Before I Forget

Did everyone have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend? Did you have an easter egg scavenger hunt? Or eat a lot of chocolate bunnies? Cadbury creme eggs (man, I could tear one of those down right now, never mind the fact that I just shoved a piece of cake into my face…)? Did you wear really lame-looking pastel-colored outfits with bow ties and Mary Janes? Or did you force those sort of cute things on your kids, instead?!

Get this: I didn’t do any of those things. Except, of course, I did have an enjoyable weekend. Duh.

We spent all day Saturday at Tomales Bay Oyster Farm again, because going this long without an oyster retreat was just silly. The weather was brilliantly sunny, speckled with a  few appearances by the clouds and the wind, and we had plenty of awesome food to choose from, which meant we pretty much ate from 11 AM to 5 PM, and there was nothing wrong with that in the slightest. We finished up the day with some Walking Dead episodes, since Judy and Jared can’t seem to get their act together to watch the rest of this season on their own. Dang non-cable-havers.

Sunday started off with an hour and a half of constant sweating at Bikram yoga (I’m still not sure why I’m torturing myself in these classes, but I think I sorta like them…) and a nice lunch with friends followed by a few hours of pinning, blogging, photo-editing, and grocery-planning. Jealous? I get that all the time :). What won’t make you jealous, I’m sure, is that doing laundry was also part of the fun.

So before I forget, I wanted to slip in the recipe I mentioned a few weeks back – the fennel & manchego shortbread cookies that were part of the co-winning Iron Chef dish at the last battle. I’m not sure why shortbread cookies are named as they are – they are neither short nor bready, but what they are is extremely tasty. Butter-laden, they are always perfect cookies to have around tea, or coffee, or in this case, ice cream. And caramel. But I ate a few by themselves and they were just fine too.

Now don’t let these cookies surprise you – they are a touch sweet, and they definitely live up to the definition of shortbread, which essentially requires that they are loaded with fat, ahem, butter, and that they are crumby and biscuit-ish, but what they also do is this – they also lean more to the savory side of things, which some people find weird for cookies. For one, they have a healthy amount of cheese baked into them, which once out of the oven they possess a gorgeous orangey-brown speck here and there, like the cheese in a cheddar biscuit, perhaps (and yes, now I am dying to demolish a biscuit. with or without cheddar. preferably with.).

For two, they are showered in fennel seeds, which I promise you only makes them better. You could nix the fennel if you wanted to, and add say, sesame seeds or lavender or orange zest or whatever, but I swear to you the fennel and Manchego cheese are meant to be in this cookie. I promise you, your mouth will thank you.

 

Manchego Shortbread with Fennel & Sea Salt
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes ~24

printable version

time commitment: 3 hours (1 hour active; 2 hours chilling dough)

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t freshly ground black pepper
3/4 t kosher salt
2 c all-purpose flour plus a little more for rolling out the dough
1 c finely grated Manchego cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 T fennel seeds
1 t sea salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

instructions
Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.

Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. You can do this up to a few days in advance if you want. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.

Pulse fennel seeds in a spice grinder (aka coffee grinder) until coarsely crushed (or close them up in a Ziploc bag and crush with something like a rolling pin). Transfer to a small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10×8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt. If you have extra dough, you can always roll that out and re-cut. I did this with my dough to make even more cookies, just make sure the dough doesn’t get to warm or else the cookies will flatten when they’re baking.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), ~20 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

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Shuckin’ Awesome

If I were single, I’d carry around a checklist so that I could easily weed in or weed out potential mates. Maybe not a physical list, but perhaps a note on my iPhone or something a little less obvious…

But seeing as how I haven’t needed to think about that for quite some time now, I’d probably be pretty clueless about what to include on said list.

1. Music: In my experience, relationships are a little wonky if you don’t have the same taste in music, because that could mean that you might not have much else in common, either. I used to date guys who were into rap, and while I like a little Tupac and Nate Dogg every now and then, I definitely couldn’t get behind the window-shattering bass that made my eardrums reverberate from here to Wisconsin.

2. Travel: Don’t get me wrong – living in a place that you enjoy staying in for an extended period of time is important, but of equal significance is the need to get the hell outta Dodge every so often too. Be it a little 1.5 hour road trip up to Tomales Bay or a jaunt across the Atlantic, if you don’t like to travel you’d quickly get the boot.

3. Hair gel: I don’t know that I could ever date someone who spends more time fixing their hair than I do. Sure, those wayward spikes might look kinda cool, but only from afar. That’s why I’m married to someone who shaves his head every week.

4. Video games: Can’t say I ever saw this one coming, but I have to admit – video games are sorta key. But what I really mean is that the person would have to have a couple of hobbies that I could give a crap about. We all need time to ourselves, and it works nicely if you have a guy who can entertain himself while you paint your nails, or blog, or ride your bike. Or talk to the girls while he talks to the guys. You know how that goes.

5. Raw seafood: Just because it seems logical. And because sushi wouldn’t be fun if I couldn’t get at least 4 different maki rolls and only eat half of it. While I used to disagree, oysters aren’t bad either. Chris’ love of these bivalves eventually turned me into a lover too, although it was certainly an arduous task for him to win me over (ahem. I speak only in regard to me liking oysters here – of course.).

Plus – whatever would we have done this weekend had we not driven up to Tomales Bay Oyster Farm and shucked some shells with these lovely people (and one who wasn’t invited – guess who)?

 

Oyster Goodness
serves 8 hungry oyster-eaters 

time commitment: depends on your shucking skillz; mignonettes take less than 10 minutes to make

printable version

ingredients
as many fresh, local oysters as you want (the measurements below take care of ~50 oysters)

Asian Mignonette
5 t water
10 T rice vinegar
1.5 t pink peppercorns
1.5 T finely minced ginger
5 t finely minced shallots
1 t whole coriander seeds

Champagne vinegar mignonette
3.5 T Champagne vinegar
2.5 T finely chopped shallot
1/4 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 t sugar
1.5 T finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

instructions
shuck the oysters and put them on the classiest tray of ice that you can locate. if you’re not well versed in shuckin’, try this tutorial. it takes some practice, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

make the oyster mignonettes by simply combining the ingredients for each one into a small dish. serve mignonettes alongside cold, shucked oysters and lots of beer, wine, and friends.