Sable-The French Sugar Cookie

7c-4

Some times the most simple thing can brighten your day. A good cookie does it for me and these sables are exactly what I hoped they would be. I find them to be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee and I love to serve them tucked into a scoop of ice cream. I made these with a friend in mind and I hope these cookies were able to put a smile on her face.

Sable is the French word for “sandy” and these buttery bites are just that-tender yet crispy, sugary, crumbly and a bit salty. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it your own by adding different flavorings-why not try adding a little orange zest with cardamom or dip them in chocolate after cooling?

Sables (recipe from Dorie Greenspan)

2 soft, plump vanilla beans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, preferably high-fat European-style, softened
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1-1/3 oz. (1/3 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
Sanding sugar, white or colored

Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the seed pulp into a small bowl; add the granulated sugar. Using your fingers, rub them together until blended.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mix the butter on low speed until smooth and creamy (you don’t want it to get light and fluffy), about 1„ minute; mix in the salt. Add the vanilla sugar and the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add 1„ egg yolk and mix for 1 minute. Still on low speed, mix in the flour just until blended; the dough will be soft.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently a few times. Divide it in half and shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3„ hours.

Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners.

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup sanding sugar onto a piece of waxed paper. Combine the remaining egg yolk with a splash of water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Brush each log with the egg wash and roll it in the sanding sugar until evenly coated. Trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged. Using a knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Put them on the baking sheets, leaving about 2-„inches between rounds.

Bake the cookies, rotating and swapping the baking sheets’ positions halfway through, until the cookies are brown around the edges and golden on the bottom, 18„ to 22 minutes. (Maybe it’s my oven, but I only baked these for 14 minutes and they were done). Let cool on the sheets for 5„ minutes; then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving. Sablés shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need to cool so that their texture will set properly.

Help!

tomatoes

Need I say more? I’m a little overwhelmed, but more than willing than work my way through these tomatoes! Here are a few old favorites that I see in our future:

Tomato Tart
Scalloped Tomatoes
Frittata di Pane
Stuffed Tomatoes
And of course-Bruschetta

I did try a new and very simple dish from a book that I love-Verdura-by Viana La Place. This book is chock full of Italian inspired recipes featuring fresh vegetables, many of them requiring no cooking at all-perfect for those hot summer nights.

The beauty of this dish is that it can be eaten hot, at room temperature or even cold. I’m planning on having the leftovers for lunch on a crusty roll.

Tiella Doppio Rosso (Double Red Gratin)

3 large red peppers
4 large ripe tomatoes
Extra-virign olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
1-2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Roast the peppers over a gas flame, under the broiler or on the barbecue. Remove the skin, cut the peppers in half, core and seed. Cut peppers into thick slices. Core tomatoes and thickly slice them.

Oil a large baking dish. Arrange a layer of tomato slices on the bottom of the dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle some of the herbs and capers on top. Cover with a layer of pepper strips. Season again with salt and pepper, herbs and capers. Continuing layering ingredients topping the final layer with bread crumbs. Moisten the gratin with a drizzling of olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Serve this dish hot, warm or at room temperature. It’s quite refreshing served cold. Serves 4-6.

Chocolate Chip Cookies-My Search Has Ended

cookies

My love of cooking began way back in grammar school. I am lucky to have a mother who let me help her out in the kitchen and it wasn’t too long before I was allowed to make some things on my own. Chocolate chip cookies were probably the first thing that I made and all these years later I’ve been using the same recipe-the one on the back of the chip bag!

Every once in a while I would try a new recipe, but I never found a new one that I was committed to. Well all that changed today when I used the recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen. I chopped about half of the toasted walnuts finely and the rest I left in larger pieces. J. prefers his cookies a little browner and in spite of that I found that they were done in less than 18 minutes as stated in the recipe. Start checking them at about 14-15 minutes. These cookies have a lot of chocolate in them-just the way that I like them. J. was picking them over looking for ones with fewer chips-oh well, more for me!

Smitten Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

P.S. The peanut butter cookies from the Smitten Kitchen are pretty amazing too!

