Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

This is where you write something pithy.
This is where you tell a funny joke.
Or where you share a photo to awaken
an urge inside for just one bite.
Life comes to us, a whole pie, lattice intact.
We share one slice. We take one for ourselves.
We feast in quiet corners on the crumbs or lick
the juice pooling by the fruit so none of it is waste.
This is where I try to make you like me.
This is where I pretend it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
This is where I tease you with something sturdy
like oats, wickedly bathed in oil and simple
syrup, hazelnuts knocking into chocolate chunks.
And I take out one bowl for you and I take out
one bowl for me that we might sit in the silence
of our thoughts, knowing all we can do is feed
the need to be known even if we appear
as composite photos of our actual selves online.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

Chocolate Hazelnut Earl Grey Granola

You can find the Earl Grey syrup recipe and several other ways to use this simple sweetener in Steeped. The hazelnuts make this granola great, coated in Earl Grey syrup. I’m already a fan of hazelnuts and citrus, so this pairing continues the love affair. I detest the flavor of canola oil and do not find it neutral in flavor. If you don’t have safflower, try using grapeseed instead. I add the chocolate at the end so it doesn’t melt into the granola but instead keeps its girlish figure. I like to eat this with almond milk or cow’s milk. And let me just say if you like to slurp cereal milk, you will find the dregs of this granola subtly redolent of sweet Earl Grey.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
 

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Earl Grey simple syrup

¼ cup safflower oil

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped or ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 275F. Line a roasting sheet pan with parchment paper. Stir together the oats, hazelnuts, salt, sesame, syrup, and oil in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until coated. Dump and flatten the Earl Grey oat mixture into a thin layer on the prepared pan. Cook for 40 minutes, removing the pan in eight minute intervals, to stir the granola and flatten it back into a thin layer before putting it back in the oven. Cool the granola for 10 to 15 minutes before mixing in the chocolate. Store the granola in a sealed container in your pantry.

chocolate hazelnut earl grey granola- anneliesz

San Mateo Cooking Class: Celebrate Hot Tea Month

San Mateo Cooking Class - steeped book stephanie shih

photo by Stephanie Shih

This one’s going to be a quickie, but stay tuned because I’ve got a recipe coming your way soon that I’m tweaking and re-tweaking until it’s just right and ready to share with you. If you are in the Peninsula or South Bay, you are invited to celebrate National Hot Tea Month through learning how to cook with tea. Sign up for this San Mateo cooking class at Draeger’s Market Cooking School. Only a few spots remain. We would love for you to join us in this exploration of a familiar ingredient with a new twist.

What’s on the menu, you ask? We’ve primed the plate with a selection of winter dishes to keep you cozy with healthy comfort food. To start, we will make and nosh on White Bean Walnut Tea Toasts. Spinach Salad with Masala Chai Maple Pecans will accompany Orange-Jasmine Brussels Sprouts, while we ladle Smoky Tomato Soup into bowls. As a sweet ending, we will warm ourselves up from the inside out with creamy Chamomile Risotto. The meal like Steeped, the book, celebrates the incredible fruits and vegetables within our reach in California, and is vegetarian.

If you’re a cooking class junkie like myself, you will be in for a treat in this hands-on class. I promise you will leave with ways to use tea in your everyday cooking to employ the next day. My goal with the recipes in Steeped was to provide easy ways for the leaves of this beloved beverage to flavor familiar foods. We will explore cooking with tea techniques and how each of the teas mentioned in Steeped asserts itself in a different way flavor-wise as well as texturally. Bring your cooking with tea questions to this San Mateo cooking class for us to discuss as we share a meal together.

Let’s cook together & get steeped.

 

 


Red Wine Chili

Red Wine ChiliJacques Pepin got me thinking: how many recipes does one person commit to memory in their lifetime? The question doesn’t suggest a one-size-fits-all answer but maybe you’re already beginning to rattle off recipe names or tick fingers doing a lap on the mental treadmill of memory.

