Adjusting, tweaking, hacking- whatever you call it, taking an idea and making it work for you is fun.
I almost never follow entire recipes when I’m cooking. If I’m baking, I’ll use a few recipes as a guide, and if I’m cooking on the stove, I might consult recipes online to bolster (or to helpfully redirect) my ideas of what flavors might work well together.
Here are some recent successful hacks you might like:
1. Shortbread cookies
It all started with 101 Cookbooks (as it so often does). Last year (or before?) I fell in love with Heidi’s Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread. The outcome is awesome. You also come off like a pro if you whip these out over the holidays. Simple elegance – Check!
I plan on making these again for the holidays. I was planning to do some test-runs with the recipe because of my degree-less-oven, and since pine nuts are insanely expensive here, I just used rosemary.
They were righteous. And the tweaking continued…
After a whole lot of calories, I ended up with this go-to hack (half the fat of the original, mind you!)
- 250g (2 cups) flour (white, wheat, whatever you want… but remember wheat absorbs more liquid, so you might need to do your own tweaking)
- 1 tsp salt (you might use a whisper less than this…I love the salty undertone.)
- 100 ml/approx. half a cup of olive oil (Extra Virgin, regular Virgin, or slutty…whatever kind you want)
- 2 tbs Water (you might need a bit more if you are using whole wheat flour. Just use enough so that the dough is moist enough to make a log out of)
- 2/3 c sugar (brown sugar, white sugar, raw sugar…it all works)
This is your base… Nowadays, I do four main flavor variations. You can mix these into the flour before combining ingredients, or you can manage it by making the dough and dividing it into multiple batches, mixing after the fact in separate bowls. It all pretty much works.
My current favorite variations:
- Cinnamon/Canela (a sure Porto-pleaser, I always make some of these in case I’m the only one with a more ‘adventurous’ palate)
- Saffron (red, flower-looking Turkish saffron from my mother-in-law plus yellow powder saffron from Sao Tome ) + Nutmeg/noz moscada
- Rosemary (dried is fine…rub it in your fingers or grind it to break it into smaller pieces so you don’t feel like you are eating pine needles)
- Cacao Nibs (I feel pretty superior about this one. We were in Sao Tome e Principe a couple of months ago, and I brought back a cacao pod, cut it open, scooped out the seeds, cleaned them, dried them for a week, then roasted and crushed them. Rockstar? Yes. Yes I am.)
How much of the seasonings should you add to the batch? A generous amount. I do it until it looks good. With the Turkish saffron, I add enough so I can see pretty little flowers in my cookies, and then enough of the good-smelling things to make the mix smell good.
Ok. So, you have ingredients. Now what?
- Mix. Form, shape, roll out on baking paper. Slice/cookie-cut/whatever your cookies from the flattened dough. Bake until just barely getting golden around the bottom edges touching the baking paper. Cool. Eat. (For more precise details, look at the original recipe. )
Helpful hint- I now use baking paper to excess. I roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper (vegetal), and my rolling-pin (or wine bottle, if you haven’t got a rolling-pin… or your hands, if you want to go commando) doesn’t get goopy. Neither does my countertop.
I have one baking sheet, so when I’m doing batches, I have one in the oven (on baking paper, on the baking sheet), and one batch ready to go on another sheet of baking paper. When the first is done, I just switch out the paper (which doesn’t burn your hands) and leave the baking sheet in the oven.
You can also make a dough log and freeze it. I don’t know how long it lasts, but probably months.
At this point, I’d like to acknowledge that no self-respecting food blog is without photos. Not a problem, as my blog is quasi-nebulous at the moment, and it has no ego. It’s more a point of referral than anything else. The other blogs I’m directing you to have fantastic photos. Also, my gal pal in Azeitão will soon be contributing her mad photography skills to the foodhack endeavor. Hang tight, friends, hang tight.
Otherwise known as stuffed Roma tomatoes.
Lunch today involved leftover cannelloni for my man, eggs for me, and a tray full of stuffed Roma tomatoes. We leave tomorrow for a two-week holiday with my family in AZ, and we had to get rid of some food. In addition to about 6 Roma tomatoes, I had a half-used bag of shredded mozzarella.
I also had about 20 minutes before my man had to go back to work.
- Preheat oven.
- Cut tomatoes in half. Scoop out the seeds. Discard the solid core bits and put some seedy-juicy bits in a bowl.
- Take a tosta or two (if you live in Portugal, you have these somewhere in your kitchen. Otherwise, use croutons, or breadcrumbs) and crush it into the seedy-juicy-bit bowl.
- Throw a heap of oregano in. Or another herb. And some salt. And whatever other flavor you want.
- Mix it up. Throw in some cheese. Mix a little more.
- Line tray with baking paper.
- Put the tomato halves on the tray, fill with treats from the juicy bowl. Top with more shredded cheese.
- Put them in the oven until they smell good, and until they look like you’d want to eat them.
The whole process took, like, ten minutes.
Ok. That’s two quickies to start with. I also made veggie dumplings/gyoza the other night, but I need to pack so I’ll write about that later.
Let me know if you have questions, comments, etc!