I don’t know the recipe because she memorized it, and never remembers to write it down.
I haven’t made my mom’s cookies since I lived within shouting distance of her.
So, I make other cookies. Lots of cookies. Lots of different kinds of cookies. Recently, I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and a guest could not stop telling me how they were a taste of home. While his mother doesn’t bake much now, she used to make them as a treat for her kids when they were young.
So, while I can’t have a taste of home without going there, I’m glad to try someone else’s home instead. Though really, I’d rather have my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.
Recipes are meant as inspiration. You don’t like almond extract? Skip it. It calls for margarine? Halve it. You ran out of rosemary? Use oregano. At least, that’s how I interpret recipes. Except, sometimes, I want to make sure that the cookies I’m making are guaranteed to turn someone’s day around. At those desperate times, I need to make sure that the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies – because those are the one thing that we can all agree make the world a better place – turn out the way that the general public thinks they should. So, I follow the actual recipe. And each time I follow a recipe, I am shocked by how well it turns out. It turns out that I’m not the only one. I recently learned that there’s a small but strident group that don’t follow recipes except for the rare occasion – rare occasions on which they’re inordinately pleased by the recipe-following results. However, while I simply can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, other people are taking a stand by refusing to be dictated to by a list of ingredients and instructions. So this recipe goes out to those who believe:
I have enough people telling me what to do. I’ll put as much baking soda in these as I want to, thank you very much.
Hear their rallying cry, and fear their wanton disregarding for your baking soda beliefs. But don’t worry about how the cookies will turn out; these ones are nearly error-proof.
Neiman Marcus Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips
Cream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape/drop cookies on to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.
I went through a phase where I tried to replicate a recipe without re-reading it. Sometimes that works out great. Other times, such as when I made this pilaf and forgot the rice – but not the amount of water you’d need to make it cook through – it did not work out at all.
Live, learn, and then remember that without the rice, a rice-and-lentil pilaf is just a bunch of lentils swimming in spice.
Rice and Lentil Pilaf from “The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes”
dallop oil for sauteeing
1/2 c onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp silvered almonds
2 3/4 c water
3/4 c brown rice, uncooked
1/2 c lentils, uncooked
1/4 cup craisins
2 tsp soy milk
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
sautee onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add in all ingredients, bring to a boil. Cover pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not uncover. If time allows, let sit for 5 minutes after removing from flame, fluff rice, and serve.
A movie rat taught me how to make ratatouille – but by then it was already too late. My mom interprets, rather than follows, recipes. So when she made ratatouille, it followed the traditional dish in the sense that there are vegetables and an oven. But let’s just say that no Frenchman – or rat – worth their salt would recognize the dish as one of their own. After watching the movie, I looked up an actual recipe. I read it about halfway through; then decided it was more time-consuming than tasty, no matter how it turned out. So, I stick with my mom’s recipe, adapting it as the season and my pantry dictates – not unlike the French.
It’s a dish that receives both rave reviews. Though when I refer to it as ratatouille, the response is inevitably the same: it looks nothing like what the Disney rat made. True enough, but would you want to eat something that looked like a rat prepared it?
My Impression of Ratatouille
2-3 zucchini, cut in spears
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2 colored peppers, cut in spears
1-3 carrots, sliced
1 can diced tomato, 1 can tomato sauce, spices as desired; or
1/2 jar pasta or marinara sauce
Oil the pan, dump vegetables on it, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Drizzle a small amount of oil, or just use spray oil to coat. Toss vegetables and arrange so that they cover the pan evenly. Roast at 375 for about 45 minutes – maybe closer to an hour. Stir every 10-20 minutes. After they’re roasted, put everything in a pot and added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce and spiced as desired – in my case that means basil, parsley, and anything else that looks green appropriate.
Alternatively, you can sautee everything in a pot and, when cooked, add the tomato-based products.
Follow the direction in Method 1, pouring jarred pasta or marinara sauce to the pan of veggies – about 1 cup. Continue as directed above. Easy, breezy, beautiful – and delicious.
From Special Correspondent Dena, here is the Tu B’Shvat Cookies recipe that can’t be beat. You will have to use your judgement regarding exactly how much of each ingredient use, since Dena doesn’t feel bound by recipes. Oh, and she also add chopped dates and/or figs to these. Moral to the story: go to town with the seven species and you probably won’t go wrong.
