Day 8, Macaroons

Chocolate-Drizzled Pecan Macaroons

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 8

For our Save the Date wedding cards, Gil and I originally wanted something along the lines of, “A Cajun Mennonite and a Jew walk into a bar…” Upon further reflection, we decided fielding questions or hearing the end of the joke from a couple hundred people while we were planning a wedding in another city wasn’t the brightest idea, so the card defaulted to more traditional wording. But you can see that, right from the very beginning, we knew how to blend.

While we both came into this thing with an appreciation for Mel Brooks and Faulkner House Books, Gil has taken on LSU football and the whole “Christmas with a large family + boudin” thing with gusto, and I’ve learned to appropriate a few of his holidays while putting a southern spin on them. Example the first: Pecan-Brown Sugar Macaroons.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 8

. . . with bourbon vanilla extract and drizzled chocolate! Happy Hanukkah, y’all! (I know I should be frying something instead, but these are easier and leave my house smelling a whole lot better.)

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 8

I started with my go-to recipe from the past few years, but wasn’t sure what the added moisture from the brown sugar would do, so I used a little less. The pecans were a one-for-one swap for the almonds, and the bourbon-vanilla because you can’t have pecans and brown sugar without a little bourbon, amirite? (I’ll get to the finer points of making your own vanilla extract in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.) I probably don’t have to tell you how delicious these were, so I’ll just let Ru do the talking . . .

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 8

Honestly! I took Otis out for five minutes and came back to discover this. My initial surprise turned to wonder. Why did he leave three? Is he ok? Is he saving them for a midnight snack? To quote Ron Burgundy, “I’m not even mad; that’s amazing!” (And yeah, we got confirmation that Ru was the guilty party during our walk the next morning. That jerk.)

Chocolate-Drizzled Pecan Macaroons
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Pecan Macaroons
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Pecan macaroons with bourbon and brown sugar, glazed with melted chocolate.

Course: Snack
Servings: 16
Calories: 68 kcal
Ingredients
  • .25 cup organic palm sugar, or brown sugar packed
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • .25 cup pecan pieces toasted and finely chopped
  • .5 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flour
  • .25 cup bittersweet chocolate chips melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Whisk together sugar and egg white in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and allow mixture to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  2. Form dough into sixteen 1-tablespoon mounds and drop each onto sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake macaroons until golden-brown on bottoms and edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

  3. To finish, using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over cooled macaroons. Macaroons will keep, covered, for up to one week.

  4. Macaroons will keep, covered, for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Extract

Adapted heavily from Martha Stewart.

Another Hanukkah, Another Macaroon

Hanukkah treat

I’m heading to Louisiana tomorrow for an extra-long (and warm-weathered) Christmas visit with my family! (Cue happy dance.) Gil has to work this week, so he’ll join us after spending a few days alone with the dogfaces. Since I won’t be around for the start of Hanukkah, I thought I’d make Gil a batch of chocolate-drizzled macaroons to remember me by.

Hanukkah
I was still working on my drizzling technique with these first few, but they’re charming in a jolie laide sort of way, right?

Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it! Next up: something savory to balance all of the sugar I’ve been posting…

recipe after the jump

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Who Doesn’t Love a Parfait?

Parfait of dairy-free coconut ice cream and rhubarb-strawberry topping with slivered almonds

Not me, that’s for sure. Especially during a heatwave. Especially when that heatwave comes on the heels of a winter that lasted a record-breaking two years and four months. (Well, that’s what it felt like, but I’ll be honest and say I’ll take summer and all of its stankiness over winter’s misery any day and twice on Sunday.)

But we were discussing parfait, right? When a dessert’s based on a premise of perfection, it’s tough to mess up. You can get pretty creative with it — just do a quick Google search to see what I mean — but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple, either. For these, I just layered dairy-free coconut ice cream with a rhubarb and strawberry topping I threw together in about 10 minutes, then topped it with toasted slivered almonds. And you know what? It really was perfect.

Dessert parfait

I don’t keep anything like a dairy-free diet, but there was no milk or cream in the house and I wanted needed to make ice cream. Since I usually have coconut milk in the pantry, I gave that a go with this recipe and loved the outcome — very coconutty/custardy with a rich, creamy texture. The fruit topping recipe came from here, and it’s very bare bones, but when you’ve got stunning strawberries and juicy rhubarb from the farmers’ market to work with, why gild the lily?

recipe after the jump

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Macaroons

Gil tends to half-ass his way through Passover every year (since I showed up) and I’m more than happy to indulge that half-assery, as it makes things So Much Easier for me in the kitchen. He avoids the major grains, but still indulges in beans and spices and continues to be all honey badger about pork and shellfish. Yes!

