March 31, 2007

Pistol Packin' Mama Cupcakes

4 oz Vosges Red Fire Chips*, melted
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line 15-18 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vanilla and sugar together. Add the eggs, beat until combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder mix until just combined. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and mix throughly. Pour in the the boiling water and carefully mix until a wet, smooth batter forms. Pour into prepare pans, filling 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the center cupcake comes out almost clean. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Ice with your favorite icing or top with dulce de leche for a truly decadent experience.

*These are excellent chips, they have a great flavor and melt beautifully. They have a spicy kick from ancho and chipotle chili peppers and cinnamon. They are, however a little tricky to find. To make a fair facsimile, stir some finely ground dried hot peppers and some cinnamon into 4 oz of melted semi sweet chips.

My thoughts:
These are not cupcakes to be trifled with. At first bite they are exceptionally rich, chocolate-y and moist. Then, just a second later, you realize they are packing some heat. Not overwhelmingly spicy, just enough to keep it interesting. They are really delicious with the dulce de leche, but I bet a chocolate or even cream cheese icing would be equally delightful.

March 30, 2007

Dulce de Leche

1 can sweetened condensed milk, label removed

Using a can opener, open the can half way. Do not pull back the lid, leave it in place. Place in a deep sauce pan and fill the pan with water just to the edge of the top of the can. Simmer over low heat, 4-5 hours or until a thick, creamy caramel forms, adding more water as it evaporates. Take care to keep the water level as close to the top of the can as possible for best results. After the 4 hours, use an oven mitt to remove the can from the pan and allow to cool. Remove the lid and serve. Store leftovers, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

My thoughts:
I've always wanted to make dulce de leche (AKA confiture de lait, doce de leite or cajeta) but have always been put off by the "can might explode" warnings that are both on the can and that accompany the typical dulce de leche directions that state to totally submerge an unopened can in water and allow it to simmer for hours. Apparently, pressure can build up in the can and cause some sort explosion, especially if you are not careful and too much of the water evaporates. I have never actually met anyone this has happened to, but I sort of feel like if there is a 1 in 100 chance something might happen, more than likely, I will be that one. So I never attempted it. Then, the other day, I got to thinking-what if I opened the can slightly to release the pressure? So tonight as an experiment I opened a can part way but didn't peel back the lid, so it remained "closed", and just filled the pan up to the edge of the can so no water would get in to dilute the caramel, but that the majority of the can was covered. To my delight, it worked perfectly. The tiny 1/8 inch of condensed milk at the very top was slightly lighter in color, but was easily mixed in to form a delicious, thick and creamy caramel treat, perfect for dipping cookies and fruit or spreading on anything you can imagine. Best of all, it costs just a fraction of the amount a prepared jar goes for at the supermarket, and tastes even better.

March 28, 2007


1 lb lasagna noodles
parmesan for sprinkling

for the cheese/spinach filling:
1 cup ricotta
3/4 cup chopped spinach (squeezed dry if previously frozen)
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

for the bolognese sauce:
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 oz fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large can whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the lasagna noodles until almost al dente. Arrange the boiled noodles in a single layer on cookie sheets until assembly. Meanwhile, stir together all of the cheese/spinach filling ingredients until uniform. Set aside. Then,heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the beef and brown*. When beef has browned, add the onions, garlic, carrots and mushrooms. Saute until the vegetables are soft. Add the milk and cook over high heat until the milk has evaporated to prevent the sauce from becoming acidic after adding the wine. Add the wine and continue to cook over high heat until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and turn the heat down low. Simmer for at least 1 hour. You can cook it longer if you have the time, the flavor improves with more cooking, but an hour yields a perfectly tasty sauce. Add the parsley and cook for 5 more minutes. Ladle some of the sauce in the bottom of lasagna pan. Arrange the noodles in a single layer, overlapping as necessary. Spread with the spinach/cheese mixture and top with more sauce and another layer of noodles. Repeat until the pan is full, reserving some sauce to coat the final layer of noodle. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover in foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 15 additional minutes or until bubbly and hot. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.

