Thursday, May 30, 2013

Almond Butter Cookies with Maldon Sea Salt

My very first foray into gluten free baking was left in the very capable and reliable hands of one Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow, and boy did she not steer me wrong. I went into the whole endeavor slightly skeptical (i.e. How could this stuff actually be good? Why am I not just baking my amazing cowboy cookies? Or this coconut cake from that gorgeous issue of Bon Appetit? WHAT AM I THINKING?). But, thankfully, I was proven wrong rather quickly.

This little gem of a recipe comes together blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast, and the results are absolutely delicious. The cookies have deliciously crispy edges with meltingly chewy middles, like any good cookie should. And the combo of the almond butter, the maple syrup, and the snow-white flakes of salt come together to make something that tastes suspiciously like salty caramel with (miraculously) not a single bad ingredient. You could eat these bad boys for breakfast without feeling a twinge a guilt.

My only caveat: I liked these so much that I baked a second batch just a couple of days later using a different kind of almond butter, and I didn't like them quite as much, leaving me to conclude that the almond butter you use really matters here. Go for Justin's Classic Almond Butter, readily available at Whole Foods.

Almond Butter Cookies with Maldon Sea Salt
From It's All Good, by Gwyneth Paltrow
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (if the flour doesn't include xanthan gum, add 3/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup natural almond butter
1 cup good-quality maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, fine sea salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients. Using 2 spoons, form the cookies into small balls (each about 1 generous tablespoon) and space them 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Wet your fingertips and press down on each cookie, smoothing the edges so each is a nice little disk. Sprinkle each cookie with just a bit of the Maldon salt.

Bake until the air is fragrant and the cookies are just firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool on a rack before serving.

Makes about 2 dozen

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Food for Thought

Handstand practice in yoga is one of the most challenging poses. Not only are you upside down and seeing the world from an entirely different perspective, you're balancing precariously on your little hands and arms, which are typically much weaker than the legs that shuttle you around all day, every day. I've been practicing for about a year and a half now, and the closest I've gotten to landing handstand was about 3.5 sweet, solid seconds of air time.

My teacher said something in class a few months ago, though, that gave me pause. She looked around at all of us, flinging our legs up in the air, balancing for a second or two, then crashing right back down, and she laughed. She said, "So many of you are so close. In fact, you're there. You have handstand, but you make yourself come down, thinking there's no way you could stay up. At some point, you just have to do it. You have to stay up."

I thought that was interesting, and possibly, very true. A lot of the time, I think that people (myself included) have a hard time letting themselves really go there, for fear of what it will be like at the top of wherever they want to be, and even scarier, how bad it might feel to fall back down from there. Whether it's landing handstand in yoga, or getting that dream job, or really letting yourself get fully immersed and invested in your relationship, sometimes we self-sabotage. The higher you go, the farther there is to fall, right? But next time you're in yoga class, or on a third date with someone you might actually like, or sitting down to think about writing a business plan, maybe you can stop for a second and just believe that things could be as amazing as you've hoped. That you can be that amazing. So amazing, in fact, that even if you do fall, even if you lose everything, you'll be able to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and do it all over again.

As that wise teacher said, sometimes you just have to do it. Start that business you've been pondering. Move across the world to see something new for a little while. Let yourself fall in love unreservedly. Go for the things that make you feel like you're 20,000 feet up. It's scary up there, but even if you fall (and you probably will, a zillion times before you're through), it will have been worth it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Favorite Things: Nathalie Trad

Love, love, love Nathalie Trad's shell clutches. She's a new designer who trained in Paris and New York, worked with the Proenza Schouler boys, then launched her inaugural collection (which you're looking at) this year. She uses cool materials (i.e. mother of pearl, wood, stainless steel) in totally unexpected ways and shapes. I can't seem to find her sold anywhere, but rumor has it she'll be hitting the shelves of Five Story soon. Chomping at the bit. xo

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quick-Pickled Shrimp

Every once in awhile, I'll make a life-changing food discovery in the kitchen that causes me to marvel endlessly and never quite go back to the same way of doing things. Pickling shrimp was one of those times. I've always loved the simplicity and ease of making shrimp. I've roasted it with broccoli to delicious result, I've weaved it in with fettucine and sun-dried tomatoes, I've sauteed it with feta and capers. No matter what the process, it usually ends up working. Shrimp's a good friend in the kitchen like that. Nice and reliable.

What I didn't realize is that pickling the little creatures creates this magical alchemy during which the natural sweetness of shrimp is amplified 10-fold. There's almost no actual cooking involved--you simply blanche the shrimp for a couple of quick minutes, then you mix up this fantastic pickling formula, and let it sit and do it's thing. After about half an hour or so, you've got tender, sweet, slightly tangy shrimp for the eating. It's a pretty perfect recipe, especially for the upcoming warmer months ahead. I ate my batch with fresh roasted asparagus from the farmers' market and some orzo sprinkled with garlic chives, but you could also chop the shrimp up and eat it on toast with a layer of mayonnaise, as Bon Appetit's May issue suggests. Either way, there's no going wrong with this one, folks. Try it out. xo

Quick-Pickled Shrimp
From Bon Appetit, May 2013
1 pound shell-on medium shrimp
Kosher salt
1/2 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 Fresno chile or red jalapeƱo, thinly sliced, seeded
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fennel fronds
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook shrimp in a large pot of boiling salted water until just opaque in the center, about 2 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold running water to cool. Peel and devein, leaving tails intact, if desired.

Combine shrimp, fennel bulb, onion, garlic, chile, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, and fennel fronds in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, at least 20 minutes.

Pickled shrimp can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pie Making with Pie Corps

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were graciously welcomed into the cozy kitchen at Pie Corps in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to attend a class on how to make seafood pie, spring veggie pielets, and drunken pear pie. The seafood pie, specifically, was the most delicious, creamy pie in the world, filled with little fresh clams, potatoes, and fish. It was quite possibly one of the most warming, comforting meals I've ever had.

If you're in the market for an in-depth, super fun cooking class, Pie Corps is the place for you. The very sweet, hilarious owners of the bakery, Cheryl Perry and Filipa Lopez, teach each class personally, and it feels a lot like being at a particularly raucous dinner party. In between lessons on how to roll your pie dough to perfection, you'll be regaled with funny travel tales, jokes, and the occasional ribbing. And by the end, you'll be hugging them good-bye, tricked momentarily into thinking that they're actually family. You'll also be stuffed to the brim, deliriously happy, and wondering if it would be that indecent to have one more bite of pie once you're home. Because they'll obviously have sent you off with a healthy portion of leftovers, just like any great host would.