December, 2008 Archive

Sunday, December 21, 2008

potato pancakes, even better

potato pancake, flipped

It wouldn’t be Hanukah if I didn’t refresh my favorite, dead-simple potato pancake recipe. But it wouldn’t make for a very interesting story if I told the same one every year; in fact, I think they get better with each try because I continue to tweak them ever so much.

this is what latke mise looks like

This year, after finally making peace with my cast frying pan (coincidentally, over an “apple latke”) I cooked them in there, and will use no other pan for them as long as I live. It is a browning genius, and even small amounts of oil resulted in no sticking whatsoever. I also realized that I found them a bit on the salty side — something I noted last year and entirely forgot in the 12 months since — I hope to remember that next year.

cheesecloth squeeze

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Friday, December 19, 2008

grasshopper brownies

grasshopper squares

My grandmother was a pretty fly lady, though I am not sure anyone called her “fly” in her lifetime. She loved anything glamorous and I’m pretty sure she saw the point of doing a whole lot in moderation. She’d send my sister and I (beware, frightening New Jersey-in-the-80s references ahead) glittery and puff-painted jaw clips and manes from the flea markets in Florida, she never discouraged the splattered and acid-washed jeans and neon slouch socks I wish someone would have formed an intervention over (shudder) and I specifically remember her finding me a pair of silver moccasins that in my mind couldn’t have been any cooler.

melted chocolate

So, it should come as no surprise that when she made brownies, she didn’t just make any old brownies. Instead, they were three layer affairs; one chocolate, one mint and then a chocolate topping and she didn’t just stop there. Nope, Grandma took an Andes Candy, divided it in half on the diagonal, and sank it like a shark fin into that chocolate and her “creme de menthe brownies” were possibly the most glamorous thing I had ever seen and my favorite brownie to eat.

mmm, eau de freshly baked brownie

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

seven-layer cookies

seven layer cookies

Most of my cookie loves are almost predictable: browned butter, twice-baked shortbread, ground nuts, sables, dense chocolates and an occasional stacked or filled something or other–always compact and tiny. And they’re all simple. I mean, it takes less than 10 seconds to eat one, so you might as well zoom in on flavor, not exacting processes.

swirly egg whitessugar into egg whitesalmond pastered droplet

But if I were going to make one exception to the simplicity rule, it would have to be rainbow, or seven-layer cookies. More like petit-fours, these stacked almond cakes with apricot filling and a chocolate coating, are popular in Italian-American bakeries and I’ve loved them forever. They are always the same three colors though it’s just food coloring (well, two of the colors are), it wouldn’t be the same without their signature pink and green stripes.

spreading the pink layerspreading the jamstacked! at last!pressing

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

menu for hope

menu for hope 2008

The last time I gave away sets of my favorite reusable grocery bags, you — and your two thousand, five hundred and thirty-six comments — broke my server. Once my hosting company fixed the server, they evicted me and insisted that I move to a shinier, better server and began charging me eight times as much. Not that I am bitter or complaining or anything! You are worth every penny.

But, I decided that if I ever did a giveaway again, it would have to be for a very good cause, and that, my friends, brings us up to today.

The Menu for Hope campaign is organized annually by food bloggers all over the world who donate raffle prizes that contributors are eligible to enter for with each $10 donation. Last year — a year I gave out cookie care packages, which are great and all but certainly not nearly as cool as earth-saving, plastic-bag-banishing reusable bags — we raised $92,000 for the UN World Food Program, enabling the program to reach out to 86.1 million people in 80 countries in 2007 to fight hunger. This year, I’ve teamed up with to offer two sets of RuMe reusable bags. Each set contains three full-size bags and the winners of these two prizes can choose the color and/or pattern set they like best.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

sausage-stuffed potatoes + a green salad

sausage-stuffed potatoes

I don’t think I need to tell you that sometimes the tastiest food is not the prettiest. Take a real close look at meat sauce, or shiny, oily cheese draped over tuna or a ground up olive paste and you’ll know why it may be tasty, but it’s not pretty. Meanwhile, I am wary of too-pretty food; perfectly smoothed fondant lids on cakes, making them look like rubber, overly glazed tartlets that look like they’re cellophaned.

stabbing the potatoes

And of course, all of this is just an elaboration explanation-slash-apology for the hideously sounding and looking sausage stuffed potatoes that were so good, I will happily eat them only in private if I must, as long as I get to have them again.


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