Thursday, July 15, 2010

The need for another cookie.

After several batches of chocolate chip cookies I needed something fresh. Not that I don't love chocolate chip cookies because I really do. There is nothing better than peeling one off of the scorching hot metal and dipping it into ice cold milk all while trying not to burn your finger or your mouth on molten chocolate. Yummy. But after the store is closed and you're out of chocolate chips you'll find that you are in the mood for something different.

Now when I think of delicious cookies, I think of my friend Ashley. We used to share an apartment and one day she came home only to fill the house with a mouth-watering ginger warmth all radiating from her latest batch of ginger cookies. I can not tell you how amazingly good these cookies smelled. I have made many a ginger cookie trying to recreate Ashley's but to no avail... until last night. Finally, I have made a ginger cookie that is spicy and sweet, chewy and crunchy and absolutely, utterly, completely addicting.

Thank you Earthbound Farms cookbook.

Ginger Cookies
Adapted from Earthbound Farm's Food To Live By

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup candied ginger, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or wax paper and set aside.

Place the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg, molasses and candied ginger and beat until combined.

Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

With the electric mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat until the dough is smooth.

Roll pieces of dough between your palms to form 1-inch balls. Lightly dip the balls in the remaining ½ cup of sugar and gently roll to coat. Arrange the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies until very fragrant but still soft, about 8-12 minutes, for a chewy texture.

Allow cookies sheets to cool for 5 minutes. Then, using a spatula, transfer cookies directly onto another surface (such as a counter top) to finish cooling.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Condiment: Onion Jam

We all know of the sweet jam that our mothers or grandmothers used to make when summer fruit was at it's ripest. Perhaps you have also been to a gastro-pub and had onion jam on a burger or sandwich. Onion jam is rich and savory with a sweet and sour tang that comes from the vinegar. It is fantastic on burgers or with beef or chicken. It is also incredibly simple to make and keeps well in the refridgerator.

Balsamic Onion Jam

1 large red onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste

Peel and thinly slice the onion. Add to a small sauce pot over medium-low to low heat. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt. Cook until the onions are soft and any liquid in the pot has thickened to coat the onions.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Condiment: Peperonata

Peperonata is actually considered a stew from Italy. It is said to have Arabic influences and seems to be one those recipes that everyone has their own version of. In its simplest form it is made up of a simple mix of red, orange and yellow bell peppers, red onions and olive oil. It is a very versatile condiment tasting great with anything grilled as well as adding a punch to otherwise mild ingredients such as ricotta cheese. Peperonata is also extremely easy to make and is wonderful to serve during dinner parties as it is as bright in flavor as it is in color and strangely no well known.

My Favorite Peperonata

This recipe is from

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small red onions (about 12 ounces total), halved, sliced crosswise
2 pounds mixed red and yellow bell peppers (about 4 large), cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed, drained, or 2 tablespoons capers in brine, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until almost tender, about 6 minutes. Mix in bell peppers and crushed red pepper; sprinkle lightly with coarse kosher salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until peppers are tender and silky, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar, capers, oregano, and thyme. Increase heat to medium; stir uncovered 3 minutes. Season peperonata to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Transfer peperonata to bowl and cool to room temperature. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Silcilian Peperonata

This recipe is from and was created by Eleonora Consoli.

4 bell peppers
1 large onion
1 small glass vinegar
1/4 cup pinenuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup capers
1 tbsp sugar
Mint leaves

Wash, stem and seeds the peppers. Cut in 2.5cm/1'' squares. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep frying pan and add the onion and peppers. Heat on moderate flame. Prepare 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Most versions of this recipe also add capers under salt, but as I don't care for them too much Mrs Consoli instructed her assistant to leave them. Add the pine nuts and raisins to the peppers. Pour in a small glass vinegar, stir and cover. Add the sugar. Let it cook on a low flame until the peppers are soft, about 12 minutes. Pour into the serving platter, cover and set aside until dinner is ready. This dish is usually served lukewarm.

