Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nuts



When it comes to planning, I don't deal well with little loose frayed ends left flapping in the breeze. I like to keep the list of tasks I have to complete at any given time in a small tumbler in my head, which I then chant silently, all day, until said tasks are done -- "pay Sprint bill, send thank you card, buy shampoo, pay Sprint bill, send thank you card, buy shampoo." All in my head, all under control, I know what I have to do and I'll eventually get it done.

This method has proven ineffective when it comes to the gargantuan monster that is Planning a Wedding. I'm not going to get into it, because this clearly isn't the place and the topic really isn't of interest to anyone but me and the females who will be standing up there with me that day, but holy crap that little tumbler has been replaced by a huge bucket teeming with niggling little annoyances like, "buy light blue ribbon, call the veil store, get a marriage license, make seating charts, and more, and more, and more, and even more, and then maybe elope?" Thanks to Jeff, the Crazy only rears its head once every few weeks or so. Last night she peeked out and poked around for a bit, but we beat her back down. The trick? 30 Rock (obviously) and cookies.



When you're focusing on the steps involved in baking peanut butter cookies, you don't have the chance to obsess (unnecessarily) about whether or not everyone will get to the rehearsal on time or on the fact that you have no idea how to create place cards. The goal is a pile of cookies and that takes careful measuring, mashing, cracking, and beating. You then can take the massive pile of peanut butter dough and roll little packets into smooth spheres. Drop them into a mountain of sugar; toss it around. Carefully place the rounds onto your new silpat mat and press your fork into the top, indenting each with those classic lines.



Baking is like running for me -- a methodical way to get away from myself for an hour, to succumb to a rhythm that I don't use most hours of the day. I finished this batch of cookies last night at around midnight. The Crazy was behind me (for now), and in front of me was a huge pile of peanuty goodness.

This recipe, from the Gluten-Free Girl, is so simple and so fantastic. The cookies taste like solid peanut butter and nothing more. One change, though -- she says to bake them for 10 minutes, but every time I've made these they require about 15-20 minutes to solidify.


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

One cup creamy peanut butter
One cup white sugar
One teaspoon baking powder
One egg

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cream the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. (As much as I love my KitchenAid, I have found that this is a hand-stirring job). Beat in the baking powder. Add the egg. Mix until it is all well combined.

The dough will be sticky, so be prepared to get your hands messy. Roll some dough into a ball. (How big? That depends on you. I have found, however, that the smaller these cookies are, the better they hold together. Eat two instead of one!) Roll the ball into white sugar. Line a baking sheet, covered in parchment paper, with sugary balls of dough.

Bake in the oven for about ten minutes. You will know the cookies are done when they feel coherent, but still a little soft. Take the tray out of the oven and let the cookies rest for at least five minutes. Afterwards, carefully transfer them to a cooling rack. After ten minutes or so, they will have hardened and be glistening with sugar.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fry Day



The apartment still smells fried, and I assume it will for the next few days. My body is saturated with the after effects of consuming a diet of about 75% oily carbohydrates this weekend, but ‘tis the season, right? Hanukkah is our festival of crispy goodness. What perfect timing, seeing as how I have my final wedding dress fitting this coming Saturday in Florida. Whatever, I’ll take an extra kickboxing class this week and call it even. A bride that doesn’t like to eat is a lame bride.

We continued our holiday party-hosting with a Hanukkah bash on Saturday night.

The menu:


Snacks from Sahadi’s, including roasted, unsalted cashews (the BEST—the ones from Sahadi’s are huge and slightly sweet with the perfect texture), honey roasted peanuts, jumbo Greek olives, Jeff’s white bean dip (a tasty blend of Trader Joe’s olive oil, cannelini beans, rosemary, pepper, and salt), and Bulgarian feta cheese.

I think I like to host dinner parties so I get use out of the registry gifts we’ve received over the past year. I know Jeff was annoyed when I registered for 12 white ramekins from Crate &Barrel (6 small and 6 medium! What if I want to make mini souffl├ęs!? Or what if I want to serve pudding to my guests, or dainty servings of ice cream?), but look how perfect they are for serving pre-meal munchies. Leave the hosting to me, buddy, you stick with the latke making.



