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A Tale of Two Cookies

Ever since I posted that I’m not much of a baker, I’ve gotten emails from readers sharing their favorite holiday cookie recipes. And as, by Murphy’s law, I seem to be on the radar for email chain letters re: sharing holiday cookie recipes, I’ve decided to give a few of these a whirl. I’m glad I did. The first one is the ginger-iest triple play ginger cookie I’ve had. And the second, in its browned butter spooned up self, is my new favorite indulgence. I wish there was some way to make up a few batches, put them out on one of my grandmother’s china plates in cyber space, and share them with you. Happy holidays. yrs. Laura

Ginger Spice Cookies

ingredients:

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground white pepper
1 t. baking soda
1 t. table salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses

Other ingredients needed:

Turbinado sugar
powdered sugar
milk

Whisk flour, spices, soda, salt, and
pepper together in a bowl; set aside

Cream butter and both sugars
together in a bowl with a mixer
until smooth.

Add egg, beat until incorporated,
then beat in the molasses, gradually
add flour mixture, mixing just to
combine. Chill dough until slightly
firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350; line baking
sheets with parchment (or use a Silpat.)

Scoop out about a tablespoon size amount
and smooth into balls, coat in sugar, and
arrange on baking sheets, about 2″ apart.

Flatten balls with the bottom of a
measuring cup, then bake 10-12 min.
(9-10 min. for softer cookies)

Ice with p. sugar/milk mixture (about 1 c. sugar to 1T. milk, paste like)

Makes about 5 dozen.

Browned Butter Spoon Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded
1/3 cup fruit preserves (your choice)

Make dough:
Fill kitchen sink with about 2 inches of cold water. Melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (Butter will initially foam, then dissipate. A thicker foam will appear and cover the surface just before butter begins to brown; stir more frequently toward end of cooking.) Place pan in sink to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter starts to look opaque, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature 1 to 2 hours (to allow flavors to develop).

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Press a piece of dough into bowl of teaspoon, flattening top, then slide out and place, flat side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. (Dough will feel crumbly, but will become cohesive when pressed.) Continue forming cookies and arranging on sheet. Bake cookies until just pale golden, 8 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Assemble cookies:
While cookies cool, heat preserves in a small saucepan over low heat until just runny, then pour through a sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on solids, and cool completely.

Spread the flat side of a cookie with a thin layer of preserves. Sandwich with flat side of another cookie. Continue with remaining cookies and preserves, then let stand until set, about 45 minutes. Transfer cookies to an airtight container and wait 2 days before eating.

Cooks’ notes:
• Dough can be made 12 hours before baking and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature to soften slightly before forming cookies, about 30 minutes.
• Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

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Food Can Bring You Back

Thank to all of you who sent in recipes to my Sentimental Recipe Contest. I admit that the stories alone were food for me. As fall tucks us into Montana and the fever to spend long afternoons in the kitchen takes over, I will look forward to trying them all.

To that end, I’ll share a sentimental recipe moment with you that happened just yesterday.

I have not cooked anything in recent history that made me want to weep like this dish did. Where every simple item blends so perfectly with the next that the result is akin to Violet Beauregarde’s reaction to Willie Wonka’s magical gum, hitting on a four course dinner with every chew. One bite: and there it all was, the caulifower, and the lemons, the olive oil, the oregano, the cinnamon, the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic, the feta. And I was back in Greece, where I spent the summer of my 19th year, sitting at an outdoor cafe with cats crawling around my feet, just waking to my senses. I hadn’t relived that moment in over half my life and there it was. There I was. Greece in Montana.

It began as an exercise in trying to figure out how to get my kids to eat a new vegetable. I chose cauliflower and I remembered that I’d loved a particular dish in Greece, went on line, found what seemed like the right ingredients to that particular dish, and made the recipe. By the end of the day, I’d completed an entire casserole-sized portion of this fantastic dish– forget my kids. I’ll make it for them later this week. Sentimental recipe indeed.
Kounoupithi (Baked Cauliflower With Feta and Tomato Sauce)
By Cookgirl on October 27, 2005

• Total Time: 40 mins
• Serves: 4-6
About This Recipe
“Cinnamon is one of the intriguing and delightful ingredients in this Greek dish.”
Ingredients
o 4 tablespoons olive oil
o 3 garlic cloves, minced
o 1 large yellow onions, chopped
o 30 ounces Italian plum tomatoes (I used diced canned tomatoes)
o 1 bay leaves (I used 3)
o 2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano (I used fresh)
o 2 inches cinnamon sticks
o salt
o fresh ground black pepper
o 1 large heads cauliflower
o 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used 2 tbs)
o 5 ounces feta cheese (I used 8 ounces)
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a saute pan, gently cook the garlic and onion in half of the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, herbs, spice and seasonings. Cover pan and simmer 5 minutes.
3. Cut up the cauliflower into florets and stir into the tomato sauce mixture. Cover pan and cook another 10 minutes.
4. Transfer the mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice.
5. Grate the feta cheese on the top and garnish with black pepper.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes. (I cooked mine another 15 minutes until the water from the tomatoes was absorbed and the cauliflower was soft.)

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Filed under Contests! Win a signed hardcover of THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS!, Food

And the Winner of THE SENTIMENTAL RECIPE CONTEST is…

…Melinda Bryce for her dad’s apple pie recipe!!!! Congratulations, Melinda, you win a signed copy of my book, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is”! And thank you for sharing the delicious image of your son following in your footsteps and creating his grandpa’s pie!

And thanks to everyone who submitted a recipe, it was wonderful to read your stories and add to my recipe…ahem…repertoire. Stay tuned for my next contest in which another randomly selected reader will win a signed copy of my book…

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Pimenton Obsession

Every once in awhile, I get obsessed with something. It usually involves aroma. When I was a teenager it was Christian Dior Diorissimo perfume, because it reminded me of my grandmother, and then it was Halston lotion, because it reminded me of my best friend. Then I turned to Opalescence Borghese lipstick– I think I still have some somewhere. And then in college it was Grey Flannel men’s cologne. I used to spray it on my pillow because it reminded me of this amazingly handsome guy I knew—that and gin and tonics which for a short time in college, meant: freedom and sophistication.

During my first pregnancy, it was Orange blossom room spray from L’Occitane. It made my husband’s eyes sting.  The whole house was thick with it.  At one point, I was so addicted to it, that I just started spraying it all over my body even though technically it was room spray. Now I can’t get near the stuff.

Then, more recently, it was this Mexican cocoa candle by Pacifica.  I’m not really a scented candle person, but this candle is insane.  Makes you feel like you’re in an opium den only the drug is chocolate and somewhere someone is eating spicy, and a little bit feral, Mexican food in the barrio nearby and it’s probably Hemingway or Steinbeck or Frieda Khalo.

When I splurged and spent a night at the Park Hyatt in Milan, one bath with Laura Tonatto’s special line for that marvelous hotel had me stalking the housekeeping cart until I had a year’s supply.  Two years later, I still keep an empty bottle by my bathtub just to open it up and take a whiff.  And not I’m not being paid by anybody to endorse these products.  Though, Signorina Tonatto, if you’d like to advertise on my blog, feel free.  Especially if there are free samples involved. 

And then one day last summer, I met Pimenton. It’s not just a smell, or a flavor. It’s food for the senses and the soul. It takes a simple scrambled egg and soars it toward the heavens. Throw it in the Crock Pot with your roast and…six hours later…shenendoah. Got some ground chuck and some canned beans and tomatoes? Forget chili powder—use this stuff. People will think you are an exotic gourmet. Making a lime, mango, red pepper relish for fish or grilled sweet sausages? Add a few shakes of Pimenton and you’ll feel like you just spent the afternoon in a Spanish fishing villiage. I can’t not use Pimenton. My family calls it “that thing that everything tastes like now.” I love it so much I keep it on my kitchen window sill just so I can look at it. When I travel from the small mountain town where I live, I steal into specialty food stores and stock up on the stuff like a junkie. If you’ve never tried, it, here’s what it looks like.

Here’s what I learned from a quick twirl around the internet.
About Spanish Smoked Paprika – Pimentón (taken mostly from Latienda.com )

When Ferdinand and Isabella in the monastery of Guadalupe received Christopher Columbus at the completion of his second voyage to America, they were astonished when he presented them with paprika from the New World. The biting sharpness of some of the peppers took their breath away, but that did not stop the monks from cultivating them and soon the peppers spread throughout Extremadura. But it was not until the 17th Century that pimentón, the crushed powder from the red spicy pepper began its general inclusion in Spanish cuisine.

Today the finest paprika powder in Spain is made close to the original monastery garden in the fertile alluvial soils around the Tietar River in La Vera where the climate is mild and the rain is plentiful. Here the farmers cultivate different varieties of the paprika genus Capiscum annum, each with varying degrees of pungency.
The harvest begins in the fall where entire families go out into the fields to harvest the little peppers and place them in drying houses where they are smoke-dried with oakwood which must be about five times as great as the amount of the paprika to be obtained. No other wood may be used if the genuine pimentón de la vera is to have its typical taste. The farmer has to go into the smoking house every day for two weeks to turn over the layer of peppers by hand.

Finally the peppers are milled by electrically powered stone wheels which must turn very slowly since friction heat affects the color and flavor. It comes in three varieties: sweet and mild (dulce); bittersweet medium hot (agridulce) and hot (picante) and normally keeps for two years.

The precious powder is indispensable, for many types of Spanish sausage such as chorizo and lomo pork loin. It adds the absolutely perfect taste of authenticity to paellas. It crosses into regular American cuisine as a seasoning for barbecue pork, rich beef and lamb stews, kebabs etc. Pimentón de la Vera is unique – it is only a distant cousin to the Hungarian paprika that is used for Eastern European dishes. Although it is not generally available, even in many gourmet shops, there is no substitute for use in authentic Spanish cooking.

Capsicum peppers used for paprika are unusually rich in vitamin C, a fact discovered in 1932 by Hungary’s 1937 Nobel prize-winner Albert Szent-Györgyi. Much of the vitamin C content is retained in paprika, which contains more vitamin C than lemon juice by weight.

Paprika is also high in other antioxidants, containing about 10% of the level found in açaí berries. Prevalence of nutrients, however, must be balanced against quantities ingested, which are generally negligible for spices.

And since we’re going into fall, here’s a recipie from the New York Times that I can’t wait to try:

Smoky Quick-Cooked Kale
Yield 4 servings

Time 20 minutes

Ingredients
1 1/4 pounds kale (about one bunch)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pimentón de La Vera, preferably agridulce
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Method
1. Remove tough stems and center ribs from kale. Stack half of the leaves and roll into a cigar shape, then cut crosswise into very thin strips. Repeat with remaining leaves.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot, then add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and pimenton and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is softened, about 1 minute.
3. Add kale and cook, tossing very frequently, until tender and bright green, about 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Source: The New York Times

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