1/19/2013

fresh ginger cookies

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All hail the snickerdoodle that met and married the gingersnap. As if you thought you'd already died and gone to cookie heaven somewhere around chocolate chip, listen HERE: This recipe is your new favorite, and you haven't even tried it yet.

So let me know when you do, because seriously, I have high hopes.



I stumbled upon a version of this recipe sometime over the holiday season, just about the time when I should have been feeling all cookied out. No such thing in my book, I'm not sorry to say, and this particular one came just in time for my current love affair with fresh ginger. I can find a way to incorporate it into just about anything, really, and desserts are no exception. OF COURSE. In this particular recipe, you'll need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used half white, half turbinado)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger (In hindsight, more might have been better. I know that seems like the crazy talking, but seriously. Even three heaping tablespoons leaves the these soft, buttery cookies more "scented" than flavorful. Then again, I've recently just confessed myself as a ginger fiend, so take this advice with that exact fact in mind.)

To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.


In a large bowl, cream your butter and 1 cup of your sugar until smooth. Living the mixer-free life that I am (SAAAD), I attempted and conquered this feat by hand. Note the rubber spatula. No easy task, my friends, and one I'll be glad to be rid of as soon as I get my hands on this beauty. Or the Yellow Pepper. Or Pistachio. Ah! Oh, and a bigger kitchen. Sheesh.

Add your eggs, your brown sugar/hot water mixture, and grated ginger. Mix these up until thoroughly combined. WITH YOUR MIXER. Or your now very strong right arm, whichever you've got at your immediate disposal.



Slowly add your flour mixture to your wet ingredients. Once both bowls are fully combined, cover and refrigerate until slightly stiff. Which will take about 20 minutes. This is just to make the dough a little easier to handle when it comes time for the fun part.



While you're waiting, grab a small bowl and whisk together the rest of your sugar (1/4 cup) and your cinnamon. Set aside. And wait. Anxiously. Eat another cookie from a recipe you experimented with yesterday. Wait some more.


Sooner or later, twenty minutes will have come and gone, and you can check on your dough in the fridge. Once it's stiff enough, form the dough into 1/2-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Just a note, these guys don't get very dark, so if you wait until you've achieved that "golden" color, you've gone too far into crunchy territory. The cinnamon will give the cookies more color, but 11 minutes seems to be the perfect time to whisk these out of the oven and onto a wire cooling rack.



I must admit, though I desperately tried to evenly disperse the ginger throughout the batter, some of these cookies had more bite while others remained cinnamon-y sweet. Still, I do think that even with the proper equipment (wistful sigh), an extra scoop or two of ginger, fresh or grated, couldn't hurt. Adjust to taste, I SUPPOSE, and either way, enjoy.

1/15/2013

and another new year

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I would like to begin this post by stating (ahem, bragging) that for the first time in my adult life, I have held tight to a New Year's resolution, namely to create and maintain this here food blog, and have never felt more proud of myself in this respect. Also, I think I've figured out the loophole with resolutions: if it's something you love, you'll actually follow through.

Crazy enough to work?

As you'll remember, this whole green girl business began with a certain celebratory New Year's Eve dinner at Sprig & Vine. Well, we've been at it again: we hit up S&V again this Dec. 31st, this year with a seasonal menu even better (dare I say it?) than the last. Six courses at $65.00 per person and nary a mushroom in site for cute Colin's sake, I could hardly decide which dish was my favorite, each one more vibrant and flavorful than the last.


Good grief: my meal could have started and ended with this first plate, the seared carrot pavé. Teeny tiny serving that it was, amuse-bouche-y, I could have taken 2 dozen more and called it a night. Absolutely amazing, with almond, lime salt, cumin and smoke chile aïoli, which had just enough heat for my taste. Which, as far as heat goes, is usually pretty limited.

AND, now the root vegetable bisque. The winter version of myself was made for soups like this: rich and smooth thanks to the cashew cream, and just a hint of crunch from the grilled radicchio, apple, and onion garnish. The drizzle of porcini oil really brought out the deep roasty-ness of the root veggies, something like a parsnip and turnips and a carrot or two. Di-vine.


Salad time. Sprig & Vine always has these perfect salad combos, just that balanced mix of sweet and savory and herby and crunch. Salads always need the crunch, which was so expertly provided here with fried sunchoke. I do believe I Googled sunchokes mid-dinner, having never tasted (or seen?) one before. (Also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, it looks a little bit like a darker hot-air-balloon-shaped piece of ginger. The taste, slightly smoky and a touch of sweet.) The sunchoke mixed well with the local lettuces, mutsu apple (a sharp, Granny Smith-esque flavor), and roasted shallot and mustard dressing.


