Nancy’s Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

by Anne Maxfield on November 6, 2014

Accidental Locavore Nancy's CookiesThe Accidental Locavore learned that the former lover of an old friend died last week. It was definitely depression and probably suicide, in a life that sadly took a wrong turn a decade ago.

Rather than dwell on the unhappiness that overcame her and caused us to lose touch, I’m going to focus on the good days and times. Hanging out, skating, the Japanese place on East 86th, and especially the dinners at my place or Paul’s–dinners that were often just an excuse to have Nancy make a batch of these amazing cookies! It’s been a long time since I’ve had these, but I’m pulling out the cookie sheets and you should too. This makes about 24 cookies.

  • 2 ounces unsweetened (baking) chocolate
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sifted flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces walnuts or pecans, chopped

Accidental Locavore Baking CookiesPreheat oven to 350°. Melt unsweetened, semi-sweet chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until melted. Remove and let cool.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee on high speed. Reduce to low speed and add chocolate/butter mixture. Add sifted ingredients and mix just until smooth. By hand, stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoon-sized cookies on sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until top of cookies get a cracked look. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Ultimate Chocolate CookiesMy verdict: I had forgotten how good these cookies were! Frank tried them and loved them! They’re like a cookie version of a really good brownie, or molten chocolate cake. . I left the nuts out as I’ve had allergies, but they would be a great addition. I also left the coffee out as I like my chocolate unadulterated, but if you feel differently…

While cookies aren’t a part of my normal repertoire, these are classics and like Nancy, shouldn’t be forgotten.

Nancy’s recipe has this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for anyone’s actions after cookies have been consumed!!!

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Happiness is a Warm Baguette

by Anne Maxfield on November 3, 2014

Accidental Locavore BaguettesCan we all agree that there’s nothing better than bread fresh from the oven? And if that bread is one of New York’s finest baguettes, fresh out of a very 21st century oven on a dark, blustery November evening, the night the clocks got turned back, the Accidental Locavore thinks it might be possible to survive until spring.

Accidental Locavore Master BakerThe bread in question was eagerly observed from formation, through its placement on the linen-lined belt, with four strategically placed cuts in the surface, into the brand-new oven, until the transformation into a perfect bien cuit baguette, twenty minutes later. As with most warm bread, it proved irresistible and like most of the baguettes I’ve brought home from the various Maison Kayser shops around the city, it didn’t make it to its destination intact.

They say that new coffee makers make the best coffee, and I’m really not sure that the same could be said for ovens, but this was a pretty spectacular baguette! If I tell you it was a conveyor belt, you’ll think mass production, but it was cutting-edge technology in the hands of artisanal bakers, and fascinating to watch.

Accidental Locavore Inside Maison KaiserWe were at the opening party for most recent Maison Kayser shop, opening November 6th on Broadway and 76th Street. Eric Kayser was there, working the crowd, and not looking at all like a man who had just run the New York City Marathon in under four hours (3:42:23). He got a rousing cheer from the packed bakery when he strolled in.

Accidental Locavore Tiny Pastries Like all the other MK’s I’ve been in, the staff was happy to ply us with anything and everything from the store. We switched from savory (butternut squash soup, mushroom tartines, mini croque monsieurs) to sweet (éclairs made from yuzo or blackberry/raspberry) and back again, enjoying every bite.

Accidental Locavore EclairsThe hardest decision was what to take home. I was under strict orders from Frank to bring home a baguette and some croissants, which only left all the amazing pastries to choose from. I split the decision with the woman behind the counter, who chose a raspberry tart for me and I picked a dome of coconut with a passion fruit center in my quest to eat through most if not all of  their desserts. Oh, and a bag of tiny financiers somehow made in with the rest of the treats.

If that’s not enough, next week will launch the holiday menu and I’ve been promised a tasting of all the (mini) bûches de Noël. Stay tuned!

