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!