Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas Eve

Rosé anyone? It's Christmas Eve and rather than reaching for a mug of hot buttered rum, I'm thinking pink. It's 71 degrees in NYC and people's heads are exploding like it's Snomageddon 2.0. There is nothing that peeps like to talk about more than the weather, and I am clearly no exception. I do love a white Christmas but if it's going to be 70 freaking degrees, then I am going to behave accordingly.

If you are still in the mood to turn on the oven to bake and are looking for a slightly more modern shortbread cookie, then look no further than these Cardamom Crescents. The cardamom provides an unexpected flavor profile that's not your standard vanilla holiday cookie. Mine may look more like half moons than crescent moons, so if that concerns you, I would suggest chilling your dough for a bit before baking, the same way I'll be chilling my Christmas rosé.

Cardamom Crescents
Adapted from The New York Times

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon kosher salt
14 ounces unsalted butter (3 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
2 large egg whites
¼ cup sliced almonds, if desired

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, add the flour, cardamom and salt, and whisk to combine.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on low speed until just combined. Add the egg whites, beat until just combined, then add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

3. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece out into a log 3/4-inch thick. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut 3-inch pieces off the log. Working with one 3-inch piece at a time, gently roll both ends so they taper slightly, then form into a crescent. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough, placing the crescents 1-inch apart. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4. Gently press 1 almond slice into each cookie, if using. Bake until light golden brown, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independent Women

Once again the Fourth of July holiday and Wimbledon tennis tourney coincide, and particularly well this year with American women making up 25% of the round of 16!! Venus, Serena, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe will all be representing the USA in the fourth round. Get ready for Monday's epic sibling match-up of Venus and Serena, their 26th time playing each other. So exciting!

The American men aren't faring as well. John Isner lost to Cilic in the 3rd round so Denis Kudla is the lone American man who has made it through to the fourth round. Also of note: Rafa got knocked out in the 2nd round when he lost to Jamaican-German Dustin Brown (his second loss to Dustin on grass). Sorry, Rafa. (Stick to clay!) Fortunately we will be seeing more Federer! Go Roger!!!

Anyhoo, I am no sports reporter so the whole point of this post is my latest Breakfast at Wimbledon recipe. Instead of traditional scones, in honor of Independence Day and the American women still playing, I opted for the more all-American breakfast treat, blueberry muffins. I'm sure that none of these fabulous athletes would dare eat such empty calories during this tournament, so I will do it for them!

This blueberry muffin recipe is adapted from The Ski House Cookbook where I used sour cream to make a much lighter muffin with a more delicate crumb. Speaking of crumbs, I added a crumb topping that I swiped from the coffee cake recipe also in the book. These are great for breakfast or dessert. Or for winning a tennis tournament. Probably.

Super Sour Cream, Blueberry-Crumb, Fourth-of-July Wimbledon Muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Butter a standard (12-cup) muffin tin and set aside. 

2. Prepare the topping: In a small bowl stir together the flour and brown sugar. Add the butter and using a pastry blender or fork, mix the ingredients until they are crumbly, resembling a coarse sand. Set aside until ready to bake.

3. Prepare the muffins: In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

4. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and lemon zest if using. Stir in the sour cream.

5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with the crumb topping.

6. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.)  Cool the muffins in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan to a rack to continue cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Peanut Butter, Death & Taxes

What a great start to March. It's dark, cold, snowy…why not spend the day doing taxes? Oh sure, I could have gone to brunch, had a mani/pedi, seen one of the Oscar flicks that I missed...but why, when the call of the IRS was so strong? Having a glass of wine seemed sadly, wrong, what with all of the simple arithmetic and attempts to figure out my farm income and alimony received. TMI? 

Baking is a good procrastinatory measure and a little sugar never hurts when math is involved. This peanut butter cookie recipe ran in the NY Times late last year and is a pretty close approximation to the City Bakery peanut butter cookie (in case you are a fan). Normally I stick with my simplified, 5 ingredient version, but this one is pretty…pretty…pretty good. I like that the name references one of my favorite packaged cookies of all time: The Pecan Sandie, or, as Keebler officially calls them, the Keebler Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies. (With registered trademarks throughout too BTW.) This particular recipe makes a much saltier, denser and softer variety than Keebler (and also peanut obvi) and I highly recommend giving them a try, even if you aren't doing your taxes.  And I'm not anymore…cuz I'm done! JEALOUS??

Peanut Butter Sandies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups unsweetened peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
Flaky sea salt and coarse sugar for sprinkling (or use kosher salt and granulated sugar)

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter and eggs, and mix. Add the flour and salt and mix just until well combined, with no white flour showing.

