I'm fresh off a girls road trip to Napa, California. We stayed at a wonderful hotel in Calistoga called Solage, rode bikes to local wineries, ate, laughed and participated in a self led water aerobics class. We think we're so funny, the lounging pool folk may attest otherwise. We enjoyed a personal tour and tasting at Kelly Fleming's vineyard, and chatted around her big farmhouse table. I get so inspired when I watch people pursue what they love. It is absolutely gorgeous up there. As a Southern California girl, I am awe struck by the landscape that is a mere 8 hours north.
My kitchen has been quiet the past few days, so we're sharing a recipe we had posted on The Kitchn earlier this week. Tara at Seven Spoons posted a version of this recipe quite a ways back, and her images haven't left my mind since. I knew that when I next committed to make a decadent, buttery, serious business cookie, this would be the one. Her post was about a year ago, which goes to show I don't have the self control to make 'serious business' cookies very often. They certainly met my expectations. After a year of thinking about them, they materialized into the soft centered, slightly crisp exterior I had hoped they'd be.
CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CHERRIES + PECANS// Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
If you like a salty bite to your sweets, I would suggest giving them a sprinkle of sea salt just before you put them in the oven. Pairs perfectly with cold milk or some vanilla bean ice cream.
1 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/4 Cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Cup Pecans, toasted and chopped
1 Cup Dried Cherries, chopped coarse
8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped into small pieces OR chocolate chips
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 Cups Muscavado/Packed Dark Brown Sugar
1 Extra Large Egg
1 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
1. Use parchment paper or a silpat* to line several standard baking sheets and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2.In another bowl combine the oats, pecans, dried cherries and chocolate.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a whisk and a strong arm, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add the egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
3. Gently sift, or with the mixer down to low, add the flour mixture to the bowl. Stir until just combined. Finally incorporate the oats, nuts, fruit and chocolate. Do not overmix.
4. Roll these portions lightly between your hands in about 1/4 cup portions, then place on each baking sheet, spaced evenly. You can make them small, but adjust your baking time a few minutes less. Wet your hands and lightly press the dough to a 1-inch thickness. Bake the cookies, two trays at a time, in a preheated oven for 12 minutes. Rotate the trays top to bottom and back to front and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cookies are uniformly golden, but still wet in the middle. They should appear slightly undercooked.
5. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
* You can find a silpat at Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon. They keep the bottoms on cookies or biscuits from burning, while also creating a non-stick surface. They come in a few sizes, so be sure it fits the measurements of your cookie sheet!
It's summer. And not to say I would turn down a stick-to-your-ribs piece of chocolate cake, but I feel good about this dessert. I will claim it as my current favorite. We made four, each ate one and while I'd normally give the rest away, these little babes are tucked away my fridge for this afternoon. I doubted them, thinking they looked like ginger egg souffles coming out of the oven, but looks can be deceiving. A zesty ginger angel food cake of sorts, with the tang of fresh blackberries and the warm sweetness of a ripe, white peach. It's not that any of the three components are show stoppers on their own, but together, the combination is absolute perfection. This dessert is a case in point, that heavy and rich is not always better. If I were serving this to other people, I would consider adding a very small scoop of good vanilla bean ice cream on top. However, for the sunny days of August, where it is just me and Hugh needing an afternoon treat, they are perfect as is.
My side note: a few of you think myself, Sara, take the pictures here on Sprouted Kitchen. I wish it were the case, I would love to have his talent, but Hugh is the genius who makes my cooking look even better than it actually is. He encourages me to make good foods, so he can take pictures like we have here; I am a lucky lady. Don't worry, I pay him with ginger cakes.
GINGER CAKES WITH WHITE PEACHES + BLACKBERRY COULIS // Makes 4 Small Cakes
Inspired by The Golden Door Cooks at Home by Dean Rucker
Tip: Egg whites are easier to beat when they sit at room temperature for a bit. As far as substitutes, you could use regular white sugar instead of what is listed below if that is what you bake with, and have on hand. I imagine they could be made gluten free with rice flour or a gf baking mix, but I haven't tested that myself. I like a lot of ginger, and found the below measurement to be pretty modest. If you make them, I'd love to hear your feedback on the ratio!
3 Extra Large Egg Whites (4 if any smaller)
1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
Pinch of Salt
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar/Sucanat
1/4 Scant Cup Turbinado Sugar
1 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Tbp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Ripe, Organic White Peach
1 1/4 Cup Blackberries
Juice of one Lime, about 2 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Half+Half/Heavy Cream
Oven to 350'
1. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a hand mixer on high until peaks form (about 3 minutes). They should quadruple in size. Once it's holding shape, continue beating it, while slowly sprinkling in the sugars. Beat in the vanilla extract and fresh grated ginger.
