The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: November, 2012

Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza

 

You win some, you lose some. Isn’t that the way the saying goes? Well this term makes a whole lot of sense in the realm of sports and competition, I also found myself saying it a few weeks ago in the kitchen. 

Pizza stones are heavy, large, and not the easiest to store, especially in a kitchen that is tight on store space to begin with. But they have several purposes beyond that of pizza and it seems like every great chef has one. I was delighted when I found out there was one in my future. The directions displayed beautiful pictures of cookies, artisan breads, and apple tarts but I was really just looking forward to making some pizza. They guided me to “season” the stone prior to cooking but failed to mention exactly what seasoning meant. 

One cooking failure later which resulted in a pizza-type pile of toppings and what should have been crust – had it not been cemented to the pizza stone – I decided to a give it a rest and build my confidence with other cooking endeavors. 

But it wasn’t long before I returned, ready to drag out the stone and try again. After all, we had worked out our differences in the forty-five minutes of gentle coaxing it took to remove the crust off the stone. This is probably the best place to mention that soap is not recommended for use anywhere near a pizza stone.

I clicked through page after page of internet information about seasoning the coveted pizza stone only to slip further into confusion about the seasoning process. I was faced with dilemmas such as “to season or not to season?” which nearly had me giving up on the whole debacle. I decided to marry two ideas I had stumbled upon, vegetable oil and corn meal. My favorite suggestion was to bake something like cookies or crescent rolls on the stone first and allow the natural oils to seem into the stone – natural seasoning they called it. However, I was in the mood for pizza and just didn’t have the time to make both recipes.

I am happy to report pizza stone success! I got to try out my pizza cutter and I didn’t stress out the spatula as the crust nearly floated atop the surface this time rather than hanging on for dear life.

Although there is no sauce and no pepperoni on this pizza, the contrast of sharp provolone, gorgonzola, walnuts, and bartlett pears is sure to awaken your taste buds.

Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza

Serves 4 

1 pre-made fresh pizza dough from your local market (from scratch works too)

1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola

2 TBSP chopped walnuts

2 medium bartlett pears

provolone cheese (enough slices to cover the surface – about 1/4 lb)

olive oil

corn meal

vegetable oil (for seasoning the stone)

Allow dough to sit at room temp and “rest” or about 5 minutes before placing on the pizza stone.  If using an unseasoned pizza stone, lightly rub vegetable oil on with a paper towel being careful not to over saturate the surface. Dust surface with corn meal and place dough on top. Work the dough into an even layer forming a circle or rectangle. Brush lightly with olive oil. Layer provolone cheese and then pears, leaving an edge of dough for the crust – about one inch. Sprinkle gorgonzola and walnuts on top . Place pizza in a cold oven and set oven to 425 F. Once oven has preheated, set timer and allow the pizza to cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Side note: I found a few sources that recommended placing the pizza stone in a cold oven to avoid cracking so this is what I did as well.

Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

For better or for worse I have a very strong tendency to tie scents, songs, and sightings to both distant and recent memories alike. Sometimes it will have me moving CDs to the back of the closet to take a bit of a hiatus and sometimes on snowy commutes like today I become lost in thoughts of baking up something warm and delicious as I pad across the kitchen to marvel at how much quieter the street looks when it snows, as if the flakes are like little sound sponges.

This particular memory stems from a “girl’s night in” back in middle school when we ordered pizza from Universal Market and baked chocolate chip cookies as a layer of feather-like snow blanketed our small town. The cool tile of the kitchen floor felt good against my feet because the warmth of good friends, gossip, and the oven was aplenty.

Even though I have since forgotten most of my middle school memories – most likely for the better – this one has stuck and thus I find myself baking up chocolate coconut granola bars in place of cookies some eleven years later as my own way of welcoming the snow. As I have grown up I’ve adapted a more practical approach to things and therefore these bars will also serve as a convenient pack and go breakfast for weekday mornings.

