Ferran Adria and me with half of Jose Andres to the right.
I don't speak Spanish and Ferran Adria doesn't speak English so my words of gratitude and appreciation for his work were most likely not understood.  Too Bad.  Last night at the Minneapolis Institute of Art I listened to Adria's words through a translator as he spoke of his  avant garde cuisine and his take on creativity.  Jose Andres added funny anecdotes that illustrated Adrias points.  The assertion that his food is art when he told us that El Bulli broke the assumed rule that restaurants cook so people will like it.  Adria told us he cooked to stir emotion in his guests and that he never cooked for the money.  To dine at El Bulli was to "eat knowledge and creation", he said.
There was a lot to take in as he talked about creativity, authentic cuisines and their evolutions.  I look forward to thinking about what it would mean to standardize the language of cooking in the way that math and sciences have done
PictureJose Andres' Liquid Olive
Near  then end of the talk, Jose mentioned the famous Liquid Olives that Ferran created.  Jose said that he has made more money from selling Liquid Olives in his restaurants than El Bulli ever did.  He was once in a "Very Important Chef's" kitchen.  This chef asked him if he felt guilty about stealing Adria's olive idea.  Jose asked him if he chops, roasts, grills, or sautés anything in his restaurant.  Of course the answer was yes.  Then Jose asked, "Which one of those techniques did you invent, moron."  It was a beautiful way to point out how the evolution of cuisine has been rushed along a bit by Ferran Adria.

Then we left the auditorium and walked over to the tasting.  The room was crushingly full.  You earned every bite of food you got, battling your way through the crowds.   Some people politely queued up and waited their turn while other gladiator-types pushed in.

We started with dessert.  Michelle Gayer's Salty Tart offered up cute round butter cookies with a sweet multicolored sesame topping piled on top.  Next to that was a tray full of little sugared mini brioches filled with a nugget of halva, a sweet sesame fudge.

PictureRadish and Butter Tart
Most of these photos are terrible, but it was such a memorable night, I'm going to use them anyway.

Victory 44's radish and butter tart was one of my favorites.  A tender yet sturdy pastry case held a few slices of pristine radish.  The foam on top had the texture of whipped cream, but the flavor of an excellent cultured salted butter.  A pretty pink radish powder was dusted over it all.

Sadly, I did not get to taste this.  They ran out.  I'm guessing it was great.....

PictureRussel Klein's cured fish.
Across the way, Russell Klein put together a meticulous morsel of cured fish.  The salty fish was offset with pearls of citrus and a spicy nasturtium leaf.

Next to Russell was Lenny Russo.  He had a crispy toasted sandwiches make with a spicy house cured lamb.  These were a favorite of my husband and friends.  

PictureA woman with her head in the pig box.
Travail was well represented with four of their chefs on hand.  They also had the most theatrical offerings.  The first was a vegetarian charcuterie.  I stuck my head through the drapes and into a white box.  The inside of the box was brightly lit and papered with bright photos of pigs..in farm stalls , in mud, in pastures, and more.  The floor of the box was covered in sweet hay.  Of to the left was a small cast iron pan of what looked like apples cooked with cinnamon.  The most startling thing were the sounds of pigs grunting and squealing.  After one final loud squeal an arm thrust a breadstick wrapped in what appeared to be ham through the back of the box.  I opened my mouth and took it.  

Turns out, it was brined, cured, and smoked rutabaga dyed with beet juice.  It tasted great.  Very hammy on so many points. 

PictureMy hand job.
Next to the piggy box was another box called the hand job.  I put my hand through a hole in the front and a gentle gloved hand took mine and proceeded to put stuff on the back.  I pulled out my hand to reveal this and slurped it up in one bite.  Turns out it was a drop of honey topped with a rich liver mousse that was sprinkled with some puffed rice.  It was a great bite and very fun.  This was where I met Ferran.   He seemed to be amused by the scenes.  Then I was off to wash the sticky honey from my hands.

PictureLoaded Baked Potato
Next up was Steven Brown's Tilia.  He crafted a whimsical  loaded baked potato.  In the bottom of the cup was a little potato and cheese stuffed tortellini (the only cheese of the night, by the way).   Potato broth was poured over the top.  This was made by simmering the crispy fried skins of hundreds of baked potatoes and then reducing it until is was a luxurious and earthy jus. A sliver of Red Table's fine speck was draped over it all and a couple of batons of chives brightened up the bite.  

