If I was left in charge of the plants at my house, everything would be dead. While I can cook, I can't grow anything to safe my life. Even those house plants that are supposed to be fool-proof seem to die under my care. Fortunately, Roy is a good gardener so we have some lovely plants both inside and outside of our home. He always makes sure to grow some edible plants for us to use in the kitchen - a variety of chilies for him to make salsa with and some herbs for me. Every year he manages to take care of three large basil plants that provide us with an abundant amount of the vivid green leaves.
This means that during the summer I make a lot of pesto, and we eat a lot of pesto. I know that many people freeze their basil and/or pesto for use throughout the year, but we somehow manage to eat it all during the summer. That may have something to do with the fact that Roy and I would be happy to eat it every other day.
It's now December and I haven't thought about pesto recently as our plants are finished for the year. However, the other day I was watching Lidia Bastianich make pesto on TV and I was practically drooling. I really felt a strong desire to have pesto after that. Luckily, we had some friends come over on Sunday, so I had a great excuse to make pesto. And, basil is available year round in my market so it was easy to pick up some.
I grew up eating pesto, and my family has always followed this basic recipe:
2 1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast the pine nuts in a skillet or oven until lightly browned. Set aside to cool. Place the pine nuts, garlic, and basil in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Add the cheese and pulse just to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes enough pesto to dress one pound of pasta.
Note: This pesto is on the thicker side, which means that it lends itself well to other applications such as spreading it on a crostini. When you use it to dress pasta, you may need to add some of the pasta cooking water and you will want to add a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a tablespoon or two of butter. Yes, I said butter. I know that is not traditional at all for pesto, but my mom always threw in a pat of butter right at the end. Linguini is my favorite pasta to have with pesto, but this will work on any shape.
Everyone’s got a favorite cookie, and you probably love the ones your family made. Well, these are the cookies I grew up on. We ate them all the time. This cookie dough was always in the freezer, ready to be baked at a moment’s notice. Eating them fresh out of the oven with a glass of cold milk is pure bliss. And it’s not just my family who likes them. I’ve made them for countless people and everyone has loved them. I even made them to take to a friend’s BBQ last summer where I saw a guest eat one, and then proceed back to pile seven more in his hands. I’m not exaggerating! To me these are the quintessential chocolate chip cookies. No matter what your favorite cookie is, I’m sure you will like these.
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound brown sugar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
6 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12 ounce package milk chocolate chips
1 12 ounce package white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand or hand held mixer beat the butter and sugars together for 4 - 5 minutes until lightened in color and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. On low speed slowly add the flour mixture until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Drop the dough in rounded tablespoons onto the sheet spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool on sheet five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, these cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for several days.
Makes about 7 dozen cookies
Notes: This obviously makes a lot of cookies. You will definitely want to freeze most of the dough. I usually bake a dozen, and then lay out 5 or 6 pieces of wax or parchment paper and divide the dough onto the paper. Wrap the dough portions in the paper and store in a freezer bag in the freezer. These will last for several months in the freezer. When you are ready to use, simply let the dough portion thaw in the refrigerator. Also, my mom and I agree that the cookies actually come out slightly better after the dough has been frozen. It’s like all the ingredients had a chance to get to know each other in the freezer.
It’s important to use the best quality ingredients you can find. Good chocolate chips really make a difference here. I also find that cookies in general come out better when I bake them one sheet at a time instead of two.
A couple of years ago I ran across a recipe in Bon Appétit that was very similar to my mom’s cookies except that in addition to three types of chocolate chips, this cookie also had oatmeal, cinnamon and fresh cranberries. “This is the holiday version of mom’s cookies!” I thought excitedly. I knew I had to make these cookies as soon as possible.
Well, I ended up making dozens and dozens of these cookies that Christmas. At the time I was working at a non profit that did community development with youth and families in an urban community. I was in charge of fundraising, and we wanted to think of a way to visit our donors and wish them a Merry Christmas. The CEO and I decided that it would be a nice idea to bring a small gift with us on each visit. I decided that homemade cookies would be the best. Over the course of a couple of weeks we visited 20 donors, and each night I was making cookies for the next day, plating them and wrapping them in cellophane.
We had wonderful visits with each of our donors, but one stood out above all the rest. We visited one man at his office. I handed him the plate of cookies and he invited us to sit down in cozy leather chairs and chat for a while. As we were preparing to leave he got out his checkbook and wrote us a check for $20,000. We were blown away! While I’m sure that the generous donation had more to do with our efforts in the community than my cookies, those cookies became known as the $20,000 cookies at our nonprofit.
That was several years ago, but I continue to make those cookies every Christmas. While mom’s cookies suffice most of the year, the oatmeal, cranberries and cinnamon make for an extra special cookie around the holidays. As this recipe makes about five dozen cookies, I also freeze most of the batch when I make them. Having the dough in the freezer saves me a lot of time if we have visitors around the holidays, or I need to bring something to a party.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
20 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups old fashion oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand or hand held mixer beat the butter and sugars together for 4 - 5 minutes until lightened in color and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. On low speed slowly add the flour mixture and oatmeal until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and cranberries.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Drop the dough in rounded tablespoons onto the sheet spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool on sheets five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, these cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for several days.
Note: The original recipe in Bon Appétit says to drizzle the cooled cookies with melted chocolate. I did this when I made the cookies for the donors, but typically I don’t bother with it. If I’m giving the cookies as a gift, it’s a nice touch. You may want to consider it if you want to make the cookies look a little more special for any reason. Simply melt a couple of ounces of white or milk chocolate in the microwave (stirring every 30 seconds so it doesn’t burn), or over a double boiler. Then transfer the melted chocolate to a small zip lock bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. Squeeze out the chocolate to drizzle over the cookies.