Sometimes I am stopped in my tracks by something so mundane to the outsider it almost seems absurd even in my own mind. But the way the memories come flooding back when I catch the sunlight filtering through the tree line casting a single beam on Ram Island as our deck sits in the shadow evokes memories the late November days of my childhood when thoughts of Santa and snow days were my biggest priorities. 

Reading this may make it seem as though I walk through life tied down by memories and it could make you wonder how I ever have the ability to make new memories if I am so busy recalling years past. This is what amazes me most about the way I recall memories, the ability to connect the dots of life without even knowing when a time or place, or voice or aroma is going to claim a spot next to the many memories in the microfiche of my mind.

These chocolate coconut bars come together nicely with a bit of milk, brown sugar, and honey. Pumpkin, oats, nuts, and dried fruit bring some fiber to the mix giving that stick-to-your-ribs appeal of wintertime foods without the burden of flour or butter.

Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from Pastry Affair

Makes about 10 – 4 by 1 1/2” bars

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup dried cherries and cranberries, halved

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 TBSP honey

3/4 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or homemade)

1/4 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 375 F and butter or spray an 8×8” baking dish. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until moistened throughout. Firmly pack mixture into the baking dish forming an even layer and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. The refrigerator can speed up the cooling process. Cut bars and store in air tight containers.

 

November Cherry Almond Parsnips

 

My favorite days off from work come during the week when stores and streets aren’t quite as busy and I can be out and about beneath the bright sunshine with a little bit of peace and quiet. Try as I might, I still feel there aren’t enough daylight hours this time of year and I just can’t seem to be present in the moment when I am running from car to door and cruising down I-95 thinking about what’s for dinner and does the laundry need to be done. On days like today though I am able to notice how the cardinals just seem so much more beautiful this time of year, how sharply they contrast against the barren tree branches. I can prepare meals for the week ahead and have the afternoon lighting as my backdrop rather than the harsh beam coming from the table lamp.

Fortunately for me or maybe unfortunately for my waist line, the Mystic Market is just seconds from my house and the dishes they cook up down there are fabulous. Sometimes I splurge and grab lunch to-go or dinner on nights when I’m pressed for time but yesterday I was able to stop myself from bringing home any of these devilish dishes and instead melted into a cup of hazelnut coffee, black of course. Thank you to the man several years ago who got me to finally try coffee and convinced me there was no other way than to drink it other than black. Although I left without any entrees or take-out containers I did not leave without inspiration for my very own kitchen. 

The tray of roasted turnips, tossed with cranberries and poppy seeds led me on an adventure of my own to bring the parsnips into our household. Some call them parsnips, some call them fat, white, carrot-type things, and still others call them big, beige carrots. No matter what your term of endearment is for this root vegetable, they make for a mighty tasty side dish. Why did I turn to parsnips when the mouth-watering dish that caught my attention contained turnips you ask? Because upon first glance I was pretty sure they were parsnips and then it was all I could think about.

I discovered parsnips back in high school when I was desperate to bring something other than broccoli to family dinners. I mimicked the sweet and crunchy technique with dried cherries and chopped almonds and turned to the trusty Joy of Cooking for guidance on roasting. As of late I have become more comfortable pulling my own recipes together but sometimes the basics of water versus broth, 25 versus 45 minute cooking times still get me. 

As I stood on the deck, photographing the sweetly roasted parsnips I think I might have even smelled a hint of snow in the air. It’s little blessings like these that make me thankful for living in New England, and evoke memories of watching snowflakes melting away on the water’s surface while lighted boats bob along the docks.

