Sesame Tahini Blossoms

These might be my second favorite cookie to the chocolate chip or perhaps the ginger snap. There is something about the iconic kiss sitting right in the middle that melts in your mouth and adds another flavor to the cookie.

In the past I have made these with a peanut butter cookie but the tahini is much more subtle in a good way. And yes, I am going all in on the baking and cooking the last few days of the year.

  • Generous 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 7 tablespoons (7/8 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup un-toasted sesame seeds, for coating
  • 24-30 unwrapped chocolate kisses

Mix together the flour, baking soda in a small world

In a standing mixture, add the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.

Add the egg, vanilla and tahini and beat until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

At this point you need to put in the fridge for an hour or 24 hours. I put it in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Put the sesame seeds in a small bowl. Using a small ice cream scoop, make small balls out of the dough, dip/roll in the sesame seeds and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake for ten minutes or until the edges are starting to brown. Open the oven and firmly push the chocolate kisses in the middle of each cookie and bake another two minutes.

Take out of the oven, let cool although it is hard not to attempt to each one while piping hot. Make sure not to burn your mouth!

Caramelized Shallot Pasta

This could not be easier. It is almost decadent and certainly restaurant worthy. There was not a drop left. We consumed the entire dish.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6 large shallots, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, drained
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) tube or (6-ounce) can of tomato paste (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
  • 17.6 ounces pasta – I used bucatini

Boil the water for the pasta. Once you the pasta is done, the sauce will be done too.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add shallots, season with salt and stir until they begin to caramelize.

Add the red-pepper flakes and anchovies. Don’t chop the anchovies, they will dissolve on their own. Stir for about 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the mixture is a deep red color. Remove from heat.

The pasta should be al dente right not. Take it out of the pot with long tongs and put into the sauce pot. Add one cup of the water you cooked the pasta in. Using a wooden spoon mix together the pasta and sauce over a medium heat until it become thick.

Serve with red-pepper flakes and grated Parmesan. It is so good.

Will Main Street Return?

There are countless towns that I have driven through wondering what were they like at different points of our history.

Over the last decade, the term “millennial” has become a verb. Each generation is impacted by the world around them. Politics, the economy, evolution, etc. It dictates how they live their lives.

Back in 2008, we began to see millennials take an interest in old careers in new ways. The rise of new consumer products, bakeries, chocolatiers, carpenters, watchmakers, small curated stores, and more artists. Young people, millennials, realized that they could go from job to job or interest to interest while making money and finding themselves. The concept of taking a job and staying there until you get your gold watch upon retirement is long over.

Long live commercial real estate… the right price. That will happen at one point. Many of the owners will change hands and hopefully think differently. What is the right price to bring back Main Street?

Neighborhoods can be one long street where you stop by for a loaf of bread and have a little chit-chat with the baker and the peeps that work there. A small community. Or it could be a few short blocks surrounded by apartment buildings and brownstones. In a city there can be thousands of neighborhoods. It is fun to go visit them and see what is on their Main Street.

As the year begins to end, and we all sit in our homes, still in lockdown. At least we are in lockdown, I am looking to the future. The noise that has been pounded in our heads through the pandemic and the past four years is almost over. It has been disrupting and anxiety-ridden. I am hoping we are going to return to a calmness that is excited for a new Main St.

We desperately need leadership to get us there to create new jobs, new tax structures, better transportation and so much more. Think future not past. Think out of the box, not in the same one we have had for decades. If we are not all on the same page, it will take a lot longer for our communities to come back. And that, won’t be good for anyone.

Female Role Models

At one point in our past, the female role model was the perfect housewife. I just see The Dick Van Dyke Show in my head. Although, there was Rosemarie, so the pressure to show women in the workforce was slowly starting to change.

I have met so many incredibly smart women in the past 15 years. Top female lawyers, doctors, accountants, and investors, women entrepreneurs that include restauranteurs, bakers, start-ups, writers, and artists. All looking at the world with a different set of lenses than 15 years ago.

