Monday, October 20, 2014

t-minus.



I've reached the less then one month until the big day point and the question on everyone's lips seems to be "how do you feel?".
ruffle and flower backdropSo to answer that question, I feel great. Actually, I feel more then great, I feel awesome.  All the stress from the very beginning has dissipated and you want to know why?  It's because I can't change anything. I can't change my mind, I can't alter my decisions. This is my bed and now I have to lie in it and lie in it I will.  Sure, I can imagine myself having made different decisions, I can ponder the what-if's all day long, but what good does that actually do?  I'm marrying the guy who can still manages to make my heart skip a beat AND I AM SO EXCITED.  So that's how I feel.  I feel excited and happy and better then ever.
So - let's do this thing.  T-minus 26 days.

Image via Pinterest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

chocolate ginger molasses cookies.

Look, I understand that most people in this world aren't going to gravitate towards ginger molasses cookies. They aren't particularly special and they aren't chock full of chocolate.  They are a spice cookie, something that most people scoff at.

But I love them.

Let me rephrase that.  I love a very particular type of ginger molasses cookie.  One that is soft with crispy edges and a barely set center, flavorful but not overwhelmingly so.  The perfect one lives at the Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ and I am still holding out hope that someday they will make a cookbook so I can get my hands on that recipe. Until then, I will continue to tinker in my kitchen.

And tinker I did which is how I ended up with this.  The most perfect ginger molasses cookie I have ever made. And yes, there is chocolate involved as well.

Two types of ginger, a whole lot of molasses, some cinnamon, and a generous helping of chocolate chips is what makes this cookie so excellent.  It's soft but not too soft with a deep and pronounced flavor.  It's all gorgeous and sparkly which makes it all the better.  I love consuming them now while it's fall and spiced flavors are a welcome change of pace but I am looking forward to making them again in December for my yearly holiday cookie boxes.  


Chocolate Ginger Molasses Cookies
Recipe adapted from Une Gamine Dans la Cusine

Makes about 20-22 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup spelt flour (or an additional ½ cup all-purpose)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup (that's one stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup tightly packed, dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses 
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

6 ounces (about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup super-fine sugar (regular granulated sugar will work too)

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together until creamy (about 3-5 minutes on medium speed). Add molasses and fresh ginger - continue beating till well combined. 

Add the flour/spice mixture and beat on low speed until just combined (don't overmix). If the mixer is straining on low speed, use a large rubber spatula to stir in the dry ingredients - the dough will be very heavy and sticky. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pat the dough into a large ball, place the ball onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 1-inch thick disc. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the 1/4 cup of super fine sugar (or granulated) into a large flat bowl or plate. 

Remove the chilled cookie dough from fridge and divide it into 20-22 equal chunks (use a scale to ensure they're the same size). Roll the chunks into tight balls and roll each ball through the sugar until completely coated. {Note: The dough is extremely sticky so you may have to wash your hands from time to time so it won't stick to your palms instead of itself.} Place the sugar-coated cookies onto prepared sheet and refrigerate while the oven preheats. 

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a separate baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chilled balls of dough onto the sheet, allowing for at least 2-inches of spreading room.  

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cracks begin to develop. {Note: My cookies were spot-on chewy after 10 minutes. If you prefer crispier cookies, bake for the full 12 minutes.} Remove the sheet from the oven and allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes before carefully (mine were still tender) transferring to a cooling rack.






Tuesday, October 14, 2014

greige.

Give me.

(Green and grey aka greige is kind of everything.)

Dark industrial kitchen with leather stools and plants.



Image via Pinterest

Sunday, October 12, 2014

rigatoni and cauliflower al forno.

Last night, Tyler complained that I don't blog about his favorite things that I cook.  It should be known, that Tyler loves the hodge-podge meals that I put together with the random assortment of things we have leftover in the fridge at any given time.  These meals get cobbled together and they are generally speaking pretty awesome.  How they end up so awesome I do not know (the mysteries of cooking). It's not that I don't want to talk about these meals, it's just that on a nightly basis after working all day, going to the gym, and trying to have some semblance of a relaxing evening, I don't have the energy to religiously document how I made a dish.  Cooking is a lot of trial and error.  It's about tasting and then adding flavors and ingredients.  A lot of these evening meals are made that way and I think the freedom to not follow a recipe is what makes them so wonderful.

