Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

STL
Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This week was very gray and bleary in St. Louis. It rained almost everyday (or at least, it felt like it did). It’s good though because we needed the rain. My friend Lynn from Edelbrand Pure Distilling told me that farms where she lives were 13 inches out on rain. I could see it last week when I hiked in the countryside near her home. The hills and valleys were yellow and parched.

Today, the sunny finally came out. I’m going to go on a hike later to enjoy the nice weather. I’ve been experiencing a lot of cabin fever this winter between the snow, ice, and rain. I can’t wait for spring.

I learn this every February and forget it, but winter is a lesson in patience. Sometimes we need to go through less-than-ideal circumstances to get to a place where we’re happier. Lately, I feel like winter will never end. Then I remind myself that we’re only a couple months away from gorgeous weather. I can start spending the whole day outside again, buying fresh produce at the farmers’ market, and making recipes I’m more excited about. I keep circling back to this so I don’t lose my mind.

I hope wherever you are, you enjoy some days of nice weather this week. Spring is almost here.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

I booked a trip to Seattle last week and I am *pretty* excited about it. I’m going to see my brother and my friend Stephanie, and a few other friends I have in town. I’ve loved the Pacific Northwest since my first visit a couple years ago. I can’t wait to see what the city has in store this time around.

In case you missed it, check out my chocolate chip cookie power ranking. It was inspired by the softest chocolate chip cookies I made last week. I wanted to have a place where I could easily find my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, and I wanted to tell everyone about the best recipes (because there are A LOT of them out there to sift through). If you haven’t made Alison Roman’s salted chocolate chip shortbread cookies yet, you might want to change that soon.

There was a lot of backlash last month after famous Frenchwomen including actress Catherine Deneuve denounced the #MeToo movement. Their words ashamed me, both as a woman and a person who loves France. It’s important to realize that Deneuve doesn’t speak for all French women, though. I enjoyed reading this article about Marlène Schiappa, France’s gender-equality minister. The last paragraph where Schiappa shares an anecdote about her eleven-year-old daughter and a friend discussing harassment really hit home.

Whenever I miss France, I head to Nathaniel Reid Bakery. Nathaniel Reid grew up in St. Louis but trained as a pastry chef in France. He is so talented and is one of the nicest people I know. I got the “Kyoto” yesterday, a cake with hazelnut praline, milk chocolate, and lime. It was almost too pretty to eat.

Kyoto

I just started watching “Ugly Delicious,” David Chang’s new food documentary series on Netflix. The first episode is all about pizza. Chang takes us across the world to show us what different countries and chefs are doing with the pies. I thought the episode was entertaining and informative, but also infuriating. At one point, Peter Meehan, the editor of the now defunct Lucky Peach, sideswipes Chicago-style pizza. Other New Yorkers throughout the episode also bash on pies made outside New York, claiming that their pizza is superior. It’s stubbornness bordering on insanity. I wonder if these people have even tried pizza outside New York…probably not.

Speaking of pizza…The New York Times‘s “Frugal Traveler” columnist came to St. Louis this week and tried St. Louis-style pizza. I was cracking up at his post on Twitter. For those of you unfamiliar with St. Louis-style pies, they’re essentially a cracker with Provel cheese, a processed blend of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. I grew up eating the pizza so it will always have a place in my heart, but I don’t actively seek it out anymore. I thought the Frugal Traveler’s assessment was pretty spot on.

Last but certainly not least, I made Gibassier last night. Gibassier is a French bread made with orange zest, orange blossom water, and anise powder. People in France make it this time of year. It’s fragrant, warming, and delicious. It’s the perfect thing to bake on a cold night when you don’t want to leave your house. Stay tuned for the recipe tomorrow.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Cumin Black Bean Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Avocado

Cumin Black Bean Bowl
One of the keys to cooking is finding a recipe you like and making it your own. That’s how I came up with these cumin black beans.

Years and years ago, I found a recipe for black beans with lime and chili powder. I made the beans so many times after that, I stopped measuring out ingredients. I started doing everything by instinct, which I think is the hallmark of good home cooking. If you do something enough times, it becomes second nature. Once you have enough confidence, you can start relying less on a recipe and experiment.

