Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Classics

Just as soon as the September wind starts rustling the leaves, I start thinking about school.
It's been more years than I want to admit since I've been enrolled in school, and even a few years since I've been teaching, but inevitably, in the beginning of September each year, I stock up on school supplies ( you always need pens and notebooks around the house, especially when they are 25 cents each!), and start reminiscing about packing up my school bag, grabbing my bagged lunch, and heading off to school.

I also start thinking about the classics. I've always been keen on the classics.
Instead of taking Spanish or French in high school, I opted for Latin because it doesn't get more classic than that. In college, I learned to enjoy some classics ( like Plato and Aristotle) and loathe others ( Beowulf- ugh!), but still my appreciation for things untouched by time grew.

And you have to admit, sometimes the classics are just better. For example, everyone has a piece in her wardrobe that's timeless- a piece that was purchased years ago, that has withstood its trendier counterparts, and still hangs proudly in the closet. For me, its a vintage blue Fontana dress that I found in a thrift shop in Rome. Even though the dress is from the 50's it still looks amazing and is guaranteed to reap at least one compliment each time I wear it. It is by all means, a classic.
Then of course, there are recipes which we cook without effort, ones which we keep in our back pockets for dinner parties ( mine is lasagna) and others which we can whip up on a moments notice with ingredients we already have in the house ( like the pasta with zucchini and lemon that I'm going to make as soon as I finish this post).
Still, there are tried and true classics which everyone should learn. And in terms of cookies, I can think of two biggies- chocolate chip ( obviously), and shortbread.
Since I'm always trying to expand my baking repertoire, and I already know how to make a decent chocolate-chip cookie, I figured it was high time I learned how to make a proper short bread cookie.

And now that I've got them under by belt, it seems like there's no better use for flour, butter and sugar.
Give them a try, and then snuggle up with a classic novel( just not Beowulf!) and a cup of tea. Enjoy!

Classic Shortbread
( adapted from Martha Stewart)
makes 8 extra large cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons course salt
1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, plus more for the pan.
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar.

1) Sift together flour and salt into a bowl. Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add confectioners' sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture all at once; mix until just combined.

2) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. with rack in upper third.

3) Using plastic wrap, press dough into a buttered 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. With plastic on dough, refrigerate for 20 minutes. Remove plastic wrap. Cut out a round from the center using a 2 1/4 inch cookie cutter; discard. Put cutter back in center. Cut dough into eight wedges with a paring knife. Using a wooden skewer, prick all over at 1/4 inch intervals.

4) Bake until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to wire wrack. Recut shortbread into wedges; let cool completely in pan. Cookies can be stored in a airtight container at room temp for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunshine on a Plate

Can you believe it's already September 14th? Honestly, where does the time go?
September is actually my favorite month of the year because it seems like no matter where I live, I get to savor the long Indian Summer days.

In New Jersey, September is my favorite time at the shore because the beaches are no longer crowded and the water is actually warm ( if you've ever been to the Jersey shore, you'll know that the water is usually ice cold).

And of course, here in my new state, September is just an extension of the summer. We've had multiple days over 100 degrees and I've soaked up each one. It seems like it's always sunny in Texas.

So, logically, I wanted to capture the same sunshine on my dinner plates and this lemony Tilapia dish does just that. With a side of spinach and seasonal spaghetti squash, dinner can be served in less than 30 minutes, leaving you with plenty of time to grab an Iced Tea and head outside to catch the breathtaking September sunset.

Broiled Tilapia

Serves 2

2 Tilapia filets
1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1) Lay Tilapia on a non-stick baking sheet. Grate the zest of one lemon over the Tilapia.
2) Top with parsley, garlic, olive oil, and the juice of one lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3) Place under broiler for 7 minutes ( or until cooked through)

Sauteed Spinach

2 cups Spinach
1 clove of garlic ( whole or chopped depending on your taste)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and sautee until lightly golden.
2) Add the spinach and toss until wilted ( about 1 minute)

For spaghetti squash click here