Peperonata with Jalepenos
This recipe is from the LA Times website.

Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
5 bell peppers, preferably a mixture of red and yellow, roasted, peeled and seeded, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 jalapeno, roasted, peeled and seeded
2 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end, as the peppers will want to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, pound the jalapeno and garlic into a paste in a mortar with another 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the basil and parsley; pound to a paste. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and stir, grinding more with the pestle. The sauce should have a rather loose consistency, somewhat more liquid than pesto.

Stir the sauce into the peppers, taste for salt and heat through, 2 minutes. This is good hot, cold or anywhere in between.

Enjoy experimenting with you own mixture of peppers, vinegars and flavors!

The Condiment: Pesto

The Condiment. A seriously under-thought everyday edition to a multitude of foods.

I know my husband and I use condiments five or six times a day. That's more than bread and meat! But for something that we use so often, I have to admit that during my grocery shopping it is probably the least thought through purchase. I just throw the ketchup, mustard, mayo, hot sauce... etc. into the cart and call it good. I have made my own bread, my own tomato sauce, my own jam and jellies but I have never really thought about making my own ketchup. I have thought about Japanese food, Indian, Chinese, Italian. Have I ever thought about their condiments? Perhaps more that their American counterparts but again, not really.

Now that I have admitted this to myself, what are Italian condiments? Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar surely. Pesto? Sure. That seems like a good place to start.

The interesting thing about condiments in general, is that they are all to taste. Whether it's sauces, spreads, chutneys or relishes; it is all really about what you like. Therefore, none of these condiments really have exact recipes but more of a list of what works. The only way to get right is to taste, taste, taste to your preference. Because of this, there are also many variations on each condiment. For example, in pesto you can substitute other herbs or greens for the basil, other nuts for the pine nuts, other cheese for the Parm, etc. Below I have included a few of the most successful variations of pesto.

Standard Everyday Pesto

Into a food processor toss:

Small chunks of Parmesan (the real stuff) cheese (Asiago or romano work as well)
Couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves
About a 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted (and they must absolutely be toasted)
1 or 2 cloves of chopped, raw garlic

and pulse while drizzling in Olive Oil. Continue pulsing until pesto comes together, but not until it is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Replace all or some of the basil with sun-dried tomatoes. Other options are arugula, spinach, parsley, cilantro or other tender greens or herbs

Almond Pesto

Replace all or some of the pine nuts with toasted almonds. Other options are mild flavored nuts such as walnuts.

Lemon Pesto

Replace all or some of the olive oil with lemon olive oil or add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Other options are replacing the olive oil with any flavored oil, nut oils being particularly tasty

Mint Walnut Pesto

Replace the basil with mint and the pine nuts with walnuts. Add pepper to taste and enjoy slathered on lamb shanks for a refreshing marinade or dipping sauce.

Great, so now we have the pesto. What do we do with it? Some great uses are:
  • Stirring together a 1:1 ratio of pesto and mayonnaise for summer burgers, sandwiches and pasta salads.
  • Tossing pesto onto warm pasta to serve with baby tomatoes, grilled chicken and mozzarella.
  • Mixing pesto into ground chicken for an interesting twist on burgers.
  • Adding it to your tomato sauce on spaghetti night.
  • Slathering pesto on white fish or chicken breasts before grilling.
  • Stuffing ravioli or manacotti with mozzarella, ricotta and pesto.
  • Blending up a pesto vinaigrette by adding some more olive oil and a some vinegar to taste.
I think as far as condiments go, pesto is quite a good one. :)

My very own personal cookbook.

There are a lot of websites out there these days that allow you to privately publish your own personal cookbook. All of Grandma's recipes can now be compiled into a single special book to be printed only five times, one for each of the grandchildren. Cool. But I have a totally different idea. Over the years I have collected many, many cookbooks. Some of them I go to again and again. Others I keep around for that holiday turkey recipe. Still others I bought for "that one recipe" that I never remember is in there in the first place and now with the Internet I can add a pile of stained and crumpled pieces of paper that I have printed out from various websites, half of which get thrown away, to my stacks of dusty cookbooks. Every time I make my weekly menu and grocery list, I pull out my cookbook stack and thumb through each book for inspiration. This leaves me on the floor surrounded by a sea of books while I hunt for the best version of Chicken & Dumplings or chocolate cake.

