April 18, 2019

Passover Almond Crinkle Cookies

I don't think these are what my grandma had in mind when she set out to perfect her black and white cookie recipe. For her (and pretty much everyone else on the planet), black and white cookies mean a yellow cakey base with a schmear each of chocolate and vanilla frosting. Unfortunately, those aren't Kosher for Passover, which is looming ahead in all of its gluten-free, leavening-free horror. It's not my favorite holiday. We've been over this. But there are still a few good desserts out there that you can eat for the next few days, like some thumbprint cookies or naturally gluten-free things like sorbet. Adding to that list are these almond crinkle cookies, which are kind of like if you made a really dense, chewy macaron. They're sweet and almondy, and instead of a frosting or jam filling they get rolled in cocoa powder, which crackles as it bakes for a zebra-striped look.

 Because it's Passover, this isn't a normal cookie recipe. Instead of beating your butter and sugar together, adding the eggs, then stirring in the dry ingredients and any mix-ins, you prep your dry ingredients then stir in whipped egg whites and flavorings. That's it! No softening butter, chilling dough overnight, or making sure nobody sneaks a taste from the bag of chocolate chips (guilty).

The dry ingredients are just almond flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. You're not allowed to have flour or leavening, which makes sure it stays simple. If you wanted an extra chocolatey cookie, you could experiment with adding cocoa powder to the cookie dough itself, but I personally just like the cocoa dusting on the outside.

The wet ingredients consist of whipped egg whites plus a bit of almond extract and vanilla. A stand mixer will make your life much easier here, but a hand mixer or even a whisk and some elbow grease will work in a pinch. You do only need to get them to soft peaks, so it's not as bad as it could be. You'll know they're done when they're foamy, opaque, and the tip curls or flops over immediately when you lift up the whisk. I transfer them to the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the almond and vanilla extracts as I stir it all together. Normally you would be extremely delicate in folding the whites into the dough, but here it will take a bit more force to get the dough to come together. I'm not saying beat the stuff into a pulp, but don't be afraid to get in there with your spatula and squish it together.

I'm normally a big fan of big cookies for that contrast between a soft, gooey center and crispy edges. However, these cookies are best as small bites since you don't want the outsides to brown too much before the center cooks through. You can always eat more cookies to make up for their small size, but you wouldn't want to eat more cookies if they're burnt and raw at the same time. I use my smallest cookie scoop to make 1" balls, then roll them in cocoa powder and transfer them to my parchment-lined baking sheet. I did try some with powdered sugar and they tasted just fine, but for some reason they baked up all lumpy and misshapen when the cocoa-covered ones were perfectly round. For that reason (and because of my love for chocolate), I preferred the cocoa cookies but you can do either one or a few of each. They would be great along with some ice cream at your Passover seder, and you'll forget all about the matzo when you have these to snack on all week.

2 Cups Almond Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp Almond Extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder and/or Powdered Sugar

Heat oven to 300F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until they reach soft peaks. Stir into the almond flour along with the almond and vanilla extracts.

Roll the dough into 1" balls, then roll each in the cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes or until crackly and set.

Makes 18-20
Recipe Adapted from Love & Olive Oil

April 11, 2019

Strawberry Cornmeal Galette

I'm not sure if it's just the stores by me in Chicago, but it seems like strawberries are on sale everywhere. No, it's not strawberry season yet, but if they're cheap and they smell good (a sign of a good strawberry!), why not bake something with them? Most of my strawberry recipes leave the strawberries raw, like this strawberry cheesecake tart and this strawberry white chocolate mousse tart. But actually baking the strawberries into the tart cooks them down into a sweet, jammy filling that nobody can resist, plus it hides the fact that the strawberries aren't quite at their prime yet.

The strawberry filling starts by macerating the strawberries, which basically means you're tossing them in sugar to draw out some of the water. This gives you that jammy texture that's not too liquidy and doesn't soak into the crust to get it all soggy. After 15 minutes, drain off the liquid and add in the rest of the ingredients for the filling: a little more sugar to taste, some lemon juice and zest, a spoonful of cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. If you have really sweet strawberries to begin with, you may not need the extra sugar. The lemon juice and zest balance out the flavors, as does the salt. The cornstarch thickens whatever liquid is left so it doesn't seep out of the tart or through the bottom of the crust.

A regular pie crust would work just fine, but why not make it a little fancier? Cornmeal adds a bit of texture and a gorgeous golden hue. You still make the dough the same way: combine the dry ingredients, pulse in cold butter, and add cold water until it comes together. As with every other crust, keep the ingredients and the dough cold and work it as little as possible. I chill mine while I make the filling to make sure it stays extra cold.

