Saturday, September 26, 2009

I do not like when my job feels like work. I get grumpy, irritable, glum, wish I was elsewhere, and finally, not care at all about even being there doing what I am doing--and worst, begin to question my passion.

I am but an apprentice. I am in the kitchen to learn, and granted we are incredibly busy during our season, too much so for me to be learning classic preparation and dishes or butchering all sorts of carcasses, I often feel as though I am not. And then I wonder what exactly I am doing if I am not learning. More importantly, if I am not tested; no, more importantly still, if I am not creating. More than a desire (need) to learn, I am, or was when I started this, driven by passion.

Passion, i suppose, is what most chefs were one time possessed by. For some it is fleeting, for some it is constant, and for some, liek myself, it often feels stifled. Because I am but an apprentice after all, and I am there to learn, not fuel my passions (I am to keep those to myself, drawing on it to get through the tough days, I suppose, though lately I have simply been using wine for that).

But I am not learning, I am questioning my passion, and now I am talking in circles because taht is how this whole experience sometimes feels. It is hard to explain--i know what I love, and I truly do love what I do. But there is something missing, and that something would let me connect the two. Perhaps it is knowledge; experience maybe; proving myself; patience and practice--none of which, on days like today, can come soon enough, or seem to be coming at all.

Sometimes I believe that anyone could do my job, they just need to be shown how. Competence does not equal caring, however. I care; of course I care, we all do, that is why we are crazy enough to do what we do. We are good at it, we care about it, we love it. It is awful, then, when people I know put the same sweat and love into this work as I do, do not see it in me; the devotion goes does the talent, the interest, the ideas, the knowledge, the trust. Still worse, is when I am not given any chance to prove those things. Stagnating squelches enthusiasm, and without that there is no passion, and without that, its just work.

Thanks for listening

Thursday, September 24, 2009

reincarnation, or obligation

Some people love leftovers. Its a quick lunch the next day, they insist. Roast too many potatos, tomorrow theyll be good in a ragout, or just cold as my sister loves for snacking. Some even love leftovers so much they purposely cook a full recipe (feeds six to eight) when it is just themselves for dinner--hey, the whole week is taken care of. Well, I hate leftovers. I would sooner finish what I have cooked even if it means painful overconsumption jsut so that I wont have little pots and bowls of this and that in the fridge. Leftovers are far to obligatory, demanding to be used but sadly dispositioned as has-beens; not as fresh as what could be tonight-- so obviously last night.
I also, though, hate throwing food out. It seems so wasteful, so ingrateful. So what if the lettuce is soggy, at least I have lettuce to eat. This is perhaps unnecessary guilt (and unhealthy at times) but guilt nonetheless that only reinforces the negative obligation to a meal.
There really is little that is less satisfying than these obligatory meals. Take tonight for example. Cherry tomatos. On my counter. For four days now. That is a long lifespan for a tomato, and these were starting to soften. But tonight I wanted halibut, and not with cherry tomatos either. No, I wanted it with chervil, chives, and parsley, with some steamed green beans and shalloty rice. But those tomatoes, sitting there sadly right where I was ready to trim beans. I had to use them. So I tried to stoke myself up: Ill simmer them in white wine, with fresh chopped chives, itll be lovely. And it would have been--had I been craving halibut with sauteed cherry tomatoes and fresh chopped chives. I dont need to tell you again that I wasnt.
And so I remain dissatisfied, sigh, and resentful, just generally filled with shoulda coulda wouldas...and a bit of a shouldnt-a as i console myself with cookies dipped in whipping cream. But cest la vie, right, not everymeal is perfect and at least now I dont have fruit fly attracting rotting tomatoes on my counter. And theres always tomorrow for another go at halibut, pending I still want green beans by then...