Here is where the online publishing comes in. What if I compiled all of my favorite recipes into one cookbook? One go to book with all of my "best of..." recipes? One cookbook to go to for all my favorites? One cookbook that I pulled off the shelf and easy thumbed through while sitting comfortably on the couch? Sounds like a great idea, I though to myself.

So here is the problem. If I make my own Fannie Farmer or Joy of Cooking, what recipes should I include? Is it necessary to describe how to de-bone a chicken in my cookbook? Or should I just keep to my reservoir of go-to dishes? Do I add a baking section with the best cakes and cookies? Do I add in classics that I have never made but might want to one day?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Feast

On Sunday, my husband and I are going to our foodie club meeting. This month's theme is pumpkins. The goal is to take a pumpkin and make a non-traditional recipe with it. For last Thanksgiving I made an amazing Pumpkin Cheesecake from the Epicurious website. I will be making that for sure! Hopefully everyone likes it. :)

I love tradition as much as the next person, but with so many holiday parties and get-togethers with the same food, it's nice to mix it up.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping
Gourmet | November 1990

For the crust:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon if desired

For the topping:

2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon, or to taste
16 pecan halves for garnish

Make the crust:
In a bowl combine the cracker crumbs, the pecans, and the sugars, stir in the butter, and press the mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the side of a buttered 9-inch springform pan. Chill the crust for 1 hour.

Make the filling:
In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, beat in the cream, the cornstarch, the vanilla, the bourbon liqueur, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set, and let it cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes.

Make the topping:
In a bowl whisk together the sour cream, the sugar, and the bourbon liqueur.

Spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake the cheesecake for 5 minutes more. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight. Remove the side of the pan and garnish the top of the cheesecake with the pecans.

Halloween Drinks

Martha Stewart helped me out a lot this Halloween. The Martha Stewart Website has great actually spooky ideas. All of my drinks that were served at the party were from her website.

Here is a picture of the shrunken head apple cider. This recipe can also be found at the Martha Stewart website here. I made my own apple cider, which is incredibly easy to do and also makes your house smell amazing. This was my non-alcoholic drink. For those drinking alcohol I served the Ghost In The Graveyard drink found here on the Martha Stewart website.

Traditional Apple Cider

1 gallon apple juice
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole dried orange peel
6 cinnamon sticks

Take a large stock pot and fill with Apple juice. Add the spices to the juice, you can either toss them in OR for easy clean up, tie them into a bag made of cheesecloth. Turn your heat to a low simmer and let the juice and spices meld until the juice has reduced to 3/4 of its original volume. This is not an exact science so I normally taste the cider periodically to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. Once you get the right flavor, remove the spices as they can make the cider become bitter.

Shrunken Heads

1 large apple
4 whole cloves
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together lemon juice and salt; set aside. Peel apple and cut each in half through the stem; remove seeds and core. Using a sharp paring knife, carve a face, as desired, on the rounded side of each apple half. Place apple in lemon mixture for one minute; transfer to paper towels to drain. Place apple, face-side up on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Let bake until apple are dry and begin to brown around the edges, about 90 minutes. Remove apple from baking sheets and press cloves into the "eye" sockets. Float shrunken heads on top of cider. Each apple makes two floating heads.

Ghost in the Graveyard

2 ounces black vodka
2 ounces creme de cacao or coffee-flavored liqueur
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Pinch of finely grated nutmeg, for garnish

In a glass, combine vodka and creme de cacao, and set aside. Place a scoop of ice cream in a highball glass, and slowly pour vodka mixture over ice cream. Garnish with nutmeg; serve immediately. Serves 1.