I was tired last night (this rainy, dreary weather takes a lot out of me) so I almost didn’t make this dinner bowl. Then I decided to muster the energy. The recipe involves a few moving parts, but honestly, it’s pretty easy. Once you get over the hurdle of just wanting to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner, it comes together quickly.

Some people like their beans on the mushier side (for lack of a better word). I’m thinking of the black beans you get as a side at a lot of fast-food Mexican restaurants. I like mine to be more defined. This means adding more lime juice when I’m cooking them and stirring them less. Beans are fragile beings, despite their hearty flavor. I try to mess with them as a little as possible to get an optimal texture.

I wanted to use up some brown basmati rice so that became the base of this bowl. Feel free to use any kind of rice or grain, though. Quinoa would be a great addition, as would barley or another hearty grain.

I don’t know about you but I am READY for spring. This bowl is bright enough to make me forget that it’s winter for a while, and it’s warming enough to comfort me on a rainy, cold winter’s night. It’s easy and reassuring, two of my favorite qualities in a recipe.

Here’s a song to play while you’re cooking beans, or anytime, really. It’s a remix of one of my favorite songs. Whenever I hear it, it reminds me of L.A. because I listened to it when I was walking around the city last fall.

Cumin Black Bean Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Avocado

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup brown basmati rice, cooked
1 avocado, sliced
juice of 2 limes
1 can of no-salt-added black beans, rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
flaky sea salt and ground black pepper for seasoning
3 Tbsp sunflower oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the sweet potato cubes with 1 Tbsp sunflower oil and a couple pinches of flaky sea salt and ground black pepper. Spread out on the lined baking sheet, making sure that none of the cubes are on top of one another. Put the baking sheet in the oven and roasted the potatoes for about 45 minutes, flipping the cubes with a spatula occasionally and rotating the sheet so they cook evenly. They’re done when the pieces are golden brown and slightly charred.

Meanwhile, make the cumin black beans. Add 2 Tbsp oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is warmed up, add the diced red onion. Cook until the onion is slightly browned and translucent, about four minutes. Reduce heat if the onion cooks too quickly. Add the beans, ground cumin, a pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper, and juice of half a lime. Stir and let the mixture come to a simmer. Cook, adding the juice of another half a lime and stirring every so often, for about 10 minutes.

When the sweet potato cubes are done cooking, let them cool slightly. Sprinkle on more sea salt and squeeze juice from another half a lime on top.

Place some rice in a bowl and put some sweet potato cubes, black beans, and avocado on top. Sprinkle with more sea salt and another squeeze of lime. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes, Power Ranked

Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
After I posted a recipe for the softest chocolate chip cookies yesterday, I started thinking about all the chocolate chip cookies I’ve made over the years. I’ve tried a bunch of recipes but a few have stood out from the rest. I decided to make a power ranking of chocolate chip cookie recipes, partly so I have them all in one place and partly so you can see which ones to make.

When I was little, I grew up eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. They’re really good. I love them. I still feel as giddy as a child when she makes them for me or my siblings. They’re soft, full of chocolate morsels, and decadent, everything a good chocolate chip cookie should be.

HOWEVER, the older I get, the more I realize that chocolate chip cookies are even better with salt. I’m not talking about a pinch of salt or a little extra in the dough. I’m talking full-on salt chips, like the Maldon sea salt variety (see the photo at the top of this post). Salt makes most baked goods taste better, but it works a special magic on chocolate chip cookies. It pairs well with the semi-sweet chocolate and balances the sugar.

Usually I prefer softer chocolate chip cookies, but the cookie that clinched the number one spot in my power ranking is on the crispier side. It’s made with shortbread dough, which gives it a more crunchy texture.

What sets it apart from the other recipes is salt. I’m not lying when I say that salt is integral to chocolate chip cookies. It takes these particular cookies from “meh” territory to amazing. It makes me want to use salted butter for all my cookie recipes.

Anyway. Before I get too carried away, here is my (highly biased) list of chocolate chip cookie recipes. I think you’ll enjoy the cookies as much as I do:

1. ) Alison Roman’s Salted Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies – This recipe is a celebrity on Instagram right now. It’s been making the rounds for weeks. I saw it a month or two ago and I brushed it off because I hate trends. Then I caved and made the cookies. I’m so happy I did. Not many chocolate chip cookies taste better on day two, but these do. They’re chocolate-y, rich, buttery, satisfying…I’m at a loss for words.

