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Archive for January, 2011

Sometimes inspiration finds me.  And sometimes it does not.  A cook by trade, I have found my inspiration in food for the past ten years, my interests hop-scotching from homemade sourdough bread to an oatmeal-raisin cookie obsession, poached eggs on anything, or a perfect afternoon cup of tea.

Of late, inspiration has been hard to find.  I suspect it’s been hidden in the over-tired shadows of my new-life-with-baby.  I have found that sheer exhaustion trumps any inkling of creativity when dinner time rolls around.  Or lunchtime, for that matter.  Almond butter and jelly have become required staples in our kitchen.  Especially since I’ve gone back to work.  The ten hours out of the house including the commute to and from work doesn’t leave much time for chores or eating or playing with my beautiful daughter, or sleeping. Truly, I offer a huge applause to working/nursing moms who manage to get dinner on the table for the family.  Tonight I ate almond butter and jelly. Again.   I wolfed it down actually.  Because who has time to eat?  Seriously!

And then I sat down and read one of the cookbooks I received for Christmas. It’s a cookbook I’ve been wanting for a couple years now and it made me hungry for real food!  The book is called My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King and the foreword is written by Alice Waters.  I’m really looking forward to cooking from it.  There are already more dog-eared pages than I could possibly try in the near future, but I read cookbooks optimistically!


So inspiration has found me this evening and perhaps, despite the exhaustion and the ever-growing list of chores, I’ll manage to have something decent for dinner at least once in the next few nights.  And this book….YUM!  Take a peek and see if it inspires you…I suspect it will!

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I mean, seriously…can you resist?  No, don’t resist.  You’ll be missing out!  These cookies are really intensely chocolatey.  They are slightly crisp on the outside and soft-chewy on the inside, with the coffee flavor coming through, especially at the end.  They are perfectly paired with a tall glass of milk and frankly, I dare you to just eat one.  And a little birdie told me that if you want to get really down and dirty, you’d smear a dollop of peanut butter over the top and eat them like an ooey-gooey open-faced sandwich!

Be sure to buy chocolate that you really love.  Stay away from the Hershey’s.  I use Guittard for most of my chocolate baking projects.  The chocolate is tasty, and it’s not too hard to find these days in well-stocked grocery stores.

Double chocolate and coffee cookies barely adapted from Rick Katz’ recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
yields about 24 cookies

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into larger-than-chip-sized chunks; divided in half
  • 4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons very finely ground coffee or instant coffee powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine .

Separately, combine the butter with unsweetened chocolate and half of the bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl.  Set the bowl over a medium pan of simmering water (be sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl) and stir every-so-often with a rubber spatula until completely melted.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla.  Whisk on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes light-yellow in color, and leaves a ribbon on the surface when drizzled with a spoon.

Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and add the melted chocolate.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and use a rubber spatula to be sure that all the nooks of the bowl have been evenly mixed.  Add the flour mixture and remaining chocolate chunks and mix only until just combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic, and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the oven racks in the center-most position and preheat the oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.  Drop the cookies by the heaping-Tablespoonful onto the trays, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake 10-12 minutes.  They are ready when they look slightly underdone in the center.  Immediately transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

You will probably eat at least one when they are still warm.  I don’t blame you.  They are delicious!

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Pasta alla carbonara

Holy heck.  Has it really been over a month since the last post?  Yowsers.  What a busy holiday season we had!  We had family in town for nearly the whole month of December.  It was lovely but busy.  Somehow winter’s cold hadn’t really sunk in for me until this week.  (Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I am now working the day shift at the restaurant and find myself standing on the windy BART platform at 6:15am? It is at that tired, chilly hour that my cheery optimism takes a momentary dip!)

So on a recent evening when January’s chill had set in our bones**, Scott made a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara. We proceeded to eat the whole thing save for about three bites which we told ourselves would be for the next day’s lunch, simply so we could go to sleep convinced that we are not actually complete gluttons!

** (I apologize to all you north-east coasters… I am, after all, a soft Californian)

Scott’s spaghetti alla carbonara
serves 4

I think many people shy away from making carbonara because of the raw eggs that get folded in at the end.  It seems a little fussy.  But try it- you’ll like it!

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 ounces pancetta or guanciale, minced
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • finely grated pecorino romano to taste (I didn’t measure this(!) but I’m guessing it was about 4 ounces)

In a medium saute pan set over medium heat,add the olive oil and pancetta and render the pancetta until it begins to release it’s fat.  Add the diced onion and cook gently until the onion is translucent and the pancetta is just beginning to crisp.  Separately, place the egg yolks, pecorino, and black pepper in a large bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in salted water.  Before the spaghetti is done, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it and toss with the onion-pancetta mixture.

Be prepared to stir with a wooden spoon and add about 3/4 of the reserved pasta cooking-water to the bowl containing the egg yolks and cheese.  This will become the sauce.  Stir quickly to loosen and temper the egg yolks. (Tempering the eggs makes them less likely to scramble when you add the hot pasta).

Again, be prepared to stir quickly.  Add the hot spaghetti mixture to the egg/cheese bowl and stir quickly so that the egg mixture evenly coats the spaghetti.  Add a little more of the reserved cooking-water to loosen the sauce slightly if necessary.

Serve immediately, topping with more freshly grated pecorino.

Enjoy!

 

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