Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chocolate Treasure Cookies

me with my friend Chelsi at
her birthday party!
For one of my friend's recent birthdays, I gave her a Magnolia Bakery Cookbook as a gift. I suspected it would be a hit since I know that it's on the top of her itinerary every time she comes to New York City! When I visited her at home later during my visit, we decided to bake something from the new book. I read out the recipes in the car, and when I said "Chocolate Drop Cookies with Pecans, Heath Bar, and Vanilla Chips" we both paused, and said, "Oooooh." Sold!

Here's a link to the recipe that we made, which is easy and delicious:



Chelsi at work with the mixer

http://www.food.com/recipe/magnolia-bakerys-chocolate-drop-cookies-143047

single-bowl mixing
I learned two things that night. First, I learned that I should procure: a cookbook stand, a nut chopping mill (perhaps a unitasker, but amazing!), and a cookie scoop (smaller than an ice cream scoop and incredibly useful in baking). Second, I learned that though my friend has a personality that seems very by-the-rules, this does not apply to recipes! We estimated through our measurements (and talked about starting a cooking show called Baking by Estimation, or something like that), and (and this is the big part)... we did not mix the dry and wet ingredients in two separate bowls and then put them together. Instead, we put all the wet ingredients into a big bowl, mixed them together, then sprinkled over the dry ingredients one by one, and then mixed it all together. My friend seems to think that the separate bowls is a myth (or just to encourage people to sift their ingredients, but one can easily do this manually over the wet ingredients)... and I have to say that I didn't taste a lick of difference in the resulting cookies! So from now on, until I have a recipe that fails, I'm going to save on the extra dish and try my friend's trick!
the finished product!


  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lille Tarte Maroilles (cheese tart)

enjoying Veuve Cliquot with my friend Gwenaelle,
who first introduced me to the tarte Maroilles
When I was in Paris, one of my French friends invited me to a dinner party at her apartment overlooking the Cathedral of St. Vincent et Paul. It was a lovely evening all around, but I particularly remember the tart that she made. Maroilles cheese, local to Lille, has a tremendous scent raw, but once cooked topped with a breaded crust, it mellows out into a delicious flavor. Heavenly.



I made this tart for my friend Danielle
in Bethesda!
I'd given up all hope of making this tart on my own (where does one find Maroilles cheese in America, anyway?), until I visited the farmer's market in Bethesda, MD with a friend. We stopped over at the cheese stall, and tried a few varieties. When I confessed my passion for creamy cheeses (a French triple creme named delice de nostalgie is still a favorite - more commonly found as delice de Bourgogne), the shop keeper had us try their creamy cow's milk cheese... which totally resembled a Maroilles. While not quite as strong, the scent and flavor were the closest I've found to this unique cheese. So I bought some and tried out a tart. It was, though not quite what my Lille friend made... delicious!

Tarte Maroilles (adapted from BBC)

Ingredients
2/3 cup warm milk
1 packet (7 grams) of yeast (I used easy rise)
look at the cheese dripping down! yum!
2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 lb of stinky cow cheese (Maroilles, preferably, or a strong brie can suit, though the flavor will not be as strong), cubed (be sure to remove the rind as well)
2 eggs
1 200 ml container of creme fraiche (sour cream or Greek yogurt will do in a pinch; even though it belongs in the dairy section near the sour cream, you can often find this in the specialty cheese section at your grocer)

Directions
fresh out of the oven! 
1. Whisk warm milk, yeast, and sugar together.
2. Beat egg and add it to the mixture.
3. Add the flour, and stir until dough comes together.
4. Knead dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.
5. Place dough in bowl and leave covered for an hour to rise (I still find the results so cool!)
6. Preheat oven to 375.
7. Roll out dough until 1/2" thick and place in a greased circular pie pan (or square if you prefer).
8. Thoroughly mix the cubed cheese, 1 beaten egg, the nutmeg and the creme fraiche (or replacement) in a bowl. You might season as well with salt and pepper and herbs de provence.
9. Top the dough layer with the cheese layer.
10. Bake for 30 minutes and serve warm.

we enjoyed the leftovers with a simple salad.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Vegetable Harvest!