Single Girl Dinners

I have often been met with incredulity that I cook for myself; I mean, actually cook...meals...just for fancy stuffÉÉ No, definately not always fancy stuff, it just seems that way to other singles who cant be troubled beyond a grilled cheese.
Now dont get me wrong, i love grilled cheese as much as the next person (especially with stinky dry gruyere), and actually admire those non-chalant enough to eat a box of triscuits for dinner, or a bowl of cereal because for one, who wants the dishes, and secondly, its just for one.
But for me, cooking dinner is important. Sure there are tired nights when scrambled eggs and toast is more than fulfilling, but most evenings, actually cooking, just for me, is most fulfilling.
Cooking for myself feels as though I am taking care of, well, myself. Like even if I know I am not getting enough sleep, like my home should be a little cleaner, like I forgot to pay Telus again or that Im avoiding the dentist despite not being able to chew cold or acidic things on the left side of my mouth, I am in someway being responsible by having a satisfying, nutritious meal on the table.
In fact, I love the final moments of my day spent at the stove just for me. But again, some nights I am just not in the mood. Not in the mood for washing and chopping veg, for tossing and mixing, for add this and finish with that. Definately not in the mood for more than one pan. Times when even my go-to meals of pasta (a blank canvas taking only nine minutes to transform into a work of art) requires too much attention at the stove. On those nights, I can relate to the PB and J folk out there, or those who would rather jsut order the Number 5 from the local Chinese joint. But I dont combo it. I stick to my guns about taking care of me. And I make Single Girl Salmon.
One pot. Six ingredients. Salad, bread. Happy, well fed, just me.

Single Girl Salmon
I got this idea from Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, a humorous and inspiring collection or essays about meals spent alone (and sometimes lonely). I read the essay by Amanda Hesser--Single Cuisine--whenever I am feeling unmotivated to cook for (sigh) just me. And then I make her girlfriends recipe for salmon, with a few adjustments of my own, and somehow simplicity wins me over, nothing left to want, and confident that I have taken care of me as easily as I could have done pouring a bowl of cereal. This recipe is per single person.

In a small saucepan, soften a thinly sliced shallot until slightly carmelized. Add in a torn fresh bay leaf. Breathe in the smell. Into the pot goes one-third to one-half cup of french green lentils (you judge your own hunger here); cover with water by half and inch and simmer for twenty minutes. At this point, pour a glass of wine and sit down. Read something, watch tv, paint your toenails...When the timer buzzes, place your salmon fillet atop the lentils and splash over some of whatever wine you may be drinking, plus a squeeze of lemon and some freshly ground salt and pepper. Cover, turn up the heat, and in four to five minutes you get to eat, just enough time to heat some bread and toss together a salad, and pour some more wine.
Enjoy, take care of yourselves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Cant Believe Theres No Butter

I hate to say this, but I think I may have discovered a (shudder) low-calorie substitute for risotto. No...nonono. I take that back. There is no substitute for risotto, especially not something that isnt creamily laden with butter and parmesan. But the rice dish I just ate was creamy; no substitute, but comparatively satisfying.

It came from a recent Food and Wine magazine recipe, included in an article about a French chef promoting veganism in his restaurant and repetoire (hence the lack of risottos defining ingredients in the dish). Now I may not eat alot of meat, and could easily, and do really, live without cow, but not without the milk and subsequent products from it. So I included the optional shavings of dry goats cheese on top (ok, different farm animal, but you get the idea). But the rice itself, regardless of those scant shavings, clung together as if it was binded by a whole cup of the stuff, soft and unexplicably melty.

Well, I suppose the explanation comes from the method of preparing the pilaf. After softening your onions and garlic, you add rice and herbs, cover with water and boil it for one minute. DONE! yeah,, then you cover it, and let sit for thirty minutes. Coming back (I went for a little walk) you simmer the rice for yet another thirty minutes (definately not a pressed-for-time-risotto stand in, but at least allows for inattentiveness), until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed. Add in your flavours, heat through and thats it. It is moist and warm and comforting as fall starts to set in. Give it a shot, you wont believe it hasnt been to the creamery.