I Was Outstanding In The Field

closeup empty table

I have sort of a short bucket list and yesterday I checked off one of my wishes. I’ve been following the exploits of the Outstanding in the Field team for some time now, all the while dreaming about taking part one of their events. Last night I attended their dinner at the ranch of the Temecula Olive Oil Company located in Aguanga CA located about twenty miles east of the town of Temecula.

patio

patio2

The ranch is the perfect combination of rusticity and elegance. Yes it’s a working farm, but it’s also a great spot for an event. The owners give tours on the second and fourth Saturdays so be sure to take a look at their website (linked above).

bar

The evening started with drinks provided by a local winery and a brewery offering two different beers (San Diego has a well earned title as the craft beer capitol of the country). Hors d’ouevres were passed with a focus on seafood-the chef for this dinner was from The Fishery located in San Diego. My favorite starter was the grilled horseradish marinated shrimp with a tomato shooter. J’s pick was the deviled eggs topped with spicy crab and sea beans.

eggs

shrimp

I have to say that I’ve read a lot about the Outstanding in the Field events and have heard from various people and read on line that many thought that there’s not enough food. I will say that the starters were passed for well over an hour and you certainly could have filled up on the four options that were offered.

w:crusher

Next up was a mini tour of the ranch led by the owners who gave a good overview of how the company and this ranch came to be along with the lowdown on how their exceptional oil is produced. The oil maker is on the California Olive Council and his passion for the product and knowledge of the industry was evident in his talk.

house

catherine

pathway

By this point we were all wondering “where is the dining table?”. We were led down a path and finally ended up in the midst of trees where you had to pick up your plate. Diners are encouraged to bring their own plates (which we did) but they have plenty available if you don’t. Finally we discovered the one long table that was set for our dinner.

plates

sitting down

another sitting down

Once at the table you got to choose your own seat where the menu for the dinner was tucked into your napkin. Baguettes were strewn around the able along with bottles of Temecula Olive Oil and dipping was encouraged. The waiters were busy pouring wine and answering questions from the diners.

the menu

at the table

We started with an arugula salad with cured salmon, peaches and soy gelee. Next up was my favorite dish of the evening-swordfish meatballs served atop a squash and cherry tomato medley. Hopefully you will be seeing this dish on the blog soon because I am going into the kitchen to attempt a recreation!

swordfish

whole table

The last entree was seared ahi with a perfect summer salad of roasted corn, avocado and cherry tomato. One of the highlights of my evening was when J. said “this food all tastes like you made it”…

corn and ahi

at the table2

I am never one to pass up dessert and this one was the perfect ending to the evening. The sun had set, candles were brought to the table and I couldn’t wait to dig into this summery berry delight. The cake was light with a crunchy streusel topping and we were all thrilled to find that there were extra slices on the platter.

dessert

Between the wine, the incredible food and the new friends made at the table I have to say that this was an evening to remember. Thank you to Temecula Olive Oil Company for being the host, to the Fishery for the food and to the Outstanding crew for your hard work.

dark table

Cooking Yes, Blogging No

Do you think I’ve given up on cooking? My blog seems that it might be the case. I actually have been in the kitchen, but usually it’s in the evening when it’s too dark to take photos and truth be told, some nights I’m in too much of a rush to do anything more than get the food on the table.

In lieu of showing you my creations I am linking you to all the great dishes that I’ve been making that came from Food 52. The first one up is Thai Curry Noodles With Shrimp. This recipe is a keeper. How can you go wrong with noodles, shrimp and a curried broth? The best part might be the fried onions that get sprinkled over top. Do not skip this step!

Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry is exactly like it sounds. I have my go to curry recipes, but for a “get it served quick on a weeknight dinner” this dish will bring a touch of India to your table in a flash.

Next up is Shrimp Biryani. While the fragrant spiced rice bakes in the oven you saute the shrimp and dinner is served.

And possibly at the top of my list for simple sides is this Baked Pasta Risotto. You start by sauteing onion and then add your pasta (I used acini di pepe). After adding the wine and broth it goes in the oven so no stirring as with risotto. Once it comes out of the oven a good dollop of mascarpone cheese adds just the right amount of creaminess. Top with sauteed vegetables or serve it on its own. Be sure to read the comments under the recipe as there are a few mistakes regarding the quantity of broth in the original recipe.

