Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Molasses Cookies

I love the holiday season.  I start listening to Christmas music on the drive home from Thanksgiving dinner and don't stop until December 25.  I bake dozens of cookies, I mull wine, and drink hot spiced cider.  I watch Love Actually at least once in the month of December every year.  I like looking for that perfect present for everyone on my list.  Count me in for Christmas parties, driving around looking at lights and Christmas pageants, I love it all.  And so, I am kicking off my holiday baking today with these molasses cookies.  I love molasses cookies, my aunt makes the best (she always used to have a jar of molasses cookies for me and a jar of snickerdoodles for my sister every time we came to visit), unfortunately I seem to have lost her recipe somewhere along the way when I moved back east from Portland, so this recipe I found on Beach Home Companion will have to do for now.  Don't get me wrong, these molasses cookies are absolutely delicious (my dad had already eaten 3 by the time the last batch was out of the oven), but they are a thinner, crisper version instead of the thick, chewy ones I grew up with.  These thin ones though, the sugar caramelizes a bit on the edges and your first bite is a carmely, slightly spicy crunch which is pretty fabulous.  The recipe can be found here.      
Start by mixing the dry ingredients together.

Then mix the wet together.

Now, this is tricky, combine the wet and the dry.  Then you have to chill the dough until it hardens, which happens fairly quickly, I waited about an hour.

Once the dough is properly chilled, scoop out about a tablespoon at a time, roll each blob of dough into a ball and roll it in sugar.  Make sure you space the cookies out because they will spread.  The warmer the dough gets the harder it will be to work with, it will start sticking to your hands, so work quickly and put it back into the fridge after you fill up a tray so it can firm back up before you do the next one.

The recipe says to flatten the balls slightly with the bottom of a glass, which I did 2 out of 3 times, and it made no difference, so smush them a bit if you want, it is kind of fun, but you don't need to.

Bake for about 10 minutes, they will make your house smell quite nice, and enjoy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday Meat Sauce

There is something deeply satisfying about having a giant vat of tomato sauce bubbling away on the stove, especially at this time of year, I guess it is the Italian in me.  And let me tell you, this is a giant vat of sauce, consider yourself warned.  The first time I made this I had to switch pots in the middle because, silly me, I thought six servings of tomato sauce would fit in the dutch oven.  They did not.  I have yet to meet the six people who can polish off the whole pot in one go.  This is another Food Network Magazine recipe, and can be found here.  It is delicious, but not very photogenic, and I got caught up in getting it all together and forgot to take pictures, so you will have to excuse the lack of pics and just imagine the pile of sausages and such.  I did tweak the recipe a bit, as usual.  I used only sweet italian sausages instead of half sweet and half hot, I omitted the beef shin and I baked the meatballs because it is so much easier than browning them in batches and makes for a less greasy sauce.  The first time I made this I browned the meatballs in batches and they were falling apart  and it took me FOREVER and it brought me to the edge of a nervous breakdown, causing me to proclaim that everyone had better savor the sauce that we had because I would never be making it again, ever.  It was so good though that I reconsidered that proclamation by the end of the meal.

Start out by making the meatballs, I really like these meatballs, but you could always substitute your favorites.  Also, the recipe tells you to make 16, which I feel is ridiculous, so I made 50 about the size of walnuts, much better than 16 softball sized meatballs.  Then brown then in the pot or bake them, which is so much easier.  Next brown the sausages, which I do in the pot, and set aside.

Next you take the onion and garlic, which are just quartered and smashed respectively (you cook the sauce for long enough that they basically fall apart anyways, so there is no need to chop) and cook it until it softens.

Then you basically toss everything in the giant pot, the tomatoes and tomato paste, the various meats, some water and a bunch of bay leaves and let it simmer, preferably all day long.  I am of the school where the longer it cooks the better with regards to tomato sauce, the melding of flavors and whatnot and serve it over pasta with some nice crusty bread to soak up all the sauce.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade

My family is a foodie family, my dad loves to talk about how my grandfather was before his time with regards to food.  He made quiche before it was trendy, he cooked with jicama decades ago and I was in college before I even heard of it, and he is just one in a long chain of food loving family members, so needless to say we like Thanksgiving, a holiday all about the food.  And giving thanks of course.  This year my sister and I were assigned to bring the appetizers, and on a day all about the main course, and with a gluten free requirement, it can be a bit tricky to hit on the right recipe to kick the meal off.  We settled on baked brie with cranberries, which my sister was in charge of, and this fig and kalamata olive tapenade.  Both dishes are just as tasty spread on nut thins or rice crackers as they are on rounds of bread, and both have a delicious salty and sweet combination.  Sweet and salty has been a bit of a fad at my house lately; it all started with a batch of brownies that had a pretzel crust and now there is ice cream with pretzel chunks in it in the freezer, who knows where this will end.  Originally I was going to make the walnut crackers featured with the tapenade recipe, but as my aunt said, no need to go crazy, and quite honestly, for once I am glad I didn't go crazy.  This recipe has the added bonus of being insanely easy, all you need is a food processor and it practically makes itself and can be made ahead of time.      