Even though galettes may sound intimidating, they're actually way easier than regular pies or tarts because it's all freeform and they're supposed to look rustic. I take the chilled dough and roll it out to a thin circle-ish shape. The strawberries get piled in the middle, leaving a border around the edge that gets folded over to hold them all in. I start baking at a high temperature then lower it to finish baking. The extra heat creates more steam for a flakier crust and helps set the shape and the lower temperature allows it to cook through without burning. Once it's out of the oven, serve it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you've got yourself a deceptively simple but fancy dessert.

1 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cornmeal
1/2 Cup Sugar, Divided
1/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed
1 1/2 lbs Strawberries
1 tsp Lemon Zest
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 T Cornstarch

Pulse the flour, cornmeal, 2T sugar, 1/4 tsp salt together in a food processor until just combined. Pulse in the butter, then gradually add 1/4 cup cold water until the dough begins to clump. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Hull and slice the strawberries. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar and let rest for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 400F.

Drain the liquid from the strawberries. Toss with the remaining 2T sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.

Roll the pie dough out to a thin, even circle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pile the strawberries onto the dough, leaving a 1-2" border. Fold the edges of the crust up to partially cover the filling. Bake for 8 minutes, then lower the oven to 350F and continue baking for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

March 29, 2019

Chipotle Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa

It's basically summer, with all the above-freezing days and sunlight past dinnertime. It's enough to get me in the mood for light, fresh dishes, but only if they're quick and easy to make since I don't want to be trapped in my hot claustrophobic kitchen longer than I have to. This salmon is ready in under 30 minutes, and all you have to do for the salsa is chop up some produce and let it sit for a while. Honestly, the hardest part is finding ripe mangos and avocados.

The tricks to a perfect salsa are good knife skills and time. You want the mangos and avocados to be the same size dice so you don't end up with any big chunks or small mushy pieces. This makes for a prettier appearance and better eating experience. There's also some red onion and jalapeno, which should be minced finely so you don't bite into any giant pieces. If you made them the same sizes as the mango and avocado, your friends and family would never want you to make this recipe again.

The chopped veggies (and fruit) get tossed in a light dressing. This infuses it with more flavor, and the acid keeps the avocado from browning immediately after you cut it. All you need are some lime juice, honey, olive oil, and some spices. They match the flavors in the salmon glaze to bring the whole dish together. I like to let it sit for about 2 hours, which is enough time for the flavors to meld together but not too long that everything turns brown and mushy.

The flavor in the salmon comes from a tasty glaze I make with the liquid from a can of chipotles in adobo, honey, lime juice, and spices. Pretty similar to the salsa dressing, right? The chipotles are responsible for most of the flavor, and they add a smoky heat that counters the sweetness and the acid from the honey and lime juice. That honey also makes the glaze caramelize beautifully, but keep an eye on it since it will go from brown and caramelized to black and burnt pretty quickly if you don't baby it. Luckily, it only takes about 10 minutes to cook so the hands-on time required for this dish is pretty short.

The salmon is best cooked in a skillet so you get all that surface area caramelized, but you can also use a grill, grill pan, or a nice hot oven (though it's not nearly as good). The cooking time depends on the size and thickness of your filets, so if you have a thicker piece you may want to sear it off and finish it in the oven so the glaze doesn't burn. A thermometer is going to be your friend here because cutting your fish open every few minutes to check on it is going to dry it out. Once it's cooked through to your liking, top it with a big scoop of that refreshing salsa and dig in! This recipe is going to be on my meal plan for the next few months, and if you don't mind your salmon cold or room temperature it makes a great lunch, too.

For the Salsa:
2 Mangoes, Diced
2 Avocados, Diced
1/4 Cup Minced Red Onion
1/2-1 Jalapeno, Minced
1 T Lime Juice
1 T Honey
1 T Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/4 tsp Chili Powder

For the Salmon:
2-4 T Chipotles in Adobo
1/4 Cup Honey
2 T Lime Juice
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1 1/2 lbs Salmon Fillets

For the salsa, combine the mangoes, avocados, onion, and jalapeƱo. Whisk the lime juice, honey, olive oil, cayenne, and chili powder together. Add to the mango mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 2 hours.

For the salmon, combine the chipotles, honey, lime juice, garlic powder, and onion powder. Season generously with salt and pepper. Brush the sauce onto the salmon.

Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Sear the salmon flesh-side down until caramelized, about 4-6 minutes. Flip and finish cooking skin-side down, about 4-6 minutes more. Serve with the salsa.

Serves 4-6