Thursday, December 28, 2006

World Peace Cookies (Korova Cookies)

These, along with the no-knead bread, are all over the food blogging community. I plan to try the bread, maybe even later today, and did make the cookies right before Christmas. They really are fantastic; rich and deeply chocolatey and easy. The saltiness of them works beautifully with the chocolate. Other blogs I'd read had suggested this was not really a recipe for children, but my 9 year old loves them and has been sneaking them. I still think the ginger cookies are the best cookies ever, but these come close. The recipe I used comes from Splendid Table from Dorie Greenspan, who says this:

I once said I thought these cookies, the brainchild of the Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé, were as important a culinary breakthrough as Toll House cookies, and I've never thought better of the statement. These butter-rich, sandy-textured slice-and-bake cookies are members of the sablé family. But, unlike classic sablés, they are midnight dark — there's cocoa in the dough — and packed with chunks of hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate. Perhaps most memorably, they're salty. Not just a little salty, but remarkably and sensationally salty. It's the salt — Pierre uses fleur de sel, a moist, off-white sea salt — that surprises, delights and makes the chocolate flavors in the cookies seem preternaturally profound.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I had coarse sea salt; I crushed it in a mortar and pestle, which was a very quick job and worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits (I used the good, inexpensive pound plus 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's).
*Sift together flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
*Beat butter in standing mixer until creamy and light. Add sugar and beat. Add salt and vanily and beat until creamy.
*Dump in dry ingredients. Drape a towel over mixer (or use the splatter guard, which I just remembered now that I have) VERY CAREFULLY (you don't want it to get caught in the beaters of death) and pulse 5 or so times, one second each, until flour is somewhat incorporated.
*Mix at low speed about 30 seconds until batter is just combined. Do not overmix.
*Add chocolate pieces and mix again briefly.
*Divide dough into two on pieces of waxed paper. Shape into rough log and wrap in paper, then roll out until it's about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for three hours at least in fridge; may freeze at this point.
*Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment or Silpat (I think greasing the sheets would be fine, too.)
*Slice log into 1/2'"slices. Note: this is a lot thicker than most icebox cookies, but it works. T hey may crumble when sliced-that's OK, just squish them back together. Arrange on sheet, leaving 1" or so between them.
*Bake 12 minutes only. They will still look underbaked; that is ok. Cool for at least 5 minutes on sheet before transferring to rack. Eat warm or cool.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Barbecued Meatballs

From my beloved Aunt Beth, I think, though this has long been a family favorite and I'm not really sure quite which aunt originated it. Regardless, this is classic potluck food and a big favorite with kids and grownups. They freeze beautifully-since the recipe as written makes 2 pans, it's nice to eat one now and freeze one for later (that office potluck you forgot about until 10 o'clock the night before). I like to double the sauce to have extra to serve over rice or potatoes, but the dish is really good as written.

*3 Lbs ground beef
*2 cups quick oats
*1 tsp pepper
*2 tsp minced garlics (about two cloves' worth), divided
*1 13 oz can evaporated milk (low fat would work fine)
*1 1/2 cups chopped onion, divided
*2 cups ketchup
*2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp chili powder (note: this is not intended to be a spicy dish. Know your chili powder well; if it's spicy, you might want to reduce this amount)
*2 tsp salt
*1 1/2 cups brown sugar
*2 Tbsp liquid smoke (really, this is essential. It's cheap and it's awesome in this dish).

-Preheat oven to 350.
-Use your hand to blend meat, oats, milk, 1 cup of onion, 1/2 the garlic, eggs, chili powder, salt and pepper in large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Shape into 1 1/2" balls and place in single layer in 2 9"x13" baking dishes.
-Combine ketchup, brown sugar, liquid smoke, and remaining garlic and onion. Pour over meatballs.
-Bake for an hour, covered with foil for the first half.

Spinach Apple Salad with Candied Almonds

This is a perennial family favorite, and a standard to take to potlucks. It is always well-received. It's easy, and the flavors are a good way to introduce kids to spinach (it's fairly sweet, the dressing isn't too strongly flavored, and kids usually are very happy about apple slices). The almonds are delicious, and any leftover would be great on ice cream. Theoretically, that is, as I've never had any left over. This is taken from Bon Appetit, with a few small adaptations. In my experience, if you make the full amount of dressing, you'll have way too much for one bag of spinach (unless you like your salad swimming in dressing). I'd either save the dressing to have salad again the next night, or cut the dressing in half. You can make the almonds and dressing in advance; slice apples and toss all together at the last minute.
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons sugar (divided)
1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds (about 3 ounces)

1 10- ounce bag ready-to-use spinach leaves
2 medium-size apples, cored, thinly sliced

Combine onion, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, paprika in small bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons sugar. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Note: I usually do this in my food processor-chopping the onion in the bowl then adding the other ingredients without cleaning out the bowl, finally drizzling the olive oil through the tube. You want the onion very finely chopped).

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add almonds. Stir until almonds begin to color, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over. Stir until sugar melts and begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer almonds to bowl and cool. (Dressing and almonds can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover separately and let stand at room temperature.)

Combine spinach and apples in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Mix in almonds. Serve salad, passing any remaining dressing separately.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Insanely Fabulous, Over the Top Ginger Cookies

"These cookies are the bomb" said husband. Coworkers agreed, and I ate at least 42 of them myself. Mary loves them as well, even though they are spicy and strong-flavored (not always a plus for kids, as we all know). The recipe is easy and kids like helping roll the cookie into balls and then into sugar (my least favorite part). I've been on a molasses and ginger sort of kick lately-due to the holidays, I'm sure. I always want to lock myself in the house and listen to Christmas carols and cook and eat and watch the snow for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, there is no snow, and the rain is depressing. And on December 26th, I'm so sick of carols I could happily take a sledge hammer to Christmas with the Jackson 5. But right now, this early, there still COULD be snow, and the carols are beautiful, and the lights on the house look fantastic, and there are these wonderful cookies. The chopped crystallized ginger adds great flavor but also makes the cookies moist and almost candied in the center. The large quantities of spice and the unexpected black pepper are essential. Don't be afraid.

Modified from a recipe from

Makes about 70.

*4 cups all purpose flour
*2 TBS ground ginger
*1 TBS + 1 tsp baking soda
*2 tsp ground cinnamon
*2 (scant) tsp ground cloves
*10 "turns" of fresh ground black pepper.
*1 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger (the Baker's Cut from Trader Joe's is perfect-and cheap)
*2 cups dark brown sugar
*1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
*2 large eggs
*1/2 cup molasses

*White sugar (to roll cookies in; can substitute raw sugar)

*Mix first seven ingredients in large bowl to blend.
*Whirl chopped ginger in food processor til it's a mix of powdery ginger goodness and some larger chunks. Add to dry ingredients and blend.
*Using mixer, beat butter and brown sugar til creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add molasses and beat to combine. Gradually mix in dry ingredients and crystallized ginger, beating only until combined.
*Chill dough for about an hour in the fridge.
*Heat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper or Silpat.
*Roll cookies into balls of about 1". Roll balls into sugar. Place a couple inches apart.
*Bake 10-11 minutes. Cookies will be cracked when done but will look raw between cracks. That's good! Cool for a minute on pan then remove to cool on racks.