Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies! Who DOESN’T love them? The churlish people, that’s who, you know the ones I mean. Those sour, pinch-lipped joykills with hearts of black, black stone. People who, for whatever reason, just don’t have a sweet tooth. People whose doctors have advised them to maintain a cookie-free lifestyle. People with gluten intolerance. Er. Look, I’ll come in again.

Cookies! Who DOES love them?

While you’re enjoying that, have a little bit of history. No extra charge.

It’s not always possible to identify the exact time and place a recipe was invented, or with whom it originated, but with the chocolate chip cookie, we can. Not only do we know exactly who invented it, when, and where, but we also know that, somewhat bizarrely, it was invented before the chocolate chip.

In 1938 Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA, made a small change in the recipe for her butterscotch cookies, substituting a chopped-up chocolate bar. It became so popular and renowned that Nestlé not only permanently added the name of her restaurant to their baking chocolate bars, but also began to sell packets of ready-made chips specifically to be added to this recipe.

Sadly, the inn burned down in 1985, and now the Toll House sign at the Inn’s original location only welcomes you to a Walgreen’s parking lot.

Where the Toll House was. Don't worry, it's a big lot. nobody will hear your sobs.

Where the Toll House was. Don’t worry, it’s a big lot, nobody will hear your sobs.

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Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Olives and Feta

Happy July 4th! Of course, this blog post is pre-recorded, so you’re probably reading this on July 6th, (or August 23rd if you’ve just got around to cleaning out your spam folder. Not judging!), but as we write this, it is a wonderfully sunny and warm July 4th, and we’re all sitting in the garden, grilling burgers and drinking beers – the sound of laughter and ball games percolates across the neighborhood, fireworks are starting down by the Hudson River and … Okay, I can’t keep this up, it’s pissing down, it’s been storming heavily for two days straight, the garden is basically flooded, and the only people enjoying a ball game are the German World Cup team. We’re sitting in our living room eating dry crackers and watching a Star Trek: Next Generation marathon (in between World Cup matches, of course). We downloaded a firework app on our iPad. Wheeeee. Look, that one’s in the shape of a hot dog. Happy now? Are you? Are you happy? *Sobs*

Tomorrow (yesterday for you) will be (was) sunny and warm, so fireworks, grilling, drinking and general merriment has been postponed a day. But here’s the thing. Some dishes are better prepared the day before, and left to marinade for a day. And, lucky us, this salad is one of them.
Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Olives and Feta

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Pickled RampsYeah, yeah. I know ramp season is over but I made these a while ago and they were so good I decided to blog them anyway. When it comes to ramps, it’s really the green leaves that are incredibly perishable so every once in a while, you can find just the bulbs for sale long after you stop finding the leaves. But what to do with them?

You may have guessed that I’m fond of making pickles. What’s that? Oh, that’s just Matt running in to the room holding a jar of brined pencils, screaming “Obsessed! You’re obsessed”.  Fine. Yes. I’ll admit it. I love pickled red onions, radishes, cucumbers, even grapes.

So it should come as no surprise that when I found the last batch of ramp bulbs hidden away in a overlooked corner of our local market, I immediately decided to preserve them in a delicious, sweet/tart brine.

You can use these beauties anywhere you would use pickled onions (on sandwiches, tacos, bean dishes, etc). I also really love them sliced up in this Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Feta.

Pickled Ramps

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Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

SCENE 1. INTERIOR. DAY. It’s brutally hot outside. Matt and Emily (plus a dog, two cats and five chickens) are sprawled all over the living room, fanning themselves.

MATT:

It’ll be July 4th soon! We should make something appropriately red, white, and blue, like you Americans (sniff)… enjoy.

EMILY:

First, (waving citizenship papers) that’s *we* Americans, buddy, and second, what do we have in the pantry that’s red and blue?

MATT:

I WILL FIND OUT. (Matt disappears into the pantry for several hours. Cue special effect of the hands of a wall clock spinning forward. Eventually he re-appears with a can of tomatoes and a ball of blue string.)

EMILY:

(Long, long pause). What other colors do we have?

MATT:

(Chews on the ball of blue string, thoughtfully, and looks out of window at the deck, where a Triffid-like mass of herbs threatens to destroy the house.) Green. Lots and lots of green.

EMILY:

THAT GIVES ME AN IDEA.(Grabs sunglasses and a large pair of scissors, heads outside.) Get ready to be…(lowers sunglasses enough to peer over them)…REFRESHED.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

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Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Thyme

I like to think of myself as an organized person. I mean, I’m a film editor, for chrissakes. I basically organize millions of digital moments into a cohesive story for a living. So why is it that I cannot, for the life of me, plan ahead and shop for a week’s worth of recipes?

Is it because I was raised in New York City, where 24-hour bodegas and Korean markets permit, nay, encourage a person to decide at 11pm that they’re going to make a Chard Onion and Goat Cheese Tart even though there is neither chard, onion or goat cheese in the house? Why are you looking at me like I’m attempting to deflect blame for my questionable decisions? Ahem. Anyway, now I live in the boonies and that means I either have to:

A. Get organized and make a menu plan and corresponding shopping list at the beginning of each week.

B. Hit the lottery so I can hire a personal chef (one who allows me to post their recipes all over the internet and hover over their shoulder taking pictures as they cook).

C. Create delicious things that use pantry staples almost exclusively so I can continue my reckless and dangerously chaotic lifestyle.

Guess which one I chose?

