Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Very Nice Chocolate Cookie

I didn’t do much blogging over the holidays. I was caught in a cooking frenzy; just too wrapped up in production, packaging, and delivery to remember to pause long enough for photos – let alone write much. I always regret not taking the time, because the ones that get away are usually the ones I think the most about later.

I really enjoy preparing homemade gifts and I cranked out a fair amount this year from Asian pumpkin-pear butter and cranberry chutney, to pickled peppers and a ton of baked goods.  I even managed a big batch of popcorn brittle. This morning I gleefully discovered a few yummy unmarked chocolate cookies in a corner of my freezer that I must have furtively stashed away at some point. My daughter is happiest with chocolate of almost any description, so these were likely remnants from her holiday collection.

Finds such as this are truly serendipitous – and frequently they are even better the second time around.  These well balanced deeply chocolate cookies are a case in point. To make certain though, I ate three in the amount of time that it took to get organized and shoot a few still-frozen cookies.

Yes, they were good enough to do a quick search and determine which recipe I had used – since I have chocolate cookies for every occasion! So here we are: a resurrected photo and reconnected recipe, a little late, but ever so delicious. This brownie-like cookie recipe originally came by way of Ghirardelli; it was popular in my catering business, mostly due to the vague undercurrent of cinnamon and cayenne. It seems to bump up the flavor a tad more… if that’s possible.

It’s easy to fall into superlatives over chewy, chocolatey cookies, so I find it handy to understate the obvious and simply call them:

A Very Nice Chocolate Cookie
Inspired by a Ghirardelli Chocolate recipe

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, 1 bag
6 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar, part brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash cayenne
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter. Separately combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cayenne.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick; stir in the melted chocolate. Stir in the dry ingredients, and gently mix in semi sweet chips and nuts.

For 2" cookies, form into 4 logs, each 1 1/2" in diameter and about 8" long. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen; thaw in refrigerator before proceeding. Note: the dough can be stored in refrigerator for a few days and fresh baked as need.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough; with sharp knife cut into 3/4" thick slices. Place slices 1 1/2" apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top, but interior is still soft. Don’t over bake. Cool briefly on baking sheet. Yield: 42 - 1½” cookies ~~

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Off the Deep End with Spaetzle

This past weekend I had a little extra time which morphed into another excellent culinary episode.  It all began with a few fresh chicken thighs. To make the most of these tasty thighs, I decided a hearty chicken vegetable soup with a Caribbean edge would be just right. If that wasn’t enough, I also pictured a noodle or a dumpling… something interesting afloat in the soup.

When it comes to stock, I have previously mentioned that I like making my stock from baked, grilled, or roasted bones. I often freeze the bones from chicken pieces that I have eaten and when I have a nice collection I make a batch of stock. This may sound marginally peculiar, but I prefer to consider it a form of re-cycling.

I am not suggesting that you follow all of the steps presented here, but I do recommend the final outcome. We begin the soup with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, then flour is added to create a light roux base. The chicken stock is stirred in to create a slightly thickened soup, then onion and root vegetables are added and simmered until al dente. Any greens such as collards or chard would be lovely, too. The meat from the thighs is added to the soup and pointed up with a bit of lemon or lime zest and juice. This perky curry-spiced soup can be served now or reheated later.

For me, The X factor - the noodle or dumpling dilemma – took a bit longer to resolve; mystifyingly, it arrived later that night in the form of Spaetzle, Austrian or German irregularly shaped noodles.  They are formed by dough pressed through the holes of a colander into boiling water. I recall enjoying these delights years ago, but not enough to rush home and make my own.

This weekend, however, I was so impressed with my first attempt at Spaetzle making that I quickly whipped up a second batch; they are that easy – and addictive! No special ingredients or tools are required, and unlike pasta, the little dumpling-like noodles do not stick together when drained and they reheat beautifully. I tossed mine with a tiny bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a dash of scallions for good luck. I’ll be making these again!

Curried Chicken Vegetable Soup with Spaetzle

Chicken Stock:
6 chicken thighs, roasted and skinned, reserve bones
1 onion, the trimmings: tops, bottom and outer peel
2 stalks celery, leaves and stems
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup baby portobellos, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 cups reserved chicken stock, approx.
1 can chicken stock, or water as needed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, peeled, seeded, minced
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon or lime

Roast the thighs at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes - until firm when pressed and skin begins to brown. Allow to cool, discard the skin, reserve the bones and cut the chicken into pieces and set aside.

