Monday, December 24, 2007

A Perfect Little Cookie

Many years ago, while setting up my first post-college apartment with the man who later became my husband, I began to get serious about learning to cook. I took a job with a catering company and began to absorb mountains of information about preparing food. I bought some of my first cookbooks and started to very slowly build my cookware collection. And I began asking anyone and everyone for recipes.

My grandmother was a source of recipes (some from her mother) for many delicious baked goods including sublime lemon cookies, a spectacular fruit tart, and a cheesecake that I simply cannot duplicate. But one of the first recipes she gave me is the simplest of all: brown sugar shortbread. The name says it all, and doesn't it sound lovely? It is: intensely buttery with a deep, rich flavor from the brown sugar. And it's easier to handle than traditional shortbread.
My grandmother made these simple cookies and embellished them with a terra cotta cookie stamp made by this company, leaving a raised design on the buttery cookies. I flattened mine with a fork until my grandmother gave me a cookie stamp of my own as a Chanukah gift many years ago. You can still purchase them in numerous designs on their website if you're interested.
A couple of weeks ago I went to make a batch of these to give as gifts and couldn't find the cookie stamp anywhere. The dough was made up so I decided to try rollling and cutting them in star shapes which worked quite well. But I was delighted to locate the stamp the other day while engaged in an extensive search for something else (MonkeyBoy like to make my life interesting when he unloads the dishwasher).

Clearly another batch of brown sugar shortbread was in order. I highly recommend these cookies which you can make with or without a terra cotta cookie stamp though I do think it adds a certain something. The recipe is here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2007


Here's what I just realized--I already wrote about this dish, back in March. I wrote out this whole post and went to type out the recipe when I saw that I'd already done so. Oy. So if you want to read the first post, it's here. Feel free to read on for my more current thoughts on the topic of macaroni and cheese. I'm sure this type of thing never happens with the fancy, professional food blogger types.

I don't know if perfection is a goal I should be aiming for giving that sometimes it's a major accomplishment just getting everyone around here to eat. But some things you shouldn't have to settle for. Sometimes you just want to find that one, perfect recipe--the one that will allow you to end your search.

That's how this recipe for macaroni and cheese came into my home. I love a good macaroni and cheese but for years wasn't able to get to what I wanted: cheesy, of course, and nicely chewy without the sludge of a heavy, milky sauce. I tried any number of recipes, most of which were OK though one stands out as being inedible (John Thorne, what were you thinking with the evaporated milk?) but nothing really came close to what I wanted until I found Jack Bishop's recipe in A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.

This is the simplest and tastiest version of macaroni cheese I know and can be varied endlessly with different cheeses from plain old Tillamook medium cheddar to a liberal amount of crumbled Cougar Gold. The bread crumbs make a slightly crunchy topping and you can control the texture depending on how you cook it. A large shallow baking dish will give you chewy macaroni with lots of topping and a deeper vessel makes for a creamier dish. Either way is great as far as I'm concerned. The recipe is here. I hope it goes over well in your home.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Apple Latkes

It's that time of year again....

Chanukah always falls during the darkest part of the year when daylight is scarce and everyone is chilled. The lights, of course, are a welcome part of the 8 day festival but so too are the traditional foods. You've just got to love a holiday that requires us to eat fried foods. Potato latkes are perhaps the best known Chanukah food in the Ashkenazic world. Sufganiot (doughnuts) are another classic and I will try to share my recipes for both this week.

But when the first night of Chanukah falls on a work night that's been preceded by a day of juvenile illness, a big holiday dinner just isn't an option. Instead I came home from work and made apple latkes to enoy by the light of the first candle. Most Jews light the candles at sundown but given the requirement that no work is to be done while the candles burn, I make everyone wait until I get home from teaching my night class.And so it was that I arrived home, donned an apron, and got busy. The Spouse had brought home some beautiful Braeburn apples which turned out to be perfect in this recipe--just tart enough. An apple latke is really just a pancake, but a very special apple pancake indeed. Sweet-tart and dusted with powdered sugar, they make a delicious Chanukah treat. I suppose you could just as well have them for breakfast though we never do. I like having some recipes set aside just for holidays. If you'd like to give these a try, the recipe is here. Enjoy!