Friday, July 31, 2009

For Catching Bears of Very Little Brain

These delicious honey chocolate crisps are possibly exactly what Winnie the Pooh would like if invited to tea. They are chewy, sweet without being too cloying and have just the right amount of chocolate. Elegant enough for adult parties, but simple enough to be a smackerel for any small person's tea party you might need to organize. But beware, you're likely to find you have to share, with friends, housemates, or small yellow bears.

from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf cookbook

For the cookies:
1 stick butter
1 cup honey
1 t baking soda
2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar (turn regular sugar into superfine by putting through your food processor)

For the topping:
1/3 C cream (I used heavy cream)
8 oz (approximately 1.5 C?) chocolate (Donna Hay says milk chocolate, I used semisweet chips, with 2 t sugar to sweeten it. I have no scale and using the chips needed a cup equivalent, I had more than enough topping).

Preheat the oven to 350 F. On the stovetop, heat up the butter and honey - this goes a bit better if you've sliced your butter, it melts faster than if you drop a whole stick in. Don't let it get too hot. When it's all melted together, add the baking soda. It will make it all carmely colored and foamy. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine your flour and sugar. Mix well. When the butter/honey mixture is ready and slightly cooled, pour it into you flour and sugar. This can be done mixing by hand, but it is a pretty stiff dough, so you'll get some exercise. The dough should be smooth and shiny. Use a tablespoon to measure out small balls of the dough. Roll the balls between your hands to make them smooth. The smoother the ball, the rounder the finished cookie. Place them on lined cookie sheets - I tried both parchment paper and foil and the parchment was a million times easier to get the cookies off. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. This is a very, very chewy cookie, so don't overbake. Allow the cookies to cool while you mix up the chocolate topping. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Place a teaspoon worth of chocolate in the center of each cookie.

My chocolate did not harden completely so these are not easy to store. Maybe it's just the heat. Oh well, I guess you'll just have to eat them quickly!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shrimp with Orzo

At some point, I fully expect the reader(s) of this blog to turn on me and insist I cook something that was not initially from an Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I sincerely hope that you can bear with me for at least one more recipe though, because this is so delicious, and despite its use of the oven, is pretty quick and painless to make even in the hot summer. You can make it ahead, so if you live somewhere that has cooler mornings, just whip it up and pop it in the fridge until dinner. Roasting gives the shrimp a great flavor, the lemon and olive oil dressing is refreshing and the creamy feta works so well with the crunch of the cucumbers. This recipe does use raw red onion, which I know not everyone can eat. If someone you know is anti-raw onion, just saute red onion in a smidge of olive oil until it's lost its bite. The recipe won't suffer that much.

modified slightly from Barefoot Contessa at home (really wonderful cookbook, you should buy it).

1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1/2 lb orzo
1/4 c red onion minced
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c dill
4-5 oz feta crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put a pot of water on the stove, on high. Bring it to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the package (mine said 8 minutes). When done, remove and drain. Put in a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil, add 2 t salt and 1 t pepper and set aside so the orzo can absorb the dressing.

Spread your shrimp out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (one with an edge helps because they'll give off juices). Drizzle your shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in the oven. Roast for 6 minutes, flipping them when they're half way through.

While the shrimp are cooking prepare your onion, cucumber and dill. Add the onion, cucumber and dill to the orzo and mix. When the shrimp are done, add them too. Crumble the feta over the pasta and then mix again until everything is incorporated. Set aside to allow the flavors to blend. Ina says at least an hour, but I don't usually have that kind of time. Of course, you can always make it the day before, pop it in the fridge and take it out before you're ready to serve. Let it get back to room temperature though, don't serve it freezing cold.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Salmon with Asian Noodles

True confession time - I don't love eating fish. I love mussels, clams, crab, lobster, all manner of shrimp, crawfish and langoustine, but fish is not my favorite. Ryan loves fish, and so sometimes because I love him, and I know it's good for me, I'll make fish. This salmon is so good, that the first time I made it, I wanted to make it again almost immediately. A very good sign indeed.

6 T tamari
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 dried thai chilis
juice of 1 lime
1 lb salmon (make an effort to get a piece that is as even in thickness as possible, it will make it easier to cook)
snap peas
shitake mushrooms
1-2 carrots julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t brown sugar
1/4 c white wine or vermouth
1 T mirin
lo mein noodles (I used between 1/4 and 1/3 of the package)
2-3 T oil (peanut is good, veggie is fine)

