Thursday, December 27, 2018

chocolate molasses cookies + my best books of 2018 + a quick year in review.

I could do a year-end review in addition to giving you a stellar cookie recipe and my list of favorite books of 2018 but I'm not sure I remember all that much of this year.  I think whirl-wind doesn't even begin to describe 2018.  But in a year filled with never ending (terrible) news-cycles some happy moments stick out.   Paris with my sister (and eating the most unreal pistachio snail in the Parisian sun).  Tyler throwing me a surprise Birthday picnic with some of my favorite people.  Drinking wine and listening to music outdoors in New Orleans (and then stumbling across a High School marching band performing in the streets).  Endless beach trips with Tyler and Jackson (my favorite being the one where we ate pizza on a blanket and watched the sun set).   Throwing more dinner parties, brunches, and Sunday afternoon chessesteak parties.   An epic Southwest road-trip with my favorite road trip partner.   Eating oysters outdoors (and indoors) in Portland, Maine.  The first strawberry I ate after the winter that felt like the longest winter of all time.   A really super wonderful 4 days with friends in Massachusetts.   Picnics in Brooklyn.  Watching friends get engaged.   Eating my body weight in cherries.  Registering voters in the pouring rain with one of best friends (and eating pizza after).  Sitting by myself on a stoop Labor Day weekend people watching and eating a slice of NYC pizza before meeting Tyler for dinner (there was a lot of good pizza this year). Buying myself really amazing gold earrings for my Birthday.  Finally feeling somewhat more comfortable with who I am and the life choices I've made.  

I'm off work for the next couple of days and will be cooking (a lot!) in preparation for the multi-course NYE dinner party we are hosting.  But in between I will be reading and eating molasses cookies.    I read a lot of great books this year and if you are looking for something to read over the holidays, I'm here with suggestions!  Additionally, these cookies are great.  REALLY GREAT.  They are an adults cookie with the combination of ginger and cocoa powder and the texture is awesome.  They also come together in like 10 minutes which makes them ideal if you are looking for a cookie to bring to a last minute soiree (or a cookie to eat with tea while you spend 5 hours watching the Great British Bake-Off).      

5 Best Books of 2018 

1 - The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai - I can't remember the last time I loved a book the way I loved this one.  I had to wait 4 months to get it from the library but it was totally worth it.  Alternating chapters set-in 1980's Chicago during the AID's epidemic and present-day Paris.   It's a story about love, loss, and friendship and it's so beautiful.

2 - Bad Blood by John Carreyrou - The full inside story of Elizabeth Holmes and her founding of Thernos the multi-billion dollar biotech start-up.  It's a really fascinating look at how so many people drink the kool-aid when it comes to the latest it company in Silcon Valley.  Also she sounds like a serial killer.  

3 - The Leavers by Lisa Ko - The story of an immigrant mother who is forced to put her child up for adoption.   It's written from a number of different characters perspectives.  It's beautifully written, moving, and it feels especially poignant this day in age.   

4 - American Prison by Shane Bauer - A journalist who goes becomes a prison guard in an effort to get an inside look at how the prison system works.  Sheds light on how a system few people know much about works on the inside.   

5 - Normal People by Sally Roony - Not yet out in the US (I ordered it from a UK book publisher). Takes place over a 10 year period, and it looks at how unexplainable forces always seem to draw these two people together.   

Chocolate-Molasses Cookies
Recipe from the NYTimes 

I was out of butter and used coconut oil for these and I feel like this was a really great choice.  

½  cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick) or coconut oil
1  tablespoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
1 ½  cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
½  cup/45 grams cocoa powder
2  teaspoons baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1  teaspoon ground ginger
1  teaspoon kosher salt
⅓  cup/65 grams granulated sugar
½  cup/120 milliliters molasses
1  large egg
 Sanding, Demerara or granulated sugar, for decoration 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt butter  or coconut  oil in a small pot over medium heat and add ginger, if using. Remove from heat and let sit a few minutes while you prepare everything else.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, molasses, egg and ginger butter. Using a spatula, slowly mix into dry ingredients, mixing until no dry spots remain.