I came with an agenda, but I needn’t have bothered. Innocently, I glanced at Bubby’s bookshelves and remarked “Oh, is that New Kosher Cuisine?” As the conversation had been tangentially related to food, the comment wasn’t totally off the mark. Though the reason I asked was because I intended to leave with her copy of the cookbook in my possession.
“Yes,” said Bubby, “Do you want it?” No beating around the bush needed.
Possibly because she hasn’t used the book in my lifetime.
There was just one condition – Bubby – who claimed she’d never met a mandelbroit recipe she couldn’t ruin and who hadn’t cooked with sugar in decades, wanted that recipe copied out before she handed over the book.
Here’s the secret: bake the mandelbroit loaves at 350 for 20 minutes, then remove them from the oven, slice them up, and broil on each side for 30 seconds. Or more, if you prefer your mandel burnt. And since you have that, there’s no need for you to walk off with my copy of New Kosher Cuisine.
I have as much storage space in my apartment as a midshipman at sea: lucky if I can smuggle some granola bars and a bottle of whiskey on board. If you don’t pack in enough food, you may go hungry late one night. But bring on board too much and you may get court-martialed – or your food disposed of. While none of my roommates have had the ability to court martial me, some have made me wish I’d been dishonorably discharged from our lease agreement. So, rather than anger anyone I limit my food purchasing. Since it’s vital to always be stocked for a natural or national disaster, that means I’ve cut corners. For example, I only have one type of grain at a time in my kitchen. If I already have rice, I’m not buying millet. If I have groats, barley won’t make it on the shopping list.
As with every rule, to this one there is an exception. That exception is Smitten Kitchen’s Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad. The food on that site is reliable and tasty and they only promise what they can deliver. So, when this recipe promised “..if I had more of this Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad right now, I’d eat it for lunch and then dinner again,” and, “I have done you a disservice by not mentioning this for two weeks, as you could have have already eaten it twice! Maybe even four times!” I went out and bought all the ingredients – even though I was only half-way through a bag of rice. And it was worth it the lose of storage space to have this salad on hand.
It was so good that it made me reckless and I decided that any recipe labeled Mediterranean had to be good. So I let the internet lead me away to the sunny shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It took me straight to The Mediterranean Dish’s Za’atar Roasted Chicken Breast.
While I trust Smitten Kitchen to know what’s best for me, I don’t know The Mediterranean Dish from a hole in a wall. So, rather than follow the recipe, I adapted and adjusted and the result is:
Mediterranean Sumac Chicken, based on a true recipe
3-4 lbs chicken
1/2 c lemon juice
1 c olive oil
2 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp allspice
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp za’atar
2 tsp paprika
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
1 lemon, sliced.
Marinate chicken in all ingredients. If you have the time, combine the oil and spices into a marinade and let sit overnight. Otherwise, the add the oil and spices to the chicken already in the pan, coating evenly. Add in garlic, onion, and lemon. Roast at 400F for 45-60 minutes – for the first 30 minutes, cover the pan.
The air has gone crisp. Yellow leaves have blown into my bedroom – or perhaps traveled in on rain boots. The cranberries have arrived at Trader Joe’s! This can mean only one thing: autumn is here.
Cookies are always on tap in my kitchen. And there are no cookies like autumn cookies. But gingersnaps, pfeffernusse, and mint chocolate are de regueur. For this autumn, I wanted something special. Something that makes use of those fresh cranberries in the store. So I hit google and discovered that Martha Stewart authored a double-chocolate cranberry cookie. With Martha, you can’t go wrong, so I started in on the recipe. Except she called for sweetened dried cranberries, and I wanted tart fresh ones. She requires bittersweet chocolate, and I don’t have that on hand. And frankly, she uses way more butter than I can stomach.
Join me on the dark side of Martha, or use the presumably-perfect Martha version. Either way, happy autumn!
Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in a microwave
1 cup2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
3 tbsp unsweeteneddarkcocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt sprinkle salt, if you want
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperaturemargarine, at whatever temperature
little less than 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries about 1 cup fresh cranberries, mashed in a food processor
Cream margarine and sugars; add eggs and vanilla. Stir in melted chocolate and canberries. Mix together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
Objectively speaking, I cannot make brownies. It doesn’t matter which recipe I use or steps I take, they all come out somewhat awful. Until now, I thought I was alone – but I am not. A friend has fallen into the same problem. Her solution though, isn’t to stay away from brownies. It’s to remake them in her own image.
Here is the original and for those who can’t make brownies:
double the water
double the baking soda
and, from the ashes of failed brownies, you have a cake that was waiting to be born.