Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Spinach with Nutmeg

All of this cookie baking is influencing my cooking. Last night, to go with some rigatoni with creamy tomato and prosciutto sauce, I tossed baby spinach with butter, sauteed onion, and a little bit of nutmeg, which transformed and entirely elevated the dish. Here is the recipe:

Wilted Spinach with Nutmeg
Serves 4

Two 5-ounce boxes baby spinach
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

1. Place the spinach in a large microwafe-safe bowl and cover with a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, stirring once, until spinach is just beginning to wilt,1 1/2 to 2 minutes total. Transfer spinach to a colander and let stand, stirring once or twice, to let excess water drain away, about 10 minutes.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspon salt, pepper to taste, an nutmeg, and cook, stirring until the spinach is just wilted and heated through, about 2 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good News, Bad News, Good News

I headed to Main Street yesterday in search of stocking stuffers, wondering what I would find in the way of fine chocolate. The good news: I got no further than Cavaniola's Gourmet, where I scooped up Vosges Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane and Gingerbread Toffee Bars. The bad news: I bought the last two. The good news: There are plenty of other delicious Vosges varieties, including Blood Orange Caramel and Amalfi (lemon peel, white peppercorn, and white chocolate--my favorite) to stuff many stockings around town.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Window Shopping on Washington Street

There is something beautiful, in an island-of-misfit-toys kind of way, about the Dominican Sisters Thrift Store holiday windows on Washington Street.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Welcome to Greenport

On the way home from Orient yesterday, I had to stop in Greenport to admire the beautiful hand-painted Santa that greeted me as I entered town.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm Officially a Long Islander

I've been living in Sag Harbor for almost 15 years now, and during this time I've slowly but surely become a Long Islander. Now it is official: I'll be writing a bi-monthly column for Long Island's very own newspaper, New York Newsday. My first one, on freezer-to-oven Christmas Eve lasagna (I even took the picture!), ran in yesterday's paper.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread Scones

Because both of my children now attend Pierson, I couldn't go to Gingerbread House night at the Elementary School this year without getting weird looks. As a consolation, I made some gingerbread scones for myself this morning.

Gingerbread Scones
Makes 12

Those spices from McCormick--ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg--are sure coming in handy. I also added some finely chopped crystallized ginger (from the bulk bin at Provisions, where it is always plump and moist) to the dough, which gave my scones real zip. To slather on my warm scones, I mixed together 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon of cranberry preserves I had leftover from Thanksgiving.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons dark (not blackstrap) molasses
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups ol-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch dice, place it in a small bowl, and set it in the freezer while you gather your remaining ingredients.
2. Whisk together the buttermilk and molasses in a glass measuring cup.
3. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the chilled butter and, with an electric mixer, mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the oats. Stir in the milk mixture on low speed until the dry ingredients are must moistened. Do not overmix!
4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 6-inch disk. With a sharp chef's knife, cut each disk into 6 wedges. Place the wedges 1/2-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sanding sugar if desired. Bake the scones until they are firm and beginning to color on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes. Let them cool for 5 minutes and serve them warm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

After barnstorming half a dozen Aprons Cooking Schools at Publix supermarkets in Florida and Georgia, it's nice to come home to my IGA. Yesterday I bought this sweet and salty fruit and nut mix to sprinkle over melted chocolate. The resulting chocolate bark will make a nice holiday gift and was a nice break (I can't believe I'm writing this) from baking cookies. Here is the recipe:

Fruit and Nut Bark
Makes about 1/2 pound

8 ounces bittersweet, semisweet, or milk chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup Nut and Fruit Mix (or you could put together your own combination of 2/3 cup nuts, dried fruits, and sunflower seeds)

1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.
2. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted, 1 to 3 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave. Stir until smooth.
3. Scrape the chocolate into the chilled pan and smooth into an even layer with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle with the Nut and Fruit Mix. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Lift the bark from the pan by grasping two sides of the foil. Place on a cutting board and cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home for the Holiday

It's great to be back in town, just in time to enjoy a fully decorated Main Street. I especially liked the coffee lid ornaments on the tree in the window of LT Burger!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Breaking: My Slice and Bake Recipes are in Today's Newsday!

I am writing from Tampa, to tell you to run over to the IGA to pick up Thursday's Newsday, where you will find those slice and bake cookie recipes I was telling you about a while ago! To see the slide show of Doug Young's pretty photos, click here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

We Have a Winner!

The McCormick crew arrived at my house after lunch today, and has begun to set up for tonight's live Cookie Swap! webcast. As I watch them carry in cameras and cables, it's the perfect time to announce the winner of my contest. I got so many great entries, it was really hard to choose. But Melissa won me over with her recipe for spiced palmiers, which incorporates six, count 'em, spices. Thanks everyone. I'll be back in Sag Harbor for good on the 12th (you can watch me on QVC tomorrow, I'll be selling Cookie Swap! between 3 and 5; flying to Florida on Wednesday for another round of baking classes at Publix), and then you can expect Sag Harbor Days in your inbox regularly.

Holiday Spiced Palmiers
Makes about 3 dozen

Melissa writes: "I scribbled this recipe on the back of a coupon for Crest while I was waiting for my turn at the dentist's office. I don't know who to attribute its origin, but have added my own spicy spin. For more cookies, use both sheets of puff pastry, and double the spice blend.

2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling on wax paper and sprinkling on cookies before they are baked

1 sheet packaged frozen puff pastry

For the spice blend:
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground mace

1. Thaw frozen puff pastry sheet for several hours (or overnight) in refrigerator.
2. Combine the spices and the one teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
3. Sprinkle one tablespoon of granulated sugar on a ten-inch square of wax paper.
4. Place one sheet of the puff pastry in the center. With rolling pin, roll the rectangle of pastry into a square that covers the sheet of sugared wax paper. Mark the center of the square lightly with a knife.
6. Sprinkle half of the spice blend over one half of the pastry sheet. Roll up that side toward the center/knife mark.
7. Carefully flip over the pastry. Sprinkle the remainder of the spice blend over the unrolled side and roll it towards the center. This will create an s-shaped cookie. Slide the pastry on the wax paper onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the cookies from the freezer and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Carefully place the slices on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Put them back into the freezer until they are hard. Probably another 10 minutes.
10. Sprinkle with some granulated sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip the cookies over and bake for anotehr 5 to 6 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A First for Sag Harbor Days

I feel like I've been neglecting this blog, but the fact is I've been traveling so much to promote Cookie Swap! that I barely know what's going on in Sag Harbor (I'm writing this from Atlanta, in between cookie baking classes). The good news is that I return, briefly, on Sunday night. And on Monday I'll be hosting McCormick's holiday cookie baking webcast, live from my kitchen. So when you see the satellite truck parked outside my house, you will know why. In honor of the webcast, during which I will demonstrate a couple of recipes and take questions from viewers, I am holding my first ever Sag Harbor Days contest. McCormick has provided me with this box of spices and extracts, to give to one lucky reader. Let me encourage you to enter by saying that the aroma of a freshly opened jar of roasted Saigon cinnamon is a pleasure that no baker should be denied. For a chance to call this collection (I also love the extracts, coconut, rum, and anise especially), just send me a brief e-mail describing your favorite ways to use spices and extracts during the holidays. I'm off to the Publix Market cooking school in Alpharetta, but see you soon at the IGA!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Entertainment

Wouldn't it be fun to attend this showing of vintage holiday films at Bay Street after baking a batch of gingerbread chocolate chip cookies, for swapping or gifting? Here's the recipe (adapted from Cookie Swap!):

Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 48 cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark (not light or blackstrap) molasses
2 large eggs
One 12-ounce bag dark or semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli 60%)
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (buy it from the bin at Provisions)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. Bake until the edges are firm but the centers are still a little moist, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on the parchment, onto wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gifts for the Baker

Before we had to get the turkey into the oven yesterday, my husband and I took a dog for a walk, and did some holiday shopping reconnaissance. I spotted this rolling pin and pastry board in the window of Ruby Beets, in case you are out in town on this drizzly day and looking for a gift for a baker friend. Or if you are inclined to shop from home, check out my new gift guide for the baker, up on Zesterdaily today!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Tradition

In the past week or so, I've read several stories about nontraditional Thanksgiving side dishes (sauerkraut, pickles) that remind me of my own childhood Thanksgivings. The first time he came to my mother's house for dinner, my husband was horrified that our holiday vegetables came from a jar, but that's just the way we did things! Now, I have Thanksgiving dinner at my own house, and we're a little more flexible and inclusive with the menu planning, preparing sauteed green beans one year and roasted Brussels sprouts the next. One thing is always the same, however. Along with the stuffing (this year it is made with corn bread, fennel, dates, and nuts), we serve this savory noodle kugel to give our dinner just a little Eastern European flavor:

Savory Noodle Kugel
Serves 12 as a side dish

The key to this dish is cooking the onions low and slow, so they are caramelized but not burnt.