Start by tossing a cup of dried figs in the food processor.  I honestly don't know anything about figs and have never cooked with them before (if this can be called cooking...) but there are several types of dried figs, I used mission figs and apparently that was good choice as wikipedia tells me that they are "considered one of the highest quality figs that can be grown in USDA zones 9 and up in the United States." 

Whiz the figs up until they are chopped then add the water to make it a paste.

Add the olives, vinegar (I used a splash more vinegar than called for, it needed a bit more acidity), olive oil and a bit of thyme (I used dry instead of fresh) and whiz again.

Serve with crackers or bread.  The full recipe can be found here

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I love Greek food, it is one of my dreams to go to Greece, and while I am sure I would be baffled much of the time (I feel like the expression "It's all Greek to me," and all that it connotes contains more than a grain of truth) the food might make up for it.  Anyways, there is a Greek Festival every June in Annapolis that my father and I LOVE.  Between the two of us, we manage to go at least once all three days it is open, and last year in a stroke of genius I got a gyro to go on Sunday and managed to prolong the yumminess for another day.  They really are the best gyros I have ever had, not that I actually know how to pronounce it when I order one.  Last year I noticed that there was a cookbook for sale, published by the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society (if you want your own write to the Agia Anna Philoptochos Society, Ss. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 2747 Riva Rd. Annapolis, MD 21401, or go to the Greek Festival, in case you were wondering).  Of course I snagged one, I love all cookbooks and this one happens to have an amazing tzatziki recipe.  I like to imagine it is the recipe a Greek grandmother would have passed down to me, if I had a Greek grandmother.

Start with some nice thick plain yogurt.

Then grab half a cucumber, split it down the middle and scoop out the seeds and chop finely. 

Add the cucumber to the yogurt and a teaspoon of white vinegar, a teaspoon of olive oil, a small clove of minced garlic ad 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Mix it all together and chill until you are ready to serve.

Tzatziki (from Odyssey of Greek Cooking)
1 cup yogurt, thick
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeds scooped out and chopped fine
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tortellini in Cream Sauce

This is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes, the creamy sauce, the salty prosciutto, the fresh green of the peas, and it is easy enough to make during the week after work.  It is from Food Network Magazine (speaking of which, I need to renew my subscription, possible christmas present?) and I pretty much follow the recipe, except I never use meat filled tortellini and I make more sauce than they do because I love it so much.  I just add more cream and more pasta water, eyeballing it, and I usually end up tossing in some more tomato paste so that it still has that nice tomato flavor.  The recipe can be found here, and you should probably make it as soon as possible, it is that good.  You should probably eat it from a bowl with a spoon so that you can scoop up every last drop.  

Start out by crisping up the prosciutto, you want it nice and crisp and I always find it takes longer than they say it should.  Then you add the garlic and tomato paste. 

After you have the lovely salty, tomatoey base you add the pasta water and then the cream and simmer it until your tortellini is done (you should put the tortellini water on to boil when you start cooking the prosciutto).  This is the point where I start dumping in more cream and tomato paste and pasta water until it looks like enough sauce, tasting as I go.

When the tortellini is almost done boiling, toss in the peas.  I never mess with the amount of peas.  One cup is perfect, no more, no less.  Drain the pasta and peas and dump straight into the sauce. 

Stir it all together so that every tortellini is bathed in luscious sauce.  You can also stir in some grated parmesan cheese to make it even more luscious now. 

Serve, topping with more grated cheese.

I'm Back!

So sorry for my long hiatus dear readers (all four of you).  I got a full time job and all my blogging motivation went out the window, but now that we are in the season of eating I figured it was about time to get back to the keyboard.   Also, I have abandoned the Aldi Challenge, let's just say that it is possible to do your shopping there, and to make some tasty dishes, but I may have to shoot myself if I tried to shop there every week.  So stay tuned, not for an Aldi update, but for tortellini in cream sauce, and my adventures in holiday baking, and an Emma's Eats guide to the Napa Valley, and whatever culinary messes and successes I have these days.