Using your hands, roll small balls of dough about the size of a quarter (dough will be soft — if it is too soft for you to handle, pop into the fridge for a few minutes to firm up). Roll the balls in the sanding sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 1-inch apart.

Bake until just puffed and baked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely before eating.

Monday, December 3, 2018

2019 edition - a holiday wish list/gift list

Image result for domino magazine christmas

I contemplated putting together this list because I'm currently in this weird head space where I both hate the idea of buying things but also really love some things (and am therefore buying them for myself because I'm terribly impatient).   So this years list is both a wish list but also my gift suggestions in case you are looking for wonderful gifts to buy others.  

The underlying theme of this list is basically buy less (and not from big box stores - I'm looking at you Amazon) and only buy what you love and what you think others will love and what will make you/them happy.  I realize more and more that a lot of stuff makes me stressed out but I also think there is always something better out there and then buy it because I think this newer/cooler version will make me happier.  I'm making a conscious effort to try and shake that mindset.  IT IS REALLY HARD.  

So here you go.  

1 - Panettone by Roy - If you've had panettone before you're probably like this is OK but nothing special.  This is what I've always thought.  But this panettone is the dreamiest most wonderful thing I have ever eaten.  Roy sells traditional flavors but also updated versions (Banana Caramel!).   This year I ordered one of these instead of a birthday cake for myself (it was passionfruit flavored) and let me tell you, I may never order a birthday cake again.   Also, if you're looking to give this for a gift, you can get someone a 3 month panettone subscription for $93 with shipping.  THIS IS SUCH A GOOD DEAL (especially when you look at the cost of a single panettone) THAT I GOT IT FOR US!  Share with your friends.   

2 - Portable Fireplace Candle - We do not have a fireplace but we do have this candle which is as close as you can get to a fireplace in a 650 square-foot apartment.  It's a really rich smoky, woodsy, scent that we both love (and the scent actually lingers)!  We finished one last year and bought a second one this year.  It also lasts an incredibly long time.   

3 - Linen Napkins - I've been hosting more dinner parties and am looking for new napkins.  These look and feel luxurious and the mustard color is my ideal pop-of-color on a dinner table.

4 - Sweatpants - I've come to realize that the bulk of my time at home is spent in sweatpants and having a matching set just feels like the ultimate luxury (at least to me).  I love this brand so much and the matching sweatshirt/sweatpant set is just the thing for lazy Sundays.   

5 - Socks - I am VERY particular about socks.  These are great with boots and sneakers so I can pull-off that whole cropped jeans with sneakers look I love (the cotton ones are also a favorite of mine).   They stay up which is always my biggest sock peeve.   

6 - Cookbooks! Ottolenghi Simple + The Nordic Baking Book +  Israeli Soul - The Ottoleghi Simple book I bought myself the second it came out.  I've used it pretty much once a week every week since I got it.  The recipes are thoughtful, vegetable driven, and  a lot less labor intensive then some of his other cookbooks.  

The Nordic Baking book just looks super fascinating especially since it includes both sweet and savory baked goods.   

The Israeli Soul book is being added to this list because I read it includes 13 different recipes for hummus (!!!) and also because I really love Middle Eastern food.      

7 - A New set of Mugs - I like a large mug since the large size fits our Italian coffee pot.   These are timeless and chic and the exact size I'm looking for.  Plus they are made by a local ceramist in Brooklyn.    

Picture from here.

Friday, November 30, 2018

buffalo chicken dip.

I've said 3 times over the past 2 days that I can't believe Thanksgiving was a week ago.    Time has felt weird as of late.  I constantly feel as if I am hurtling towards something and yet I'm not entirely sure what that thing is.  The end of the year?  Something I'm not even aware of?   It leads me feeling slightly off-kiltered probably due to the fact that I hate ambiguity.  I like things planned.   I always want to know exactly what is next and when I can expect it to happen.   Right now, everything feels like the great unknown.

To counter all of this I've tried to instill and stick to the routines that work for me and the things I can control.   Allocating time for reading a book each day, watching an episode of whatever show we're binging, making dinner.   

