Archive for December, 2009


Is there nothing better this time of year than the gift of some homemade deep chocolate confection? I should say not, but seeing as I’m the one home-crafting said chocolate goodies for my friends and neighbors, maybe that’s a little prideful.

But I promise I’m humble. I take zero credit for this brilliance-on-a-stick — other than the fact that I actually executed this recipe in my kitchen (this is a feat: I can’t claim a fault-free past when it comes to candy making).

Knowledge of these cocoa blocks are my due reward for taking time to peruse catalogs the way I do, as though I had all the time and money in the world. I found the recipe* in the King Arthur Flour catalog, and the trimmings have been providing my chocolate fix these past couple of days.

What these fudge-like squares are really destined for is a swirl inside a mug of steaming hot milk. Can there be a more delightful way to make hot chocolate?

*The recipe suggests adding hazelnut or vanilla extract, but I love a little cinnamon in my ho-cho, so I added about a teaspoon-and-a-half of ground cinnamon. A little cayenne or chili pepper might be good, too.


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I’m the gloomy addressee of yet another flimsy postcard announcing the regretful demise of a magazine. This time it’s Cookie, and it makes for the third one this year to go bye-bye (following my beloved Domino at the first of the year and, later, Gourmet).

Why am I so bummed? Notwithstanding that this points again to the general sad state of print media, Cookie was a bright resource in this age of modern parenting, full of pretty things and smart writing. Reading it felt like indulgence, not like I was boning up on parenting know-how.

I’ll probably miss the cooking articles most, the way editors emphasized real cooking for real kids who eat real food. I’ve clipped as many well-written recipes out of Cookie as I have any food magazine.

My favorite column was the one that sketched out dinners like a road map (called “So You Have…”). It would start with a photo of something at the center — avocados, wilted greens, eggs, whatever you might have handy — and point the way to three possible meal outcomes. It was dinner-at-a-glance, positioned to make any busy mom feel like quality homemade was possible in a snap. Cookie‘s food coverage — indeed, the bulk of it’s articles — were practical and intelligent with the aesthetics to match.


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It’s been cold, right? Thick-sock-wearing cold. Huddle-under-a-blanket-with-a-book cold. Even put-that-fireplace-to-use cold.

And I like it.

Know what else I like? Polenta. Specifically, when it’s cold enough for cooking polenta over a hot stove, steam in your face and those thick socks on your feet. I like all that stirring and watching the great golden bubbles rise to the top and audibly pop.

To my left, Quinn is populating a pretend “California” with a bin’s worth of Polly Pockets (the requisite accessories and outfits included). To my right, Emmie is puffing and piping clarinet scales.

Me? I’m stirring to the stories in Nicole Krauss’ “A History of Love”. No, it’s not the same as reading huddled under a blanket, but soon I’ll be tucking into this polenta, which might be better than than the blanket part.

Make it:

Grab a medium-sized saucepan. Stir 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 2/3 cups coarse polenta into 7 cups cold water (cold water means fewer lumps). Add a couple small bay leaves and bring it all to a boil, then add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Reduce heat to medium low and stir — continuously so the polenta won’t stick — for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the polenta is thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan (and watch where you put your book — don’t let it get too close to the burner, especially if it’s from the library). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If, like me, you feel so inclined, add a handful or three of freshly grated Parmesan.


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