Super powers.

My in-laws are in California for an extended vacation, and last weekend we followed them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. They, of course, have the luxury of being on permanent vacation, so they’re there for the rest of the week, at which point they’ll make their way back to San Francisco for their final weekend with us.

That said, Tahoe was pretty awesome. Despite living 4-5 hours away from the area, we hadn’t been out that way yet, so we were looking forward to our trip not only for spending time with the family, but also to check out a new area that we are sure to revisit.

We did a couple of hikes while we were there (one through Big Meadow and another along Echo Lake, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail), and these bars would have been perfect to have with us, but sadly I didn’t make them until this week. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use this weekend when we’re out wandering around the city, so we’ll see how filling they are.

Regardless, I like the name of them, “super-power bars”, aptly named because of all the super-nutritous ingredients. Speaking of which, I should warn you that they are loaded with all sorts of weird stuff that you likely don’t have on hand (at least I didn’t). Quinoa flakes, Incan berries, wheat germ, and chia seeds are all a little hard to find depending on where you live, but I was able to locate them all in one place (for the SF-ers, that was Rainbow). I’d suggest buying enough of the ingredients for multiple batches, so these ingredients don’t go to waste.

Incan Super-Power Bars
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; makes 2 dozen bars

time commitment: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (including lots of down time)

printable version

ingredients
2 c quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 c sliced almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c raw roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 T chia seeds
3/4 c golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 c raisins
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 T light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (or butter). Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.

Rinse and Repeat

Aside from having the occasional relentless sushi craving, at which time I could easily devour four maki rolls by my lonesome, seafood has not been a mainstay in my repertoire as of late. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve cooked plenty of seafood dishes, cephalopods included, but it’s been quite a while.

Does the oyster-shuckin’ day even count?! And if not, then it’s been almost a year since seafood has had a presence here – yikaroonies! Needless to say, that has got to be remedied.

Because here’s the deal – here’s my beef with seafood: you have to plan for it. Yeah, I know, that’s not normally a problem for me at all; I plan what days of the week my hair gets washed, for cryin’ out loud. But when I cook fish, I want it to be fresh as all get out. I want it to smell like the sea, and I want to buy it as close to when I hope to prepare it as possible – a day apart, tops. That’s where I run into an issue because I like to buy groceries on Sunday in the early afternoon, with hopes of eating any fish I’d purchase on Monday (don’t forget – Sundays are for the big time-consuming meals). Now, if anything goes awry on Monday, say a last minute plan with a friend, or a husband working late, or maybe I get a wild hair up my ass to finally go for a run after work (which, when the mood strikes, I must take advantage of said urge), the plans for fish-cooking are ruined.

You still with me? Because this is real life – I had to toss a couple of lovely halibut fillets into the freezer a few weeks ago because the Monday cooking didn’t happen, and cooking that same fish on Tuesday seemed like such a travesty. And yeah, it’s not like I wasted the fish and threw it away, but still – frozen halibut just isn’t the same.

You may be sensing some degree of stubbornness on my part, and that’s spot on. But this time around, I did bend the rules just a tad. I stuck to my regular method of purchasing fish on Sunday. When Monday rolled around, I stuck to my plans of cooking that night. Of course, Chris tried to throw a wrench into my plan and work late, but I just snacked and waited patiently, vowing not to ruin my fish this time. At the last minute, I decided to cook half of the fish (only 2 fillets), so that I could – get this – cook the other two on Tuesday night (because another issue I have with fish is that leftover fish tastes like poo, and that’s not good for anyone). Yeah, I know – crazy, huh?! But here’s where it gets even crazier – it was still just as good on Tuesday.

I’m sure the red pepper and harissa pesto that was nestled under those perfectly-cooked fillets helped in the taste area, but the point of my story is a point you’re not going to hear me make too often: I was wrong. (ps – you might want to do a screenshot of this page before I update this post and delete that sentence.)

With that point out of the way, maybe I can slowly work a weekly seafood dish back into my weekly cooking, like we used to do back in the day. We’ll see how it goes…

In the meantime though, take yourself to the grocery store on Sunday (or Monday, if you’re feeling frisky) and buy the prettiest pink wild Alaskan (sustainable) salmon you can find, as well as the remainder of the ingredients for the pesto. If you can’t find harissa, you can use tomato paste, which is what the original recipe used – I just wanted more spice in my life. Come straight home from work on Monday and cook half of the fish, one for you and one for your lucky guest. Whip up the pesto while the grill does the rest of the work. Eat said fish, and thank yourself for such a lovely dinner.

