The Best Cookies Of Your Life

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Diana and I are in love. No, not with each other, but with these chocolate chip cookies, our first apartment baking project that won raves from everyone who tried them. “These are seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made,” said Diana. “These cookies are so good,” said Craig. “Meow,” said Lolita.

Of course, these cookies come to us from Our Lady of All Things Perfection, Miss Martha Stewart and her latest (and seriously awesome, in the Biblical sense) baking book: “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.” As she says in the recipe’s introduction, this recipe has a higher butter to sugar ratio which makes the cookies thin and crisper. When I was younger and more naive that description would’ve turned me off from a recipe: I like my cookies chewy. But the thing is, if you make them well, they come out chewy in the middle and crisp on the outside. These cookies resemble professional cookies more than any other I’ve made. And maybe, if you don’t tell anyone, I’ll post the recipe after the jump. JUST DON’T TELL ANYONE!

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To Cut An Artichoke

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For months now I have watched Mario Batali cut artichokes on “Molto Mario,” demanding the participation of this three guests and charging that “it’s really easy and really worthwhile.” What’s infuriating (but admirable) is that he takes the time, each time, to explain the process to his audience. The religious viewer is left irritated at the repetition: “Ok, Mario,” you want to say, “I know how to cut an artichoke.”

I said that very thing last week watching him on Tivo when I had an idea. “I have an idea,” I said to myself. “Let’s buy some artichokes and see if I really do know how to cut an artichoke.”

And thus this post was born.

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A Say, Say, Savory Onion, Cheese and Bacon Tart

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If it’s fair to mock Diane Keaton for ordering pastrami on white bread with mayo in “Annie Hall,” then it’s fair to mock me for not knowing much about savory tarts and quiche-like items. In my Jewish upbringing both in New York and Boca Raton, Florida I never encountered a savory tart or a quiche. Naturally, I’m sure I’ll get a flood of responses: “I’m Jewish and I ate quiche every day!” “My name is Shlomo Quichey and I resent everything you stand for.” Fair enough. I’m just saying from my experience, at many Jewish people’s homes, Bar Mitzvahs and buffet tables there wasn’t a savory tart or quiche in site. Satisfied?

My point is that savory tarts and quiches are unfamiliar to me. They are difficult for me to wrap my brain around: who would want to eat something that looks like a pie that isn’t sweet? It isn’t human. It isn’t right.

But it just so happened that at the end of last week I found, in my refrigerator, bacon, eggs and cheddar cheese. I entered those ingredients into Epicurious and came up with this, a fabulously well-reviewed bacon, egg and cheese tart. I had all of the ingredients. My interest was piqued. And as I said, this was fabulously well-reviewed. People wrote things like: “I was suicidal and this tart saved my life”; “This tart is better than my child. I sent my child to camp so I could spend more time with this tart.”

So for the specific tart-making directions, follow the recipe link. Here’s a vague overview.

First, you make and bake the tart crust:

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I had some trouble, but I overcame.

Then you fry up some bacon:

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In the bacon fat, you cook up onions (that’s a genius move). Then you add the onions to the tart:

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Now to the onions, you add the bacon, cheese (I had cheddar, the recipe requires the other kind), and a cream mixture with nutmeg and other flavors.

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You bake for a while and it comes out looking like this:

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I must say, the result was truly excellent. The bacony, carmelized onions are transcendent, and the consistency of everything else–the egg/cream mixture, the tart dough–is sheer perfection. This is a savory tart for the savory tart doubter.

As you can see in the top pic, I served it with an arugula, yellow cherry tomato salad simply dressed with olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. ‘Twas a winning dinner served with a crisp white wine. Was also a winning lunch served the next day without wine because I’m not a drunkard. As for how this new affection for savory tarts affects my religious affiliations, all I have to say is that Mel Gibson is my Co-Pilot! Now we’re all in trouble.

Waiter, These Tomatoes Aren’t Cooked

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Here’s something I made last week after watching Mario make it on Molto Mario. Chop a tomato or two, add minced garlic, add parsley (not basil–that’s what makes it different), drizzle a generous helping of olive oil on top, then salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Cook your spaghetti al dente, you can stop the cooking in ice water (but I skipped that step) then add to the tomato mixture. A fresh, summery bowl of goodness.

Nectarine Pie & The Stone Fruit Blues

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This is a pie I made with fresh farmer’s market nectarines using the pie crust from this month’s Gourmet (the best pie crust I’ve ever known) and a recipe for nectarine pie I found by Googling “nectarine pie” and coming upon this, the first result. The pie itself was excellent even though I accidentally left it out of the refrigerator uncovered overnight and worried over it the next day. Which leads, somewhat abstractly, to our first Thursday Night Dinner Song in a long long time. Remember Thursday Night Dinner Songs? I used to write songs about food every Thursday night. Well here’s a new one based on this pie I’d like to call “The Stone Fruit Blues.” Thanks for listening, enjoy the weekend and please pray for my future as a blues musician.

The Stone Fruit Blues, by Bluesman Gourmet.

When Bread, Chocolate, Olive Oil and Salt Had A 4-Way

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Of all the recipes in Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking For Mr. Latte,” the one I most wanted to try but the one I never–for whatever reason–attempted was her toasts with chocolate, olive oil and salt. This peculiar mix of flavors baffled me on the page, how would it taste hot out of my oven?

The recipe is simple. Cut up a baguette into thin slices. Put the slices on a cookie sheet. Top with bite-size pieces of bittersweet chocolate and put in a 350 oven (I think it’s 350, you should double check that) until the chocolate melts but still holds its shape. At that point, take it out, drizzle each piece with olive oil and top with salt.

So how did it taste? The quick answer: HOT! I burned the roof of my mouth on the first bite I had and I was still feeling the pain a few days later. So definitely let it cool for a few minutes.

After it cooled, though, I really appreciated the strange alchemy at work here: four things that you wouldn’t expect to go together not only go together here, they create something entirely new and enjoyable. You have the crispness of the toast, the richness of the chocolate, the greenness of the olive oil and the brightness of the salt. These four powers come together to make a snack no one can defeat, like that gang of superheros I used to watch on TV after school.

So if you have bread, chocolate, olive oil and salt lying around, why not give this a try? Your palate will thank you as long as you don’t burn it.

Salad #3

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Red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, goat cheese, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Another Summer Salad

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Heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, green basil, purple basil, fresh feta cheese, olive oil, balsamic, sea salt and homemade garlic croutons… What can I say? I accept your standing ovation.