Smokey Cardamom Ginger Molasses Cookies

cardamom-ginger-molasses-cookies

The day December hits, right on schedule, visions of Christmas cookies are dancing in my head. I love peanut blossoms, pretty linzer squares, chocolatey chili cookies – and especially a wintery spice cookie.

I don’t have one that in particular that I normally make, so this caught my eye when I saw it: Carey Nershi’s Smokey Cardamom Ginger Molasses Cookies on Food52. It had me at black cardamom; which if green cardamom is the Queen of Spices, black cardamom is the sophisticated, mellowed, and camphorous Queen Mother. This recipe not only uses the seeds as part of the spices but infuses the butter with the pods.

I have adapted nothing about this recipe – I EVEN procured bread flour when AP would probably suffice, but after some light Googling I learned bread flour is higher in protein and therefore yields chewier baked goods – but I wanted to share it because it’s spicy and lovely and will likely become a regular part of my Christmas cookie repertoire.

Smokey Cardamom Ginger Molasses Cookies

From Smokey Cardamom Ginger Molasses Cookies on Food52

  • 14 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 black cardamom pods
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar (for rolling)

Crack open cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Grind seeds with a mortar and pestle and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine butter and empty cardamom pods and heat on medium low until butter is melted and slightly foamy. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the cardamom pods and transfer butter to a mixing bowl; let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, reserved cardamom and the rest of the spices.

Add the sugar to the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and the egg. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

Prepare a baking sheet with silpat or parchment and preheat oven to 375° F. Put 1/2 cup sugar for rolling in a small bowl. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter, form into balls, and roll in the sugar. Place two inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake cookies in batches for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

These were delicious straight from the oven, but chewier and even more delicious after a couple of days. Happy holidays!

Salmon with Pomegranate and Sultana Sauce

iraqi-salmon-pomegranate-sauce

I am happy to participate in another month of Mena Cooking Club, this month Iraq hosted by Maryam of Maryam’s Culinary Wonders – (she has an impressive recipe index, I’ve bookmarked quite a few to try).

I jumped on this suggested recipe for two reasons, 1. I need more fish in my life and 2. POMEGRANATE, which I both love, and had some homemade pomegranate syrup (just reduced pomegranate juice, you can also buy it at Middle Eastern markets) leftover from Thanksgiving that I was looking to use. I was a little apprehensive of the sauce, which contains 1/2 cup of raisins along with the spicy and savory ingredients. I personally like raisins but was almost sure my husband would hate them, but to my surprise he really enjoyed the spicy sweet sauce and this dish was a hit.

I’d definitely make this again, although I would probably either pan-sear the salmon or get it closer to the broiler (it wasn’t hot enough where I had it and I missed that crispiness). Also I’d plate it on top of the sauce but that’s a minor thing. The sauce that I was scared about I’d keep exactly as is.

The rice was lovely and fragrant – cardamom is my most favorite spice.

Salmon with Pomegranate Sauce, with Yellow Rice

Adapted from The Boston Globe

For the Yellow Rice

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 1/2 cups hot water (note, my rice came just a little soggy, so I may reduce to 3 1/4)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice well and soak for at least half an hour. In a pot over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon and stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Stir in the rice, hot water, and salt. Raise the heat to high and boil the rice until visible moisture is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to low, and simmer rice, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn the rice gently with a wooden spoon 2 to 3 times while simmering to allow it to fluff.

For the Pomegranate Sultana Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
  • 1/2 cup sultanas/golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup water

Heat oil in a pan (I used a nonstick wok), and saute onions with a pinch of salt until very soft and golden. Add garlic and chopped pepper and saute for a few minutes, then add spices (cumin, turmeric, red chili, ground coriander) and stir for a minute. Add tomatoes and another good pinch of salt and saute until tomatoes are completely broken down and almost jammy. Stir in pomegranate syrup, raisins, and 1/4 cup water, and cook for a few minutes until thick. Reserve warm.

For the Salmon

  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 pounds skinless fillet of salmon, divided into 4 portions
  • olive oil
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds or chopped pistachios, for garnish

Turn on the broiler. Line a flat baking pan with aluminum foil, and grease with olive oil. Arrange the fish pieces on the pan, leaving space between them.

