Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Feta

Finally Brussels sprouts are getting some love. Some serious love from some of the restaurants around Los Angeles. My favorite places right now to nosh on these are Cleo in Hollywood, and Freddy Smalls, in West LA. Freddy Smalls fries theirs and puts a big spoonful of goats cheese in the bottom of the bowl that gets soft and warm from the heat of the sprouts. They're insane. I went with friends and we ordered two servings. This recipe calls for feta, but sometimes I substitute goats cheese. You can use whatever you have at home. I'm guessing some ricotta would be really tasty as well.... I coat them with a little balsamic vinegar right out of the oven, but you could just use some fresh lemon juice as well. Leave your comments and let me know what you try.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Feta

2-3 lbs Brussels sprouts
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c olive oil
2 T balsamic
handful of crumbled feta or goats cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the end of the sprouts and quarter of halve them, depending on the size. Toss in a bowl with the shallots, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and crispy. You may want to take them out half way through and stir them around for even browning. As soon as you take them out, drizzle the balsamic vinegar over them on the sheet pan and stir around to coat evenly. Serve in a bowl with the cheese crumbled on the bottom, middle and top.

Serves 4

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dark chocolate and sea salt cookies

Yesterday I had some really good chocolate sitting in my cupboard. It was outrageously expensive and all it was doing was just sitting there - languishing next to the baking soda. Today I have a batch of insanely delicious chocolate chip cookies, dusted with sea salt. I've been making these cookies since I stumbled across Jaques Torres' recipe in a New York Times article and they seriously make people go crazy. They require good chocolate (I like Guittard or Valhrona,) two types of flour, as well as an overnight rest of the dough in the fridge. The two types of flour and the overnight rest are apparently what make these cookies so amazing - they're chewy and crisp at the same time. They are, in a word, outofthisworld.

When I was little, I bought into the idea "save the best for last." I thought you were supposed to. I would hide my favorite halloween candy and never use the best stickers. When I got a box of chocolates, I would eat the gross fruit ones (what is that stuff?) before getting to the sweet caramel ones I loved. A lot of the time, this meant that I never got to enjoy the good ones. They were forgotten, lost, went stale, or my dad ate them....

As I've gotten older, I've gotten wiser. If you have something great, USE IT. Eat your favorite chocolates and pass on the rest. Light the ridiculously expensive candle someone gave you. Wear the crazy gorgeous dress you've been saving for a special occasion. Guys, put on the suit that makes you look like Don Draper, drink the good single malt Scotch you've been saving to impress someone (impressing yourself feels WAY better, I promise!) and use your Am-ex points on your next trip to rent the car you WANT to drive, not the economy compact. It's not a new concept, I know. Use the good silver - we've heard it before. But I need reminders and I'm guessing you might too. With that thought in mind, I'm starting my new blog with the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe I know.

I heard a musician on the radio the other day say that they didn't like to sit on good material while they were recording, that they wanted to give it their best, everything they had, in that moment. Do that. Eat these cookies and dance.

Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (adapted from The New York Times)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks, at least 60 percent cacao content (Jacques Torres, Valhrona, Guittard)
Sea salt (I like to use Maldon but a good flaky sea salt will do)

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours, or frozen for a few months (although freezing it defeats the point of this point - enjoy it now!)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
Scoop 6 mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE.

Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big glass of milk and your best dance moves.

Yield: 4 dozen.