Almost Risotto Brown Rice Pilaf
The only changes I made to the original version of this were because of what I had to use up in my fridge: cauliflower. So I omitted the listed basil in favour of a diced yellow tomato, adding to the moistness of the dish, serving the roasted florets on top, with shaved dry goats cheese, but feel free to add all the parmesan you may feel is missing, and not be able to resist.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
10 cups water
3 cups short-grain brown rice
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
1/2 cup diced and yellow tomatos, seeded if big and juicy
1 1/2 cups pitted small green olives, halved (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces shaved aged goat cheese, or shredded parmiagano reggiano

In a large saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Add the water, rice, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
Stir 1 tablespoon of salt into the rice. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato, heating through. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaf and thyme. Stir in the olives, parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the rice into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and top with roasted cauliflower and shavings of cheese.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Salt. Herbs. Less cooking time. A lot less cooking time. Tonights dinner, I mean.

Tonight was my first solo catering gig. I have been meaning to write about it all week, as that is how long I have been thinking about it, planning for it, wanting to tell someone(s) about it. It was for the couple that I rent from, or rather, the husband (L) of the duo and his five Harley-riding biker buddies. Every summer they do an end of season ride, and their (my) home, is a stopping point. Rather than hitting the local pub as they usually do, L asked if I would have dinner ready for his hungry gang.

Now this was very exciting, and flattering...and exhausting. I easily came up with a menu, things I had wanted to cook all summer long, recipes I wanted to try, and ones I had created and deemed shareable. Roast pork loin would be the entree, as I supposed these would be meat eating men, and my usual bean dishes would not suffice. Besides, I wanted to venture out and roast something carnivourous. But I had to venture beyond that even; L doesnt eat pork.

Square one, new menu, and after a consultation with Brett from work, three lamb shoulders I had no idea what the hell to do with. Slow braise yes, but how slow is slow, and am I going to be making peanut butter sandwiches ala minute because it is ten pm and these damn slabs of animal arent done yet. Near breakdown not unaided by the questioning of my bosses as to why I picked such a tough cut of meat, or worse, why I picked something I had never worked with.

Because how was I going to learn otherwise. Because I got an idea in my head and wanted to go with it. Because I had limited time. Because the shoulders were already defrosting in my fridge. Thats why.

So another chef consultation later (called my ma for comfort and encouragement and the sound advice to cook the meat the night before and simply bring it up to temp for dinner) and I was back in control.

Prep went well, and I had plenty of time for what I had readied the previous night, and the guys running--riding--an hour behind schedule. But for a shawdy bag of green beans, all was in order and everything but final touches were ready for the gang when they got there, armed with beer and tequila, friendliness and hunger. I started them off with a ciabatta loaf from Wine Country Bakery , and a Buttermilk Zuchinni Tart with herb salad from my garden. Needed more parmesan, but was nice and light considering the generous dose of cream I added. Yet another kudos to buttermilk; I really consider it my secret weapon.

But the dinner itself--Braised Lamb Shoulders on Bean Ragout with summer herbs (couldnt leave out those beans) with Lemony Roasted Fingling Potatos and Carrot Fennel Salad--was not at all how I wanted it. The romano beans I boiled to near mush, and I had not made enough dressing for the salad, which should have been out of fridge a lot earlier to really soften and blend. And that dreaded lamb. It was so fatty I could not slice it to present, but ended up just pulling the actual meat off to scatter atop the beans, both of which needed about double the fresh herbs I had used. And it all needed salt. Except the potatos, the potatos were great. Of course, the were doused in coarse salt...

