Monthly Archives: February 2016

Coconut Macaroons

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I may have a new favorite cookie. (Well, okay, chocolate chip oatmeal pecan are pretty much always going to take the cake (so to speak)… but these are damn good).

The pros: Super fast to make (30 min?), gluten-free, dairy-free, pairs excellently with chocolate, good as dessert on their own or as an accompaniment to something else, could conceivably be eaten for breakfast, if you also have an orange or something…

The cons: Some people don’t like coconut? And coconut doesn’t grow in Maine yet, so… not local.

I tend to not like anything terribly sweet, so when my mother and I were playing around with these at Christmas (she’s always been my baking partner, even when we don’t live near each other anymore) we decided to mix unsweetened and sweetened coconut. It has the added benefit of changing up the texture a little.

I keep egg whites in the freezer, from whenever I use only the yolks (custard, hollandaise, molten lava cakes, etc), and can then just pull them out and defrost them before using. If you don’t have them on hand, I’ve heard you can freeze the unused yolks (never needed to try it first hand, though), or you could just whip up a quick batch of pudding—and actually these would be fabulous dipped in caramel pudding.

On another note, I try to keep up a bit on countries I’ve traveled to, and there is quite a bit of interest in Denmark’s food system, from cutting food waste to antibiotic use in animal raising. They also just opened the first food waste supermarket, to try to do even more to combat the problem.

And, if you are following the debates (as you should be—especially you single women out there, we’ve got lots of political power!), you may be curious about the candidates’ positions on food and farming. I don’t know much about the R side, if they even have thought about food (not that anyone seems to have a chance to discuss actual policy in those debates), but here’s a little about Sanders vs. Clinton.

Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 oz chocolate, if desired (highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Defrost egg whites, if using from the freezer. Otherwise, separate eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl and saving the yolks for another venture.

Toast the coconut (not required, but improves flavor). Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 350ºF or so until just golden (it goes quickly once it starts turning, so watch carefully), about 5 minutes. Turn with a spatula halfway through. Cool.

Mix together egg whites and sugar until frothy. Stir in cooled coconut (you don’t want to cook the egg whites prematurely) and vanilla.

Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls with your hands and place on cookie sheet. They won’t spread out at all, so they can be closer together than other cookies—but do give them a couple inches in between balls for air flow, or they won’t get as evenly golden.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until evenly golden and crispy on the outside. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.

When cookies are at least mostly cool, melt chocolate in the microwave or double boiler. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons in melted chocolate, then balance upside down on the cooling rack to cool. The chocolate will take a while to solidify completely (you can definitely eat them in the meantime, it’ll just be a little messy).

Excellent as trail nibbles on a late winter (early spring…?) hike.

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Squash Soufflé

squash souffle

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a little while. I would like to apologize but also admit to you that I do not always prioritize my little blog: after working (and I was traveling for work a great deal in January, consuming an exorbitant amount of my time), I also like to sleep, and get outside, move my body, and yes, cook. I do sometimes cook things without telling you, or even Instagram (although it is much easier to snap a photo and post than write a whole recipe out, so that does happen more frequently).

I did have a lovely little sojourn in the city of my birth, San Francisco, where you can follow my food-biking tour around the city via Instagram. Here’s how it went: bike—Tartine (best chocolate croissant I’ve ever had)—bike—Ferry building farmers’ market—walk-Chinatown (bought tea)—walk—Rancho Gordo lunch at Ferry building, and coveting everything else—bike—Pier 39 and sea lions—bike/walk (too much hill to straight bike)—Lombard Street—bike—Ghiradelli sundae + break for digestion—bike—Chrissy Field beach relaxation—bike—Golden Gate Bridge—bike through Presidio—bike through Haight-Ashbury—tea break—bike through the Castro—bike home. Next day: Tartine round two, and a Mission burrito to take on the airplane. Not bad for a quick trip!

However, all that adventure aside, I am now home, and glad to be getting back into routine. I don’t promise to always post consistently, because I never know how life will go, but know that you are still important to me. Perhaps we can relax together.

It is time to take a breath.

You may then feel inclined to hold it for a moment, however, afraid to mess up what is breathing itself in the oven (soufflé is French for breath). Don’t worry, ovens are not as finicky as they used to be. Soufflés are not terribly difficult (although it helps to know a little French for reading about the components) but they are still exciting. I found myself warning my roommates not to yell too loudly, or open the oven before it was time. A classic soufflé is just some very good cheese in the base; but you can add puréed anything (leeks? caramelized onions? spinach?) for added flavor.

What I like about soufflés: they are showy, vegetarian main courses, good for brunch or dinner, don’t take too many fancy ingredients, are light, soft, and luscious, and present the magical powers of eggs quite magnificently.

bechamel with squash for souffle

Squash soufflé
1/2 butternut squash (or another variety with similar moisture content), roasted and puréed (maybe 2 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
3 tablespoons flour (gluten-free flour works!)
1 cup milk
A dash each of sweet paprika, nutmeg, and a little more of salt and pepper
5 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup hard cheese: gruyere or some parmesan variation if you don't have anything fancy

If you haven’t already, roast, cool, and purée the squash (can be refrigerated at this point or before puréeing if you like).

Butter a soufflé dish, or large straight-sided dish of some kind (or ramekins/small dishes if you’d like to do individual ones). If you want, sprinkle a little grated cheese in to stick to the sides. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Make the béchamel (white sauce): Heat up the milk (I usually use the microwave, but a stove works too), warm but not boiling. Make the roux (equal parts fat and flour, the thickener): melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan, gradually sprinkling in flour and whisking to form a paste. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking, and continue heating (and whisking) until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in the seasonings. Let cool for a moment.

Separate the eggs into two different bowls, the whites in a large mixing bowl (you can put the yolks right in with the puréed squash, if it isn’t hot—you don’t want to cook them prematurely). When the béchamel has cooled slightly, whisk in the yolks, squash, and cheese. It will be fairly thick.

Whip the whites until they form soft peaks, but are still shiny. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently add it back to the rest of the whites folding it all together (gently!) until no obvious streaks remain.

Pour into the baking dish and place in the oven. Turn oven down to 375ºF, and set your timer for 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven to look, since temperature variation can cause it to fall, but use your oven light (if you have one) to watch it puff up and brown on top. After 20 minutes (although it will probably take closer to 30, so try not to be too excited), you may open your oven briefly to check. It is done when it is all puffed, golden brown, and doesn’t jiggle anymore when delicately tapped.

Remove, and serve immediately. It will fall as it sits, but remain delicious.