Combine mustard, honey, and a tablespoon of olive oil, and brush the fish with the mixture. Sprinkle with salt. Broil 3-5 minutes each side until fish is lightly cooked through and surface is crisp and golden (like I said, mine wasn’t close enough to broiler, so will make sure to do this next time).

Spread the warm sauce on a platter and arrange this fish on top. Garnish with almonds or pistachios, and serve with the yellow rice.

Bhuna Gosht (Beef Short Ribs in a Spicy Yogurt Sauce)

bhuna-gosht

I’ve been cooking a lot of simple food lately – roasted veggies, plain lentils, pan-fried chicken or fish, everything seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper, and lemon. It’s easy dinner on a weeknight, easy for husband and I to remix into lunch salads, and most importantly, easier to feed the kids who eat a wide variety but like boring flavor profiles.

Not that there is such a thing as kid food, but my 18-month-old is coming off a stint where he insists that he’s picky. I assure him he’s not, and explain that there are lovely foods besides bananas, and that this is just a phase, control, testing boundaries, etc. Sometimes I just get tired of cleaning up green beans that were hurled to the floor because I dared taint them with soy sauce.

But I refuse to let this baby tyrant rule our lives! I will cook something complex and rich and spicy if I want!

Hence this bhuna gosht – melt in your mouth short ribs (although you can make it with other types of meat) in a spicy yogurt curry. I referred to a couple of recipes for this, including those from Simply Reem and Chef Gulzar. My cooking method was a little different, and I also used the trick of adding a little besan to the yogurt to help stabilize it, because I am the worst about curdling it, but it’s optional.

Bhuna Gosht

  • 4 beef short ribs on the bone (about 1 3/4 pounds)
  • salt & pepper
  • flavorless cooking oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon each: red chili, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and garam masala
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon besan (optional)
  • for garnish, small handful cilantro and small handful mint, mixed and pretty finely chopped, and julienned ginger

Trim some of the fat from the short ribs (but you don’t have to be super thorough about it) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat about a tablespoon of oil on high, and sear the ribs on both sides. Remove to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium, and drain off the fat. Add back 1 tablespoon of the fat and 1 tablespoon oil, and saute the onions until they are soft and very golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add the powdered spices and a good pinch of salt, cooking and stirring for another minute. Add a splash of water and stir, scraping the bottom to make sure nothing’s stuck.

Add the ribs back into the pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours until the meat is very tender, almost falling off the bone. Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt and besan, and allow to come to room temperature.

When the meat is done, uncover and turn up the heat a little and cook, stirring, until the liquid has dried up a bit (it should still be fairly wet, but thickened up some). You can smash the meat a little with a wooden spoon so it starts falling apart. Lower the heat and add in the yogurt, combining well. Adjust seasoning if necessary and cook 5-10 minutes more.

Sprinkle liberally with cilantro, mint and ginger, and serve hot with roti or naan.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I love hosting Thanksgiving. The decorating, the menu planning, the cooking frenzy, the not having to pack and haul my kids places.

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I don’t make any traditional family recipes since my family’s traditional “recipes” are stuff like store bought stuffing mix or can of asparagus + can of mushroom soup + Ritz crackers crumbled on top. Instead, over the years I’ve collected a bunch of recipes, most of which I’ve made at least three times which I believe legally constitutes a tradition. I usually make a base meal (an app, turkey of course – although last time I hosted my brother-in-law made a fried turkey which was awesome, gravy, several sides including potatoes, a green vegetable and a salad, and a dessert) and let people add to that if they want.

I’m actually NOT hosting this year which is it’s own set of perks (way less stress, my cousin is a fantastic cook who maybe will give me some tips, and all I have to make is a pie), but here’s what I’d make if I were.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Warm brie with honey and walnuts
Served with crackers or baguette.

Sage Butter Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy
From Bon Appetit

Cranberry Sauce
From Alton Brown. None of that canned jellied – ugh, I can’t even. Plus the cranberries popping when they cook are fun.

Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel
From Bon Appetit. I think both the turkey and potato recipes are from the same issue, from the year that I hosted my first Thanksgiving.

Haricot Verts with Walnuts and Walnut Oil
From Amanda Hesser. This is quick yet still special, and doesn’t take up valuable oven space.

Arugula, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
On Food 52. I love this salad, I also make it for holiday potlucks.

