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  • Ultimate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

    These cookies are a major fan-favorite and now they can be your favorite too! I've been making them for nearly 25 years. They've been used in lieu of beer money in college, as bribery for favors, and on several occasions in adulthood- an attempt to woo.

    They are perfectly salty and dense with peanut buttery creaminess; that shock of bittersweet chocolate adds a certain decadence I'm sure we're all longing for. I'm super partial to the Guittard brand of “Real Semisweet” (46% cacao) or Ghiradelli Bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips for these, but if you have a favorite I'm sure they'll be lovely.

    *It's really important to chill the dough. I know, I know... but this way the inside stays creamy while you get a nice crust on the outside. I promise it's worth the wait! Once the scoops of dough are firm, you can bake them off or place in a plastic bag or storage container and refrigerate for a day or freeze for up to 3 months. It is SO great to have these on hand and throw a couple in the oven after work or school, for last-minute guests, or at midnight- because you've finally finished half of your cookbook proposal! Ding! Watch your time and don't over-bake. I prefer to bake only what I know will be eaten that day. They're just not the same the next day. (Not that I anticipate leftovers!)

    Ultimate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies CT

    Makes 30 cookies (using a medium scoop)

    1 cup  butter, softened

    1 cup  brown sugar

    1 cup  Sugar

    2 egg  room temp

    2 cups creamy peanut butter, room temp

    (I use Jiff Creamy for these 90% of the time. If you use natural, add 2 tbs of each sugar and a pinch more salt)

    1.5 tsp fine salt 

    1 tsp baking soda 

    3 tsp vanilla

    2.5 cups flour

    8 oz  bittersweet chocolate chips

    8 oz  semisweet chocolate chips

    My favorites are Ghiradelli 60% or Guittard 46% semi sweet chocolate chips

    (Fleur de sel or large flake sea salt for top)

     

    Make sure butter, eggs, & peanut butter are at room temperature, everything just blends better this way.

    Mix 2¼ cups flour,baking soda and salt in a separate bowl- leave ¼ cup of flour out on its own to mix with chips later.

    In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add peanut butter and mix until just combined. On low speed, briefly mix in dry ingredients. Mix chocolate chips with remaining flour and fold, don't beat, into dough. 

    Scoop onto cookie sheet, leave as mounds, do not flatten. Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least one hour. Overnight is ok too! Or, if a tray fits in your freezer, you can chill for just 25 minutes.

    To Bake:

    **Pre-heat oven to 375' *** (For real- do this at least 10 min before baking!)

    Top with a tiny bit of flaky sea salt (if you're into that sort of thing). Bake in pre heated 375' oven 8-10 minutes- depending on size. (Rotate pan half-way through cooking time)  You may want to bake a trial one to check timing- I find oven temps vary more than a teenager’s mood. They should be ever so slightly golden on the outside and still quite soft on the inside. They'll  firm up while they cool. 

    Let cool completely (who am I kidding, I have a burned tongue from last night’s tester batch, I never wait). 

    :)

     

  • Goat Cheese Parfaits

    I’m such a sucker for a beautiful cheese board. One of my favorite things to bring to a party is a savory flatbread or focaccia (I’ll put one up this week!) and some incredible accoutrement. In an effort to top last year’s Easter cheese platter, I developed these goat cheese parfaits... they’re SO EASY! and uber impressive, not to mention transport-friendly. Make these for your next gathering or as a unique hostess gift!

    This past weekend, I made a sundried tomato & basil version and one with dates, pistachios, almonds & honey. Be creative! Find your favorite flavor combinations... Pesto? Apricot & Chutney?  and tell us about them in the comments.

    They can be made in a tumbler as I did, or a wide mouth Mason or Weck jar (my personal fave).

