Sunday, December 14, 2008

Maple Leaf Cookies

For once, I had my annual cookie swap contribution picked out in advance. And I'm talking a couple of months in advance.

Maple Cookies

Martha got me good, with a recipe for Maple Leaf Cookies as the "cookie of the month" in the November Martha Stewart Living. It's a basic sugar cookie, but with brown sugar and maple syrup added to give it a slightly deeper flavor. I am a complete sucker for maple, so I copied this cookie recipe as soon as I saw it.

I got 6 dozen out of this recipe, despite rolling the dough thinner than the recipe calls for AND using smaller cookie cutters than the recommended 3.5" maple leaf. Martha says you'll get "about 8 dozen".

The cookies as they come out the oven are not very sweet at all, and you could easily stop there and have some nice tea-or-coffee biscuits. The final step of brushing with maple syrup and sprinkling sugar on top adds a nice amount of sweetness to them. The maple flavor is there, but pretty subtle.

I didn't bother with the repeated dough freezes called for in the recipe. I almost always roll out cookie dough between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper, which lets me get away with a stickier dough. Any time it felt like the dough was getting too warm, it went into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

I used regular granulated sugar for the final step, instead of sanding sugar. They still came out sparkly and sugary:

Maple Cookies

Now I just have to keep myself from sampling any more. I've gone through the leftovers already, so all that's left are the packages for my coworkers. :)

Recipe: Maple Leaf Cookies from Martha Stewart Living, November 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Chicken and Celery Pot Stickers

My first time making my own pot stickers rather than just heating up a bag of Trader Joe's frozen ones. The Trader Joe's chicken gyoza are darn tasty, but I may never go back.

Homemade potstickers

These were obscenely easy to make, and perfect for a small kitchen. I didn't even need to get out a cutting board. A food processor, a plate to hold the filled pot stickers before cooking them, and a frying pan with a lid. That's it. Filling these felt like a school art project; I had 2 dozen made in no time.

Homemade potstickers

The recipe is not only easy, it's also fairly inexpensive to make. The filling is ground chicken, a couple of ribs of celery, a couple of garlic cloves, some salt, pepper, and soy sauce. A quarter pound of meat gave me 24 pot stickers with filling to spare.

Homemade potstickers

The results were fabulous. A crispy, crunchy browned side, a chewier steamed side, a nice hit of garlicky chicken filling, and a basic soy-and-vinegar dipping sauce... what's not to love?

Want the recipe? Chicken and Celery Pot Stickers from

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pepperoni pasta

This was easy, fast, and incredibly good. :)

Pepperoni pasta

I came across this Cavatappi with Pepperoni recipe in's "Quick Pasta" slideshow. Pasta, tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell pepper, and a very respectable amount of pepperoni to give it a bit of heat. I followed the recipe pretty closely. However, instead of dumping all the grease from the pepperoni, I kept a bit of it in the pan and used that to sauté the onion and pepper. I also used a couple of 8 oz cans of plain no-salt-added tomato sauce instead of the whole tomatoes in the recipe.

Pepperoni pasta

This was filling, but not heavy. Nice mild heat from the pepperoni, balanced by the sweet onions and peppers. It was done in under half an hour, not much cleanup... gotta love that.

Two thumbs up!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lime and Basil Pasta Salad

Lime and Basil Pasta Salad

We've had a couple of hot, humid days here, and it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a summery pasta salad. It was inspired by Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Vegetables, and Pesto Vinaigrette by Sara Foster. Lovely recipe, except for two main ingredients that I can't eat: shrimp and pesto (which usually has nuts in it). This has the same underlying idea as the original: pasta, grilled summer vegetables, lime vinaigrette, fresh basil. Light, refreshing, and perfect for a warm night.

I have a countertop grill, so there was no chance that the green beans would fall through the grate. For a regular grill, you could wrap the green beans up in foil and grill them in a packet.

Grilled vegetables

Lime and Basil Pasta Salad
serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side

8 ounces orzo or other small pasta
Juice of one lime
4 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 red or yellow bell pepper, quartered
1/4 to 1/2 lb green beans, ends trimmed
1 pound cooked chicken, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Brush the grill with olive oil, then grill pepper until softened and lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pepper to cool. Grill green beans until they develop grill marks, about 5 minutes (they should still have a nice crunch to them). Remove green beans to cool.

Once cooled, chop green beans into 1" pieces and chop bell pepper into bite-size pieces or smaller. Add cooked chicken, green beans, and bell pepper to bowl with pasta. Add lime vinaigrette and sliced basil; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fusilli Carbonara

Carbonara with leeks

Pasta + bacon + egg + leeks + 15 minutes = happy me.