November Cherry Almond Parsnips

Serves about 6

1 1/2 pounds of parsnips

1/2 cup dried cherries, halved

1/4 cup chopped almonds 

2/3 cup low sodium vegetable broth

2 TBSP salted butter, cut into small pieces

2-3 tsp light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Peel and cut parsnips into one inch cubes and place in a glass baking dish, making a single layer. Pour vegetable broth over top of parsnips. Place the pieces of butter throughout the mixture, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, halve the dried cherries and set aside. Chop the almonds, measure out 1/4 cup and mix with cherries. I used slivered almonds to start because that is what we had on hand. Once parsnips have roasted, remove the cover, sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar – about 2 to 3 teaspoons – and continue roasting, uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix in the cherries and almonds and serve.

Driftwood for the Home

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in interior design. I never thought it would be something I would pursue as a career but it certainly brings me happiness to pull a room together, to make a place really feel like home. I think one of the reasons I never pursued it further is because I have very particular taste and I just don’t think I’d be any good at decorating rooms for people with differing tastes than mine. Some may say selfish, I say particular.

I have always been near the sea and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A water view is something I am very fortunate to have but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t attempt to bring the feel of a shore cottage in to any (and every) place I inhabit whether trees, mountains, or the beach happens to actually be outside my window.

For my latest project I used the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as my muse and a little help from Pinterest. Walking the shores of Napatree my heart broke to see the eroding dunes and garbage lined water’s edge but like diamonds in the rough, weathered drift wood and logs covered the landscape. Some weren’t so weathered with leaves still attached, but others were worn with time and the help of the pounding sea. Smooth surfaces with worn edges, these pieces looked less like tree limbs and a little bit like art. 

Image

I knew one of these logs would fit right in atop my white coffee table. I struggle with home decor sometimes because I am such a minimalist. Simple is better I remind myself as I browse through stores, more clutter means more to dust. But I have to admit, a barren coffee table with the occasional glass or candle really comes off as stark. I liked the light and natural feel of this particular log I had laid eyes on so I hoisted it into my arms and made the trek back to the car. I may have looked a bit odd but I had a vision.

Once I cleaned the sand out of my shoes, I went to finding the drill, a hole saw, a 1 1/2 inch spade bit, and a chisel and hammer. At some point in time I had picked up glass tea light holders so I dug those out too along with some tea lights.

I was lucky enough to find a nice, dry and sun baked piece of wood but had I not then I would suggest leaving the wood out in the sun until it is free of moisture. I got to drilling out the widest opening I would need to fit my glass tea light holders. The size and depth required will mainly be determined by the size of the dish or holder you choose to place in the wood. I then used the spade bit (1 1/2 inch was the widest I could find) to remove additional wood from the center of the drilled holes and followed up with my chisel and hammer to remove more of the wood. 

And there you have it, a warm and natural piece of the beach to add to a table or fireplace mantel. This could also be used as a centerpiece for a dining room table I think. 

Mulled Cider

          B.F Clyde’s Cider Mill – my favorite place for cider!

Ready or not here comes the holiday season. Walk into any retail store and the christmas carols are playing from the speakers. Each night another bush or tree pops up in someone’s yard aglow with lights and yes, that 24-hour holiday music station is back on the radio. My first instinct is to rebel, fight back, and ignore the holiday spirit. But seconds later I’m pulling out Michael Buble’s Christmas CD and warming up to the idea of the holidays.

 

As someone very wise once told me, “embrace it” because what other option do you have? Well, the option to complain about the fact that it’s too early for the holidays and risk being called a Grinch is certainly available, I think the embracement tactic is a bit more appealing. Also, I’ve always been one for planning ahead so a jump start on holiday crafting and shopping sounds like a great idea!

                               Homemade recipe cards

With the season of giving officially underway, I thought I would break out my craft basket and make something for a few friends that would send them into the kitchen. For me, the holidays are reminiscent of picturesque weather, traditions, cooking, and most importantly family and friends. While I realize everyone is not a whiz in the kitchen I decided to make a gift for creating a warm festive drink, mulled cider (with and without rum). Back in October I picked up these adorable little “Be Thankful” bags with absolutely no idea what I would fill them with.