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Last but not least, this is a dessert that I’m still dreaming about-a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake. Maybe it’s because I haven’t made cheesecake in years or maybe it’s because I just love the citrusy flavor of Meyer lemons. Whatever it is, the sour cream topping is the perfect finishing touch. (Photo from Food 52)

La Cioccolateria-Lucca

chocolate

Anyone who really knows me is very aware of my love affair with chocolate. No matter where I am I have to have at least a little piece every day. A bite or two mid afternoon and I’m a happy gal. My passion for chocolate is such that every year I go cold turkey for the six weeks of Lent. It started as a kid in Catholic school and has followed me for years where now I think I do it to prove it to myself that I can indeed put a temporary hold on my obsession.

choc2

That being said, as soon as Lent is over I am back to my daily treat. To break my fast J. always indulges me with a box of See’s chocolates which is a staple if you live in southern California. Growing up we had a neighbor with family in Los Angeles so I was introduced to this candy as a youngster. When I’m at home I’m happy to have a pound of See’s around, but once I get to Lucca it’s Caniparoli Cioccolateria for me.

truffles

This shop is always one of my first stops when I get to Lucca. I love to buy their chocolates as gifts for friends and clients that join me on my tours, but of course I’m really there to stock up for my addiction. I think I’ve I’ve tasted everything in these photos and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

krispies

I’m a fool for anything with hazelnuts so white and dark chocolate in the top photo is usually my first purchase. There’s also bark with puffed rice (see above) similar to a Nestles crunch but taken to a whole new level.

biscotti

Do not hesitate to buy one of their cakes. They come in a variety of sizes, one even small enough to have all by yourself. I am dedicating this post to my two amazing friends Bonnie and Bev who can appreciate how great this shop is. Bev is the creator of the cake shown below-an amazing recreation of the one from La Cioccolateria that we shared on our last night together in Lucca. Thank you B & B for following me to one of my favorite Lucca spots day after day.

bev's cake

Caniparoli Cioccolateria
Via San Paolino, 96
Lucca

Meyer Lemon Gelato

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A few weeks ago I was the lucky recipient of a big bag of Meyer lemons. When I say big I mean there were about fifty of these beauties in there and they were ripe. Not having time to whip up a dessert on the spot, I decided to juice them and freeze the juice in quart-size baggies. I started out thinking that I would make a lemon curd tart but suddenly the weather turned very warm and I couldn’t stop thinking about ice cream.

When I started looking for a recipe for Meyer lemon gelato one of the articles that came up was from Adri Barr Crocetti whose blog I love. Right then I stopped my search as I knew this would be the recipe I would go with.

I made this with the intention of serving it to friends a few days later but there was no way that we could wait that long. Of course we had to try it as soon as it was frozen and it was exactly what I hoped it would be-oh so creamy and just as lemony.

A big thank you to our neighbor S. for the lemons and to Adri for the recipe!

Meyer Lemon Gelato

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice

Prepare an ice water bath. Scrub and dry lemons. Zest and juice lemons. Set aside.

Place milk, cream, granulated sugar and zest in medium saucepan. Over medium heat stir to dissolve sugar and scald mixture by heating until small bubbles form around the edge of the saucepan.

Meanwhile, separate eggs and place yolks in medium bowl, reserving whites for another use. Beat yolks with a whisk until lightened, about 1 minute.

Once milk mixture has heated, slowly add half to the egg yolks, whisking continuously. This will “temper” the yolks so the upcoming heat of the stove will not curdle them. Return milk and egg mixture to the saucepan. Over medium heat cook, stirring very frequently, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon or reaches 160 degrees F.

Remove from heat and strain into clean bowl, add lemon juice. Set over ice bath, stirring occasionally to promote even cooling. Place mixture in refrigerator to chill completely. This may be completed up to 24 hours ahead. This will yield about 3 ½ cups of gelato base.

Transfer mixture to gelato maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instruction. Place in freezer container, cover tightly and freeze 2 hours.

Super Spring Starter

asparagus

Whenever we’re out in a restaurant I can’t help but try and see what everyone else has ordered.We could be in the middle of a serious conversation and I’m craning my neck to follow a waiter to see what’s being served. I just feel the need to know about the dishes that I didn’t order. Do you feel the same? Last week we were at lunch at Pizzeria Mozza in downtown San Diego and as I was spying the food on the neighboring table I realized that they were doing the same thing and were checking out our appetizers.

Of course all the dishes I saw looked delectable, but the one I wish we had ordered was asparagus with burrata cheese. It looked like the asparagus and burrata were topped with balsamico but when I got home and looked in the Mozza cookbook I realized that it was brown butter. I decided to forego the brown butter and go with balsamico.

Simply toss asparagus with a little olive oil, roast for about 12 minutes in a 400 degree oven, remove from oven and top with burrata, sprinkle balsamico over and throw some toasted pine nuts over top, add salt and freshly ground pepper. Done!

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