And really, can you blame me for that? A bowl of hearty, filling comfort food (did I mention the bacon and eggs?) in about as much time as it takes to cook a pot of pasta. I even splurged a bit and got some Niman Ranch uncured applewood smoked bacon for this... out of this world. The leeks add a mild sweet onion flavor that complements the saltiness of the bacon very well.

Carbonara with leeks

Recipe: Orrechiette Carbonara (Bon Appétit, April 2008)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Grilled cheese with onion jam, Emmentaler, and escarole

Grilled cheese with onion jam, Emmentaler, and escarole

Got this recipe out of February's issue of Gourmet, and I have to say, it's a nice way to make grilled cheese into something a bit out of the ordinary.

I didn't see Taleggio cheese at Fresh Market, so I got a little brick of French Emmentaler instead. It doesn't have as strong of a flavor as the Taleggio would have had, so I tried to go light on the onion jam so the cheese wouldn't be completely overpowered. Of course, I'm addicted to the jam anyway, so there could have been no cheese at all and I probably still would have been happy (Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam, for those who are curious). The sweetness of the jam, the nuttiness of the cheese, the bitterness from the escarole, the slight tang from the sourdough bread... everything balanced well.

Recipe: Grilled Cheese with Onion Jam, Taleggio, and Escarole (Gourmet magazine, February 2008)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Irish" meatloaf with holiday potatoes

"Irish" meatloaf and holiday potatoes

I collect meatloaf recipes, ideally ones with an off-the-wall ingredient or something unexpected. When I came across this cheddar meatloaf recipe on The Fresh Market website, I was drawn to the use of quick-cooking oats as a binder, instead of the standard breadcrumbs. And as I was making it, it occurred to me that there were two very "Irish" ingredients in it: oats and cheddar. I didn't bother with mini-meatloaves, as you can see. Nor did I "finely chop" the onion, because I like larger chunks of onion. It ended up moist but not greasy, and held together pretty well even though I cut into it the second it came out of the oven. This is one of those "nobody would guess the secret ingredient" recipes; it certainly doesn't taste like oatmeal.

And since it's meatloaf, there's a law that it has to be served with mashed potatoes... another thing that people associate with Ireland. These here aren't normal mashed potatoes. They are the single most unhealthy potato preparation I've ever made; as you can imagine, they are also absolutely delicious. I guess in the interests of eating healthy, one could use low-fat cream cheese and leave out the butter. For special occasions, though, these potatoes (also from Fresh Market) should get the full shebang. I left the skins on mine, since these were just for me and I like potato skins.

In keeping with the theme, you could certainly bring color into it and have a green vegetable or salad on the side. For me, this was one of those meat-and-potatoes moments where I just wanted comfort food and didn't want to fuss with anything else for the sake of a "complete" meal. Broccoli would be nice, maybe roasted alongside the meatloaf and potatoes (bonus: both dishes cook for the same time at the same oven temperature).

Lil Cheddar Meatloaves (The Fresh Market)
Holiday Potatoes (The Fresh Market)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Onion soup

I'd been looking for something lighter to kick off the new year with. And as I sat there this morning paging through a Donna Hay cookbook, I realized: I don't *want* lighter. It's winter. I'm supposed to be having rich, slow-cooked, filling stuff, not salads. I realized this when I came to a full page picture of French onion soup and nearly started drooling.

And really, all it is is onions and broth... it's rich, but it's not wholly unhealthy, so I don't feel quite as bad about having this as my first "real" post of 2008. I started with the Donna Hay recipe, and then incorporated ideas from a couple of other onion soup recipes (the bourbon and red pepper flakes are all me, however). This would easily serve 4 as a starter, and 2-3 as a main course.

Onion soup

Onion soup

1 large red onion
2-3 small yellow onions
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried ground thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup water
about 4 cups beef broth (2 cans is fine, use the low-sodium option)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Cheese toast:
1 slice of bread for each serving
Butter at room temperature
Shredded cheese

Thinly slice the onions. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring every couple of minutes, until onions are golden, 15-20 minutes (for darker onions, simply continue cooking at this point until they're the desired shade of brown). Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Add the flour and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the bourbon and cook for 1 minute to remove most of the alcohol. Add the mustard, water, broth, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a slow boil and allow to cook, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by half, about 30-45 minutes.

When the soup is almost done, assemble the cheese toasts. Preheat broiler. Butter one side of each bread slice, top with desired amount of shredded cheese (I go light on the cheese because this is a filling soup). Place the toasts in the broiler and cook until the cheese has melted and browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Ladle soup into serving bowls and top each bowl with a cheese toast.

*If you're without bourbon, you can substitute brandy, wine, sherry, or just leave out the alcohol entirely.

Onion soup