The only time we ever stirred a pot of slow-cooked chili in my childhood home aligned with ominous clouds darkening the sky above as rain lashed the ground outside. It became almost a Pavlovian response: when the rain came, so did my craving for chili. In Texas, one of the important details of the chili-eating experience involves the curlicue corn chip known as the Frito. I can’t recall really ever wanting those chips outside of providing a nuance of crunch to the duet of chili-spiced ground beef and beans with its volcanic rupture of melted cheddar cheese.

Taste memories form us into the eaters we are. We may not pledge allegiance to the flavors of our childhood once we become adults, but their imprint can catapult us quickly back to a place in our past, faster than we might be able to conjure them up without the olfactory and taste bud assistance.

It’s not that we eat chili often now at home at all. I can count only two occurrences we’ve pulled together a pot this year and perhaps not coincidentally they’ve coincided with the arrival of rain. But, there’s something about taking what is known and teasing it out—seeing how far the boundaries extend before it no longer looks or acts or tastes like its initial point of departure. Would it be accurate to suggest we are all adaptations of our former selves, much like the chili recipe of now can be credited back to the flavors that formed in our taste bank many years ago?

For Christmas Eve last year, part of our family congregated around a table in a dimly lit restaurant in the wine country. We would cloister around the massive paella pan the next day preparing and waiting to dig up the crusty bits of rice still clinging and etched into the bottom of the pan of what had become tradition. But, this evening, we huddled in elegant Dry Creek Kitchen, playing the part of happy family, unfettered by a fissure whose full impact is still deeply felt a year later. I ordered the tasting menu and marveled at the soft poached egg melting into the housemade ricotta paired with spiced warm brioche and red currant vinaigrette. This led to second course of spiral cut ham salting roasted butternut squash risotto with a peppery pop of arugula and sweet maple glacage. By the main course of Pop’s Prime Rib Wellington, we had all pretty much pled mercy and requested to-go boxes.

Red Wine Chili

Two days later, we fished out the leftover prime rib steaks, considering how we might present them anew for dinner. A decent bottle of red table wine sat on the counter and one thing led to another. The flavors formed into a Spanish and Sonoma-inspired red wine chili with chunks of steak. We sat around steaming bowls that night as the savory aroma wafted up from our spoons. Through the disparate odds and ends leftover from the grand celebrations, we had created something unexpected and good.

The holidays can be tricky to navigate as they come fraught with expectation as much as ensuing excitement. They can bring to the surface leftover hurts of a misplaced comment or issues that we thought we had resolved and healed. Looking at leftover meat doesn’t usually inspire the kind of admiration of the original plate with its thoughtful garnish and presentation. But leftovers can teach us a lot about ourselves. They give us a second chance to make what was originally someone else’s creation, our own. It’s not easy forgiving small grievances that can compound into one ball of recollection. But the thing with holidays is they too are an attempt at second chances—every year we get an opportunity to try again and learn better how to celebrate life with each other.

What we might not see at first glance is that holding onto leftover hurts allows them to keep us shackled to the past instead of moving gracefully into the future. Forgiveness might seem like an odd gift to give at the holidays, but no wrapping can contain its incredible value. It is in its way a fresh start, a chance to open the to-go box, survey the cold meat inside and say, how can I make this good again?

 