It has taken me about a month, but I finally was inspired by a recipe I had made up for a get together I hosted back in September. The recipe calls for a few different spices that we usually have on hand in the cabinet. However, I wanted to make this a bit more special so I headed down to the Spice & Tea Exchange to pick up some ground spices.  

With the help of my label maker, I made up a spice mix for the cider and a cinnamon sugar packet for rimming the glasses. I also typed up a recipe card. With just a few additional items – that wouldn’t fit in the bag – your house can be filled with the warmth and spice of mulled cider. Fresh oranges, honey and the apple cider of course are key. The rum is optional but highly recommended.

So while my profession encourages everyone to enjoy all things in moderation this recipe may have you pouring yourself a second glass. Cheers!

Mulled Cider

Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts apple cider

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp all spice

zest of 1 orange

6 whole cloves

1 cup spiced Rum

Cinnamon & sugar for rimming glasses

Cinnamon sticks for swizzle sticks

Put apple cider, spices, and rum in a stockpot and heat to simmer over medium-high heat. Do not let boil. Dampen the rims of drinking glasses and dip in cinnamon sugar and serve cider in the glasses. Use a cinnamon stick as a swizzle stick and enjoy!

Note, this recipe can easily be halved or doubled to accompany your guest list.

Oreo Bombs

Like I said, I never really know when the inspiration for a post will come from. This one was a request by my coworkers. I must start by warning you that this delectable dessert does not have any health benefits to offer and it probably will disappear too quickly. I will keep this post short and sweet and I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving holiday!

The ingredients are few and the only kitchen equipment required is a food processor and in truth, you probably could get by without it but it brings the oreos and cream cheese together quite easily. 

Although this dessert isn’t specifically tied in to Thanksgiving, I think it’s a great gifting idea for the sweet tooth on your list or a fun treat to bring to an upcoming holiday party. Begin by gathering your ingredients which include a package of regular oreos, 8 oz of cream cheese, chocolate that is suitable for melting, and sprinkles if desired.

Blend the oreos in the food processor until crumbly and then add the cream cheese and blend again for about 30 seconds. The ideal consistency will not include any large pieces of oreos but will not be too thin either.

Form the mixture into balls about the shape of marbles. Lay on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. The size of the balls is important because the smaller they are the easier they will be coated by the chocolate. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double-boiler. From my experience, working in small batches works best if microwaving the chocolate. Top with sprinkles if desired.

Another alternative for the peanut butter lover would be to use about 8 oz of smooth peanut butter instead of the cream cheese. However, the balls do not form as easily and require a bit more freezing time (about 25 minutes). The initial frustration I encountered forming the balls was quickly forgotten when one of them met my tastebuds.

Of course I am looking forward to our turkey and trimmings the most, but these oreo bombs will be a delicious end to a wonderful holiday.

Oreo Bombs

makes about 45-50

1 package oreos

8 oz cream cheese (or peanut butter)

chocolate bark or any type of chocolate that you can melt

sprinkles (if desired)

Blend the oreos in the food processor just until crumbly and then add the cream cheese and mix about 30 seconds. You could also use a rolling pin to crumble the oreos and a spoon to mix the cream cheese in. Form into marble sized balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to set in the freezer for about 15 minutes (add another 10 minutes if making the peanut butter version). Melt the chocolate and use a toothpick to roll the balls into the chocolate. Place back on the cookie sheet, top with sprinkles and keep in the refrigerator.

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

There is a lot to be said about shopping local. At a time when retail sales are about to spike and in anticipation of Black Friday I thought I would send out a reminder to hit up your local retailers before heading to the mall. It’s quite prevalent these days, the messages about staying local, supporting the community in which you reside. For me, this message has always been something of importance. That being said, I understand that sometimes it is just easier or faster to head to the Home Depot than waiting for your local hardware store to reopen the next day. So while I’m not perfect all the time, I try to stay local when possible, I never said I was perfect…just striving for it.  

