Thursday, April 16, 2009

Banana Mac Cookies

Although I'm a big fan of the old-fashioned favorites such as peanut butter, chocolate chip, and plain old sugar (as made by my mother), it's nice to try something new now and again. I first made these cookies when I was faced with some aging bananas (which the Oxford Picture Dictionary would have you deem rotten, although I always tell my students such spotted beauties are merely perfectly ripe) and a general lack of enthusiasm in the house for another loaf of banana bread. As much as I love banana bread, I dread facing a dwindling loaf day after day when no one else in the house is willing to eat some. Cookies disappear with no effort. As a teacher, I can always count on other teachers or office staff to consume any excess.

These cookies resemble fluffy snickerdoodles. They are light and not overly sweet, with a surprisingly restrained flavor of bananas and nutmeg. They seem to store fairly well and taste as good four days later as they do on the day they are baked. Dunked in coffee they are a great treat. They are laden with fat and sugar, but you wouldn't know it by eating one. My version is tweaked from a recipe by Shanna Masters in The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, a cookbook that has a large number of different and delicious recipes.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts, roasted, unsalted

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 nut of nutmeg, grated (1/2 tsp ground)

Preheat oven to 350º

Cream butter and sugar. Add banana and egg and mix well. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in macadamia nuts. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill at least one hour.

Form tablespoons of chilled dough into round balls. Roll these in the sugar-nutmeg mixture. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Press the bottom of a glass on the cookies to flatten them slightly. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Cool on racks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tahu Telor

Tahu telor is Indonesian comfort food at its finest--simple, quick, and delicious. It's a dish I invariably order when I find it on a menu here as I consider it a reliable benchmark of the cook's hand with Indonesian food.  Too ofen it is served as a Thai omelet folded over tofu and covered with the insipid peanut butter glop that is universally served as an accompaniment to everything from any variety of sate to gado gado.  That glop is the equivalent to the "cheeze sauce" pumped from such fine dining establishments as gas station stores, football stadiums, and traveling amusement parks.  At least half the appeal of a good serving of tahu telor is the sambal kacang that tops it.  It should be savory, sweet, and have a hint of heat to it.

I make a version of tahu telor that is lighter than traditional.  I partially whip the whites to not quite soft peaks before mixing in the yolks.  Sometimes I will lightly fry the cubes of tofu before adding them to the eggs; sometimes I don't.  I actually prefer the tofu lightly fried, but this is a dish that doesn't call for fussiness.  Topped with bean sprouts and served with cucumber acar if you like (I don't), tahu telor is the basis for a perfect light meal.

Tahu Telor

Five eggs, separated
Two blocks of tofu (about 10 oz total), cut in 3/4 inch cubes
Pinch of salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
2--3 TBS oil

Whip the egg whites until you almost have soft peaks.  Beat in yolks.  Fold in tofu and season with salt.  Heat oil over medium heat in 9-inch frying pan.  Add garlic, add egg mixture before garlic browns.  Cook until eggs set.  Flip the the omelet over (make sure the whole omelet is able to slide freely in the pan before giving a little flip of the writst to turn the whole omelet over).  If only half the egg flips over, turn the rest over with a spatula.  Serve topped with bean sprout and sambal kacang.

Sambal Kacang
(adapted from The Indonesian Kitchen by Copeland Marks and Mintari Soeharjo)

2 TBS peanut butter (I prefer Laura Scudder, chunky grind)
2 TBS water
4 TBS kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 large clove of garlic
2 tsp tamarind water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sambal oelek, or to taste

Mash garlic with sugar using mortar and pestle.  Add in remaining ingredients and mix well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oh, but for the challenge

While enjoying a recent posting from sundaynitedinner, I read of the Daring Bakers monthly challenge. Although my life is busy enough, I can't pass up a good challenge. The March challenge of lasagna looked fantastic, so I decided I'd sign up. Upon signing up I read that one should have a blog to post the results to share with others. So here it is.

I imagine this blog will be little more than a place to post my challenge entries. If I have the time and find I enjoy the process, I may try to post on a more regular basis. I find that the blogs I enjoy not only have wonderful looking dishes, but they also capture the authors' personalities. They have a nice, relaxed air to them. They appear conversational and casual, enjoying the process and the banter with the kitchen guests as much as the end result. Although many of those blogs I most admire appear to be lightly tossed together and served with minimal fuss, I recognize the time and effort required to pull off such an illusion. The time required not just in putting the dish together and posting the recipe, but in presenting the dish, photographing it, and writing intelligently and invitingly about the process. Unfortunately, I don't know if I have either the time or , more sadly, the personality to put together such a blog. There certainly is no need for yet another self-indulgent blog of look at what I can do. Oh well, let's see where this takes us. I'll try not to be always so grumpy. Slap the salve on my forehead, dish up some tahu telor, and maybe I'll smile, too.