Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with a Pretzel Crust

Remember when I blogged about how Justin's peanut butter cups were maybe the best peanut butter cups ever?

I know. You're probably rolling your eyes right now.

Really Katie, you're saying to yourself. You're blogging about chocolate and peanut butter AGAIN? What about it? 

Well... I just had a Nectar Nugget Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, and I think I'm in love.


Yes. Really. And they inspired this delicious dessert that's in my freezer right now.

More chocolate peanut butter? Is that even healthy?

Of course. It's filled with protein. I'm not sure what it is I love about it, but I just can't help myself.

But Katie, the farmers' markets are filled with beautiful fresh fruit right now. This week there were raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and grapes will be back soon. 

I should be cooking with all of those while I can, I know.

You can have chocolate peanut butter anytime. 

But it's all I want! It's the sweet I crave above all others. 

Another chocolate peanut butter recipe? Is it any different than the COUNTLESS others you've already posted? 

It is! It is! This one has very little chocolate, a huge layer of creamy peanut butter, a crunchy and salty pretzel crust and it's chilled. Perfect for summer.

Ok, ok Katie, I get it, you're saying. Is there a slice for me?

Yes, yes there is. Come over soon and you can have some.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownie Bars

I've been winning contests since I was a kid. I'm not talking about the kind of contest where you need to have real skill and talent to win.

I'm talking about the contests where you enter your name and can randomly have your name drawn out of a hat as the winner.

I don't know what it is. Maybe since I won young, I've been more tempted to enter since then, increasing my chances over those who just walk by and think they don't have a chance.

Just a theory. 

As a kid, I won the huge Christmas stocking at the grocery store. It was taller than me. Taller than my dad, even. It was stuffed with cheap grocery store toys, and I loved it.

From the library's summer reading program, I won an awesome pair of roller skates. With whatever color wheels I wanted. :) 

I won a free library worth of books for my classroom (200 new Scholastic books), and a free library of books to give to another classroom in my school.

Most recently, it was The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, published by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil. I won it from a delightful blog giveaway she hosted.

It's amazing. I am nothing if not a cookie dough lover, and the cookbook, which features her egg-free cookie dough, shows you how to bring cookie dough into every baked good you can think of.

Since I've been on a chocolate and peanut butter kick since I was born, I had to bring peanut butter into her chocolate chip cookie dough brownie bars.

It was the right choice. As we've been over, peanut butter makes almost everything with chocolate in it even better.

And I made them in muffin tins to create individual cakes. Just to be cute.

They come together in a snap because you can whip up the cookie dough while the brownies are baking. When you top them with a scoop of ice cream, they get even more fantastic.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Farro Pasta with Olives, Feta and Arugula

Nothing like a 99 degree day to force you to get creative in the kitchen.

I spent the day in a classroom with a broken air conditioner, knowing full well that I'd be walking into an apartment with little ventilation and no air conditioning when I got home that night.

There was NO way I was turning on my oven. I debated take out or calling friends to go out to dinner. Having already had two nights out to dinner, I talked myself into cooking.

Minimal cooking.

Boiling pasta and chopping olives cooking.

I've been craving farro pasta for weeks, but it's a definite splurge. I decided on a 99 degree day, I deserved something special. 

With the peppery notes that shine through the wilted arugula and the salt from the olives and feta, this pasta barely requires any additional seasoning. The farro pasta contributes a nice nutty taste that's a lot more complex than a traditional wheat pasta.

And best of all, the dish came together within fifteen minutes of walking in the door from work. This will be a go-to dinner dish from now on.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Smoked Salmon Dip

This smoked salmon dip is a treat.

Yes. This specific one you're looking at.

It's because my dad, an avid fisherman, caught this salmon himself.

Then he cleaned it, rubbed it with just a touch of maple syrup, and smoked it for me in his smoker. That was all done in Michigan. That's not where I live.

So, my dad sealed the smoked fish up for me (eight packages worth), bought a freezer bag and surrounded the fish with ice packs so it could survive the long flight and subway ride home.

I got the salmon home, unpacked it proudly and tucked it into my freezer. Whenever I want a pack, I pull it out in the morning to defrost and enjoy it when I get it home from work.

Best of all, that process repeats itself anytime I go home.

I use the salmon in all kinds of ways, but this is definitely one of my favorites. It couldn't be simpler to prepare.

A package of cream cheese, mixed with chopped capers and shallots and loaded with hot-smoked salmon. Spread on slices of baguette, it's a perfect start to a dinner party.

Happy Father's Day to you, Dad! Can't wait to go fishing with you soon!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mint-Infused Strawberry Biscuits

It's summer. It's beautiful outside. With bright, summery days, I start wanting to cook differently.

No more big, baked casseroles. I'll pass on pizzas. My apartment doesn't have central air, so it's getting too warm to heat up my apartment for as long as my pizza stone requires.

