February 21, 2011

Lavender Snickerdoodles

These are the Lavender Snickerdoodles referred to in the previous post.  They are always a crowd-pleaser and are quickly devoured at parties.

The recipe below is an adaptation of the normal snickerdoodle recipe (in which ground cinnamon is used).  The difference is that ground lavender has been substituted into the recipe on a 1:1 basis.  So, if you don't like lavender, sub back in the cinnamon and you have the standard classic.

Lavender Snickerdoodles

3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2/3 Cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground lavender (grind lavender flowers in a clean blade coffee grinder, works wonders)
1/4 tsp. salt

For Rolling:
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground lavender

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  

Cream together the granulated sugar, the light brown sugar, and the butter.  Ideally an electric mixer would be used as the creaming method takes a lot of elbow grease if done by hand.  You are looking for a consistency of something approaching cake frosting, and it should take a good while, probably around 5-10 minutes of constant mixing.

Beat in the egg and vanilla until well incorporated.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground lavender.  Add this mixture to the butter/egg mix until just combined, do not over work it.

Sarah and I prefer to chill the dough at this point as it makes it easier to handle, but it isn't completely necessary.  Roll bits of the dough into 1 inch diameter balls and roll in a combined sugar/ground lavender mix until completely coated.  Lay out on a lightly greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for about 10 minutes until the bottoms are just lightly browned.  Remove and cool on wire racks.

Note that it is a good idea to cool the cookie sheet slightly between bakings.  This way the hot cookie sheet won't start heating your cookies through before you're ready to put them in the oven.

Don't be afraid to try other seasonings.  The generalized recipe always produces cookies with a consistent crumb so mix it up.  Maybe try lemon and rosemary, or cinnamon and cayenne pepper, maybe cardamom and nutmeg.  Lots of different options.

February 17, 2011

Superbowl Sunday's Menu - A little late

The week of Superbowl Sunday's menu is a combination of some staggering successes.  

The lavender snickerdoodle is one of Sarah's more brilliant cookie creations.  We have always been fans of snickerdododles in general but Sarah had a brain wave when we experienced 515 Kitchen & Cocktail's drink called the Norma Desmond, which has a lavender sugar rim.  It was a simple enough step to apply the same lavender sugar to the surface of snickerdoodle cookie dough.  Amazing.

The other wonderful success was the Broccoli-rabe pasta carbonara with truffle Romano cheese.  Broccoli-rabe isn't my favorite vegetable, I think it's too bitter.  But it worked well in this pasta.

Broccoli-rabe Pasta Carbonara with Truffle Romano Cheese

1 bunch Broccoli-rabe
1 lb. dried pasta
3 small eggs, lightly beaten
Olive Oil Vinaigrette 
  -Olive Oil
  -Lemon Juice & Zest
  -Green Garlic
  -Salt & Pepper
Truffle Romano Cheese (or Truffle Oil & Romano Cheese)

Bring a substantial amount of water to a boil and salt liberally.  Add the pasta.  When there are about 3 minutes left on the pasta cooking time, add the broccoli-rabe and cook with the pasta until the pasta is finished.  Strain both and return to the the pot.  Slowly drizzle in the beaten egg while stirring the pasta.  Drizzle in the Olive Oil Vinaigrette to taste and serve with grated Truffle Romano.

February 11, 2011

Massaged Kale Salad, Carrots and Arame, and Pepper Rice

I have always considered kale to be a horribly ill flavored and ill tempered vegetable.  I've found it bitter and chewy, and it loves to roll around in the dirt and come home filthy.  However, Sarah has discovered that if you douse the stuff in salt and give it a good rub then it just melts.  It's whole rough and spiky exterior falls away and leaves behind a tender and pleasant salad green.  Flavored with a little bit of lemon juice and sesame seed oil and it's practically scarfable.

Lay the kale salad over a bed of rice heavily seasoned with pepper and top with stir fried carrots and Arame (seaweed) and you end up with a hardy vegan meal.