I never really know when an inspiration for a recipe or project will hit me, sometimes it’s through conversations with friends or coworkers and sometimes it’s after visiting a restaurant. Sometimes though I really never know why the idea comes to mind. The best guess I have for my latest decision to make butternut squash apple soup came from the towering pile of apples on the countertop and the chilly air that made me long for a hot bowl of something good. Of course the opportunity to use my food processor is always appealing too.

I was informed that Sunday’s are in fact made for football, not soup making as I had claimed last week. However, instead of football, I found myself chasing the sunset this past Sunday evening. The breeze and ocean spray may have been nearly torturous but the way the clouds appeared to be on fire and the funny U-shaped shadows the seals made in the forefront of a burning sky made the brisk air much more tolerable. I realize the sunset can be viewed from the slightly warmer and drier shore but there is something about being one of the only boats in the water, grasping on to the tail end of boating season, this time of year is for the real die-hards and it holds a special place in my happy heart.

While out on Long Island Sound I couldn’t help but anticipate the warmth of soup. Once home I got to preparing my soup by peeling and cutting the butternut squash. I had hit a road block though, I was determined to include apple brandy in my recipe and after visiting two liquor stores I had been unsuccessful in finding any. I abandoned the soup until the following day after I had spoken with the owner of the local package store. Although she was out of apple brandy, she had some apple pie liqueur left over from an in-store tasting. I was thrilled, I would be able to get cooking after all.

This soup is extra-sweet, almost dessert like and can be thickened by omitting some of the vegetable stock if desired. The opportunities for variations are endless in my eyes but I couldn’t have made the foundation of flavors if not for shopping local. As we are yet one day closer to Thanksgiving I am thankful for local businesses, beautiful sunsets, and my kitchen.

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

Serves 4 to 6 

Recipe adapted from Country Living and Simply Recipes.

About 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

a dash of salt and pepper

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 cup chopped white onion

1/2 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup apple cider

1/4 cup apple brandy (I used apple pie liqueur)

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or less if a thicker soup is desired) 

Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the onion and saute about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the squash and apple and saute another 5 minutes. Add the spices, cider, brandy, and vegetable broth.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, cover and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until squash are very tender. Remove from heat. 

Let cool for about 10 minutes and divide into small batches. Puree in a food processor until very smooth. Serve warm and garnish with low-fat sour cream, apple slices, chopped nuts or fresh herbs such as parsley or chives. 

Suet Saga & Glazed Carrots

The original – now missing – suet feeder

About six weeks ago I embarked on a homemade suet journey. Intrigued by the idea of creating an energy dense source of food for the birds and the limited upkeep I gave it a whirl on Columbus Day weekend. Yes, the whole weekend involved rendering beef suet. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it felt like I had spent the majority of my time rendering, filtering, and finally molding the suet cakes. It was less than 24 hours before some outdoor creatures discovered the suet, opened the cage and ran off with the store-bought cake that was in the second cage. I returned to the hardware store to buy zip ties to keep the cages closed and found a new hanging spot. I stood back admiring my ability to out smart the squirrels and raccoons and said “If they want the suet they are going to have to haul off the entire feeder, copper pole and all.

The new feeder in its new location

I awoke the next morning and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, the pole, feeder and both suet cakes were gone. I ran out onto the deck searching the surrounding yard but there was no sign my feeder, or the pole it hung from which had been ripped from its bolts that had once secured it to the deck.

 With some encouragement and some time I have once again hung a suet feeder for my birds. The weather is getting colder, the days shorter, and the suet feeder always had the set-it-and-forget-it appeal to me. The seed-filled feeder requires frequent re-filling and I wanted a back up source of energy on the days that I return home from work too focused on feeding myself than to remember my feathered friends.

 

 Especially when returning home means walking into “Brooke, do that thing with the carrots!” The beef was in the oven, but the vegetable side dish apparently hadn’t been decided on. Luckily, this dish is pretty simple and one of the only times I will willingly eat cooked carrots.

