Archive for December, 2015

Mexican Wedding Cookies

mexican wedding cookies

Sorry Katy Perry, but last Friday night, I did not dance on table tops, nor take too many shots. Instead, I drank a bottle of wine, listened to the new season of Serial (omg) and baked cookies like they were going out of style.

italian wedding cookies

As the cookies were cooling and I was polishing off my fourth glass of Cab, the dust began to settle on my wild Friday night. Like the dutiful (note: obsessive) blogger that I am, I had already taken plenty of photos of my cookies (and a few failed selfies).

russian tea cakes

As I reflected on what else my night might hold (Some Netflix? A cup of tea, perhaps?), I had a great idea. To quote my homie Ben Franklin, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” This blog post wasn’t gonna write itself, so I figured the wine might write it for me instead.

snowball cookie recipe

 

What resulted was a special kind of…well, I don’t really know what it was. I’ve decided to refrain from sharing the work in its entirety here in the interest of preserving some of my dignity. But because dignity isn’t one of my top priorities, I’ve selected some excerpts from my late night scribbles to share with you here.

my drunk kitchen

Enjoy, and cheers to melt-in-your-mouth buttery, nutty cookies that look like snowballs and taste like heaven.

On being at Safeway on a Friday night:

“My grocery shopping peers are either old and alone or already drunk and wearing way too little clothing.”

A description of my big plans for the night:

“Netflix and Chill with a glass (or 4) of red.”

In which I get really defensive and a little aggressive:

“While the world around me said ‘Wow Sienna, you’re lame AF for staying in on a Friday night,’ I said back to it, ‘Thank you for sharing, but I’m a grown ass lady and I do what I want!’”

A revelation about the gentleman I waited in line with at Safeway:

“Maybe me and the guy with the Caesar and milk aren’t so different after all.”

Deep thoughts:

“Seriously, wtf is a pecan?”

Drake gets it:

“Started in the bulk bin now we’re here.”

pantry raid

Ingredients (makes about 3 dozen cookies)

  • ½ pound unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Use a hand or standing mixer to cream the butter, salt, and sugar together.
  3. Once it’s light and fluffy, add vanilla, flour, and nuts.
  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, toss in a little confectioners’ sugar, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-25 minutes. Cookies will still be soft when you remove them from the oven.
  6. Let cool for a couple minutes. Then, carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Once cookies are completely cool, toss in more confectioners’ sugar.

Caramelized Fennel

plenty caramelized fennel recipe

Last night, I was looking for a recipe for a dinner party. First, I turned to my “Food To Dos” Pinterest board. Was there anything there that fit my mood? Nope. Next up, the host of blogs I frequent. Did I find any new material that piqued my palate? Still no. From there, I got tangled up in a mess of tabs, new windows, and futile Google searches. In a moment of grand frustration, I looked away from my screen, only to notice a dusty stack of cookbooks on my counter.

The first one I opened crackled as the spine stretched itself out. The smooth, thick pages grazed the tip of my thumb as I flipped from page to page, the quiet flicking noise whispering in my ear to go on. The glossy photos shimmered with the reflection of the kitchen light overhead and soon enough, I forgot about everything else, lost in the pages before me.

plenty cookbook recipescaramelized fennel recipe

Cookbooks offer something the Internet doesn’t – an experience of directed discovery. The journey they take you on brings forth new ideas, not affirmation for what you already wanted. I could search for “fennel recipes” and find more than enough (actually, too much) material online. Instead, by picking up a cookbook that reflects my culinary personality, I stumbled upon what would become my dinner.

As my grandmother aptly described, reading a cookbook is “comforting.” Unlike a novel, which requires attention and focus, a cookbook allows your mind to wander, to consider how its stories might translate to your own kitchen, and to imagine your own twists and turns on the recipes before you. Food blogs offer a similar experience – a curated anthology of recipes, stories, and photos. But what they lack is a front and back cover – marking the beginning and end of a story, told through the lens of a careful selection of recipes. The story a cookbook tells is succinct and intentional while being packed with new ideas and sensory indulgences.

As the sun went down and my dinner party drew nearer, I settled on a menu incorporating some of my latest discoveries. The most memorable of those was this recipe for caramelized fennel from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The dreamy full-page photo showed cross sections of fennel bulbs being shallow-fried with dried fennel seeds and caramelized goodness. The wispy bits along the edges were charred and crispy looking while the meaty center held the pieces together.

The original recipe suggests serving the dish room temperature with goat cheese, but I went a different route with a cheese-less (I know, blasphemy) and toasty rendition.

fennel dill recipe

I love how quick and easy this recipe is and how little fluff the ingredient list holds. Fennel takes nicely to caramelizing – its subtle sweetness brought to the next level with a little sugar. The addition of fennel seeds and dill gives the whole thing some added complexity and savory flavors.

I served mine hot, though I’m sure it’d stand up as a room temperature dish as Ottolenghi suggests. Goat cheese doesn’t sound like such a bad idea either…

Ingredients (serves 3 as a side)

  • 3 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh dill
  1. Remove the leafy ends of the fennel, leaving only the bulb and a little bit of the end. Cut the bulbs lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat until the butter begins to bubble.
  3. Add the fennel slices to the pan. Flip after about two minutes, or until the bottom side is a golden brown color with a few charred spots.
  4. Repeat until all fennel has been pan-fried, adding more butter and oil as necessary.
  5. Add the sugar, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper to the empty skillet and use a rubber spatula to incorporate into the butter and oil left in the pan. Once the texture is uniform and a little sticky, add the fennel back to the pan and toss to coat.
  6. Serve in a bowl or on a plate and garnish with fresh dill.
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