Next, Jeff fried up some lamb meatballs, with mint, tzatziki sauce, and more of the Bulgarian feta. Simple and hearty. I will eat lamb any which way and will always love it. Hmm, that sounds evil, but I can't apologize. Discovering my love for lamb over the past few years has meant a whole new menu section to explore and love.





Next came the star of the event – the latkes with homemade applesauce. Jeff makes his latkes on the thin, crispy side, which I how I prefer mine. See how the thin bits of potato get all brown and flaky?



As people snatch their latkes off the plate, they leave behind a pile of crunchy strips, which I definitely make it my business to grab.

As for homemade applesauce, how incredibly easy. It’s not like I ever purchase applesauce, but that’s largely because it’s way too sweet and a tad oddly textured for me. Is it a dessert? A side dish? I’d rather have an apple and call it a day.



This recipe, courtesy of Mario Batali via Serious Eats, took all of 10 minutes, once the pesky apple peeling and coring business was finished. Take 8 apples, peel ‘em (annoying), core’em, and slice ‘em into 6 wedges (tres easy to do with my new, handy-dandy apple corer/slicer). Toss the slices into a big pot with two cinnamon sticks, the zest from one lemon, and 1/4 cup of orange juice. Stir, and walk away. Return 10 minutes later to find apple sauce. No joke. Just give the whole mess a big stir, and realize that you never need to buy a jar of Mott’s again. Maybe it’s mental, but something always feels cloyingly sweet about ANY kind of jarred or canned product—even when there appears to be no additives at all. Just make it yourself and feel all high and mighty – it’s tasty and it’s good for the soul.

Finally, my frying time came for dessert. We eschewed jelly doughnuts because Jeff doesn’t really like them and they seemed too daunting, anyway. Wouldn’t the insertion of jelly involve a pastry bag of some sort? Who has time for such fussiness?

Then we saw a few fritter recipes—mostly chocolate and apple—and hopped on that train. But what kind would be the most appealing? Out of nowhere, Jeff thought of banana fritters, which made me immediately giddy. Mmm, the fried exterior yielding to the soft, warm, creamy banana interior. And then I’d make a warm chocolate sauce for dipping! Yes, that’s what I would do!



I Googled around and found that with banana fritters, you can go the Jamaican route (simpler, only dough and banana) or the Thai route (the addition of sesame seeds and sometimes nuts). I wanted the former, so I took this recipe and substituted only banana (and then 2 bananas more than the recipe calls for) in place of the pineapple.



This was my first time frying, and I’m not proud to say that I might have burned a few fritters and ruined one of our news pans in the process. The blackened fritters still tasted yummy (exactly what I wanted—a crisp exterior with a doughy, banana-y interior!), and the pan might be fine after a good, hard scrubbing. See, I figured if you’re going to fry, you need your oil as HOT as possible. So I left the oil on high heat the whole time, which Jeff promptly corrected when we walked over after the smoke detector went off. Turns out things will fry even on medium-high heat, and will even turn brown, not black. Lesson learned.



The wine, friends, and family flowed and good was consumed by all. Next stop, New Year’s. Peppermint hot chocolate, anyone?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm thinking about Subway, maybe. Or Hale and Hearty

11:24] jap60: oy, it's osso bucco in the caf today
[11:24] jap60: also braised lamb with pistachio ravioli and demi-cream
[11:25] jap60: and chicken tortilla soup
[11:25] jap60: and rice krispy treats
[11:25] sgordo01: jesus
[11:25] jap60: OR
[11:25] sgordo01: wow
[11:25] jap60: there is dim sum in the smaller caf
[11:26] jap60: with BBQ ribs and duck

Monday, December 3, 2007

How to Eat an Almond Cake in Three Days



A few spoonfuls of (delicious, buttery, almondy, creamy) batter while I made the cake (Amanda Hesser's recipe from Cooking for Mr. Latte).

A slice or two each, for three of us, after it finished baking and cooling as we watched Crossing Delancey.

A slice or so each the next morning to tide us all over before brunch at Miriam.

A slice to snack on before dinner while watching DVRed “Best Week Ever.”

A slice with Fage 2% Greek yogurt for dessert after a simple dinner of tuna sandwiches.

A slice each, with friends, after a dinner of takeout Stage Deli while watching DVRed “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?”