Red Wine Chili

Red Wine Chili

In a different chili recipe I made a while back, I had jotted a note to self to try using chipotle chili in a future iteration. Oh, yes. Look for the small can of chipotles in adobo sauce in the Latin American aisle of your supermarket. My obsession with figs runs deep and I wanted to play around with the idea of letting a hint of their natural sweetness play into a chili-laced paste that’s simmered tomatoes with a bit of red wine, and thyme. This is definitely a game-changer for me. I had never made my chili using a paste before, but as I was thinking about texture and wanting to both concentrate the flavors in the base, I decided to simmer and puree and now I’m not looking back. The figs also act as a thickener in the homemade chili paste. In some circles, cooking with wine might come across as a bad way for the bottle to go down. But, I find a judicious glug of decent dry red makes a well-served sacrifice in this chili. It adds body and depth, and should come from a vintage you would like to drink, since the rest of the bottle will be the cook’s (and company’s) libation. I used Healdsburg Reserve Merlot from Split Creek Farms. When it comes to garnishing chili, we are of two minds in our household. You might find as I did that the chili tastes best on its own or with a dollop of yogurt. Nathan added cheddar to his bowl and between spoonfuls, pronounced this the best chili he has ever eaten, so there might be something to that. However you serve it, make sure to break out the corn chips.

Serves 4 huge bowls to 6 small bowls

 

2 cups plus 1 cup diced tomatoes and juice (1 28-ounce can)

4 ounces dried California mission figs, stemmed (1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons adobo sauce plus 1 chipotle pepper

3 tablespoons plus 1 cup dry red table wine

Fresh thyme leaves from 1 sprig (1/2 teaspoon)

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large white onion, peeled and medium chopped (2 cups)

1 pound ground beef

1 cooked ribeye steak, cool and cubed

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 carrot, peeled and small grated (1/2 cup)

2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt

Organic corn chips

Whole milk yogurt, optional

Sharp cheddar cheese, optional

 

Simmer 2 cups of tomatoes and juice with the figs, adobo sauce, chipotle pepper, 3 tablespoons of red wine, thyme leaves, and chili powder on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile drizzle and swirl the olive oil into a skillet set over medium-low heat and cook the onions for 15 minutes, until almost translucent, stirring sporadically. Add and brown the ground beef in the skillet with the onions. Turn off the heat under the pot of chili-laced figs and transfer the chili-laced figs to a blender. Remove the cap off the lid and place a towel over the hole. Blend until smooth. Pour the chili-fig puree into a large stockpot. Stir in the remaining cup of red wine, cup of diced tomato and juice, steak, beans, carrot, and salt to the pot. Add the ground beef and onions to the pot. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with yogurt and cheddar if desired. Serve with corn chips.


Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies anneliesz

How is a tradition made? I’m inclined to think the plain response is repetition. But look for the underlying root cause and you’ll find desire–that holds something of intrinsic interest. Is it desire for gobbling sugar-laden rounds, crispy or chewy at a yearly cookie swap? Perhaps. But, peek beneath that layer of parchment paper and the desire goes well beyond unsalted butter creamed into brown sugar and granulated white. If we cook to nourish, we bake to share.

Growing up, Christmas cookies didn’t factor into our holiday experience. My mom regularly kept keen tabs on the sugar supply entering our house. Once, while visiting family in Mexico, my eyes bugged out of my head seeing the elaborate platters of cookies baked simply for service when guests visited. Can you imagine keeping a cookie inventory with the expectation of people regularly visiting? More often, cookies around here get frozen, packed up and toted to work or washed down with a sip of tea. But, once a year, for the past few, we congregate to share cookies with friends who have brought their own batch to dispatch to a new home.

This year, I contemplated making this year’s get-together the final hurrah in a string of past year cookie parties. I thought I had baked my last Christmas cookie until the day of the party when I pulled down the new cookbooks I had been waiting to put to good use and which I’m going to highlight below. What I had failed to see as I considered cutting the cookie swap ties is what I actually love about cookie parties. Each person brings cookies that reflect their personality, whether they’re nuanced and complex, simple and straightforward, or adventurous. This year’s batch was no less interesting.

Pierre Herme chocolate sables sidled up to chocolate peanut butter buckeyes. Linzer cookies with cranberry orange jam sat near Mexican pfeffernusse. Saffron snickerdoodles and sandwich cookies cut in animal shapes slicked with tomato jam set up shop near double chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate fudge punctuated by white chocolate chips kept company with chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies with hot fudge. The array of cookies distributed on the platters reflected the interesting assemblage of characters in our house. Each person’s individuality positively impacted the party and the wild collection of cookies served as a visual depiction.