      

    INGREDIENTS

    Sundried Tomato & Basil

    8 oz soft (log) goat cheese, room temperature

    4 tsp nice olive oil

    ½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil (sold in jars), chopped

    3 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade

    3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

    Flaky sea salt

    Crackers, Crostini, Crusty Baguette for serving 

    Drizzle a bit of olive oil in bottom of glass or jar. While avoiding schmutzing up the sides of the jar, press in a third of the soft goat cheese. I found it easiest to form a round with my hands and place it gently in the jar. Top with a third of the chopped tomatoes, basil and thyme leaves, another drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. Do this two more times, ending with your toppings. This will sit beautifully covered, up to 3 days.

     

    Date, Nut & Honey

    8 oz soft (log) goat cheese, room temperature

    4 tsp nice olive oil

    4 dates, pitted and chopped

    ¼ cup almonds, roasted & salted, roughly chopped

    ¼ cup pistachios, roasted & salted, roughly chopped

    3 tsp honey

    1 tsp flaky sea salt

    Crackers, Crostini, Crusty Baguette for serving

     

    Mix your chopped dates, nuts, honey, sea salt, and 3 tsp of olive oil in a bowl.

    Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil in the bottom of your glass or jar. While avoiding schmutzing up the sides of the jar, press in a third of the soft goat cheese. I found it easiest to form a round with my hands and place it gently in the jar. Top with a third of the date & nut mixture, another round of goat cheese, and so on until you finish with your toppings. This will sit beautifully up to 1 day, after that it still tastes delicious, but your nut mixture will be soggy.

     

    Enjoy!

  • Spring Pea Frittata & Berry Clafoutis

    Spring Pea Frittata

     

    The first day of Spring calls for a recipe bright in color and flavor. This lightened up version of a brunch mainstay is airy and delicate, yet luscious from the addition of Parmesan cheese, truffle zest, and truffle oil. Sabatino is my favorite brand of all things truffle. It’s a family-run business by some of the loveliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Having their products on-hand allows you to elevate a dish from good to fabulous with very little effort and they’re easily purchased online (sabatinotruffles.com , amazon.com) or in-store (world market & various gourmet food shops).

    When we’re at the school in South Africa, I’m usually making breakfast for a crowd; frittata is the perfect solution! This version made everyone happy and disappeared in seconds. I’m fairly certain there was an encore during our week-long stay.

    This recipe is quick and easy, full of flavor, and ideal served with a simple green salad for last minute brunch guests or an easy lunch. After cooking, you can top with thinly sliced Prosciutto, Speck (smoked prosciutto, my favorite!) or Smoked Salmon.

    And listen, if you're not a truffle fan, no big deal! Just omit the truffle zest and substitute regular salt and olive oil. Likewise, the peas can be substituted with quickly blanched asparagus (salted boiling water for 2 minutes) or lightly sauteed spinach (not baby).  It's still gorge.

     

    Makes 6-8 servings

    A 10 inch non-stick skillet works best

    Ingredients

     

    12 eggs

    ½ cup of whole milk

    2 ½ cups of Greek yogurt (2% or full fat)

    4 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1 tbs olive oil

    2 cups Petite Green Peas

    ½ cup thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)

    1 tbs fresh tarragon leaves, lightly chopped

    2 tsp Sabatino truffle zest

    1 tsp Sabatino truffle salt

    1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

    8 oz thinly sliced smoked salmon, prosciutto, or speck reserved for topping cooked frittata

    **

    1 tbs fresh tarragon, chopped

    ¼ cup chives, finely chopped

    ½ cup 2% or full fat Greek yogurt

    2 tsp Sabatino white truffle oil 

    2 tsp olive oil

    zest of 1 lemon

    sea salt

    freshly ground black pepper

     

    *Heat oven to 350’

    In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk,2 ½ cups of Greek yogurt, truffle zest, salt, and parmesan.

