The Cookiepedia and a recipe for Chocolate Crinkles

The Cookiepedia and a recipe for Chocolate Crinkles

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I received a new cookbook today, and I am smitten. It’s called The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking and Reinventing the Classics, written by Stacy Adimando. I must confess that I was somewhat skeptical of what a classic cookie book could show me. I am a straightforward baker when it comes to cookies. I rely on a short list of traditional goodies, often made at the spur of the moment without much thought except to quell a craving for something sweet, buttery, chocolate and uncomplicated. I’ve been making my family’s favorite cookies for so long I rarely use a recipe, relying on memory and simple ratios. Why would I need another recipe for my tried and true favorites?

Well, maybe I don’t need another recipe, but perhaps I do need a kick in the butt. For so long I have been making cookies by rote, with a little tweaking here and there to shake things up. While I know what I am doing, I realize that I have forgotten why I am doing it. The Cookiepedia is the perfect reminder that instructs and informs in a bright and friendly manner – just like you were baking with a friend or sister who happens to know a lot about a cookie. It has all the usual suspects (nearly 50 in all, including mint thins, snickerdoodles, blondies, and meringues), doled out with a healthy measure of tips, facts, tweaks and variations. Just like a girlfriend who knows your dirty laundry, real life is taken into consideration with time constraints, picky eaters, potential mishaps, even weather glitches in its guidance. It takes your hand, keeps you company and strikes up a conversation, while you do what you love to do – bake cookies. Consider this a Betty Crocker Cooky Book for the modern family. In fact, I bet Betty would take a few notes.

Chocolate Crinkles

These plump chocolate morsels didn’t crinkle so much as poof for me. The results were a  fudgy, brownie, cake-like cookie which tasted fabulous. (Who can argue with a description like that?)  Makes about 30 – 1 inch cookies.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for rolling

Combine chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. (Be sure thhe bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.) Let the chocolate start to melt, then stir occasionally until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat the sugar and eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer until thick and smooth, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Beat on medium-low speed until they’re combined.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the mixture in 2 batches, beating each time until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to scoop, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Roll 1-inch balls of dough in a bowl of powdered sugar, coating them completely. Place them 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes until they just feel firm. (The cookies are best when slightly undercooked in the center.) Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Note: I found that most of the powdered sugar melted while baking, so once the cookies were fully cooled, I rolled them again in the sugar.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Cookiepedia. Written by Stacy Adimando and photographed by Tara Striano. Published by Quirk Books.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Cookiepedia from Quirk Books. 

On a Stick! and a recipe for Chinese Meatballs

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Here’s the thing: It’s fun to eat with your hands, and Matt Armendariz has figured this out. In his new book On a Stick! it seems that every food you may think of is fair game for skewering. It might be simple:  Crudité Skewers with Latin Green Goddess Dressing or Caprese Sticks with Mozzarella, Basil and Tomatoes. It might be more complex: Deep Fried Ravioli or Spaghetti and Meatballs anyone? Or perhaps you are craving something sweet. How about Frozen Bananas Dipped in Chocolate or Strawberry Shortcake? Yes, that’s right – all on a stick.

On a Stick! puts the fun in food, taking ordinary and exotic recipes and sticking it to them, so to speak, along with an assortment of dipping sauces – because, after all, dipping a stick in a sauce, dressing, salsa or chutney is half the fun of eating food on skewers.  If you would like to enjoy a little simple pleasure, if you need to entice your kids to eat their veggies, or if you wish to invite your 20 closest friends to a party, you will appreciate this book.  There’s something in it for everyone, and fun doesn’t get more tasty than this.

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For my first recipe, I tried the Chinese Meatballs, which are a spicy, savory concoction of ground turkey, cilantro and spices. Fragrant with ginger and garlic, these addictive little morsels are served with a sweet and sour chili sauce. I pan fried them rather than deep fried them before dutifully skewering with bamboo sticks. And you know what? They really do taste better on a stick.

Chinese Meatballs with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce
Makes about 12 meatballs

3/4 pound lean ground pork or turkey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands to thoroughly combine. Form into 12 small even balls. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the meatballs in one layer without overcrowding. Cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Skewer with toothpicks or bamboo sticks. Serve with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce

1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1/2 bunch mint, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon seeded and minced red jalapeño
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger

Stir vinegar, sugar and lemongrass in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves and liquid reduces by one-third. Strain into a bowl and cool completely. Stir in mint, cilantro, garlic, red jalapeño and ginger. Serve warm or at room temperature, alongside the meatballs.

Recipe reprinted with permission from On a Stick! Written and photographed by Matt Armendariz. Published by Quirk Books.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of On a Stick! from Quirk Books.

Scandinavian Classic Baking and a recipe for Desert Sand Cookies

Scandinavian Classic Baking and a recipe for Desert Sand Cookies

When Pat Sinclair asked me if I would like a copy of her newly published cookbook, Scandinavian Classic Baking, I didn’t hesitate to accept. She reached out to me after she read an article I wrote on Danish Open Face Sandwiches for NPR – perhaps recognizing another kindred spirit when it comes to Scandinavian cuisine. Well, she got that right.