Snickerdoodles - Cookie Love

“Any Which Way But You Will Never Lose” Snickerdoodles

from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

When my friend Kate’s newest cookbook came out in April, I pre-ordered it even though I knew I wouldn’t use it until December. I’ve visited Mindy’s HotChocolate in Chicago and toted home a bag of one of her hot chocolate blends to keep the sweetness going strong. What I liked right off the mark with Cookie Love is how cookie plates play a regular role at HotChocolate.  The book is organized like a cookie plate–even the table of contents resembles a tic-tac-toe grid of cookie types. Segal says, “Like serving a cookie plate, making cookies is a generous act.” (p. 4) Her cookie plates focus on providing cookies of different textures, flavors, and colors, offering a cookie type for each kind of eater. Two methods for shortbread yield fun and aesthetically pleasing sandy crisps of Leopard Print Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Shortbread with Hot Fudge (p. 61). Best Friends cookies (p. 119) marry coffee and malted milk hot fudge. In her tough love front matter section, Segal implores you to “Embrace the extras.” (p.4) She puts her methods where her mouth is giving multiple ways that extras can be used up. The photography is inventive and sometimes whimsical much like the cookie-maker herself, evidenced in cookies like the Black Sabbath (p. 85), a deep dark chocolate sandwich cookie with frosty peppermint filling and that pays homage to Segal’s appreciation for heavy metal. Next up on the cookie-baking front: quite possibly the Peanut Butter Thumbprints with Strawberry Lambic Jam (p. 145). But, for the Cookie Swap, I made the Snickerdoodles. Rolled in cinnamon sugar, the flavor is all familiar but the cookie clincher can be easily summed up as two kinds of salt–one to round out the sweetness and the other, a bit of crunch. It just so happened that Kate brought Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprints dented with gooey hot fudge, a variation of Hot Fudge Thumbprints (p. 147) that another party-goer exulted over when the second layer of cookies made an appearance.

Chocolate Wafer Cookies - Gluten Free Wishlist

Chocolate Wafer Cookies

from Gluten-Free Wishlist by Jeanne Sauvage

I met Jeanne in person only this year during a brief trip to Seattle. She kindly let me prep for a cooking demo in her kitchen and after every last ingredient had been measured and bagged, we sat down for tea and she offered me cookies from a batch she was testing. That cookie! Chewy in the middle, crisp around the edges and deeply doused in chocolate, it left quite an impression. When she offered to pack up the batch for me to ferry away to my hotel room, I happily accepted them. Every year at the Cookie Party, I bake a batch of gluten-free cookies. I knew that this year’s fete needed to include one of her cookies and she happily sent me a copy of her cookbook to check out and cook through. I love the premise behind Gluten-Free Wishlist creating a collection of recipes that include foods that have been missed when living gluten-free. As testament to that idea, one Cookie Party attendee decided to purchase a copy of the cookbook for his sister upon seeing the photo of Ramen Soup (p. 186) on the cover. Sauvage’s foundation in technique comes through in her precise instruction, including a six-page method for making Croissants (p. 147) with a variation for Chocolate Croissants. Using Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (p. 39), a blend that kicks off the book means the recipes  that follow it are straightforward with expert guidance of what to look for as you bake and cook. The morning of the Cookie Party, I was running a bit behind schedule and I say this primarily to highlight how easy the Chocolate Wafer Cookies (p. 196) were to make. If I’d had enough time, I would have converted those Chocolate Wafer Cookies into Jeanneos (p. 205), slathering their middles with frosting. And the same cookies would make a fabulous base crust for an icebox pie (hello, Peanut Butter Cream or Banana Cream Pie!). I’m eyeing the Soft Pretzels (p. 69) next and am intrigued by the Gluten-Free Master Sourdough (p. 87) though the recipe for Stroopwafels (p. 206) hits all the high notes for Dutch food taste memories of morsels my Dad would bring home from Henk’s Black Forest Bakery.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts - Gluten-Free Girl Everyday

