Friday, November 5, 2010

Of Cookies, Stews, and Salads

I've never really had to apply the words 'too small' to anything I own for a while now - the kitchen in my former apartment being the singular exception. But when I was mixing up a batch of Shauna's fabulous adaptation of David Leite's 36-Hour Chocolate Chip Cookies, I actually said aloud, "This stand mixer is too small." Mostly because the dough was practically climbing up the beaters, and I just hadn't registered that 4 cups of flour and what seems to be a metric ton of butter and sugar (I know, I know, I exaggerate) could make -so- much volume.

Of course, I -was- making the dough at about 2am in the morning, which seems to be my default time for any sort of baking and cooking since I started working. So maybe that could have messed with my mental capacity a little.

Once the dough had gone into the fridge, I actually managed to let it sit there for the requisite 36 hours without yielding to the temptation to a) eat the batter raw b) bake it up.

The logic behind the 36 hours of refridgeration is beautifully explained here in David's article in the NY Times. Go read it. It's a delightful little culinary gem.

Now, I was aware that I had to bake the cookies on Friday, but for some idiotic reason (likely my 2am brain that day) I thought that 36 hours meant '24 hours x 3' instead of '12 hours x 3' and I was all geared up to bake again at 3am Saturday morning (which I consider Friday night, since it's still dark. Hush. Morning is when I wake up and not before.) And then Friday afternoon at 2pm the epiphany hit - 36 hours was actually UP, I could start baking NOW.

So I pulled the dough out of the fridge and got to work.

In retrospect I should have let the dough sit out for about half an hour, since it was rock-hard from all that congealed butter, and it would have been much easier to scoop out. As it is, I nearly broke my best metal spoon trying to carve out a chunk before sanity took over and I let it rest on the counter for a while before attempting to dig out large balls of dough with my stubby fingers and the help of said spoon.

The recipe said, 'Generous balls of dough'. So I made generous balls of dough, and after looking at them I wasn't sure if they'd even flatten out into proper cookies but I put them into the preheated oven anyways, said a prayer, and went off to do Internetly Things. And then I remembered I hadn't sprinkled sea salt on the tops of the cookies so I went back to the kitchen, pounded up a batch of coarse sea salt in my mortar, sprinkled it on as required, and went back to reading Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

20 minutes later (I upped the baking time because I had two racks of cookies and I knew the bottom one wouldn't be done yet) I went into the kitchen to check on how things were doing and the cookies were doing -exactly- what they were supposed to be doing - spreading lightly, and turning into the most delicious-looking masses of chocolatey goodness. I gave it about 10 minutes more baking time before taking it out of the oven.

Oh lord. Ohhhhh, ohhhh, ohhh.

I shall let the photographs do the talking for me as there are really no words to describe just how -good- these cookies are. Even my substitution of millet flour for amaranth flour, since I didn't have any amaranth flour, came out perfectly fine.

I really felt as if I'd died and gone to chocolate chip cookie heaven. Shauna said that these would be absolutely fantastic, and she was right.

What I hadn't realised were that the cookies would be so filling. I had one, ignored warning signs that perhaps this was enough, had another, and promptly felt stuffed. Granted, they're giant cookies but even so, that's great. It means I won't eat so much!

The recipe said it'd make a batch of some 1-2 dozen cookies depending on size. Well, there's still a sizeable hunk of dough that I put back into the fridge, which will probably make about 8-12 more cookies so perhaps I didn't make them big enough!

After all that chocolatey richness, I really needed something light and cleansing for dinner. So I made a recipe out of Beyond the Great Wall - the Silk Road Tomato-Bell Pepper Salad which is a simple mix of yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, chopped mint, cilantro or dill, and salt to taste. Since dill grows as an ornamental plant down by the apartment guard house (and I'm sure they don't know it's an edible plant, since for a while it was all the rage in decorative greenery around here), I walked down, snipped a fistful and came back to make the salad.

Today the sun was liquid gold through my windows, hot and tropical, and the colours of the bell pepper, tomatoes and dill reminded me of the end of summer and the beginning of fall when I was a student in Virginia Beach.

I put that in the fridge to chill for a while so I could have it with rice and the Lentil Stew with Spinach and Potatoes that I'd cooked as a staple during my graduate school years. Since I didn't have normal green lentils on hand, I used yellow dhal, and I added some home-made chicken and apple sausage adapted from the wonderful Appetite for China's recipe.

It was very, very good. Perfect, in fact, and just what stellar chocolate chip cookies required.

Lentil Stew with Spinach, Potatoes and Sausage
Adapted from Epicurious' recipe

1 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 cups vegetable broth (I used home-made)
1/2 cup yellow lentils (yellow dhal), rinsed, picked over
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 lemon
1 bunch spinach, cut into large shreds, including stems
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Several patties chicken-apple sausage (made from this recipe, minus the wonton wrappers)

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth and lentils; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes; cook covered until potatoes and lentils are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate 1/2 teaspoon peel from lemon; squeeze enough juice from lemon to measure 1 tablespoons. Add lemon peel, lemon juice and sausage to stew, breaking the sausage meat up and letting it cook through for about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cayenne to stew. Uncover stew and simmer until spinach wilts and is cooked through, about 2 minutes, or longer if you want the spinach less crunchy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon into soup bowls and serve. I tend to have this with rice, but plain would be just fine too as there are already potatoes in there to serve as carbohydrates.

This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

Yellow dhal tends to take a much longer time to cook than ordinary lentils. You might have to add water or broth, if they soak up a lot of it and still haven't turned soft enough. The original recipe also calls for simmering the stew covered after the spinach is added, but since I didn't want the lovely green colour to oxidize so quickly, I simmered it uncovered.

No comments:

Post a Comment