Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recipe Update: Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I have written The Cilantropist over the last year, there are some recipes that I get from cookbooks or magazines and I put my own spin on them; however, as I become more inspired by the 'hows and whys' behind cooking, I find myself working to develop my own recipes based on basic techniques and principles of flavor.  I feel more confident completely re-vamping a published recipe, or simply starting from scratch and writing my own recipes.  What does that really mean?  These days, I spend a great deal of my kitchen time with recipe testing.  I think it is important to perfect both new and old recipes, which is why I often go back and test recipes I have previously posted. 

Case in point: my recipe for Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies.   

Ever since I tried this recipe for the first time almost a year ago, I have not been able to make any other kind of chocolate chip cookie; I was so smitten, that I was able to overlook the slightly arduous NY Times recipe, that became an extremely arduous recipe when I tried to halve the ingredients.  Despite being difficult, I did cut the original measurements in half, posted them on this blog, and the recipe worked.  

But really... 

Who wants to measure out 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour?  Or 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar?  I like nice, round measurements, especially for a chocolate chip cookie that should bring me soothing, chocolatey comfort rather than stress.  I decided enough was enough and so this week I reworked the recipe to be easy-peasy. 

I had planned to try and change just a few of the measurements, and see how it went.  Admittedly, I wasn't sure I could come up with a recipe to rival the original and so I wasn't even going to tell you I was working on it (yes I know, sneaky sneaky).  But then plans changed when this cookie turned out to be fantastic, and I was so tickled pink that I just had to tell you all about it.  

Now I am sure Mr. Torres (or his battalion of pastry chefs and bakers) painstakingly concocted his heavenly chocolate chip cookie recipe and I am by no means saying my tweaks and changes make it the pinnacle of perfection.  Yet, it is amazing how just a little math and flexibility with ingredients can make the recipe substantially easier to follow, while still producing what I think is the best chocolate chip cookie.       

Now I have said it before and I will say it again: I am thick-and-chewy cookie kind of gal, so these confections are the stuff of my dreams.  This recipe results in a cookie with a little extra heft because of the inclusion of bread flour;  I mean look at it, this cookie has some serious height and a center that is soft and dense.  Not to mention, it is riddled with enough chocolate chips to satisfy even your strongest chocolate craving.      

So, now that I have fixed up the recipe to be all new and shiny for you, go ahead and check it out.  It will still be listed under Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip  Cookies, and I would highly recommend that you make these as soon as possible.  I promise it is super easy, so you have no excuse not to make them.  (As though you needed an excuse to make chocolate chip cookies anyway.)


And just so that you know, in the future (and also in the past) if I - make any minor recipe revisions/suggest ingredient substitutions/include extra instructions for freezing or canning - I will post those on The Cilantropist Facebook Page.  If there are any other major recipe changes like this one (especially to favorite recipes), I will devote a short post to keep you updated.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Lemon-Garlic Kale Pasta

Maybe you saw it last week, but I started gathering friends with my NEW Facebook page for The Cilantropist!  Head over and check it out, and 'Like' it to be sure my new posts come up in your daily feeds. 

It seems like many readers were just waiting for me to add the email subscription link because they signed up right away when I introduced it last week!  If you don't want to miss any of my posts and would like recipes from The Cilantropist delivered right to your inbox, be sure to enter your email address and subscribe (on the sidebar). 

So I had planned to have a new post up for you last Thursday or Friday, or even Saturday at the latest...and now it's already Sunday!  Last week was busy and stressful for me, and life gave me my share of lemons.  So you know what they say: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  (Is it appropriate to add a number of vodka shots to that lemonade?) 

But lets be honest, no matter how many lemons life pummels you with, no man can survive on lemonade alone (even if it is spiked with alcohol).  So instead take your lemons and make an easy, healthy meal of Lemon-Garlic Kale Pasta.

This pasta relies on what I use as an old standby for weeknight meals: Plain boxed pasta dressed up with infused oil.  I try to have a box or two of Barilla pasta in the pantry for nights when I want a filling meal but don't feel like making pasta from scratch; however, boxed pasta with store-bought pasta sauce is a less-than-appetizing meal, on both a taste and nutritional level.  It is for this reason that I keep frozen homemade pasta sauce on hand, or that I make a sauce with high quality extra virgin olive oil infused with whatever strikes my fancy.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Best Italian Flatbread

Sometimes I get annoyed when people say they made the BEST chocolate cake or the BEST short ribs or even the BEST soup.  Soup?  Seriously people?  There are so many small nuances in most recipes (especially soup) that no two people will ever make it the same way twice.  Take bread for instance.  Even precisely measured flour, exact rising times, and a perfectly calibrated oven will not ensure my Best Italian Flatbread is the BEST for you.  Everyone cooks differently and personally, and especially with bread you have to feel the dough in a very personal way (and no I am not trying to dirty here).   Yet, all these things considered, I am willing to go out a limb for this bread and say it is the best for me and I hope it will be the best for you.

Let me tell you why.  

