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Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

22 Mar

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I have an almost phobic dislike of mayonnaise. It wasn’t always this way. I can remember not caring one way or another about mayonnaise when I was a kid, but, as an adult, there are few food items that make me want to turn around and run more than the sight of mayonnaise. I don’t care for the odor, I possess no tender feelings about the taste, and, up until a jar mistakenly showed up in our refrigerator last week, I don’t think I had so much as touched a jar of mayonnaise for the better part of a decade.

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So, what is a person to do when the topic of egg salad comes up? Ordinarily I would just excuse myself politely and then shudder off any lingering thoughts of the m-word, but since I have taken it upon myself to help those who may be in need of some post-Easter-egg-dying recipes, ignoring the problem really isn’t going to help anyone. Besides, shouldn’t we all just face our fears instead of—okay, no, so I am not even going to pretend that I am planning on making friends with mayonnaise. I’ve lived this long without it, and I think I am doing just fine.

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Luckily for me, and lucky for the state of egg salad, one doesn’t need mayonnaise in order to whip up an utterly dreamy batch of egg salad. Looking for another creamy sidekick to help bind some eggs together, it occurred to me that I could just use the food that I have been using for years to adorn my sandwiches in place of mayo: avocado. Super smooth, wonderfully rich, and delightfully mild, avocados make a perfect addition to egg salad. Because I have been on a huge fennel kick lately, it seemed only natural to add a handful of chopped fennel to the salad, and, sprinkled with a shot of fresh lemon juice, it was just the thing to make this salad sing. Piled on slices of hearty, multigrain bread or nestled on top of a hill of fresh greens, it’s an egg salad I think anybody would greet with open arms.

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Last Year: Polenta Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Fried Eggs

And, in case you missed the link above, here is an article I wrote for Portland Farmers Market last year about naturally dying Easter eggs (those beautiful eggs seen in the picture above were dyed using onion skins!).

Avocado, Fennel, and Egg Salad

1/3 cup chopped fresh fennel

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ medium avocado, peeled and diced into cubes

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel leaves

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine chopped fennel and lemon juice. Toss to combine, then set aside while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine avocado, eggs, chopped fennel leaves, pepper, and salt. Toss to combine. Add chopped fennel, along with any remaining lemon juice from the bowl, and toss everything together to combine. Taste for seasoning. You may want to add more salt and pepper.

Serve on toasted bread, on top of fresh greens, or, if you are my husband and you like to use a tortilla chip as a fork, eat it as a dip with tortilla chips.

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 Mar

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It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? To all seven of you who read this website, I apologize for my sustained absence. There was work—lots of it—and there were late nights—lots of them—and then there was the inevitable crash afterwards that involved lots and lots of sleeping. Boy, that really makes it sound like my work involved the unregulated consumption of gratuitous amounts of alcohol, doesn’t it? It didn’t, by the way. There was no alcohol involved in any way. But! Moving along! Look what happened after all the work: cookies.

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My brother, cookie aficionado, tells me that these are his favorite chocolate chip cookies. This is no small amount of praise, since my brother just might be the world’s foremost expert on chocolate chip cookies. On more than one occasion, I have given him chocolate chip cookies as a birthday or Christmas gift, and the reception those cookies received was nothing short of rhapsodic. It was like watching a person being greeted by a heavenly specter. Or, you know, by really, really good chocolate chip cookies.

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The heart of this recipe lies with Cook’s Illustrated, they of the test-it-until-it-is-perfect methodology. Their recipe provides a good starting point, but I have always thought that the recipe fell short of perfect on account of its lack of oomph. The cookies were crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle—which was lovely—but the flavor was far too sweet for my tastes, and the sweetness sort of killed all the other elements of the cookie. Over the years, I have tinkered with the recipe until I came up with my own version, one that I like ten times better than the original, though I realize that such a statement is entirely reliant upon my own personal taste, and not the tastes of the masses. Still, if you enjoy the subtly nutty taste of brown butter, the deep flavor of brown sugar, and the undertone of sea salt, you’ll love these cookies as much as I do. And, of course, as much as my brother, Expert in All Things Chocolate Chip Cookie.

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Last Year: Italian-Style Herb Bread and Matambre-this dish’s name roughly translates into “hunger killer,” and, reading the recipe, you’ll soon see why

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

As noted in the ingredients below, you’ll really want to use either coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate chunks or féves. Regular chocolate chips are specifically formulated to not melt when baked, and you really want pure, melty chocolate in these cookies, as it really makes the whole cookie shine just that much more. If you are really keen on the saltiness of a sweet baked good, feel free to sprinkle just a touch of flaky sea salt on top of the cookies as they emerge from the oven.

1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (2 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar

¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar

1 ¼ teaspoons flaky sea salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 ¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks, féves, or chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside.

In a medium skillet or pan set over medium-high heat, melt butter. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly (or stirring with a wooden spoon) until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty scent, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, then pour butter into a large heatproof bowl.

To the browned butter, add both sugars, sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let mixture rest for 3 minutes in order to allow the sugar to really dissolve, then whisk again for 30 seconds, let mixture rest for 3 minutes, then repeat once more. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Gently fold in the flour using a spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is completely incorporated, stir in the chocolate chunks.

Measure out dough into 16 portions of roughly 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. If you don’t desire such enormous cookies, portion out the cookies in 2 tablespoon chunks. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, baking no more than 8 cookies at a time, per sheet (lest your cookies ooze into one another and attach into one long cookie).

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time, in the center of the oven, until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and the centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes for cookies made in 3-tablespoon portions, fewer minutes for smaller cookies. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool almost completely before eating (I like a still-warm cookie, but you can certainly let the cookies cool completely before eating and nothing bad will come of it).

Makes 16 to 24 cookies, depending on how large your cookie dough portions are.

Leek and Rosemary Scones

26 Feb

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From my house, you can walk to a place to get seasonal handmade pie, two places to get Japanese noodles, a place that makes their own coconut milk to mix into delicious curries, and a place that makes cecina (also called farinata, cecina is a crepe-like flatbread made of chickpea flour) in an enormous wood-fired oven. This summer, there will also be a place to get delicious French pastries and a place to get small batch ice cream. What there will not be, and what there is not now, is a place to get a scone.

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Perhaps due to the proliferation of coffee places that serve the type of scones that are more closely related to a slice of cake or a doughnut, there isn’t a lot of represented variety in the scone world. Most scones encountered these days are sugary, glaze-covered, or chocolate-studded, and while I certainly have no problem with a good selection of sweets being offered, it would be nice to come across the occasional savory scone. Logic leads me to believe that, this being America, the biscuit is most likely the main culprit in the obsolescence of the savory scone, but, me being me, that doesn’t mean I am going to rest easy with that knowledge.

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So, if you are like me, and you are interested in delving a bit deeper into the world of the non-sugary scone, might I suggest you give this delightful leek and rosemary version a try? Flaky and buttery, it’s a welcome addition to a cup of coffee or tea, and it plays very well with the warm and cozy attributes of a bowl of soup. Come to think of it, these scones, so very savory and toothsome, go great with a big, crunchy salad as well, lending a balance of heartiness to the crisp lightness of a big plate of greens. Oh, greens! You could split one of these in half and pile it high with sautéed greens—chard, collard greens, kale, what have you—making yourself a sort of hybrid sandwich that goes a long way towards making a case for the presence of the savory scone. I could keep going with this case for scones, but I think I’ve made good headway so far. How long before a shop offering savory scones pops up near my house? I have no idea. But, so long as my kitchen and I keep up the pace, I don’t anticipate we’ll be needing the services of such a shop.

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Last Year: Marinated Goat Cheese and Savory Olive Oil and Walnut Sables–these go great together!

Another Savory Scone: Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones 

Leek and Rosemary Scones

4 medium leeks, white parts only

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ cups buttermilk or soured milk

Rinse leeks thoroughly, then slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into thin half moons. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add leeks, then sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the leeks begin to soften. Reduce heat to low, cover leeks, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the leeks from sticking to the pan. When the leeks are touched with crisp brown edges, uncover the pan, stir for a minute or so over low heat to allow the leeks to crisp up a bit more, then remove leeks to a plate to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. Add the cold butter chunks and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large pea-sized butter bits strewn throughout. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, carefully stir in the buttermilk until the dough appears quite shaggy and just begins to hold together. Fold in the cooled leeks.

Turned the dough out onto a floured surface. Carefully pat the dough into a long rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1 ½-inches thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet. You might need to partake in a bit of creative arranging in order to make all 12 triangles fit on the baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops of the scones have turned dark golden brown. Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve while still warm.

Makes 12 scones.

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