Because I’m already gluten-free, I’ve taken this grain-free opportunity to go more fully Primal this week, using the 80/20 principle (if you’re doing the Primal thing 80% of the time, don’t worry so much about the other 20%). These macaroons were my entire 20% for the day and I wish I’d made more.

Despite lacking the baking gene, I resolved to make macaroons after eating one of those canned abominations so prevalent this time of year. It turned out to be quite easy, surprisingly enough, thanks to Martha.

The recipe didn’t include chocolate, but c’mon. How could I not?

Gil took one look and nearly leapt out of his skin. “They look real!”

I managed to save a few from his clutches, but they’re all gone now. Wait, when does Passover end? I think I have time to squeeze in another batch before then.

recipe after the jump

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A Very Special Mid-Week Post

aka, the ass-kicker

< cue swelling strings > OK, it’s not really special at all — just a garden-variety post — but if you’ve been here before, you’ll know I only update once a week at most. This is me trying to be better about that sort of thing.

Another change for the better? Instead of my annual satisfying-yet-ineffective tactic of resisting the return to fall, I’m embracing it with open arms this year. No, seriously: I didn’t whine even a little bit about the annual closet switchout, dutifully donned a hat and jacket when morning temperatures and the Hudson Hawk made my walk too brisk for bareness and have sucked it up about not seeing my house in daylight during the week. Just trying to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive here, and the easiest way I know to do that is through cooking, focusing on seasonal goodness.

Gil can attest to my current pumpkin/winter squash obsession. (We’ll be attending castings for Jersey Shore if I don’t cut it out. Coming soon to a boardwalk near you: Amy “The Back End” and Gil “The Incident” Roth.) I’ve been roasting pumpkin like crazy for custards, puddings and mashes, but my favorite use so far has been for soup. What you see in the picture above isn’t revolutionary and won’t set the world on fire, but it’s thoroughly delicious and feels rich and indulgent even though it’s (gasp) vegan. It’s a lush pumpkin soup flavored with roasted garlic, coconut milk and Singapore curry — a lovely, light spice blend that doesn’t overwhelm any other components of the dish.

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I jumped feet-first into serious cold-weather cooking last weekend to satisfy a craving for chickpea soup (pasta e ceci, minus the pasta this time around). To make it gluten-free, I substituted ribbons of rainbow chard for the pasta, adding them to the soup just before serving so they wilted just enough to turn silky but still provided some texture with each bite. It’s a different animal than the original, to be sure, but the chard really added a nice dimension to the soup and I figure extra servings of greens are always a good thing.

When I was doing my grad school stint in St. Louis, one of the guys in my program announced to the office, “I can always tell who the Southerners are when it gets cold. You people bitch all winter long.” So yeah, I’m sure I’ll change my tune once we get deeper into the season, but for now, I’m happy enough not to fight Mother Nature. Wow, can roasted root vegetables be far behind?

recipes after the jump

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From the Market – Week Whatever

I’ve lost count of the missing weeks by now, but couldn’t let the last vestiges of summer slip by without posting about the latest seasonal finds from our market in Ringwood.

I don’t know about you, but we’ve nearly eaten our weight in corn this summer. Grilled, smoked, raw, creamed, sautéed … it’s all been delicious and now that summer’s winding down, I’m truly savoring fresh corn while it’s still around. But a couple of dishes really stood out from the crowd and I want to make sure I tell you about them, and include links so I can re-create them next year.

This weekend I adapted Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for baked buttered corn (seen above), gilding the lily with burro di parma and wisps of freshly grated locatelli before baking, then finishing with a dab of truffle butter before serving. It sounds excessive, but the extra ingredients were used in moderation for just a touch of earthiness so really, corn was still the star. This dish is a great way to use late-season corn that maybe isn’t quite the revelation it was even a few weeks ago.

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For a couple of weeks in August, I was obsessed with cooking variations of Shrimp with Sweet Curry and Coconut Creamed Corn. We had it 3 times in the span of two weeks and I could still go for more, which will probably happen next weekend, now that I think about it. The only reason for adapting the recipe at all was because I didn’t have the specific spice blends called for, but after working around that problem, I’ve discovered that there isn’t a way to mess this up. The first time around, I left the curry out of the corn mixture and coated the shrimp with it instead (using Singapore curry from World Spice Merchants). The curry blend was light and paired perfectly with the shrimp; it accentuated the shrimp’s natural sweetness and, with a dash of cayenne pepper, added a touch of heat which cut through the richness of the coconut corn.

