25 February 2009

Back at it


Today was sunny! It's seemed like so long since New York has seen any sun... not like I can be the best of judges, as of late. And so far I've also managed not to take a nap, which is certainly a step up from the other days this week. Also, I managed to get back to the stove, and I'm making our latest favorite chickpea dish. (We seem to rotate which ones we like the best, and make it for months, and then switch the next season that it gets cold. More on that later.)

I know that chickpeas are not a sexy legume. They are lumpy. And wan. But they are kind of adorable, don't you think? They are pleasantly dimply. And so sweet! I usually pop more than a few in my mouth when they're sitting in the strainer over the sink. And when they're surrounded by a warm bath of tomatoes, onions, chile, and a touch of cream, they are absolutely irresistible. Add some warm pita or naan, and you have a match made in heaven. This may be the perfect way to welcome some sunny weather, even if it's still a little chilly.

Spicy Chickpeas with Paneer, adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced (or 1 teaspoon powdered)
1 tablespoon fresh minced chile, to taste
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
large pinch sugar
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
3/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 block paneer cheese

1. Place butter in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion, garlic, ginger (if fresh), and fresh chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, chili powder (and ginger, if powdered), sugar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.
2. Add the tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to release some liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
3. Turn the heat down so that the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (It should be well seasoned, and pretty spicy, since when you add the chickpeas and cheese the spices dissipate quite a bit.)
4. Rinse the chickpeas in cold water, and add to the sauce.
5. Cube the paneer into smallish cubes; they should be bite-sized. Add to the chickpea and tomato sauce mixture. Mix all together, cover, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with fresh pita or naan.

23 February 2009

Paris, Paris

Let me start out by telling you that Lufthansa is truly the way to fly. It wasn't the roomiest of airplanes, but there were rivers of free booze and real meals and those little neck savers that turn around your head so that you can sleep without your head totally falling onto your chest and jerking you awake every three minutes. There was even a soft blanket. And a smushy pillow.

All in all, getting to Paris was a snap. The only better flight I've had was one where we were totally late in D.C. and it turned out that they bumped me to business class, without any requests on my part! Nothing beats transatlantic business class. NOTHING.

After we got in, got to our friends' apartment, and had a quick snack, Natalie, Jeff and I went for a quick walk around the neighborhood, stopping for lunch. Jeff, having not managed to sleep at all on our flights over, barely made it though lunch sitting up. But our reward was a hot café with a white chocolate-covered marshmallow shaped like a bear. How could anyone resist it?


The best part about day one, though, was dinner; our friends and ever-so-fantastic hosts Johnny and Natalie and we went to one of their favorite haunts for dinner, Epicure 108. It was the real deal--kir royal, wine, entrée+plat+désert, the works. The star of the show, though, was certainly dessert--Natalie had recommended their croquillantes, thumb-sized melted chocolate surrounded with thin layers of puff pastry and sautéed in butter. They were absolutely divine. But nothing beat Johnny's chocolat au Saint Valentin. It was just gorgeous. Johnny seemed to think it tasted as good as it looked, too.


After that, we called it an early night. And then proceeded to sleep for about ten hours.

Epicure 108
108 rue Cardinet
75017 Paris

12 February 2009

Annnnnd...we're off!


Dear Everyone,

Reading over the last post, it would seem as though I had fully meant to tell you about all sorts of good things. And I was, really, I had the best of intentions. But you and I all know where good intentions lead. So I won't even pretend this time, because instead of frantically cleaning out the fridge and removing the grime from my bathtub and packing like a fiend, I am sitting here avoiding all of it.

See, Jeff and I are going to Paris, tomorrow! We'll be gone for a week. A WHOLE WEEK. We haven't taken a vacation in a long time. You know, a vacation vacation. One where we don't go see our parents. The last one was when we went to Seattle in 2006. It was a good trip. We've been looking to repeat it for a while.

I promise to take pictures. I promise to have stories. And they will be good. And delicious.

À la prochaine!
Mei

08 February 2009

Annnnd.... we're back!

Where did this last week go? I had meant to tell you all sorts of good things, like rolls that breach out like fans, and brownies that could melt your heart. But we were too busy cavorting in Washington DC, I guess--going to fabulous places like Etete, a cramped, spirited Ethiopian restaurant where we went for my friend Susan's birthday. We feasted on injera, a sponge-like bread that soaks up all sorts of sauce and goodness, and all sorts of small, feisty dishes. There was also a rancid honey wine, which we sent back, and all sorts of excellent conversation and companionship.

We also went to our friends Anna and Andrew's house, where there was so much to say, and too little time. Andrew and Anna are very accomplished cooks, and wonderful friends.

In the end, there was way to much to do. And way too little time. It's hard to maximize yourself while constantly shuttling between couches and the various ends of town. (To all of our friends, who were more than gracious, and had incredibly comfortable couches/futon mattresses, we are so thankful. So thankful. Let us reciprocate any time.)

And then we got back and we were just crazy. But we don't need to talk about that now. We do need to talk about, however, the best cookie dough that I have had in, um, ever. So that cookbook that Lorie and Bob sent me for my birthday/Christmas? Baked? Fantastic. I made their brownies. They were tasty (see above). But nothing like these chocolate chip cookies.

I know, I know. How many different recipes for a chocolate chip cookie can there be? Well, lots, really. For a long time I was a huge, unapologetic fan of the Tollhouse recipe, found on the back of the semi-sweet chocolate chip bag. We lovingly called them Crisco cookies. I made them at least once a week when I was a senior in high school. (Mom, thanks millions for the ingredients. You were a total trooper.) Last year I got hooked on the version from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, which had a smidge of corn syrup (which I replaced with agave nectar, an excellent trade-off), and then I also tried that super annoying recipe from the New York Times, which was, admittedly, very, very good. But THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE. They are buttery and warm and chocolate-melty. I didn't have chocolate chips in the house, but I did have the remains of quite a few chocolate bars, which I chopped to vaguely chocolate chip-sized pieces, which worked out perfectly. There were little shards of chocolate that melted into the batter, and larger chunks that were nice and gooey. And with a little milk, two were the perfect bed-night snack.

**PICTURES COMING**

Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Baked

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate chips or pieces

1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda togther and set aside.

2. In another large bowl, either in an electric mixer or by hand, beat the butter and the sugars together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. the mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat for five seconds.

3. Add half of the flour mixtures and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporate.

4. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl tightly and refidgerate mixture for 4-6 hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Using two bigish spoons, form dough into approximately 2-tablespoon sized balles, and place them on prepared sheets, giving them at least an inch on all sides to breathe. Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating pans once while baking, until the edges of the cooking sare golden brown and the tops just start to darken.

7. Remove the pans from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.

Etete
1942 9th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001