Probably Balsamic Brussel Sprouts
Which we had at our friend’s house last year, was delish. I’ve also got these Pomegranate Brussel Sprouts which are great as well, but there’s already a pomegranate salad so…

Some kind of roasted squash

Some kind of dessert

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But this year, all I’m making is this Maple Cream Tart that I’ve had my eye on for awhile.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just Tiramisu

tiramisu

My husband doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but he loves tiramisu, and so I make him one every year on his birthday (which was in September but I didn’t have time to post before Pumpkinfest 14 so here we are). For several years I was getting a little creative, trying different versions (including Martha Stewart’s Tiramisu Cupcakes and The Delicious Life’s Tiramisu Ice Cream Cake – both fantastic!), and although he liked them, he is generally not impressed with “creative.”

“I am a simple man,” he loves to tell me; I mentally translate “simple” to “boring.” But I have slowly come to accept that he likes what he likes, so although I will not stop the kitchen experiments and irreverent deviations I live for, on his birthday I make him exactly what he wants.

Sometimes I make this with ladyfingers, but my grocery store is kind of unreliable as to whether they have them on any given day, and procrastinators very busy important people don’t have time to shop around, so I’ve found this lovely genoise recipe (adapted below) to be both easy and reliable (it uses extra egg yolks instead of butter, which I guess makes it lighter and less likely to fall).

The zabaglione method I got from Giada, you can simply whip up the egg yolks, sugar, and marscapone and not worry about the double boiler.

Tiramisu

Adapted from Plain Genoise on Epicurious and Tiramisu from Giada De Laurentiis

For the genoise:
The original recipe bakes 1 9-inch round cake, I divided it to 2 thinner layers with no issues (I have a roundish casserole dish that I was planning to use and wanted two layers). I imagine you could also bake this in a 9×13 dish and cut into two square if you wanted – I haven’t tried it but it seems pretty versatile. Or just slice the cake into the shape you need.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Butter 2 9-inch round pans and heat oven to 350° Half fill a medium saucepan with water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Whisk together eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Place bowl in the simmering water, and whisk until the egg mixture is lukewarm. Remove and continue whisking until cool. It will be thick and foamy.

Sift together flour and cornstarch. In thirds, with a spatula, fold into the egg mixure and gently mix until combined, making sure to scrape the bottom for lumps. Evenly divide between the pans and bake for 10-15 minutes, until risen, deep gold, and firm. Loosen with a knife and cool on a rack.

For the tiramisu:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tbsp marsala wine, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
  • 2 9-inch genoise cakes (above)
  • shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for garnish

With a mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale (5 minutes or so). Add marscarpone and beat until smooth, then add 1 tbsp marsala and beat until combined.

Mix 2 tbsp of marsala with the cooled espresso, and pour half onto a large plate. Dip one round of the cake in the espresso mixture – only for a couple seconds – then place in the dish. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the top. Repeat.

Cover and wrap in the fridge for at least 2 house. Right before serving, garnish with shaved chocolate or cocoa powder.

Although it’s hard to beat the original, these versions look elegant and interesting – I’ll save them in the recipe box for one of Shan’s unbirthdays.

Fiction Kitchen

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Announcing our brand new podcast, Fiction Kitchen!

As an avid podcast listener I’ve had it in my head to start one for a long time. I was thinking to talk about books, movies, and TV and cook recipes either straight from or inspired by the material.

But who to discuss with? After a little searching, I had the luck to find Diana from Food Adventures in Fiction who is already doing just that on her wonderful blog – and besides that she’s funny and sweet and interesting and I’ve had so much fun getting to know her and working with her to get our podcast going. We have a lot in common, but we also have a lot of interests of our own so this podcast will be great for discussing our old favorites and discovering new ones.

We plan to talk about everything from classics to pop culture. In our first episode (available herehopefully will be on iTunes soon) we discuss Game of Thrones. You can listen to Diana being lovely and eloquent and me being nervous and giggly – but we have a pretty good discussion, and it was our first podcast, it will only get better!

Happy Halloween!!