 

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Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake

by Anne Maxfield on October 30, 2014

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower CakeThe Accidental Locavore is probably in a small minority that doesn’t swoon every time there’s a new Ottolenghi book. Not that I don’t own most of them, it’s just that I often find there’s something in the recipes that makes me think–really? However, what I’ve seen of his new book, Plenty More, is starting to make me a believer. Case in point, the cauliflower cake, which hit some of the big food sites last Friday. Besides looking pretty adorable with its red onion polka-dots, the idea of a savory cake was intriguing. Give yourself some time for this. Although there’s nothing difficult, you need an hour for baking and cooling. Probably serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main course with a salad.

  • 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 ¼” florets (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 6 jumbo eggs
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted unsalted butter, for brushing (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower Cake MixPreheat the oven to 400°. Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are quite soft. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.

Cut 4 round ¼” slices off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Accidental Locavore Sesame SeedsWhile the onion is cooking, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm spring-form cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Set aside.

Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until just smooth. Add the cauliflower, stirring gently (try not to break up the florets).

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower Cake TwinsPour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

My verdict: Gotta love it just for its looks! Tasted awfully good too! It turned out to be a bit of a project, but mostly for my screw-ups, not the recipe. The frost the night before killed all my basil, so I had to wait for Frank to arrive with it. Another problem was no baking powder (always check the expiration date) also until he showed up. A stupidly long search of the house turned up no spring-form pan, so I improvised with two 6″ cake pans. Muffin tins might be fun if you wanted to do individual ones. And try finding nigella seeds outside of Manhattan. Since I had them, black and regular sesame seeds were called into play. Poppy seeds or black mustard seeds would work too.  We had the cake as a side dish with some simply grilled steak, but it would be fine on its own with a salad as a light dinner, lunch or brunch dish. You might be tempted to swap out broccoli for the cauliflower, but its flavor (and color) isn’t as subtle as the cauliflower, so let it shine in its own dish.

 

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Discovering Cheese Heaven

by Anne Maxfield on October 27, 2014

Accidental Locavore MagnifiqueThere’s a place in Paris that the Accidental Locavore’s husband used to refer to as shoe heaven and I always said, “if it was really shoe heaven, all the shoes would be free.” Well, the other day, I may have stumbled into cheese heaven.

Accidental Locavore MimoletteThe French Dairy Organization has decided that Americans don’t eat enough French cheese, and to remedy that are backing a nine-year operation to get us into eating plus de fromage. It starts with a slick new store on 39th Street in Manhattan—the French Cheese Board.

Accidental Locavore Blue CheesePart store, part gallery (photos of good-looking French women eating cheese), part tasting area, along with a soon-to-be cooking school and other educational projects or, as they say, the “first international event space dedicated solely to the deliciousness of French cheese.” The website has beautiful photos of cheese, along with pronunciation guides, wine tips and some interesting-looking recipes–all to help you “make it magnifique”.

Accidental Locavore Cheese Tasting TableThis fall, in partnership with the Cheeses of Europe, they’re doing three Friday pop-up events. I went to the first one around lunch time. It sure didn’t look like New Yorkers needed their arms twisted into eating French cheese! The place was jammed and it was easy to see why. At tables lining both walls were the participating producers, each with big platters holding tasting samples of their products. There was even a wine bar, if you needed a little palate cleanser, or just wanted to feel more French. The fromage ran the gamut from butters to triple crèmes to blues, chèvres and everything in-between. I ate most of them. And I bought a lot of them!

Accidental Locavore Bag of FromageMy favorites were pretty typical for me–a terrific triple crème and a Saint Marcellin (also pretty creamy and a little bit stinky–in a good way). The French feta is lovely and makes a great addition to my lunch salads, and the Raclette made a fantastic “potato salad” with a recipe I got from the website. Since I also picked up a couple of butters, it may be time to do another butter tasting (so I can stock up in November).

There will be two more tastings before the end of the year, on November 21st and December 12th. They run from 11-7, but it seems to be a good idea to get there early–less crowded, shorter lines to check out, and more selection. And don’t forget, there’s a Maison Kayser just a block away (that’s where all the great bread they used came from). Look for me there!

 

 

 

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