Next came what Colin deemed to be his favorite dish of the night: warm roasted red and gold beets. If you roast just about any vegetable, and I'm serious about this, you very well may hear the heavens open up with song. It's just meant to be, roasting and vegetables. These supersweet beets came with baby arugula, strawberry chile purée (?!), charmoula aïoli, cumin-radish vinaigrette, and fried red quinoa.

Also, I don't believe this picture does justice to the beautiful intricacies in this dish's presentation. Absolutely stunning.


Seared cauliflower was presented to us next, with a lemon, garlic and white wine sauce. It sat on top of an INSANE cauliflower purée which had a natural sweetness so intense it almost tasted sugared. This came with grilled leek and black lentils and was topped with olive oil breadcrumbs, which added such a  fantastic layer of crunch.



Fully, well, full by now, and though we'd both announced that we would finish everything and take home no leftovers (while cute Colin succeeded, I faltered somewhere along the cauliflower-line), we were by this point eagerly awaiting dessert: ginger five spice cake?! Part of me still doesn't believe it really happened. This was, no joke, my ideal dessert. Hold on: MY FAVORITE DESSERT EVER? I understand the extreme measures I'm taking here, but seriously, it was flawless. In all ways. I don't even know what else to say except: of course, five spice ginger cake, fennel-butternut squash ice cream, heirloom cranberries, Asian pear and gooseberry. Now do you understand?!



1/01/2013

grapefruit yogurt cake

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Grapefruit lovers, unite. If you thought the only way to eat these winter beauties was with a slotted spoon covered with sugar (GASP?!), think twice.

To continue in my must-love-baking mode, a new favorite (quite by accident) that ended up making its way into several Christmas loaves, is this grapefruit yogurt cake. I found this recipe via Deb of Smitten Kitchen, whose cookbook I just received as a 26th birthday gift. Can't wait to try, well, almost everything, sans the beer-braised short ribs. But definitely the gooey cinnamon squares. About ten times over.


Turns out as I'm thumbing my way through this cookbook just now, that there is a strangely similar recipe in her book for a grapefruit olive oil poundcake, which also contains yogurt or buttermilk, your choice. Hm. And, reading further, it seems that the cookbook version of the recipe is also inspired by Ina Garten (and Martha), as is the one on her blog. Not knowing this news until now, I have gone with the pre-cookbook edited version of this cake, which I have to say still turned out quite beautifully.


What you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon
3 extra large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit zest (about 1 large grapefruit)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or, as per the book version, olive oil)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (from about 1 half of a large grapefruit)

To begin, preheat your oven to 350. Take an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch loaf pan: grease the pan, line the botton with parchment paper, then grease and flour again. (My pan was a bit larger than instructed, which still works, you'll just end up with a shallower cake. Some adjustment to baking time might be necessary, so keep the toothpicks handy.)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. (Deb says sift, but our kitchen is currently without sifting materials. I'll take care of this SOON.)


In a larger bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, and grapefruit zest. NOTE: definitely use the whole-milk yogurt on this one. When it came time for holiday baking, three loaves later I was out of whole and had to move onto 1%. While it still came out tasty, the whole milk versions had a denser, more satisfying taste and consistency. Trust us (Deb and I) on this one. Also, do whatever you can to resist sticking your finger in this sugary, creamy, citrusy bowl and sneaking a taste. If you fail, however, know that you're not alone. SO GOOD.



After all the wet ingredients are fully mixed together, gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Finally, with a rubber spatula, fold in the vegetable (or olive) oil, making sure it's fully incorporated. Now your batter is ready to go in your prepared pan. Deb advises to bake for about 50 minutes. Remember, that's if you're using the correct pan size. If you're like me, your cake should take about 56 minutes for the toothpick to come clean.

While your cake is in the oven, it's time to make the juice + sugar mixture. Pour your 1/3 cup of freshly squeeze grapefruit juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar into a small saucepan. (I chose to strain my mixture beforehand, which was quite pulpy.) Heat on low, continually stirring so as not to burn, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside and let cool.


Once your cake comes out of the oven, place on a cooling rack that is positioned over a baking sheet of the same size (or larger). Allow the loaf to sit for about 10 minutes, and then slowly pour your juice mixture over the top of the cake, allowing all that grapefruity-goodness to soak in.



Deb's version adapted from Ina'a version also contains a recipe for a quick grapefruit glaze, which I chose to forego. I can always pass on super-sweet glazes or icings. Buttercream frosting, however, I could devour with a spoon. To each their own.

I also noticed that a few comments suggested adding a drop or two of red food coloring in order to give the cake a pinkish hue, an idea that I'm going to go ahead and frown upon. Not only will I never understand the time and place for dye in my food, but I sort of prefer the ambiguity of this pretty yellow loaf cake. Is it lemon, maybe orange, a simple poundcake? Grapefruit, they'll say with such surprise upon tasting. Well, what do you know. (Whimsical dessert plates not included but encouraged.)