For the stock: combine the bones, vegetable trimmings and bay leaf, cover with 6-8 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Allow stock to cool, strain and reserve.

For the soup:  in soup pot over medium heat, sauté mushrooms in oil with garlic until mushrooms release moisture, stir in flour, turmeric, curry, allspice and thyme and allow it to cook until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved onion in large chop and the celery chopped well. Continue to toss until onion softens slightly, approximately 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the reserved chicken stock and allow it to thicken slightly. Add the remaining vegetables through red pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes; use the canned chicken stock as needed.

Stir in the reserved chicken and simmer additional 15-20 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and juice from 1/2 lemon (or lime). Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve with ginger Spaetzle rimming the bowl and sprinkle with fresh green onion. Serves 4~~

Ginger Spaetzle
Inspired by Tyler Florence, Food Network

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tsp. fresh
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chives or parsley, minced

In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients. In mixing cup, measure milk and whisk in 2 eggs.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Stir flour from edges into center liquid until well combined, smooth and thick. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring pot of salted water to a boil and reduce to simmer. In batches, press portions of the dough through a large holed colander or a slotted spoon into the simmering water. Cook 3-4 minutes or until the Spaetzle float to surface - stirring gently to prevent sticking. With slotted spoon, remove Spaetzle to a colander; rinse quickly with cool water and drain. Repeat until all dough is used.

Toss Spaetzle with melted butter, chives or parsley, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serves 4~~

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Award of Distraction

Instead of Blog Awards at the end of the year, I call them as I see them. 

In the Hilarious Category, visit Cake Wrecks for a good laugh. 

  • Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Finger Food to Go: Stuffed Braid

    Since I’m taking more food from home these days, I’m on the lookout for items that transport well and are not boring sandwich fare. I like the idea of  tasty, compact, easy to manage portions that haven’t turned into mushy globs by the time I'm ready to eat.

    A Breakfast Braid from Cooking Light magazine recently met my picky criteria. Similar to a stromboli, it is pizza dough that's pressed or rolled into a large rectangle; the middle third is layered with scrambled eggs, sausage or ham and cheese, and then the outer thirds are cut into strips and folded over the center. The braid is brushed with an egg wash and then baked until golden brown. It worked so well as an easy weekend breakfast that I packed up slices and toted them with me during the week.

    I am so enamored with these little guys that this weekend I made a second braid and filled it with my beloved cheese curds and a few available vegetables – which happened to be sautéed slivered onions, mushrooms sautéed with garlic and rosemary, and more jalapeno peppers. I  used my standard  pizza dough with a tad of cornmeal and the results were delicious and aesthetically gorgeous.

    The potential for creative fillings is endless: anything that works on a pizza - and more - will work here. In terms of convenience, it doesn't get any easier than wrapping up a fresh slice - and you are ready to go!

    Stuffed Braid
    Inspired by Cooking Light magazine Jan/Feb 2010

    1 recipe pizza dough, 14 oz. purchased or see index
    2 tablespoons butter, divided
    1 cup ham, diced
    1/4 cup green onions, chopped
    3 eggs, divided
    salt and pepper
    1/2 cup mozzarella or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
    1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
    2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, and diced

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray or oil a large baking sheet.

    On a floured surface, roll the dough into 15x10" rectangle.

    In a small skillet, heat 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat and sauté ham to brown lightly, stir in green onions and set aside.

    In same pan, heat additional tbsp. butter, lightly beat 2 eggs and 1 yolk with salt and pepper (reserve the third egg white for egg wash), add to pan a scramble until curds form; do not overcook. Remove from heat.

    Evenly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese lengthwise down the center 1/3 of the dough; top with the eggs, then the ham, the cheddar cheese and then the jalapenos. With scissors cut the 2 outer sides into 1" wide strips toward the center to within 1/2" of filling. Fold the strips at an angle alternating over the filling. Beat the egg white with 1-2 tsp. of water and brush over the dough. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Yields 6-8 ~~

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    On the New Year

    Life as a Garden

    "To know someone here or there
    With whom you can feel there is understanding
    In spite of distances or thoughts expressed...
    That can make life a garden."
                 - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832)


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