2.) Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies – These cookies get a boost from tahini, a ground sesame seed paste that is a “hip” ingredient in the food world right now. I succumbed to another trend by making these cookies last spring, but I don’t care. When something is delicious, it doesn’t matter if it turns you into a sheep. If you make these, spring for the good tahini and chocolate chips. Higher quality ingredients make a big difference.

3.) Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – I’ve been making these cookies for years. It started after I moved back from France and I was looking for a soft chocolate chip cookie recipe. The internet pointed me in the direction of Martha Stewart. Her recipe has withstood the test of time. Every time I make these cookies, they’re consistently good. They’re soft in the center and crispy around the edges, two of my qualifications for excellent chocolate chip cookies.

4.) Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies – Chocolate chip cookies are a quintessential American dessert, but leave it up to French pastry chef Jacques Torres to come up with one of the best recipes for chocolate chip cookies. A few years ago, his recipe got A LOT of attention in food publications, which is how I found it. I haven’t made the cookies in a while but I remember them being larger and denser, partly because I refrigerated the dough before baking.

5.) The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt – I just wrote about these cookies yesterday, so check out the post for the scoop. My friend Anna gave me the recipe and I tweaked it a little to satisfy my salt cravings. The cookies benefit from a mystery ingredient, one that might freak you out a little when you see it in the recipe.

Enjoy these recipes! Here’s a song that reminds me of chocolate chip cookies. It’s sweet, slightly salty, and comforting.

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The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
The other day my friend Anna sent me a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I filed it under “Things I Want to Make Soon, but First I Have to Make Everything Else I Have Planned.”

Then I saw her Saturday for brunch and she asked me if I’d make the cookies yet. I said no, and she told me that when she made them, her boyfriend ate them all himself in less than a week. That was enough endorsement for me.

I made the dough for these cookies last night and then woke up at 6 this morning to bake them. There are few things that would get me out of bed that early in the morning, and these cookies are one of them.

I would venture to say that these are some of the softest chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried A LOT of chocolate chip cookies. Part of this comes from the baking process. You make the dough, set it in the refrigerator overnight, and then bake the cookies the next day. Ironically, putting the dough in the fridge creates softer cookies with more gooey centers.

The other reason these cookies might be softer than usual is because of a weird addition: Instant vanilla pudding. When I first saw that in the recipe, I did a double-take. It freaked me out. I’ve never heard of adding instant anything to chocolate chip cookies.

I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t think chocolate chip cookies NEED instant vanilla pudding to be soft, gooey, or delicious. In fact, a couple recipes I’ve tried don’t call for this and they’re just as good, if not better. But I think these cookies do use the pudding mix in their favor. For lack of a better description, the pudding is the glue that holds the cookies together. It makes them soft and fluffy.

So yeah. If you’re looking for a good recipe for soft, salted chocolate chip cookies, this is the one for you. If you want something more dense and compact, check out this recipe for salted shortbread chocolate chip cookies. I made them a few weeks ago and they’re equally delicious.

Here’s a song I’ve been jamming out to. It doesn’t have to do with these cookies, but it’s still pretty great.

The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt (slightly adapted from Averie Cooks)

Ingredients

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3.5-oz packet instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’)
1 tsp baking soda
generous pinch of Maldon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract together in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and creamy. This will take about 5 minutes.

Add the flour, vanilla pudding mix, baking soda, and pinch of sea salt. Mix on low speed until just combined. Then add the bag of chocolate chips and mix again until just combined.

Using a 1/4 measuring cup or a large cookie scoop, form the dough into balls, rolling in your hands. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet, with no more than eight balls on every sheet. Flatten the balls slightly with your palm. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until the edges and center are set. The centers should be slightly glossy. The cookies will firm up as they cool.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. These will keep for about a week in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing

Kale Chickpea Salad
I was browsing Instagram the other day and I saw a salad that looked so good, I knew I had to make it immediately.

Like many food photos on Instagram, this one didn’t come with a recipe. So I decided to improvise. I bought the ingredients I saw in the picture and then I roasted chickpeas the way I always do. I made tahini dressing the simplest way possible and drizzled some on top. It was a quick, easy, healthy dinner, which I needed after a week of feeling kind of crappy and using sugar to jumpstart my appetite.

