Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Memories and Cardamom Cookies

It's very hard to loose someone you care a lot about. Even harder when you are faced with days you should be celebrating with them, but find yourself without them. I find one of the best ways to feel connected to them is doing something we both shared and enjoyed. For me, that is very often cooking. I treasure my grandmother's handwritten recipes, remembering the smell of fresh strawberries and the feel of her aged but deft hands teaching me to roll out pie crust. It feels like I'm celebrating her each time I make those recipes - and a bit of her is with me. The same goes for my dear friend Em, who left this world over a year and a half ago. We went to college together, were roommates then, and when both of our fledgling careers brought us to DC, we shared an apartment that we loved to fill with great food and laughter. We both went moon-eyed over cardamom and had a favorite cardamom cookie recipe from Deborah Madison's "Everything Vegetarian". In honor of what would have been her 26th Birthday, I baked a batch of these melt-in-your mouth beauties, remembering how much fun we had cooking together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I love coffee. As a beverage, as a flavor, as an ingredient. I didn't always though. I have very vivid memories of my sister and I recoiling in horror as my parents refilled their insulated travel mug of coffee on long road trips. We would wail on and on about how it made the car stinky. Funny how things change. I can thank my mother - who innocently enough- introduced me to starbuck's frappicinos and then it was all downhill from there. I wouldn't say I'm addicted, but there's nothing quite like savoring a tasty cup of joe or a homemade latte.

That said, the area has increasingly interesting and just plain good coffee.Considering the wealth of Ethiopian cuisine in Our Nation's Capital, you'd think I'd have tried more of it's coffee. Adventures to report on for another post. Speaking of coffee and cuisine though, the recently opened Co Co Sala restaurant on F street really is fabulous. Their menu focuses on 5 different dessert courses featuring two of my very favorite ingredients: chocolate and coffee. While they do have meze style "real food" available, go for the dessets. It's sooo worth it.

Today's article in the Washington Post's Food Section got me waxing on about this topic. They also had a recipie for an espresso spritzer that I'm eager to try out. The recipie was published in the post, but hails originally from Susan Zimmer's "I love Coffee!". I think it's a cookbook I might just need to check out :)

Espresso Spritzer
The Washington Post, July 23, 2008
To sweeten this drink, you can add 1 to 2 ounces each of light cream and chocolate syrup.

1 serving

6 ounces crushed ice
1 cup cold espresso or cold strong coffee
Carbonated mineral water or soda water

Fill a tall, chilled glass with the crushed ice. Pour the espresso or strong, cold coffee over the ice, then fill to the top with the carbonated mineral water or soda water.
Recipe Source:

From "I Love Coffee!" by Susan Zimmer (Andrews McMeel, 2007).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tarte Aux Pêches- Peach Tart

The farmer's market was over flowing with luscious peaches this weekend. The only question was what to do with them.

The answer came from Julia Child.
It starts with a sweet short paste...

Pâte Brisée Sucrée
adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2/3 c flour (scooped and leveled)
1 Tbs granulated sugar

1/8 tsp salt

5 1/2 Tbs butter
2 1/2 to 3 Tbs cold water
Mix all ingredients together except the water in the food processor till combined. Fill tart pan and bake at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes or until just begining to turn golden brown.

Tarte Aux Pêches
adapted again from Julia Child
3 to 4 peaches
2/3 c granulated Sugar
1 Tbs butter cut into pea sized dots

Drop the fruit into boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Peel, halve, and remove pits. Slice the fruit if you wish. Preheat oven to 350 F. Sprinkle 3 Tbs of sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell. If the fruit is sliced, arrange it over the sugar in a closely overlapping layer of concentric circles. If it is halved, place the halves, domed side up, closely together in the shell. Spread on teh rest of the sugar (although if fruit is very ripe, you don't need all of it). Bake in the middle level of preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit has colored lightly and the juices have become syrupy. You can add a fruit glaze, or enjoy it as it is (which is what I did).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Morning French Toast

There's no treat quite like a delicious Sunday brunch. When I spotted the remaining baguette from the farmers market yesterday, I knew it was a morning for French toast. Paired with a mamosa and fruit salad, it was a fabulous way to start the day.

French Toast
from William Sonoma's Bride and Groom Cookbook

1 day old baguette
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbs orange juice
4 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Slice the baguette on a slight bias into 20 slices about 3/4 inch thick.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, yolk, milk, vanilla, orange juice, zest, sugar and salt, blending well. Submerge the slices of bread and prick their surfaces with a fork so that they better absorb the egg mixture, If the bread is fairly dry, turn over a few times and press the bread into the egg mixture, massaging it into the bread. let the bread sit in the egg mixture for at least 15 minutes, turning once; this ensures a custard like interior when the bread is cooked.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Melt some of the butter in a cast-iron frying pan or on a seasoned griddle over the medium heat. Place the bread slices, in batches, into the foaming butter and reduce the heat to low. Cook each slice just until the surface is golden brown and the inside has the texture of pudding, 3-4 minutes on each side. Add more butter to the frying pan if necessary. As the slices are cooked keep warm in the oven spread in a single layer on baking sheets; do not stack.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies to the Next Level

Read this article in the NY Times and am thrilled to give it a try this weekend. Mr. Pleasant has always insisted that refrigerating the dough improves cookie flavor, but my impatience has always won out :) Now, we'll see if he get's to do his best "i told you so" ever.

To try for the weekend (from the NYT):

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Published: July 9, 2008
Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.