Monthly Archives: February 2016

Is it Possible I Own Over 100 Cookbooks?

Is it possible I own over 100 cookbooks? Apparently it is, and I can’t believe I put it out there for everyone to read! Before I sat down to write today, I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about; I just knew I wanted to start a dialog about cookbooks. But what do I want to talk about? Do I want to tell you about my favorites. Do I want to share how and why I got the books I did. Do I want to share a recipe from one of them. Should I be like Julie Powell from the famed Julie and Julia Blog and cook my through one of my books? Where do I begin? Maybe I should start by explaining how my cookbooks multiplied like rabbits!

At some point when I moved to NYC, I became a cookbook collector. Maybe it was all the hours I spent at the Strand Book Store http://www.strandbooks.com/ at the corner of 12th and Broadway. With an iced coffee in hand I could easily spend the day leafing through the art and design books, poetry books, and biography’s, but somehow I always ended up by the cookbook section. My collection grew as the years went by. When I got married, my mother gave me 3 cookbooks plus one she had handwritten just for me with some of her famed recipes. That little cookbook she gave me was the start of something really great.

Over the years, many became gifts from family and friends. My husband was a business consultant and wherever he traveled, he came home with a cookbook. Still not sure what I’m going to do with that Mormon Cookbook from Utah! There was also the cookbook of the month club I joined and a new one would show up every month. Then I found Kitchen Arts and Letters http://kitchenartsandletters.com/bookstore/ a bookstore which sells only cookbooks! Can you hear the ethereal music playing in the background? I can! Lucky for me, Columbus has it’s own special book store called The Book Loft http://www.bookloft.com/  It has 32 rooms of books, three of them containing cookbooks!

Over the years I realized I enjoy reading cookbooks the same way other people read novels. Right now the books on my nightstand are Modern Jewish Cooking by Leah Koenig, Cookie Love by Mindy Segal, Martha Stewart’s Appetizers and Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. Since I counted over 100 cookbooks on my bookcase, that Feng Shui book is looking like a must read and will remain on the top of the stack!

Do I have a favorite? Well I’ll have to channel my mother here and say no, I have 10 fingers and I love them all the same! The same can be said for my collection. They each have a reason for taking their place on my shelf. Whether it’s the style of cooking, a chef I like, history, a particular region, or technique; they all have a place in my heart. I do have a soft spot for any cookbook with beautiful photography. Some are so stunning, they warrant a special place on my coffee table! I treasure the ones I have from my mother and mother-in-law with their handwritten notes and newspaper clippings of recipes used as place markers. Both great cooks and bakers who never needed a cookbook but, like me, enjoyed reading them cover to cover like a novel.

This past winter, I signed up to be part of a cookbook swap. I guess I thought I needed yet another cookbook! It was so much fun to get a cookbook in the mail and if you’re keeping track, this book makes the count 101!  I’ll share more about the swap in another post. In the meantime…

Tell me about your favorite cookbooks so we can start our own cookbook of the month club! We can call it What are you “Reating” unless you think that’s way too corny! I think it could be fun to find out what cookbooks you, my fabulous readers are using. Until then, happy cooking… and sweet baking.

 

Thumb Cookies with a Kiss – a Hershey’s Kiss that is!

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to send a Kiss from me to you, in the form of what else? A cookie! Thumb cookies with a kiss – A Hershey’s Kiss that is. I don’t have a long story to tell you about these cookies; I wish I did. If you are an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know from last year’s post, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. http://www.splashofsherri.com/2015/02/13/happy-valentines-day-how-do-you-tell-someone-you-love-them/ I do however celebrate cookies! Every year I use this week as an excuse to bake cookies nonstop and send them to people I love – as if I needed an excuse to do that!

These are a quickest cookie you will ever make; therefore, this will be the quickest post I will ever write so you can get right to it. What I will tell you is they were one of my mom’s specialties and probably one of her most requested cookies. They melt in your mouth, are so easy to put together, and very versatile. You can fill them with a chocolate kiss, jam, or even caramel.

The batter is not like any other cookie I have seen and calls for a very unusual ingredient. Wait for it… wait for it… hard-boiled egg yolks. Yes, you read that correctly – hard-boiled egg yolks! The first time I made them, I was skeptical but they turned out great. The cookie is similar to shortbread and what I found is the egg yolk gives the cookie body. My mom would mash the egg yolks very finely with a fork. I used a fine hand grater and it worked terrific. You could also use a microplane if you have one. If not, a fork worked for my mom and will work for you too!

If you need a tip on how to cook the perfect hard-boiled egg click on this link from a post I wrote two years ago. You definitely want a beautiful bright yellow yolk for these! http://www.splashofsherri.com/2014/09/16/the-perfect-hard-boiled-egg/

So if you love someone, and that someone could be you, whip up these cookies and give yourself a kiss – you deserve it! Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 cups flour
3 hard-boiled egg yolks only (I used extra large)
½ cup sugar
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon of butter softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla*
Pinch of Kosher salt
50 Hershey Kisses (I used dark chocolate – for heart health!)
Optional: Jam (your favorite flavor)**

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Separate the eggs and set aside the whites of the eggs (you can save them to eat later). Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Grate in the egg yolks and blend well. Then add the flour and pinch of salt mixing till combined.