Last week a friend and I made what is essentially a ragu with almost all of the vegetables that I got from the CSA, and it was delicious, fresh, and all the vegetables tasted like themselves. The leftovers were also delicious! This all made me very happy! Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 tbl evoo
2 cloves garlic, smushed and diced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup white wine
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 eggplant, chopped and left to sit with sea salt sprinkled over it for at least 15-20 minutes
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 of a large celeriac root, peeled and chopped
4 pieces of prosciutto, sliced (optional)
1 tbl herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan.
2. Once heated, add garlic and diced onion, and stir fry alone for a few minutes.
3. Add prociutto pieces and herbs de provence and let brown slightly.
4. Add the cup of white wine and let it cook down.
5. Then slowly add the chopped vegetables, stirring frequently to mix.
6. Allow vegetables to cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pan becomes too dry, occasionally coat the base of the pan with a cup of water.
7. Salt and pepper to taste.

My friend and I also made and loved the Leek Toasts with Blue Cheese from Smitten Kitchen - give these a try: http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/05/leeks-toasts-with-blue-cheese/
We also had some extra caramelized leeks from this dish, and just added them to our ragu.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Miranda's Zucchini Soup

I know, I know, it's not summer anymore, and zucchini is falling out of season (I'm well aware - I paid over $5 for a few small zucchini at a grocery store here in NYC, and it wasn't even a fancy grocery). But this is a long-time favorite ever since my friend Miranda made it at her house in Lavacourt the summer before last, and I wanted to make it just one more time before it gets cold.

Save this, then, for next summer! It's as delicious cold as warm or hot.

Zucchini Soup
about 5 fresh zucchini, peeled zebra style and sliced into chunks/disks
1 large white onion roughly chopped
1 tsp herbs de provence
4 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cups vegetable stock (I use boiling water and a bouillon cube)
1 tsp dry dill weed (or 2 TBL of fresh dill)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 or 3/4 cup creme fraiche or greek yogurt

1. Cook onion and garlic with herbs de Provence in olive oil until translucent.

2. Add chopped zucchini and cook until it begins to soften.
Add enough stock to just
cover the zucchini 

3. Add stock, dill, salt and pepper and simmer for at least thirty minutes. The zucchini will start to fall apart.

4. Wait until the soup has cooled a bit (I made this rookie mistake last night and broke the plastic jar of my food processor!), puree it in your food processor. Add creme fraiche or Greek yogurt to the soup to thicken. Enjoy!

yum!

*if you have chives, these are a nice garnish.
**if you have hot peppers sitting around, slice some up for the soup, but go easy or it might end up tasting like a tex mex soup!

Me with Mom, Miranda & Francois at Lavacourt

The table of many fine memories!

Monday, October 3, 2011

September Bake-Date

Galina & Amy 
Last week I went to a friend's house with two friends who LOVE to cook! Amy, a friend from high school, has her own cooking blog called elephanteats.com. Check it out! Galina, a new friend who is a fellow fellow at the Met, was e-mailing with me about a gorgeous-sounding red wine chocolate cake... and we decided to make an evening (and a full meal) of it! Amy's kitchen has plenty of space for three, and we had a great time chatting while we constructed a delicious dinner. Hope to do it again soon, ladies!

We selected three different dishes - two from a favorite blog in the city, and another recipe from Bon Appetit.

