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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spaghetti & Squash-Unboxed!

I've tried several of the food delivery services, enticed by claims of convenience, portioned ingredients for three complete meals tailored to families or couples, all cleverly packaged in boxes with attractive, tidily composed recipe cards. Here's a basic re-cap: Quinciple (expensive, recipes good, striking, unique produce but nothing is pre-measured and not all ingredients are included); Hello Fresh (pricey still, decent recipes if not a little dull, the frozen fish is not great and I recall lots of chopping). In a 'Where's Waldo?' moment, I was even featured in a promotional Blue Apron video for a few fleeting seconds. I think Blue Apron kicked off the pre-measured ingredient idea but there's still a lot of chopping involved in their wildly varying yet only mildly interesting recipes of late.

So what ultimately did I discover then, this cooking out of all these boxes? Simple. As ideal as it sounds having a menu selected for you and where the only task is assembling the ingredients given to you, I realized I don't like to be told what to make in the kitchen. I prefer instead to be inspired to make a meal that I find intriguing. This does not include the proliferation of suggested slaws that seem to unite all of these food delivery services.

No, I much prefer making things I have a hankering for and I also love composing meals based on things we already have on hand. To wit, what to do with a box of pasta staring back at you from out of the cupboard? A pureed pouch of frozen butternut squash made a lovely sauce with sage for pasta (outlining a Tyler Florence recipe, I substituted here and there--such as ground sage instead of fresh and opted out of using chopped chestnuts entirely). Another bag of chopped frozen squash and zucchini for our daily vegetables was a great mixed-in topping. It all came together quickly and I didn't have to leave the house. How's that for cooking outside the box?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Selection of Sweets - Tea Jammies

I made these Honey-and-Tea Jammers in my pajamas, so let's start there.

Dorie Greenspan recently shared her Honey-and-Tea Jammers adapted from Dorie's Cookies in the Dec/Jan 2017 Saveur and I was immediately enraptured by her 'dream cookies' built on French shortbread with streusel in a delightful confluence of just what you'd expect--honey, loose tea and strawberry jam. In the actual recipe here, the cookies are served individually cut, like thinly rolled tarts made in a muffin tin, but lacking that particular device, I giddily fiddled about and created a single, thickly rolled large tart (seen above) with apricot jam in a spring-form pan. For another batch, armed with a two-inch cookie cutter, I neatly fitted nine cut-out cookies in a nonstick cake pan and eased them out readily once completely cooled.

The unexpected pockets of brown sugar in the genial shortbread! The luscious jam poking out of the crumbly streusel! Best of all, I had all of the ingredients on hand (friends had recently given us wild honey and homemade vanilla extract over the holidays and we actually had loose rose tea for the shortbread!) and didn't have to leave the apartment. Comfortable as I was in my jammies, I set out to make my honorary Tea Jammies.

The smell of a bakery right at home was so incredibly pleasing I couldn't help but think what a treat such aromas would be for guests upon arrival--even before taking a single, gorgeous bite. Since none of the ingredients are particularly perishable, stock up for the next pajama day! Just remember to change before any guests shows up. Or eat them by yourself. Or not. The important thing is that you do make them.