Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simplicity- giant chocolate chip cookies

The last time I was in NYC was in 2007, and I desperately wanted to go to Levain bakery. Sadly, I did not and have never had one of their remarkable giant chocolate chip cookies. This week I am on spring break and typical me, I caught a cold and have been at home sniffling. Well in between the hot cups of tea, and movies I watched to pass the time, I had a craving for simple chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorite thing to bake because: 1) they literally take no brain power or effort to make them 2) you can have warm, gooey, fresh cookies in about 30 minutes, start to finish 3) when they are good, they are really good 4) even when they are bad, they are still kinda good

I found this copycat recipe for Levain's on their actual website and since I've never had them it was hard to compare. Whether or not its an accurate recipe, these are so devine. Much much better than the recipe on the back of the tollhouse chocolate chip package. I added my little touch with three types of chocolate and omitted the walnuts because they took up too much room where chocolate could be instead.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Polenta Bites with Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Ragu

 These little one-bite wonders, as I like to call them accompanied me and the lemon bars [from the last post] to the housewarming party. I saw a few recipes which inspired me to make these, one was warm polenta on individual spoons with caramelized onions, and the other was a mushroom marsala sauce. I changed a few things up (ok, many things) and came up with this delicious topping/sauce for polenta squares.

I had always wanted to make a fancy type of hors d'oeuvre and these were simple and relatively quick to cook, yet elegant.

These are just bursting with flavor, fresh thyme, italian parsley, and white wine and the polenta is the perfect blank canvas for this sauce. The flecks of green from the parsley elevated the appearance of the dish, making it very pretty. I do have to say, I made it again a couple nights after and used it as a sauce over roasted chicken, de-lish.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lemon Bars

With Spring approaching and the abundance of lemons growing on my Grandma's Meyer lemon tree, I thought lemon bars would be a perfect dessert to bring to a housewarming I attended last weekend. I still have hundreds of lemons hanging from that tree in need of zesting and juicing. Lemon meringue pie, or lots of lemonade perhaps? 

The crust on these bars is crumbly and dense, a cross between a pie crust and a shortbread with just a touch of sweetness. The lemon curd filling thick, gooey, and tart- most delicious! The powdered sugar gives a little bit more sweetness, but just looks really pretty dusted over the tops.


Monday, March 21, 2011


In honor of Purim yesterday, I baked some hamantaschen which I typically do every year. You know, those funny triangular-shaped cookies usually filled with jam. I used to make these with my grandma, and I remember the first time I made them on my own- I was 15 and I was in a cooking class at school and we had a project to cook/bake and present a dish. I made these Hamantaschen and instead of the traditional jam fillings, I made a marshmallow chocolate one.

 I stuck to my grandma's dough recipe that I use every year and made some with apricot and raspberry jam. I tried something new this time though and made some with a chocolate filling, almost a brownie-like batter. Delicious, but many of them lost their pretty triangular shape because they were over-filled.

I found the filling recipe in Jewish Home Cooking by Arthur Schwartz, and although the recipe says to fill each with 2 tsp of chocolate, I only used 1 tsp and next time would probably use about half that.

They are pretty simple cookie to make, sometimes they get a little misshapen, but its okay because they always taste great!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Focaccia: Rosemary & Parmigiano Reggiano

What's a girl to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, oh I don't know- bake some bread? I guess I am just getting a little ahead of myself, seeing as my Viennoiserie class does not start until May. Its okay though, the practice can't  hurt.

There aren't many things better than freshly baked breads and with a little patience and the ability to carefully follow directions, you too can make your own.

 Focaccia is similar to pizza dough, but so much better. Fluffy, chewy, light, & airy and with an endless variety of toppings makes this bread an amazing snack, sandwich bread, or perfect with an entree. I chose to use a very classic rosemary topping on one loaf, and copious amounts of Parmesan cheese on the other loaf.

 Need ideas for what to do with all these delicious focaccia squares? How about some sliders, everything is better in "mini" anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cream Cheese Stuffed Banana Bread

In my household, every time my grandma would make banana or zucchini bread  it was customary to shmear (yes, shmear) it with cream cheese. That's the way I have grown up eating it, and the way I will continue to eat it...until now

I had an epiphany and thought, what if I put the cream cheese INSIDE the banana bread? So I did it, and it was wonderful. I also sprinkled the top with some chopped walnuts, which gave a nice textural balance and is pretty common with banana bread.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Polenta

I was browsing through as I often do, and came across a recipe for "shrimp & grits". I was instantly won over by the picture, it just looked so delicious and fresh, especially with the little flecks of flat leaf parsley scattered all over the top.

I've never had grits and certainly there is not a box in my pantry, but I know its similar to polenta [ which I love] so I decided to swap the two and make this meal. This was such a quick, easy and comforting dinner. It only took about 20 minutes tops, and only that long because I had to wait for polenta water to boil. While I was waiting, the chef-to-be in me decided to make a shrimp stock with the shells. It is now in the freezer, ready for any soup I feel like creating.

I imagine you can add any flavor combination you'd like to these shrimp and the sauce. I added a splash of white wine to mine instead of the water that is called for. The Jewish girl in me did slightly feel guilty, but shellfish is too good to pass up.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Clove Garlic Chicken with Pommes Puree

I first heard about this dish at the Stinking Rose restaurant in LA. I didn't order it there, but I saw it on the menu and I remember thinking "wow, thats a lot of garlic". Then again, they do also serve garlic ice cream.

I found some version of the recipe a few years ago actually and attempted to make it. This was before I completely knew what I was doing. During attempt #1,  I understood the concept of braising but didn't brown the meat enough and I wasn't sure what to do with this whole pot of cooking liquid after I removed the chicken. But now, it became a beautiful reduction sauce with lots of fragrant garlic.

40 cloves!

The elements in this dish happen to be some of my favorite ingredients. They are like the holy trinity of deliciousness: garlic, rosemary, and chicken (& a splash of white wine). All pureed together after reduced enough, makes a velvety smooth and rich sauce.  I made pommes puree [mashed potatoes] as a side dish because chicken + potatoes are one of the best combinations.

I also attempted to practice my plating skills with this one, which I normally don't do. Plating never seemed so important to me until I took my last culinary class & there are just so many creative ways to make food look even better.