Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

DSC_4914I went to Nashville last weekend with my mom and sister to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday.  We had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry Friday night, and I almost didn’t make it due to my original morning flight being canceled.  It was a testament to my determination of not letting things rattle me during the course of the weekend.  I spent the duration of Friday morning on the phone with Delta trying to get on an earlier flight than the 6:30 p.m. flight they rescheduled me for.  I was told to call back every 30-60 minutes and see if any seats had opened up on flights leaving throughout the day.   I succeeded and got on a 1:45 p.m. direct flight.  I immediately took a deep breath and gave myself an internal high-five for not stressing out about it all morning.  Instead, I chose to do everything I could to get myself to Nashville in time for the Opry.

Nashville is an incredible city, and the Opry specifically felt like a mystical place.  I grew up watching Grand Ole Opry shows on television, and I think anything that appeared larger than life to you as a kid always carries some fascination as an adult.  Restless Heart was the first act to perform.  They sang two of their popular hits from the 80’s, and I was immediately transported back to the house we lived in when I was 7 years old.  Although I don’t have a lot of pleasant memories from my childhood, hearing these old songs (particularly with my mom and sister sitting next to me) gave me the warm fuzzies.  It was one of those scenarios where you make a memory within a memory.  Do you know what I mean?  Experiencing the Opry with my mom and sister will always be memorable to me because of the feelings that it stirred up from previous memories.
DSC_4894If you’ve ever been to Nashville you will know that I am not exaggerating when I say that it might just be one of the best food cities in the entire country.  I was prepared to eat some good BBQ, but I was not prepared to be hit over the head with deliciousness at every turn.  I prepared a spreadsheet of recommended restaurants before we left.  I wasn’t messing around.  We went to Jack’s for brisket, mac and cheese, and coleslaw.  I don’t think I left a drop of food on my plate.  The following day we went to Swett’s, which is basically a cafeteria-style restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  Their fried chicken is TO DIE FOR.  I could have easily eaten an entire bucket of chicken, but I wanted to save room for the peach cobbler.  When in Rome, people.  Because of the gluttony that ensued over the course of the weekend I wasn’t too hungry for our last meal Sunday night, but I knew that I wanted something local.  My mom and I decided to split a pulled pork sandwich, which is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches (along with a Cubano).  I’ve never had a pulled pork sandwich where you could actually taste the smokiness in the meat.  I think I moaned with every bite I took.
DSC_4897I love rosemary.  It’s hands-down my favorite herb.  I have yet to pair it with something that doesn’t taste incredible.  Savory cookies are becoming popular here in NYC, and I’ve tried a few over this past year.  They aren’t my favorite thing, but I did try a lemon rosemary sugar cookie a few months ago that was so good I made a mental note to try and find a similar recipe to make for my blog.  I think shortbread is the perfect foil for almost any flavor due the buttery richness of the cookie.  I found a lemon shortbread recipe as well as a rosemary shortbread recipe, so I decided to combine them into one recipe and see how it turned out.   Perfection.  The lemon brightens up the richness of the cookie while the rosemary gives it that nice earthy, herbaciousness that rounds out the overall flavor.  They are the perfect summer cookie to pair with your afternoon coffee or tea.
DSC_4907Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cube
1 egg white
sugar

1.  Blend first 6 ingredients in food processor.  Add butter; pulse until moist clumps form.
2.  Gather dough into ball.  Wrap with plastic wrap and form into a log.
3.  Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
5.  Cut 1/4″-sized discs from log and place on baking sheet.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each cookie with a slightly beaten egg white.  Sprinkle with sugar.
6.  Bake cookies until light golden, about 17-20 minutes.
7.  Cool pan on rack for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove cookies onto rack with a spatula.  Cool completely.

Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce

DSC_4941Many moons ago, I had a friend who I met at my first job in New York.  She was lots of fun and we hit it off right away.  We’ve since lost touch, but I still look back on those days fondly.  She showed me the grittier side of New York, when I was still caught up in an image of New York consisting primarily of my Upper West Side neighborhood.  She grew up in a suburb of New York and had endless stories about sneaking into Manhattan as a teenager.   She would go to clubs, drink alcohol, experiment with drugs, and get involved with older men.  Having grown up in a very small town in Minnesota myself, it all sounded to scandalous and exciting to me.  I felt like I missed out on an important teenage rite of passage.

My friend—I’ll call her Sara—was always very encouraging to me on the dating front.  She persuaded me to jump headfirst into dating and gave me the confidence to believe that New York men would find me charming.  One morning Sara came into the office and said she had someone in mind for me; she wanted to set us up on a blind date.  The guy she had in mind worked as a fishmonger in her neighborhood, and apparently he was really nice and very handsome.  She said he looked like Tyson Beckford, the male model (remember him??).  Of course I immediately felt inept and had a million reasons why it would not be a good idea for me to date someone who looked like a MALE MODEL.  But Sara would not hear any of it.  She insisted we meet each other and was sure that we would each enjoy the other’s company.
DSC_4920He and I met up at a bar/restaurant in the Lower East Side that I frequented on the weekends.  I figured even if we didn’t hit it off, I knew the place had good food and excellent live music.  She was right:  he was gorgeous and looked uncannily like Tyson Beckford.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have much else to offer.  He was boring as hell.  At one point, we started discussing movies and I started to perk up a bit since I am an avid movie-goer and love talking about interesting films.  However, I’ll never forget when he said, “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘bad movie’.”  That’s when I knew the date was over.  Done.  Finished.  Check, please!

Dud or not, I guess you could say he was thoughtful, if not somewhat oddball-ish about his thoughtfulness.  Because he worked as a fishmonger, he brought me a COUPLE OF POUNDS of swordfish.  On the date.  He brought it to the restaurant, like it was a box of chocolates.  I think Sara must have told him that I liked to cook.  At the time I remember thinking:  Ok, well this is something.  I’ll learn how to make swordfish!  But when I opened up the package the next day it stunk to the high heavens.  I swear to god that fish was rotten, which means a man brought me a bag of rotten fish on a date.  To this day, I can’t eat swordfish.  In fact, I can’t really eat any steak-like (white) fish that is reminiscent of swordfish.  I’ll eat tuna all the live-long day.
DSC_4930That said, I think it’s curious that I was not able to eat this sea bass that I made the other night.  I’ve had sea bass countless times at restaurants in New York and it’s always delicious.  I’d never attempted making it before, simply because it is a mucho expensive fish.  However, I figured it was worth the splurge since I would be sharing the recipe on my blog.  There is absolutely no chopping of anything for this recipe, but you do have to own a food processor, as many things need to be pureed.  I loved the chickpea puree and the parsley sauce.  I could have eaten 10 bowls of each of these.  But the fish was just too evocative of that horrible swordfish experience and I couldn’t get past the texture.  If you like meaty fish, you will really enjoy this dish.  My husband raved about the fish and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat it.  He likened it to me turning down a good burger.  Touché.
DSC_4936Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
Four 6-oz. skinless sea bass fillets (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
4 fresh bay leaves
4 small rosemary springs, plus 1/2 tsp. minced rosemary
2 cups lightly packed parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Two 15-oz. cans chickpeas. rinsed and drained
1/2 small garlic glove

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line and rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a medium baking dish, mix 1/4 cup of the olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon zest and the paprika.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the fish to the marinade and turn to coat, then nestle the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs between the fillets.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the parsley with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the water and puree until nearly smooth.  With the machine on, gradually add 1/2 cup of the oil until incorporated.  Season the parsley sauce with salt and pepper.
5.  In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the garlic, minced rosemary, 1 cup of water and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; puree until smooth.  Scrape the puree into a medium saucepan and season with salt and pepper.  Stir over moderately low heat until hot, about 5 minutes; keep warm over very low heat.
6.  Remove the fish from the marinade.  Gently roll up the fillets and set them seam side down on the prepared baking sheet.
7.  Roast for about 12 minutes, until just cooked through.  Spoon the chickpea puree onto plates and top with the fish.  Drizzle on the parsley sauce and serve.

Nutella Scones

DSC_4843I was feeling very discombobulated last week.  Serving on jury duty in the middle of Long Island meant I had a two-hour commute every morning and evening.  I would leave home at 7 a.m. and not return until almost 7 p.m.  For some people, this might describe a normal day.  Regardless, it is a long day and doesn’t leave much time, if any, for self-care, exercise, etc.  Up until my first week of jury duty, I had been cherishing the fact that I was finally making self-care a routine part of my day.  I recently experienced a mental shift:  instead of dreading yoga, I was looking forward to going to classes twice a week.  So two weeks of not having time for this (or any exercise) left me feeling very frazzled and anxious.

By the time I got home at the end of last week, I realized I was experiencing emotions I hadn’t had in almost 6 weeks.  Nothing seemed to sate my overwhelming feelings—I wanted to eat garbage and didn’t care what it tasted like.  I tried a few bites of several different things but nothing seemed to fill the void.  That should have been my first sign that something was off.  I felt like a foreigner in my own body.  I thought some mindless television might do the trick, but I tried a few of my favorite sitcoms and that didn’t numb the pain either.  It’s a very helpless sensation when you can’t figure out what it is you need in a specific moment.  It’s like trying to figure out what a crying baby needs, but you’re the baby and you feel like you should know what your 38-year-old self needs or wants.  I eventually curled up in bed with a book and decided to take some deep breaths to quiet my mind.
DSC_4819I reminded myself that the crazy two weeks were over and that my normal schedule would resume next week.  I really wanted to beat myself up for feeling so thrown-off after just two weeks of not having any free time.  But I stopped myself.  Given the circumstances, I think I did a pretty good job of staying centered.  I ate healthy and focused on maintaining a positive outlook despite the horrible things I was listening to every day in the courtroom.  I went to yoga class Saturday morning and, man, was it hard.  I felt a lot of anger doing many of the poses, but I told myself I was detoxifying all of the feelings from the previous two weeks.  I let the anger rise to the surface and then watched it disappear.  And that is one of the things I love so much about yoga:  it forces you to stay present and not react to feelings as they arise.  By the time class was over, I felt reset and ready for the weekend.
DSC_4824I love Nutella, and believe it would taste good on or in almost any baked good, so I was eager to try this recipe.  It’s another one from the Baked cookbook.  I’ve had much success with the recipes of theirs I’ve tried thus far, so I was confident that this would be yet another recipe victory.  However, I thought these were just mediocre.  Although, my disclaimer is that I’m not a huge scone fan so that might be part of it.  Mr. K, on the other hand, loves these scones.  He thinks I am crazy for giving them a so-so rating.  Perhaps they just needed to be slathered with a bit more Nutella and I would have come around on these.  Let me know what you think!
DSC_4827Nutella Scones
Adapted from Baked Explorations

Yield:  6 to 8 scones

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Nutella

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until combined.
3.  Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and cream.
5.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together.  Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands.  Add the toasted hazelnuts and knead gently  to incorporate.
6.  Flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 6 to 12 inches and spread 1/4 cup of the Nutella on top in a crisscross pattern.  Roll the dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high.  Do not overwork the dough.
7.  Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
8.  Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.  Do not overbake.
9.  Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble the Nutella Scones
1.  Heat the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds on high.
2.  Pierce the tops of the scones a few times with a fork.  Use a spoon to drip the warm Nutella in a zigzag pattern over the tops of the hot scones.
3.  Transfer them to a refrigerator to set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.