Warning, this is not the easiest recipe, partially due to my own half-ass recipe writing. It would help if you know how to cook fish and vegetables. Okay let's get started.
1. Marinade - Mix 6 T tamari, grated ginger, chili and lime juice in a baking dish or pie plate large enough to accomodate your salmon. Marinate the salmon for 5 minutes on each size.
2. Veggies for the noodles - feel free to use any kind you like! I used snap peas, carrots and shitakes. Just trim the snap peas and slice the shitakes. The carrots you could grate with a mandolin or julienne if you're up to the knife work. The snap peas you'll want to steam quickly either in your microwave or in a small pot, using a steamer for 2-3 minutes. Set aside the cooked snap peas and the cut carrots and mushrooms.
3. Put on the water for your noodles, it will take a while to boil.
4. While waiting for the water to boil, cook your salmon. RESERVE THE MARINADE! In a frying pan, add a T of the oil and swirl so the bottom is covered. Put the salmon on skin side up. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the fish. The fish should no longer be as glossy, it should be more opaque. Just keep an eye on it. When it's done, set it aside.
5. Wipe out the fish pan and throw in another T of oil and maybe 2 T of water. Add your garlic, shitakes, carrots. Cook, covered, on low to medium for 3-4 minutes.
6. About the same time as you start your veggies, start your lo mein noodles. They'll only take about 3 minutes, read your package.
7. When the noodles are cooked, drain and set aside.
8. When your mushrooms have given off their liquid and the carrots are tender, add the cooked snap peas. Add 2 t brown sugar and 1 T of mirin to the marinade you used for the salmon. Mix it up and then add to your veggies. Then add the 1/4 C of white wine or vermouth and raise to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Add your lo mein noodles to your veggies and sauce. If they are sticking together, gently use a pair of tongs and sort of swirl them around in a circular motion, this should loosen them a bit as they take in the sauce. When the noodles are fully coated, you're ready to serve.
9. Plate the noodles and top with a portion of salmon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


There's something about the word lobster that calls for a Boston accent. There are words like that, some phrases, that I just prefer in Bostonese - lobster, beer here - they just sound better in Boston. But this post is NOT another "I wish I still lived in Boston" rant. Oh no. This is a tribute to the drive. If I lived in Boston, I would not have a reason to be driving the Connecticut coastline. And if I did not have a seemingly endless stretch of Connecticut coastline in between the hell that is the Jersey turnpike, the crazy winding parkways of New York and the relief of reentry into Rhode Island toward points north, I would not know, that hidden in a teensy-tinesy town called Noank is the best Lobstah sandwich ever at a place called Abbott's.
Abbott's is for serious people. Getting there involves following a veritable scavenger hunt of signs, the word Abbott's plus an arrow written in on poles and the backs of stop signs. Each year they hold a contest to see who is the first to line up when they open for the season. This year the winning party arrived at 2am!! I arrived right at opening for the day, on a cloudy weekday, and was rewarded with no line between me and my lobster.When you only get to visit a restaurant once a year, there is no room for error or experimentation. You go directly to the best - the hot lobster roll, butter on the side. Do you think you could handle a close-up without trying to nibble your monitor?

Just a quarter pound of fresh lobster meat, no filler, no mayonnaise, no work, just all the lobstery goodness you could imagine in one package. And yes, I had one for lunch and ordered two to go so that Ryan and I could have them for dinner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Know Thy Enemy

I know, it looks harmless enough. Welcoming teakettle, sweet strawberry plaque, glossy black surface. Oh how my grandmother adores that sleek, glossy, easy to wipe down surface.


This stove is the enemy. I hate that when you turn off the heat, it's still really hot on the burner, so that you actually have to completely remove your pot or pan from the burner. I hate that raising or lowering the temperature does not produce immediate results. I hate that you have to rely on an indicator light to know if the stove is on. I like to know if my stove is on. Oh this stove is pretty and shiny and new. But I am truly devoted to a gas stove. I love watching the flame flicker and lick the bottom of a pot waiting to boil, the way the flame just barely glows blue on the lowest setting. Knowing that I can see as well as feel what my stove is doing. And yes, an ancient model like the one in my tiny apartment kitchen may require some extra care. There's the constant relighting of the pilot light for one. And it certainly does not have an easy to wipe down surface. As I reach between the pan and the hot burner grates to retrieve an errant pasta shell or runaway mushroom, I am reminded of the game operation, where you carefully remove the patient's insides without setting off an alarm; although the stakes are somewhat higher when I play with a hot burner. But cooking is a hands on business, a messy business, and I'd rather my stove were with me on this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vacation and Local Flavor

Happy Almost 4th of July!! I will not be cooking this year. Just relaxing on the deck with my feet up. Believe it or not, this incredible view is from my in-law's place in Rhode Island. Tomorrow, we'll go out on their boat, Ragtime. Then Sunday I head to Cape Cod for a few more days to visit my grandmother.


Although it's not likely I'll find myself in the kitchen while I'm away, I'll try to bring you some food related goodness. Today, our grocery trip turned up a New England treat, a roll of all chocolate Necco wafers. Standard Necco wafers come in a variety of fruit related flavors. Chocolate Neccos are far more rare.

Necco wafers have a fascinating slightly chalky texture and chocolate Neccos are far closer in flavor to some type of chocolate malted product (like Whoppers) than anything actually chocolate. In many ways, Neccos are something I like more for the sheer New Englandness of their existance than for their actual taste. But you'd have to try for yourself.


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