Jose Andres daughter was particularly fond of this bite, I heard.  She is only eight, but quizzed the chefs like a pro about how they made it, then promptly carried off a sample to her poppa.

Mike Phillips was able to send some of his excellent salumi off with Jose.  Jose seemed genuinely pleased.  He's in for a treat.

PictureDelicious and creative things from Hey Day
Hey Day had some nifty bites.  Here they are.  Nope, I can't remember exactly what they were.  The little bamboo dishes did sit neatly on top of my wine glass garnering some appreciative comments on my technique from my fellow tasters.

PictureLa Belle Vie's Beauties
La Belle Vie's presentation was gorgeous.  Wooden boxes were filled with a miniature rustic rock garden.  The no-plate-needed (thank you for this) bites were perched on top of the bigger rocks ready for you to pick up.  On the right was a paper thin shard of cranberry  sugar like fragile pink hued glass.  On top was a dollop of something creamy and good.  

On on the left was another of my favorites for the night.  A crunchy cracker of puffy crisp squid held a chewy piece of smoked scallop.  The olive oil was spun into a cream that dotted the squid cracker.

PictureLibertine's house made tofu.
Libertine's house made tofu gelled into a  simple custard flavored with a gentle mushroom broth.  Briny salmon roe sparkled next to a bit of micro green shiso.

Picturemy favorite of the night
This bite tops the list as my favorite.  I'm a sucker for octopus.  The octopus was simmered long and slow until it was tender then chopped and packed into a loaf pan.  When it chilled the natural gelatin from the tentacles  gelled holding it all together.  Thin slices were cut from the terrine that were then cut out into these perfect little rounds.  The little dots were emulsions of quajillo chile and avocado.  A little cilantro and a couple of pumpkin seeds added the perfect freshness and crunch.  Sigh.

Mike DeCamp from Monello made this fresh little crudo that was strewn with petals and kept cool with a bit of crushed ice.  He had nine cheesecloth poufs filled with flavored powders like lemon, cilantro, cumin and others. The idea was to pouf your crudo to your own liking.  It was a bit of a juggle, but fun.  Michael love the crushed ice--kind of like a fish sno-cone.

Pictureone bite paella
This is a playful one bite paella.  Built on a black olive cracker, a smear of spreadable chorizo anchors a good sized shrimp perfumed with saffron.  Tiny bits of pickled shrimp and a micro cilantro add pop and freshness.

The last table housed desserts made by Spoon and Stable's Diane Yang and La Belle Vie's Niki Franciioli.  The huckleberry marshmallows topped with pop rocks were a kick.  A sublime chocolate pudding layered with shards of brioche toast was topped with a whimsical foam and chocolate twigs.

Bradstreet Crafthouse made a great cocktail.  Not sure what was in it, but I had two.  

 As events go, it was waaaay overcrowded.  The event was not sold out and I cannot imagine packing any more bodies into that space.  That said, the chefs really kept up.  They hustled and charmed.  There was plenty of opportunities to chat with each chef if you wanted to.  I am bummed I didn't get to taste Isaac Becker's offering.   The trash situation was a little overwhelming.  The charming high top tables became trash dumps for most of the party.  Near the end, when I'm assuming a third of the tasters had gone home, the place was just right.  The room was full and lively, but you could move about and a few trash bins had appeared.   

Chances are good I've made mistakes in this little review, forgive me (or even better, correct me).  I wanted to get it all down before my memories got as blurry as my photos.  

A funny thing just happened at the grocery store.  I've had a long weekend...hosting 6 cooking demos with 6 different incredible chefs, roasting a whole hog overnight with Thomas Boemer... all in the name of fresh, sustainable, nourishing food.  I tracked over 20,000 steps on Friday AND Saturday.  Sunday I rested...and didn't do my hair or makeup.  I'm tired and it shows.

Tomorrow I have a TV segment in the afternoon on burgers on Twin Cities Live, so I did my grocery shopping tonight, 7 pm on a Sunday.  At the checkout I divided my food into TV food, and food for home.  The TV food went by first....ground beef and pork, two kinds of cheese, hot sauce, some tortillas, and a little lettuce.  I paid.  Then my own food went by....organic carrots, raspberries, grapes, and a melon.  While I was bagging the first batch and cashier said, "are these wick?".  I paused.  I wasn't sure what she meant by wick.  When she said it again it hit me. W.I.C--the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.  I felt funny.  I said, "no, why would you ask?".  Of course, in my head I was sure it was because I was wearing an old gray T-shirt, no makeup, and my air-dried hair twisted up with a clip and bobby pins.  She thought I was poor and I was embarrassed.  Then she said it was because I had all fruits and vegetables in my second order and that people using WIC will usually buy their "real food" separately.  

