Cardamom, Pistachio, Ginger and Oatmeal Cookies

This is part 1 of 2 posts for the weekend. While the second took place on our block, this first one had us venturing outside of our zip code to a place that uses a reverse osmosis water system – Waukesha!

Some friends of ours are raising adorably cute TWIN 6-month-old boys and had us over for dinner and game night. Dinner was served on a raclette, which was a first for me and the Mister. It’s a great tool for dinner parties, and since we were playing a board game while eating, it was perfect for small plate dining as well. If you’ve never eaten off a raclette before, it’s like a two-in-one grill oven. The grill on top cooks your meat, while the trays below the are heated to cook vegetables and melt cheese. Our busy parents/hosts had a tasty spread of seasoned meats, vegetables, cheeses, breads, AND cilantro. It was fun, and must have spurred the Mister onto his Settlers victory (or was that the pin on his lapel?).

We brought along some of my favorite cookies. They are more or less adapted from a traditional oatmeal cookie recipe, but rather than adding chocolate, nuts or raisins, I added chopped pistachios, dried sugared ginger, and cardamom. The exotic smoky spice adds an amazing twist that never ceases to delight those that enjoy them. But, I have to tell you that these cookies almost didn’t happen. My sister shared this recipe with me several years ago, but sometime in the last year I seemed to have misplaced it. She was out of town when I called, but luckily her sweet fella was able to provide me with the recipe. Disaster averted! Another interesting tidbit for these tasty morsels – the cardamom and ginger were taken from a wedding gift we received last year. It was part of a spice gift box from the local Spice House, and they may have gone bad had it not been for these cookies.

There are easier ways to go about these cookies (like buying the ingredients pre-ground and chopped), but the prep for this batch was a time suck – the Mister even had time to make a loaf of bread while I finished¬† the chopping and grinding. Not only did I need to shell the pistachios, but I also needed to crack open the dried cardamom pods to get the seeds. I wasn’t sure if these were past their prime, but once I used the mortar and pestle to grind the seeds, their potent smell that permeated the downstairs area of our house had me think differently.

Cardamom, Pistachio, Ginger, and Oatmeal Cookies
Mix the following 5 ingredients together
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a separate bowl, mix the following 6 ingredients
1-1/2 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Once combined, stir in 3/4 to 1 cup pistachios, 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried sugared ginger and 1 cup old-fashioned oats
Form dough into small balls, place on greased sheet (or use a Silpat!), and bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes until surface of the cookie is still soft. These tend to get hard quickly, so I usually put them in a container with a piece of soft bread.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

A while back Paul signed up for a sample issue of Cook’s Country magazine, published by Christopher Kimball, the creator of America’s Test Kitchen programming (and king of the bowtie/suspenders look). Since receiving this issue, it has made its way from coffee table to kitchen counter to dining room table several times. Paul diligently made the White Chicken Chili and the mushroom sloppy joes (both receiving rave reviews) before the holidays, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I flipped through and had a hankering for their mushroom soup. After a weekend of birthday celebrations in Green Bay, tonight’s dinner was hearty and welcoming, prepping us for the long week ahead.

As the recipe states, they were looking for a hearty and velvety soup – bearing no resemblance to mushroom soup in a can. After several test runs, their final recipe called for three pounds of mushrooms – THREE POUNDS! That’s enough to get stares from the produce manager at Pic ‘N Save. And at $3.29 a pound, that’s enough to make me question the quantity so this better be worth it. Fortunately, this recipe didn’t have a ton of ingredients that my sweet stock boy didn’t already have on hand at home. So, mushrooms, leeks and half & half were all that I needed on a grocery run. Three pounds…

The first step was cleaning the leeks – a lengthy process due to the sand and dirt that collects between each layer. However a tip provided in the recipe suggested using the salad spinner to soak, drain, and spin. Worked nicely – and I didn’t have to scrub my sink down at the end. I used my trusted Le Creuset dutch oven to cook the butter, mushrooms and leeks together, and then added the next 4 ingredients. To finish the soup, the recipe steps included pureeing. Silly me thought using the food processor would provide a satisfactory puree. Silly me, indeed. The soup was a grainy oatmealy consistency – rather disgusting to look at to be honest. I’m going to eat that? Mushroom soup is already fairly drab. So, after it was all back in the pot I took out my trusted immersion blender (to the rescue!) and was very happy with the outcome. Don’t you agree? The last photo shows the smooth buttery finish.

