Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scottish Shortbread Cookies


I've loved shortbread all my life. Even as a Girl Scout I like the shortbread cookies more than the Thin Mints and the Samoas, and while visiting Edinburgh Scotland last month I rekindled my love of shortbread with the authentic Scottish treat. After buying less than satisfying substitutes back home I thought I'd try to recreate the real deal and asked my Twitter community if anyone had a recipe for the authentic buttery shortbread I was craving.

@chefrb Chef R-B was the first and only to respond with a family Scottish Shortbread recipe her mom made when she was a kid. Click the link to see her full original recipe and the detailed and perfect baking directions on her website BakingSOSAnswers where she uses a butter substitute in pursuit of a healthier end product.

I'll provide my modified version here with a photo demo by my 4 year old sous chef, Zen. I had to substitute ingredients b/c we're moving in a week and most of my stuff is packed up, plus I want to use up what we have before the move. So I used selfl-rising flour (I know, crazy, right?), salted butter and granulated sugar. And as @chefrb said this recipe is foolproof. Even with the substitutions and the beating the dough took from my 4 yr old the cookies turned out fantastic! I will make this recipe again and again experimenting with ingredients and flavors b/c it's simple, clean and yummy!

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

adapted from Chef R-B's version of the recipe found in “Bentley Farm Cookbook” by Virginia Bentley
½ pound salted butter, softened to room temperature
½ C. granulated sugar
2 ¼ C. self-rising flour flour

Cream butter & sugar by hand
Cream .5# butter & .5c sugar by hand

Incorporate flour in batches
Incorporate flou in batches then knead

Knead by hand
Keep kneading

Keep kneading for at least 5 minutes
...And kneading

Shape into a 7x9 rectangle, score into 6x5 grid and poke each cookie w/ a knife for "dimples". Bake 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until just golden.
Cut, poke and bake

Remove from oven, cut and let cool thoroughly.
Score w sharp knife, cool thoroughly...

Fajita Night

When grilling, you ever notice that once the coals are "just right" you've cooked your steak or whathaveyou? Well we've remedied this by cooking any and everything that ever had a face when we light the grill, and it will result in some point in Fajita Night, either because of the plethora of fresh meat hot off the grill, or the tsunami of leftover meat in the subsequent nights.

There are two things that make Fajita Night the best night of the week: 1) marinated meat, 2) fresh condiments.

In this house we're BIG on marinating meat cuz let's face it, chicken tastes like chicken I don't care how you cook it. So if you want to impart flavor and make THIS chicken taste different from the LAST chicken then you gotta mix up a flavor profile using herbs, spice and whatnot. I'm also big on the Three Ingredient Rule when it comes to marinades b/c much more than that, the flavors get muddled.

Fresh condiments are vital b/c they bring those top notes to the table, fresh cilantro and onions and lime, salsa fresca, queso fresco, whatever it is you like, it needn't be overly processed, or processed at all. When the meat hits the grill, I start slicing onions and tomatoes, melting cheese and picking cilantro, and by the time the carne is finito the side fixin's are done and we can sit and grub.

So here's the meat and marinades from last night's Fajita Night:
Pork Chops with ginger, nutmeg, clove and soy sauce
Prk chops w ginger nutmeg clove & soy sc

Split hens with cumin, garlic and lime zest
Split hens w cumin garlic & lime zest

Ribeye with oregano, garlic and black pepper
Ribeye marinating w oregano & garlic

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad w Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes

This week's cooking demo at Delta Dental was in a No-Cook Zone up on the seventh floor of an office building. There was also the time constraint of only 45 mintues, when normally I do at least an hour to an hour and a half for a demo. I decided to prepare a rice dish and a pasta dish for making salads which are a breeze to throw together, but would still give me time to "walk through" the ingredients discussing the important nutrition, shopping and culinary tips along the way. I cooked both the rice and pasta ahead of time and rinsed them under cold water to prep for the salads that I prepared on site.

The rice dish was a version of the popular Black Rice Mediterranean Salad that's been a hit all summer (don't think I ever make this dish exactly the same way twice b/c it really depends on the best produce available).

The pasta dish was a Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Roasted Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes. This makes a BIG BATCH so cut the portions in half for a dish to serve 4-6 people as a side or main dish.

Most of the ingredients can be picked up already prepared in the grocery store, but you'll have to me mindful of the increased sodium content that comes with prepared foods, and honestly your roasted chicken will taste better than Hormel's (I'm just sayin') and this is a great dish to use up any leftovers.

Substitute ingredients as the mood and availability strike, and keep in mind the marinated artichokes and the lemon juice will provide the "dressing" for the salad so no need to add more fat.

Want a vegetarian version? Simply omit the chicken and put in your protein of choice: nuts, eggs, un-chickn, tofu, whatever floats your boat. This is a very forgiving, yet tasty recipe.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Roasted Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes
1 box of cooked whole wheat linguine
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained & roughly chopped
18 oz roasted chicken breast, roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
juice from 2 lemons
grated Parmesan cheese

Break linguine into 2" lengths and cook following package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.

Combine onions, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, bell pepper, oregano, spinach and chicken in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled pasta and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.