Today is your birthday — I’m getting this in just under the wire — and so I am sending you virtual cookies. And cupcakes. And maybe also a bowlful of quinoa soup because I heard that the other day you were feeling under-the-weather. Here it is sunny and breezy and I would very much like to go to Miette and have some pistachio macarons — or do that whole sampler thing again — so hopefully you can hop on a plane and get out here tout de suite, hm?
Your birthday this year is a ‘milestone’ — or at least, that’s what people say. I like to think of it as just as special as any other birthday (and of course, every anniversary of one’s birth should be celebrated accordingly, with flowers and champagne and cake). In any case, I hope you did eat sweets, and receive lots of flowers, because you, dear Kate, are something else. Next year maybe we can celebrate together. I’ll bring the coconut-pineapple birthday cake.
xo, ad infinitum,
ps: As a birthday gift, I offer the recipe to those fruit-and-nut cookies I made way back in December …
On the day before Christmas Eve, because these little cookies need 24 hours to rest and let their flavors get cozy, I went to Whole Foods and headed straight to the bulk aisle. I had looked for a recipe that wasn’t too complicated, and one that was also was cholesterol-free (one might even call these ‘healthy’ but when it comes to the holidays, I try not to indulge too much in healthy stuff — it’s a special time of year, after all); these fit that particular bill perfectly. Knowing my dad’s penchant for raisins, as well as nuts, I thought this recipe was the perfect blend of some of his favorite things — the bonus was that it might be good for him, too.
To be quite honest, I didn’t think I’d like these myself; give me some butter cookies or a plate of ginger snaps and a nice cup of Earl Grey and I’m one happy girl. I don’t eat much dried fruit — though I do love nuts — and have been known to swap out raisins for chocolate chips in oatmeal cookies. I like dried cranberries once in awhile in salads, and don’t mind munching on chewy dried apples, but for the most part, I’d rather have my fruit fully hydrated.
So, these cookies surprised me. They’re moist and tender, but the crushed walnuts give enough crunch to save them from complete soppiness. The original recipe calls for apple cider or a fruit liqueur, but since those were lacking in the kitchen I was using, I decided on orange juice instead, and I think the tartness is a nice contrast. I also added dried cranberries to the fruit mix, mostly because I like them especially, and because it was Christmas; cranberries to me are the quinessential holiday berry.
I dipped about half the batch in melted semisweet chocolate, which added to their appeal, but I think they tasted pretty darn good even without it. The real test came when my brother and I went to his friend’s house on Christmas Eve, and I brought a plate of cookies sans chocolate. The adults all professed to like them just fine, but his kids gobbled them up and declared, unprompted, that they were yummy (also, they were all gone in about 5 minutes flat and thus fortified, played hide-and-seek until I had to leave). That’s all the endorsement I’ll ever need (though, in case you were wondering, my dad seemed to like them, too).
[Fruit-nut cookies, December 2007.]
Dried fruit-nut cookies, adapted from orangette
1 cup walnuts
1/2 lb dried cherries
1/2 lb dried Turkish figs
1/2 lb dried apricots
1/2 lb dried pitted prunes
1/4 lb dried cranberries
1-2 Tbs orange juice
Powdered sugar, for dredging
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or as chips
Put the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process them to chop finely. Remove the walnuts to a large mixing bowl.
Rinse the bowl of food processor, wipe it dry, and fill it with the dried fruit. Pulse the machine to chop the fruit finely, trying to make sure no piece is larger than a pea (also try not to let it get gummy/sticky). Put the fruit in the bowl with the walnuts, and stir them to mix. Add 1 Tb orange juice and stir to combine. Pinch off a smallish wad of the fruit-nut mixture: when you roll it between your palms, does it hold together in a tight ball? If not, add a bit more juice until it does.
Put about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into a small bowl. Pinch off little mounds of the fruit-nut mixture, shape them into 1-inch balls, roll each ball lightly in powdered sugar to coat, and place them on a baking sheet. Let the balls stand at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours.
The next day, if using, melt the chocolate. Dip each each ball half-in the chocolate, and then let stand until chocolate has cooled.