I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Perfect chocolate chip cookies

With my recent purchase of my now beloved Tramontina cookware, an issue of Cook's Illustrated, which extolled the virtues of said cookware, was tucked inside the box. I love the magazine, for its pleasingly retro, low-tech, no ad feel. Also, there's a beautifully illustrated back page of seasonal varieties of fruit and vegetables. The magazine does a complete investigative journey into each recipe, with testing, tasting, and scientific explanations. These sorts of things give me a fantastic high-school-chemistry sort of tingle. I'm an avid reader of Harold McGee's column in the NY Times and remember fondly one of the first recipes I ever made, Oobleck.

This particular recipe, in the May & June 2009 issue, aims to perfect the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have always been a fan of the classic Tollhouse cookie, but hey -- any excuse to make a batch. Plus, this one looked like fun.

Cook's Illustrated involves browning the butter to decrease its moisture content and increase the chewiness of the cookies (this is not a crispy cookie recipe). The browned butter also creates a rich and nutty flavor.

The other different technique is letting the dough rest. Some may recall Jaccques Torres's article about letting his cookie dough rest for 24 hours. This version involves a combination of resting and stirring that claims to achieve the same rich flavor objective. In any event, I can't plan my cookie consumption that far in advance, so a rest of 10 minutes is about the maximum I can handle.

Ultimately, this was actually very easy to put together and did indeed produce moist, chewy cookies with a little crispiness around the edges, and a buttery, toffee flavor around the chocolate chips.

Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
14 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 3/4 C. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 C. chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour and baking soda together in a small bowl.

Melt 10 tablespoons of the butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Then, swirling pan constantly, continue cooking for another 1-3 minutes until butter is dark golden brown and smells nutty. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl, then add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted.

Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to the butter and whisk until combined. Add eggs and whisk until smooth. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then mix for 30 seconds. Repeat twice more.

Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop about 2-3 tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake in batches for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown and puffy in the center, and starting to crisp around the edges.

Makes 16-20 cookies.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Linguine with mussels

I can eat a lot of mussels, especially when as delicious as my previous recipe. However, even I cannot work my way through two pounds of them, so I had a large batch left over the next night. I thought I'd reincarnate them in a different dinner.

The basic recipe made this easy enough. The mussels were already cooked, their garlicky, briny liquid extra flavorful for having bathed the mussels overnight. I decided to cook up some toothsome linguine and head down to Italy for my next meal.

As the pasta was cooking, I halved some cherry tomatoes and chopped some more parsley. I threw the mussels and liquid into a pot to warm up, then added the tomatoes to soften. After I drained the pasta I mixed it in with the tomatoes and mussels and a squeeze of lemon juice. Topped with a bit of parmesan (bien sur!) and a good grating of pepper, and my quick, easy, but very satisfying meal was done.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Moules marinieres

It was a beautiful spring weekend. The sun was shining, the trees finally burst into bud, and summer clothing was out in full force. The streets were thronged with people who took their first run of the season, and later in the day they were thronged with people who had their first blisters of the season.

Something in the air made me think of a day at the beach. Clean, sharp flavors and the ocean. I could get a lemon and bunch of parsley, then some mussels: steamed in some white wine and their own liquid.

Moules marinieres is a dish that looks gourmet and fancy, but really is the essence of quick and comfort cooking. If you can chop some garlic and an onion, you're most of the way there.

Starting out with these two as the foundation of the dish, you simply tip the cleaned mussels into your pot, pour in your wine, clap on the lid, and come back in 5 minutes to dinner. Don't forget to pour the other glass for yourself.

I had a beautiful bunch of parsley which looked so good I had to take a photo. Anyone know what to do with a ton of parsley?

So that was dinner on the first real weekend of spring. The year is flying by and summer will be coming soon, long sweltering days and stifling nights, months of not turning on the stove, but for now, the evening is perfect, and dinner is on the table.

Moules marinieres
2 lbs mussels, rinsed and cleaned
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 C. white wine (something more dry than fruity)
handful of Italian parsley
squeeze of lemon juice

Soften the onion and garlic in a little swirl of olive oil in a pot. When translucent, add the mussels and the wine (pour another for yourself), then cover the pot. After 5 minutes, the mussels should have opened and released their liquid. Throw in your parsley and give the lemon a good squeeze. Serve in bowls with bread to soak up the juice.

Serves 2
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