Vanilla Cookies with Chocolate

Some lovely friends of mine gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla for the holidays and it smells so good I want to use it as perfume. I restrained myself and just made cookies that highlight the wonderful vanilla flavor.

These are super basic vanilla cookies into which I chopped some bittersweet chocolate very fine because, why not? Use a baking bar as it will shave a little as you chop so that there are small bits of chocolate distributed throughout.

Crispy outside but still chewy and just enough chocolate to satisfy. The vanilla flavor comes through to make one delicious cookie.

Vanilla Cookies with Grated Chocolate

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate just until combined.

Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Garlic and Ginger Green Beans

As regular readers to this blog are aware, I’m not the biggest fan of veggies, especially green beans. I’ve had far too many boiled to death. However, even I like these. They are quickly parboiled and then stir fried so they keep their structural integrity. Once you add in the spicy garlic and ginger sauce and they become finger licking good (mainly because I’m a barbarian and didn’t use a fork to eat them).

This is a super quick preparation, so have everything set out and close to hand and the rest of the meal ready to go.

Very intense flavor and so good and crunchy.

Garlic and Ginger Green Beans

1 pound green beans, trimmed 
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry 
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like more heat)
1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt and add the green beans. Boil 1 minute, drain and rinse with cold water, then place on a kitchen towel to dry thoroughly. Wet vegetables added to the hot pan will splutter and braise instead of stir-frying. Combine the soy sauce and wine or sherry in a small bowl or measuring cup. Place the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes in another small container and stir to combine. Make sure all these additions are in easy reach before you start stir frying.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Add in the oil by pouring it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan. Add the garlic and ginger, stir-frying for no more than 10 seconds, and then add the green beans. Toss together until the beans are well coated, then add the soy sauce and sherry/rice wine and stir-fry for one to two minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat and serve.

Meyer Lemon Sherbet

I took the last of my folks neighbor’s Meyer lemon harvest to make some lemon sherbet. I was able to use my Christmas present to juice them – a Kitchen Aid Citrus Juicer (JE) Stand Mixer Attachment. Other than juice dripping down my arm when I first started using because the mixer’s position on the counter was up too high, it ran through the remaining lemons in no time flat.

Lemon sherbet isn’t as common as lime or orange because the lemon can curdle the cream and milk. I find using a blender to mix it plus the addition of the limoncello helps to avoid that. If you’re at all worried, chill the juice separately from the milk/cream/sugar mix and add to the blender right before pouring into the ice cream maker.

The sorbet is tart and refreshing. Definitely taste once you’ve blended the liquid and add up to a ½ cup more sugar if you prefer sweeter sorbet.

1 cup sugar (possibly more)
Zest from the lemons (about 1 tablespoon), chopped fine
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups cream
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoons of limoncello

In a food processor, combine the lemon zest and sugar and process until the sugar is made fine and the lemon zest is distributed throughout.

Place the sugar mixture and remaining ingredients together in a blender and blend to combine. Place the blender container in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Before putting it in your ice cream maker, give the liquid another whirl in the blender. If you want a super smooth sorbet, pass the mixture through a fine meshed sieve as you pour it into your ice cream maker.

Churn in ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions until almost entirely frozen, about 20 minutes or less. Don’t over churn the sorbet. Remove from the ice cream maker and place in the freezer to finish solidifying

Once it becomes frozen solid, bring the sherbet back to a softer consistency by placing container in the fridge until desired texture and serving.

Salt and Szechuan Pepper Shrimp

I placed a large order at Penzy’s for spices and one of the things I bought was Chinese Szechuan Peppercorns. They aren’t actually peppercorns but are seed husks and they have a complex flavor when made into a simple seasoning for shrimp.

I started by making the salt and pepper powder. Take two tablespoons of the Szechuan peppercorns and toast them in a dry skillet over medium high heat. Remove to a mortar and let cool while you lightly toast one tablespoon of sea salt. Add it to the mortar and use the pestle to grind the salt and pepper into a fine powder.

While the shrimp shells offer some additional flavor, I don’t like wrestling with peeling the shrimp at the table, so I peel them first. Besides, you lose the coating if you peel it after. Your choice to leave the tails on or not – they make a good handle.

The light corn starch coating gives them a little crunch and the salt and Szechuan pepper powder gives them a delicious bite. Served with rice and garlic and ginger green beans (recipe here), you’ve got a quick and terrific meal that takes no time to prepare.

Salt and Szechuan Pepper Shrimp

1 1/2 pound large shrimp
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt and pepper powder
1 cup vegetable oil

Peel and devein shrimp and pat dry.

Whisk cornstarch, salt and pepper powder together in a large bowl. In handfuls, add shrimp and toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, fry shrimp until golden, crisp, and cooked through, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a flattened paper bag and let drain (paper towels can make them soggy). Taste for seasoning and sprinkle on more salt and pepper powder if necessary.

Serve with rice.