But apparently, I am my own worse critic, because the guys were raving when I joined them (at their insistence, and during my designated dish-washing time), cleaning their plates and talking food. It was great, it truly was, and a huge relief, but I couldnt help wondering, and still cant, if they were simply being kind to the sweet little apprentice chef (that would be me), or maybe tequila shots make everything taste good (but then, I would have enjoyed it too because they poured seven of those little plastic cups each round--their goes professionalism) or there is something seriously wrong with my own tastebuds, because I thought the whole thing quite flat. Except the potatos.

And the dessert. I did a play on milk and cookies, roasting President plums plunking them, still hot, in glass cups and topping with barely whipped cream, then wedging in a cookie that was the subject of play for me. I love walnut and plums together, but I wanted a cookie that would sort of make the whole thing seem like it could have been a plum crisp--a big chewy, oaty thing. So I combined a recipe from Orangette (Molly never lets me down when it comes to cookies) with a classic oat cookie recipe in the joy of cooking, swapped some nuts around and mixed it all together. I did a test run the morning of, deciding they needed more butter and sugar if they were going to be wanna-be crisp toppings (yknow how that crumble is, almost crunchy on top and when you try to sneak off a little peice, it ends up being a big chunk, soft and moist from the warm fruit underneath...oh boy). So that night while prepping, I melted more butter and brown sugar together with another handful of walnuts, to stir into the already made dough. Well, I got doing other things and the butter browned somewhat before I could add the sugar and nuts. But that was just what it needed and there was not a cookie crumb left to be dipped in the ÈmilkÈ.

I suppose it was a success, L booked me to cater for his wife and her girlfriends when they come up two weeks from now, and asked me to be part of the annual biker trip. I hope that each visit marks my improvement. And taht I can get the hand of that seasoning thing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not quite new years

You cannot can fruit in champagne. Or, well, you can, just not using the recommended processing times. That is, unless you want champagne erupting from your hot jars like it does shaken by overzealous (and already drunken) bottle-opening groomsmen on certain occasions.

That is what I learned today. Haha.

I love champagne, and what occured today happened simply for want of an excuse to pop open a long shelved bottle on my one day off this week and a half. That, and some really beautiful white peaches.

I love white peaches. There is something about them, their blushing cheeks against stark white flesh that makes them lovely to look at. To smell, they are more subtely aromatic than their golden brothers, offering what the lychee nut gives to gewurtz that sets it apart from all other wines. And their taste. Divine, sweet, effervescent--like champagne.

So I thought I would combine these two loves and set them on jars to share with my other love on days when there are no white peaches to be had (thank goodness wine, at least, is a year round thing). Think again.

Peeled and poached in sugar and sparkling, all was going well, and I was thinking of what a pro-canner I had become...until twenty five minutes later when I removed the first batch from the boiling black pot. Fizz was coming out all over the place! I thought perhaps one jar was not properly sealed, but the next to reacted the same, splashing me and my floor and landing me in fits of laughter as i ran for a towel. Oh boy. Now I had really done it, two disasters with white peaches. But still in love.

And apparently, oblivious to the ridiculousness of my endeavor. I had no recipe--though I must admit that I was inspired for the combination by a stone fruit devoted section of Donna Hays wonderful magazine that set slices of white peaches in champagne jelly; not one for gelatin, I thought id simply omit that minor detail; again, Haha--and yet, I continued canning, sending the next three jars into the water. What was I hoping for anyways. Ten minutes in, while on the phone to my ma sharing the hilarity of moment, i realized this, and yoinked the jars out. No fizz. No New-years style stickiness. And three little pop sounds, signalling success.

So you can can with champagne. And you can also find ways to eat your way through three jars of unsealed champagne poached white peaches. I particularly enjoy them on one dessert I do do successfully--unlike the first white peach disaster of last week--Buttermilk Pudding Cakes; then again, straight from the jar and drinking the dregs seems like a pretty good idea right now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I took a beating today. Not physical--no that was yesterday when I burned my arm on the oven door, and this afternoon actually, when I biked against wind uphill to relieve the stress of the day--but mental. And as a highly overanalytical and very sensitive person, mental abuse is worse than the physical; allow me to explain.

All summer we have recieved mixed salad greens from Little Creek Organic Greens. Dale, the farmer of these, takes such care as to have employees harnessed to wires so as to hover above the delicate leaves while weeding to avoid trampling them--as legend has it, at least. The last few days have been frosty though, and this weeks order was a little de-thawed looking. I assumed however, considering how fresh they were and that we had never had a problem from the farm before, that it was our cooler, and I relocated all four boxes to a less fan-directed spot in the walk-in. This, apparently, is reason enough for a chef to lose his cool. Not only did I get yelled at as to where the greens were, then why they were there, and then how could I be so ignorant as to put them there, but our dishwasher did too, for she assisted in explaining the lettuce situation. And then out of the cooler comes chef number two, also yelling about where the greens were and, well, you get the idea. Again, I tried to explain why I moved them but more yelling only ensued, some in German, some in English, until finally I was told that this was a "yes-chef" moment. Furthermore, I found out, there would be only "yes-chef" moments to come, and if I could learn this and other regulations of my position than we would have no more problems to come. This was behaviour, apparently, he would no longer tolerate.

I am not notoriously a disrespectful person. Quite the opposite actually, especially when it comes to my job. And after spending the last moments of my day wondering if I was out of place to defend my lettuce moving, I have decided taht it was all too ridiculous. And hurtful coming from people whom I thought had alot more respect for me. Id sooner have kept biking, in pouring rain and with an anvil in the basket of my bike than feel as questioningly (is that a word--im sure you understand) about my career and my job (different things, believe me, veryvery different) as I do now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

And it was awful

Over a week ago, now, I showed up for work three hours early, mistakingly ready for the opening shift when I was supposed to be peanut butter. No big deal, except that I had arranged to pick up eggs at my little chicken farm on the way home from work--not an option now that that would be nine or so at night. So I decided to continue the pattern and show up there seven hours early. As I pulled into the yard, my egg guy and two of his sons were backing out with a car load of peaches from their orchard--we noticed eachother just short of driving into eachother instead. In the meantime, the senior citizens bus pulled up to pick up the grandmother of the house, blocking the two of us in. Then, out of said bus comes a tiny lady with dyed jet black hair and a persistent desire for peaches. After promising her a box when the bus returned from town later in the afternoon, she finally went back inside, and we could finally leave. But not before my egg guy became my peach guy: he offered me whatever I could pick off the last tree of white peaches, my favorite, and what I had just finished telling him were all gone from my usual peach lady. So there I was, after they had pulled away: climbing a tree in my skirt, reaching for every last peach to fill the box that lay below. It was me versus the bees and worth every minute of ridiculousness, every hour I was early for work. They were simply gorgeous, and the soft scent filled my car as I drove home.

But i didnt do anything with these beauties. Well, I ate them fresh of course, and on my porridge, doused a few in wine and let steep for dessert, froze alot...but didnt do anything, nary a flan or a cobbler to be baked and enjoyed. So tonight, with the last five peaches, white flesh now slightly bruised, I made a crostata--or, rather, attempted to.

You see, I am still learning, but you would think that I would know by now that baking is simply not as interchangeable as cooking; read: oil does not equal butter, and ground almonds are certainly not the same as cornmeal, not in the least. For the first, I did not have enough butter so thought I would compensate with canola oil; read: very wet dough. And the latter, I was craving almonds in a non-cakey, more tart like way, so thought an easy swap would satisfy my nutty desire. Only, almonds and cornmeal (as the recipe I was following called for) are not nearly the same texture; read: very wet dough.

Working the lot into a somewhat manageable blob, I formed what would attempt to be the shell, filled it with the white peaches, folded over the edges, put it in the oven and hoped for the best; came out with the worst. Between the soft dough and juicy peaches, the whole thing looked more like it was melting than baking, and though it bubbled with heat in the center, indicative of a cooked tart, it was still a pale blonde color, not crisp and golden. So what did my brilliant baker self do? Why, raised the rack a shelf or two and turned on the broiler. Three minutes and the crostata was now black and soggy. Great.

