Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with help from David Lebovitz)

I've mentioned before that chocolate has never really been my thing. For most of my life I've favored Twizzlers over Hershey's, reached for shortbread before brownies. Chocolate chip cookies are rarely in my diet or repertoire. But that doesn't mean that I don't know a good thing when I see it.

I've got a hunch that every baker and cookie-lover out there has their own renowned recipe for the cookie equivalent of your favorite pair of jeans. I'm not trying to impose. I've just got to let you know that I've found a good one, one that turned someone who was very much skeptical of the chocolate chip cookie into one of those people who raves about it all over the Internet.


The best cheese I ever made

Though I have long been a pro at eating cheese, since the start of my mongership, I've been finessing the joys of actually tasting it, getting to know my cheese - all of its likes, dislikes, stories, and deep-dark secrets.

For example: the gloriously gooey, fabulously orange Meadow Creek Grayson, a beefy, buttery masterpiece that smells enticingly like a boys' high school locker room, is coincidentally crafted by the Feete (!) family in Virginia. I love that. 

Tasting and tidbits aside, I had been craving some truer intimacy, that along the lines of the magic I experienced as Cynthia revealed to me the power of rennet and cutting curds. With no cow (or sheep, or goat, or water buffalo) of my own, I've turned to Murray's, which doesn't have cows either, but is very well connected to those who do. Enter: Mozzarella making.


Where I've been

I'm not brave enough to calculate the days that I have so guiltfully been neglecting this space. And I won't dribble off the excuses I've crafted for the few dear friends who have still bothered to check day after day for excuses. Instead I will tell you all about where I have been, and hopefully win back your love and following. Because, few but loving readers, I am...back!

The time that I have managed to keep track of is that spent at new job number one, one that I had fuzzy ideas of announcing to you via the creation of a chronicling of my education and discoveries while there. While that may one day happen I won't keep the secret any longer: several weeks ago I began my adventure as a cheesemonger at New York's esteemed Murray's Cheese. At this point announcing that actually feels like a feat, something it doesn't often enough. I'm remembering when we made cheese on the farm. As Cynthia cut the milky mixture that had magically transformed to a tofu-like consistency, releasing whey as her knife crisscrossed left and right, my mouth dropped a little in wonder. My adoration of cheese became a fascination. Curled up in the casita I began to daydream of apprenticing at the cheese farm in her village.

It's maybe from there that my Murray's idea sprouted - a chance to learn and sample to my belly's desire. Still new to me, my cheesemongership (!) has been just fun, and full of cheese and wonderful, fascinating information about that cheese that I am now vowing to share in this space at some undetermined interval. I hope there's a little bit of cheese dork in you. And that you'll still stop by even if there's not.

More to come!


There's no knead

In my enduring quest (months, on and off) for the ideal bread recipe - the one most suited to my tastes, lifestyle, and capabilities - I read this article in the New York Times a few weekends ago. Ruth makes Jim Lahey's bread every day. Though I've made his breads before (well, one, once), her approval was an appealing invitation to get back to it, a decision I have been enjoying with apricot jam and butter for the past two weeks.  

The hardest thing about this recipe is mastering the timing. Taking a total of about 23 hours from start to finish, it requires a little more planning than oooh bread for dinner sounds lovely, let's get on that. The good thing about this recipe is that while bread for dinner may sound lovely, eating this bread any time of the day or night is indeed a lovely experience. 


Sesame + peanut butter

Growing up, this dish was known at home as "Chinese Chicken Salad" (sometimes it was a lot more salady than this). And though it was not a frequent guest at our dinner table, it was a loved one, possibly made even more special due to its sporadic visits. Honestly, though, there is nothing not to love, and I don't doubt that even if I were forced to eat these chewy, creamy, oh-so-satisfying noodles every day of my life that I would not love them any less.

The name - Chinese Chicken Salad - ceased to be an accurate description for this heap of noodles and peanut sauce when I began to make it in my own kitchen - sans chicken. Instead it became "you know, those peanuty noodles, the ones that taste like takeout but better." So much better. Everyone always said yes! oh yes! upon its mention as a dinner prospect.


Flowing with milk and honey

Israel, I was always taught, was known as the land flowing with milk and honey. Nothing against Israel, but for me, the land where milk and honey run freely was Argentina. 

It was there, at Cynthia's, amidst daily jugs of Margarita's milk and cans of home-harvested honey, that I was first introduced to honey vanilla ice cream. I have remembered this ice cream often, but it is only now that I look back and realize how central ice cream was to experience in Argentina.
You see, ice cream is a thing down there. It was what I had for lunch on my first day, and what I looked forward to every weekend during my excursions into El Bolson. I've mentioned the weekend routine before, but left out the ritual of Jauja, pretty much a gem of an heladeria in Argentina. Jack Johnson songs were always playing inside, while outside messy lines decorated Jauja's patio where fifty flavors crowded the menu board. After my first visit and several samplings I began to plan my choices days in advance.


Soup made for summer

I'm not sure what it was that tempted me so. I had never made or even tasted corn soup before. But there was something about it and I knew that I really wanted to do both.

And so, in between sending off a monster load of applications, make corn soup is exactly what I did. Perspiring over the pot, as the air outside raged at a muggy 90-something, I questioned why any sane person would dare attempt this in the summertime, but as the local potatoes began to blend with the local tomatoes and the corn brightened to a fragrant and brilliant yellow, it became clear that summer is the only time to make this.
Often potatoes flounder in soup; tomatoes are dull. Even corn, frozen in the dead of winter, loses its crunch. But this August, it seems soup - kernely corn soup - is precisely what these veggies were harvested for.