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Gluten-Free Girl Everyday by Shauna James Ahern with Daniel Ahern

Over in Emeryville, there’s a tiny bakery that sells a screamingly good hazelnut chocolate chip cookie. For this year’s Cookie Party, I knew I wanted to bake two types of gluten-free cookies because I figured most of the cookies friends would bring would be glutenful and I knew three people attending are gluten-avoiders. I wanted their cookie options to be interesting, delicious, and safe. When Shauna James Ahern and Dan Ahern launched a kickstarter last November, I kicked in and was rewarded with a box of their gluten-free flour with a chocolate chip cookie recipe on the side of the box. I had a hunch that the ingredients were within reach and proceeded to mix them together. I discovered happily the suggestion to add chopped hazelnuts to the batter. Bingo! When these cookies hit the cooling rack, it was mighty hard to hold myself back from just eating one with chocolate melting as the cookie is torn in two. Aside from the cookie being a good gluten-free cookie, this was one good cookie. I spirited over to my cookbook shelf. Sure enough, inside Ahern’s James Beard award-winning cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, there on page 289, was the Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts recipe. Ahern and I worked together at a previous company. Her writing wins me over and her recipes are easy to navigate. Earlier this year, we earmarked several of their recipes while going through a Whole 30 nutrition reset. I’ve bookmarked others like the Edamame and Sweet Rice Salad with Salty Seeds (p. 151) for a quick weeknight meal or the Millet Fritters with Feta, Spinach, and Golden Raisins (p. 98).  I’ve made their Millet Waffles with Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche, and Capers (p.103) which were light, crunchy, briny, creamy, and smoky. This cookbook leans on the more savory side and so do I.

Christmas Cookies- anneliesz

I believe in Christmas and the reason for the season. But, I also wish my friends Happy Hanukkah who celebrate that holiday and send Happy Holidays greetings to friends who exchange gifts without attachment. This is the first year I’ve caught a few sentiments thrown out declaring, “Happy Everything!” and I don’t know what that means. Let’s say that next year, the cookie party assembled under one theme, say chocolate chip cookies. I can guarantee that if there are 15 people in attendance, there will be 15 variations on the same chocolate chip cookie idea. And doesn’t that diversity make for a more interesting conversation?

It’s hard to celebrate the season singing Christmas carols or being merry and bright in light of recent events including the massacre in San Bernardino. The Los Angeles Times style of reporting short bursts of updates has satisfied my need to know and stay current, perhaps to my detriment as I scroll and refresh the page with frequency, gobbling information like aforementioned cookies. We are at the start of two holidays that are celebrations and in the back of my mind I think about employees gathered at an ordinary office Christmas party in Southern California, not knowing as they drank cider or punch that their lives were about to change. Perhaps they too ate cookies before the doors splayed open.

We gather together bringing who we are to the table. What we bring, who we are can vary differently from the person next to us, but isn’t that part of the beauty of a cookie swap? Your cookie will be different from my cookie and that makes it delicious in its own right. I can’t imagine requiring everyone to bring the same cookie made from the same recipe as the only way to party. Each cookie and each person who bakes them holds so much intrinsic worth. Sometimes, it is all we can do to come to a cookie party, toting a baker’s dozen to share with the stranger who looks nothing like us and who just might become a new friend. Sometimes, it is all we can do to spread cheer and be the change we wish to see in our world, in our living room, right here.


Tea with Tastemakers Podcast: Episode 2

tea with tastemakers tea podcast

Do you have a car ride ahead of you for a certain holiday of thankfulness this week? To sweeten the miles, our newest episode of Teatime with Tastemakers tea podcast is up! And, good news—we are in the process of getting the podcast up on the iTunes store. Stay tuned for that update.

