Thursday, March 21, 2013

Looking Back

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. My time in the Berkshires is coming to a close and I don't know if I will be doing any more posts. Looking over this silly little blog--originally meant as an experiment--there are many posts and recipes I'm surprisingly proud of. (One or two that make me cringe, but I won't get into that!) I decided to re-cap 10 of my most meaningful posts, significant for a variety or reasons...

10. My favorite photo (and a damned good recipe too!)
(I also like the photo at the end of THIS post a lot.)

9. Brussels Sprout Salad. This goes under the heading of "recipes I still make practically every month, if not every week." Though recipes abound for roasted and braised Brussels, I think I prefer mine raw (or at least blanched). 

8. Retro kitchen. My tiny Berkshires kitchen, whose retro charm has grown on me over the years, I will miss you!

7. Picnic table love. When I first moved here my landlord kept saying she was going to have someone re-paint it. I'm so glad she never did. I adore the rustic red paint, as well as drips from various other paint jobs. It has also been wonderful to eat outside in the summer months. 

6. The humble wooden spoon. Because I am a dork.

5. Mashed Potatoes w/Browned Onions. I think of all my* recipes, this one has most consistently gotten rave reviews from other people. (Secret: caramelized onions are a good addition, but the real genius here is the vinegar.) 
*Of course, most of these recipes are not truly "mine." I always try to make a note of the original source I have adapted.

4. Breakfast Sausage. Another one for "recipes I still make practically every month, if not every week." I like to have some protein for breakfast, so I really do eat these almost every day. 

3. Mom's dishes. I recently had to throw away a casserole of hers (actually pictured in this post, not the one about her dishes). It had broken in half over a year ago, but I had resisted throwing out the still-beautiful pieces. It literally pained me to see these shards in the trash! 

2. Sally's cookies. She turns 89 this month so it's time to cook up another batch! Sally and my other 80+ year old friend, Angela, have been real gems over the past couple years.

1. Garlic Pasta. The all-time favorite, in rotation for over a dozen years now. I just had this last night and I'm convinced that the garlicky lemon broth left over at the end is the cure for whatever ails ya!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Triple Crown Brookies

So the other night I was listening to the last regular season baseball game and it was announced that Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, RBIs & home runs). This is the first time that's happened since 1967--before I was born! There's not that many things I can say that about any more! At the same time I was just finishing up these Caramel Apple Bars, and was quite fond of the oatmeal base that recipe uses. And earlier in the day I had seen a recipe for "Brooksters" on Serious Eats (a combination of brownie + cookie). I've previously seen this type of bar called Brookies, which I think--in the word-merging scheme of things--is a little more appropriate.

With this extraordinary concurrence of events, I was inspired to try a triple level bar cookie. Instead of following the rather laborious Brookster recipe, however, I just used my favorite brownie recipe and a variation of the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with this combination, but I may be the only one to publish it at the same time as the Triple Crown!

Oatmeal layer (adapted from the Caramel Apple Bar recipe from Bake or Break linked to above)
1 + 1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make bar removal really easy you can prepare a sling with parchment paper and grease an 8" x 8" pan. I didn't make a sling or even grease my pan, however, and I didn't find it too difficult to get the bars out.  Combine dry ingredients and then pour in melted butter. Mix until crumbly. Pack into pan and bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Brownie layer (my original post is here, but I'll include again since it's such a quick recipe)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I usually use walnuts)

Melt chocolate and butter over medium heat. Take off heat and stir in sugar, then egg and vanilla (mixture should turn a little glossy). Stir in remaining ingredients and spread over the oatmeal layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how fudgy you want the brownie level.