Rinse, and repeat on Tuesday.

Salmon with Red Pepper-Harissa Pesto
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 15 minutes (enough time to toss some edamame into the microwave for steaming in which case you’d have a full freakin’ dinner!)

printable version

ingredients
4 6-oz wild Alaskan salmon fillets
3/4 t salt, divided
cooking spray
3 medium-sized bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed & drained
1-2 T bottled harissa
1 t olive oil
1/4 c blanched almonds
1 garlic clove

instructions
heat grill pan over med-hi heat. sprinkle fish with salt. coat pan with cooking spray. grilled fish for ~4 minutes on each side, until fish flakes easily (I like to leave some of the middle less cooked, as it cooks a little after it’s taken off the grill).

meanwhile, combine remaining salt and other ingredients in a small food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. serve pesto with fish.

Holy Mole!

I’ve walked through my gramma’s house at least a thousand times. I could tell you about the newspaper clippings that were on her fridge, and the pictures of all her grandkids that sat atop the desk in the living room with the gold shaggy carpet. Of course, I remembered those pictures because there was one of every grandkid, but me – there were two! I could tell you, years ago, about every hair product in her bathroom, because as she used to say, I liked to “plunder”, and plunder I did, every time I visited. I loved gramma’s house, every corner of it.

Without fail, there was a pound cake on the edge of the counter every Sunday, unsliced, guarded by a heavy glass dome that I couldn’t reach without assistance, or a chair. There were oatmeal cakes in the cupboard, and there was a trashcan made of egg cartons in my dad’s old room. I can still see it all – as if looking at a snow globe, those details never changed. And while the sights were always so clear in my head, I also remember a distinct smell, a smell that emanated from the kitchen, for sure, but one that I could never identify. Until this weekend.

It was lard. That’s probably weird to at least some of you, right? Okay, most of you. And not just regular lard from a container, but hot, almost smoking lard. I’d be willing to bet that most people who cook with lard don’t enjoy that smell, but for me, it took me back like no other. Strangely enough, it was the first time I’d ever cooked with it, and I’m not quite sure why, really. But as is customary for a Sunday around here, I awoke with an idea in my head of what I wanted to make for dinner that night, with expectations of spending a decent amount of time in the kitchen.

I decided that I wanted to make a mole sauce.

So that’s what I did. And so, I consulted the first person that comes to mind when I think of authentic, time-consuming Mexican food, and that’s Rick. Rick Bayless, that is. Now, most authentic moles take days to make, I know that, but Rick said this one is a good start for only a few hours work. There are oodles of iterations of moles, but this one is loaded with chiles, and as a result is a mole rojo. Moles use a ton of ingredients, including lots of dried but rehydrated chiles, chocolate, nuts, and even raisins. Moles are complexity at its best – spicy, rich, chocolatey, vibrant – flavors that most certainly take some time to develop. The better your ingredients, the better your mole. And in that respect, I finally broke down and bought lard, because Rick said to.

The lard got hot, and immediately I recognized the smell as something that was really prevalent in my life, but this time I couldn’t remember right away where it was coming from. A couple of whiffs later, it was crystal clear. Yeah, you could say the Southern ladies in my family don’t mess around in the kitchen, and if the taste of their food has anything to do with the fact that they use lard in their cooking, well, now I’m sold. I can’t believe it took a cookbook from a Mexican-influenced chef to do the trick, but hey, you take it where you will, I reckon.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that, even though I cut this recipe in half (the book I used is for fiestas, not two-person dining, you see), there is plenty left over after generously using the other half to sop up some mole-painted chicken. I tweeted Rick and he said he’d make enchiladas with the leftovers, and I think he might be on to something. For now, there’s a container in the freezer, just waiting for enchilada inspiration. And hopefully, it won’t take nearly as long to get around to that as it did to use lard. I doubt it will.