Instead, I'm craving those light summery salads. Fresh vegetables. Stove-top cooking. Raw foods.

These biscuits don't really fit with that. I know. They're filled with heavy cream. I had to turn on the oven to make them, even if it was only for 30 minutes or so.

But they taste summery, I promise. They're stuffed with fresh-picked, local strawberries, so much so that you end up with a strawberry in pretty much every bite. Through the cooking process, the strawberries really release their sugars and almost start to resemble jam.

Mint lingers behind the strawberries. I infused it into the cream, heating heavy cream and allowing mint leaves to infuse their flavors in it for about an hour.

There's no green coloring. No worries. That's only for the fake mint you can get at the store.

These biscuits LOOK like strawberries and cream biscuits, but they've got a light taste of mint hiding in the background. With each bite, the mint lingers behind a bit. It's subtle, but it's definitely there.

And who doesn't love strawberries and mint together?

I made these biscuits just for me, with no occasion in mind and no company. I made two fresh, and I froze the rest. I'll bake them up straight from frozen, adding just a minute or two on to the cooking time.

I've got weeks of fresh-baked biscuits ahead of me.

So excited.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fava Beans, Snap Peas and Garlic Scapes with Croutons and an Egg

It's over.

Sometime, over the past week, asparagus season in New York came to an end.

Where was I? Making chocolate chip cookies and baking up leftover tortilla casseroles. Letting the leftover strands of asparagus in my fridge go to waste because I just assumed I could get more on Saturday. 

Every winter, I await asparagus season eagerly. I tell myself that as soon as the first stalks of asparagus show up at the farmers' market, I'm going to make the most of it. Raw, shaved asparagus salad. Asparagus on pizza, in pasta and as soup. Even pickled asparagus.

I ran into a friend at the farmers' market, and we vowed that next year, we'd eat asparagus every day, savoring it while it lasted.

Luckily, the farmers' market was far from empty. Since I went to the market with no real plan, I came back with a random assortment of everything that called my name. A quart of fresh strawberries. A bag of sweet cherries. One cucumber. Two zucchini. Fava beans. Garlic scapes. Sugar snap peas. Huge scallions. Eggs. And no plan for what to make.

Mark Bittman to the rescue. His How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book had at least 7 recipes with fava beans, including one with fava beans, bread and hard-boiled eggs.

But I had so many deliciously fresh, just-picked vegetables that I had to dress it up.

I added fava beans (unpeeled--they were just so fresh!), garlic scapes, chopped sugar snap peas, sourdough croutons, a chopped hard-boiled egg, and a sprinkling of chopped scallions.

The unpeeled favas were so tender, the season's first. The garlic scapes added a bite to the dish, and they were all the seasoning the dish needed, besides salt and pepper. The egg made it into a proper dinner. 

I had a big bowl for dinner, and then I packaged my leftovers up with a hard-boiled egg (unchopped) for lunch the next day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sesame Seed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made the most delightful mistake while making these cookies.

I finished beating the eggs, sugar, vanilla and soy sauce. Yes, soy sauce. You read that correctly.

I removed the beaters from the mixer and licked them. It's one of my favorite parts of baking.

Then, I read the next section of the recipe: Combine the egg/sugar mixture and the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated.

Oops. Kind of. Sure I had to wash the beaters, but then I got to put them back on, blend up the cookie dough, and then remove the beaters and lick them again.

It was exactly the kind of mistake I love. It was much better then the time I left the six tablespoons of butter out of my rhubarb muffins. Six tablespoons of butter split between 10 muffins makes a HUGE difference. There's a reason you haven't seen those muffins on here. :)

Often when I make chocolate chip cookies, I love the cookie dough and eat a ton of it, and I maybe eat one cookie once they're cooked. This twist on the chocolate chip cookie is different. Yes, the dough is incredible. I ate plenty of it. I don't worry about the raw eggs. I savored every bite.

But when the cookies came out of the oven, they just called to me. With the early summer weather we have now, the chocolate chips stayed soft, and they almost melt into the rest of the cookie. The cookie is a bit saltier than most, thanks to the addition of the soy sauce, and the black sesame seeds add a nice crunch to each bite. I've had several and had to bring them to a work meeting so I wouldn't continue snacking.

If you make these, make the same mistake I did. You'll be glad.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shaved Raw Asparagus Salad Pizza

It is still asparagus season. I've already told you how much I love asparagus when it's fresh, so I won't go into that again.

Instead, I'll just continue to celebrate it in recipes like this.

Here the asparagus is served raw, barely dressed up with olive oil, lemon juice and scallions. Enjoyed on top of a mozzarella and Parmesan topped pizza crust, the asparagus just shines.

The asparagus elevates your traditional pizza to a whole new level. It's light and fresh. Be generous with it. You'll want extra asparagus salad so you have enough to snack on while the pizza cooks.