On occasion, following a recipe is good thing and that is how this dish came about (one that Tyler declared his new favorite).  Baked pastas are a glorious fall meal, but often times they are heavy, cheese and sauce laden behemoths that leave you requiring a nap.  This baked pasta is the furthest thing from that.  Sauteed cauliflower is tossed with olives, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes to provide a nice bright punch of flavor.  The seasoned cauliflower is tossed with pasta and cubes of fontina  to provide the perfect amount of cheesey-gooeyness.  The whole thing is topped with bread crumbs and baked until crispy, crunchy, and golden brown.  It's irresistible and the perfect dish for a brisk Sunday evening.

Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes 

The thing I love about this dish is the fact that you can add so many other things to it (of course I had to alter it).  I mixed in 1/2 cup of chopped red peppers I had in the fridge and that was a superb add-in.  I think some sauteed mushrooms could be wonderful as well as some chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Feel free to use this pasta as an opportunity to "clean out your fridge".


¾ pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape
1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
 Extra-virgin olive oil
 Salt and pepper
1/4 cup green olives, roughly chopped 
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, plus a few sage leaves left whole
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 - 1 cup additional add in's (optional, see note above)
6 ounces coarsely grated fontina 
2 ounces finely grated Romano cheese or other hard pecorino
½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.

Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni, additional add-in's if using, and fontina and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with Romano cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.
























Tuesday, October 7, 2014

gold and grey.

Gold bar stools are everything.  Especially when paired with gold pendant lights.  

Also, charcoal grey is the new black. 

(I am currently obsessing over all things grey which may explain my love of grey jeans and the never ending search for the perfect soft light grey sweater.)

bar stools.



Image via Pinterest

Monday, October 6, 2014

maple buttermilk custard pie.

Yesterday fall showed up.

I made spiced apple pancakes.  I wore my favorite pair of thick socks (probably one of 3 pairs of socks I willingly wear).  I consumed grilled cheese in sweatpants.  I took my leather jacket and sweaters out of hibernation and then I baked a pie to celebrate this momentous occasion. 

Tyler will be the first to tell you that I have an unnatural obsession with maple syrup.  There is something undeniably delicious about it.  I love it drizzled (OK, poured) over pancakes and waffles and pumpkin flavored oatmeal.  I love it mixed into plain yogurt and used as a substitute for sugar in any and all baked goods which is how this pie caught my attention. 

I tend to gravitate towards fruit pies, but this one with the combination of cornmeal, buttermilk, and maple syrup seemed too irresistible to ignore.  And irresistible it is! The custard is divine - tangy, flavorful, and oh so creamy.  The cornmeal crust provides the perfect amount of textural contrast to the custard. 

(Not a bad way to usher in fall.) 

Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie

Cornmeal Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie, partially pre-baked (recipe below)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon stone-ground white cornmeal
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Add the vanilla paste (or vanilla extract) and the sour cream and stir until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and buttermilk and mix until smooth.
Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell, or strain it into a separate bowl and then pour it into the shell. (FYI: I was left with about 1/3 cup of filling that would not make it through the strainer.) 

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking.
The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly.

Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool. The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day.

Cornmeal Crust (for a single-crust pie)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone-ground cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice

Stir the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula. With a pastry blender (or using your fingers like we did), cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to over blend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.

Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

How to partially pre-bake it: 
Once dough has been chilled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, roll it out and shape it into a 9-inch pie plate. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom and sides, 15 to 20 times. Place the shaped crust in the freezer. Position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

When the crust is frozen solid (about 10 minutes), line it tightly with a piece or two of aluminum foil. Make sure the edges are completely covered and there are no gaps between the foil and the crust.

Pour pie weights or dried beans into the pan and spread them so they are concentrated more around the edge of the shell than in the center. Place the pan on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until crimped edges are set but not browned.

Remove the pan and the baking sheet from the oven, lift out the foil and pie weights, and let the crust cool for a minute. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides with a thin layer of egg white glaze (1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon of water) to moisture-proof the crust. Return the pan, on the baking sheet, to the oven’s middle rack and continue baking for 3 more minutes. Remove and cool completely before filling.