Tuesday, April 8, 2014

55 Forsyth


Today I went in search of my great grandmother Molly, the one who used to make Baked Barley with Mushrooms.  I pushed Ethan in his stroller through the streets of lower Manhattan while he slept, and there, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge I came upon a forgotten corner of the city where she used to live in 1911 at age 20.  The original building is not there anymore.  There's a small parking lot, some Chinese men smoking and spitting in the street.


For a little while I walked in her footsteps.  That woman I've never met, who died long before I existed.  Maybe her DNA is responsible for my long fingers and toes or my rare blood type.  Maybe her composition is why I have never broken a bone.  Perhaps she is the reason I love pumpernickel. 


Today, on my walk, I could see things in the grand scheme.  I think it's important not to forget.  Even though I never knew her, and know almost nothing about her.  It doesn't matter though.  Molly came long before me, and three generations later, I'm here because of her.

Next door, looks like an original building.
So even if all I do is make her barley with mushrooms, or maybe a rice pudding (certainly she ate that too) I will think of the strong women who came before me.  They lived harder lives than me, there is no doubting that.  I think that means I can rise to the challenge.

In Molly's time this was a Jewish Synagogue.  It's now a Greek Orthodox Church.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Plan


I remember Jean-Philipe, a Parisian I worked for when I was 20, laughing when I told him about my "plans."   Who knows what I was dreaming up at that age, but I had enthusiastically spelled it out with confidence for him.  "You can't plan life," he told me! 

He was mostly right.  I just sort of fell, or stepped, or leaped into several fortuitous situations in my young adult life, and kept moving ahead on my path. Still, I've kept on planning all these years, maybe it's the eternal optimist in me.   I make mental lists and day dream and somehow put one foot in front of the other and these lists get completed and my dreams become reality, well, sometimes.  

No, you can't plan whether your plane will arrive on time, or how you'll end up in another 20 years time.  But there's a lot you can plan, and count on.  Like what's for dinner all week, or more importantly, dessert.  So instead of flying by the seat of my pants,  I like to know that I'm never more than ten minutes away from a freshly baked cookie.  And this is how I do it.  With a plan, and some strategically frozen cookie dough.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with a hint of Coconut
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe

This dough can be frozen for up to a month (but I've left it longer and it's been fine, not to mention a nice surprise).  I usually prefer a cookie with lots of nuts but I sometimes bake them without, to accommodate my toddler who still gets frustrated with walnuts.  I like to substitute coconut palm sugar for a "healthier" cookie.  And I usually skimp on the amount of regular sugar, since most cookies taste too sweet for me.  But I've given Lebovitz's amounts below.  

Makes about 3 dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar (I prefer less)
¾ cup granulated sugar (I substituted coconut palm "sugar")
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
14 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand) beat together the butter, sugars and vanilla on medium speed until just smooth.
Beat in the eggs one at a time until throughly incorporated, then stir in the flour mixture, followed by the coconut, nuts (if using) and chocolate.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half.  Shape each piece into a log (resembling a 12 inch long baguette) and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm (or freeze at this point for later use).

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the logs into ¾ inch disks and place them a few inches apart on your backing sheet.  If the nuts or chips crumble out, simply press them back together.  

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies are lightly browned in the centers, about 10 minutes.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack.  

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