- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: PATIENTLY WAITING FOR SPRING
- PANTRY DINNER: TORTELLINI SOUP
- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: DRAFT HORSES, BIG SKY, MONTANA
- A BOWLFUL OF LASAGNA
- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: FLY ME TO THE MOON
- SUNDAY BAKING: GOLD NUGGET BREAD
- COFFEE-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER STEAKS with CREAMY CARROT SAUCE
- SUNDAY BAKING: NEWLY MINTED BROWNIES and THE REST OF WINTER
- NEW YEAR’S EVE, 2013
- THE DAY IN PICTURES: CATS AND BOXES
- Breads & Pizzas
- DID YOU KNOW…..?
- DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
- Hors d'oeuvres
- Ice Creams & Sorbets
- INFORMATION FRIDAY
- Meatless Monday
- Pantry Dinners
- Pies & Tarts
- Quick Breads
- RECIPE TESTING
- Side Dishes
- Solitary Cook
- SUNDAY BAKING
- SUNDAY SUPPER
- TELL ME A STORY
- THE BEGINNING: INTO THE DEEP END
- THE DAY IN PICTURES
- The Freezer is Your Friend
- THE WEEK IN PICTURES
- WEEKNIGHT DINNER
- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY
I am so over comfort foods. They’ve been working hard to try to keep me happy since early November. Which was all very well and good in the early months. But five months in, I’m weary of soups and stews. I’d sooner contemplate cat food than boeuf bourguignon. I’m sick of sweaters. I’ve developed a deep dislike of heavy coats and bulky boots. Ordinarily, I love the thought of, and even long for, a Sunday spent beneath blankets on the couch with a book, a pot of tea, and a cat. But these are no ordinary times, and I’ve even had my fill of all that. I’m ready for some discomfort.
I want to hike with the dogs very early in the morning before the rattlesnakes wake up. I want to sit in the Sunday morning shade of my front porch in my pajamas and inhale deeply over that first cup of coffee as the street slowly wakes up. I want to stretch out under my ash trees and lap at a coffee-laden popsicle while reading a book. I want to ride a bike. I want to sweat.
Today, though, I worked up a sweat shoveling the latest foot of snow. Again. I probably should have done it yesterday, but the wind was so fierce that trying to move snow anywhere would have been fruitless. An open patch would have drifted over within minutes. I’ve been feeding the dogs out of mixing bowls in the kitchen for a couple of days because their own were buried beneath a two-foot-deep drift on the back deck. I dug those out today, too. Being fed inside out of strange vessels confuses the dogs terribly. They’re border collies, and changes to their routine cause them to pause, furrowing their brows over an apparent shift of the world’s axis.
It might have been nice to get shoveling out of the way first thing this morning, but I decided to let the temperature move a bit closer to zero. Call me a wimp, but just stepping outside at minus 15 is like being slapped.
So I talked myself into starting yet another pot of soup while waiting. First, I needed some vegetable stock, a wonderful thing to make because it can be such a movable feast. We always have onions on hand, right? And those little cloves at the center of a head of garlic? Save them up and toss them into the pot. Carrots (peeled), celery, mushroom stems – or even the whole mushroom if it’s looking a little tired. Put it all in a pot and fill it to cover everything by about three inches with cold water. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it bubble gently until reduced by about half. Set a large bowl in the sink and set a colander in it. Pour the stock into the colander and discard the vegetables.
VEGETABLE STOCK Yields about 1 quart
2 onions, stem ends removed, cut into eighths
Small cloves of garlic – 3 or so
5 carrots peeled, ends removed, cut into 1″ chunks
5 stalks of celery, ends removed, cut into 1″ chunks
2 quarts cold water
This soup’s greatest comfort comes from the fact that it pretty much presented itself straight out of the pantry. Every trip out is a white-knuckled one these days. Streets are so glassy they veritably gleam. It’s like driving on a skating rink. I don’t drive unless I absolutely have to, and today I didn’t.
TORTELLINI SOUP – Makes enough for two dinners
Clearly, I’m taking some liberties with the rule that tortellini be served in a broth. Strictly speaking, there is broth at play here; but given our never-ending winter, I needed something more substantial. Too, the whole combination just sounded so good.
2 cloves garlic smashed, peeled, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced (tell me, please, that you keep a plant on your windowsill)
15-ounce can garbanzo beans
15-ounce can tomatoes (I like Muir Glen’s Fire-Roasted)
16 ounces vegetable stock
2 tablespoons dry white rice
1 cup dry tortellini
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
1. Add enough olive oil to a soup pot to cover the bottom. Warm it over medium heat.
2. Open the cans of garbanzo beans and tomatoes. When hot, add the garlic and rosemary to the pot. Stir it around for a few seconds until nicely fragrant. Add the garbanzo beans and tomatoes along with all their juices, then add the vegetable stock. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer.
3. You’re going to grind the dry rice into a powder which is going to lend a subtle, silky body to your soup. First, clean your coffee grinder by filling it with oatmeal and grinding it until very fine. Dump the oatmeal and brush out its dust. Add the rice and grind it to a fine powder. Brush out the coffee grinder again. Once the soup has reached a simmer, stir in the rice powder. Continue cooking the soup for 15 minutes, giving it a stir now and then.
4. I always have dry tortellini in the pantry. I love them in salads (after they’ve been cooked, of course); they make a good, fast, late dinner at the end of a long, long day; and obviously, they are wonderful in soups. Cook them separately; if you try to cook them in the soup, there is a chance they will absorb too much liquid and leave the soup too dense. Barilla is my favorite brand; they cook up to a silken softness that other brands seem to lack. At my elevation, they take about 12 minutes in boiling, salted water; when done, drain them through a colander and add them to your soup. Serve immediately, with some grated Parmesan if you wish. Or not, as you wish.
I set the stock to simmer while I shoveled, and once it was done, the soup itself came together in about 20 minutes. As I was excavating for the dog’s bowls, I heard a familiar chirrup. A beautiful little hairy woodpecker has been frequenting the suet feeder in my back yard this winter, and there he was on this cold, cold day, a bright and cheerful flash of color in a too-white world.
Surely the world will realign to its proper tilt one day soon and a new season will bring new comforts.
Winter has loosened its grip on us. Finally. It’s been a near constant assault of snow and bitterly cold temperatures for longer than any season really needs to last. Suddenly, within the space of literally a handful of days, we went from a low one morning of 22 degrees below zero to 48 this afternoon, a stunning difference of 66 degrees. My backyard, which resembled a polar ice cap, has melted and thawed so quickly that it’s become a bog. I could grow cranberries in it.
It was a relief to finally get myself and the dogs out for a good, long hike this afternoon. I love Monday holidays. It’s like getting a second Sunday, as though life hits the Pause button for a day. We went to our favorite spot down on the river. I knew it would be muddy; my boots were nearly pulled from my feet a few times. And I didn’t care one bit. It was wonderful to be outside under blue skies, and to breathe air warmed by the sun, not a furnace.
The dogs ran longer and farther and faster than I’ve seen them do in a while. They were wet, smiling, doggy-smelling messes by the time we headed back, and again, I absolutely didn’t care. They badly needed to get out and just be dogs.
With warmer weather and longer days, I feel the culinary currents beginning to flow once more. January is a bugger for me. December is such a race to the finish line that by its end I feel like the Tailor of Gloucester: “Alak, I am worn to a raveling.” The shortest day of the year has come and gone, yet still, come January, daylight hours are too few. The bottom falls out of the thermometer. My mojo goes into hibernation. Thank heaven for frozen ziplock bags of thises and thats. Many nights, I tiptoed the truck home on glassy streets, fed the animals, warmed up something for dinner – honestly, it almost didn’t matter what – after drawing curtains against the frigid dark. Before I sat down to eat, I’d set my electric blanket to Roast in anticipation of the day’s high point when I climbed into bed with a book and a pot of tea and a couple of cats right after dinner. One day was pretty much like another and they appeared endless. Today was a much-needed tonic. I am restored.
This morning I saw a photo that a friend from work had posted on her Facebook page with the caption, “Is it a Pasta?!?! Is it a soup?!?!? Or is is just AWESOME?!?!” Well, the only description that came to mind was that it looked like a bowl full of a soup-ish version of lasagna. And after a day outside in a somewhat bracing wind, it seemed the perfect way to return to cooking. I took some liberties with the dish in the photo and added some grilled baguette slices topped with melted Mozzarella, because why not gild the lily?
Thank you deeply, Shawn. I needed this.
4 to 6 servings, depending how generous you are
1 yellow onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, minced
1 pound ground beef or ground bison (I used bison *)
8 ounces red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 28-ounce can tomatoes **
16 ounces beef stock
8 sheets of lasagna noodles, broken up and cooked separately
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
Slices of baguette
Slices of fresh Mozzarella
* Bison is significantly more lean and higher in protein than beef. Even better, it isn’t loaded with water when processing, so it will actually brown rather than poach. And best of all, it doesn’t give off that wet dog smell when cooking, as ground beef does. The wet dog smell in my house? From wet dogs.
** I keep cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes in the pantry. Once you’ve opened them, use scissors to cut them up right in the can.
1. Warm a stainless steel soup pot over medium heat. Film the bottom with olive oil. When it’s hot (watch it; it will shimmer or “ribbon”), add the onions and sauté them along with a pinch of salt until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté it until is is fragrant. Break up the ground meat with your hands, dropping it into the pot in chunks. Stir it around, breaking the chunks up with a spoon. Cook it, stirring it now and then, until it browns nicely, about 7 minutes.
2. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and stock, scraping up browned bits of meat from the bottom of the pot.
Bring everything to a simmer, cover the pot but leave the lid a bit ajar, and reduce heat to just maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until flavors are well blended and concentrated, about 30 minutes.
3. Just before serving, bring a separate pot of well salted water (it should taste like the ocean) to a boil. Break the lasagna noodles into pieces of about an inch square and add them to the boiling water.
Cook them for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. They won’t be completely done at that point. Drain them through a colander, then stir them into the stew and let them finish cooking in the stew for about 3 minutes, effectively thickening it. Taste it, and season it to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, and pinches of red pepper flakes.
4. While the pasta is cooking, cut two slices of baguette per person, and brush each side with olive oil. Set them on a baking sheet. Preheat your broiler, and place the baking sheet beneath it. When both sides are well browned, remove the pan from the oven and set a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread. Return the bread to the broiler, and allow the cheese to melt and brown on top.
5. To serve, ladle some stew into each bowl. Set two cheesy baguette slices on top of each.
For a dinner like this, I could almost be glad that it’s technically still winter.
When I first began making an iteration of this bread years ago, my sister felt I’d finally taken a serious birdwatching habit a step too far. I’ll admit, the idea did come to me as I was filling feeders one morning. Outside my restaurant, I had several of them distributed under the eaves overhanging a long set of dining room windows that looked over a creek. Bird life was abundant, and when the room was quiet, we could hear the crunch of seeds as goldfinches, junkos, and pine siskins lunched alongside us.
I came to wonder if tiny, golden globes of millet (from the bulk bins of a natural foods store, not the bucket of bird seed, just so you know) would lend a similar, satisfying crunch to bread. And so it does.
GOLD NUGGET BREAD
6 3/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup uncooked millet
1/4 cup ground flax seed (because your body absorbs its many nutrients better when it is ground)
2 tablespoons whole flax seed (lovely, and its texture so satisfying)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1.5 teaspoons instant)
2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
10 ounces hot tap water
10 ounces milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey
2 ounces neutral oil (I like corn oil) for the dough, plus a tablespoon for oiling the bowl
1. Measure the flour, millet, ground and whole flax seeds, yeast and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Swish the dough hook through everything to disperse the yeast.