    In a 10”non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add peas and green onion and cook for 3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add 2 tsp of truffle zest, 1 tsp truffle salt, 1 tsp sea salt, cracked black pepper, and tarragon. Stir until combined. Pour egg mixture over peas and let cook until the edges begin to set, 4-6 minutes. Place in oven until puffy and just golden on top. 12-15 minutes in most ovens.

    While your frittata is in the oven, mix truffle oil, lemon zest, greek yogurt, and sea salt in a small bowl and set aside.

    When ready, remove pan from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with chives and slice into wedges, serve alongside Yogurt and Chive sauce and sliced smoked salmon or prosciutto if desired.

     

    Berry Clafoutis a la Julia Child

    I made my first clafoutis one summer while cooking in this gorgeous home on the New England shore. They had a constant stream of house guests and I was forever searching for something beautiful yet simple to make. I am not a pastry chef by any means and trying a new baking recipe always gives me a bit of anxiety. Not this one though! Thank the pastry gods for Julia Child and her immaculate way of cooking.

    A clafoutis lies somewhere between a creamy baked custard and a dense fruit-filled cake. Heavily scented with vanilla and abundant with whatever fruit is undeniably in season, this is sure to become your go-to breakfast, brunch, dessert when you want to seriously impress, but also put in minimal effort (what a winning combination!).

    This recipe is similar to Julia's though slightly easier and bolder in flavor. It's perfect slightly warm with a healthy dollop of whipped cream or honey and vanilla infused yogurt.

    You can make this in a baking dish, but I prefer using a cast iron or non-stick skillet. Just make sure it's buttered and large enough to hold the fruit and batter, while leaving a touch of room for expanding.

    Serves 6-8 

    Easily doubled for a crowd!

    *Heat oven to 350'

    1 tsp butter

    1 cup flour

    1 ½ cups half and half (you can subsitute whole milk just fine, the result will be slightly less dense)

    ¾ cup sugar

    2 tsp great vanilla extract

    2-3 cups of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc - really any fruit that's ripe & delicious

    3 eggs

    ¾ tsp salt

    zest of 1 orange

    For Serving

    1 cup whipping cream or Greek yogurt

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 tbs honey

    I use an 8 inch non-stick skillet for this, you can also use an 8x8 casserole dish. For larger pans or a crowd, double recipe as needed.

    In a blender, or whisking vigorously in a bowl, combine flour, half and half, vanilla, and half of the sugar. Blend on high for 90 seconds then stir in orange zest. Place your pan over medium-low heat and melt butter, coating entire pan. Pour a thin (½ inch) layer of batter and allow to set, 2-3 minutes.You're not looking to brown the mixture, just let it set up.  Add berries without disturbing bottom layer and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Pour over the rest of the batter and bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes. 

    Whip your cream to soft peaks (or stir Greek yogurt), add honey and vanilla. Serve alongside warm clafoutis. (Though really, it's delicious at any temperature!)

    Enjoy!

  • Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Parmesan Cream, and Sage Brown Butter

    *Thank you to Geyer for his lovely prep pic!

    Before we all jump into juice cleanses and vow to be carb-avoiding vegans in the new year, let me offer you one last über indulgent, insanely delicious pasta recipe. This is nicely layered in flavor and rich but not overwhelmingly creamy. It's fantastic on its own or accompanying a simple roast chicken or pork loin. This recipe is vegetarian but crisp, salty little pancetta bits-added at the end- will have friends singing your praises for life.
    Apologies for the notsogreat after photo- we were too distracted scrambling for forks to get a good shot.
    Happy Cooking!

    Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Parmesan Cream & Sage Brown Butter

    Ingredients

    1 pound of Cavatappi (my fave) or Rigatoni

    ¼ cup of olive oil

    Kosher salt 

    2 large Butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium dice [you can also buy containers of pre-peeled and cubed squash in the produce department]

    2 cups of heavy cream

    1 tsp dried chili flakes

    2 sticks of butter

    ½ bunch fresh sage

    4 sprigs of fresh thyme

    2 cloves of garlic

    1 cup of great quality Parmesan cheese, fresh and finely grated. Plus more for serving.