Lacquered Chicken in Classic Red Mole
adapted from Fiesta at Rick’s; serves 4 with leftover mole

time commitment: long. 4 hours, most of which requires active attention, minus 30 minutes or so. but don’t let that deter you!

printable version

ingredients
mole
5 oz tomatillos, husked and rinsed (2 large)
3/4 c roasted sesame seeds
1/2 c pork lard (or vegetable oil)
5 medium dried mulato chiles (~3 oz)
3 medium dried ancho chiles (1.5 oz)
4 medium dried pasilla chiles (1.5 oz)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 c almonds
1/2 c raisins
1/2 t ground Mexican cinnamon (canela)
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t ground anise
pinch of g cloves
1 slice toasted white bread, torn into pieces
1 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1.5 quarts lo-sodium chicken broth
salt
1/3 c sugar

chicken
1/4 c agave nectar
4 pieces of chicken (I used leg quarters)
cilantro, for garnish

instructions
turn broiler to high. broil tomatillos about 4 inches from flame until black and soft, about 5 minutes per side. put in a large bowl and set aside. add half of sesame seeds to bowl with tomatillos, and save the other half for garnishing at the end.

turn on your exhaust fan; it’s about to get smoky in here! using a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the lard over medium heat. meanwhile, seed and stem the chiles, and break into large pieces. once the lard is hot, fry the chiles in 3-4 batches, flipping them constantly until aromatic and the insides are lightened (20-30 seconds for each batch). be careful not to over-toast. put them in a large bowl and cover with hot water; seal the bowl with plastic wrap and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure all parts become submerged.

meanwhile, remove any chile seeds from the pot. add garlic and almonds to pot and fry, stirring regularly, until browned, about 5 minutes. remove and add to tomatillo bowl. add raisins to hot pot and fry until puffed and browned; add to tomatillos. set pan aside, away from heat.

to the tomatillo mixture, add spices, bread, and chocolate. add 1 cup of water and stir to combine.

pour the chiles, 2 cups of water from the bowl, and 1 cup of tap water into a blender, and blend to a smooth puree (you may want to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your blender). pour out the rest of the chile water. press puree through a medium sieve into the same large bowl and discard pieces that don’t make it through.

reheat the lard in the pot over medium heat. add more lard if there isn’t much in the pot. once the lard is very hot, pour the chile puree into the pot. the pot should simmer loudly, then die down some, but should continue to keep a low boil. continue to boil, stirring every couple of minutes until reduced to tomato paste consistency (~15-20 minutes). (If you have a splatter screen, use it, or you’ll be cleaning up a lot, like I did.)

meanwhile, puree the tomatillo mixture as smoothly as possible, adding a little water if needed. Strain back into the bowl. Once the chile puree has reduced, add tomatillo mixture and cook, stirring every few minutes until darker and thicker, about 10-15 minutes.

add broth to pot and simmer over medium to medium-low for about 1.5 hours. if the mole becomes thick (Rick says thicker than a cream soup), add some water. season with salt and the sugar.

heat oven to 350 F. place chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. baked chicken for 25 minutes. meanwhile, mix together 1/2 c of mole and the agave nectar into a small saucepan, and heat until glossy and reduced to 1/2 c, about 15 minutes. once chicken is baked, remove from oven and increase oven temp to 400 F. brush chicken with mole/agave mixture and sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds. bake for 10 minutes. removed from oven and let sit ~7 minutes. serve each portion with extra mole and garnish with cilantro.

It’s a Date

Sometimes life is so simple – right? I want to be that person with the simple life – I used to think I was that person with the simple, awesome life. Awesome – yes; simple – not quite.

But what comes up must come down, they say. And while this might sound like a complaint, it assuredly is not. Life is definitely good.

One of my favorite things of late is getting together with my favorite newlyweds, Brook & Katherine. We cook, we eat, we drink, and we just plain hang out. Sometimes Katherine falls asleep, but it’s only because of the wine and not because we’re boring, right Kath??!! We play with their cuter-than-a-newborn-baby doggy, we laugh at the cats, and we get our groove on (or at least, we pretend to…) with the Kinect dancing game, whatever it’s called.

It’s good times – simple and awesome.

And it’s even awesome-er when bacon and goat cheese are involved. What’s not to adore? I’d spent the majority of last Saturday hanging with my pal, Caroline (which means that we hang out but she also puts me to work in her kitchen), so when it came time to get ready for the K+B extravaganza, I knew I only had it in me to bake a cake (yeah, that’s all – can you believe it??!), so I put the Hubs to work on the appetizer.

It’s not like he was slaving over the stove, people. And check out the recipe if you don’t believe me. Four ingredients – I don’t think I’ve ever posted something with four ingredients – maybe a drink??!! Four wonderful, scrumptious ingredients, all rolled up together, baked until crispy and oozy, and devoured.