My favorite part about this salad is all the textures. You have crunch from radishes and cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, crispy kale and roasted chickpeas, and soft fried egg with lacy edges. When I eat salads, I like lots of texture because it makes me forget I’m eating a salad.

You could add a little garlic powder to the tahini dressing but I omitted it. Instead, I added a squeeze of lemon juice. I’m sensitive to garlic so sometimes I just leave it out. Plus, the citrus flavor of the lemon complemented the tahini and brought out the other flavors in the dish.

So yeah. Make this salad as soon as possible. It’s a good dish for a weekend night when you don’t feel like cooking but you want something fast and easy. If you have extra chickpeas (which you probably will, unless you eat them all off the baking sheet), you can save them for the next day and add them to a savory bowl or sprinkle them on toast. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s a song I’ve been jamming out to lately. It makes me feel like I’m in Miami.

Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

for the salad:
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of flaky sea salt and pepper
3 radishes, sliced thin
1/2 European cucumber, sliced and quartered
1/2 head of kale, leaves removed and torn
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 egg, fried

for the dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup warm water
juice of half a lemon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and salt and pepper on the baking sheet. Spread them out and then place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the chickpeas for about 20-30 minutes, or until they’re slightly hardened, browned, and crispy.

Meanwhile assemble your salad and dressing. Toss together the kale, radish slices, cucumber, and tomatoes. Make the dressing by whisking together the tahini, water, and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth.

Fry your egg by heating some oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Crack the egg into the skillet and cook until the whites and yolk are just set. Remove and place on the salad.

Once the chickpeas are done and slightly cooled, scatter them on the salad. Drizzle some dressing on top and sprinkle on more sea salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

Dimanche 2.18.18
Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

I didn’t write a post last Sunday because I was puking my guts out (excuse the bluntness). I had a bout of (food poisoning?) (stomach flu?) so I spent the day in bed, unable to move. It was a humbling experience and one that I never hope to repeat. I’m a food writer, though, so I guess it comes with the territory.

After I got that trauma out of the way, the week actually shaped up well. I successfully ignored Valentine’s Day, caught up with some old friends whom I haven’t talked to in a while, and watched some good movies. I also took a long hike along the Missouri River today, which was beautiful as always (see above).

February is an odd month. It’s shorter than the rest but it always manages to feel longer. Maybe February is a lesson in patience, one that I’m still mastering. Sometimes it’s important to realize that time as we know it is largely insignificant. The most important thing is to make the most of the time we have.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

This article about startups being accused of violating a dessert trademark is the most French thing EVER. French techies have adopted the English word “pitch” to describe their business activities. This does not sit well with Brioche Pasquier Group, one of France’s largest dessert producers. The company makes brioche-like snacks called “Pitch,” and now it’s trying to stop French tech startups from using the word by claiming that it owns it. You can read more about the situation here.

In a semi-shamless plug, I had an article go live last week that I’m proud of. I interviewed Thu Rein Oo, the executive chef at a popular St. Louis restaurant called The Crossing. Oo is a Burmese refugee and he’s worked his way up through the ranks over the years to his current position. He’s so kind and truly an inspiration. Check out the story here.

After I got sick, I lost my appetite. It was one of the scariest feelings because I usually walk around all day wanting to eat everything in sight. I decided the best way to jumpstart my appetite would be to make something delicious that I would look forward to eating for breakfast. Cue: This chocolate tahini granola. I’d highly recommend it, food poisoning or not.

I really enjoyed this article about restaurant critics’ moral responsibility in the age of #MeToo. There’s been a lot of back and forth the last year about whether food writers should let their morals guide their reviews. For example, should food critics review a restaurant if the head chef is accused of domestic violence or sexual harassment? I veer toward saying, no, they shouldn’t, but this story in The New Yorker presents all the angles.

Trump disgusts me on a visceral level, but the latest news about his “harvest box” plan makes me feel sicker than food poisoning. The White House on Monday released a budget plan that includes something called “America’s Harvest Box,” which calls for a drastic overhaul in food stamp programming. The country’s poorest citizens would see their electronic benefits, or ability to buy food, reduced by half, and instead would get boxes of shelf-stable food. This would remove choice for people using food stamps and it would essentially eliminate their ability to get fresh produce. The plan is “an unworkable solution in search of a problem,”Matt Knott, president of Chicago-based Feeding America, a national network of food banks and pantries, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week. I couldn’t agree more.

