Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This is a Test

Sometimes I can be judgmental. But only when the situation calls for it.
Chances are, I won't think condescending thoughts about you if you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe when you leave the washroom, if like to die your hair crazy colours, or if act like a jerk when you are drunk.
However, I WILL judge your bakery based on how good your macaroons are.
I'm sorry, but that's just the way it goes.

The first thing I ever look to order when visiting a new bakery is a coconut macaroon. It's a test. If you put care and effort into your macaroons, everything else will follow. Probably, this is not how things really work in the world of baking, but this how it works in my head. I am practically exuberant when I bite into a delicious macaroon. There is nothing not to love about it's simplicity. Take for example, the macaroon in the picture below:

This macaroon is from Tartine, in San Francisco. It was a few months ago already, but I remember delighting in this little guy as much (if not more) than my mother did in her massive frangipane croissant. Delicious.

If you love these guys the way I love them, I'm willing to hand off my recipe to you. They are simple, sweet, and slightly gooey in the center. Also, they are practically guilt free (woo!). That is, until I drizzle them with dark chocolate ganache (but chocolate is good for you, right?)...

Coconut Macaroons

As per usual, I like to reduce the amount of sugar in my macaroons. I end up using just over half a cup, in the end. I've found anywhere from ½ cup to ¾ cup of sugar will do the trick!

For the Macaroons:
3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
½ - ¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the Ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream

Place the first three ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty looking but not dry. (The uncooked mixture will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, ad then it will slowly get drier and drier. You want to stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Using a 1/4-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. You should wind up with about a dozen. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

Set macaroons on rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy but not boiling. Remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, covering them almost completely and allowing the chocolate to drip down the sides. Refrigerate the macaroons until the glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.

Note: You will have leftover ganache, which can be refrigerated or frozen.

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Last Hurrah

I start school in like, three days, or something insane. It's September, and I'm kind of feeling like "Where the heck did August go, because I don't quite remember it even being here." I am desperately clinging to these last days of summer, these last hours and minutes, trying to make them last somehow.
I should know better by now, that no matter how hard I wish against it, September brings about a fairly major shift in what I've come to regard as normal, everyday life. Old routines, be kind to me. I've never been a big fan of change.
I am feeling pretty stubborn about letting summer go also because this summer was pretty wonderful- as in total best ever status. I swam in the sea, drank Sangria in Napa, ate fresh berry pies at the kitchen table, said hello to new friends, said goodbye to old friends, walked for miles along the Oregon coast with my favorite person in the world, got lost, got found, made raspberry yogurt popsicles, and picked up my polaroid camera for the first time in ages. Oh Summer, you did really good this year. Please don't go away, not yet, not ever.

And yet,
I know there is no use trying so hard to make a season last. Autumn is eager and waiting, ready to strike at any moment. I can feel it happening already. But maybe, today the sun will stay out for just a bit longer, long enough for one last barbecue, one last glass of wine, one last hurrah before the sky fades to dusk and Autumn creeps in.

Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbonzo Beans, and Cumin
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2008

This Quinoa salad is definitely last-bbq-of-summer worthy. It's super savory and hearty, so you could eat it on its own as a vegetarian main course or this would be great along side some barbecued chicken. It is wonderful left over and taken for lunch in the days to come, and it makes a great (and healthy!) midnight snack.

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon tumeric, divided
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces), rinsed well, drained
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 ½ pounds medium zucchini (about 5), trimmed, quartered lengthwise
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Combine garbanzo beans and lemon juice in large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons oil; press in garlic and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon tumeric and ½ teaspoon paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups water, quinoa, and coarse salt; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare barbecue (medium high heat). Place zucchini on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with ground cumin, ½ teaspoon tumeric, and ½ teaspoon paprika. Toss to coat evenly.

Place zucchini on grill; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to work surface. Cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Add zucchini, green onions, and parsley, then garbanzo bean mixture to quinoa. Toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper.