Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Truth be told, I’ve been looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe for quite some time. Well, now, I’ve found it!

The recipe is adapted from the justifiably famous Jacques Torres cookie recipe. Friends have described it as, no joke, the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I was, needless to say, skeptical. I mean, how much can you really improve on the classic Toll House recipe?

It turns out, this recipe does a lot to improve it! For one thing, it goes heavy on the chocolate. This isn’t a butter cookie with a few sad, lonely chocolate chips mixed in. No, this is over a pound of good quality Belgian chocolate. The original recipe called for special Jacques Torres chocolate discs. I substituted that with a bar of Trader Joe’s excellent pound-plus dark chocolate.  When the bar is chopped roughly, you get a range of finely ground chocolate and larger chunks. The result? Each bite, though bursting with rich chocolate flavor, is enticingly unique.

The recipe also calls for the cookie dough to be chilled for at least 24 hours. Why? It’s allows the dough to properly moisturize.  It turns out that the original Nestle Toll House cookie recipe, according to lore, also called for the dough to be chilled overnight. I know it’s hard to wait for cookies, but the wait is worth it.  

The kicker? The cookies are finished with a sprinkling of sea salt. The salt adds depth and dimension to the dark chocolate. It really takes these cookies to a whole new level. Are these the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had? Yes!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes, Feta, and Herbs

A great philosopher once said: “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbeque it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it.” Truer words have never been said. 

Whether it be pan fried, deep fried, or stir fried, there are any number of tasty preparations! There's pineapple shrimp, lemon ship, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.

That’s about it.

This dish highlights what makes shrimp so appealing. The shrimp itself is bathed in a hot broth of tomatoes, feta, and fresh herbs. It emerges slightly buttery, with a hint of sweetness. The smell? Slightly briny, and a smell that is reminiscent of the sea. In a word: heavenly.

The best part? It takes less than 30 minutes!

When you’re ready to eat, be sure to have some crusty bread around. The sauce is so good, you’ll definitely be coming back for more!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Potatoes

Chickpea? Garbanzo bean? Chana? Call it what ever you want. It's my favorite legume! The reasons why are actually simple. 

For one, it's got your back in all kinds of situations, like a good neighbor. It's right there when you need it, whether it be for hummus, curries, stews, or salads. Beyond its versatility, it's dirt cheap to buy. Even if you forgo the dried route and go with canned beans, you won't break the bank to put together a tasty meal. Finally, it's nutritious, chock full of complex carbohydrates and protein. 

This dish, Lebanese in origin, is something like a symphony of flavors. Individually, none of the ingredients are that exciting. In fact, the ingredient list is deceptively short. Just a few pantry items and fresh herbs are needed. But, when combined together, a few simple ingredients take on a surprisingly complex flavor. 

The dish itself echoes the versatility of the legume. It can be served hot or cold. Want it as a side dish? The flavors meld well with a number of meat courses. Want it as a main vegetarian course? Great! It's more than capable, perhaps with a small side salad. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Soba Noodle Salad with Grilled Tofu and Roasted Pepper

The calendar has ticked over to June, and we’re rapidly approaching the start of summer! But at least here in Los Angeles, the weather is already heating up. For me, this means it’s time to start making more salads! And not just the leafy kind! 

This is a Buckwheat Noodle Salad with Grilled Tofu and Roasted Pepper. It comes courtesy of Deborah Madison, a preeminent vegetarian cookbook author and chef. The recipe itself can be found in the fabulous Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. You can read my review of the book here. If you’re in or from San Francisco, she founded Greens Restaurant, which remains open today. She also, I might add, graduated from my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz!

The salad combines soba noodles, tofu, sweet roasted peppers, with a slightly hot and slightly sweet sauce to make a dish that is light but satisfying. It’s also a great way to get someone to try (and perhaps enjoy) tofu. More importantly, it's also really easy to cook. Some hot dishes require expert timing so that everything is done and ready at the same time. This? Not so much. It comes together cold, so you can compose it at your own pace. Need something to kick off the summer with? This might be the ticket!