Do you ever have nights when you just don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen? I know you do. I can usually tell early in the afternoon when it is going to be one of those nights because I am either dreading the process of preparing what we’ve got on the menu or I have no interest in thinking about something to cook. Leftovers come in handy on such nights as do Amy’s pizzas stashed in the freezer. Sometimes a quick batch of guacamole won’t seem too daunting and Brian and I will spend the evening snacking on seven-layer dip, other times we resort to picking up the phone and ordering various tofu dishes from our favorite Chinese take-out place. But my favorite no-effort meal is, by far, of the crusty loaf of bread, hard cheese and simple salad variety.
I was in one of these moods on Sunday after arriving home from the cabin. We’d spent the weekend cooking in a foreign kitchen for extra people - which was a blast - but by the time we got back to our own house and unloaded the car and the coolers of leftover food I knew that there would be no cooking happening that evening. Even so, a grocery trip was on the afternoon agenda so that I could pick up necessary ingredients to eventually make this and these for Meghann'sblogger bake sale [during which she made an incredible amount of money and exceeded her fundraiser goal by over $1000!!!]. I hadn't made a menu for the week so spent the first 10 minutes or so wandering through the produce department looking for inspiration. And I saw these:
Radishes and I don't have much of a history. In fact, until Sunday, I didn't think that I even liked radishes. But as I stood in front of the deep scarlet globes in the middle of a very busy produce department and racked my brain trying to think of why I didn't like them I could not come up with one recollection of ever actually eating a radish. Maybe once or twice, shaved over baby greens on a salad, but never on their own or displayed proudly and prominently as a key ingredient in a dish. And, since I'd been reading Molly's book while in West Virginia and had come across this recipe, I decided it was time to give the bright red beauties a fair review.
I even, coincidentally, picked up Plugra. The same salted European butter that Molly recommends on Orangette for this very treat, although I didn't know it at the time. Armed with a French baguette I arrived home and happily announced to Brian and our last lingering house guest that we would be having sliced, salted radishes on fresh bread for dinner, along with a salad. Though they weren't convinced at first (and we did add a hunk of fresh sheep's milk cheese from the local farmer's market to the mix, separate from the radish ensemble) they came around after the first bite. For thinly sliced radishes with delicately shaved butter and sea salt on a fresh baguette is a delicious combination. Truly.
So impressed was I with my first official radish experience that I came home from the office today to make a salad with radishes for lunch, stopping first at the local market for an avocado. I made this soup [scroll to bottom] for dinner last night and knew that it was destined to be my mid-day meal, but couldn't resist the urge for fresh Spring greens to accompany it. A quick search on epicurious for a good radish salad [remember, I'm new to them] yielded this recipe. The avocado and fresh cilantro seemed to be the perfect compliment for the radishes and ultimately my spicy tomato-based soup, and I wasn't disappointed. Oh radish, I'm your newest fan.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be lovely if you have the time.
Radish and Avocado Salad with Fresh Cilantromodified from epicuriousserves 2
leafy green lettuce, such as butter or bibb
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 medium radishes, halved and sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp minced shallot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cabernet vinegar (I'm out of champagne vinegar, which the recipe calls for)
2 tsp dijon mustard
Whisk last 4 ingredients together to make dressing. Divide first 4 ingredients into 2 bowls and drizzle dressing on top.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be nice if you have the time.
When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time at my grandfather's house. We were lucky enough to have him living just 2.1 miles from us, a distance I wouldn't think twice at running these days but didn't even dream of walking back then. I never had the experience of having a teenager down the street sit with me when my parents went out with friends because Papa was so close - he was always my babysitter. Staying with him was such fun. I am his only grandchild so, of course, I could do no wrong.
One of the best aspects of going to Papa's house was his well-stocked kitchen. And by well-stocked I don't mean fresh produce, top-quality olive oils or a superb selection of dried fruits and nuts (my grandfather used his oven for storage and ate most of his meals at the local all-you-can-eat buffet). Instead, he stocked all of the classic junk food that I wasn't allowed to eat at home - "t.v. dinners", Little Debbie cakes, KoolAid popsicles, frozen Snickers ice cream bars, Campbell's Chicken + Stars soup. I'd run straight to the kitchen as soon as we arrived to see what goodies he had picked out especially for my visit (because of course, it was all about me).
My favorite treat, and his too, were the Danish Butter Cookies that were always on his counter. You know the kind I'm talking about...blue tin, 5 or 6 different varieties of perfectly crunchy yet melt-in-your-mouth, bite-sized, sugar-topped, golden, butter cookies. I loved them all, but my favorites were the squarish sugar-crystal topped variety - Papa saved them just for me and I ate them by the handful.
Papa was recently moved into a new assisted living facility that provides a more home-like environment than his last residence. For some reason, when discussing his new home with my mother, I get images of him sitting in his wheelchair at a sunny window with a butter cookie tin in his lap. I've had him, and those cookies, on my mind for the last couple of weeks. It was only a matter of time before I searched out a recipe to replicate them, and only appropriate that my adaptation of them involved another of Papa's favorite flavors - key lime. He is the 6th generation of Floridians in our family after all, making me 8th until I moved 5 years ago. Key lime juice is practically in our blood.
The above picture is misleading...please don't follow its direction. My first batch of these delights was baked on a cookie sheet with no grease, as the recipe specified. The result? Cookie shrapnel, as pictured below.
