Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

Last week, Robbie scoured Manhattan for an apartment that we will call home in less than two weeks. In the midst of a very hectic time for him, he did this for us. And I am eternally grateful.

He has dealt with my requirements and gently explained that most of my deal-breakers don’t exist (central air, a built in shoe rack, etc.) and that we should really focus on logistics (is there laundry nearby, does it allow diabetic cats, etc.). His patience is commendable and there is a blessing in disguise that he is doing this without me. He will not have to deal with me over-analyzing every place we see and he is more of a city boy than I am a city girl so knows when a place is good and when it is not. I tend to get distracted by charming details that may be a nuisance in the end, ie, I love that there is a roman column in the middle of the living room – that will add such character to the place!

Nevertheless this is a very exciting next step for us. After celebrating the fact that we will be living in the same city for the first time since 2008, we are now celebrating finding our own place. In this place we will greet each other after long days at work, relax on Sunday afternoons with NFL football (pending lockout), bring our first Christmas tree home (even if it is 12 inches tall), watch our first New York snowfall, complain about our sixteenth New York snow fall, watch hours of Duke basketball, enjoy the Spring thawing the city undergoes and anticipate the heating up of the summer months until we can celebrate our one-year-together-in-an-apartment anniversary.

In this home I will also make meals and meals and meals. And cookies and cookies and cookies. Especially these peanut butter ones which will make me think of Newton and my nephew John. When he was 1 week old I made his parents a batch of these cookies. Ironically, when I asked him recently what type of cookie he would like for me to make he requested “the brown peanut butter ones!” I like to think I’m the one that turned him on to these just like I’ll be the one to turn him on to the wonders of NYC.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the
Bon Appetit Cookbook

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter and vanilla in a larger bowl until well blended. Beat in both sugars, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Stir in half of the flour mixture and add an egg until incorporated. Add the second egg and blend before adding the remainder of the flour. Roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into uniform balls. Arrange them on baking sheets and use the back of a fork to flatten the balls and form the crosshatch design. Bake until dry on top, about 14 minutes. Cook cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. If the cookies are hard the next day, heat them up for 12 seconds. Makes about 48 cookies.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Newton-style Pizza

I still remember landing at LaGuardia airport the first time I went to New York City. I was in 8th Grade and I remember turning to my mom and saying something to the effect of “I can’t believe I am going to New York City! I mean, this is like the fashion capital of the world!” I was probably wearing a flannel button-down shirt and my Levi’s that I had to buy from the boys department because I couldn’t wear girl’s sizes (bless my heart . . .) but I was still in awe of the whole concept of New York City.
Nowhere else can you get anything you need at any point during the day just by walking a few (or many) blocks. Even myself, who is in bed on a Friday night by 11 pm, loves knowing that if I wanted to go to a club until 4 am, I could. Even though my mother and I did not go beyond a seven-block radius of our hotel on that first trip, I still loved all the action.
And now, I am excited to say, I will be living there in two weeks. With my husband. This is huge on many levels – Robbie and I will be in the same town in our own residence for the first time since getting married and I will be living in a city in which I never thought I would have the courage to live. But Robbie and I are going to take it on together. Luckily, he’s lived there before and I feel that I am well-prepared to bring some Southern charm to the Big Apple.
In honor of this moment, I decided to make pizza. But not just any pizza. I wanted to pay homage to the city that has prepared me for everything in life. So I used basil from my parent's back yard, squash from my father’s garden and goat cheese from Wal-Mart. Thank you, Newton, for being the foundation for everything I’ve accomplished thus far in life. For me, home will always be within your city limits.
Squash and Goat Cheese Pizza
Adapted from
Smitten Kitchen

Pizza Dough (makes a 10-12 inch pizza)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir flour, salt and dry yeast in a large metal bowl. Add water and olive oil and stir until a ball forms. Dump the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a ball for a minute or two. Lightly spray the bowl with cooking spray and put the dough back in the bowl, flipping the ball over so all sides are coated with the spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
Dump it on a floured surface and gently press the dough with the palms of your hand to remove the air from the dough. Fold the piece into a ball shape (or close to it) and let it sit under plastic wrap for twenty minutes.
Roll it out onto a baking sheet or pizza stone and top with any toppings you like!
I used the following:
1 lemon
4 ounces goat cheese, not crumbled, the kind in the tube
Few leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin slivers
1 medium squash
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together goat cheese with the juice of half a lemon. Season it with salt and pepper. Spread this mixture over your pizza dough and sprinkle it with the basil slivers. Arrange the sliced squash on the pizza. Drizzle it with olive oil and a little more salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 10 to 25 minutes (depending upon your baking time and the placement of the rack). Most pizzas take 10-15 minutes but ours took more like 25. The pizza will be done when the edges begin to golden and the squash begins to look roasted on the edges.