2. Run 10 ounces of hot tap water into a measuring cup. Add 10 ounces of milk (whole, if you have it; if not, please not less than 2%). The temperatures will meet in the middle at warm. Pour the mixture into the bowl. Add the eggs, honey, and oil. Using the dough hook, mix on lowest speed until the dough comes together. Within 6 to 7 minutes, it should appear cohesive and begin to leave the sides and bottom of the bowl.
3. Don’t worry if it doesn’t do so completely. You’ll be tempted to begin heaving flour into the bowl. Don’t. You’re going to give the dough a rest period known as an autolyse. Briefly, it permits gluten strands and starches in the dough to take up moisture and expand outside the stress of kneading. Turn off the mixer. Drape a piece of plastic around the top of the bowl, and let it sit for 20 minutes.
4. At the end of the autolyse, remove the plastic (hang onto it), turn the mixer back on. You may be amazed to see what different mass your dough is. Give it a few rotations of the hook, and lo and behold, the dough will come together tightly around it, leaving the sides and bottom of the bowl clear.
Let it knead for 5 minutes. After that time, turn off the mixer and pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough. Round it up quickly between your palms, and stretch it into a windowpane over the tips of your fingers. The thinness/strength of the windowpane tells you if you have adequately developed, through kneading and the autolyse, the gluten in the dough. Gluten is the protein which quite literally holds bread up.
If your windowpane breaks or tears, toss the knob of dough back into the bowl, and knead for a couple of minutes more. Repeat the windowpane test.
5. Once you’ve achieved a good, strong windowpane, turn the dough out of the bowl and pour a tablespoon of oil into it. Use a paper towel to spread it around the sides and bottom. Don’t worry about a few specks of dough. Return the dough to the bowl and press it into place. Turn it over once, and press it down again. Cover it with your sheet of plastic. Use a piece of masking tape on the outside of the bowl to mark the dough’s level so that as it rises, you can see when it actually has doubled rather than guessing. Or hoping.
6. Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a work surface that you’ve lightly dusted with flour. A bench scraper is perfect for dividing the dough in half.
Shape it as you wish: into a conventional loaf pan (lightly oil the pan before dropping the dough into it), or as a hearth loaf. I generally prefer the latter simply because I find them so pretty.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, and set the loaves on it. Dust their tops lightly with flour, and drape your sheet of plastic over the top. Let them rise at room temperature until they have doubled in size, about 45 minutes. The second rise goes much faster than the first because of the yeast population that you have built up.
7. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375º. When the dough is ready, remove the plastic (which you can likely fold up and re-use). Use a serrated knife to carve some decorative slashes in the top. The slashes should be a good 1/2 inch deep. The purpose for slashing the bread is two-fold: it gives the dough a direction in which to expand – and if you don’t slash it, it will still expand, but in a direction it chooses, and you probably won’t like it - and it looks beautiful.
8. Place the pan in the oven. The total baking time will be about 45 minutes. Set a timer, and rotate it at the halfway point.
9. When done, remove the sheet from the oven and set the loaves on racks to cool.
I can never wait until a loaf is absolutely, completely cool before cutting into it, so I don’t expect you to, either. Try, though, to let it lose some of its heat before you have at it. Otherwise, all you’ll taste is the heat, not the bread. Or its crunch.
I used to religiously watch televised awards shows with a friend. Emmys, Globes, Academys, even the CMAs, though I’ve got to tell you that one was hard. But a couple of years ago, I began to wonder: why? One evening I left the kitchen to change over a load of laundry downstairs, and by the time I came back just minutes later, the screen was black. I could hear whatever was on, but it was as though I’d developed some sort of selective blindness. I decided it was a sign. Out the thing went, and I’ve never replaced it. I’ll never have to watch the Country Music Awards again. Whew.