These dates are holiday-ish, festive, easy, and entirely portable. If it’s not too late, take these to your holiday party, but be sure to snag a couple before you share. Remember – the holidays are all about giving, but also a little bit about getting, too!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16

printable version

ingredients
4 oz goat cheese, room temperature
2 T almonds, roughly chopped
16 dates
8 slices of thick-cut bacon

instructions
preheat oven to 375 F.

combine goat cheese and chopped almonds in a small bowl and set aside.

slice dates on one side and remove pit. stuff each date with goat cheese / almond mixture and squeeze together (dates should be packed with cheese!).

slice bacon strips in half lengthwise and wrap each half around a date. secure with a toothpick or place seam-side down on a baking sheet. bake 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy (thicker bacon will take longer). let cool for a few minutes and devour!

One Last Hoorah

Before you start reading today, think for a second. How many true friends do you have? Not how many friends you have on Facebook, or how many follow you on Twitter, but real, honest-to-goodness friends. Because that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. That, and zucchini fries, of course. But I’ll get to those.

I used to think I was loaded with friends. I suppose I am, really. I mean, I know a lot of people, and I like them; I figure they like me too. We talk here and there (or text or g-chat, is more like it), we eat and drink together, and sometimes we’re in each other’s weddings or taking trips together. That’s friendship, right?

The trouble, is that my own vision of friendship is so warped lately. Things happen, people drift apart, and as I’ve realized over this last year or so, people change and sometimes there’s just nothing you can do about it. It sucks, quite frankly. It sucks bad.

But in having those experiences, I’ve realized a thing or two. As a result, this is my advice to you: cherish the time you have with the ones you love, be a good friend to those who reciprocate your friendship, and don’t let something as silly as distance tear you apart. There is nothing more sad, more depressing, than looking back at a friendship that used to be rock solid, and realizing that in the blink of an eye it was ripped from one end to the other, and tossed out like a dirty rag. Don’t let that happen.

The difficulty in having friendships, is keeping them. Life happens – we grow up, we get married, we have children, we have busy jobs, we text instead of call, and sometimes we have to take opportunities that are offered to us. Leaving our friends in NC was so hard when we moved to Chicago 6 years (6 years!) ago, and now that we’re settled in here, we’re realizing that now, people will leave us. Being on that side of the coin feels so different, and not in a good way.

Our friends, Hope & James, are moving tomorrow. Apparently Hope (yes, the reigning Iron Chef) is interested in getting the letters M and D behind her name, and James is looking into a career in whittling (sorry James, I had to do it) unless he decides to work the valet at the VA once they’re settled into their larger-than-life apartment house in the “Deep South” state of Mississippi. I will miss them both, but I’ve learned over these last few years that distance doesn’t have to change a friendship and real friendships will make it, even if you can’t go to Irazu together every month or sit lakefront, drinking wine and watching the fireworks. All it takes is a little bit of effort, a long road trip here and there, and a flight when Southwest posts their specials (hmmm… does SW fly there? probably not.). Plus, I’ve never been to Mississippi, so there’s that, too.

Interestingly enough (or not so), this is where zucchini fries enter the story. With their move right around the corner, we were in need of one last hoorah. We had H+J over for dinner a couple of weeks ago, and if you can believe it, I repeated a dish. Gasp! Truth is, I’ve never met a fry I didn’t like, and having some zucchini lying around reminded me of this snack-type recipe I’d made almost 2 years ago (before my kitchen resembled a photo studio) – resulting in baked zucchini ‘fries’ with one of the best sauces since Ranch dressing – spicy, smoky, Spanish romesco.

If you’ve never made or eaten romesco sauce, you should certainly check this out. Smoky paprika, sweet roasted tomatoes and peppers, and nuttiness from, well, nuts (almonds, to be exact) make this an extra special mixture that will last well beyond these crunchy, cheesy fries; it plays nicely with seafood, but I like it best aside a big ol’ pork chop.

The rest of the night’s dinner, you ask? A simple salad with poppyseed dressing, mushroom-tomato lasagna (with smoked mozzarella), and a peach-almond galette. One tasty dinner, and a perfect excuse to hang out with two lovely people. You certainly don’t need good food to have good friends, but sometimes they just go hand in hand.

