a thing, I can explain. 
 

Cookie Monster will eat ANY cookies. He does not have a discriminating palate and likes them all equally: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar cookies. He shovels them in with wild abandon and shows no respect for either the cookie or the cookie maker.  About now, you, the reader, are thinking that you have much more in common with Cookie Monster than you do with an elitist like me. Perhaps you think I am cruel to speak ill of the precious puppet that defined the eating habits of a generation. But stick with me.
Cookie Monster does not taste his food. Tasting involves biting, chewing, and swallowing, and he does none of those things. He is not, shall we say, a monster in the moment.
The cookies don’t make it far into C.M.’s mouth and make a mighty mess that I am sure makes his mother feel blue. Not to mention it is a waste of perfectly good cookies on the floor.
Now of course we can all relate to the joy he feels; the kid in all of us knows what this is like. But it can be done with dignity.
Even my four-year-old will take time to savor a cookie. And my eighty-three-year-old dad, who bears more resemblance to Cookie Monster than I should admit, in appearance, eating habits, and voice, who will tell you he came to America to eat cake for breakfast, appreciates when a cookie, these cookies in particular, are (in your best Cookie Monster voice) mmmmm…good!
Now, if you like fluffy-thick-cake-like cookies, these are not the ones for you. Although I will argue that you cannot help but love these too. These cookies, like me, try their darndest to make everyone happy: thin, crispy, chewy, chunky. When I eat them, I wonder how one cookie can be all things to everyone, but this one can.
And when you make and eat these, you will see that this is a simple cookie, and whether you eat one or one hundred and one, these are meant to be savored.
There are a few guidelines to making these, but they are very simple:
 First, have all ingredients at room temperature. The butter and the egg will not perform correctly if taken straight from the frigid climate of the refrigerator. It really is no effort at all to leave them on the kitchen counter for an hour or so while they keep each other in good company.
Second, use good quality ingredients. Sure you CAN use any flour, butter, vanilla, and chocolate but just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. Instead, and if you want to these to live up to my promise of perfection, then you must heed my words. European style butter, such as Plugria, will do wonders for the taste and texture of this cookie. The vanilla matters too—none of that imitation stuff here. Whether you use McCormick or Penzey’s, Nielson Massey or Watkins, just make sure it is the real deal. The flour must be unbleached, and preferably King Arthur, but Gold’s will do. And for chocolate, you are expecting me to say here that the better the chocolate the better the cookie, but instead I will tell you that the secret weapon is using a mixture of chocolate chips (pick 2): minis, chunks, chips, dark, milk, semi-sweet, and you will wow even the most jaded chocolate chip cookie eater. You might even make good ol’ C.M. stop in his tracks to taste this cookie.
The last couple of words of wisdom here: have all ingredients measured and close at hand. And while baking these, one tray at a time (none of that double rack rotating halfway through business), don’t leave the kitchen. Be there for your cookies to remove them right on cue.
So, stop and smell the cookies, but be sure to really savor them too.
For the cookie monster in all of us:
Not-For-Cookie-Monster Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup assorted chocolate chips (see above)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (pecans are my fave!) 
1.      Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.      In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and the salt.
3.      In a large bowl, place the butter and both sugars and cream together using an electric mixer for about 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well.
4.      Add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix until just combined.
5.      Using a medium sized cookie scoop drop dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between them. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
6.      Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then remove them to a cooling rack. Eat them warm or cool, but for the love of cookie monster, eat them slowly.
 
 
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We Go Together Like Orange-Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing

11 Jan

When itcomes to recipes in cookbooks I am like a talent scout and can spot a starrecipe from a mile away. No, really. I can pick a recipe out of a cookbook like nobody’s business. And this recipe is a showstopper. You can see for yourself:

Photo by my friend Yana Hotter at Spoonful of Sugar Photography

I found it by accident. There was a cooking class I was scheduled to teach to promote the cookbook section at a local library and not 24 hours before, after all was planned, I received a phone call that we couldn’t actually “cook” at this cooking class, that the kitchen was not up to fire code. Well, what could I do but go back and look in the cookbooks for recipes that didn’t need “cooking” per se, as much as assembling.
 
Now, that being said I am a big fan of COOKING at my cooking classes, but I took a risk, without testing it, or ever having anything like it cross my lips, I made this at the class and like I told you, a star was born.
 
Since then I have made it many times, with run-of-the-mill thin-skinned brightly-hued navel oranges, with lovely sweet pink-fleshed Cara Caras, with gorgeous Valencias so heavy with juice I thought they would burst in my hand, and all were amazing.
 
The secret to this is the red wine vinegar which brings out the flavor of the oranges while taming their sweetness.
 
There is nothing like the surprise element of this salad, when you watch your dinner guests, take a bite of this and are expecting cloying sweetness, or the tang of olives, but instead see how well the flavors meld. 
 
They will think, “Garlic-cumindressing on FRUIT!!! No!” And then you will pull it off like a magic trick, you a sorcerer of taste, conjuring all of the magic you have to make this work.
 
But actually, it goes together like ramma-lamma-lamma-ka-dinga-da-dinga-dong (whatever the heck that means, thank you very much Danny and Sandy).
 
The only way to convince yourself and others is to spread the good word and to make this and eat it as often as possible with as many people as possible as often as you can.
 
Because baby, it’s a STAR!
 
MoroccanOrange and Olive Salad with Cumin-Garlic Dressing 
 
4 oranges, Cara Caras, Valencia, Blood Oranges, or Navel
¼ cup oil cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
1.      In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar,honey, garlic, paprika, cumin and oil. Set aside to let flavors blend.
2.      Remove the skin and pith of the oranges using a serrated knife: cut the ends off of the orange and then startingat one cut end, slice away the peel curving the knife around to the other end. Then slice the orange horizontally into ¼-inch rounds.
3.      Arrange orange slices on a serving platter and scatter with olives and parsley.
4.      Drizzle the garlic-cumin dressing over the oranges and olives sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Note: This dressing is also delicious poured over couscous, chicken, and pasta. Just sayin’.

We Are What We Eat

29 Dec

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Brillat-Savarin

Ahem, hello?*tap*tap* Is anyone out there? *tap*tap* Is this microphone even on?

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about food?

We are what we eat. Such a cliche, and I don’t mean if you eat a carrot you are a carrot, although, maybe to some extent I do. 

We are defined by the choices we make. And as Americans in the 21st century we are lucky enough to have choices. We eat like kings all day, every day, all the time.

But we are also defined by what we don’t eat, whether due to diets, allergies, intolerances, preferences, political beliefs, or religion.

Maybe how we define ourselves as eaters also defines us in other ways too: vegetarian, vegan, organic, low-fat, kosher. Maybe you don’t eat dairy. Or gluten. Or carbs. Or pork. Or any red meat. Or processed foods. Or foods that have travelled more than 100 miles to get to your kitchen. Or maybe you eat everything (if so, please come over for dinner immediately).

Food has the power to make us feel good or guilty, energized or sluggish. It can bring us together or keep us apart.
In any case, we are driven by our need for and interest in food. Whether for health, sustenance, or pleasure–we are all in this together. And we are defined by it.
Aura
 
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