Friday, November 20, 2009

Salted Oatmeal Cookies

What do you associate with oatmeal cookies? The sad, lonely plate that nobody buys at a bake sale? Something old ladies have with tea? A dry, bland cookie with raisins? Somebody's attempt at making a "healthy cookie?" If those things come to mind when someone mentions oatmeal cookies, get out your mixing bowl and cookie sheets, because this recipe will break the oatmeal cookie stereotype.

I found this recipe in Cook's Illustrated when I was trying to replicate a cranberry-oatmeal cookie from a bakery. I was pleased with the outcome, but they didn't really stand out. At least not until I decided to add kosher salt. With that addition, the resulting cookies are both sweet and salty . . . or in other words, awesome. I took a batch to a gathering at my friend Amanda's last year and although I can't prove it, I think she may have actually clapped when I said I was leaving the whole plate with her at the end of the evening. Now, instead of a cake, she gets oatmeal cookies for her birthday. Next year I'll have to make sure to bake her batch to be the thicker/chewier variety (see below) so we can put candles in them!

Salted Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt or extra coarse sea salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Add sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. With a wooden spoon, stir dry ingredients into butter/sugar/egg mix. Stir in oats.
5. For thinner, crispier cookies, bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes. For thicker, chewier cookies, refrigerate dough at least one hour and bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 23 minutes. For either baking method, use 2 tbsp. dough per cookie and space 2 inches apart when baking. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet a few moments, then transfer to wire racks to cool. (The thinner/crispier cookies are shown above)

- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (omit nutmeg) - mix in with oats
- 2 tbsp. orange zest and 1 cup dried cranberries and/or  1 cup toasted chopped almonds (omit nutmeg) - mix in with oats
                                              - Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butternut Squash

I'm trying to share my bounty of butternut squash from the garden, but having trouble finding people to share with. I can understand the reluctance to take zucchini in the summer . . . but who would not want butternut squash? A couple of people have said "I don't know what to do with butternut squash." Of course, that could just be a polite way to decline, but maybe they're telling the truth. If so, here are some suggestions:

Butternut Squash Risotto
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette 

Or you could toss roasted squash with Fettuccine Alfredo, fresh sage, and fresh thyme . . . and fried sage if you're really motivated! (I created this, so there is no real recipe - I'll try to post a recipe, or at least some guidelines, soon!)

More options:
Parmesan-Roasted Butternut Squash
Winter Squash Soup with Croutons
Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary, and Garlic Lasagna
Beef and Butternut Squash Stew
Caramelized Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash Muffins with Frosted Cream
Butternut Squash and Parmesan Bread Pudding

Planning for Thanksgiving

Last year, I reviewed Thanksgiving menus from several food magazines (part one - part two - part three). It was fun, but I don't think I have time to do the same this year. However, I have been thinking about my contributions to our Thanksgiving meal. So far I have only settled on one thing - this salad:

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette 
1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces mixed greens, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the mixed greens in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.  - Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, via the Food Network