Yes, I made us Buffalo Chicken Dip for dinner.  Really it was a side to go with the kale and lentil soup I made but we ate it for dinner and it made the meal more fun.  I'm sharing it here because as we head into December you will most likely find yourself going to holiday parties and looking for something to bring.  Bring this.   Everyone will love you.   

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Recipe from the NYTimes

Serves 4 - Halves Easily

1  tablespoon unsalted butter
2  cups shredded, cooked chicken
½  cup Buffalo-style hot sauce
½  teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼  cup sour cream
4  ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces and softened
½  cup freshly shredded white Cheddar cheese
¼  cup crumbled blue cheese
1 ½  teaspoons finely chopped chives, or to taste
Celery sticks, carrot sticks, bread, potato chips, and-or tortilla chips, for serving

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In an 8-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and hot sauce and simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat, then stir in the lemon juice, sour cream and cream cheese until combined. Sprinkle the Cheddar cheese over the top.

Bake until bubbling around the edges and the cheese has melted, about 10 minutes. If you’d like the top to get browned, run it under the broiler for a minute or two.

Immediately garnish with blue cheese and chives. Serve with chips, bread or vegetables for dipping.

Friday, October 19, 2018

sweet potato streusel loaf.

I did not intend on buying another pie book.  As much as I love pie, I have a love hate relationship with baking them.  Mostly because I suck at crimping pie edges.   One can't be good at everything.   

But alas, I did, because it's the Sister Pie Cookbook and when Tyler and I went to Detroit I fell in love with their shop.   It was cute and quirky and all of their baked goods were awesome.  It's an ode to the classic American bakery but with a twist - pies with local and seasonal fruit, peanut butter cookies with paprika, and savory scones.  It's everything I love nestled in corner shop on a street with really beautiful old homes.  

This book is great.  Especially now that we have gone from 80 degree and bare leg weather to me reaching for sweaters and a coat every-time I leave the apartment.  I'm not complaining.  It's baking, nesting, reading on the couch with a cup of tea and piece of this loaf weather.       

The technique used in the recipe for this loaf is awesome.  Throw all the loaf ingredients in a bowl and let rest over night.  This breaks down the oats and gives the whole thing a bit of tangy-fermented taste.  I love the juxtaposition of savory-ish cake with the sweet streusel topping.   The nuggets of cream cheese and sweet potato just make it fall.  And that's kind of all I want right now.   

Sweet Potato Streusel Loaf
Recipe from Sister Pie Cookbook

This freezes very well.  Slice before you freeze so you can have a piece whenever you want.

For the Sweet Potatoes

12 ounces of sweet potatoes (skin-on) scrubbed and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cake

1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup full-fat yogurt
1 large egg
1/3 cup oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.)
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the Streusel 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter straight from the fridge cut into 1/2 inch cubes 

To Finish

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling.

Roast your sweet potatoes.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the sweet potato cubes on a baking sheet and toss evenly with the olive oil, brown sugar, and salt.  Place in the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes or fork tender.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.   You can prepare the sweet potatoes up to 2 days in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge.  

Mix the batter: In a medium bowl whisk the buttermilk, yogurt, egg, oil, sugar, and vanilla until well mixed and smooth.   In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, whole wheat, and spelt flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, using a silicone spatula to gently fold them together until no dry spots remain.   Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the refrigerator overnight.   

White the batter hydrates, make the streusel.  Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.   Place the butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture.  Work to break up the cubes with your fingers and continue to cut the butter into the flour under the streusel resembles wet sand.   You can make the streusel up to 2 days in advance.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x5 inch load pan with parchment.   Butter your parchment.  Spoon 1/3 of the batter into your parchment lined pan.  Top with 1/3 of your sweet potato cubes and 1/2 the cream cheese cubes - press the cubes down into the batter.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Pour in another 1/3 of the batter and top with another 1/3 of your sweet potato cubes and the remaining cream cheese cubes.  Again, press the cubes gently into the batter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Top with the remaining 1/3 of the batter and the rest of your sweet potato cubes.  Gently press the remaining sweet potato cubes into the batter.  Distribute the streusel evenly over the loaf making sure to press down to adhere.   