1 pound dried egg noodles
3/4 cup vegetable oil
6 medium onions, finely chopped
Ground black pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until almost tender. Drain the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons oil.
2. Heat the remaining 10 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook over medium-low until they are deep golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste.
3. Stir the onions and eggs into the noodles. Turn the mixture into the baking dish. Bake until the noodles on the surface are golden and crispy, about 35 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Signs That I Have Turned Into My Mother

1. Instead of making muffins or waffles, I've decided to provide bagels for my extended family on Thanksgiving morning.
2. I've asked my sister from Washington D.C. to bring me a vacuum-packed smoked salmon from Costco for the occasion.
3. Instead of buying bagels wherever I'm buying everything else for Thanksgiving, I made a special trip to Goldberg's in East Hampton, where the bagels are made the right way--they're poached before baking.
4. I bought several dozen, and froze them, so I have plenty of extras for a bagel emergency.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dark (Chocolate) Arts Waffles

Because popcorn isn't a meal, I had to feed the children something that resembled brunch before the 11:55 am showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in East Hampton (and then a pre-Thanksgiving marathon at King Kullen). We settled on these waffles:

Dark (Chocolate) Arts Waffles
Makes 4 Belgian waffles

Don't called Child Protective Services on me: To push chocolate waffles into the healthy breakfast category, I offered sliced strawberries as an accompaniment. I used my Cuisinart Belgian waffle maker for these. If your using an iron that makes thinner waffles, adjust baking time downward accordingly.

1/2 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Heat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. Combine chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until just melted, 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Stir until smooth.
2. Whisk together the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and milk in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just incorporated.
3. Spray the grids with nonstick cooking spray and spoon the batter into the waffle iron. Cook until firm and baked through, 3 to 5 minutes depending on how hot your iron gets. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.

Friday, November 19, 2010

IGA Item of the Week

Those of you who have received a bouquet from me after a stellar dance recital performance or SCMEA concert know that I am not a fan of "the mixture" from the IGA. I usually prefer a dozen roses, tulips, lilys, or carnations. And yet...Today when I walked into the store I saw these striking Fall bouquets, reasonably priced and ready for the Thanksgiving table I rethought my position on the mixture. I hope these are in stock next week when I will be way too busy for flower arranging.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Buffet Offering in Sag Harbor

I love this enticing advertisement for the selection of one-act comedies directed and performed by Pierson students on November 18, 19, and 20. To satisfy your hunger for culture, buy your tickets at the door, or click here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photogenic Holiday Cookies

On Friday, a photographer came to my house to record the nine types of cookies I had made for a big holiday baking story (don't worry--I will link you to it as soon as it is out). So in the days leading up to the shoot I ran around to local stores in search of products to make the cookies pretty. These cinnamon-pecan rounds tasted great, but were a rather drab, so at Williams-Sonoma I picked up a can of edible gold spray paint, hoping to make them shiny and pretty. But when I sprayed one of them, I was horrified by the way it looked: About as edible as a bronzed baby shoe. Luckily, I had also purchased a container of golden sanding sugar. Before baking the remaining cookies, I dipped them in the sugar and then pressed a pecan halves in their centers. Here they are, getting ready for their close-up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

IGA Item of the Week: Nicely Trimmed Brisket

The Quail Hill season is over and the Farmer's Market has closed up shop until the Spring, so it's time to turn to our Main Street supermarket for inspiration. No one trims a brisket like the butchers at the IGA. I just brought this 4-pounder home. After rubbing it with a mixture of paprika, rosemary, thyme, and lots of kosher salt, I'll brown it, add 3 cups of water to the pot, cover it with about 8 thinly sliced onions, and cook it for a couple of hours, turning once or twice, until it's fork tender (the recipe is loosely adapted from The Complete Meat Cookbook). We fight over the onion gravy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holiday Baking for the Ambitious

Although I worked all day yesterday, making and freezing holiday cookie dough, I felt like a bit of a slouch when I woke up this morning and saw what this guy was making. (Thanks to my cousin in California for the link).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Idea for Lunch