I got excited Thursday when I got a message from my friend Lynn DeLean-Weber from Edelbrand Pure Distilling. She told me that one of the photos I took of her, her husband Martin Weber, and her daughter Tess got picked up by a blog that was writing about her brandy business. It made me remember how much fun I had visiting the farm in December. Lynn and Martin’s dedication inspires me. My goal is to start my own small business by their age, and meeting them helped me get more ideas about how to make this dream a reality.

In uplifting news, Union Loafers has chocolate chip cookies now and they’re some of the best cookies I’ve tasted ANYWHERE. That is not an exaggeration. I walked in for lunch Friday afternoon and I thought I’d get my usual turkey/soup or salad combo. Then I saw a little boy at the counter enjoying a chocolate chip cookie. I have pretty good cookie radar so I can tell just by looking at one whether it will be delicious or not. This one looked off the chart good, so I decided to order one. I was not disappointed.

Union Loafers Cookie

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started. I’ve listened to it 50 times between Friday and now, which elates and terrifies me.

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Crêpes with Citrus Honey Ricotta Filling

Blood Orange Crepes
Crêpes are an art. I’ve tried to master it over the years and I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better, but they take practice and patience. I’m good at practicing but I’m terrible at being patient.

Still, the crêpes I made last weekend are a testimony to my hard work. They turned out better than I expected. I think they would have been almost perfect if I had the tools (an actual crêpe pan and one of those little wooden mallets that you use to swirl the batter). But for what they were, they were great.

A trick to getting your crêpes to turn out well is refrigerating the batter for a while before you make them. This can be really frustrating, especially if you’re hungry and impatient. But trust me when I say, it’s worth it. Even if you just stick the batter in the fridge for a half hour before cooking the crêpes, it will improve the outcome. It makes the batter less bubbly and will help the crêpes stick together while they cook.

You can fill your crêpes with whatever you want but I’d recommend adding this citrus honey ricotta filling. It’s fluffy, light, and slightly tangy. The ricotta-filled crêpes actually remind me of blintzes, or a Jewish dish that I used to eat all the time growing up. It’s the same concept except you usually serve them with some fruit or jam on top.

Another tip for making good crêpes is confidence. This can be difficult to muster, especially if you’re making them for the first time. But the more you just get in there and swirl the batter quickly and masterfully in the skillet, the better your crêpes will turn out. I’m still getting the hang of this so don’t worry if it takes a while.

In other news, it’s finally the weekend and I’m pretty amped about it. My plans include having brunch tomorrow, going on a long hike if the weather is nice on Sunday, and finally doing my taxes. I HATE taxes/tax season so hopefully I get it over with as quickly as possible. As I told my sister last night, I’d rather eat my own hand than do taxes for a living. That is not an exaggeration.

Here’s a song to take you into the weekend. I’ve been really into country music lately.

Tune in Sunday for another Dimanche (That Means Sunday) post. I didn’t write one last week because I got food poisoning, but this Sunday I’m going to put one up.

Crêpes with Citrus Honey Ricotta Filling

Ingredients

for the crêpes:
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used almond)
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 Tbsp melted butter
butter for coating the pan
powdered sugar, blood orange or other orange slices, orange zest for topping

for the citrus honey ricotta filling:
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1 Tbsp orange blossom honey
juice from 1 mandarin orange
zest from half a mandarin orange

Directions

Blend the eggs, milk, water, flour, and melted butter in a blender on high until smooth. Place the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.

Meanwhile make the citrus honey ricotta filling. Whisk together the ricotta, honey, orange juice, and orange zest.

Melt some butter in a pan/skillet. Pour 1/4 cup batter into the skillet at a time and quickly tilt the pan to swirl the batter. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip and cook for another 10 seconds. Set the crêpe on a plate and stack them as they’re finished to keep them warm.

Once you’re done making the crêpes, fill a few with the citrus honey ricotta filling and place side by side on a plate. Top with orange zest and powdered sugar and serve with orange slices. Enjoy!

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