So what did my crostata craving self do? Took the tart out of the oven, put the whole thing on a plate with a big glob of whipped cream and grabbed a fork. Sitting, eating what was not carcinogenic of this thing I actually laughed out loud. And I learned a little too.

Thats what its all about

Sunday, September 6, 2009

And again, to comment on love affairs, but of the food kind again: zuchinni. Still cant get enough. Which is lucky, because my garden cant seem to give me enough. Serves me right for planting three varieties I suppose...
So far there are no cliched zuchinni-the-size-of-my-thigh stories, and i have not had to resort to anonymous doorstop dropping of squash, but I definately understand the word bounty. But like I said, I love the stuff, and have many lovely ways to deal with it, for those of you who love it too, or also painstakingly (mistakinglyÉ) planted more than one seed this summer

--thinly sliced on pizza with canned artichokes and fresh basil, fontina and fresh mozzarella cheese. No tomato sauce, just a good drizzle of olive oil.

--shredded in an omelette with soft goats cheese and thyme; or take the same three ingredients, add some cream, toss with pasta and you have an incredible veggie carbonara

--as a sidedish tossed with melted anchovies and mint

--shaved squash and its blossoms tossed with lemon juice and olive oil with ricotta salata makes a crisp and fresh salad

The last idea came from David Tanisè A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. In the summer section of this book, Tanis talks about zuchinni and his ways of dealing with it. It is almost poetic the way he confesses the joy of simplicity that comes from cooking down cubes of zuchinni and the basis it becomes for so many delicious meals. Which brings me to tonights pasta, wonderfully sweet and flavourful, my new favorite way to deal with the veg that keeps giving.

Inspired by Tanisè description, I slowly softened a thick slice of onion, diced small, and a smashed clove of garlic in a pan of olive oil. After a couple of minutes I added in a glut of chopped zuchinni, seasoned with salt and pepper, splashed in a bit of white wine and covered, letting it cook down to a thin, almost saucelike consistency. In the last couple of boiling minutes for my linguini, i tossed in the pile of fresh herbs I had chopped up: summer savory, oregano, thyme, and purple basil. Tossed with pasta and topped with parm, this meal sang. No need to give away my zuchinni, Id rather share it in this form.

Another Kind of Love Affair

I just finished writing the post entitled Love Affairs (shows how quickly I am to finish a posting, huh). Now, though, I must confess to how closely such patterns with food imitate my real love affairs. How prone I am to letting relationships fade away--every night with someone, to once a week, to moving on to the next tasty, feel good thing. I get bored with men as easily as I do food. Routine transends into claustrophobia, and I question seriously on what I might be missing, and long not for a new recipe, but a freedom to explore such, to eat what I want when I want to, metaphorically speaking of course.

Hmm, that comparison made me sound a bit, well, sleazy. I am not. But I am selfish. And just like when it seems a devotion to a dish is winning over the desire for some other meal I abandon it entirely, so do I run from a relationship when it feels too cozy, too unthinking, too detached from me and my own conscious choices.

But I dont want to cook just for me anymore--I am ready to eat the same thing every night for as long as we can. Something so good everytime, not leaving want for anything else, unthinkingly without recipe, just feeling. And I think, hope, i have found that dish, love without the affair.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cookie Monster

