Friday, July 27, 2012
We were fortunate enough to spend Father's Day with my father-in-law this year. It was great to get three generations of Armando Ramos all in one room.
His wife is an amazing cook and on top of the seafood soup, braised beef tacos, two salsas, and an entire separate three-course meal for the kids, she made two types of agua fresca, lime and mango. The mango was sweet, thick and luscious and the lime was zingy, tart, refreshing—we downed the entire pitcher upon arrival.
As I watched her make another round I thought to myself, I am never squeezing lemons for lemonade again. It was ridiculously easy, and so much better. She cut the limes into small pieces and put them in the blender skin and all.
Added the sugar and water, blended it up until the peel was pulverized then strained out any leftover bits.
The lime peel adds so much more flavor than the juice alone ever could. I plan on making lemonade this way and I bet a citrus combo would be equally delicious. The only important thing to remember when serving this is it is meant to be consumed right away. The peel gets bitter the longer it sits, so blend it up and drink it down.
Lime Agua Fresca
Makes 4-6 servings
2 large limes, washed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups ice water
Cut limes into sixths and put in a blender, peel and all, with the sugar and ice water. Blend until peel is completely pulverized. Strain into a pitcher and serve over ice.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
I met my friend Brigid 13 years ago. She was the fire cracker pastry chef at Mustard's Grill and I was the novice intern. She was also one hundred percent annoyed that it was her turn to babysit—I mean teach me about the infamous desserts of the restaurant.
I don't know how I eventually won her over, maybe my quick wit or the fact that I was willing to do the grunt work which freed her up to do more important things like yell at Garcia, the dishwasher-chef (his title not mine) or attend to the ten or so lemon meringue pies that had to be made everyday.
Some of my all-time favorite desserts have come from Brigid, these cookies being a prime example. We've named them Sugar Cookies on Crack because they are so whacked out good and because they are very, very addictive. Also because they have this perfect craggy top which cracks when you bite into it giving way to the soft, fluffy interior.
These cookies stay so nice and soft even a couple days after they are made due to the cream of tartar and baking soda combo used as a leavening agent. Cream of tartar is a powder that is made from tartaric acid, a residue scraped from wine barrels after fermentation. When a cookie cools after being baked the sugars in the cookie crystalize or harden, the tartaric acid prevents the crystallization of cooked sugar giving them a soft texture even after they have cooled off.
You could certainly make these all patriotic for the Fourth by using blue and red sanding sugar. Oh and here's a tip, if you forget to take your butter out of the fridge to soften it, just take a couple whacks at it with a rolling pin like this.....
Sugar Cookies on Crack
Recipe courtesy of Brigid Callinan
Makes 50 cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sanding or granulated sugar for rolling cookies
Heat oven to 350°F and arrange rack in the middle. Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Creaming the butter and sugar together like this causes the sugar crystals to cut into the butter, creating pockets full of air which will give the cookies a light texture after baking, so don't skimp on this step.
Add yolks, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar and mix on low until flour is fully incorporated. Scoop dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Roll dough in sugar to coat and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are just beginning to brown, but cookies are still soft in the center. Immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool.