Archive for July, 2010

Most of the time I think too much, say too much, write too much.

Sometimes I think it’s better to just shut up.

To take in instead of pour out.

It definitely takes practice.

But when it works,

the silence

is nice.


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Seven-layer cookies (or rainbow cookies, as I prefer to call them) have always been one of my favorite kinds of cookie. You may occasionally see them in the grocery store, but don’t be fooled—the good ones really only come from Italian bakeries. But not anymore, seeing as I have mastered the art of the rainbow cookie myself! I found the recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, smitten kitchen. Since I’ve had a lot of free time lately, I decided to do something daring and give these cookies a try. Below is the recipe and a few photos. My recipe notes are in bold!

Mise en place: “everything in place.”

4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (7-oz) tube almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13″x9″ baking pan (butter is advised over butter spray because it helps the paper stay in place while you spread the batter into the pan) and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.

2. Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

My whites.

3. Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

4. Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

5. Divide batter among 3 bowls (I used my trusty food scale to ensure that it was equally divided). Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (I used the back of a spoon and didn’t have much trouble).

6. Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.

7. Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

My layers.

8. When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper. (Inverting the layers on top of each other was definitely the hardest part and almost ended in disaster!)

9. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

10. Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. (I made more of a ganache, and also added about 1/4 cup of light cream to the chocolate. Numerous comments on this recipe complained of the chocolate coating cracking when being cut, which I wanted to avoid. This alteration worked well.)

11. Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

12. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies (I think I made mine bigger).

Sweet success.

Much to my surprise, they came out beautifully and taste amazing. If I could do one thing differently, I would have bought a bigger jar of apricot preserves—the recipe calls for 12 oz and I mistakingly bought a 10 oz jar. I’m sure it didn’t make a huge difference, but it would have been nice to perhaps have a little bit more jam between the layers. That said, while these were pretty time consuming, they definitely delivered. I’ll probably make them again during the holidays!

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A new way to enjoy kale!

The other day, StumbleUpon directed me to a recipe for kale chips, something I had never heard of before. I decided to conduct some additional recipe research before trying them myself. I read 2 or 3 more blogs about them and the common thread among them was that all of the authors seemed to really dislike kale to begin with. They said that this method of cooking it was the one way that made it taste good, which I happen to disagree with.

I am already a pretty big fan of kale. When Michael and I make it, we usually saute it with some olive oil and then add in about 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar once the kale has been adequately cooked. That method came from Mark Bittman’s cookbook, How to Cook Everything. Anyway, I made the kale chips as follows:

1 bunch kale
~ 1 tbs olive oil
~ 1 tbs kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the thick stems from the end/center of the leaves and break the leaves up into 2-3 inch pieces. Rinse the leaves with water.
3. Drizzle some olive oil onto a sheet pan, place the kale onto the sheet pan. Toss the leaves to coat them with olive oil. Sprinkle some kosher salt (I used about 1 tbs, which made them quite salty) and pepper onto the leaves. I also used garlic powder but I’m sure you can experiment with other seasonings as well.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the leaves begin to turn brown.

Voila! These things were delicious, and surprisingly light and crispy. If you’re looking for a new healthy snack or a new vegetable to love, I strongly recommend some homemade kale chips. Enjoy!

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Dear WNYC and all conservationists,

I like to think I try pretty hard to help the planet and reduce my carbon footprint. I walk to work (most days). I turn off the water while I brush my teeth. I recycle (even no. 5’s!). I buy environmentally friendly aluminum foil, plastic sandwich bags, and coffee filters. I feel like I do a pretty good job, so PLEASE don’t try to guilt me into turning off my air conditioner during the heat wave. Brian Lehrer did a segment on energy conservation/air conditioning this morning, some of which I happened to catch. First, I heard a guy from Con Ed telling people that they should keep their thermostats at 78 degrees. Admittedly, I’m a wimp when it comes to the heat, but I think most people would agree that 78 is a little high. Then, this other anti-AC guy on the show started advising people to turn off their air conditioners when they’re not home—which I am totally in favor of and do most days, including yesterday. I turned it off at 9:30am and set it to come back on, full force, at 3:30pm (thinking it would cool down the place by 6:30), only to find that our attic apartment was still above 80 degrees at 11pm. So today, our AC has been running in an empty apartment all day, and I feel like a criminal. Thanks a lot, you hippies.

Like I said, I try really hard to be good to the Earth. Can’t you just ease up a little when all I’m trying to do is achieve a little physical comfort?

Yours truly,
Rachel Lazzaro

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