Zucchini Fries w/ Smoky Romesco Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light, July 2008; serves 8

printable version

ingredients
romesco sauce
3  medium red bell peppers
2  plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2″ thick slice of bread from a baguette, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 T almonds
1  T evoo
1  T  red wine vinegar
1/2  t Spanish smoked paprika
1/4  t  kosher salt
1/4  t  ground red pepper
1  large garlic clove

zucchini
3  large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1  c  dry breadcrumbs
1/2  c coursely ground almonds
1/4  c  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2  t  salt
1/2  t  freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
cooking spray

instructions
Preheat broiler.

To prepare sauce, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place bell pepper halves and tomatoes, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten bell peppers with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop, reserving any liquid.

Combine bell peppers, reserved liquid, tomatoes, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be made a couple of days in advance, if needed).

Preheat oven to 400 F.

To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, almond meal, cheese, salt, black pepper in a shallow dish. In another dish, whisk eggs until combined. Dip zucchini in eggs; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on sheet pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with sauce.

3 Decades, & Cake

I have a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but 30 years ago today at exactly 8:02 AM, I was thrust into the world, eyes wide open, crying incessantly; I was loud and proud from the start. At that moment, a look of horror spread across my dad’s face. Apparently, he was a bit unprepared for the site of baby delivery, or so my gramma once told me. It could have been all that black hair on my head, which agreeably would have been a bit unexpected, indeed a surprise to a light-haired guy married to a light-haired girl. Luckily, he came around and decided I was cute after all, and that I was definitely his :). Shew!

Thirty years later, it’s hard to tell what color my hair will be from one week to the next, but that’s a discussion for another day. This week, it’s red, baby.

With the cat out of the bag, I have to admit I have mixed emotions about today. I’m not sure if I’m ready to begin another decade; my 20’s started off somewhat crappily but improved consistently. I like the upward trend, minus the early trough, but I plan to instead start this 4th decade off at a high point, despite my reluctance to enter my 30’s. I enjoyed being a “twenty something”, but I think I’ll start to adhere to the “age is just a number” belief and move forward. So with that, Happy Birthday to me!

I was informed that I didn’t need to make myself a cake this year (and who knows what else Hubs has up his sleeve), so instead, I made one for somebody else. Our pals Jennifer & Jon moved (again! but we moved a lot too before we broke the bank and bought this place) this past weekend. Over their past 5 years of living in Chicago, they’ve slowly moved closer and closer to us and this time – they are 4 blocks away! Woot! Of course, I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, but nevertheless, I likey. So I thought I’d spend an evening making them a special housewarming treat since I had a hankerin’ for baking and I can’t, or rather, don’t need to, bake my own self a cake :).

The beauty of making cake for other people is that you still enjoy the aroma, and in this case, the smell of tangerines dancing into each and every nook and cranny of your place. Tangerines smell like springtime to me, even though you eat them more in winter; they smell sweet and fruity and smelling them makes me want to eat marmalade on toast while sitting in a big field of dandelions, underneath a gingham blanket with sweet wine and my my friend’s puppy running about.

In absence of those fields (and the puppy), let’s eat cake instead. Whether you’re celebrating gracefully leaving your 3rd decade behind, or perhaps a move or an anniversary, or maybe just because you want to and you do what you want when you want, eat cake. Eat tangerine cake, at that.

Happy Weekend!

Tangerine Almond Cake w/ Blueberry-Basil Sauce
Adapted from Seven Spoons who adapted from Nigella Lawson

You’ll question this recipe at first, I know you will, and you should. First, there’s no flour – eek! Second, whole tangerines go into it – double eek! But hold it together, and give this inherently gluten-free novelty a try. It’s an adaptation from Nigella Lawson, mind you. If clementines are available, start there, but probably any thin-skinned citrus will do. This cake is amazingly easy and so moist and soft you’ll question the doneness of it – I certainly did. The texture – different, but in a good way. But trust me; rather, trust Nigella and all the hundreds who’ve made this cake, including Tara at Seven Spoons.

printable version

ingredients
cake
1 lb tangerines (or clementines, nothing with too many seeds…)
9 oz whole, unshelled almonds
6 eggs
8 oz sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean pod
1 1/2 t baking powder
pinch of salt

sauce (optional)
1 1/2 c frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season, but with less water added)
3-4 T powdered sugar
3 basil leaves

instructions
put tangerines in large pot and cover with water (they will float like crazy, but use enough water to theoretically cover them). toss in vanilla bean (do not slice open). bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and cook whole tangerines for about 2 hours until they’re extra tender (i.e., soft when you squeeze gently with tongs). remove from pot and let cool. scrape vanilla bean and set seeds aside.