Roll small balls of dough about 1” (approximately 2 teaspoons) and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about an inch apart. I used the smallest cookie scoop which holds 2 teaspoons so every cookie would come out the same size. Press down the center of the dough with the Hershey Kiss.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes turning the cookie sheet half way through the baking – don’t over bake them. This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies

*you can change the flavor of the cookie very easily by using a variety of different extracts. I have made them with almond extract and they taste amazing.

**If using jam, I like to use a Hershey’s Kiss to make the indentation but you can also use your thumb – hence the title – thumb cookie! Use about ½ to ¾ teaspoon of jam. Use any flavor you like. My favorite is raspberry or blackberry. Don’t overfill, they will run out of the center.

 

 

 

Craving Comfort Food? Prescription: Ratner’s Potato Soup


If you are craving comfort food, my Prescription: Ratner’s Potato soup! It may not seem like good medicine, but I promise it is.

Last week was filled with ups and downs for me. It was bookended by two grandbabies being born to two different friends both named Lisa! Monday, I lost my driver’s license (not a big problem in the scheme of things, just a nuisance!) Tuesday, my coworker left work and headed to see her closest friend who is in hospice. I was out of sorts the rest of the day thinking about and praying for her. Wednesday, a dear friend of mine lost her father. Thursday, after four cold and very grey days, I tried to write, but realized I was just blocked and couldn’t. The bright spot to my week was seeing photos of two beautiful baby boys! Of course, I forgot to get a new license!

Friday, I went to the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) with an envelope containing my birth certificate, passport, social security card, and marriage license, everything to prove who I am. While sitting there 20 minutes or so, I leafed through my identity envelope, as I like to call it, and what do you think was wedged in my passport? My driver’s license – I had it all along! What it was doing in my passport is an entirely different story for another time. The good news is I caught it before waiting another half hour and being embarrassed at the desk when they called number 47!

I got into my car and said out loud… REALLY! What I knew for sure, is I needed something comforting for dinner and I knew just the prescription: Ratner’s potato soup! The only problem, Ratners was a restaurant in NYC that is now closed, and while they use to sell it in the freezer section of the grocery, they no longer do.

Now for the good news… I have the Ratner’s Cookbook and I can share it with you! Ratner’s was a Kosher Dairy restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for almost 100 years (97 to be exact!). They had the best everything and their soups, memorable and amazing.

To read more about the restaurant, click on the link http://unofficialmadmencookbook.com/blog/ratners-kosher-restaurant-the-harmatz-family-shares-memories-of-the-mad-men-era-a-recipe-and-giveaway/

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My recipe is adapted from The World Famous Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook by Judith Gethers and Elizabeth Lefft. I changed things to make it healthier and a little simpler without losing anything in translation. For example, I didn’t think the soup needed 1/2 cup of butter so I added a couple of tablespoons just to give it flavor. It is the only potato soup I have ever had, and in my opinion the best. The only thing missing from my dinner was an onion roll! For those of you who may have been to Ratners, you remember their delicious onion rolls! I will be trying to make those very soon, and will share them with you! Until then, enjoy this delicious and comforting potato soup.

Ingredients

6 to 8  potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces – I used Yukon gold (about 8 cups)
3 or 4 onions chopped to equal 3 cups
1 leek white and light green parts only to equal
1 cup 3 to 4 tablespoons light olive oil (evoo is fine too)
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 quart water
1 quart vegetable stock* (look for a clear vegetable broth, one without tomatoes)
1 quart water
2 teaspoons salt (original recipe 2 tablespoons salt – OY, can you feel your blood pressure rising?)
1/2 cup caramelized onions (made from the onions above)
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (black is fine too)
Fried onions (optional)

 

Directions
In a large frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and one cup of the diced onions. Cover and leave on medium heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, uncover and keep cooking while preparing the rest of the soup. You may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil. The onions should not sauté dry. You want to break down the onions until they are soft, falling apart and golden brown. This step is to take the place of the baked onions* called for in the original recipe.

In a stock pot (Ratners called it a kettle!) add the remaining 2 cups of onions and two tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté until translucent then add the leeks. When the onions just start to brown, add the carrots, celery, green pepper, parsley, tomato juice, vegetable stock, water and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for 40 minutes.

The original recipe calls for blending the soup at this point. I remember the soup having some potato pieces in it and wanted that texture. With a slotted spoon, I took out about 2 cups of potatoes and set them aside. Stir in the caramelized onions, dill and pepper, blend thoroughly. I used a hand held stick blender for this. Then I added the potatoes back in to the soup. Add two tablespoons of butter, allow to melt and stir well. Finally taste the soup and check for seasoning. You may like more salt or pepper so feel free to add it a pinch at a time.

I served it with a sprinkle of fried onions on the top. It added a great textural crunch and for me, reminiscent of Ratner’s delicious onion rolls they served alongside! Enjoy!

Serves 10

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* The original recipe called for 2 quarts of water and no stock. I used a quart of vegetable stock for flavor since I cut the salt down from 2 tablespoons to 2 teaspoons, I felt it needed something more than water.

**BAKED ONIONS… I chose to use caramelized onions for a couple of reasons. First, the amount of butter added, second, I like the taste of caramelized onions and thought they would be a rich compliment to the soup. The original recipe called for ½ cup baked onions) If you would like to try it, the recipe is as follows:
1 cup clarified butter
3 lbs onions, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350F. Stir butter into onions in a 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown in color. Stir occasionally. Cool and refrigerate till needed. May be stored in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Photo of the menu compliments of The New York Public Library