* At this point, if you didn't use low fat ground beef, you can drain the fat and then add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.

My thoughts:
I think a lot of people, my husband included, think of lasagna as this big, drawn out affair. I don't see how it is any more difficult or time consuming than so-called "easier" baked pasta dishes like baked ziti, and layering noodles is quicker than stuffing shells or manicotti. The hands on time is really minimal: 2 minutes to stir the cheeses together, brief hands on time with the sauce followed by ignoring it while it simmers, about 10 minutes for assembly and you are done. The 1 hour bolognese sauce (which, in a secret Rachael Ray-esque way, I think of as bologn-easy sauce) tastes like you have been making it all day, and totally eliminates the need to cook any other sort of meat separate from the sauce. You do have to be around while the sauce cooks and the lasagna bakes but they honestly need little monitoring. Unbaked lasagna also freezes well, so you could make it ahead (or make two and freeze one) but I find that frozen lasagna often takes twice as long to bake, so it might be just as quick (if you don't mind some prep) to make it fresh.

March 26, 2007

Chocolate Fondue for Two

6 oz semi sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon rum

In the microwave or double boiler**, heat all ingredients until the chocolate is soft and melted. Remove from heat and allow to sit about 2 minutes. Stir to form a thick sauce. Decant into a bowl or a small fondue pot with a candle beneath to keep warm. Serve immediately with chunks of banana, strawberries, marshmallow, pineapple chunks, pound cake etc. When you near the bottom of the pot, take care as the chocolate will be positively molten.

*A good variation is to use flavored chocolate bars. I just used two of the signature bars from NYC's Chocolate Bar.

**If you have a large fondue pot with a good heat source (i.e. a sterno or fondue fuel burner rather than just a candle) you can do this in your fondue pot. It is slightly faster via stove top or microwave though.

My thoughts:
I have a large fondue pot with a strong flame but it always seems like such a hassle to set up just for a tiny dessert for two. So I bought this Jonathan Adler/Chocolate Bar mini fondue pot which is just perfect for two (or even four) people to have a little dessert. The bottom comes off and you can stick a tealight in there, which keeps the fondue surprisingly warm. I wouldn't recommend trying to melt the chocolate to make the fondue via candle, but by the end, the chocolate was bubbling and quite hot. If you don't have a fondue pot, you can serve it in a bowl, but you have to eat quickly, before it hardens.

March 22, 2007

Ground Beef Gravy

1 large onion, diced
1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 cup water
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons oil
mashed potatoes* or egg noodles for serving

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and water to form a paste. Set a side. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the ground beef and saute, breaking up any large chunks with your spatula, until almost cooked through. Drain excess fat if necessary. Stir in the flour/water mixture. This will thicken the juices to form a sauce. When the meat is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, add salt and pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. I like it with mashed potatoes best.

*This is not the recipe to get creative with your mashed potatoes. A little milk, maybe some butter, mash with a potato masher, that's it.

My thoughts:
Ellie is hosting a fun food blogging event that's all about nostalgia. I have a lot of memories surrounding food and some of my favorites are of my grandpop's cooking. My grandfather lived in a separate apartment in our house when I was growing up, and while we didn't share meals, he always ate dinner early and made enough extra for me have some as an after school snack. My favorite foods he made were stew (using up leftover vegetables), pan fried chicken thighs with home fries and ground beef gravy. The sort of wholesome, thrifty fare you would expect from someone born in 1914. Recently my mother has been experimenting with recreating some of his special dishes as he is not cooking as often as he used too, and started with ground beef gravy. I have never been able to find much mention of origins of ground beef gravy but it strikes me as one of those meat stretcher dishes that became so popular during the Great Depression and then again during WWII. It is basically ground beef and onion, thickened slightly with flour and served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. It doesn't sound like much, but it is oddly comforting. Some times Grandpop would vary it a bit, adding bacon to the meat or even a sprinkle of bouillon, but simple is best.