2. Using a small cookie scoop (about 2 teaspoons capacity), scoop dough onto the prepared pans. The tops will be rounded but craggy. The cookies will not spread much or change shape when they bake, so they can be placed quite close together, but leave room for air circulation so they can brown.

3. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 tablespoon salt. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sugar-salt mixture, getting it into the crags and crannies. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are set and golden-brown. Carefully lift or slide off baking sheets and cool on racks. Store in layers separated by parchment paper, in airtight containers.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blue Apron Optional

Guys? Hey, guys? Anyone?? I'm finally back from an extended commercial break! I can't believe that I have been MIA for so long that Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone without a single holiday baking post from moi. (And I shockingly only made one batch of cookies over the entire holiday season.) Speaking of the holidays, after traveling for a majority of the time, coming home to an empty kitchen definitely provided enough temptation to order in, until I remembered that I had a delivery coming from Blue Apron. Sorry, Seamless.

Pre-packaged meal delivery is not necessarily something that I would seek out, but since I was getting my first delivery for free I figured that I might as well check it out. In my box I received the ingredients for three meals for two: pulled chicken tacos, beef bolognese and Thai coconut shrimp soup. The problem is, you have to be in the mood to cook and in the mood to eat specifically what is being delivered to you! Upon my delivery, I unpacked the entire box and then proceeded to eat pita chips and hummus because I really didn't feel like cooking. 

Everything was very well planned and packaged, and all of the ingredients were fresh, but I still felt like there was something lacking. On day two I made the pulled chicken tacos, sort of. I froze one chicken breast, cooked the other according to directions, and then skipped the side salad and made guacamole instead. I used the leftover sauce to make black beans and rice two days later. 

On day four I made the Thai shrimp soup. I followed the directions but added fish sauce because there was an overall lack of saltiness to balance out the hot/sour/sweet flavors. I also preferred to serve it more like a curry served over the rice versus a soup with a little bit of rice added in. It was also generously portioned and I ended up eating it for 3 meals.

On day seven I finally got around to making the beef bolognese. (Fear not! I kept checking the expiration dates so that nothing spoiled.) Again I followed the directions but having made bolognese from scratch before, I knew that it was going to be pretty basic. A little too basic for me. I added white wine and diced tomatoes at the point at which BA would have you serve it, and then proceded to simmer it for another 30 minutes. I think it added an acidity and sauciness that otherwise would have been lacking. This was also a very generous portion. The recipe was meant to serve two, but I have managed to extend it for 4 meals. Oh! I forgot to mention that you were supposed to stir brussels sprouts leaves into the sauce at the end. Umm…ok. Random!

I can see how this concept would work for people who have a problem planning and shopping for meals, but I guess I like to be a little more improvisational. There is very little waste, which as a person cooking for one, I do appreciate. Purchasing an entire bunch of cilantro or head of celery when you only need a tablespoon is super annoying since the unused portion often spoils in the fridge. And having someone else locate lemongrass and coconut palm sugar was pretty rad. 

You are given the ability to skip deliveries and to make basic recipe requests (like meat preferences etc.) so I could see doing this once every month or so, but I think for the most part I'll stick to making my usuals and skip the blue apron.

Quick Beef Bolognese

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces ground beef
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 ounces fresh pappardelle pasta
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the garlic, carrot, celery, onion and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, 2 - 4 minutes, or until softened and fragrant.

2. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring frequently, 2 - 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon for 4 - 6 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. 

3. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat a medium pot of salted water to boiling on high. Add the pasta and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add directly to the sauce. Toss to coat and add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Remove from the heat and add half of the cheese. Toss to coat and serve with remaining cheese on the side. Serves 2 - 4.

Coconut Red Curry Shrimp

1/2 cup jasmine rice
Vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 stalks lemongrass (tough outer layers removed; one stalk minced and one stalk cut in half and smashed)
1 scallion, sliced (separate the green and white parts and reserve)
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
1 lime, zested and quartered
1 tablespoon fish sauce
8 ounces shrimp
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1. In a small pot, heat the rice, 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to boiling on high. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12 - 14 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, minced lemongrass and the white parts of the scallion. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 - 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 - 2 minutes, or until softened.

3. Add the red curry paste, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 - 2 minutes or until fragrant.

4. Add the coconut milk, palm sugar, lime zest, fish sauce, reserved lemongrass pieces and 1 cup of water to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 - 4 minutes or until thoroughly combined. 

5. Season the shrimp with salt and add to the soup. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 - 10 minutes or until opaque and cooked through. Turn off the heat and add half of the cilantro and the juice of two lime wedges. Discard the smashed lemongrass. Serve the curry with the rice and top with the remaining scallions and cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 2 - 4.