I laughed out loud at the situation.  Which was worse.  My own insecurities thinking my appearance made the world think I am too poor to afford my own  groceries or her statement that people using W.I.C. funds would really rather not be buying all those fruits and vegetables.    I smiled and told the pretty blond that some people might find that offensive (because it is).  I continued to chuckle to myself as I packed the rest of my groceries.  I bet she thought I was crazy...
Me as I was at the grocery store with no make up, old T, and undone hair....
We  had a blast at a friend's cabin last weekend.  I had a superb punch at Coqueta in San Francisco.  I recreated it at home and it is perfect for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.  

Agua de Valencia
Agua De Valencia  means “Valencian Water.”  It certainly is as easy to drink as water--beware.  My recipe is a riff on  a classic Spanish cocktail from the 50s.  Cheers.
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup gin
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled and cooled)
750 ml bottle cava (Spanish sparkling wine) or other sparkling wine
orange and lime slices for garnish
ice cubes
1.     In a pitcher stir together orange juice, gin, vodka, and simple syrup.  Chill.  Can be made a day ahead.  Chill cava.
2.     When ready to serve, stir in cava.
3.     Pour over ice and garnish with orange and lime slices if desired.

Makes 6 cocktails

This is a big pie...perfect for parties.  I took it to my friend, Mitch Kezar's party last night.  He is an amazing photographer specializing in outdoor, wildlife, hunting, and fishing photos.  I am honored to be his friend and could listen to him tell about his amazing adventures forever.  It was a pot luck and many farmers, anglers, and hunters were in attendance...so the food was AMAZING.  I brought this sheet pan of a pie.

It's such a handy thing to bring when you have a crowd.  I made strawberry rhubarb because my rhubarb has been wild this year and the first local strawberries are available, but it's just as good with blueberries, peaches or apples...just name your fruit.

I've always loved finding new, better ingredients.   I love Sunrise Flour, a locally milled flour, made from heritage varieties of wheat.  It seems that many sensitive to modern wheat can enjoy this without ill effects.  I'm loving the Organic Valley cultured unsalted butter, with it's European tang.  Costco has some affordable organic minimally processed cane sugar that is excellent.   By the way I thicken the pie just a bit with Minute Tapioca (a brand name), which is simply cooked cassava root and bit of lecithin shaped into pearls and dried.  It's my favorite thickener for fruit pies--cornstarch can fail in the presence of acid ingredients, like rhubarb, and flour can taste...well, floury.  

 Now for the pie.
adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

5 cups all-purpose flour (I like Turkey Red Heritage Refined Wheat Flour)
2 Tbsp. sugar (I like Kirkland Organic at Costco)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 cups unsalted butter (Organic Valley Cultured is my favorite)
1 cup ice water
  1. Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse just to mix.  Chop cold butter into pats and drop into machine.  Pulse until butter is incorporated into flour and resembles corn meal.
  2. With machine running, drizzle in ice water.  Do not over mix.  Stop machine and see if you can squeeze a handful of  dough into a ball. Dump crumbles of  dough onto work surface and press into two disks.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes, which is just about the time it takes to trim the fruit.  
2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and halved (6 cups)
2 lbs, rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca (Minute brand)
1/3 cup additional sugar for the top
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl, toss together berries, rhubarb, 1 1/2 cups sugar and tapioca
  2. Have a 14-inch jelly roll pan at  hand.  Lightly flour a work surface.  Shape one  flat disk of dough into a rough rectangle.   Roll into a 12x16 inch rectangle.  Place pan on top of dough to judge if it will fit.  Gently roll dough onto rolling pin and use pin to transfer dough to pan.  Unroll onto pan and gently shift and press dough to fit into edges and corners, allowing extra to hang over sides.  Roll remaining dough in the same manor, into an 11 by 15-inch rectangle.
  3. Toss filling again and dump into dough-ligned pan, spread evenly in pan.  Use rolling pin to drape top crust over fruit filling.   Press to seal around edges.  Use scissors or a knife to trim edges of dough to leave a 1 1/2-inch overhang.  Turn overhang under to build up edge a bit.  Press edges decoratively with a fork or pinch to crimp.  Cut about two-inch slits about every 4 inches in top to vent.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar.
  4. Place pie in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees F.  Bake until crust is deep golden and you can see juices bubbling in center slits, about 65 to 70 minutes.
  5. Remove pie to wire rack and allow to cool about an hour.  Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 servings

