Wednesday, December 29, 2010

this one's for beth: nut balls

Buttery, nutty, shaped like a ball. A little snowball, appropriate for the blizzard apocalypse we are still trying to dig ourselves out of here in NYC. It's one of the most basic, classic holiday cookies and one of my all time favorites. It also comes together really quickly, and with ingredients that most of us always have in our pantry.

Be careful not to overbake these so they don't dry out. They are fragile while hot and may seem overly crumbly, but given some time to chill out, they almost melt back into a comfortable little morsel of butter and nuts and that faint dusting of powdered sugar. Don't inhale when you take a bite. Don't wear black. Recipe after the jump:


1 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Sift flour and salt together, and mix into creamed mixture. Stir in walnuts. Shape dough into smalls balls, about the size of a walnut (maybe 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I used a small scoop). If you have the time, you can freeze the balls for 20 minutes or so, this helps them hold their ball shape a little better when baked. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack. When still warm but cool enough to handle, roll in powdered sugar.
Makes about 4 dozen.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 minute dinner: garganelli with zucchini and ricotta salata

It's the week when you scramble to make and/or buy presents for everyone on your list, plan the necessary baking, realize at the last minute that you have all the presents but nothing to package them in, attempt to keep the cats out of the strange big tree in the living room. The last thing I think about is what to make for dinner. So it's a good week for a 10-minute dinner. It's not exactly zucchini season, but I occasionally break with seasonality to bring a bit of brightness to the beginning of winter. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb garganelli or similar short pasta (penne or cavatini is great for this)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated ricotta salata

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. When the pasta goes in, heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed saute pan or large skillet. Saute the onions until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the zucchini and saute until tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the pan with the zucchini. Toss to mix well, then add the parsley. Serve top with the grated ricotta salata.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

smokey beans

At what point do I just rename this blog "Beans and Baking"? More beans! It's cold outside. It's the season for stewing and braising and having pots bubbling away on the stove for hours, perfuming your home with the aroma of cozy. These beans are extra warm from the added smokiness of chipotle. A bit of kick and heat, tons of flavor, it transforms the humble black bean into the ultimate comfort food. Mound some on top of some rice, top with fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, maybe a squeeze of lime or even some raw minced red onion.

And as with every giant pot of beans, leftovers go very far. Wrap these beans up in a tortilla with leftover rice, some raw sliced red cabbage, sour cream, shredded cheese, maybe some guac and salsa. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb dried black beans
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 cup cilantro plus additional for garnish, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Six cups of water
Two cups of vegetable broth
Salt to taste

Soak the beans covered by two inches in cold water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain the soaked beans.

Combine the onions, carrots and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. In a large heavy dutch oven over medium heat, sauté the "sofrito" in oil for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the beans, chipotles, and 1/2 cup cilantro.

Cover beans with water and broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally.

After 1 1/2 hours, add the cumin, tomato paste, lime juice, salt and remaining cilantro and cook for 30 more minutes or until beans are tender. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or crema.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

autumn in a jar

I'm almost ashamed that I made something already ridiculously simple to make even simpler. How lazy can I be? I can try to justify this by claiming that there's an additional upside to making applesauce in a slow cooker than just convenience; it's the way that it perfumes your house with the aroma of coziness for 5 hours.

Peel some apples, chop them up, throw them in a crockpot with a touch of cider, some spices, some sugar, and then do nothing. Make sure to eat this while it is still warm, that's the most important bonus of making your own applesauce. Recipe after the jump:


8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced*
1/3 cup apple cider or water
juice of one lemon
1/4-1/3 cup cane sugar, to taste (amount will vary depending on your apples)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground clove

Place the sliced apples in the slow cooker with the apple cider and lemon juice and set on low for 4-5 hours. About 30 minutes before cooking is complete, taste the sauce and add sugar to taste. Add the remaining ingredients and let cook for the remaining 30 minutes. If desired, blend with an immersion mixer to make smooth. Store in the refrigerator in airtight containers, or jar for long term storage.

*Note: I always use a combination of apples for depth of flavor, like macoun, empire, cortland, fuji, honeycrisp, golden delicious. Whatever you love, or whatever you have that is past its raw eating prime.

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