March 21, 2007

Beer Braised Beef with Leeks and Kohlrabi

4-5 lb beef roast
1 bunch kohlrabi, peeled and sliced
3 large leeks, whites only chopped
1 cup broth
1 cup beer
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon paprika

Preheat oven to 375. In large saucepan, heat the oil. Meanwhile, rub the roast with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Brown the roast in the hot oil on all sides. Remove from the pan and place into a dutch oven or oven safe pot with a firm fitting cover. In the same pan you browned the roast, saute the leeks and kohlrabi until both are softened and starting caramelize. Pour the broth and beer over the roast. Bring to a boil. Pour in the kohlrabi/leek mixture. Remove the pot from heat, cover the top in foil, place the lid over the pot and then cover the lid with foil to ensure that no liquid will escape. Roast for 2 hours or until the roast is tender. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
I think braising sort of has the reputation of being a time consuming, weekend only activity, but is actually is surprisingly well suited to a weeknight. Think of it as a condensed slow cooker recipe: you can come home, do about 15 minutes of prep, pop it in the pot and 1-2 hours later you have dinner. Braising can be done in the oven or on the stove top, all you need a tight fitting lid (or a tight fitting lid/foil combo I outlined above), a slab of meat and some sort of liquid. You can also braise vegetables on their own following the same basic technique but reducing the cooking time. Braising is easy and economical; you can use less expensive cuts of meat because the cooking process breaks down the connective tissues of the meat which results in both a flavorful broth and a tender finished product. Inexpensive root vegetables also respond well to braising. Virtually any combination of meat and vegetables would work, but this is one of my favorites. Any bitterness from the beer is offset by the slightly sweet kohlrabi and leek and the beef juices mix with the beer to form a delicious sauce. Another personal favorite is pork loin with fennel and potatoes, but that is a meal for another day.

March 20, 2007

Curly Squid & Rapini Pasta

1 lb cleaned squid, large tentacles halved
1 lb pasta
1 lb rapini (broccoli rabe), stems removed and corsely chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 anchovy fillets
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon

Cook pasta according to box instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan. When hot, add the garlic, shallots and anchovies and cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic and shallots are softened and the anchovies have dissolved. Add the rapini and saute for about 5 minutes or until it has cooked down. Add the squid and cook until nearly opaque, about 5 additional minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice on the squid, add salt and pepper to taste and then cook on high with the lid on for 1 minute. Pour onto drained pasta and stir to evenly distribute. Add the bread crumbs and stir. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Today I cooked squid for the first time and I was amazed at how easy it was and how well it turned out. It was very tasty and kind of fun to see the squishy, misshapen squid curl and cook before my eyes. It was extremely easy, I made the whole thing in the time it took me to boil the water and cook the pasta. The trick with squid is not to under- or over-cook it. Just cook it until it is just opaque (even in the middle, you might have to flip it over and inspect) and you are all set.

March 17, 2007


3/4 cup cooked, cubed potato
3/4 cup grated raw potato
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
butter or oil for pan frying

In a medium bowl, mash the cubed potatoes with the buttermilk. Add the grated potato, flour and baking soda and stir to evenly distribute. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter or oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, form the mixture into 1/4 cup patties. Pan fry about 5-8 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot as a side dish.

My thoughts:
I had never heard of a boxty until one day when we went to a new Irish pub that opened not far from our home. On the menu they had a selection of boxtys (boxties?) which they described as a "Irish pancake" that were wrapped around a variety of fillings including seafood, chicken and Guinness stew. I tried the seafood one and swooned. However, when we went back, I ordered it again but it just barely edible. Long story short, we have no plans of returning. But I've missed my boxty. I've done some boxty research and found out that a boxty is sort of like a latke but made with a mixture of grated and mashed potato. They can be small and compact and served as a side dish or large and floppy and served wrapped around a tasty filling. This recipe makes the patty style but if you thinned it out with some milk and added a couple of eggs, you could make a thinner batter that would make boxty flat enough to stuff. We served it as a side to the Irish-American classic corned beef and cabbage.
As a side note I also found this funny boxty rhyme: "Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, If you can't make boxty, you'll never get your man". Who knew?

