Thursday, February 19, 2015

Love, Downton Abbey and "I Want to Marry You" Cookies

I know Valentine's Day is over, but I've still got love on the brain.  Could be because I love my husband and we had a nice (although non-traditional) Valentine's Day celebration of our own.

Could be because it's so &#*=!$/ frigid outside! (I wonder how many babies will be born nine months from now.)

Could be because I'm still thinking about Downton Abbey. I really don't watch very much TV at all and there are very few television programs I faithfully watch. I confess that Downton Abbey is one of them. I set the DVR. I sit down and binge watch if I have, too. I'll even watch programs over and over. Nice to know I can watch on my iPad, too.

I could apologize for this guilty pleasure of watching what is becoming just a bit soap-opera-ish, but I won't. The dialogue is often (not always) so witty, and the costuming and setting so wonderful to see (always), there will be no apologies.

Last Sunday's episode, which I just happened to watch in real time,was all about love. There was romantic love, of course, but there was also parental love, unrequited love, marital love, even love for a pet and love between friends.  There was no crime, no real melodrama, just the very real drama of love, on so many levels. I don't think I've enjoyed an episode quite as much as this one.

And since there were three potential marriages on the table, what better way for me to end this post than with "Will You Marry Me Cookies?"

These cookies are unique in two ways:

  • The method is unusual. By melting the butter first and adding the sugars, then the eggs and vanilla, and then all the dry ingredients, there's just one pan to dirty. 
  • The hint of cinnamon adds just a touch of spiciness that complements the chocolate well.

My plan was to make these Mr. Rosemary's Fat Tuesday treat, since he always gives up sweets for Lent. He loves chocolate chip cookies more than anything, except maybe brownies. I thought offering him chocolate chip cookies that were a little different, a bit extra special, would show how much I love him. And they came so highly recommended. I thought they were great.

But he was not overly impressed. He prefers his standard issue chocolate chip cookies. He likes the tried and true best. "Don't mess with something that works," is his mantra.

Good thing he likes me.

"I Want to Marry You" Cookies
The original recipe appears to have come from Melissa Stadler and The Cooking Channel's "The Perfect Three" in 2011, although there are other versions, from  Chris at The Cafe Sucre Farine and BakerGirl and several others. And, of course, Pinterest.  This version has pieces of several. The original used dark brown sugar and The Cafe Sucre Farine's used pecans.
makes 24 cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (may add up to 1/4 cup more if desired)
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Remove from the heat.
Add both the sugars and mix until smooth.  Chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.
Stir in the the nuts white chocolate chips and chocolate chips.
Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Leave on pan for 1 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kale Pesto | Why Didn't I Think of That?

It was one of those heel-of-hand to forehead moments when I realized that I could make pesto from kale! Duh!  Didn't I make pesto from spinach years ago, when there wasn't enough of my own basil? Wasn't it pretty good? Hadn't I read about using cilantro in a pesto?

So I had a minor epiphany when I skimmed a magazine at the doctor's office and saw "kale pesto" featured. Genius, I thought. But then, as I looked for recipe variations, I found that it was not so genius, after all. Pretty common, in fact.

I must have been living under a rock.

Still, and even though kale has lost its luster as the #1 super food, I have been looking for more ways to make kale a part of my meal planning.  And I'm lucky that Mr. Rosemary likes it.

My favorite way to use kale is to saute it in garlic and oil and then add cooked brown rice to it, dressing it up with pieces of roasted red pepper and a bit of feta. I've made kale chips and even convinced a few finicky teenagers to eat them. And I love massaged kale salads. Just plain, though, kale's a bit much.

But kale pesto? That made it a whole lot more versatile. Now that I've woken up, I've added kale pesto to mayonnaise to spread on sandwiches and added it to spaghetti sauce and soups. Just like traditional pesto. (Duh!)

Isn't it funny that pesto has gone mainstream and become almost ordinary, like marinara or mayonnaise. One of these days, McDonald's will be using pesto!

Pesto -- in its original form of basil, Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts -- didn't enjoy widespread popularity until the 80's. It used to be considered "gourmet" before then.

But when food processors invaded every day kitchens, pesto was catapulted to universal popularity, a popularity that doesn't look like its going to end anytime soon. (Just like kale.) It certainly makes sense that kale could easily substitute for basil.  So could mint. So could cilantro, although I have a few friends who wouldn't go for that, no matter how much cheese and garlic was in it.

The first time I veered off the traditional pesto path, I used spinach and walnuts. And, to be honest, the difference between the basil and pine nuts version and this one was minimal. 

So why did it take me a few years to use kale? Slow learner? Late bloomer? 

Whatever the reason, I'm now sold on kale pesto. It was wonderful in this pasta dish with mushrooms, using pipette rigate, a pasta shape that's not just fun to eat, but allowed the pesto to sneak into all those ridges.

Kale & Walnut Pesto with Mushrooms and Pipette Rigate
adapted from Real Simple

1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves torn (about 12 cups)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound pipette rigate, or any other small shaped pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered

Bring a large pot of  water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until it's bright green; doesn't take long, half a minute. Using tongs, move the kale to a colander, reserving the cooking water. Squeeze dry when cool enough to handle.

In a food processor, combine the kale, Parmesan, garlic, and the walnuts. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.
Bring the reserved cooking water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, and saute until lightly brown. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta when done, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pesto and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water and toss to coat. Add the mushrooms, adding more cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Serve the pasta and feel noble that you're eating kale.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Red Lentil Soup | National Homemade Soup Day

Any day -- especially a gray, wintry day -- is a good day to make soup in my book. Tell me that it's National Homemade Soup Day, and I'm all over it.

It's not just the eating of it that's comforting, it's in the making, too. There's the first couple minutes of the butter melting, then the onions softening, then the warm aroma of the spices joining the party, the satisfying pleasure of stirring, the familiar awe when something creamy deliciousness evolves from nearly nothing. Every sense is touched. The process itself is soothing.

I don't have much experience cooking with lentils. Only once or twice have I made soup with the brown lentils I found at the supermarket. And it was met with a murky, sidelong glance from Mr. Rosemary. About the same reaction I got from split pea soup.

So it was a bold move I made when I picked up a bag of red lentils at Trader Joe's on one of my semi-annual trips to the "city."  Maybe it was the color he didn't like, I thought to myself.

Still, that pretty bag of coral colored beans sat in the pantry for several months. I hid them behind a bag of rice so they wouldn't chastise me any more. Then one day I relented.

I was naive enough to believe that the red lentils would remain a pretty color when they cooked. But they weren't brown nor green, so I was still on safe ground. I also -- although I didn't write it in the recipe below -- added about a cup of cubed sausage, knowing full well my life partner does not deem beans a fair substitute for meat.

The curry added just a nice dash of sweet spiciness to the soup and the coconut milk, as you'd expect, the right amount of creaminess.

Mr. Rosemary had seconds.

Red Lentil - Coconut Milk Soup
Adapted from Good Food Matters
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup diced onion
2 carrots, about 1/2 cup, diced
2 stalks celery, about 1/2 cup, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup red lentils
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can whole coconut milk

In a large pot, over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. Stir in onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook for about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 3 cups of chicken broth and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes and the coconut milk. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes and serve.