Summer Favorites

These places, people and goodies have me drooling despite the July rain. That’s right–buckets of rain mid-July. The vitamin D remains from San Diego will have to get me by.

Mr. A's Happy Hour, Rooftop, San Diego

What’s got you jonesing this summer?

 

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And In This Corner:

Photo Courtesy of The Traveler's Lunchbox

For the record, let me state: it is impossible very difficult to eat cookie dough while killing mosquitoes.

Alas, I have braved the little buggers for the love of the Great Cookie War. Last week I hustled to the airport with Kim Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies in tow. A mid-summer’s Santa Claus, I passed out baggies of cookies, pretending that my generosity was from the heart. Partially. From the hips, really. As in, get these cookies out of my sight so they don’t all end up on my hips!

Two year-old Micah Jones scored some wwccc from  his mother, who received them as an anniversary gift. He demanded more from his car seat. Sounds promising, no? Boyce’s babies are no simple chocolate chip cookie.

Lest us not forget, however, “The Holy Grail of Cookies,” over at The Traveler’s Lunchbox. It’s mid-week, and I’m attempting to dirty the kitchen so much that I have to clean it. And I’m trying to forget that I start a part-time teaching gig tomorrow. Good-bye summer. Hello cookie.

The Holy Grail cookie dough is smooth and golden, like honey, and just as refined. It demands AP flour and butter and oil–how can they not be delicious? Armed with my most diligent work ethic, I heaved globs of the dough into my mouth. (I don’t recommend doing this while drinking white wine. It’s all just a bit…too much.)

And YES! It’s good. Delicious, in fact. But I missed the nuttiness of the whole wheat. I missed at least the illusion of health. (But that did not stop me from continually sampling the wares.) I stuck them in the fridge and then the freezer as the recipe suggested. And I’m newly convinced that this is a trick to puffy, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside cookies. It is a technique my grandfather and I never found. Instead, we had cookies ooze into each other, turning into one big sheet of cookie. Not as delicious as it sounds. Especially if you are nine and you have to clean up.

The bell for round three clanged when the oven timer beeped. I picked up my heavyweight. Still warm. Still gooey. Delicious.

But…but...

I sampled several more Holy Grails as they cooled. But–

Do not get me wrong: I will consume six of any chewy chocolate chip cookie placed in front of me. But–

I missed the whole wheat. Perhaps it’s because the food I daily eat resembles cardboard, tasty cardboard. The Holy Grails lacked depth, lacked a heartiness. I like digestive biscuits for a reason–they are a bit heavier, they stick to my ribs just a bit longer. And who doesn’t want chocolate chip cookie stuck to their ribs? Sounds heavenly.  (Perhaps this is why the Bible touts Eve was made from a rib of Adam’s–she was after that cookie on his innards!) The Holy Grails are light and fluffy, blonde in color when they come out of the oven. They are not unlike a stereotypical blonde herself: pretty to look at, okay to nibble on, but you don’t want to sit down with whole batch of her after dinner. (Okay, this analogy is not working as well on screen as in my mind…) The Whole Wheat Chocolate Chippers? Well, they’re not all that pretty. But they are smart. And funny. And you could spend the night talking to them and cuddling with them in bed. (No really, you may find yourself doing this.) These are the kind of cookies you would marry.

Brains over Brawn: The Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie

In my mind, there is a clear winner. And we (the cookie and I) may celebrate by joining forces in the kitchen again.

Until then, I am also addicted to these guys. Have you had them? I want to make them. The best part is their crispiness (usually I despise crispy cookies) and the bits of chewy ginger in them. I’m thinking this recipe might do the trick. I’ll be back to report. But I’ll probably  hold off until I’ve been squished into my wedding dress.

What They Say Is True…

…and then some

Are you up to date with the chocolate chip cookie war? Have you sampled the wares of the contenders? You, like me, may be trying to fit into  a wedding dress soon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t at least try them. And if trying involves making, baking, spooning globs of batter into your mouth, well hey, I won’t tell. I mean, you have to judge these heavy-weights in all stages, right? With part of the flour sifted in, all of the flour, with the chocolate chips in, just out of the oven, (in two minute intervals–the taste changes!) finally cooled, the next day for breakfast and lunch and dinner, cause you know, they age.

So, I’ve mentioned these guys before, as has The Washington Post, Molly Wizenberg, Heidi Swanson (she did hers in a skillet–one HUGE cookie!) Every thing everyone has said about them is true. And yet they still look humble and homely.

After reading this post over at The Traveler’s Lunchbox, and scouring the comments, it seemed clear to me that a face-off was necessary. With a photo like that and a post titled “The Holy Grail of Cookies,” the Indiana Jones in me was summoned. And my belly grumbled. I’m pretty sure it said, “Refined Sugar, getinmybelly!” Don’t have to ask me twice. There might have been a few picket signs.