Yknow whats great--cookies with breakfast. not cookies for breakfast, i still have to have my oatmeal, after all. But with. Or after, I suppose, as dessert usually occurs.
This notion started with a little note in Heidi Nobleès ÈFrom the Orchard TableÈ cookbook. She confessed to loving her biscotti with her coffee at breakfast; I confess to her biscotti recipe being the only one that ever worked for me.
Biscotti is pretty understandable, though, perfect for dunking in lattes and not too sweet, hardly a cookie at all, but as welcome at breakfast as say, a muffin or sweet scone. But it was merely a starting point.
Then there was that little cafe in Vancouver, where I couldnt help but have not only a biscotti after my toasted baguette and jam, but a ginger shortbread, almond thumprint and the most amazing lemon sables--a breakfast dessert I found myself craving once home.
So to my cookie gurus website I went, and was not disappointed, Molly had a recipe for classic lemon sables (she is passionate about France and cookies after all). Changing it slightly to adhere to my love of lemon by doubling the amount of zest, they were just as at the cafe, no, better, for the bits of coarse salt, a pleasant surprise every odd bite.
By now my addictive personality had kicked in, and our pastry chef at the restaurant, Sandrines, cinnamon petit fours did not help. And before I knew it, I had three different kinds of cookies at home, too many really, for one person, even with the freezer space.
As if that was not enough though, I baked cookies for a catering. Deliciously nutty things that were a success of recipe combining and a new staple when I crave oats in cookie form. But there were only a few of those, as the guys liked them as much as I did, so there was only a minor delay in eating the cookies I already had, ones that I needed to get through, even if they were in the freezer (the choices were a tad overwhelming).
So I began to work on my always present biscotti. The last one was dipped but four days ago. One down, two cookies to go. You would think. But no, instead, having some spare time this morning (and inspired last night by beautiful photos on a newly discovered blog--when I intended to be writing on my own none the less) I baked up an entirely different batch. Even though I have been craving cinnamon buns for over two months, even though I want to try a recipe for apricot tarts from Maggieès Harvest (a most beautiful cookbook by the way) with some late season surprises I picked up at the Winfield farmers market, no, instead I am back to three different kinds of cookies.
So I have come to the following conclusion: I am obsessed. I dont know if it is because they are quick and a baking item that I actually have time for, if it is because they are dainty and snacky to eat, not really a dessert, more like a sweet cracker and great with all the fresh fruit I have, if it is because I get to use my fingers to eat them, or because I have an addictive personality, and my cooking fetish has become a necessity for my very existence: if I do not bake a batch I may very well be stranded at dessert road with no where to go but whipping cream and more wine (would that be such a bad, but its better with cookies too...).
And for now, I am ok with this addiction. Because quite frankly, they have all been really good. They are the kind of dessert I like, at any time of the day; and having me smiling at many times of the day. May they make you smile too.

Hazelnut Biscotti
I love this classic Italian cookie; hardly sweet at all, and a good crunchy mouthful. But baking them has never worked for me. They always seemed to go beyond crunchy to brittle, inedible without dunking, but disintigrating if you did. Until I discovered Heidi Nobles recipe. But like I said, they are hardly a cookie-cookie, not the lack of fat content, and thats the way I like them. Good with coffee after breakfast, even better, as my Italian mama Franka advised me, dipped in wine after dinner. They keep well too, in an airtight container for two to three weeks, leaving plenty of time for other cookies in between.

Combine in a large bowl:
2 cups AP flour
3é4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1é4 tsp salt

In a seperate bowl, beat together:
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp each, white wine and brandy (or cognac)

Add dry to egg mixture, as well as:
1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Stir just to combine, not overworking the dough. Using flour as your friend, shape into a 10 by five inch rectangle and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300F for fifty minutes, until firm and dry. Cool on tray for ten minutes, before slicing. Now, traditionally biscotti are cut on an angle, but I dont like a bunch of different sized dippers, especially not those silly corner pieces, so I slice horizontally, so that all my cookies are five inches long (though I suppose ten would be ok too). Lay the slices, cut side down, on the tray and bake for twenty minutes, flip, and then 15-20 minutes more. Cool completely on a rack, biscotti are not a cookie best enjoyed warm, but rather dipped into warm things.