This month has been going pretty well foodwise, I have a lot to show for my Halloween cooking frenzy! I almost made it to the end of the month, but just as sometimes I get on hot streaks, sometimes everything just comes out so so. I have a bunch of recipes this month that came out just meh – totally edible, but not delicious and exciting and something I’d want to share with the world. However, all of them are recipes I want to have in my Halloween repertoire, so I’m going to stick a pin in these until I have a chance to revisit:

pumpkin-chocolate-chip

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These were good in theory, but they came out pretty bland. However, I love the idea, so I’ll be playing with these next time I feel ready to risk it. I mean, they got eaten, but I had let the dough sit 3 days because I was so excited about the chocolate chip cookie method, so that was 3 days of disappointment.

soul-cake

Soul cakes. These were actually pretty nice, just a spiced short bread, but I foolishly set the timer and didn’t check until the end and they got a little done (this was the least singed of the bunch). Wicked, vengeful oven. However, I am pretty happy about this pic, aren’t little kid hands holding Halloween stuff creepy? I need to slap a bluish filter on it to make it full scary movie.

shrimp-fra-diavolo

Shrimp fra diavolo. Devil’s shrimp! This was ok, but I added rosemary to make it more autumny, which sounded like a good idea but quickly became overpowering. Also I used red wine instead of white wine because that’s mostly all we ever drink, and it tasted fine but came out a weird purple color.

diablo-shrimp

So since my shrimp fra diavolo only came out ok, I thought I’d take it to Mexico for some Shrimp a la Diabla. This was actually decent, except for the sauce was atomic – I only added about a quarter of what I had made (was supposed to add the whole thing and thicken it). I mean, I get that’s the point for it to be super spicy – and we can handle spice! – but any more would have been over the edge.

spicy-pumpkin

Kaddhu ki sabzi (spicy pumpkin). So of course I’ve got to get some Pakistani food up in here. And again, this was ok, but not quite there, going to play with it a little more…and finally…

squid-ink

Kraken pasta! Squid ink pasta with braised and seared octopus. This was almost a success – I am feeling super smug about having cooked octopus for the first time and having it come out banging. The pasta was fine too (Zoeya certainly liked it, as you can see. And yes she wears her cricket uniform for pajamas sometimes). It just…didn’t feel cohesive. I just made a simple olive oil and garlic sauce, but I think I’ll have to make it again and throw in some more seafood and maybe a veggie.

I guess it’s kind of anticlimactic going out on a list of “failures”, but overall am pretty happy about what I accomplished this month. These are on THE LIST OF TO-MAKES. This week though I need to get out of the kitchen (I’ve got costumes to make, parties to plan, Twin Peaks to watch) so I’m going to do that before any more innocent pumpkins have to die. I wish you a ghastly and ghoulish holiday – Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Quesadillas

pumpkin-quesadillas

pumpkin-quesadillas

For the last several years, it’s been a tradition to make pumpkin quesadillas on Halloween – they’re easy, the kids love them, and they go great with Beetroot Chili (or any chili for that matter).

Pumpkin Quesadillas

  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, or a mix of cheddar and jack, grated
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or a mix of cumin and cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • good pinch cayenne
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • small corn tortillas

Heat a pan or griddle over medium high heat – I use my tawa :)

Combine cheese, pumpkin, and spices and mix well. Spread a smallish amount over a tortilla and top with another, cook on both sides, flipping, until toasty and brown. Allow to cool slightly then slice in quadrants, serve with salsa/sour cream/chili.

Mash o’ Nine Sorts

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mash-of-nine-sorts

This month I’ve made a couple of traditional recipes associated with Samhain (namely Irish Boxty and Barm Brack), so here’s an English one for the mix. It has nine ingredients – hence the name – and is also played as a fortunetelling game, with a ring (symbol of marital happiness) hidden inside to be served to a lucky guest.

For the record, I got the ring, but Zoeya got upset so I re-hid it and she totally by chance got it and was really excited about it. Which is to say, usually in these situations I just tell her to get over it, but I think it’s ok to spoil your kids a little once in awhile to see them smile.

Mash o’ Nine Sorts

Slightly adapted from Food.com

  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small turnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into thin slices, including some of the green tops
  • 6 ounces farmhouse cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or half & half, which I always have around)

Heat oven to 350°.

In a big pot of salted water, bring the potatoes, carrots, turnip and parsnip together to a boil, and cook until soft. Mash them thoroughly (I think it’s supposed to be more uniform but I left it a little lumpy) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the butter and saute the leeks for a few minutes until soft. Add to the potato mixture along with the cream and mix. Stir in the grated cheese – and the ring! – and spread in a baking dish. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

We ate this on Friday movie night while watching Frankenweenie.