Expo West 2015

But, first, I felt it fitting to invite you to a conversation with another local tea maker, this time we ventured past San Rafael, California and our first podcast episode with Silk Road Teas to Novato, California and a tea company where each employee is designated as a minister.

Rose and Cabernet Iced Teas

When I think of Republic of Tea, my mind jets through the flavor rolodex of taste memories to the Bazaar Café in San Francisco. It’s not a flavor from their line of Grateful Dead teas or even from the newer line of Downton Abbey teas that comes to mind.

Chardonnay Tea

Instead, Blackberry Sage black tea, Ginger Peach black tea or Wild Blueberry black tea bloom into focus. (Do you sense a trend? Republic of Tea boasts 300 teas / blends.)

Rose Tea

At the 2014 San Francisco Tea Festival, I chatted with one of their ministers of trade about working in the tea industry. Another time, I sat next to the minister of innovation  who has overseen product development for many years–her sources of inspiration on new flavors fascinated.

Chardonnay Tea

Their new releases of teas and tea lines remind me of fashion collections (which might make sense given they were originally started in 1992 by former Banana Republic co-founders, Mel and Patricia Ziegler {along with Bill Rosenzweig}, though the Rubin family has been at the helm of ROT since 1994, under the leadership of Ron Rubin until recently in May when son, Todd succeeded him).

Sonoma Tea Tasting

Earlier this year at the San Francisco Fancy Food show and then at the Natural Products Expo West show, I had a chance to visit their booth and see their flavor innovation at work. Their expansive line of flavors has included recently Matchia or Chia Chai which are both fun to say and to sip / chew.

Hot Mulled Tea

This spring, they introduced a Sonoma Tea line… made of spent wine grape skins that really surprised me with the clever approach and collaboration with wine country company, WholeVine. I had a chance to try the sangria teas at their Expo West booth in Anaheim and then later received an invitation from them to attend a luncheon to taste the teas in action, paired with cuisine concocted by the chef at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco which was a fun way to experience the tea flavors in context.

Sonoma Teas_anneliesz

A vegetable-centric amuse bouche came out as another server poured Chardonnay iced tea. Salad with a citrusy yogurt smear paired with Rose Tea. Seared duck breast was served with Cabernet tea. And a decadent chocolate dessert introduced the hot mulled Zin tea.

Sonoma Teas

After the luncheon, I caught a few minutes with Kristina Richens, the minister of englightenment to talk a bit about Republic of Tea, the Sonoma teas, and their philosophy on cooking with tea.

Tune in below:


Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

When you think of maple syrup does your mind first conjure up a stack of pancakes and a warm amber-colored drizzle pooling around the edges of the plate below the tipped spoon? If there is any ingredient that can usher in a taste of fall and winter, it might just be maple. The sweet caramel notes remind me of tearing into beaver tail brioche doughnuts slick with hot maple glaze during a Quebecois Christmas. More recently in Vermont, I saw firsthand how this beloved ingredient makes its way onto menus (like the irresistible pairing of Vermont cream and Vermont maple in Maple Walnut Ice Cream) or on store shelves, in everything from jars of “maple crunch” clusters to a bag of sriracha maple cashews that both passed the carry-on permissible souvenir test.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

I’ve been thinking about maple more often than usual because of Katie Webster’s first cookbook, Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup. Several months ago a mutual friend introduced us and I agreed to assist her during a 48 hour turn-around trip from Vermont to San Francisco. When she offered to send me her cookbook to explore more, I happily accepted.

Maple Cookbook

On Katie’s blog, Healthy Seasonal Recipes, she shares recipes rooted in the seasons with a healthy perspective. She shot all of the photos in her cookbook. As a former food stylist for Eating Well Magazine, she knows how to take stunning photos that give healthy food gorgeous appeal.

Katie was flying out from Vermont to San Francisco to demonstrate a few maple recipes at a librarians conference. When we initially discussed recipes to demo, she teased out the recipe for Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs commenting how this recipe wooed anyone who made it. We ended up going with two other recipes,  but the chicken stayed in the back of my mind, bookmarked.