My trusty Silpat saved the day, as always. I really don't know why I even bother to try baking without it, except that this time the recipe specified an ungreased baking sheet. The recipe is wrong, and the Silpat is necessary. Also, lean closer to the 1/4" dimension when slicing the log than the 1/8" - I think that thinness may have contributed to my first batch of shrapnel.
I sprinkled unsweetened coconut over the tops of my cookies (except for one batch, on which I forgot it and regretted it) and loved how the subtle toasted coconut flavor complimented the key lime. Also, I really like citrus. Really. So if you don't, you might want to reduce your key limes to 4 instead of 6.
One last thing - these cookies are addicting. If you don't want to eat all 36 of them I highly suggest that you share them with friends and co-workers. Because if they are in your kitchen you will eat them. I promise. By the handful.
Key Lime Butter Cookiesadapted from epicuriousmakes about 3 dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
zest of 6 key limes (about 3 tbsp)
juice of 6 key limes (about 3 tbsp)
course sugar or shredded coconut for topping (optional)
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer, 6 with a hand-held mixer. Beat in egg, vanilla, lime juice and zest.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
Form dough into a 12-inch log (2-inches in diameter) on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll dough log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.*
Put oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 375F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or other silicon baking mat.
Cut dough log into 1/4" slices, just enough to fill baking sheet with 1" between cookies. Refrigerate the rest of the dough until ready to bake. Sprinkle cookies with course sugar or shredded coconut.
Bake cookies until edges are golden, 14-16 minutes. You may want to rotate the cookie sheet midway through baking if your oven bakes unevenly, as mine does, or you will have some brown cookies and some golden. Watch the cookies CAREFULLY. Each of my batches took a slightly different amount of time and it doesn't take long for them to over-bake.
Cool on sheets for 3 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Bake remainder of cookies on cooled cookie sheets. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, but don't count on them sticking around for that long.
*Dough can be chilled for up to 5 days or frozen (wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap) for 1 month. If frozen, thaw dough in refrigerator just until it can be sliced.
I am a big fan of bread. Such a big fan, in fact, that sometimes I will choose to have an extra piece after dinner in lieu of a second pour of wine, or even dessert. In the last year or so I started dabbling with bread baking, lots of quickfruitbreads, a few loaves of whole wheat, some scones, even some fabulous dinner rolls at Thanksgiving. But biscuits have always frightened me, just a bit. I’ve heard horror stories of folks attempting to make biscuits and ending up instead with pancakes, or worse, hockey pucks.Because of this fear I am always amazed when I come across a really fabulous biscuit. Mother’s in New Orleans bakes one of my favorites, so good that Brian and I stop by the restaurant on our way out of the city to load up on the black ham variety to eat on the plane ride home. (The unbelievable ham they produce has something to do with that stop as well...the last time we were there we bought a cooler just so we could bring a few pounds of it home with us.) And then there are the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster, a restaurant I haven’t been to since I was a teenager. Even after my 10+ year absence from the establishment the memory of those golden lumps is still crystal clear.WhenFoodbuzz contacted me a few weeks ago to find out if I would like to sample some Kerrygoldproducts (yes!) all I could think about was cheddar biscuits. After the chives popped up in the garden my intent was set - cheesy, chive-y buttermilk biscuits would be gracing our breakfast table, and hopefully they would be soft and flakey as well. I decided that even if I failed at the texture, the power of delicious Irish cheese and fresh chives would carry them.I found this recipe at Thibeault’s Table via Tastespotting. It was easy enough, delicious, and though my batch didn’t turn out as beautifully as the photos accompanying the recipe, they weren’t pancakes or hockey pucks which relieved me greatly. I was amazed by their lightness...prior to this experience my most recent biscuit-like endeavor was of the hearty oat variety (recipe will come, I’m still perfecting it) which, compared to these, sit like bricks in your belly. My technique needs some work. The recipe didn’t call for a specific amount of cheese so I guessed, which may be the reason why my biscuits didn’t puff up quite as beautifully as the example. Or it could be the fact that a bit of time passed before the ingredients pulled from the fridge were incorporated into a batter and then stuck in the oven...the problem with photographing as you go. But the flavor was great, and Brian has requested that they be added to the permanent rotation for indulgent weekend breakfasts. It seems like I will have plenty of opportunity to perfect the consistency.And I have to say, the Kerrygold Dubliner cheese was excellent. So good that the first block I bought was consumed with a loaf of crusty bread before ever making it into the biscuits it was intended for. The Pure Irish Butter is also delicious, although I think it may be too soft for this recipe. My batter was very sticky, which may have also contributed to the lack of puffiness. But spread across the top of a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit? Perfect.Cheese + Chive Buttermilk Biscuitsrecipe modified from Thibeault's Table
Preheat oven to 450*. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
Using pastry blender or fingers, cut-in the butter until the dry mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the cheese and chives and mix well.
Stir in milk and mix with fork until a loose batter forms. Gently pat the ingredients together but do not over-handle.
On a lightly floured board, pat out dough until you get a 1/2" to 3/4" disk. Cut with biscuit cutters (I used a jar lid, a glass would work too) and place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake at 450* for 15-18 minutes.
Oh yes, it was a weekend filled with indulgent breakfasts. Is that bacon on my plate?!? What?!?
I"ll be sharing another breakfast with you this week, but it is of the sweet variety and involves oatmeal. Get excited, because it is fabulous. :) And its healthier than eggs, bacon and biscuits, so who wouldn't be excited?
I hope you're all having a great week!