For a salad, we constructed Smitten Kitchen's Salad with arugula, fennel, prosciutto, and pomegranate. To die for! To top it off, Amy had purchased nice fresh cut prosciutto from the butcher counter at the grocery store, and it was delicious. The salt from the ham and the sweet from the pomegranate was a perfect combination!
pomegranate arugula salad

http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/11/fennel-prosciutto-and-pomegranate-salad/









For dinner, we made Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Shallots, using a Bon Appetit recipe that you can find here:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mac-and-Two-Cheeses-with-Caramelized-Shallots-350762

caramelizing shallots
our hearty, rich plates!
finished product: gourmet mac'n'cheese
This dish was easy and fun. The caramelized shallots give a sweetness which tastes delicious with the cheddar cheese of the macaroni. And the cheese sauce is super easy, pretty quick and delicious - far superior to anything you can make from powder in a box. Just keep a box of tissues nearby, as cutting the shallots can bring tears to your eye!
me, goat cheese,
mac n' cheese















And the raison d'etre for the evening: Red Wine Chocolate Cake. Why not combine two favorite things?This cake was unbelievably easy,  and, like the rest of the (admittedly rich) meal, heavenly! 

http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/09/red-wine-chocolate-cake/



Amy and L.C. working on the cake
Galina & the Kitchen Aid

red wine for cake? yes, please!
and don't forget about the dessert!


L.C. was very impressed with our efforts!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Risotto with Caramelized Onion, Cheddar, and Basil

Amy's Rosemary Bread
Sounds yummy, right?! I'd been building up a pile of onions from my weekly CSA that I hadn't used, and hadn't made risotto for awhile, so it seemed like the perfect meeting. And it was delicious, rich, and so much fun to share with my friend Ann, whom I hadn't seen in ages, and her boyfriend. We also enjoyed the meal with a piece of one of my favorite French cheeses - delice de Bourgogne and some delicious rosemary bread from Amy's Bread. This dish takes a leisurely hour to prepare.

Ingredients
2 cups arborio rice
3 tbl olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, smushed and diced
2 cups dry white wine
3-4 small shallots, peeled and chopped
2-3 large white onions, peeled and chopped
6-8 cups vegetable broth (I make my own with boiling water and a bouillon cube or two)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbl fresh basil, chopped
2 cups arugula
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Bring vegetable broth to a gentle simmer on the stove top (on the back burner).
2. Turn on the heat under a large saucepan and a large frying pan and put 1 1/2 tbl olive oil in each.
3. Put half of the garlic in each pan.
arugula nests
4. As soon as the garlic begins to saute, add the risotto into the saucepan and the shallots/onions into the frying pan. Keep stirring the risotto until you see a small white dot in the center (but don't let the rice turn brown) and then add 1 cup of white wine. Once the onions begin to cook, add the other cup of white wine into the frying pan with them.
5. As the onions are caramelizing (add additional wine if the pan gets too dry and stir regularly), add laddle-fuls of broth into the rice mixture, stirring occasionally as it absorbs and waiting until it absorbs to add more broth.
6. After the onions begin to turn light brown, add half of the basil.
7. Once the rice becomes soft and creamy, turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses and the onion mixture.
8. Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to taste.
9. Construct arugula nests on plates and place the risotto in the center. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped basil.

Enjoy with a nice wine!

a lovely tablespread







Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seaside Crumbcake

the product = more crumb than cake!
One of my first summer jobs as a teenager was working at a seaside bakery on the coast of New Jersey. It's hard now to imagine myself getting up at 4 AM to go to work, but at the time, the pre-dawn (and pre-humid) walk along the lake was whirring with the sounds of night bugs and getting off work at 10 or 11 made for a lovely afternoon snoozing and swimming in the ocean. One of the most common sales at this shop was their amazing crumbcake - we would sell out of it almost every day. Though I don't work there anymore or live enough close to it to get a fix every now and again, I like to make it occasionally (though no more than occasionally - you'll understand when you see the butter content!). I worried that something about the salty sea air is what made the crumbcake so amazing, but I'm happy to say that I've been able to closely approximate the delicious texture of the seaside crumbcake at home! This recipe is a lot of fun to make!

Seaside Crumbcake

Use a 9 x 12 glass pyrex pan.

Ingredients
3 tbl canola oil
the batter phase
4 1/4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter (told you there was a lot in here!)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325. Melt butter in a saucepan and set aside to cool.
crumbs
2. Brush 1 tbl of canola oil in the pan and sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over it. Shake the pan gently over the trash/sink to remove the extra flour
3. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
4. In a separate medium bowl, mix egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to this mixture.
5. Spread batter into the pan - it should just form a thin layer at the base of the pyrex.
6. In a small bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups of flour, brown sugar, and spices. Some recipes call for cinnamon alone, but I prefer the more complex flavor of having sprinkles of some additional spices.
7. Pour butter over mixture, and mix with a fork to form crumbles.
8. Sprinkle the large crumbles over the batter (this is my favorite part of this recipe).
9. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool completely. Once cooled, sift powdered sugar over the cake. Cut into slices and enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cheddar-Dill Scones

A few years ago, my friend Kate threw a scone party. I went over to help with the preparations and baking and before I could start, she sat me down with the scone bible: the Once Upon a Tart cookbook. I've since tried many of the scones (and tarts) recipes and have loved them all. However, the one I return to the most is the cheddar-dill scone. It somehow tastes refreshing no matter what the season, and has the perfect savory flavor to eat alone or with other dishes. Here's the first batch I've made in my NYC apartment (photographed with handmade stoneware from France, a stainless steel spice plate from Finland, and a Thai table cloth)


I've found the recipe written out on another blog, so will direct you there for this cheddar-herb deliciousness: 

http://foodandspice.blogspot.com/2010/02/cheddar-parmesan-scones-with-dill.html



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Q:"How Do You Do This?" A: "With Love"

our master chef for the evening: Jose 
I tend to host dinner parties frequently, but I find that I attend far fewer, and when I do, it's hard not to get involved with the cooking. So when I was invited to some new friends' house warming party at their gorgeous new pad in Brooklyn and I arrived to find that everyone had a chopping/cleaning task and all was taken care of, I decided to sit back, take photos, enjoy the conversation, and take it all in.
Antipasti of Fresh Brown Bread, Tomatoes,
Fresh Moz, and Onion









Bacon Chopper Luke









On the Menu for the Celebration of Breaking in the Brand New Kitchen:

Green Bean Salad with Bacon and Onion
-This dish is so delicious and totally easy. Boil or steam your green beans. Add cooked bacon slices, sauteed white onions, salt and pepper, and serve. In this case, Jose used this colorful dish as a beautiful nest for the centerpiece of steak.
Green Beans, Bacon, and Onion


Mushroom Washer Matt













Bacon-Wrapped Steaks Topped with a Blue-Cheese Paste
Jose wrapped the edge of these thick steaks with a layer of bacon and affixed it with small cooking needles. Toothpicks will also do, but either way be sure to remove before serving!

The blue-cheese topping for the meat was my favorite part of the meal. Mix one container of crumbled blue cheese (6 oz) with a few drops of hot sauce, some worcestershire sauce, and about a half cup of buttermilk. Jose asked me to stir these things together, which I did, but realized by his disapproval that these need to be fully blended together so that the cheese really makes a paste with the liquid. Absolutely delicious!

All together, the flavors of the green beans, meat, cheese sauce, and bacon complemented each other for a rich, almost nutty, heavenly meal!
Steaks Getting Ready for the Oven
Bacon-wrapped Steak before











... including the mushroom flipping

Master Chef has it all under control...
Celebrating the Finished Product
Look at that presentation!
Home-made Apple Pie

the perfect dessert
And the meal's capstone: dessert. Gina's gorgeous, perfectly cooked apple pie.  She made her own pie crust at home, and made sure not to the let the butter melt in advance of baking so that she could have a perfect, flaky crust. And it was divine! Check out the leaf details on the top crust as well! 
Gina's Gorgeous Apple Pie




 It was a great dinner party with a fantastic group of interesting people, and simply delicious food. Over dinner, Gina asked Jose, "How do you do this?" He replied without missing a beat, "With love." Jose's cooking is home-trained and exudes all of his passion and energy for making good, complex meals with excellent complementary flavors. I look forward to future dinner parties with this crowd, both for the fun & for the food!