2. Using a rubber spatula, sprinkle and fold in the 1/4 flour, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.
3. Coat four, 4-6 oz. ramekins with natural cooking spray, gently divide cake mix between them. Place ramekins on a baking sheet, and put in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 14 minutes. Allow them to cool about 5 minutes, then remove them from the ramekin. * I give mine a good slam down on a cutting board, and flip them over, the cake comes right out.
4. While the cakes are cooking, blend the blackberries, lime juice, honey and splash of cream together. Taste for sweetness, as the quality/ripeness of the berries may require you to add a tad more honey, it should be tart.
5. Cut the peach in half, and in thin slices.
6. Assemble with one cake, a few spoonfuls of the blackberry sauce and some fresh peach slices.
There are moments when the weight of something simple, gets the best of you. All the beliefs and values we have, that compose this big ol' life of ours, can get generalized or maybe even overlooked until someone or some moment or some thing breaks out and makes life quite genuine.
I was reminded yesterday of how much we need people. I have some great people around me, and I am so thankful for the different facets of relationships. All the little wedding decisions and to-do lists got the best of me yesterday, and I lost it while talking to my mom about the color of invitation paper (by lose it, I mean tears, not angry rage). We sat on my parents backyard steps, and I needed her to hug me right then and change the subject. I needed her to comfort me, and ummm, I needed her to go pick out the paper as well. I am SO excited to get married, beyond anxious, but a few tears are expected in all of this. We're not as independent as we'd like to think we are, and it's humbling to admit that we need people; that we're dependent. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of the obvious, and sometimes it's the little things that take us there. I could keep my mini life lessons to myself, but knowing how I often get wrapped up in my own inner dialogue, I thought one of you may need to get out of your head for a second as well.
On that note, it seems avocado toast is the trendy snack of the summer. I am a partaker myself, but needed another quick snack option, that resembles the satisfying greatness that comes from goodies piled on a good slice of grainy toast. You could use any spreadable cheese of choice, but ricotta keeps everything nice and moist here. Consider making extra zucchini, then you're set for the next few snack times.
ZUCCHINI TOASTS // Makes 4 Toasts, Serves 2
1 Fresh Whole Grain Loaf
4 Zucchini (About 2 1/2 Cups when diced)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2-3 tsp. Lemon Pepper
1 tsp. Fennel Seed (optional)
Sea Salt (If your Lemon Pepper Blend DOESN'T have salt already)
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
2 Tbsp. Minced Shallot
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
Fresh Parsley + Mint
Oven to 475'
1. Cut both end off the zucchini. Cut each in half length wise, then each long half into 4 sticks, dice. Repeat with remaining zucchini.
2. Spread zucchini on a large baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil and lemon pepper, optional fennel seed, and salt IF needed. The zucchini should have a very light coating of oil, add a bit more if need be. Use your preferences on the amount of spices too. Spread to make one even layer on the baking tray for more browning. Bake on the upper third rack for 18-20 minutes, or until they've got some good crispy edges. Remove to cool.
3. While zucchini is roasting, mix the ricotta, mustard and shallot together in a small bowl, set aside.
4. Chop even amounts parsley and mint, about 1/3 cup in total.
5. Toast your bread slices, I thought 1/2'' thick was perfect. Spread a few dollops of the ricotta mix, a sprinkle of the herb mix, pile zucchini on top, and another sprinkle of herbs. Yum.
My free time has been a bit limited lately, so cooking hasn't been worth sharing. I would call it more 'assembling' than I would cooking in the past two weeks. I missed it, it is my therapy. I was so excited to be making something that I talked through making this entire salad. Imagine Food Network with no eye contact or matching pans and bowls. I paid close attention to cutting things evenly and paused to share a helpful hint. Hugh started replying to my rhetorical questions at first, until he realized I wasn't responding or looking for feedback, and let me carry on being completely crazy while he took pictures. It's really wonderful that he loves me, because sometimes I just can't help myself from being crazy (Hugh, thank you. xo).