March 15, 2007

Mussels with Bacon, Beer & Mushrooms

2 lbs live mussels
1 cup broth
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup beer*
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 teaspoons softened butter
2 teaspoons flour
2 slices lean bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Mix the butter and the flour together in small bowl and set aside. Check the mussels to make sure no shells are broken and all are closed. If a mussel is open, tap a few times on a hard surface. If they close, they are safe to eat. If they remain open, throw them out. Place the mussels, 1/2 of the sliced onion, the garlic, the thyme, the sage, and the broth in a wide pot with a lid. Bring to a boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally until the mussels open. Some mussels might open before others depending on where they are in the pan. Use a large spoon to scoop out the mussels as they open and place them in a serving bowl. Throw out any mussels that did not open. Strain the broth through cheese cloth (or a damp paper towel) draped over a strainer and reserve the broth.

In the same pan you cooked the mussels in, saute the bacon. When just browned, toss in the rest of the sliced onion and the mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes until the onions and mushrooms have softened and have started to caramelize in the bacon grease. Pour in the beer and 1/2 cup of the mussel broth. Bring to a boil and whisk in the butter and flour mixture. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the mussels back in the pot and toss them in the sauce. Bring back to a boil and remove from heat. Serve with bread to soak up the sauce.
*We used Smithwick's.
Serves: 2 large portions.
My thoughts:
This is one of the best meals I've had in the past year. I honestly have never had better mussels. The flavor of the beer isn't overpowering and the mussels still taste of the sea. The sauce is wonderful and great for dipping crusty bread. It would probably be more traditional to serve this with some frites but we had my favorite potatoes instead. I wish we could have this for dinner again tomorrow night.

March 14, 2007

Buttermilk Apple Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup cubed apple*
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour one standard loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, salt, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and baking soda. Then mix in the egg, buttermilk, and oil. Stir until a thick batter forms. Fold in the apple. Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

*I used Cripps Pink apples, if you are using a tart apple like a Granny Smith, you might want to add a little more sugar.

My thoughts:
Quick bread indeed. I was trying to decide what to do with the leftovers of 1/2 gallon of buttermilk I bought to use when I made sherbet and blue cheese dressing a couple of weeks ago. The expiration date is Friday and I didn't want it to go to waste. So at about 1 PM, I went into the kitchen took a look at what ingredients I had on hand, and by 1:45PM I was taking this bread out of the oven. The apples add sweetness and moisture to the bread, so you don't need to add much oil or sugar and the whole wheat flour and the low fat buttermilk makes it pretty healthy all around. Of course, I still have about quart left of the buttermilk, so you might be seeing it again. A half gallon really is a lot!

March 13, 2007


1 1/2 lb peeled, cooked potatoes, still hot
1/2 cup milk
2 bunches green onions, green and white parts chopped
white pepper

Mash the potatoes, salt, pepper and milk together until fairly uniform in texture. Stir in the green onion. Arrange in a tall pile on a plate then make a well in the middle and top with a pat of butter. Eat from the outside in, dipping bites into the well of butter.

My thoughts:
I wasn't familiar with champ until I saw it on the menu of James Joyce Pub. It didn't come with my meal, so I never found out what it was. Some time after that I was reading a book set in Ireland and from the description, I realized that champ was mashed potatoes with green onions! I also read that champ is some times known as poundies, because "champ" is also a colloquialism that means to bruise or smash and you mash (pound) the potatoes. I had some potatoes sitting around so, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I made champ. It is really simple but satisfying, and I like having butter on top, rather than mixed in. We made mashed potatoes this way when I was a child (no green onions, though!) and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them.

March 12, 2007

Meatball & Spinach Calzones

pizza dough, up to the point where you roll it out
1 1/2 cup baked or broiled mini meatballs
pizza sauce or other favorite tomato sauce
3/4 cup ricotta
3/4 cup spinach
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzerella
1 egg
1 egg yolk, beaten

In a medium saucepan, simmer the meatballs in the sauce. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, egg and mozzarella. Divide the dough into 8 equal chunks*. Roll each one into a 5-6 inch round. Add 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture and about 3 meatballs in one half of each round, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch shut. Repeat until all are filled and pinched shut. Brush the tops with the egg yolk. Bake on a pizza stone or on baking sheets for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately. Leftover calzones keep well refrigerated for a day or two and can be reheated quickly in the oven.

