July, 2006 Archive

Friday, July 28, 2006

ice cream sandwich cookies

big fat chewy chocolate chip cookies

In some cruel, cruel parallel universe where I were forced to choose between cookies and cakes, cake would never win, even if topped with the most perfect plop of pink butter cream frosting (because pink tastes better, oh yes, it does) and brightly-colored confetti sprinkles. I don’t mean to diss on cake. I’ve had some good cakey creations in my time here, but even the most spectacular rum-doused pineapple upside down cake or flourless chocolate creation feels at times an uphill battle with the fact that cake, deep down inside, wishes to remain dry. Cookies, on the other hand, desire balance – crisp exteriors, supple interiors, and each and every one of their ingredients gets to make a full-on appearance in the final flavor. As an added bonus, they keep for a week.

Thank goodness I’ve never been forced to make such tyrannical decisions, but were I, I think I’d start with some of the creations in last night’s Chez Smitten Cookie Fest 2006, in which I tried to bake as many oversized cookies as a could in one night, to be assembled tonight into ice cream sandwiches for friend’s surprise party.

First into the mixer were these gigantic chocolate chip cookies. Like most people, I already have a favorite recipe. Mine is buttery and compact and has a high chip to dough ratio. But, they’re not much in the way of spreaders, and this one better fit the bill.

big fat chewy chocolate chip cookiesbig fat chewy chocolate chip cookies

Second in line were, I’ve got to say, one of the easiest, tastiest chocolate sugar cookies I’ve yet to come across. Ingredients are assembled, one-bowl style, in a food processor in no more than four minutes, and baked in another nine. They come for a recipe for Oreos which I highly recommend, but even alone they will leave you wanting for nothing but a glass of milk.

chocolate sugar cookieschocolate sugar cookies

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

onion pizza + strawberry sorbet

green salad

I’ve heard so many people say that they don’t understand the purpose of wedding registries. “Can’t we just have the cha-ching?” they ask, “Who needs all that crap?”

And I’m here to say, “I do.” Yes, to the Kitchen Aid. Yes to the carved oak salad bowl set. Yes to the entire Cuisinart family from the Griddler and Food Processor to the Ice Cream Maker and Hand Blender. Yes, I find satisfaction in a well-outfitted kitchen and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I don’t blame these registry nay-sayers, we’re just different sorts of people. They don’t harbor secret fantasies about Williams-Sonoma stores and an unmonitored personal slush fund; they probably don’t get intoxicated with 6″ cake pans and ceramic pie weights at the Bowery Kitchen Supply; the prospect of a 9-color sugar sanding kit has probably not once ever made their entire week; and I’m sure their higher income bracket daydreams don’t include an entire web page of Kitchen Aid accessories.

onion pizza

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

hot and smoky baked beans

hot and smoky baked beans

I think that the basic instinct that gets us in the kitchen “after all those messy sustenance issues have been attended to” is a deep-seated desire to make something taste a little better than the way we’ve come to accept it. It’s why there are ten thousand crab cake recipes and a line of followers behind each, and it’s why everyone has an idea carved into their base philosophy of the way corn bread is supposed to taste (and most of it fails to please because it’s not as savory/rich, sweet/cakey or textural/salty as they believe pone was intended to be). I’d also argue that this is why few bother to make their own ketchup, as Heinz figured out a long time ago what most of us expect of it and why reinvent the wheel?

I’m pretty sure it’s why this summer I’ve become obsessed bordering-on-frenzied with figuring out how to make all those American BBQ classics unboring. Somewhere along the line, barbeque sauce started tasting like tangy corn syrup, coleslaw started tasting like soggy dullsville, potato salad became a boiled-tuber-floating-in-eggy-oil cop-out, and baked beans became wretchedly sweet and uniform, each crying out for some innovation. But today, I’m starting with the beans.

And what beans they are! These chipotle baked beans are everything your last can of baked beans thought it was going be when it grew up. They’re spicy and complex and dramatic. They were also finished in two meals, and we sang the “beans, beans” song the whole time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

thai vegetable and smoky eggplant salad

thai vegetable and smoky eggplant salad

I blame the ubiquitous sandwich shop offering for vegetarians, “roasted fall vegetable wrap, coated with gobs of salad oil and not a droplet of originality” (fine, I’ve embellished that last part), for the fact that until two years ago I ate not a lick of eggplant. That, and eggplant parmesan, but my rant about melted cheese-coated things – and my husband’s baffled expression when he learned of this blasphemy – for another time.

Eggplant was grey, flat, dull, mushy, and jumped from undercooked to overcooked so rapidly, you’d need a compass and a jewelers loupe to locate its fleeting tasteful moment. I lacked both, as did apparently everyone who had every tried to change my beliefs about the mighty aubergine, that is everyone except the woman who was to become my mother-in-law.

Her eggplant caviar is like a shot of espresso for the tastebuds with copious amounts vinegar, garlic and salt stealing the show, while the eggplant hangs out in the background, keeping it real. It is both nutty and neutral and full of substance, and that’s the kind of eggplant I can get really along with.

zesting the lemon

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