The other day, after a protracted conversation about food, my little brother observed that my purpose in life is to make people hungry. As a food writer, there is something to that, but that's not the whole story.
I do make people hungry. I entice people with photographs of chewy, chocolatey, crispy-around-the-edges cookies studded with dark chocolate chunks, colorful M&Ms, and salty pretzel bits. I describe lush green, arugula pesto in the middle of winter and promise sparkling summer flavors.
There's more to it than just that.
... I also feed them.
All of that talk and those photographs and obsessive thinking about food is because I just plain love feeding folks. To paraphrase my mom, "If you leave my presence hungry, it's your own fault!"
Sometimes it is just as simple as a hot mug of tea with a little honey foisted into the hands of someone swirling in through the door with the snow. Maybe it's a well-timed piece of toast with a pat of melting butter and a swipe of strawberry jam to take the edge off the morning hunger.
There is a lot of joy to be had from food aside from the obvious sharing and consumption of it, though. Preparing food for others is like a prayer for them, but preparing food with others is a recipe for memories.
While getting ready to work on dinner with my eldest son, he asked me what we were going to make. When I replied, "Wonton Soup!" he gave me a wry look and replied, "Isn't that a little irresponsible?"
It took me a full minute to get his joke but when I did, I was torn between ridiculous laughter and sheer pride in his vocabulary. The soup will, of course, be known henceforth as Irresponsible Soup from a Wonton Woman.
Since I do not have the privilege of cooking for each of you individually, how about I deliver on the recipe of those cookies I mentioned?
Many cookie recipes are forgiving when you skip the chilling of the dough, but this one is not. Upon pain of cookie pancakes, do not forget this step! Of course, if you do forget it, it's not the end of the world. There will always be a place for pancake-y cookies crumbled over a bowl of your favorite ice cream. All is seldom lost when it comes to food.
Double Chocolate M&M Cookies
3½ c. all-purpose flour
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
4 sticks (2 c.) butter, softened to room temperature
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 t. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 c. quick oats
1 c. cornflakes, lightly crushed
1 c. thin pretzel sticks, broken up into small pieces
1 c. chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
1 c. M&Ms
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix again on medium until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until a dough forms. Add the remaining ingredients and stir in by hand until evenly distributed. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack positioned in the center of the oven. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough by the tablespoon onto the baking sheets leaving 2 to 3 inches between cookies because they will spread as they cook. Bake the cookies for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges are set up on the cookies. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 1 minute before using a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack.
Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
Store cookies at room temperature in a cookie jar or other loosely covered container.
• • •
Bright green foods (including basil) can be hard to come by in our area this time of year. With Valentine's Day almost upon us, nothing says "I love you" like the fresh, vibrant taste of arugula pesto. Toss arugula pesto with hot pasta, spread on bread or use to top a pizza. Arugula pesto is so good you may never go back to basil pesto again!
Arugula Pesto Sauce
2 c. baby arugula leaves or mature arugula with stems removed, tightly packed
¼ c. toasted walnuts
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ to ¾ c. extra virgin olive oil
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and freshly grated black pepper, to taste
Add the arugula, walnuts and garlic to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. With the food processor running, drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube until it reaches the consistency you desire. Scrape the pesto into a mixing bowl and stir the grated cheese into the mixture. Store unused pesto in a jar, smooth the top, pour olive oil to top the pesto by about ¼ of an inch and put a tight fitting lid on the jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com or Rebecca's new blog, www.icouldeatthat.com. Write to Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your adventures and favorite recipes.