Tonight the Grammy Awards are on, and I’ll be missing that, too. It’s just as well. I don’t listen to contemporary music anyway (by now you’re thinking thank heaven you don’t hang out with me). Who will win? People I’ve never heard of, singing shit I couldn’t listen to if tied to my chair. There. The suspense is over. I’ve got an entire evening to get some reading done for a class I’m taking this semester.
I’ll cuddle up to a warm Kindle while soup simmers quietly on the stove. Pour a small glass of red wine. Break off a morsel of fresh bread. Dip it gently into the wine. Watch the warm colors blend. Savor a primitive pleasure. It is Sunday, after all.
All right, referring to thick slices of cauliflower as “steaks” may be reaching a bit. But it sounds better than “slabs,” and it’s much less wordy than “thick slices of cauliflower.” Come along, please.
The daughter was here visiting for a few (too few) heavenly days. It was bitterly cold the entire time. Between dropping her at the airport very early one morning and the time she arrived home, she’d traveled 91 degrees in temperature. Okay, so I’m including our wind chill in the calculation, but I’m sure you get my drift. It was damn cold.
When we weren’t wrapped in blankets, sipping strong café au lait, reading books and napping, we bundled up and sallied forth to walk the dogs along the river, see a movie, have dinner out. And to collect groceries to cook together at home. It was such a treasure to have her here to cook for and with. Tonight, I turned on the light in her room so it wouldn’t be dark, and began dreaming up a dinner to honor her in my once-again solitary kitchen. I was thinking coffee.
I know you know how addicted I am to The Splendid Table on podcasts. A recent one featured Daniel Patterson talking about roasting vegetables over coffee beans. Well, the daughter had brought me a big, beautiful bag of espresso beans, which we enjoyed mightily, and I had a pretty little head of cauliflower just begging for something to be done with it.
Having a crisper drawer full of carrots for the bunnies (I load them up on carrots and apples in cold weather), I’d been wanting to make a carrot sauce I came across a while ago that just won’t leave me alone.
For once, I planned ahead. On Sunday I settled back in after a long hike with the dogs, and set the cauliflower to roast slowly and gently. The benefits were two-fold: it could take as long it needed to, and the house smelled amazing. And since this dinner comes together in layers, I double-checked that I had a stash of rice in the freezer. I did! I moved it to the refrigerator to thaw. A wonderful weeknight dinner would come together in a matter of minutes.
1 head cauliflower, split in half (because it’s easier to slice it into large, thick “steaks” starting from the middle), stem & leaves removed
2 ounces olive oil
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups coffee beans
1. Preheat oven to 325º. We’re going to roast the cauliflower slowly so as to permit it to be gently infused with flavor from the coffee beans.
2. Cut the cauliflower into slices about 1/2″ thick. Brush each side with olive oil, and season gently with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the coffee beans into a roasting pan large enough to contain them in a shallow layer and permit you to arrange the slices of cauliflower over them. This is very like arranging a jigsaw puzzle. A living one. Roast for about an hour, until the densest part can be easily pierced with a paring knife. Within about 15 minutes, your kitchen will begin to smell amazing. Once it was cool, I sealed it up and refrigerated it until this evening.
These beans traveled far to get here, so I’m not going to take them for granted. Rather, once cooled, I zipped them into a plastic bag to store in the freezer until I come across something else begging to be roasted over them.
CREAMY CARROT SAUCE
One of my favorite blogs is written by a Scandinavian woman who divides her time between Copenhagen and Italy. It is called Italian Notes, and details her love for all things Italian. Especially food. Read about her Tuscan Mushrooms and you’ll be booking a flight for Florence. And I’ll be your seat mate. The David? Forget it. Bring on the food markets!
I digress. As I mentioned, I’ve been dreaming of her Carrot Sauce. I have no idea why I haven’t made it before now, but suddenly I had a feeling it would make the perfect base for our roasted cauliflower. The sauce comes together very quickly; reheat it if necessary before serving. Once you make it the first time, you will start thinking of many ways to serve it.