Since the book arrived, I have pored through it – that is, when I have had a chance to read it. This book has struck a nostalgic chord in our entire family, with everyone vying for a look and tagging favorite recipes. And there is something for all of us:  soft, yeasty cinnamon rolls drizzled with almond icing, cardamom scented breakfast buns, Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and ginger-spiced pepperkakor cookies – to name but a few.

This book is beautifully and thoughtfully compiled, with an authentic collection of recipes representing all of the Scandinavian countries, accompanied by lovely photographs by Joel Butkowski. The recipes in the book are clear, concise and approachable, splendidly representative of Scandinavian cuisine, which is typically unpretentious and uncomplicated. Many of the recipes are supplemented with side bars packed with informative tidbits on Scandinavian culture with tantalizing photos of landmarks and people, elevating this compact book to the cocktail table.


Swedish Apple Pie, simple and pleasing. Luckily I snapped a picture before the family devoured it.

Last weekend we ticked a couple of recipes off of our long list. Since my daughter was helping, she chose to make Desert Sand Cookies and Swedish Apple Pie. As we baked, we chatted about Denmark. We spoke of family, friends and places we look forward to visiting on our next trip.  We spoke of holidays and some of our favorite foods. I thought of the traditions that are passed down through generations through recipes, and how these recipes keep memories alive while connecting us as a family. In our well traveled family life this has been exceptionally important, as we mindfully strive to remember our roots and the different countries in which we’ve lived.  Now we have a little extra help from Scandinavian Classic Baking.

Desert Sand Cookies
adapted from Scandinavian Classic Baking by Pat Sinclair

The key to these simple butter cookies is the browning of the butter, which gives them their unique and delicious flavor, typically found in Danish Butter Cookies.

Makes 24 (1 1/2-inch) cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter begins to foam, stir constantly until it turns a deep golden brown. Watch it carefully at this point, because the color will change quickly. Cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cooled butter and vanilla to the sugar in a medium bowl and stir until evenly mixed Add the flour and mix to form a dough. Shape the dough into 1 1/2 inch rounds. Place on baking sheet and press a crisscross pattern with a fork. (Dip the tines of the fork in a little flour if it sticks.) Bake 10-12 minutes or until set; they will not brown very much in the oven. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies are fragile until cool.

Foodista Best of the Food Blogs Cookbook

Foodista

As mentioned last week, it’s been a busy autumn: I have been published in not one but two cookbooks that have been recently released. The latest is the Foodista Best of the Food Blogs Cookbook. A recipe from TasteFood was selected from among 1500 submissions to be one of the entries in this new cookbook which comprises 100 entries from 100 food blogs from around the world. How’s that for community?

And what a community it is. I am honored to be featured along with some of my favorite blogs such as Healthy Green Kitchen, Life’s a Feast and Furey and the Feast, with each blog contributing a winning entry. You will find delicious recipes including Rack of Lamb with Spicy Fennel Rub, Ancient Grain Bread, Broiled Honey Glazed Spiced Figs along with much more, including my recipe for Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions and Apple Confit.

Summer Solstice NOMA-Style: NOMA places first in S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants

NOMA Nordic Cuisine

This post is reprinted from the TasteFood archives in honor of NOMA Restaurant, awarded first place in S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Last summer we were in Denmark visiting friends and family during the summer solstice.  Miraculously, we managed to get a coveted dinner reservation at the acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant NOMA, and realized that our luck was only due to the general population out partying in traditional solstice style on beaches before bonfires rather than in restaurants.  Seizing our opportunity, we invited our Danish friends and hosts (who were more than happy to abandon tradition for a table at NOMA) to join us.

That evening, we dined on a fabulous prix-fixe menu consisting of 7 courses composed exclusively of ingredients hailing from Nordic countries.  (NOMA is an acronym for Nordisk Mad – or Nordic Food in Danish.)  A visit to this restaurant is highly recommended if you are in Copenhagen, although advance reservations are a must. It is a fantastic collaboration between Danish chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, and played an important role in establishing the New Nordic Cuisine Movement.  All ingredients originate from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  They run from the familiar to the exotic: eel, musk ox, green strawberries, hare, seaweed, rye bread, black lobster are a few examples (quite out of context.)  You may feast on dishes such as Sautéed Dover Sole with New Danish Potatoes, Green Strawberries and Elderberry Sauce perhaps accompanied by Stirred Mashed Potatoes with Lumpfish Roe and Crispy Chicken Skin, and finish with Caramel Ice Cream with Icelandic Buttermilk, Dried Swedish Berries and Sorrel Crème Anglaise.


NOMA Nordisk Mad Cookbook

I enjoy poring over the NOMA Nordic Cuisine cookbook, which I bought as a memento after our meal. It is an inspirational and unique testament to Nordic terroir, and apropos several interesting blogs that attempt to prepare every single recipe in a particular tome of a cookbook, I would seriously have a go at reproducing NOMA’s – if only I could get my hands on chickweed, seakale and sweet cicely.  For now, I do what I always do and improvise with the seasonal and local products I find in my part of the world.

As we drove home after our long dinner, it was approaching midnight.  To the west the sun had just set, exiting the sky with a swirl of orange and purple flourishes in its haste to rise again. To the east it was doing just that, where the horizon was brightening with soft pink tinges nudging the gray-blue midnight summer sky.  It was truly a magical Danish solstice moment.