Massaged Kale Salad

1 Bunch Kale
About 1 Tbs. of Salt

Olive Oil
Sesame Seed Oil
Salt & Pepper
Lemon Juice/Mirin/Rice Wine Vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes
Sesame Seeds

Wash the kale thoroughly to get off all the dirt and grit.  Put the kale in a large bowl and douse liberally with salt.  Rub it between your hands and work it with your fingers until it begins to soften and release water.  You're going to want to rinse it after it is soft to get all the salt off so you can start with a "fresh" green.

Flavor with olive oil, sesame seed oil, salt and pepper, some kind of acid (lemon juice, mirin, rice wine vinegar, or a little of all three), red pepper flakes if you like it spicy, and a good helping of sesame seeds.  This is all by taste of course so if you want to mix it up and make it taste like something else, go for it.

Deborah Madison's cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone introduced Sarah and I to a dish humbly labeled "|Carrots and Hijiki".  It is just a simple stir fry of carrots and sea weed flavored with ginger and sesame seed oil.  It was great the first time we had it.  When we tried to make it the second time we ran into a bit of a problem: when we had first bought the Hijiki at our local grocery store the cost per ounce was about two dollars (pretty expensive already, I know) but when we went back the second time we didn't notice that the price had been increased to $10/oz.!  Bah!  We tried to get half a pound of the stuff.

It wasn't until we got to the register and the cashier rung the seaweed in at a total of $80 that we noticed.  It catches your eye when your grocery balance jumps from $20 to $100 after having rung up a single item.   Needless to say we were a bit put out.  Luckily there is a different type of seaweek called Arame that works just as well.  The flavor isn't as smoky as the Hijiki, but for the price I think it's not something to get worked up over.

Carrots & Arame

1 Cup Arame or Hijiki

1 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Julienned Carrots
2 tsp. freshly diced Ginger
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Sesame Seed Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Soak the Arame in cold water for about 5 minutes until soft.  Drain.  If using Hijiki soak the seaweed in boiling water for about the same amount of time, until soft, and drain.

Stir fry the carrots in oil for about 2 minutes.  Add the ginger and stir fry for a minute more.  Add the seaweed along with the soy sauce and stir fry until the soy sauce has been cooked off.  Take off the heat and season with sesame seed oil, salt, and pepper.

Lay down a bed of rice seasoned well with black pepper.  Stack the kale salad on top of the rice and top it all with some of the carrot and sea weed stir fry. 

February 2, 2011

Strawberry Vanilla Sorbet

I am tempted to talk about the differences between Ice Cream, Sorbet, and Sherbet; so I will.  Ice Cream is essentially Creme anglaise frozen while agitating; cream (or cream and milk, or just milk) and sugar heated until sugar is dissolved, combined with egg yolks via liaison, heated again until thick, flavored and frozen in an ice cream maker.

Sorbet of course does not use dairy; in this dessert the flavoring compound (fruit, fruit juice, melted chocolate, etc.) takes center stage and makes up the bulk of the ingredients.  I've found that pureed fruit is the easiest to work with.  Sorbet is sugar heated in water until dissolved then blended with enough flavoring (fruit, etc.) to make a thick pourable liquid and frozen in an ice cream maker.

Sherbet is half way between the two and uses no egg.  Sugar is heated in milk until dissolved and is combined with flavoring as in sorbet to make a thick liquid that is frozen in an ice cream maker.  All three variations are of course delicious.

Sarah and I have had a couple bags of frozen strawberries in the freezer since summer time and felt it was prudent to make a sorbet.  Our friend Jackie gave us the idea for the strawberry vanilla combo and also provided the whole vanilla beans.

Strawberry Vanilla Sorbet

1 Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
2 pints Strawberries, fresh or frozen, stems removed

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the insides using the edge of a knife.  Add the vanilla (both the insides and the bean hull) to the sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Hold the syrup at a boil for up to 4 minutes.  If using frozen berries strain syrup into a blender.  If using fresh berries strain the syrup into a separate container and chill.

In a blender combine the strained syrup and berries until well blended.  Chill the mixture before placing in the ice cream maker.  This step is greatly reduced in time if using frozen berries to begin with.

Once chilled freeze in an ice cream maker according to the directions.  Place in the freezer and let chill and extra 12 hours before serving.