3 carrots (use 4 if they’re on the puny side)
100 ml water (3 1/2 ounces)
50 ml olive oil (just shy of 2 ounces)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (give yourself extra points if you have a sweet Meyer lemon)
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
Ingeniously, cream is not an ingredient; rather, the puréed sauce derives its creamy, silken consistency simply from tender carrots, water, and olive oil.
Peel the carrots and remove the stem and tip ends. Cut them into 1/2″ rounds.
Cover the pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to an active simmer. Cook until the largest pieces can be very easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 5 to 8 minutes, depending how active your simmer is.
To purée them, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked carrots to a blender or food processor (it was a small enough amount that I used the blender). Add the olive oil to the carrots as they purée. Purée until absolutely, perfectly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, and adding some of the cooking water about an ounce at a time as needed to help achieve a velvety smooth consistency. Finally, add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt, if necessary, and some grinds of pepper.
A cup of your favorite rice, cooked (I had pulled a ziplock bag of Lundberg Farms Wild Blend from the freezer to the refrigerator a couple of days earlier)
2 ounces olive oil
1 ounce honey
In a small bowl, warm the olive oil and honey in a microwave for about 30 seconds using medium power. Any higher, and you’ll be cleaning up a mess. After they are warmed, whisk them together. The honey is going to play well with the sweetness of the carrots and their lemon juice, while the olive oil will bring up the subtle coffee notes.
Arrange a puddle of carrot sauce in the center of a plate. Add some spoonfuls of rice, then arrange some cauliflower slices over it, and finish with two or three spoonfuls of the honey-olive oil sauce.
I lit some candles, as we did each night. Then I picked up her dinner napkin, gave it a kiss, and spread it over my lap.
When Epiphany slipped past a few days ago, the Holidays were Officially Over. Whereupon we began the long slog through The Rest of Winter.
It’s going to give us lots of time to think over resolutions we’ve perhaps made, should have made, or at least thought about. I’m endeavoring to get through these cold days as actively as possible. The dogs need to get out every day, and, honestly, so do I. I bundle up; we sally forth. I feel virtuous, and they feel like, well, dogs. Happier ones.
One day while the daughter was here, we went down to my favorite hiking area right on the river, where a cold day was that much colder. Doing anything physical in cold weather seems to burn higher numbers of calories, be it shoveling snow, especially in amounts we’ve had this winter, or shouldering into today’s gale-force (I’m not exaggerating) wind with the dogs, who really don’t care what the weather is as long as they are out and running. On the other hand, it may simply be my imagination. But sometimes I’m content to let perception be reality.
All resolutions aside, you know that at some point, you’re going to want something darkly sweet. You know you will. These brownies are a good indulgence because they are so densely chocolatey that a small piece is extremely satisfying. The hint of mint sweetens the deal. And you don’t even have to use a mixer to make them – think of the effort as working off enough calories to justify eating them.
Maybe even double your caloric expenditure and take the mixing bowls outside.
NEWLY MINTED BROWNIES
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate *
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate *
6 ounces unsalted butter *
1/4 cup cocoa powder *
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 cup chocolate chips
* In Step 2 I’m going to explain how to safely melt chocolate in a microwave. It sounds simple enough, but it can be fraught with disaster, as I’ve unfortunately needed to learn the hard way. More than once. Because I know you. You’re going to think, oh I know what I’m doing, it will be fine. But please, take heed. That’s what I tend to think, and it’s been known to lead me into all sorts of unforeseen consequences.
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Break the bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate into pieces and place them in a microwavable bowl. Cut the butter into 1″ pieces and add them, along with the cocoa powder. You’re going to melt everything in 30-second increments. No longer. Because the point of no return is never far away. After each 30 seconds, remove the bowl and give it a shake. As the contents begin to soften, begin stirring them before adding another 30 seconds.
Within a couple of minutes, you should have something very stirable. Remove the bowl once a d for all from the microwave when you can still see some small pieces of chocolate, and stir, allowing residual heat and friction to finish melting it all. This way you won’t run the risk of scorching the chocolates. Too, it won’t be so hot that you’ll risk scrambling the eggs in the next step.
3. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs.
Add the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, whisking well after each.
4. Sift the flour and salt onto a piece of parchment and tip it into your bowl.
Switch to a spatula and stir to blend. Finally, stir in the mint extract and chocolate chips.
5. Line a 9″ square baking pan in both directions with parchment cut to fit its width. The parchment should overhang the edges by a couple of inches. This is an easy, neat way to simply lift the brownies out of the pan when they are done.
Scrape the batter into the pan and use your rubber spatula to level it.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The surface should be shiny, and the center set but not firm. They will set up considerably as they cool.
7. Remove from the oven and use the parchment “handles” to lift the brownies out of the baking pan. Set them on a rack to cool.
If having crisp, sharp edges to your brownies matters to you, wait until they are completely cool and firm before you cut them. Ideally, wrap them and let them sit overnight. On the other hand, if the immediacy of a warm brownie is more important, you can cut them sooner. This is especially nice if you have a moment that needs a great cup of coffee and a little something to go with it on a blustery Rest of Winter afternoon.
Like today. Happy slogging.
Ever since the birth of the blog, I’ve had a milestone post in mind. You know, after a benchmark number of views was reached, I would write a great big thank you. Well, as I know you also know, life gets busy. The benchmark proved to be relative, as well as extremely flexible. In other words, I procrastinated.
Actually, it proved difficult to adequately express thanks to people who watched me jump into the deep end of something and stayed alongside, even though attempts to reach more comfortable waters were often awkward, far more trial than tribulation. I wrote many drafts that I ultimately discarded. Words and phrasing felt greeting-card trite. I did not want to have a Sally Field moment.
So I waited for the idea to season, to simmer, if you will.
The waning hours of the last day of the year before the new one rolls over is a good time for giving thanks, number of views or visits or whatevers be what they may. Because the fact is that every day I am profoundly grateful to those who find their way here. I continue to be fascinated by what you look at. The Salted Lavender-Rosemary Shortbread is visited often, as is First Night in Florence Spaghetti. Challah with Herbs appears to have carried many though the holidays. Bison Ragù may have expanded peoples’ culinary horizons, while we’ve learned how to cook a really, really good bison burger. Bagels and Rustic Italian Bread and Crème Fraîche Biscuits, well, enough said.
I sometimes feel (often, actually; most of the time, honestly) that my posts get a bit wordy. When it comes to the teacherly voice, I strive for each sentence to carry important information that will help you to be a more confident and informed cook and baker. I loathe recent minimalist trends in food and recipe writing that seem designed more to encourage you to talk about the idea of cooking rather than rolling up your sleeves and just goddamn doing it. I want you to jump into the deep end! With a life preserver.
At the same time, I hope I’m getting better at weeding out what doesn’t belong. The “get it all out on the page” step in writing is all well and good, and even necessary. However, I don’t open a cupboard and dump its contents into dinner, serve it forth, and expect accolades. So I carry a ruthless editorial coach on my shoulder in the form of one of my favorite writers from whom I took a class last winter, and use it often to ask, “What would Tim say?” Frequently, the response is, “Does this belong to the subject?” When Tim Cahill asks that question, you just know the answer is no. You shut up and hit the Delete button. I will likely always digress, but hopefully in a less distracted fashion.
On a recent day, Views by Country displayed a world map dotted with visits from Singapore, Nepal, Malta (I hadn’t been entirely sure where it was), Bulgaria (13 views), Lithuania, and Kazakhstan. In addition to the U.S. And the U.K. And Australia. One of the Search Engine Terms was, “the dog and the cook when writed.” I have no idea where it originated, or what precisely it was looking for. I tried googling the phrase, and it led me everywhere but home. However that person arrived here, thank you. I hope it was worth the journey.
Happy New Year.
Basil is licking his lips in anticipation of sneaking up on Fern. For the thousandth time.
Whatever will they do when the Christmas boxes are gone?