We've been feeding this nutrition packed seed to the birds for a long time.  American cooks are rediscovering millet.  I first met millet on a plate in culinary class in college.  It was a sorry sight--overcooked and tossed with canned fruit cocktail.  Not pretty.   It has a simple mildly sweet flavor that can be used anywhere you might use cous cous.   I'm looking for ways to pack more nutrition into my meals and cous cous does not earn it's place on my plate.  Enter, millet.

Cooked plain with a pinch of salt, as the package directs, it's a great foundation for anything saucy like exotic Moroccan dishes, homey stews, curries, or classic braised meats.  You can serve it up sweet as a hot cereal for breakfast; add some dried fruit, and few walnuts and some milk.  Cold cooked millet is great in salads like the millet tabbouleh below.
Millet cooked in broth with the addition of olive oil and parmesan cheese is a dandy dish on the side or add a salad and it makes a great lunch.
Millet Polenta
Millet Polenta 
This is nice as it is, but is great foundation for a saucy braised beef or eggplant ragu.

1 cup millet
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 /2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, if desired
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley
  1. In a medium dry saucepan, toast millet over medium heat until it is golden brown.  You will hear it begin to pop and it gives off a fragrance like popcorn.  Tip it into a dish for later.
  2. Add oil onion, garlic and salt to pan and cook 3 minutes or until onion is just translucent.
  3. Add pepper, broth, and toasted millet.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the heat.
  4. Fluff with a fork and lightly stir in parmesan, if using, and basil.  

Makes 4 servings

Millet Asparagus Pilaf
I added left over millet polenta to a pan of stir fried asparagus for a veggie packed side.  When asparagus season is over, use what ever is on hand--green beans, zucchini, red bell pepper....mix it up.
Who knew buckwheat was such a nutritional powerhouse?  Not me.   After reading up on it, I think if I ate enough of it I just might live forever..or develop super powers.   I've been seeing a wellness coach lately and she gave me an assignment last week to cook with buckwheat.  I've cooked with buckwheat before and knew it's quirkiness...but after working out the best Kasha Varnishkes recipe for the Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook,  I didn't give it another thought.  I'm glad I've given it a closer look.

Buckwheat (a.k.a. kasha) is a funny little fruit seed of a plant related to sorrel and rhubarb.  The flowers are very fragrant and beloved by bees.   The little seeds cook up just 15 minutes.    They give off a funky  barnyard aroma while cooking.  I suppose earthy or nutty might be a prettier way of saying it.  That aroma dissipates into a truly nutty flavor by the time it's ready.  Kasha is great with umami flavors like mushrooms, soy sauce, and blue cheese. 
Simply drizzle cooked kasha with truffle oil and toss with grated Parmesan and plenty of pepper for a lovely little side.  Kasha can be mushy if overcooked or over handled, so be gentle.  Prevent the mushy tendencies by"varnish" the groats with egg before cooking, making it a great grain for pilaf.  You can embrace the mush and turn cooked kasha into nifty veggie burgers.
When you shop for buckwheat look for whole toasted groats, you may see a crushed or cracked version on the shelf next to what you want.  Untoasted varieties are available as well. You'll want to toast those in a dry skillet before you cook them.  I cooked up a cup of kasha and tossed it in the fridge for quick meals later.

Basic Cooked Buckwheat Groats (a.k.a. kasha)
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 cup of whole toasted groats.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  

Buckwheat Pilaf with Mushrooms
The grains of buckwheat are varnished with egg just like the classic dish, kasha varnishkes, making a fluffy savory side or meatless main.

3 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buckwheat groats
3 cups beef or vegetable stock or low sodium canned
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
truffle oil, if desired
  1. in a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook until onion is tender and mushrooms are beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.   
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir egg into groats, stirring until well coated.  
  3. Increase heat to medium high and add groats.  Cook, stirring, until egg has dried and groats are separate.  
  4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until stock is absorbed, about 10 minutes.  
  5. Fluff with a fork and toss in parsley.  Drizzle with truffle oil, if desired.