 ‘The thing with the carrots’ she was referring to was a recipe I had tried out during the summer. It includes just four ingredients total and the cleanup is minimal. I usually prefer carrots raw, mushy cooked carrots just don’t have the same appeal so I was originally hesitant to try this recipe out. The key is the short cooking time, just 12 minutes and a few extra to let the cooking liquid reduce down to a syrup and you will have flavorful cooked carrots with just a hint of sweet and savory. The sweetness is courtesy of light brown sugar and the savory from fresh parsley. If you don’t have parsley, chives work too.

If you’re looking for another side dish for the Thanksgiving menu this might just be your match!

 Glazed Carrots

Serves 4

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

1 to 1 1/2 pounds of carrots (about 8 peeled and sliced about two inches long on the diagonal or  1 bag of baby carrots sliced lengthwise on the diagonal)

2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 1/2 TBSP light brown sugar

1 1/2 TBSP chopped parsley

 a dash of salt

 Place the sliced carrots in a 10inch skillet forming a single layer. Add enough water to come about halfway up the sides of the carrots (a little less than 1 cup). Add the sugar, salt, and butter and cook uncovered over high heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-high and cover, leaving the cover slightly askew to allow for some steam to escape and cook for 12 minutes. Swirl the skillet several times during cooking to cover the carrots in the glaze. After 12 minutes, remove the cover and allow the liquid to evaporate and form a thick syrup, remove from heat once liquid has evaporated and toss with fresh parsley before serving. Add additional salt to taste if desired and serve warm.

 

Ginger Snaps

It came out of nowhere, an overwhelming urge to make a batch of ginger snap cookies. I hopped on my computer and poured through recipe after recipe, chewy or crisp, candied ginger or ground, additions like pumpkin and whoopie pie variations leaped off the screen calling at my taste buds. The variations were endless and I was approaching abandonment of the whole idea. I have this defense mechanism that kicks in when I am faced with too many options, I call it a day on scratch the idea. I quickly closed out of the windows and settled on two recipes. As with most recipes I try to contribute something unique or at least mix and match a few different versions to create something a little less run-of-the mill. 

Molasses spice cookies are a staple of the holiday season but can really be enjoyed any time of the year I suppose. I think these cookies have their time and certainly a nostalgia about them around the holidays. I’m not talking about the fourth of July holiday either, I’m talking Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s right, I have caved to the pre-season holiday cheer. I partially blame it on my previous job in retail where every season came two months early. Those retail stores are sneaky, they pump the air conditioning and crank up the Christmas music and suddenly you can’t help but feel the need to purchase an outfit for the holiday party you haven’t even been invited to yet. 

Call me what you will but today I think the trickery of retail worked. I spent part of my day shopping with my mother trying to ignore the jingle bell music, the snow flakes and the bright red shiny over-sized christmas ornaments. While I didn’t make any holiday purchases, once home I was hit with the desire to bake ginger snaps, not so random I am beginning to think.

My favorite memory tied to ginger snaps comes from the Mystic Seaport. Any time of the year is a great time to visit the seaport but the wintertime has always been my favorite. The little historic town just overflows with warm holiday greetings and the horse drawn carriages just beg for the snow to start falling. The Buckingham Hall house boasts its cooking hearth with freshly baked ginger snaps and the role players dance from place to place with garlands and lanterns. If you’re fortunate enough to have made it to a Lantern Light Tour then you know what I’m talking about.

While it’s not quite that time of year, we’ve had our first snow fall and I think it’s as good a time as any to start perfecting my ginger snap recipe. For the first time in quite some time I chose to weigh my ingredients rather than measure them in cups. It brought back memories of food science classes in college and there is something so satisfying about getting the grams just right. Perhaps that’s my desire for perfection shining through. Either way I had fun with this recipe, I was a bit hesitant about the two hour chill time but I was able to play domestic goddess (i.e cleaning, laundry) while the dough prepared itself for baking.  