So, I begin with Kim Boyce’s legendary whole wheat chocolate chippers. I used Orangette’s adaptation of the recipe, which I’ll repost here. I toss my butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds because I am so last-minute (or impatient). If you let the dough firm up in the fridge as Molly suggests, no hay problema.

And seriously, if you don’t pop whole globs of the batter into your mouth, please send me the name of your therapist. I’ll be doing tasting intervals and taking copious cookie notes. Next week, I’ll be back with part deux of the cookie wars with front-line reporting.

Until then, I’m off to San Diego for the week. Don’t you worry, I’ll pack me some WWCCCs in a bag for the flight. (And the baggage claim, and the taxi ride, and…)

Kim Boyce’s Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted by Molly Wizenberg:

3 cups whole wheat flour (LK’s note–ww is a must for these cookies to make you squeal. And to make them appear healthy. So you can eat more. 😉
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes (see note above)
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into ¼- and ½-inch pieces, or bittersweet chips

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. (If you have no parchment, you can butter the sheets.)

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk to blend.

Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl, and blend on low speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate, and mix on low speed until evenly combined. (If you have no stand mixer, you can do all of this with handheld electric beaters and/or a large, sturdy spoon.) Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and then use your hands to turn and gently massage the dough, making sure all the flour is absorbed.

Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie. (I was able to fit about 8 cookies on each sheet, staggering them in three rows.)

Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly browned. Transfer the cookies, still on parchment, to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

**Linsey’s recommendation: Prepare the dough, (eat a bunch of it), go for a run (so you can feel okay about eating more of it), bake the cookies, and find a neighbor, lover or friend who will match you cookie for cookie. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’ll (if I’m any indication) eat every last one of them. And then you’ll never fit into that god damn wedding dress.

Ignorant, Blueberry-Thumbed Whore (That’s right, I said it)

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”

–Paul Cezanne

What color is black turning green? A purple hue perhaps? An eggplanty color? Violet? I’ve got a plum-thumb. Things–real, live, edible plants–sprawl across my little garden. See that beautiful squash blossom up there? I ate him for lunch. He had the most delicious sweet taste, soft tissue-paper flesh and a nub of a treat at its base. It’s how I knew it was a him. (Yes, I can sex my squash. I guess that’s what one does when your man is away four nights a week.)

As you may recall, you diligent readers, you, in my little  hovel of a home, way back in the spring, I culled carrot, lettuce, onion and chard from seed. Then, in the four weeks since my seedling babies and I have lived at our  new home, veggies have taken root, blossomed, produced stuff I can eat! Spinach that cost me $2.50 a bunch at the store sprouted like snakes on Medusa’s head. N and I almost could not keep up with it.

And just when I pulled the spinach (see lessons learned below) I got the itch. I HAD to have blueberry bushes. Purchased and planted yesterday.

Today, like a woman looking for her crack fix, I scoured through the junk drawer looking for my green beans. Sown. I have plans for succession sowing. (Listen to me!)

I’m using a packet of “Flashy Trout’s Back” heirloom lettuce (who is waiting for it to cool down) as a book mark in Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest which I plucked from Seattle’s Goodwill. I’ve stayed up until 2 a.m. two nights in a row reading.  I have plans for raised beds, year-round gardens, squash in fall and beets in the winter. (Note: author is fully aware that most of her dreams never leave the depths of her closet of a brain.)

While reaching for the box of strawberries in the fridge, I think: What? That’s all you got? You in your little plastic container? I can grow this shit. I’m getting cocky. This alter-ego gardener  scares me a little. She needs a name, this gardening whore.

I’ve already worn holes in my gardening gloves (I’d like to think I’ve planted and tilled that much in the dime-size garden, but I think they were cheap) and amended both the soil and my gardening ignorance. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Garden Lessons from a Neophyte

(remember, I already claimed ignorance)

  • Blueberry bushes have thorns! They do not make good front-seat passenger companions, especially when you have to keep one hand on a large clump of them so they don’t commander the steering wheel.
  • Spinach bolts quickly in the heat. What a great verb–bolt. It’s like my spinach ran off with the milkman, bolted right out of edibility. Damn her.
  • Squash blossoms are either male or female. I hear the male leaves the seat up.
  • nasturtiums taste like candy. Hard to tell if they are more fun to harvest, toss on top of a salad or eat.

I leave you with my gardening hat. I used to accompany my mother to all kinds of nurseries, and I never understood the allure. The last time we went to one, she bought me this hat. Who knew its future would be in this vibrant, delicious back yard? Who knew I’d reminisce about Sperling’s Nursery with my mother each time I bend to the earth?

And, do tell. What are you growing? How’s it coming?