Yesterday, when I was checking out with my cod fillets at The Seafood Shop, I couldn't resist the cauldrons of New England and Manhattan clam chowder sitting right by the cash register. I brought home a pint of each (and four packets of oyster crackers) and we had soup for lunch. Looking ahead to noon, I wish I had bought two quarts so I had leftovers for today!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Post-Halloween (or Post-Thanksgiving) Skillet Pot Pie

We ate candy for lunch on Sunday, so a wholesome dinner was called for. I had bought some of David Falkowski's beautiful shiitake mushrooms at the Sag Harbor Farmer's Market valeditory. I had a little leftover chicken. And a while back I had made about 10 pounds of pie dough in anticipation of the holiday. So I decided to combine these ingredients in a skillet pot pie that was quick enough to make, bake, and devour between an afternoon walk along the Pumpkin Trail and a return to Suffolk Street for some nighttime trick-or-treating. I'll save most of my pie dough for my Thanksgiving apple pies, but I'll be sure to save a piece or two for leftover turkey pot pie when the holiday is over. Here is the recipe:

Skillet Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie
Serves 4 to 6

One recipe for single crust pie dough
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 leeks, white and light green parts, finely chopped
10 ounces shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
1 tablespoon cooking sherry or Marsala wine
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
Ground black pepper

1. Place an oven rack on the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough into a rough 10 1/2-circle. Use a plate to trim the dough into an even 10 12-inch circle. Fold 1/2-inch of the outer edge inward and press on the folded portion with the tines of a fork to create a pretty pattern. Cut five 3-inch vents into the top of the pastry with a sharp paring knife. Slide the pastry, still on the parchment, onto a baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg and place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
2. Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until almost but not quite crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in the leeks and continue to cook until the leeks are very soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until they release their juices, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the flour and thyme and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Slowly add the broth and then the sherry, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring, until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
4. Slide the prepared pastry on top of the pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and continue to bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, another 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Big Announcement

I am so proud to tell you all that I've joined Zester Daily as a contributor. I can hardly believe the company I'm now keeping. Other contributors include legendary cookbook authors Deborah Madison, Clifford Wright, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, and Jessica Harris; ethnic food experts Diane Kochilas, Robyn Eckhard, and Sandra Wu; and wine writers Elin McCoy, Virginia Boone, and Patrick Comiskey. As Zester's Sag Harbor correspondent, I'll be writing about baking and cooking in this small town. My first story is on cranberries, and includes a simple and wonderful recipe for these shortbread bars as well as shout-outs to some of my favorite nearby food and wine sources.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dispatch from the Pumpkin Trail

While our generous Main Street merchants handed out candy to the kids, I ducked into Sylvester & Company for one of these adorable white chocolate ghosts.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fish Tale

A few weeks ago, our friend Jon mentioned that he has been fishing off of Montauk on Saturday mornings, and catching some pretty big striped bass. So yesterday I cleverly asked him to dinner tonight, thinking that if I got lucky I would be skipping a trip to The Seafood Shop. Sure enough, early this morning I got a photo of what Jon said was a very big fish. "How big?" I asked. A couple of hours later he sent a second photo in response.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Enjoying the Frost-Free Fall

Due to our lovely frost-free Fall, late summer vegetables like eggplant and corn are still available at local farmstands. I picked up some eggplant, and a big, beautiful bunch of cilantro at Falkowski's (Scuttlehole Road, Bridgehampton) yesterday, to make a broiled eggplant salad (adapted from Vegetables Every Day), for dinner last night. Here is the recipe:

Broiled Eggplant Salad
Serves 4

2 pounds eggplant, stems trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
4 medium scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

1. Position an oven rack closest to the broiling element and heat the broiler to high. Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet, brush them on both sides with the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil, turning once, until very well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Let cool on the baking sheet, chop into bite-size pieces, and transfer to a serving bowl.
2. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, chile, and sugar in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the eggplant, add the scallions, cilantro, and peanuts, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Filling the Cookie Jar with James Beard's Molasses Cookies

In celebration of the grand new re-issue of James Beard's classic, American Cookery, the James Beard foundation has asked a bunch of food writers to cook from the book and write about the experience. To read about the molasses cookies I baked (the lard from
plays a large role), and for Beard's recipe, click here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wailing Museum

I had nightmares for a week after visiting the Whaling Museum on an Elementary School field trip in broad daylight, so I expect this evening event will be utterly terrifying.