And… finally, to top off the soup was a tasty homemade piece of sourdough bread. The mother starter was laid to rest after the making of this bread, as it was going to be too time and flour consuming to continue its growth. Perhaps Paul will tell you about it. Perhaps he’s still trying to decide whether or not the two weeks of love and nurture he gave it was worth it. It was a perfect combination with dinner, so I would say it was worth it.

The recipe for this soup (Cook’s Country, Oct/Nov’09, p. 17):

4 T unsalted butter
3 pounds (!) white or cremini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
2 Leeks, white and light parts only, halved lengthwise and chopped
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t chopped fresh thyme
5 c beef broth
1/2 c cooking sherry
1 c half & half (original recipe called for heavy cream, but I subs. w/ H&H)
2 t lemon juice
Chopped chives for garnish

A: Melt butter in large dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown and has nutty aroma, appx. 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, leeks, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper, and cook, covered, until mushrooms release their liquid, appx. 5 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, appx. 15 minutes. Remove 2/3 c mushroom mixture, chop fine, and reserve.

B: Add garlic and thyme to pot with remaining mushroom mixture and cook until fragrant, appx. 30 seconds. Stir in broth and sherry and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until mushrooms and leeks are completely tender, appx. 20 minutes.

C: Puree soup in blender (unless you want to go the extra step like I did!) until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot, stir in half & half, lemon juice, and chopped reserved mushrooms and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, drizzling individual portions with additional sherry and sprinkling with chives.

P.S. THREE POUNDS? It was worth it!

Non-Bread Weekend Baking

Greetings. It’s Kelley. I feel as though I had some ample time in front of recipes this weekend, and wanted to share some of my non-bread baking with you (I’ll leave the yeasty stuff up to Paul). First, I will say that I’m becoming smitten with America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Great recipes that are tested and tested and tested! Makes me feel like they are fail-proof. These next two recipes are taken from there.

Bake-Sale [German Chocolate] Brownies, p. 518-519

Saturday’s baking was for a simple brownie recipe to bring along to a dinner party at some friends house that night (tasty fajitas were the main course). Amazingly, we had all the ingredients for the brownies in our cupboard, which meant no special trips to the grocery store were necessary. To add to the amazement, we also had butterscotch chips and coconut flakes on hand, so those plain brownies quickly turned into German chocolate brownies (melted the butterscotch on top of the baked brownies and added toasted coconut flakes). The bars were a hit, and only two came home with me. Don’t they look pretty in my Polish pottery dish? Yes, they do!

Almond Biscotti, p. 516-517
As you can see, the biscotti recipe was just the flip of a page away from the brownie recipe – coincidence?

On Sunday after a hearty breakfast of turkey bacon, eggs and homemade bread with Keweenaw Kitchen thimbleberry jam, I flipped open the biscotti recipe. Again, all ingredients were readily available in the cupboard. My cupboard’s stock boy is amazing!

The first step was to toast the almonds. I had a mixture of sliced and whole, so I put them in a small skillet together and they toasted nicely in about 8 minutes. The recipe called for finely chopped almonds, and I found that our herb bowl and mezzaluna worked nicely in keeping the nuts contained without getting all over the counter or floor. Once the dough was mixed, the directions said to split the it in half and form two 13″x2″ logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment. The dough was sticky, and regardless of how floured my hands were it was important to act quickly while forming said logs. (By the way, as a beliver in the Silpat, our parchment paper once again stayed in the drawer for this project.¬† If we end up getting a dog this Spring, the name Mr. Silpat has a nice ring to it.) The first round in the oven was about 35 minutes, which then came out to rest for 10. The logs were then cut into 1/2″ slices and put back in for another 15 minutes. The outcome was just what was expected – a little crunch to enjoy with tea or coffee. I forgot to mention that I added some orange peel to the dough, which gave it a very subtle flavor. I did indulge in some this morning with my coffee. Isn’t that a Polish pottery mug? Why, yes, it is!

I’m off to find a recipe for dinner. Pork chops are thawing, so probably will hunt down a sauce or marinade idea. Broccoli is in the crisper. Now, if I could just find a way to use that Silpat one more time…