This salad is not complicated in the slightest, but it was the tastiest combination I've had in quite sometime. It reinforces the fact, that finding seasonal, fresh produce guarantees a better product. It was my first time cooking with red quinoa, and I found it to be a bit firmer, which is just perfect to toss into a salad. It is not crucial by any means, but if you can get your hands on some red quinoa, it certainly make a gorgeous alternative to the white variety. I enjoyed this as written below, because I like to eat A LOT of salad, and it not having the weight of cheese or a protein was ideal for me yesterday when I consumed the entire bowl. However, if I were making this for other people, or maybe myself on a less vegetable gluttonous day, it would be excellent with a bit of either feta, goat cheese or a piece of grilled fish to make it more of an entree.
Eat good foods and enjoy your weekend ~
NECTARINE+FENNEL SALAD // Serves 4 as a side
I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy your produce from a local farm stand or farmers market for this salad. Seek out an incredibly fragrant nectarine, a delicate avocado with buttery insides, a plump fennel bulb. It is very light, and what makes it great is the use of ripe, fresh produce. Just a mere suggestion that you could translate as a command.
1/2-3/4 Cup Cooked Red Quinoa
1/2 Cup Shelled, Roasted Pistachio Nuts
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Fennel (use a mandoline if you have one!)
2 Cups Arugula (or lettuce of choice)
// Mustard Chive Vinaigrette //
* These are estimates, give or take to your own taste.
1 Small Clove Garlic
1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Chives
1 Tbsp. Apricot Jam (Honey or Agave will work)
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Put all viniagrette ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse until everything is combined, about 30 seconds. Taste for salt and pepper.
2. Working in a large mixing bowl, add the cooked and cooled red quinoa, and about 3 tbsp. of the vinaigrette to keep it moist. Stir.
3. Halve the nectarine, remove the pit, and slice into thin pieces. Halve the avocado and cut into small chunks. Add the fennel slices, pistachios and half of the nectarine and avocado pieces to the bowl, save the other half for garnish.
4. I suggest using clean hands to toss everything, so you can be gentle and retain the shapes of the avocado and nectarine. Add desired amount of dressing and give one more toss to coat. Garnish with fresh slices of nectarine and avocado.
We made a quick day trip over to Palm Springs, CA this week to take care of a few wedding things and holy goodness was it toasty. My car thermometer read 115' at one point! I am just now getting over the shock that is extreme heat, and more than ready for the beach this weekend. So, this weekend you will find me in the ocean, swimming, actually getting my hair wet and then making another batch of these mini tarts.
These make a simple and tasty dessert for a number of reasons. They're small, which means you can justifiably eat a few of them. But maybe that's a selling point for just me? The simplicity lends itself to use any type of fruit you have, they'd be great with peaches, strawberries, maybe even fresh mango and use lime instead of lemon if you like tropical flavors. If you want to complete a few steps in advance, you could cut and score the puff pastry, put it on a baking sheet and leave it in the fridge til dessert time. The cream mix and blueberries can be prepped in advance as well, in under 5 minutes mind you. The ingredient list is short, and the hands on time is limited which means I will be making these frequently.
Sidenote: If you'd rather be cooking outside, we had a post on Etsy yesterday of the Rustic Fig Pizza we made awhile back!
BLUEBERRY & CREAM TARTS // Makes 9
I have not attempted to make my own puff pastry, however, Helene at My Tartlette has both a regular and a gluten version on her site if you feel up to it! Recipe inspired by Real Simple.
1 8-oz. Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
1 Egg, beaten
6 oz. Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp. Honey, divided
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice, divided
Zest of one Large Lemon
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
Lemon zest and powdered sugar for garnish, optional
Oven to 375'
1. Unfold the the puff pastry and roll over it with a rolling pin about three time, just to thin it a bit.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie cutter or top of a mason jar, gently cut out circles and put them on the parchment. My cutter was about 2'' diameter, you can use what you have, but use your better judgement to increase or decrease baking time.
3. Using a paring knife, score a 1/4'' thick circle border inside each tart cut out. Brush the outer edge with the beaten egg and sprinkle each with a bit of sugar (1 Tbsp. between all of them). Bake on middle rack until golden and puffed, about 14+/- minutes.
4. In the meantime,mix the cream cheese, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. honey until fully mixed and a bit fluffy. Put it in the fridge.
5. Remove the tarts, rescore the circle and press down gently on the middle part to flatten. Allow them to cool about 5 minutes.
6. Dollop about 1 Tbsp. of the creamy mixture in the middle of each tart (again, this will depend on the size). Put the blueberries in a bowl. Warm the remaining 1 Tbsp. honey in the microwave for 15 seconds to loosen it, pour over the berries along with the last 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice and toss to coat. Pile a hefty spoonful of berries on top of the creamy mixture. Serve at room temperature.
* Garnish with fresh lemon zest and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you please.