I almost always have everything on hand for this recipe and, luckily, it also happens to be incredibly good. Obviously if  you eat chicken and enjoy crispy things, nothing’s going to beat real fried chicken but I think we can all agree that deep-frying is not really an option for an easy, healthy, weeknight dinner. This chicken though, is all those things and more. It gets great flavor from the tangy mustard, garlic and thyme and develops a crunchy, golden brown crust.

I also make a simple yogurt sauce to go with it (if I remember to make or buy yogurt), but it’s equally good with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of Maldon salt over the top.

Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Thyme

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Rhubarb Curd Tartlets with Mascarpone Cream and Berries

So you’ve made a batch of delicious Rhubarb-Lemon Curd. Well done, sir or lady! Now I suppose you want to know what you can do with it (other than devour it slathered on toast or Pound Cake, or, let’s be honest, from a spoon straight out of the jar). [Matt says: "What's wrong with that?" Actually, he has a spoonful of rhubarb curd in his mouth at this very moment, so it's more like "Mwro rong wiwa?"]

These are all perfectly respectable options but if you really want to step it up a notch, you could use it as a filling in a tiny little tart, slather it with whipped vanilla-flecked mascarpone cream and top it with beautiful, local, peak-season berries.

To me, these beauties just scream “Summer!” as well as “July 4th!” and also, “Eat me quick, before anyone knows you made me!” (also, “Our deep orange egg yolks turned the curd into an unfortunate beige hue, so whipped cream and berries are a perfect and delicious disguise”). Very long-winded tarts, these.

Rhubarb Curd Tartlets with Whipped Mascarpone and Berries

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Rhubarb Curd

Only 5 ingredients needed!

Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

Oh hello, I didn’t see you there.  Sorry, I was just recording some crowd noises. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, rhubarb. Lovely vegetable, er, fruit, er, whatever it is (it’s a vegetable).

We’re not yet growing rhubarb ourselves, but enough of our local farms seem to be doing so now that it’s relatively cheap and abundant. When we lived in the city, buying rhubarb always seemed to be an “either/or” proposition: we could either buy rhubarb, or we could pay our rent. We really had to have a plan for it ahead of time. That’s not the case now, and we’ll gladly buy it when it looks good, and then figure out what to do with it afterwards.

Our first batch this summer went into a crumble (eaten too fast to blog). The next batch became cocktails. Now we’re on to batch number three. We’ve already got a great recipe for lemony lemon curd, and one day Emily walked into the kitchen, eyed the pile of rhubarb, and said, “What do you think of making rhubarb curd? Is that even a thing?”

It sounded pretty good, and with a little research we discovered that yes, it was a thing, but the various recipes floating around the internet seemed deficient in one way or another. Many were extremely complicated, requiring a double-boiler and an excessive number of steps. Others were insufficiently rhubarby, and if there’s one thing I require from a rhubarb recipe, it’s that it at least has the decency to taste of rhubarb. So we decided to nerd-up our own version (translation: simplify and improve flavor).

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Miso-Ginger Grilled Eggplant

Do you like eggplant? (Or, as my fancy European husband calls it, “aubergine”; oh, la de dah.) I really like eggplant. In fact, until recently, I had no idea that so many people really, really, really hate it. I know, shocking! (I’m easily shocked).

If you find yourself in the “hate” camp, might I respectfully suggest that maybe you just haven’t found the right recipe yet? (I’m a total hypocrite because celery is my Kryptonite and there is nothing and no one that will make me change my mind about that).

But we’re talking about you here. Don’t try to change the subject.

To be fair, it can be a little tricky to work with. If you’ve ever tried to cook eggplant with very little oil (I have), it becomes tough and leathery. No thanks. If you use too much oil, it can be greasy and heavy. Also no thanks.

That’s why I either like to roast it in a hot oven or, even better, grill it. Both methods work well because you can control exactly how much oil to use, allowing it to become tender and charred, without soaking up cups of oil.

Now on to the sauce. For me, the pairing of eggplant and miso is one of those perfect things. It’s like peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and chocolate, for that matter). Hey, now I want peanut butter.

In winter months, I roast eggplant in the oven, brush on the miso glaze and then run it under the broiler until it caramelizes. Now that it’s grilling season, it’s even easier.

Miso-Ginger Grilled Eggplant

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Asian-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

Drizzled with Miso Glaze from Miso-Ginger Grilled Eggplant

One of the main things I was excited about when we moved out of the city was being able to grill. Clearly I love to cook, but since NYC + outdoor space = $$$, it wasn’t until we moved to Beacon that trying to cook outside was even possible.

That’s why I can’t believe it’s already June and we’re just now grilling for the first time this summer.  Silly Cliftons!

We’re making up for it though with an all-grilled dinner (this delicious steak as well as Miso-Ginger Grilled Eggplant.) Yum.

In this case, I used a flat-iron steak (known as butlers’ steak in the UK) but flank steak is easier to find and either works well. Just make sure not to overcook it, let it rest after grilling and most importantly of all, slice it thinly against the grain.

Cutting against the grain:
  • If you look closely at the meat (especially visible in cuts like flat-iron, flank and skirt), you’ll see little lines running across it. That’s the grain. Hold your knife crosswise to the grain and cut thin slices.
  • If you cut WITH the grain: tough and stringy.
  • If you cut AGAINST the grain: like buttah.
Asian-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

These gorgeous flowers came from our friends Larry and Catherine’s garden … eyes front, soldier.

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