Search This Blog

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sweet & Spicy Ginger Cookies

If you're a regular reader of my blog you know that I don't have much of a sweet tooth. You also probably know that I absolutely love ginger. So it doesn't come as a big surprise that for this years cookie swap party with my friends, my contribution were sweet and spicy ginger cookies. They are certainly sweet, like any good cookie must be, but have a definite savory spiciness that comes from the three (yes, three) forms of ginger used in this cookie.

In addition to adding a savory element to most desserts I make, I also like to challenge myself to give them some kind of redemptive nutritious quality. Now I would not go so far as to call these cookies healthy, but they are certainly not as bad for you as most. Almost half of the flour used in this recipe is whole wheat flour. Whole wheat
flour (not to be confused with white wheat flour) has not had the wheat bran and wheat germ removed, which is results in higher levels of iron, fiber, calcium and other minerals like selenium. Ginger, the dominant flavor in the cookie, is commonly used to promote digestive health and is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent (not to mention that it adds a wonderfully pungent and spicy flavor).

So maybe I'm pushing it a little, but I like to think that because of all t
hat ginger, having one of these cookies after a big meal (which tends to happen a little too often this time of year, right?) is not over doing it, but part of a strategy to help digest all of the food I just ate.

Ok, that argument does not hold much merit, but I'll keep making, and eating, them anyway.

Sweet & Spicy Ginger Cookies

Makes about 40 cookies

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. crystallized ginger, minced
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. (scant) dark brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 c. unsulfured molasses

2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 c. turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl stir together the all purpose and whole wheat flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the brown sugar and beat another 3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Beat until just combined. Over low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Put turbinado sugar into a bowl. Scoop out approximately 1 Tbsp. dough and roll into ball using palms of hand and then roll in the turbinado sugar to coat. Place on cookie sheet, spacing cookies at least 1 1/2" apart.

Bake 14 minutes, or until slightly crispy around the outside but soft inside and cracked on top. Transfer to cooling rack.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Reduction & Bacon

It's been a crazy couple of weeks around here. Ever since Thanksgiving I feel like I've been running around from work to various catering events to social commitments without a few moments to put my feet up or do a downward dog, let alone cook a complex meal. When we have been home for dinner, I've generally been throwing together quick meals based on whatever ingredients we have in the refrigerator. While my throw-together meals usually turn out pretty tasty and satisfying (or so my hubby tell me), I haven't felt that I've come up or perfected any recipes lately that would deserve their own blog post - until this Brussels sprouts dish.

Late last week Andrew returned from a
business trip out to Minneapolis. During his one night stay there, one of his colleagues brought him to her favorite restaurant in town, 112 Eatery. The star, Andrew said, were Brussels sprouts served in balsamic vinegar. They were charred, he said, and lightly coated in a sweetly acidic balsamic syrup. Being a huge Brussels sprouts fan, this sounded wonderful to me, so I started experimenting. I tried the dish a few different ways and, after several tweaks (and probably three too many meals in row that were served with a side of Brussels sprouts), I eventually came up with a solid recipe for a Brussels sprouts in balsamic reduction. The addition of bacon and Parmesan cheese in my recipe deviates from the dish Andrew had in Minneapolis, but they are wonderful additions to this addictive and healthy (thank goodness, being that we had it four times this week!) side dish.

Two technical notes I want to mention: 1. Most recipes say to parboil Brussels sprouts five to six minutes before pan searing them, but I find cooking two or three minutes is totally adequate if you are searing them after. This way, you don't end up with a mushy and not so pleasant smelling Brussels sprout. 2. When you trim the Brussels sprouts in preparation for this dish, save any leaves that fall off. Add them into the pan when you are caramelizing them and you will end with delicious little Brussels sprouts chips- which are our favorite part.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Reduction & Bacon

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed (but save those stray leaves!)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

pinch raw sugar
2 strips bacon, diced
1 TBSP canola oil, if needed
2 TBSP grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Parboil Brussels sprouts about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Once cool, halve lengthwise and let dry on paper towels.

While Brussels sprouts are drying, bring vinegar to a boil and stir in a pinch of sug
ar. Whisk constantly until reduced by half. Transfer to large mixing bowl.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp and fat has rendered. Remove (and reserve) bacon using a slotted spoon. Increase heat to high and add halved Brussels sprouts into the pan with the bacon fat, cut side down (adding more canola oil if pan looks dry). Let cook until brown and caramelized (now is a good time to throw in those stray Brussels sprouts leaves). Flip and continue cooking a few more minutes.

Transfer to bowl with balsamic reduction and toss. Using tongs, pull sprouts from bowl, discarding excess balsamic. Top with bacon and grated Parmesan cheese.