Sunday, February 24, 2019

Retro Recipe: Ruth Reichl's Baked Cheddar Olives

Ruth says, "These standbys of 1950s bridge club hostesses are worth resurrecting. They're good - crisp on the outside with a briny surprise inside. And they can be made with ingredients no kitchen should lack."

I have to agree. In fact, I'd say these little devils are more than good. I found them to be extremely delicious and quite addictive. I could barely stop eating them. The outside of these little treats is crumbly, like a cheesy biscuit dough, that crisps up on the outside and reminds me of the very popular cheese crackers everyone knows and loves. The inside is a briny salty delight. These wowed me big time!

Quite often I feel as though we go all out when entertaining, spending into the hundreds trying to impress our guests. These remind me that there is really no need for that. It's nice to take a step back and see a recipe such as this. Inexpensive, but totally delightful, these delicious bites will impress all your family and friends.

I can already tell you these will be at the top of my Ruth Reichl faves and they will definitely make my list of all time favorite recipes this year. Make them and see for yourself!

Baked Cheddar Olives
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
Makes 20 Hors D'Oeuvres

1 cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
20 small pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained and patted dry

Notes: The dough was very crumbly and hard to work with. I had to add at least another teaspoon or so of butter to get the dough to come together.

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400F.

Stir together cheese, flour, and cayenne in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until a dough forms.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto a sheet of wax paper and place 1 olive on each piece of dough. Lightly flour your hands and wrap dough around olives, enclosing each one completely. Transfer olives to a baking sheet with sides and bake until pastry is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Pizza" My Heart Challenge {My Top Five Pizza Recipes}

You want a "pizza" my heart?

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are celebrating Valentine's Day with pizza. Here is a roundup of all my favorite pizza recipes!

(Click on the recipe title to be directed to the recipe)
Pepin's Yellow Pepper, Gruyere, and Pine Nut Pizza is a refreshing and light take on pizza using pita bread. It's topped with nutty Gruyere, briny salty sliced black olives, beautiful fresh yellow pepper, and crunchy pine nuts. It is a flavor and texture delight perfect for the warm weather months and/or a quick lunch!

Giada's Cheesy Muffin Pizzas are cute little pizza minis for kids, and adults. These little minis are stuffed with a chicken filling, lots of creamy cheeses, spinach, and Italian seasoning and they will fly off your table.

Giada's Fourth Of July Pizza belongs on every Fourth of July table. It's hard to resist the pepperoni stripes and the spinach and ricotta stars. This pizza cuts into several small squares making it perfect for any 4th of July picnic and is fun for people of all ages!

There's cheese lover's pizza, meat lover's pizza, and veggie lover's pizza. Then there's this's for the bread lovers. With a crust that is 1-1'2" thick and lots of dimples for sauce and cheese, this one is a major contender. If you love the deep dish style then this is a pizza recipe for you.

Giada knocks it out of the park with this recipe. This is easily my favorite recipe for pizza ever. Pizza crust sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, then topped with a creamy Mascarpone cheese topping, and decorated with the most colorful beautiful berries. It's total heaven and you should most definitely make it and share it at any spring or summer celebration. It is so dreamy and delightful!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

My Version of Ruth Reichl's Peanut Sesame Noodles

Five bottles of sesame seeds were in my spice cabinet when I cleaned it out. Five! I've been hacking away at it, little by little, sprinkling sesame seeds on my avocado toast. I've also been looking for recipes that use more than a sprinkle.

I have a few up my sleeve, but for now I'm starting with Ruth's Peanut Sesame Noodles. I've been craving these noodles for awhile now. Ruth says you can really dress these up by putting them on a platter and garnishing them with all sorts of veggies, chicken, cilantro, even garnishing in lines like a Cobb salad. That would've made for a gorgeous display that was truly blogworthy, BUT....

I wanted something that was easy to eat. A pared down version with nothing to get in the way of the noodle. No pesky vegetable interference! So, I did just that. A silky creamy peanut sesame sauce tossed with lo mein noodles sprinkled with lots of scallions, crushed red pepper flakes, and lots of toasted sesame seeds. I have to say, I was extremely pleased!

The peanut sesame sauce is so creamy it's almost silky.  I love the hint of ginger, garlic, and spice from the red pepper flake! Ruth says that this is best served right away, but I found that this is also delicious served cold or warm the next day. I would gladly make this again. In fact, I'm tempted to make it again and garnish it as she suggested. I think it would be a beautiful dish to entertain with!

