Kitchen Gift Guide

Happy Thanksgiving!  Tomorrow is Black Friday - the official start of the holiday shopping season.  I've assembled a list of my favorite cookbooks, food magazines, kitchen equipment, and other ideas for the aspiring chef on your holiday gift list.  Everything I recommend is a product that I own and use, unless otherwise stated.

Bake: Chocolate-Chip Cookies

When you think "All-American" you may think "apple pie."  Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you're wrong.  Chocolate-chip cookies are the essential American baked good.  Apple pie dates back to the medieval times (just see the article over at Gode Cookery, the infringing of which started the internet firestorm against Cooks Source magazine).  Chocolate-chip cookies are a true American (accidental) invention.

The Nestle Toll House recipe, found on the back of Nestle chocolate chip packages, is based on Ruth Wakefield's original recipe.  This recipe is a good starting-off point, and a classic go-to when you're in a pinch.  I adapted mine based on info from a New York Times article, in which it was revealed that Wakefield's recipe called for chilling the dough overnight, as well as a bit of my foray into experimenting with baking science (see notes at end of recipe). 

Cook: Ricotta Gnocchi in Tomato-Basil Sauce

After making Greek yogurt, I was super-excited to use the yogurt whey for making ricotta.  Then, I found out that yogurt whey has a really small yield when it comes to ri-cotta-ing.  So, I put a pint of whole milk in a pot over a low flame and voila! ricotta!  I planned to make gnocchi out of it after it drained on cheesecloth for a day, but I was lazy, and ended up just eating it on toast and making the gnocchi from store-bought ricotta a few weeks later.

My first attempt was over-floured, and resulted in dense pellets of dough.  On my second try, I used a much larger ratio of ricotta to flour.  The new-recipe gnocchi were light little pillows of deliciousness.  The sauce is really simple and should translate to practically any pasta dish.

Cook: Butternut Squash Soup

Apparently it's been almost a month since my last post.  This year is going by so quickly!  So, what has 2FW been up to in the last 3.5 weeks?  Well, first I was sick for about 5 days, which was no fun.  I couldn't get out of bed, let alone get my bum into the kitchen to whip up something tasty.  Then, we were searching for the perfect dog to add to our family.  We adopted Salty on 10/30 - she's a super-sweet, 3-year-old poodle/terrier mix.  After a crazy few weeks, I finally had a chance to do some much-needed cooking and baking.

This recipe started from a Cook's Illustrated recipe (my favorite cooking magazine).  I liked the idea of steaming the squash over an impromptu squash broth.  But the finished recipe lacked umami.  I added a little of this and a little of that and a delicious, complex soup developed.  I made the whole thing in a stock pot, but you can use a dutch oven, or start with a pot and move to a slow cooker.