Chocolate Chip Cookie layer (adapted from the Toll House recipe)
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar (instead of measuring each sugar out exactly, I just eye it until the total amount comes to 3/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 + 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine sugars, salt and vanilla. Pour in melted butter and egg and mix well. Stir in flour and baking soda--dough will be very soft. (If you make regular cookies with the leftover dough, let it firm up for a few hours in the fridge before cooking.) Spoon over brownie level. I did not cover the whole surface, just plopped several spoonfuls over the brownies and spread them a bit. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until cookie layer just starts to brown.

 ~~~
This recipe is for my dad, who is a big Tigers fan. Also, he's the only person allowed to call me Brookie (or sometimes Rookie). Here's a silly picture of us at a Yankees game a few years ago...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Momofuko Confetti Cookies

I've now made three cookie recipes from the Momofuko Milk Bar cookbook and my conclusion is...they're good...but a bit irritating to make. Each one incorporates a separate "crumb" or "crisp" element that you have to make first. While they're always tasty, I'm not sure how much that element actually adds to the final product (or if, ultimately, it's just a gimmick). In addition, I was recently down in New York and did some "research" at an actual MMB to see how the authentic cookies compared to mine.

The first recipe I made was called Blueberry & Cream Cookies. I made these once before I had the cookbook (via Martha Stewart) and once after--and they turned out dramatically different the second time. (I made a half-recipe the first time and suspect that I messed up some of the measurements since the consistency was so different for each batch.) They were good enough to make a second time, but I'm not sure I need to make them a third time--maybe I'd try them with a different dried fruit or mix-in.  Anyway, these used Milk Crumbs that looked like this:

The cookie looked like this:

The authentic Momofuko version...not too different than mine, but chewier:

Next I made Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies, which used Cornflake Crunch. I didn't take any pictures of my cookies, but here is Momofuko's cookie. I liked these cookies a lot--the bits of marshmallow made them a little like a cookie version of a Rice Krispies bar. Once again though, mine were not as chewy as Momofuko's.  (Either their baking times are way off or my oven is too hot.)

Which brings me, finally, to Confetti Cookies, which use Birthday Cake Crumbs. They look like this:
I think these came out the best, perhaps because they include a bit of cream of tartar. I don't know if sprinkles really bring much to the party except some color. But they're fun. (These were not available at Momfuko on the day I visited.)

Birthday Cake Crumbs:
1/2 cup sugar
1 + 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose flour with a bit of cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
1/4 cup oil (book called for grapeseed, I used butter)
1 tablespoon (clear) vanilla extract*

Combine first six dry ingredients, then add oil & vanilla and mix until crumbly.  Place on a parchment-lined sheet and bake for 20 minutes, breaking up crumbs occasionally.  Let cool completely.

Confetti Cookies:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 + 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons glucose*
2 eggs
2 teaspoons (clear) vanilla extract
2 + 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup milk powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 + 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (less if table salt)
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

1/2 recipe Birthday Cake Crumbs

Cream butter, sugar & glucose. Add in vanilla & eggs and beat until smooth, about 7 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients (or mix on low speed if you're using a stand mixer).  Mix in crumbs last, until just incorporated.

Scoop out large spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined sheet. Flatten slightly. (The book calls for 1/3 cup scoopfuls, but that seems like a bit much to me.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to onr week.

When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange dough balls so they're several inches apart--the larger the ball, the further it will spread (duh!).  Place in oven and check after 15 minutes--cookies should be slightly browned on the edges. (The book says to cook for 18 minutes, which may be necessary if you actually plop down a whole 1/3 cup!) The book also says to cool on the sheet, but I always remove them to a cooling rack after a minute.

*They recommend using clear vanilla extract to get a sort of fake vanilla flavor.  Whatever...I'm sure regular vanilla is fine too. Glucose is some very strange stuff! It's like corn syrup, but 10X denser and stickier, making it very hard to measure out. You can sub in corn syrup if you don't have this.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nutter Butters

I should start off by saying that I did not grow up with Nutter Butters, so I don't really know how close this is to the original Nabisco cookie. Nor have I ever had them from Bouchon Bakery (from which this recipe is adapted). But whatever, they're good! Chewy, buttery, not overly peanutty. It does make for a substantial cookie though. I often cut one in half so as to not feel gluttonous...but then end up eating the other half anyway! In any case, it's also a perfectly good cookie without the filling.

A note on peanut butter: the original recipe recommends using creamy Skippy and then adding in chopped peanuts separately. I always have crunchy peanut butter on hand and see no point in adding chopped peanuts separately. (Caveat: using creamy peanut butter might make the filling easier to spread.) Bottom line: use what ever you like...creamy, creamy with separately added peanuts, crunchy or hell, crunchy with even more peanuts added in!

cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
(coarsely chopped peanuts)
1 + 1/4 cups rolled oats (orig. recipe calls for "quick cooking"but I only ever have "old-fashioned" on hand)

Heat over to 350 degrees. Beat together butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg & vanilla until smooth and creamy, about 4 minutes. Stir in dry ingredients. Drop rounded teaspoons (or larger if you want) on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then cool completely on a rack.

filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Spread a thin layer of filling (about 1/8 inch) on the underside of a cookie and sandwich with another.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Deana's (soon to be famous) Cream of Broccoli Soup

This is from my friend Deana (whom I love!) who is always after me to post more. So here is her contribution to my recipe box, circa the early '90s. I hadn't made this in a while and was pleasantly surprised at just how satisfying it is, though quite simple. As you can see, the broccoli was bright green but when I added the carrots back in and pureed everything, the soup ended up having a slight orange tinge.

Vegetable stock:
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 small onions (1 medium?), chopped
(1-2 stalks of celery, chopped--my addition)
5 cups water

Melt butter in a large pot. Add carrots, onion & celery; cover pot and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes. Add water and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain broth, saving veggies.


Broccoli soup:
1 pound broccoli
stock/vegetables
3/4 cup milk
salt & pepper, to taste

Boil broccoli in vegetable stock until tender, but still green. Let cool. Throw broccoli, stock, and previously cooked vegetables (from stock) into a blender and puree. Serve as puree, or reheat with milk for cream of broccoli. As Deana says, "It's awesome!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Egg & Bologna

I'm not sure how this story ended up here...I was writing up an announcement for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and had also been thinking about recipes I grew up with and...voila!

So these are the facts: My parents were married 50 years ago on December 22nd, 1961, in Hudson, MI. Isn't the picture above cute?! Some time later I was born, and then my brother, and my mother hunkered down to make 7 dinners a week, 52 weeks a year. We didn't go out all that often because we lived in a very rural area and there weren't a lot of restaurants. I now feel somewhat sorry for my mother, having to sling out all those dinners, though I think she's gotten her revenge since my father now cooks at least as much, if not more often, than she does. In any case, I was raised on a handful of recipes, circa 1950s-'70s, and this one is sort of infamous. It was popular after Easter when we had an abundance of hard-boiled eggs. My dad called it SOS (shit on a shingle) and refused to eat it. But I have to say...I think it is a comfort food I would still eat today!

Basically you make a cream sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
salt, pepper, paprika to taste

You know how to make a cream sauce right?! When the sauce has reached a creamy consistency, stir in the ground up egg & bologna...
2 hard-boiled eggs
3 oz. bologna
I do not have a food grinder, so I would just finely dice these things. Then serve the slop over saltine crackers. I kid you not, I used to love this SOS!

Here are my parents, 50 years later. Aren't they cute?! Maybe I will make some Egg & Bologna for them and my Dad will roll his eyes...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Masaledar Ublay Unday


I thought the Hindi name for this dish sounded better than "Hard-Boiled Eggs Masala." This is adapted from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, a cookbook I had been wanting to get ever since I made another recipe, Stir-Fried Cabbage, which I loved immediately. When I finally got the cookbook about a year ago I decided to try EVERY RECIPE... well, except for the ones with chicken liver and cauliflower. There's only about 70 recipes, so the undertaking didn't sound that daunting. But after about 8 recipes, I had a bit of Indian overload. So I'm taking a break, but the mission will resume shortly!

The one recipe I kept thinking about in the meantime though, was this humble sounding entree. I don't usually think of hard-boiled eggs as part of an entree, but it works! I recently served this over some boiled potatoes and spinach and it made for quite a robust meal. The sauce is really astounding, in my opinion.

One unfortunate thing about this cookbook, however, is that even though it was recently re-issued with a spiffy new design, I don't thing the original 1996 text was updated. So they always put in parentheses after cilantro "Chinese parsley, fresh green coriander;" who the hell doesn't know what cilantro is in this day and age?! One of the recipes is called "The Most Delicious Meat Cubes," which is just wrong. And the amount of onion in this recipe is listed as "5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces)." Who measures an onion that way? I'm just going with one small onion!

OK, enough making fun of the text and on to this most delicious recipe...
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Combine all of the above with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or finely chopped
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into halves or quarters

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. Cook for 10 seconds, then add the onion and ginger. Cook and stir for a few minutes until onions start to brown, then add spice paste. Cook for 15 seconds, then add tomatoes and sugar. Turn down the heat, cover, and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and add the cilantro, then gently drop in the eggs and spoon some sauce over them. Simmer for 2-3 more minutes, then serve.

I suppose a typical accompaniment would be rice, though, like I said before, I like it with potatoes and spinach--as if I was having a bit of samosa as well.