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4-6

For Dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For Noodles
3/4 pound dried thin linguine or spaghetti
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8" wide strips*
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8" wide strips* 
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Make the noodles: Cook pasta in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling water (1 tablespoons salt per every 4 quarts of water) until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water. Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers*, and sesame seeds to dressing, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

*Notes: I was going for basic noodle dish that was easy to eat so I opted to leave out thebell pepper strips. I didn't have sesame oil so I used canola oil. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Tiny Chocolate Chip Cookies {Plus Another Dear Ruth Letter}

Dear Ruth,

It's fitting that Deb and I elected Cabin Fever to be this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Two words: polar vortex. This polar vortex brought record-breaking low temps and granted us three glorious days off school. Some people get cabin fever. Not me. I love snow days. I love being trapped inside.

You see, on these days, everything becomes ultimately quiet and peaceful. As the snow falls, and the frigid temperatures move in, people become scarce. No one is outside. The kids don't knock on the door. My kids cuddle with blankets and watch shows in their room. A hush falls over the house and it delivers absolute peace. Precious peace and quiet. I crave these days. I need them.I wait all year for them.

On this particular snow day, I was lounging on my couch with the dog while I was thumbing through your Gourmet cookbook. Looking for something sweet, and chocolatey, I found your recipe for Tiny Chocolate Chip Cookies. Having never made tiny cookies I decided to give this recipe a go.

Scooping tiny cookies did give me pause, but I was feeling especially patient since I was well-rested and totally at peace.

Perhaps I gave myself too much credit, Ruth. For I was about to learn that I am not patient under any circumstances. You see, you required me to scoop rounded 1/2 teaspoons of dough for these cookies, Ruth. I don't know if math is your strong suit, Ruth. It's certainly not mine, but that is about 150 cookies. Do you know how small 1/2 teaspoons is, Ruth? I mean, really, and truly. The chocolate chip itself is about 1/2 teaspoon. I can't believe you wanted me to do this 150 times! This is surely a form of torture, Ruth.

I feel I have to be honest here. I did cuss you while I was making these cookies, Ruth. It wasn't ladylike, I know. People would be shocked at how undone I came while scooping the dough. Truly shocked.

You ought to have seen my face when I pulled the first batch out of the oven and noticed that the cookies spread out and became flat and thin. Thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies? How dare you, Ruth! If there is anything that I can't stand it's a thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie.

Getting ready to blow a gasket, I slung the cookie sheet down and went out the back door huffing and puffing. Scooping all those cookies was too hard, and tried my patience far too much, for the cookies to turn out thin and crispy, Ruth. What about my pictures, Ruth? Thin, crispy cookies DO NOT make good pictures, Ruth. Now I was fuming mad. I had to just walk away.

It was 20 below outside and even the frigid temperature couldn't cool me down. Compelled to make it work, I went back in and tasted a cookie. Then another, and another, and maybe even another. Why did I keep eating your cookies, Ruth? I don't like thin crispy cookies. Except....

I literally couldn't quit eating them. I tried to go over and scoop more dough so I could finish baking, but I wanted another tiny, thin, crispy cookie.Yes, they were crispy and crumbly, but they were also salty and chocolately. Something about them was quite addictive.

I could not quit eating them. My daughter came downstairs and said "What's up with these cookies? They look so thin and crispy." Then she tried one and she said, "Wow, these are salty and delicious." Together, we ate one whole tray of tiny cookies. To be fair, this is okay because the cookies are tiny and eating 10 is really only like eating one or two regular cookies, right Ruth?

So, I apologize Ruth, for cussing you. I don't know that I would ever shape 150 cookies into 1/2 teaspoon rounds again, but these cookies were delicious, everyone loved them, and they were exceedingly fun to eat, so I do forgive you. I hope you'll forgive me too.

Yours Truly,

Tiny Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes a little over 12 dozen

1-1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoonsalt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400F.

Beat together butter, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop barely rounded 1/2 teaspoons of dough about 1-1/2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in batches until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Notes: I normally chill my cookie dough because I like thick and chewy cookies, so I chilled my dough for at least an hour.I used the same cookie sheet that I always use. I did question cooking the cookies at 400, since most cookies cook at 350. My first batch turned out darker than I like and I did think they spread out way too flat, so I lowered the temperature to 350 and chilled my dough some more. It really didn't matter what I did with the dough, what cookie sheet I used, or what temperature I set the oven to. These cookies all came out thin and crispy. These are not my favorite chocolate chip cookie, but they are delicious in their own right. If you are patient, and like thin and crispy cookies, then this may be the recipe for you!

Cabin Fever @ IHCC