[On my table right this minute, February 2011.]
Today I am working from home and baking cookies and making soup (roasted potato-leek, with spinach and a 1/2 cup of white wine) and drinking tea and cursing the rain. The cookies are because I am going away, Away!, this weekend to beloved Yosemite after far, far too long and must bring sustenance; the soup is for the same reason; the tea is because I have drunk quite enough coffee today thank you very much, plus tea is delicious; and the rain, cursing-of, is because I’d like to get in a 6-miler today and it’s so awfully dreary I do not see how it will be possible unless it lets up a bit later on …
Then again, I have run in the rain many, many times and when I am determined I rarely let silly things like rain get in the way of my insanity.
Anyway, the food bit. I’m make a few old familiars this afternoon, mostly in the interest of time and because while I’m always on the hunt for something new, I very often make fall-backs because, well, they’re not reliable for nothing. Case in point: this weekend for a lunch party I did my unfailing baked halibut with rosemary, lemon, and a splash of white wine, along with an Israeli couscous salad with tomato dressing and chickpeas and mint, roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts, and a mushroom soup to start (we finished with a decadent vegan chocolate cake with vegan ‘butter’cream). Then that night for a dinner party I roasted a chicken in the Zuni way (my only way to ever roast a bird — when I roast one — it seems) that nestled itself cozily alongside sweet potato-spinach gratin, a green salad with fennel, and roasted asparagus, with chocolate cream pie for dessert. Nothing especially new, but all as comfortable as the old friends with whom I shared them.
Right now I’m sitting at my desk in rainy San Francisco, my apartment filled up with the good scents of caramelized butter and melted chocolate and toasted oatmeal, and you know, maybe the rain’s not so bad after all — at least I’m baking. And the cookies I’m baking are probably the best cookies of all the cookies I hold fast in my repertoire — I swear, I could eat a dozen in one go but luckily I am not really a sweets girl (one at a time will do me just fine). This is probably my favorite cookie recipe of all time. A bold statement, yes, but absolutely true. My friend Lesli calls these “make everything better cookies,” (though that could be because she is a wee bit sleep-deprived at the moment due to a new, sweet arrival a few months ago) and so I would like to send her packages stuffed with cookies every month but do not want her to get tired of them (banana-chocolate muffins next, I think). I make these to take to parties … when I’m feeling slightly under the weather … to take along on long weekends like this one coming up … bring (or send) across the country on visits …
And there’s something to these cookies, after all. Somehow they’re crisp and chewy at the same time, a smidge salty, almost coconut-ty, though there’s not in there (a possible addition, if you like). They’re best eaten in spring, summer, fall or winter — and all the in-between seasons, too. They’re great with a glass of milk, or a cup of green tea, or even an icy cold beer, if the weather turns in that direction. Of course they’re not exactly ‘healthy’ (all that gorgeous butter!) but I sort of like to think they are, because of the oats and the brown sugar, though if you made them with whole wheat pastry flour, why, you might actually be on to something. They’re sturdy and not-too-sweet yet deeply, deeply satisfying. You probably can see why I end up making a batch of these at least once every two weeks.
This weekend I may not have proper winter gloves, or enough snow gear to go round, but darn it, I will have oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. Half Dome no doubt is terribly chilly this time of year (I’ll save braving the cables for later this summer) and we’ll need sustenance, if only to get to the bridge before the Mist Trail.
That, and they’re really very good cookies. Make a batch and let me know what you think.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted, long ago, from the Better Home and Gardens Cookbook
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl cream shortening, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour and stir into creamed mixture. Add the oats and chocolate chips, and stir until well blended.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
Makes 3 doz. cookies.