I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.
This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!
After making the panna cotta tart with all those different kinds of citrus, I had a bunch of peel left over, so of course I had to do something with it! And since I love candied peel, this seemed like a great opportunity. I had grapefruit, Cara Cara orange, and blood orange peel to work with (the clementine peel was too thin and the kumquats required a different technique).
While I’d made candied lemon peel before it hadn’t firmed up as well as I’d expected, instead staying kind of soft and soggy– fine for use in ice cream or baking, but not so great for snacking. I decided this time to try a different recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great recipes both on his website and in his books. It was basically the same as the other recipe, calling for blanching the peels (three times this time since grapefruit can be bitter) and then boiling in sugar syrup.
Oddly, my grapefruit peels refused to turn translucent, staying stubbornly white while the other peels turned just fine. After boiling and boiling well past the estimated time in the recipe, I finally decided to just let it go and set everything out to dry together overnight. They turned out better than I’d anticipated– still soft, but not squishy or soggy.
Since I like my peel chewy rather than soft, I let these dry on the baking pan, coated in sugar, for a good 24 hours after the initial overnight drying period. They were much better after the lengthy drying time, and I couldn’t stop snacking on them!
After a recent party, I found myself with half a bag of potato chips left over and no idea what to do with them. I didn’t want to just snack on them out of hand– that seemed boring and overly salty– so it seemed providential when a recipe for potato chip cookies appeared in my online feed. I’m always a fan of a sweet-salty combination, and since I had plans to bake one morning anyway I decided to take advantage of the stand mixer already on the counter and the preheated oven, to try them.
I was a little concerned about the low flour content and the lack of any leavening in this recipe, but once I tasted a cookie I was an immediate convert, as were all of my coworkers who got over their initial skepticism and tried one. These are great– crispy with a hint of chew to them, with a salty, slightly warm flavor that’s not immediately identifiable as potato chips but which people appreciate once the secret ingredient is disclosed. I’ll bet they’d also be great dipped halfway into dark chocolate…
I first had stroopwafels in Amsterdam– I wish I could say that I bought them from a street vendor and savored them, still warm, as I strolled the moonlit streets taking in the sights and sounds of the city… but in reality I bought a pre-packaged stroopwafel and ate it on the train as I went back to my hostel for the night. It was still really, really good, though.
Sadly, packaged stroopwafels in the US aren’t quite as good as the ones in Amsterdam, and are much more expensive. I hadn’t quite given up on the dream of having one fresh from the waffle iron, so I decided to enlist the help of my trusty pizzelle iron to try and make my own!
I saw a few different types of recipes– some with melted butter, some with only softened butter; some with yeast and some with baking powder; some with more eggs and some with fewer. And there were a bunch of different recipes for the “stroop” (syrup) filling, involving brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and “pancake syrup” in various proportions. Eventually I settled on a recipe and went full steam ahead!
I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting holiday baking recipes– my favorites are desserts that are rich, gooey, highly decorated, or a combination of all three. However, sometimes you just want a break from the elaborate stuff and just need something deliciously simple… something you can idly nibble on between multiple courses of festive holiday food without overdoing things.
Enter the butter cookie. Basic butter cookies are amazingly versatile, and can be flavored with all sorts of things without losing their elegant simplicity. In this case I decided to go with a kick of black pepper to set them apart from the crowd. I know that black pepper isn’t exactly an original idea for holiday cookies– Swedish pepperakor are well-known– but most recipes combine pepper with other warm spices and flavors, like cinnamon and molasses. Here, the butter and vanilla background really lets the floral notes of the black pepper come through– it’s not immediately apparent, but after a moment the flavor fills your mouth and it’s nicely aromatic. The pepper flavor becomes a touch stronger as you store the cookies, so keep that in mind– I thought these were even better on the third day than when freshly baked!
I fried up a bunch of bacon last week to make a savory bread pudding (for the record, it was kale/bacon/onion bread pudding and it was amazing), and found myself with almost half a cup of leftover bacon fat. I poured it into a ramekin to chill in the fridge, and set about trying to figure out what I could use it in.
With the advent of chillier weather, biscuits seemed to fit the bill nicely. I decided to substitute chilled bacon fat for butter, and to punch up the flavor with some wilting green onions and some cheddar cheese I found in the fridge. Basically these biscuits were a delicious way to use my leftovers, and they turned out wonderfully!
When we were invited to a pumpkin-carving party in anticipation of Halloween, I knew three things– 1) I was going to carve a fabulous pumpkin; 2) I was going to bring dessert; and 3) that dessert would also have to include pumpkin.
Last year for this event I made cupcakes– these cupcakes, to be exact— but while they were delicious and well-received, they were kind of a pain to transport in my two-tier cupcake carrier, while carrying a pumpkin. Also, cupcakes aren’t the ideal serving size for parties where there’s a buffet’s worth of food options– too big for people who want to sample multiple desserts. So this year I decided to solve both problems and make pumpkin bars.
Oh my god, these are really, really good. I knew they would be since I’d had them at Toro Boston as part of a tasting menu and swooned over them then, but I didn’t quite believe that the recipe I found online would be a perfect replica. I was wrong.
What is this culinary wonder, you ask? An uni bocadillo (translated as sandwich or snack). That’s right, a sandwich made with uni– sea urchin roe (okay, it’s really the entire gonads of the urchin, but “roe” sounds more appetizing so let’s go with that). When I first tasted it at Toro I was blown away by the delicate sweetness and seafood flavor of the roe– it was rich and creamy and luxurious, and I couldn’t get enough of it! The waiter described it as “like a grilled cheese, only with uni,” and it was a fair assessment– the creamy uni worked perfectly with the buttery toasted bread, and it really did remind me of a very upscale grilled cheese sandwich.
I’ve been making these muffins for years now, and they are invariably hailed by my friends as “the best muffins ever.” They’re moist, tender, with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and spices, and studded with white chocolate chips and pecans as nice surprises in the middle. I tend to make them in fall (our freezer always has a batch ready to defrost for snacks at this time of year) but have been known to make them on a whim out-of-season– they’re that good! Make them yourself if you don’t believe me, and you will be converted!
I will note that the recipe below makes 12 muffins, but if you don’t want to find yourself with half a can of leftover pumpkin and half a bag of leftover chocolate chips, you may as well make a double-batch. You won’t regret it!
So my daughter started junior kindergarten this fall, and while she’s allowed to bring nuts to school in her lunches (Hallelujah! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the win!), her lunch period is at 11:00 am– making it necessary for her to have a filling, healthy snack for later in the afternoon. Snacks, unfortunately, are required to be completely peanut and tree nut-free due to an allergy in her class, so I’m going to have to get creative this year to find things that will work for a quick pick-me-up.
I immediately thought of homemade granola bars– they’re easy to make, infinitely versatile, and can be tailored to her personal tastes as well as being reasonably healthy. I’d made these thick, chewy granola bars from Smitten Kitchen before with good results, so I decided to adapt the recipe to omit the nuts and substitute seeds and extra dried fruit (and chocolate). I ended up going with pepitas, sunflower seeds, and millet (added a crispy texture to the mix), along with dried blueberries, cranberries, and dates. The combination worked very well, and it was a success with the whole family!