1.) A few simple ingredients combine in a way that is so much more than the sum of their parts.  And when I say 'simple' ingredients, I am really not kidding: flour, salt, italian herbs, and olive oil.  And of course, yeast.  With the exception of yeast, I am quite certain you already have these ingredients in your pantry.  (At least I hope you do.)  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homemade Hummus is for Sharing

Some people are fanatical about their hummus.  On any given day, if you open their refrigerator you will find (at the very least) one round tub of hummus.  Now they may have a favorite brand or any old hummus might do, but there must be hummus.  Me?  I go through phases where hummus and I are attached at the hip, and then there are times I even forget that this versatile dip is in existence.  But when I make this homemade version?  It is always on my mind and I really can't stop eating it, which is good, because this recipe makes a lot of hummus.    

Eating hummus is a fantastic way to get protein, since the smooth, creamy facade disguises a base that is pure bean.  Call it garbanzo or call it chick pea, it will always be a bean and an easy, healthy, and quick way to load up on protein.  If you have resolutions for eating well in the new year, hummus is a fantastic choice.  As I mentioned the beans provide a significant source of protein and also fiber, and hummus is also high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and iron.  It is extremely versatile and can be served as a dip with vegetables or flatbread; take it in your lunch with some celery, cucumbers, or carrots, or serve it as part of a more traditional Mediterranean mezze platter.  Better yet, spread it on bread with some turkey, lettuce, and tomato, and you have a delicious sandwich for lunch (at least I thought it was delicious, that is what I ate for lunch today!).  

Now here is the thing: I would encourage you to make your own hummus at home for two reasons.  First, purchasing tub after tub of hummus can get pricey, and don't we all have better things we would like to spend our money on?  You can buy a bag of chick peas for about $2.  (I like Ziyad brand.  They are beautiful.)  This will make the equivalent of about 8 small containers of hummus, not kidding.  Second, you should make your own hummus because it will ultimately be more healthy.  There are no preservatives, but what I like most is that you can control the fat.  Some store-bought hummus is advertised to consumers as 'healthy' but really harbors an shocking amount of fat.  Homemade hummus has fat too, in the form of olive oil, but when you make it yourself you can control it.  

So let me tell you how to make homemade hummus.  You can eat it all yourself or share it with friends.  I would encourage sharing. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

12,000 Miles Traveled...

12,000 miles later...I am back on US soil.  

This winter holiday, I flew from San Diego to Cleveland, OH; from Cleveland, OH to Oslo, Norway; and from Oslo, Norway back to America's Finest City. I relished the quality time with family, caught up with cherished friends, and spent bliss-filled days with my fantastic boyfriend.  I caught snowflakes on my tongue, froze my butt off in the ice and cold, and shed tears when my flight was cancelled (a second time!) due to winter weather.  I was lucky enough to eat fresh homemade bread almost everyday, to give hugs even more often, and to learn to make German Linzertorte from my grandma.  On multiple occasions, I ate till I thought I would burst, but I don't regret a single bite.   I came back a few pounds heavier, slightly exhausted, but throughly relaxed and very happy.

With Christmas, New Years, and my whole winter vacation over, the feeling of letdown is heavy in the air.  Yet, the haze is parted when I think of my passion for eating well and all the amazing food that I can't wait to share with you in 2011.  

In my last post (I had a giveaway, I haven't forgotten!), I asked what you might like to see here on The Cilantropist.  Overall, many expressed they felt the content was just the right variety of recipes between sweet and savory and they loved this place just the way it is.  Fantastic!  Hearing this thrilled me to pieces, but we all know nothing is perfect.  So here's what you thought: 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ringing in 2011 with a Top 10 list, and a Giveaway!

Happy New Year friends!  2010 has officially come to a close, and what a year it has been.  On the rollercoaster of life, this blog has been a consistent high point, and I get such happiness from sharing my love of food with each of you every day. Throughout this past year, I hope The Cilantropist has given you delicious recipes that helped you experience the simple joys of eating well and sharing good food with friends and family.  I have so many exciting ideas to share with you in 2011, and I can't wait to get started; I hope you will continue to pull up a comfy chair and follow along with me on my adventures.  

But first, lets take a little look back at 2010 and your favorite posts and recipes!  I chose the Top 10 based on pageviews, twitter, reader comments and emails; not surprisingly, many of the top posts were from Project Food Blog, where I made i my mission to put my very best food forward and improve the quality of my blog by leaps and bounds.  So, without further ado, here are the The Cilantropist's Top 10 post of 2011!    

1. The post where I shared my lunch menu for A Presidio Picnic, with Italian Pressed Sandwiches is by far the most viewed post on The Cilantropist.  The post includes a recipe for Sopressata and Provolone Italian Pressed Sandwiches, which I also made for a post-Project Food Blog Celebration, and is the most popular recipe with readers.  For the lunch, we also enjoyed Parmesan and Gruyere Cheese Straws from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, as well as Spiced Pear and Cranberry Pocket Pies.  The Pocket Pies were a huge hit as well, and I can't wait to make them this summer with peaches!