*To make hand sized, invidiual calzones.

My thoughts:
These calzones are so good. Using small meatballs means you can make smaller calzone, which I prefer-less messy and you don't have share, since they are indiviually sized. You can use leftover sauce for dipping if you like but we had a little bit of leftover filling and sauce so I made a mini lasagna in a loaf pan to use it up. meatball hack

March 11, 2007

How to Make Mini Meatballs

First mix up your favorite meatball mixture. We like to make mini meatballs with a mixture of lean ground beef, onions, garlic, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Add a little less bread crumbs or bread then you would typically use and make sure any chunky ingredients like onions are minced or cut into very small chunks.

Then sprinkle a cutting board or counter with bread crumbs.
Using about 3/4 cup of meat, roll out a long tube of the meat, coating it in the bread crumbs.

Using a sharp knife, cut it in to roughly 1/2 inch pieces.

Place in a large mesh strainer and sprinkle with more bread crumbs.

Gently toss the meatballs in the crumbs. I suggest doing this over a bowl so you can reuse the excess crumbs on the rest of the meatballs (throw any leftover crumbs out when you are completely finished). After a minute or so, the meatballs should become round and lightly coated on all sides with crumbs. Repeat until all of the meat is gone.

Bake or broil until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve as is, simmer in sauce or add to soup.

My thoughts:
This is a really easy way to make dozens of tiny meatballs for soup, pizza, calzones, without having to roll each one by hand. We made 2 lbs of 1/2 inch round meatballs (used some, froze the rest) in just about 20 minutes.

March 09, 2007

Rich & Thick Hot Chocolate

2-3 oz high quality dark chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa*
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar

Over low heat in a small pan, whisk together all ingredients. Cook on low for about 8-10 minutes, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens and is hot. Do not allow to boil or scorch. Serve in espresso cups.

Yield: about 4 small cups

*Hershey's Special Dark dutch process cocoa is an affordable variety and is available at most grocery stores in the baking isle.

My thoughts:
This is the espresso of hot chocolate. Very dark, very rich and very thick. I am a serious chocolate lover with a very high tolerance for richness and even I could only handle one tiny cup full. I used 3 oz of a plain dark chocolate bar but an interesting variation would be to use Mexican chocolate or a mint infused bar instead. french

March 07, 2007

Kiwi Pineapple Smoothie

4-6 kiwi (depending on size)
8 oz plain yogurt
6 oz pineapple juice
dollop of golden syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Divide among two 8 oz glasses or pour into one really big glass and serve.

My thoughts:
The other day I asked my friend Heather for ways to use up extra juice and she suggested making a smoothie. When she said that I realized that I don't think I've drank a smoothie before. I've seen them, but I think I've always associated them with over ripe bananas (which I abhor) and stayed away. Heather reassured me that they can be made with banana free and with yogurt so when I found myself with 6 kiwi on the verge of spoiling, I thought I'd give smoothies a shot. I was a little worried-in addition to my aversion to over ripe bananas, I am also find it difficult to drink large amounts of liquids at one time-but it was great. It had a fresh kiwi flavor, used up a can of pineapple juice I've had since I made pineapple cupcakes last June, and I felt virtuous and healthy while drinking it. The recipe did yield a lot of beverage and next time I make it, I will wait until there is some one around to share it with, but it was good enough to make me rethink my avoidance of the smoothie.

March 04, 2007

Spring Vegetable Soup

1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into coins
1 zucchini, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups corn
2 cups broth*
14 oz nonfat evaporated milk
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and carrots and saute. When just softened, add the asparagus, green beans and zucchini and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn, evaporated milk, pepper and broth and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot.

*I made this soup using some broth leftover from making stuffed peppers. This gave it a slightly spicy edge that regular chicken stock doesn't have so feel free to add any spices you'd like.

