Sunday, March 20, 2016

Flourless walnut chocolate cookies

Tonight there's gonna be a pretty swell homecoming dinner at my house and all I got to cook was a batch of these lousy cookies.

Seriously. There's several courses planned. Not even a pasta course am I asked to contribute!


Anyhow, what I'm lacking in quantity I'll make up for in class. These cookies are really delicious, and on the elegant side (just like my friend Scott, the one who's returning home after several months away). I got the idea for them after seeing this dolci di noci recipe from Calabria, but decided to mess with the recipe and also add the chocolate and the orange.

I should mention that the kitchen has been in constant use all day (by the real cook in the house). To pull off this important "cookie course" of mine I had to get in and out of the kitchen quickly. In other words, they're some of the easiest cookies you will ever lay eyes on.

There's no flour in this recipe. This is 1 pound of walnuts and 1 cup of sugar that's been ground in a food processor. It's ground very finely but not to a powder.

Add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and the zest of two large oranges.

Then add two large eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Mix everything together with a spatula until it starts to clump up.

But I find it best to use my hands to finish up the mixing.

Here's the finished mixture; it only takes a couple minutes to pull together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form balls with the dough (around 1 inch high by 1 1/2 inches wide). Place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F for anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.

This batch baked for just shy of 20 minutes. It amounted to 25 cookies.

Allow the cookies to cool, then top with confectioners sugar and have at it.

If they let me cook an actual appetizer or entree next time people come over I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Steamed clams quickie

Lately I've taken some crap over not posting here very much. Truth is, there hasn't been a lot of cooking going on around the house all winter. I won't bore you with the details. Just know that I'm a lot less happy about it than you are. And am looking very much forward to a shift in direction very soon.

Anyhow, I'll assume that a quickie communication trumps none at all, and so here's a super fast steamed clams dish to ponder when next you're at the fish store.

This is three dozen mahogany clams but any kind of hard shell clam will do. Scrub the shells and rinse in cold water.

In a pot large enough to hold all the clams saute a leek, four or five garlic cloves and some hot pepper in olive oil for a couple of minutes.

Add a cup of dry white wine (I just used dry vermouth here) and a few sprigs of fresh thyme and bring to a boil.

Add the clams and cover with a lid so that they can steam. When the clams have popped open they're done. Some will open sooner than others and you can remove them to a serving bowl as they're ready. The clams that don't open should be tossed.

All that's left to do now is pour the liquid over the clams in a serving bowl and have at 'em.

I told you this was gonna be a quickie, didn't I?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chocolate hazelnut biscotti

You don't have to be a great baker to make respectable biscotti. I'm living proof of that. Besides, it rained all day today. I needed something to do.

In a large mixing bowl add the following: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (a full teaspoon is fine), and a pinch of sea salt.

In a separate mixing bowl add 4 large eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon brandy. Mix until the eggs are somewhat thickened.

Gradually add the egg mixture into the dry mix and incorporate.

Add 1 cup of lightly crushed toasted hazelnuts and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated. (If the mix seems too dry add a little milk; I used a couple tablespoons.)

Divide the mix in half. On a floured surface take each half of the batch and form a log around a foot or more long and three or so inches wide.

Place both logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with egg wash. Place in the oven preheated to 350 degrees F for around 25 minutes, rotating the sheet at the halfway mark.

Remove the logs and let them cool for 15 minutes.

With a serrated blade cut the logs into 1- to 1 1/2-inch slices.

Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for around 10-15 minutes, then turn the slices over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. (Ten minutes each side should be fine for 1-inch pieces; thicker slices like these will take longer.)

When the pieces are nice and firm to the touch they're done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly, then place in an airtight container. The biscotti will last a couple weeks.

It's always best to wait a couple days before eating the biscotti. No matter how many different kinds I've made over the years, the flavors always are enhanced over time. I usually wait at least 48 hours before serving. This batch is for Saturday night, after the osso buco I've got planned (today's Thursday, by the way).

See, you've got plenty of time.