preheat oven to 375 F. over a large bowl, cut tangerines and remove any seeds and sit aside; squeeze to release any excess water (which will help on the “moistness factor”). spray an 8-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper on the bottom and sides and spray again.

in a food processor, grind almonds until a coarse, powdery substance develops. add tangerines (skin too) and grind until a smooth, thick paste forms. it will still have some pieces of almond/tangerine visible.

in a large bowl, beat eggs until blended. add sugar and vanilla bean seeds, then baking powder and salt. whisk in tangerine/almond mixture. at this point it will actually look like cake batter, but more coarse.

pour batter into parchment-lined pan and place atop baking sheet. bake for ~60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, rotating once halfway through baking. cool completely on a wire rack.

meanwhile, make blueberry-basil sauce. mix blueberries with powdered sugar and basil leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. add about 2 T water and cook until juices form. sweeten with more sugar to taste. puree or keep clumpy but remove basil leaves. serve over cooled cake.

Dear Lime Shortbread Cookie: I Love You Times Infinity

lime shortbread cookie closeup


Something about a mound of gooey silky white chocolate with a smattering of lime zest was way too tempting to overlook. Once I saw you in my magazine, I knew you were the one, and I had to make you mine. Is Saturday good for you?


I am an avid reader of way too many food magazines. I always subscribe rather than buy off the shelf, so I generally feel that the money saved balances out the expense of the reads. Plus, the cost pales in comparison to Chris’ comic books anyway. So when it comes to findings recipes, I’m a bit old-school. I’d much rather clip each and every one of you from a magazine than search for you on the web. That being said, I have a rather large stack of you clipped to the side of the fridge – all of you just waiting, patiently I might add, in queue. Over time, some of you get tossed. No real rules here – but if I keep passing you by week after week it’s either because I have become bored with the idea of cooking you or because you are too high-maintenance for my schedule. Either way – you run the risk of getting cut, or worse – getting replaced


cookie ingredients


Occasionally, one of you will possess a quality that your former or latter stack-ee cannot measure up to – perhaps a special ingredient (like a veal shank – you are something else) or maybe a convenient cooking method (baked shrimp – I could cook you any day with ease), or in this example – a specific flavor combination that I can not say no to under any circumstance. 


Lime & White Chocolate – be still my heart.


cookies from the oven


And so, with only a name as your selling point, you have wooed me in an instant and made me drool over you for long enough. I snipped you out of my Bon Appetit April 2009 edition days ago, gave you a spot in the front of the dessert line, and even considered your lime trait alone as a choice theme ingredient for an Iron Chef battle. (I do apologize in choosing coconut, by the way. But I wanted to have you all to myself, or at least to be able to save a few of you for a special moment which would not have been possible had I taken you to Kitchen Stadium. I do hope you understand). I could not wait any longer. 


And now, now I know why. You are everything a shortbread cookie should be – everything and so much more. You are dense, crunchy, crumby, and full of flavor. Your flavor profile – butter, lime zest, white chocolate, and toasted almonds – to die for. Your style – impeccable. You are tenacious, sexy, innovative and bold – and you leave me wanting more. I hope you don’t mind that I tell some of my friends how I feel about you.


 

 white chocolate shortbread cookies


Lime Shortbread Cookies w/ White Chocolate & Almonds
Bon Appetit, April 2009



ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lime peel, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3.5-ounce bar high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds


instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, 2 tablespoons lime peel, and vanilla; process just until blended and dough forms clumps. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Pierce dough all over with fork. Using sharp knife, cut dough into 12 squares, cutting through dough completely, then cut each square in half on diagonal, forming 24 triangles total.
  • Bake shortbread until golden brown, crisp around edges, and firm to touch, about 45 minutes (I would bake 40 next time). Remove from oven. Using sharp knife, immediately recut shortbread, gently separating triangles. Cool in pan on rack.
  • Place white chocolate in small metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of gently simmering water and stir just until chocolate is melted and smooth. (I melt in microwave, in short intervals over low heat and stir between each). Remove bowl from over water. Using fork, drizzle melted chocolate in zigzag pattern over shortbread. Sprinkle evenly with almonds and remaining 1 tablespoon lime peel. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.