    Optional: 2 cups of crisp-cooked pancetta, small dice

    Sea salt

    Freshly ground black pepper

    Method

    Pre-Heat oven to 400'
    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Toss peeled & diced squash with olive oil and some kosher salt. Lay out on lined baking sheet and roast for 25-30 min, stirring half-way through cooking time. Squash should be nicely browned and cooked through.

    Meanwhile, you'll need 2 separate sauce pans. 
    Roughly chop fresh sage leaves. 
    Smash 2 cloves of garlic with the side of your knife- they'll still be whole, don't chop up. 
    In one pan, place 2 sticks of butter over medium heat. Once it begins to brown, swirl the pan gently- the milk solids will become a gorgeous caramel color and it will smell nutty and delicious. Add sage leaves and and chili flakes and turn down heat to low. Cook 5 more minutes.
    In a separate pan, add cream, smashed garlic, and thyme sprigs and simmer 10 min over medium heat until slightly reduced and beginning to thicken. Remove garlic and thyme with a slotted spoon and stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and salt to taste. Set aside.

    Boil Pasta in well salted water, according to directions. Drain well.

    In a large bowl or serving dish, add cream sauce to pasta. Add roasted butternut squash and brown butter and fold, taking care not to break up the squash too much. Add remaining Parmesan cheese and sprinkle sea salt & fresh black pepper (add pancetta if using).

    *This can be prepared ahead of time and reheated in a 350' oven until warmed through.

  • Cauliflower Crust Pizza

    I have been a huge skeptic of the cauliflower pizza crust craze- I’ve probably rolled my eyes at a dozen different recipes. Then it was requested while in South Africa- I put together this version and was seriously amazed at the results. You honestly wouldn’t know that it’s made from a vegetable or missing flour. The result is light, crisp, flavorful and excellent on its own as a flatbread or made into a more traditional pizza.

    You win, cauliflower, you win.

    Cauliflower Crust Pizza

    Makes ~4 servings

    Ingredients

    3 cups riced cauliflower

    (You can buy this almost anywhere now, or process 1 medium head in the food processor until very fine.)

    2 eggs, beaten

    1 tsp Kosher Salt

    ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (The pre-shredded cheese is too dry.)

    ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

    1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

    olive oil for parchment and top of crust

    Toppings

    The choices are endless and entirely up to you. I made a sauce-less version. If you add tomato sauce, do so lightly, then the crust will stay nice and crisp.

    2 tsp olive oil drizzled over top

    ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

    1 oz soft goat cheese

    fresh basil, torn

    fresh thyme

    sea salt

    Equipment

    Half-sheet pan (cookie sheet)

    Parchment paper or silicone mat

    Cooling rack (really helpful in maintaining the crispness of the crust)

    Method:

    This may seem slightly labor-intensive at first, but you’ll have it down after making it just once. I make one large pizza, but you can certainly make individual ones. The baked crusts can be cooled on a rack and used later for pizza. It can also be wrapped in plastic and frozen, topped another day and baked the same way.

    Preheat your oven to 425’. Make sure there is a rack close to the bottom.

    Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and spray or rub lightly with olive oil.

    Place your riced cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, depending on your oven. (Cauliflower should be soft and cooked through.) Carefully take the plastic off and spread cauliflower onto a clean, thin kitchen towel (not paper towel!). Allow to cool about 10 minutes.  Now gather the towel together and squeeeeeeze it to death over the sink or a bowl. You want to get out as much liquid as possible so your crust will be lovely and crisp and not a soggy mess. (I ended up with nearly a cup of liquid for ~ 3 cups of cauliflower.)

    Once you’ve drained as much moisture as possible, empty the cauliflower into a mixing bowl. Add the beaten eggs, salt, parmesan, mozzarella, & red pepper flakes if using. Mix with your hands until you have a cohesive mass- it will be slightly sticky.

    Now press your dough onto the oiled parchment lined sheet pan. Shape doesn’t matter, but it should be about ½ inch thick. Press down firmly, patting it together and smoothing the top. I drizzled a bit of olive oil and spread over the top.

    Bake 12-20 min on the bottom rack of your preheated 425’ oven. The crust should be golden brown and slightly caramelized on the edges. My oven was convection, so it was ready in 12 minutes, yours may take up to 20, just keep an eye on the color and firmness.

    When it’s turned nice and golden, remove from the oven and add your toppings. Place back on the middle rack of the oven and bake 8-10 minutes more, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

    Cool a minute or two and then cut into slices.

    Et voila! High flavor, low carb, high protein deliciousness!

  • Cherry Crostata

    I'm torn between lying under the covers another hour (or three) or puttering into the kitchen and putting these newly picked cherries to use. I crank up Louis and get to work on my favorite pastry dough, thinking about the love-hate relationship I've had with cherries for so many years.

    It started with a trip from St Louis to San Diego: A camper (circa 1982), three cousins, one aunt, and my mother - who went absolutely mad every time she saw a grazing deer. We had to stop, pull over, take pictures, she'd be wildly waving her arms, trying to convince others on the road to do the same. "Deer! Look, Deer!" she'd cry- endearingly Bambi obsessed. So... this trip took a while. We had only three eight tracks? (yes, eight-tracks) Simon and Garfunkel 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', Kenny Rogers "Lucille", and some Catholic Dirges (for sing-a-longs, of course). 'Twas not a wildly entertaining ride- and when, somewhere in middle America, we were presented with the chance to get out of the camper, walk around a farm and pick cherries, we jumped. We gathered bushels it seemed, at least to my 7 year old self, and then ate them. All. For days. 

    Never have I been so sick of a singular food. That vacation ruined cherries for all of childhood and a good portion of adult life. Add to the overdose, the existence of sickeningly sweet, sticky pastries made with canned cherries in cloying syrup, and I thought myself over the fruit entirely. Until I went to Paris.

    Europe in general and Paris specifically are ultimate game changers for the food-obsessed. I spent one whole day trying to find the best baguette, just roaming the streets of the Left Bank, my scarf littered with flakes of crust. And it was not till I wandered in and out of the Patisseries in St. Germain that I rekindled my love of the cerise fruit. Crisp, slightly sweet pastry, studded with bits of crunchy raw sugar and stuffed with ruby red bing cherries and shockingly bright sour cherries. The juices dripped right down my chin, staining it red and my usually highly self-conscious person just stood on the street; laughing aloud, licking my fingers, trying to savor every last crumb. Sweet nostalgia is what catapults me into the kitchen this morning. Nostalgia, a bit of a sugar addiction, and Louis Armstrong.

    Happy Sunday.

    Cherry Crostata

     

    INGREDIENTS

    1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

    1/2 cup of cornmeal

    1/4 cup granulated sugar

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 1/2 sticks COLD butter, cut into small pieces

    1/2 cup ice water

    3 pounds fresh cherries, pitted

    2 teaspoons of cornstarch

    1 tablespoon melted butter

    2 tbs of sugar in the raw

    Method

    In a bowl, mix flour, cornmeal and 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the salt. Add the cold butter and, working quickly, incorporate with your fingers until you have tiny pebbles of butter left- the mixture should feel like wet sand. Add the water and mix just until the dough begins to come together. Gather up the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead briefly until it forms a smooth mass. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

     Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 15-inch round; transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

    Mix the cherries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the cornstarch. Arrange the cherries in a bit of a mound on top of the dough, leaving a 2 inch rim around the outside. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the fruit.

    Brush the melted butter over the pastry and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of raw sugar over the whole edge of the crust.

    Bake 40 minutes, or until the crostata is golden brown and bubbly in the middle. Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes. (If you can stand the wait!)