Makes 8 side dish servings
Japanese Buckwheat Salad
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, so it made sense to me to use those same ingredients in this quick whole grain salad.  Tastes great fresh, but even better the next day.  Spoon this on top of baby spinach for a satisfying lunch. 
2 cups cooked and cooled buckwheat groats
1 carrot, shredded
1 small bell pepper, cut into slivers
1/4 English cucumber, cut into slivers
2 green onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup Japanese vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Toss all ingredients together.  Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 4 side dish servings

Japanese Vinaigrette
This makes more than you need for the recipe.  
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp. toasted sesame seed oil
2 tsp. hot chili garlic sauce (like sriracha)
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil

Whisk together.  Keeps for a week refrigerated.

Kasha Burgers
Basic simple flavors are ready for your favorite burger toppings.  Sharp cheddar and blue cheese are a great addition.
1 grated carrot (about 1/2 cup)
2 green onions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 cups cooked kasha
1 Tbsp. flour or chickpea flour
1 Tbsp. water
  1. In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 Tbsp. of oil.  Add vegetables and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, add kasha.  Knead with your hands or mash with a potato masher to create a coarse paste.  Stir in vegetables. Sprinkle flour and water over all and mix well.
  3. Shape into two patties.
  4. Heat remaining oil in skillet.  Add patties and cook until browned, about 4 minutes.  Carefully turn and cook another 4 minutes.  Top with sliced cheese now if desired.
  5. Serve on buns with your favorite burger toppings.

Makes 2 patties

I'm doing a demo on this Saturday at noon in Eagan, MN at the Le Creuset  outlet store.    I get to use all their yummy pots to create something special for mom.  It's spring-ish and the air is still often cool, so I landed on making a variation of Eggs Benedict made all in one skillet with the added bonus of a bunch of fresh veggies.  Stand by for the Truffled Bacon Hollandaise I've drizzled over the top--I made in in 3 minutes in a blender.  

I only do this sort of thing for products I truly love.  I truly love all things Le Creuset.  The heavy cast iron and the non reactive slick enamel finish are a joy--creating a nice brown flavorful fond and cleaning up easily.
Skillet Eggs Benedict with Pan Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

I love Eggs Benedict, but rarely make it at home because it makes such a mess….frying ham slices in one pan, poaching eggs in another, making a sauce in a third.   I’ve made things easier.  Bacon and pan roasted veggies form a nest for the eggs to poach in while I whip up a fast blender hollandaise.

3 slices bacon, chopped
4 to 6 oz. fresh mushrooms sliced (a mixture is good)
1 small onion, cut into wedges
8 oz. asparagus, washed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 cups spinach
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
4 eggs
salt and pepper
4 thick slices whole grain bread, toasted
Truffled Bacon Hollandaise

1.     Cook bacon in a large deep skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon to a plate and spoon out all but a Tbsp. of drippings (save one Tbsp. for the sauce, if desired.)

2.     Over medium heat, add mushrooms and onion to pan with the bacon drippings.  Sprinkle with a little salt.  Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown a bit and the onions are tender.

3.     Add reserved bacon, asparagus, spinach and tomatoes, tossing to combine.  Create a hollow for each egg.  Slip one egg into each vegetable nest.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until egg whites are set and the yolks are thickened.

4.     Place toast on serving plates or platter.  Top each toast with an egg and a portion of the vegetables.  Drizzle with warm hollandaise.  Garnish with fresh chives, if desired

Makes 4 servings

Truffled Bacon Blender Hollandaise

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. Bacon fat
1 Tbsp. black truffle olive oil
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or hot sauce

1.     Heat butter slowly in a small pot until it foams.  Add bacon fat and truffle oil.  Heat again just until it foams.
2.     Meanwhile, drop egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne into a blender. Blend the egg yolk mixture 20-30 seconds or until it’s pale and golden.
3.     With the motor running, drizzle in the hot melted butter mixture.  Run the blender a few seconds longer after the butter has been incorporated.
4.     Keep warm until ready to serve.  Leftovers don’t reheat well, but taste great cold spread on toast.

It's not about the ketchup.  It's about learning how to take locally grown fruits and vegetables and turn them into something greater than the sum of their parts.  My home chapter, the Crow River Sustainable Farming Association is coming together to figure this out. We are using simple ketchup as a model.  This is a test run, but we used as many local products as we could:  onions, garlic, honey, and sunflower seed oil.  
Tomorrow a sample will be on it's way to a lab for testing and then we can label and sell our wares.   Pretty cool!  