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Slice into 1 inch thick slices.  Remaining cake can be stored in the fridge for up 2 days or in the freezer for a month.   

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

applesauce cake with cream cheese and maple frosting.

September is essentially gone.  Tyler and I spent the majority of it on a most epic road-trip across the Southwest.  It was therapeutic and eye-opening and we came back from the desert to our dog and perfect fall weather and now, all I can think about is apple desserts and pasta bakes.  

I made this applesauce cake last weekend.  I liked that it was one-bowl and had frosting.   I also liked that the author of said recipe was Julia Turshen.  If you don’t know her you should rush out to buy her cookbooks and then follow her on Instagram.   She is a superwoman badass with the most adorable dogs and equally adorable wife.   She spends a lot of her time finding ways to support under-represented chefs and cooks, volunteering at different community organizations, and encouraging people to vote.   Also her food is the kind of simple, no-fuss but really delicious stuff everyone craves (and her recipes always work as written).   Basically she’s my idol.  

This cake is great.  I see myself making it a lot – for impromptu parties or just because it’s Tuesday. The frosting is just the right combination of tangy and sweet.  The cake is impossibly moist.  It’s exactly what you want from a fall dessert.      

Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese & Maple Frosting
Recipe tweaked ever so slightly from Julia Turshen

The original recipe uses honey in the frosting.  I like honey but I really love maple syrup so you can most certainly guess which I used.  

For the Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, kefir, or plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (Homemade please!)
1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil

For the Frosting

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp sour cream or labneh
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
Pinch of kosher salt

For the cake:  Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set the pan aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and baking soda. Add the eggs, sugar, buttermilk, applesauce, and oil and whisk gently just until everything is combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared pan and then smooth the surface so it is even.

Bake the cake until it is just barely firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Set the cake aside on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan sides and then invert it onto your work surface. Peel off and discard the parchment. Invert the cake one more time onto a serving platter.

For the frosting:  In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, honey, and salt and whisk together aggressively until the cream cheese is slightly aerated (you can also do this with a handheld electric mixer or in a stand mixer).

Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and don’t worry too much about making this perfect. I think a not-too-perfect cake is so much better than a perfect cake. Cut into wedges and serve. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

tomatoes with spiced yogurt sauce, feta, and pistachios.

August.  (This is joy, this is summer.  Frank Ocean)

I haven’t been cooking so much as assembling things on a plate and avoiding the oven.  It’s been a fun game of figuring out how many ways you can eat raw corn and tomatoes (the answer is a lot of ways).  Most of my dinner inspiration has come from the Six Seasons cookbook.  If you don’t own it, I highly suggest you rush out to buy it.  It’s by far my most used cookbook and an endless source of ideas.  Joshua McFadden just gets vegetables much in the same way Yotam Ottolenghi does (his vegetable books are also fantastic).   He understands why pairing in-season produce with different textures and flavors will also result in a dish that is exciting.   

In taking inspiration from his cookbook, I’ve been challenging myself to come up with my own hot weather salads.  This dish was born from that challenge.   Sliced heirloom tomatoes are drizzled with a spiced yogurt sauce, pistachios, feta, and herbs.  The whole thing comes together in about 10 minutes and works as a side to sausages or BBQ chicken.  On its own, it also makes an excellent dinner for one on a hot summer night.   

Tomatoes with Spiced Yogurt Sauce, Feta, and Pistachios

3 -4 Medium sized heirloom tomatoes (or a combination of regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)
¼ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ tsp. Aleppo Pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 – 3  tablespoons toasted pistachios, chopped
¼ cup crumbled feta 
Mint leaves for garnish

In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, yogurt, aleppo, salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  The yogurt should be runny like half and half.  If too thick, add more lemon juice or a little water.   

Slice the tomatoes (or quarter if using cherry tomatoes) and arrange on a platter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with yogurt sauce and olive oil.  Sprinkle pistachios, feta, and mint leaves over the top.   Serve with bread for sopping up juices.