Nina found herself up to her ears in callaloo this summer, after deciding to grow it on a whim. Since I’m a sucker for any new (to me) ingredient, I made a beeline for the strange-looking vines when they appeared at her booth and managed to work it into a couple of other iterations of the shrimp and coconut corn recipe. If you’ve never had callaloo, it’s similar to water spinach or chard, but cooks down to something that seems much less virtuous, with a thick, silky, rich mouthfeel. I used madras curry in the corn base this time and simmered the shrimp along with it, so the dish was more of a stew than it was the first go-around. (No picture of what was an otherwise delicious dish because the callaloo turned the whole mixture a thoroughly unappealing-looking shade of bile green. And because I cobbled together a few recipes without writing down any of the steps/measurements, there’s no real recipe for you. But I’ll try to re-create it this weekend and let you know how it turns out.)

continued after the jump

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The beet and the coconut

It’s not unusual to plan a meal around one ingredient, I think. You find a beautiful cut of grass-fed beef or see a flat of ruby red strawberries and the wheels start spinning as you think about the best way to highlight their natural beauty. This sort of thinking influenced a couple of our meals this week.

Usually when I buy beets, both root and green are destined for a salad inspired by an episode of Lidia’s Family Table — roasted beets, boiled greens, and sliced green apple are tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with hard goat cheese, and seasoned only with salt & pepper. It’s simple and delicious, especially when the produce is at its freshest and most vibrant.

But wanting something different last weekend and thinking (incorrectly) I was prepared to deal with a certain amount of frustration, I decided on a beet tart adapted from this one. The process involved me buying my first tart pan from a store that fascinates and repels me in equal measure — New York Cake & Baking Distribution, conveniently located across the street from my office. I’m attracted to its bare bones design and singularity of purpose; this isn’t a place you go for a comfortable shopping experience with easily navigable aisles or readily located merchandise. No, you go here for baking supplies (pretty much anything at all) at a good price. Period. I’m repelled only because I’m woefully ignorant about baking and expect to be given the bum’s rush when I walk in. Insecure much?

And, you know, there’s a reason for my insecurity — I’ve never once made a pie crust that hasn’t frustrated me to the point of tears. Part of the problem is a lack of counter space, but mostly it’s simple inexperience. Is the dough too dry? Is it too wet? I DON’T KNOW! I think the problem you see above was a too-dry crust, but couldn’t say. My quick fix was to jam bits of dough into the areas where it broke apart, figuring the filling would hide my mistakes from sight, if not taste.

But what a filling it was! While the beets were roasting, I threw in a whole head of garlic, too, which I later sautéed with a chopped onion and copious amounts of thyme. Just meditate on that for a minute.

And then I topped that layer with an egg, crème fraiche, and goat cheese cheese mixture before the roasted beets and even more cheese found their way to the tippy top of the tart.

It was a lot of work, I won’t lie, and I don’t really know if I’ll be preparing the crust again since I’m such a numskull with the pastry-making, but that filling definitely will be featured again in future meals, the layers alone or in some combination. For you see, it was DELICIOUS.

OK, it looks a little pizza-like, but warm from the oven with the sweet caramelized onions, garlic and beets sandwiching that creamy filling, mmmm…

We polished off about half of the tart on the spot, calling it dinner, and put the other half away for quick lunches later in the week.

The other (and probably the more surprising) ingredient I planned a meal around was … coconut juice. I picked it up on a whim at the grocery one day and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it, so it languished in the pantry for a few weeks. Then I thought — hey, Thai! So I broke out my new rice cooker and set about making coconut rice with brown basmati and a mixture of coconut milk and strained coconut juice. I was on a roll!

To top the rice, I defrosted about a cup of sofrito from my stash, thinking the cilantro and culantro would be right at home with the coconut, and made a thick stew with the addition of lime-marinated shrimp, shrimp stock, hot pepper paste, and the rest of the coconut milk/juice. I topped it all with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sweetened coconut to balance the tartness from the lime and have to say I was pretty pleased with the outcome:

But I think it could’ve used more heat and possibly a little funky fish sauce to bring the whole thing together. I’ll try that variation next time and report back to you.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with this post, really, but because ’tis the season, I have to show you what I did with my garlic scapes last weekend instead of grilling them.

I made a chickpea dip inspired by Mark Bittman’s white bean dip with lemon zest. I could eat this everyday. I just whirled together some canned chickpeas (drained of squack), the zest of one lemon, the juice of the same, quite a few chopped garlic scapes and harissa. While the machine was running, I drizzled in some good-quality olive oil until the mixture turned creamy; I topped it with more lemon juice, olive oil, and another sprinkling of harissa before we dove in. Yum.

recipe after the jump

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