There will be lots more to tell about this story...stay tuned......
...a little knife work...
The final product...
A jar full of Double Chocolate Cookies topped with sparkling sea salt.
Lucia's To Go in Minneapolis sells luscious double chocolate sea salt cookies.  I live an hour from said cookies.  I've fiddled around with recreating them at home and actually the pastry chef who bakes them is always kind and generous with her recipes.  But finally I was forced by tragic circumstances to develop this cookie recipe myself.

My mother makes fantastic double chocolate cookies.  Her old recipe uses vegetable shortening.  I won't use that anymore because it's nasty stuff that's bad for me.  However.....it does make nicely shaped, soft cookies.  Mom doesn't use it anymore either.  She just switched in all butter.  If you are a very experienced baker, like mom, you can fiddle around and add a bit more flour and pull the cookies out early when they are still gooey.  These kind of adjustments are often done without even really thinking.   The butter swap can make them a bit too crispy and prone to spreading.  I hadn't thought about them for years.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015.  My business partner's wife needed a good easy chocolate cookie to round out her holiday baking. I remembered my mom's good cookies and shared the recipe.....without testing it myself.  I know better.  When a professional cook with eons of baking experience who also happens to be a friend gives you a recipe, you assume it will work....right?
not good cookies........too spready....
The above photo was texted to me with the question, "is this right?"  The answer is no. I was horrified.  I tried to figure out what happened.  Insulated pan, light flour measure,  the butter..... What ever it was I need to fix it.  Today I fixed it and added the sea salt topping....like Lucia's.  
Tips and Tools for Great Cookies
  1. Use aluminum baking sheets with no edges--not insulated
  2. I love a baking sheet with a pebbled surface.  It gets an ugly patina after a while making it almost nonstick.  
  3. I love baking parchment--you can pull an entire sheet of cookies off the sheet to finish cooling on the counter in one swift tug--no pans to wash
  4. Use a small metal spatula with an angled "blade" to lift cookies from the pan
  5. Take cookies out of oven when cookies are just set and the center looks still looks a bit wet
  6. Let cookies stand on baking sheet 2 minutes before removing to cool on racks or waxed paper
  7. To measure flour, dip your cup into the flour and sweep off the excess with a flat blade of a knife
Double Chocolate Sea Salt Cookies
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (12oz.) pkg chocolate chips
large flake sea salt, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and eggs.
  3. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, mix until well combined, scraping sides and bottom of bowl once.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.  
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets.  flatten slightly by pressing dough with your hand.  Sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.
  6. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until just set.  DO NO OVER BAKE. 
  7. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes before removing to waxed paper to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
Minnesota in January....sigh.....
It's a cruel joke that the coldest, bleakest days of winter come right after the new year's bright shiny promises of eating better and exercising.  How about a compromise?  This luscious egg dish is really just reverse engineered scrambled eggs.  The milk and herbs are mixed into the already hard cooked yolks.   
Jaque Pepin's mother's Eggs Jeanette taste rich and decadent, but are actually quite sensible and perfect for our Sunday Brunch.  I'll be making these more often.  I resolve to keep a half dozen or so hard cooked eggs on hand.
Eggs Jeannette
based on a recipe by Jacque Pepin
Serve this up with a bright citrusy tossed salad for a satisfying brunch or supper.

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (parsley or chives are classic but cilantro and bit of chopped jalapeno are very good)
2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
reserved egg filling
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. good olive oil (flavored or nut oils are great here too)
salt and pepper
  1. Halve eggs and pop the yolks into a small bowl.  Mash yolks with a fork.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except oil.  Use fork to mash all the ingredients together.  Reserve 2 Tbsp. for sauce.
  3. Spoon filling back into egg, spreading top flat.
  4. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add egg, flat side down, and let cook, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned.  Arrange on serving plate, browned side up.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine all sauce ingredients.  Beat until smooth and spoonable with a fork or small whisk.  Add more water if it is too thick.  Taste and add salt and pepper to correct seasoning.
  6. Immediately spoon sauce over warm eggs

Makes 3 to 4 servings

HLR Cellars guesthouse in Calistoga, California.
In a couple of weeks, I'm running away from the snow to HLR vineyards in Calistoga, California.  This Minnesota family has wisely relocated to warmer climes and are making wonderful wines.  Their Hella licious is my favorite.  Start by buying a well-priced case and after three you can run away to their guest house, too.  It's a hella good deal.