Maple Ginger Chicken

Writing a first cookbook includes its own ebb and flow. There are long solitary stretches where the cook works to perfect the recipe in their kitchen. Then, in come the reinforcements in the form of recipe testers, editor, and friends for support. I’ve had my fair share of helpers, so I was excited to help another first-time author as she thrust her book out into the world for the first time.  I prepped all the ingredients and packed parts of my kitchen to haul over to the Moscone Center for her cooking demo at the librarians convention. She showed the group how to make her Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies (p. 134) and Maple Sour Cherry Shirley Temples (p. 52) as several of us distributed samples for attendees to taste.

The maple walnut chocolate chunk cookies can be made with dark or white chocolate chips, but take it from an avid dark chocolate fan, I heartily suggest eschewing the dark and going for white. The test batch below shows dark chocolate. The white chocolate didn’t last quite so long… White chocolate brings out the caramel accents from the maple sugar in the cookies that bake up crisp around the edges and moist in the middles. Katie’s maple sour cherry Shirley Temples were a revelation. I had made a test batch when I first received the recipe and this drink has been modified for adult palates, balancing the sweetness of the maple syrup with sour cherries and a bit of almond extract. This drink made a believer out of me and escalated my curiosity to try Katie’s other maple-laced recipes.

Maple Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The book categorizes the recipes by type, making it easy to hunt down drink recipes, breakfasts, main courses, and desserts. I began marking pages as soon as the book arrived that I’m planning to make this fall like Easy Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage (p. 22) and the Overnight Whole Grain French Toast Bake with Dried Apricots and Chèvre (p. 30) that I’m eyeing for Christmas.

I learned that every winter Katie and her family tap trees in their yard and then process the sap through backyard sugaring that includes a 500-pound evaporator parked in their driveway. Katie takes the reader into understanding the differences between grades of syrup and even offers substitution tips for swapping in maple syrup in place of other sweeteners. Growing up in Texas and then living in California, it’s all too easy to look at a bottle of maple syrup and not see the connection to the land, especially when considering the cost. This ingredient is big business in Vermont and Northern America with direct links back to family-owned businesses. In reading Maple, I began to appreciate so much more than just the flavor. And that brings us back to chicken.

These chicken thighs marinate overnight for a comforting main course that fills the house with the aroma of fall. I totally understood Katie’s promptings this summer that this chicken would woo and win over anyone who tried it. It really is a bit of a ringer recipe. I adapted it ever so slightly with a few substitutions. We use kosher salt in our house, so instead of using 3/4 teaspoon iodized table salt as indicated in the recipe, I swapped in 1 teaspoon kosher salt. The recipe called for bone-in chicken thighs, but I ended up using skinless, boneless chicken thighs because that’s what I could find at my local market. She gives the suggestion to use pears or apples, but we decided to keep the apple love fest going strong to pair with the apple cider and apple cider vinegar. I made a pot of polenta and steamed some carrots to serve alongside. In the end I’m thinking all this dish really needs is a cold evening outside with the oven heating up our home and the smell of ginger, apples, maple, and poultry permeating every nook and warming us up.

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

(adapted ever so slightly) Reprinted with permission from Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup by Katie Webster, published by Quirk Books.

Makes 8 servings

1 shallot, finely sliced

3/4 cup apple cider

1/2 cup dark pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely grated, peeled, fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus four sprigs, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 bone-in (or boneless, skinless) chicken thighs

3 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored and quartered

 

In a medium bowl, whisk shallot, cider, syrup, ginger, vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour marinade into bag, seal it, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning once or twice to agitate marinade and coat all pieces.

Preheat oven to 400F. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange pieces, skin side up, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Tuck pears and thyme sprigs among chicken pieces. Pour marinade over top. Bake, basting occasionally, about 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and starting to pull from the bone. Serve chicken and pears with sauce spooned over top.