My thoughts:
This such a simple soup that is great for using up leftover odds and ends of vegetables. You can use pretty much anything. I like to make it with fresh corn or barring that, corn I froze myself at the height of corn season. The evaporated milk gives it a creaminess with out it being too heavy -the flavors of the vegetables shine through.

March 02, 2007


2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (I used canola)
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

thick jam or preserves (I used kiwi jam and some store bought boysenberry)


Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined and a thick batter forms, about 10 minutes. If the batter looks too wet, add a little flour or if it looks a little dry and isn't coming together, add a tablespoon or so of water. Refrigerate the dough (still in the bowl, no need to wrap it or anything) about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and line three cookie sheets with parchment paper*. Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough between your hands to form a ball. Place on the lined cookie sheet and press to make a 1/4 inch thick circle, about 2 inches around. Place a scant teaspoon of jam in the center and pinch the edges of the cookies to make 3 corners, but don't seal dough up completely, you want to see the jam in the middle. If the jam looks like it is going to pop out, scoop a little out. Repeat until the dough is gone, placing each cookie about 1/2 inch from each other. Take a break and refrigerate the dough if it gets too soft to handle. Bake exactly 12 minutes. The cookies will be soft when they come out of the oven, but lightly brown on the bottom. Carefully lift the parchment paper with the cookies still on top and place the whole thing on a cooling rack. Allow to cool on the parchment paper until they are firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Allow to continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.

*You really, really need to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper. Do not try and grease the pan instead, the cookies come out of the oven still very soft. Allowing them to cool while still on the parchment on the rack allows them to set while minimizing casualties.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
At the risk of becoming known as the Queen of Hamantaschen (although, on second thought, that is not too bad) here is another hamantaschen recipe. We're going to dinner tonight at our friends' house and offered to bring dessert. It was suggested that I made hamantaschen since this weekend is Purim and supposedly, I am now a hamantaschen expert. One of our friends is vegan, so I went to work looking for an existing vegan hamantaschen recipe and couldn't really find many. There were a few, but most called for margarine or soy milk, which we don't use, so I came up with this one so I didn't have to buy any special ingredients. The resulting cookie turned out better than I expected, considering that while I make a fair amount of vegan foods, I very rarely have made vegan cookies and was making it up as I went along. They turned out very tasty and the cookie part was almost buttery tasting. The dough supported the jam filling very well and was pretty easy to work with. I don't think anyone would guess they were vegan unless you told them (if you are worried about that sort of thing) they are that close to nonvegan versions I've had. They were actually a little easier to make than regular hamantaschen because you skip the rolling the dough/cutting step and just shape them with your hands. I intentionally left out any sort of leavening agent (i.e. baking soda or baking powder) because I didn't want them puff up too much and cause the jam to spill out but don't worry, it is not a dense or hard cookie. In the interest of full disclosure, some cookies did came out sort of misshapen, but I think that says more about my pinching skills and lack of patience than the dough, which held its shape remarkably well and did not spread.

March 01, 2007

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Olive Oil

1 lb fresh asparagus
1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. Drizzle the olive oil in the middle of the sheet. Break of any tough bottoms on the asparagus*. Place on the baking sheet and roll them around in the oil. Sprinkle with the kosher salt. Zest a lemon over the asparagus. Bake about 6 minutes or until the spears are bright green and tender, but not browned**. Serve immediately.

*An easy way to do this: hold an end in each hand. Bend the spear gently from the bottom, and the tough part will break right off where it meets the edible part.
**I like to take them out of the oven before the asparagus browns so avoid them drying out the tiniest bit. You can leave them in there longer but I don't think they are a vegetable (at least not when served on their own) that benefits from any sort of carmelization.

My thoughts:

This is my absolute favorite way to eat asparagus. If you fed it even to a hardened asparagus critic, I bet they'd love it. The asparagus is so bright, tender, crisp and the flavors are clear and simple. It is like Spring on a plate. To make it even easier, they are sort of self-saucing, their juices, the lemon zest, salt and olive oil mingle together while baking to form a light sauce that clings to the spears when you remove them from the pan.