There are a number of things about cooking that get me excited, but what really pumps me up is when I get the opportunity to play with ingredients I’ve never used before. Which is why I was thrilled when I received a box of “mystery ingredients” last week from Marx Food for their Ridiculously Delicious Challenge. The box arrived at Eric’s office in the middle of the work day, so he sent me a picture from his phone of the contents.
I was thrilled to see the variety of ingredients that were included… szechuan peppercorns, dill pollen, juniper berries. But what immediately jumped out at me were a bag of dried tart cherries and a tiny container of saffron threads.
Now, I’ve had many occasions to work with dried cherries (which I love), but saffron was a different story. So before cooking with it, I decided to do a little research.
Saffron threads come from the flower of the saffron crocus plant. Based on everything that I’ve read, it appears that the saffron crocus is very temperamental and does particularly well in the hot, dry climates of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean, hence its popularity in such places as Spain, Italy, and Turkey. They are cultivated by extracting the threads from the blossoms, which is an incredibly labor intensive process. Once the saffron plant has bloomed, the three threads are carefully removed from the center of the flower.
The pairing of saffron, with its slightly floral notes, along with chocolate and cherries seemed like a natural one. Now I could have done a number of things with this: a chocolate souffle with a cherry compote or some handmade truffles. But I was worried that if it wasn’t handled correctly, the saffron be overpowered by the other ingredients. Whatever I was going to make needed to have balance. And that’s when the idea of scones popped into my head.
Scones have always had a calming effect on me and I feel lost when a weekend goes by without a fresh batch in the oven. What I’ve always enjoyed about scones, even more so than muffins or any other breakfast pastry, is how they let the ingredients shine. A good scone isn’t overly sweet and it allows all of the components to have their moment. It’s all about balance.
Instead of having a post on the site today, I’m redirecting you to my guest post over at Cake Duchess. Lora’s been a wonderful, supportive friend and I was thrilled when she asked me to do a guest post for her.
So, if you want to see more pictures and get the recipe for these Chocolate Chip and Boozy Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, head on over to her blog. And don’t miss her awesome giveaway at the bottom of the post!
There are only a few things that I’m a snob about. My feeling is that if something is good, it’s good. It can be a greasy bucket of fries or a bowl of hummus. I don’t mind simple as long as it’s prepared well.
But the one thing I can say I’m genuinely picky about is coleslaw. You see, I grew up on Kosher deli foods. At least a couple days a week, after picking me up from school, my mom would drive us to the local delicatessen, where we’d pick up turkey sandwiches topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing. It was a big, gloppy mess, but one that was oh so very delicious.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Eric and I held a winter BBQ at our apartment. We were inspired to make lobster rolls from a class that we took at Barbara Lynch’s Stir… and this coleslaw recipe came from the same course. When we were first given a taste of it at Stir, I put my fork down after my first bite, turned to Eric and proclaimed this to be the best coleslaw I’ve ever consumed. And I stand by that declaration, especially after having made it myself.
Please promise me something: Do not wait for 80 degree weather to make this coleslaw. There’s a reason I’m telling you all about it now, in the middle of February, with big piles of snow still lingering on the sidewalks. Because this coleslaw is perfection… what I like to call “Crack” (because it’s addictive and you will NOT be able to stop eating it).
There are plenty of holidays coming up: President’s Day (Feb 20th), St. Patrick’s Day (Mar. 17th). Not that you need a reason to make it. But if you do, there you go.
I think I need to call Valentine’s Day out for what it truly is (or, in this case, was). It’s an excuse to buy your loved ones presents, to go out for dinner, to drink a bottle of champagne together. And do you know what? That’s ok! I’m all for finding reasons to eat lobster (as Eric and I did this past weekend) or whip up some chocolate souffles.
But, really, Valentine’s Day is just like any other day… and it’s important to do special things with your guy or gal every once in a while. There’s no need to have a reason to do it. Want to buy them a present? Do it! Purchase a special bottle of wine to have with dinner? Go for it!
The main thing is that you do something or eat something that you wouldn’t normally have. Decadence is key. And, in my opinion, there are few things more decadent than homemade hot chocolate.
The first time I had “European hot chocolate” was in Paris when I was 15. And, from there, I was a changed man. No more packets of instant hot cocoa (if you could call it that) with dehydrated marshmallows. If I was going to make it, it was going to have to be done right.
And now I can’t think of anything that’s more romantic than some thick, rich, hot chocolate.
“Atop the Dorchester Heights hill sits a tall monument commemorating the Patriot battery that drove the British out of Boston. A popular site to view the Fourth of July fireworks, the Thomas Park (the oval drive around Dorchester Heights) area is one of the most attractive areas in South Boston.” (from Wikipedia)