Ginger Snaps

Adapted from Fine Cooking and Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

Makes about 3 dozen

2 1/4 cups (281 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking soda

1/2 teaspoon (2 to 3 grams) table salt

3 teaspoons (6 grams) ground ginger

1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup (100 grams) turbinado sugar

1/2 cup (96 grams) light brown sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup (79 ml) unsulphured molasses

Zest of 1 orange, about 1 TBSP

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices with a whisk. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars with a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, and orange zest and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well incorporated. Spoon batter onto plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 350F and roll dough into one inch (or one and a half inch) balls. Roll the dough balls in turbinado sugar if desired. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet about two inches apart from one another. Bake for 10-15 minutes, closer to 10 minutes for chewy and closer to 15 minutes for crispy cookies. Let cool about 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling racks. Let cool completely on racks before storing. 

 

 

 

 

 

Vichyssoise

If November Sundays weren’t made for soup making then I don’t know they’re for. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit but Sunday afternoon sure seemed like the perfect opportunity to cook up a batch of vichyssoise. This is a soup I’ve had my eye on for awhile now. It’s creamy and delicious and the challenge of getting the extra-smooth texture intrigued me.

I picked up my ingredients ahead of time so that this wouldn’t end up being an all-day affair in the kitchen. After all the sun was shining, the temperature was hovering right around sixty degrees and I had an agenda. Seal watching and vichyssoise. Strange combination I realize.

The sun hangs low even at noon time over Long Island Sound, the lush greenery among the estates of Fisher’s Island have since withered to reveal a beige and brown landscape warning that winter is not so far away. But out on the sound the boat cuts through the water at great speed so as not to kick up ocean spray into the boat.

The wind whips at my face leaving a pink glow that sticks around until after dinner. We approach the clumps of rocks and they look just as they did back in July when the boat was filled with beach towels and swimming noodles. Except as we come closer on our approach something is special about these rocks today. The seals sit atop the rocks sunning themselves in the early November sun.

They turn there heads watching us as we watch them, our cue that we’re too close. We putter along at a safer distance and take in this unique landscape. The seals will be with us on our rocky coastline growing and eating until the spring when they head back to Maine to have their pups. 

Another pleasant surprise is the duck sighting I encounter in West Harbor. I’ve been watching these ducks all summer long. Their bright orange webbed feet and pure white coats are almost surreal but they seem to fit the coastline over on the island just perfectly. I feared that they had flown South but much to my delight there they were just as I had last seen them in September.

I returned home to begin my vichyssoise adventure. This was my first time cooking with Leeks and thankfully I had found a guide on cutting and washing them other wise I think I would have been a bit lost. I have to warn you, this recipe sure gave the food processor a work out and the straining action was a bit time consuming. 

If you’re willing to make the commitment then this soup is worth a shot. It is creamy and smooth and full of flavor. Traditionally enjoyed cold, I taste-tested it this way but opted for a warmed up version to serve alongside our dinner of eye roast and Yorkshire pudding. I also was happy to snatch the last of the chives from the garden before they wilted in winter anticipation.

Classic Vichyssoise

Serves 6

4 medium leeks, trimmed and washed and sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 3 cups)

2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 4 cups)

2 cups whole milk (I used 1% milk)

1 cup heavy cream (I used light cream)

salt

1 TBSP thinly sliced chives, for garnish

Combine the leeks, potatoes, milk and 2 cups water in a 4-quart pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer about 20 minutes (a potato slice should fall apart when poked with a fork). Remove from heat, stir in the cream and let cool briefly. 

Puree the soup, preferably using a blender (or food processor) and working in batches. Strain the pureed soup through a fine sieve using a spoon to press. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Thin soup with water before serving if necessary. Serve cold in chilled bowls (traditional) or serve hot. Season with salt and pepper if desired and garnish with chives. 

This recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, yes, the same one I have gotten a lot of my recipes from. Ten dollars well spent if you ask me!