Friday, July 24, 2015

Gluten-free Chocolate Almond Shortbread Cookies

Hello, Friday! Nice to see you (and just when I thought you'd never get here!). 

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had another wonderful gluten-free recipe coming your way. Well, here it is! The original recipe, from the friendly folks at King Arthur Flour, has been tweaked slightly to ramp up the coffee/chocolate quotient to our liking. If you're not so much of a coffee lover, just follow the original directions.

Besides being gluten-free (they are made with almond flour), instead of regular powdered sugar, I use Whey-Low powdered sugar. Same great taste, no sugar. 

And what gives these cookies that extra coffee-coffee-ness? I swapped out the vanilla extract for Dave's Original Coffee Syrup. Whoa! If you are coffee fanatics, as we are, check out Dave's. Not just for this terrific, concentrated syrup (that is, btw, divine drizzled over vanilla ice cream), but for his coffee beans. We get a delivery about every two weeks from their shop in Rhode Island. 

On to the cookies! Oh, did I mention these only have about 40 calories/cookie?! You're welcome! :-)

Gluten-free Chocolate Almond Flour Shortbread Cookies (adapted from original recipe)

1 C almond flour (minus 2 TB) - I used Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour
3 TB softened butter
3 TB powdered sugar
1/8 t salt
1/8 t espresso powder
2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t Dave's Coffee Syrup 
Flaked sea salt (for sprinkling)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. LIne a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until a cohesive dough forms.
3. Let dough chill in refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
4. Scoop 1" balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. Arrange the balls of dough about 1-1/2" to 2" apart.
5. Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/4" thick, making a crosshatch design.
6. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on top of each cookie
7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they start to turn light
8. Transfer to rack to cool.

Yield about 15 cookies. This recipe is easily doubled, and they keep very well in an airtight container. Sometimes I add about 1/2 C toasted, chopped hazelnuts to the recipe, which adds a very nice dimension to these babies.

Print here.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Bake and Release"

Photo credit: Bon Appetit

You may be familiar with the fishing phrase “catch and release.” I subscribe to a slightly different version: “bake and release.” This delightful phrase comes from one of my baking idols, Dorie Greenspan, who I was lucky enough to do an exclusive interview with a few months ago. Much to the chagrin (or delight depending on your perspective) of my family, friends, and colleagues, I give away most of what I bake. Part of the pleasure of baking is seeing the happiness on people’s faces after eating a delicious cookie, crisp biscotti, or slice of luscious coffee cake. Baking is sharing and that’s what I’m going to do with you today. I want you to make this fabulous cake, share it with others, and watch the smiles spread across their faces (and yours!). 

Carrot-Walnut Loaf Cake (Bon Appetit, May 2015) 
Makes one 9x5” loaf. If you only have an 8 x 4 ” pan, simply hold back about 1- 34 cups batter for later – it makes a mean waffle! 

1 cup vegetable oil, plus more 
1  cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more 
1  tsp baking powder 
1  tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp kosher salt 
1 cup golden raisins 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 
3 large eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar 
2 tsp vanilla extract 
8 oz carrots, coarsely grated (about 2 cups) 
2 tsp light brown sugar 


Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil and flour a 9x5” loaf pan. Whisk baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and 1 cup flour in a small bowl. Toss raisins, walnuts, and remaining 1 tbsp flour in another bowl. 

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs and granulated sugar in medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. With mixer running, gradually drizzle in 1 cup oil, then add vanilla. 

Fold in dry ingredients, raisin mixture, and carrots; scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. 

Bake cake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 65-75 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. 

Do ahead: bake up to 2 days ahead. Store wrapped at room temperature. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cowan's Public - Nutley, NJ

Today’s “gastro pub” is yesterday’s “gourmet.” The definition of gourmet is “a connoisseur of fine food and drink.” Throughout the 60s and 70s, when a restaurant was touted as having “gourmet” food, patrons knew it was going to be an exquisite experience. Then every Tom, Dick, & Harry food purveyor started using it to describe their offerings; little by little the term got watered down, and today it really means nothing (I laugh to myself every time I see “gourmet” splashed across a menu or an ad). The same line of thinking could be applied to gastro pub. Let’s review.
I spent a leisurely afternoon at Cowan’s a couple of Saturdays ago, soaking up the cool retro vibe, chatting with the two brothers who own the place, and enjoying the delicious food. This is not your typical “bar food,” my friends. There are no mozzarella sticks or onion rings on this menu. This is bar food kicked up a notch or two (or three). Exhibit A: what bar do you know that serves perfectly cooked Pan-Seared Brussels with a Champagne Mustard Vinaigrette and Shallots?
Exhibit B: Chipotle Deviled Eggs (lusciously creamy with slight heat at the back). And a kickin’ Burger with Bacon-Onion Jam, Sharp White Cheddar, house made pickle, and Sriracha Ketchup on a Balthazar brioche roll! I rest my case.

Owned by Tom and Dean Maroulakos, they both have experience working in the bar/restaurant industry in New York City, and Dean has a design background. They set their sights on an area fixture – the Nutley Pub. The bar, which had gone through a few owners and incarnations since it was opened in 1934, had fallen into serious disrepair. Anybody else would have been overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to turn this post-prohibition bar into something that today’s savvy customer would want to spend time in. But Tom & Dean took it on, and doing most of the renovation themselves, have transformed it into a modern day bar/restaurant but with a nod to its heritage. No detail has been overlooked. From the curved art deco bar to the restored tin ceiling, to the authentic artifacts that are sprinkled about, these two know what they’re doing.
The proprietors have installed experienced bartenders who are passionate about their job. They want to educate their customers but in a fun way. In addition to a rotating selection of craft beers and ciders, they have some great signature cocktails (I had a terrific Mojito the day I visited), and a nice wine selection. Next time, I’ve got my sights set on their Strawberry Airmail cocktail, made with Real McCoy rum, muddled strawberry, lime juice, honey syrup, and topped with Prosecco.

On the food front, the kitchen is headed by Justin Caldwell (formerly of Upstairs in Montclair). Justin has developed a terrific menu of small plates made for sharing (such as the Brussels Sprouts and Deviled Eggs mentioned above). They will begin to introduce some larger entrée plates this month.
On a subsequent visit, I tried the Summer Salad - watercress, marinated tomato, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, charred corn, and grilled haloumi cheese, with a sherry vinaigrette. I added some nicely charred shrimp to round it out and with a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc, it was the perfect late spring dinner.
While Cowan’s Public is keeping the brothers plenty busy, this dynamic duo already has another project in the works. They are in the process of developing a farmhouse-type restaurant in Clifton. They will be renovating an 8,000 square foot former restaurant and outfitting it with a post and beam bar, outside garden, and seating for 150 people. They are targeting early 2016 for the opening. While Cowan’s is set up more as a bar/restaurant, the focus for Clifton will be food heavy. Sounds good to me.
My bottom line: don’t go to Cowan’s Public if you’re looking for one of those faux gastro pubs. But if you’re looking for inventive, well-cooked food, dynamite cocktails, and a cool place to relax, managed by the personable Maroulakos brothers, discover Cowan’s – the “un-gastro” pub.
229 Centre Street
Nutley, NJ
Open Monday – Friday, 4pm – 2am
Saturday, Sunday: 12pm – 2am

Sunday brunch: 12 – 4pm