Someone told me this quote that a famous psychiatrist said, “the slower you go, the faster you get there”. It has taken quite a while but the process is something that I have come to respect. I have never taken time out for the process. It has worked for me but perhaps I am at an age that has allowed me to slow down and begin to relish the process. Being at this age is strange enough.

I see countless places where women are breaking glass ceilings. There will be a peak where all the glass breaks. There will always be shards but shards are not just relegated to women. That won’t take another fifty years. It will take twenty. Good things will come over the next twenty years like a more equitable world in everything but true equality will still take time.

If you have watched the Crown, there is this great line that keeps coming back to me. When Princess Anne retorts to Phillip who is asking her to buck up and make the Crown look good because she will be great at it, she says to him, “I am tough but I am not confident”.

Too many women have had to play tough but right now as those ceilings are breaking, you can feel the confidence. Perhaps it is COVID. We are all just getting shit done but the continued confidence is what is going to get us to the place where few shards exist.

From my vantage point, it is starting to appear that young women have a new set of role models with confidence and grace who are rising to the top of their professions. That is not only good for women, it is good for all of us.

Upside Down Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

There are always seems to be a few leftover bananas that need to find their way into a good cake. This comes from David Lebovitz, a blog I have been reading for as long as he has been writing. An American in Paris.

I used two bread pans that are 4×8 but you could do an 8×8 cake pan too.

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 3-4 ripe medium bananas

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, unsalted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup smashed bananas (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate

The pan does not need to be buttered and do not line with parchment paper. Place the brown sugar and butter in the pans on a low heat. I divided the amounts in each pan because I did used two bread pans. The sugar and butter begin to melt and spread over the bottom. Take off the heat and set aside.

Slice up enough bananas about 1/4″ thickness and lay on top of the sugar/butter mixture.

Heat the oven to 350.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, smashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.

Scrape the batter over the bananas with a spatula.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let the cake sit for 20 minutes to cool. Run a knife around the edges and flip on to a plate. Delish.

White Bean Soup

I am in full experimental mode. We have a Instantpot for rice. Why? I have no idea but we do. I have never made anything but rice in the pot but this week I changed my tune.

I had bought a bag of white beans from our local baker and soaked them overnight. I am not even sure what kind of white beans they were but you can use any type. I have made bean soup before but not in a pressure cooker.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pound dried white beans soaked overnight and then rinsed
  • 1 cup wheat berries or farro
  • 8 ounces Parmesan, rind removed and reserved (this is a key component)

Set the pressure cooker to the saute setting. Fill the bottom with olive oil and add the onion and cook until softened. Season generously with salt. I was so enamored that you can saute in this pot. Then add the fennel until that has softened too. Then add the celery, fennel seeds and red-pepper flakes and cook for another few minutes. Add the thyme and wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

Add the stock, season with more salt. Stir in the beans, wheat berries or farro, and the Parmesan rind. Cover and set the steam valve to be sealed. Cook for 70 minutes.

I forgot about it and came to check two hours later. I released the steam with the valve. Then I set it back for no steam. Let this hang out for another 5 hours just keeping warm.

Open up the pot when you are ready to serve. Take out the thyme and rind. Serve in bowl and top generously with Parmesan. It is a serious win.

Oh, the Malaise

This time of the year is usually busy with parties, excitement, preparing for vacations and some family time. Instead, we have malaise.

I’m so bored.  I don’t give a shit if you work l day or just sporadically. Life has become boring.  I have gone through a variety of stages through COVID.  There was the short lived time when I thought this was not going to go on for a year. Then there was the realization of how this thing was going nowhere and all signs were pointing to a massive rebound. Unclear what stage I am at now. 

The boredom and frustration is overwhelming but knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is actually more anxiety ridden than the absolute freak we had last March.  C’mon, don’t tell me that the last 9 months has not been an emotional roller coaster on various levels. Everybody has had enough.  Remember we are a culture regardless of age who gets instant satisfaction in the world we live in today. 

I’ve had so many thoughts over these long grueling months about where we end up when this ends.  The longer it goes on the more we will see bigger changes.  If something didn’t work before there would be zero reason at this point to return.  There will be so much creativity coming out of every industry. 

The best part of this time is everyone is being creative. The meals, the cookies, the cakes, the breads, the knitting and crocheting projects, the painting, the drawing, the closet cleaning, the content watching, the book readings, the games being played, the puzzles getting done.

The vaccine can’t come quick enough.

Ginger Crinkle Cookies

I love a good ginger cookie. I have never been able to master them until now. Every day there is a new cookie recipe in my box. This one came from the top 12 cookies in the Washington Post. This is definitely going to become a staple.

  • 2 2/3 cups (335 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature but still firm to touch
  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 5 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters/185 grams) unsulfured molasses (do not use blackstrap)
  • 1 cup (125 grams) unsifted confectioners’ sugar

I followed the recipe. Not sure why you aren’t support to use blackstrap but when I saw a bottle of molasses in the grocery store that said blackstrap on it, I picked up the other one.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom and salt until combined.

In a standing mixer, combine the butter and both sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Decrease the speed to medium and add the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

With the mixer running slowly add in the molasses. Make sure to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Stop the mixer and add the flour in three parts on low. The dough will be soft and pliable.

Cover the bowl tightly and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to a day. I did a few hours.

Preheat oven to 375.

Put the confectioners sugar in a bowl.

On a parchment lined cookie sheet, use a small ice cream scoop to make small 2 tbsp. sized cookies. Roll them quickly in your hand and drop into the confectioners sugar and roll around into thoroughly covered.

Bake for 12 minutes. Take out of the oven and let them set for about 5 minutes. They are soft outside and crunchy outside. Just right.

100 Years Young

It is amazing how many people are living to be the ripe old age of 100. It is not as shocking anymore, it is becoming normal.

I took a socially distant walk with my friend and we noted that our grandchildren will live to be 100. Think about that. A world where we all live to be 100 which clearly means we can not be retiring at 64.

January 20, 2021, we will have a new President, Joe Biden, with his own agenda. He is living proof that we are all living longer and functioning at pretty much the same mental level. Well…we hope so.

After a full-on country lock-down during a pandemic that never really locked down, we should all be asking ourselves what does the future look like because we are about to live in it. Will this administration create a new agenda with an eye to how we live in a more equitable world in decades to come? If Joe is planning on doing just one term, he could truly push through an extraordinary agenda if the Democrats win Georgia. It is certainly time for one.

I wonder if people in our Government are thinking about a future with many people over 60 who aren’t making an income?  How does one afford to retire based on that data?  How do we keep people engaged at an older age while they begin to enjoy their next phase and still be able to pay for their life?

We are thirty years past the time when Reagan killed the middle class. How he got people to vote against their own needs has always amazed me. A lot has changed since then. The cost of health insurance is one of the biggest drains on everyone. It drains restaurants, small family businesses and the elderly.

Biden needs to figure out how we create a new middle class with affordable housing, an accessible healthcare system for everyone and the ability to put some money in the bank for a rainy day. He also needs to think about people who are going to live way past their retirement age.

20 is still 20, 40 is still 40, 60 is still 60 and my guess 80 is still 80 with all of the aches and pains and now we are learning more about being 90 and 100. Will people still have that get up and go at 70 for the career they had in their 40’s? I doubt it. There is an opportunity here to engage this older generation who are trying to figure out what’s next while making some cash. How can they give back to their communities?

Only time will tell how things will roll out in the first 90 days of Biden’s administration. I pray we see a very aggressive new approach.

DoorDash – WTF?

DoorDash considers themselves a technology company that connects people to food. It is essentially delivery service built on an app that employs mostly gig workers and charges restaurants absurd fees for the service.

From what I have read, they have only been profitable one month. DoorDash went public this past week and is now worth over $60B after raising $700m from the venture capital community. It makes no sense to me.

Amanda Kludt, the editor of Eater, brilliantly explained her dismay about DoorDash in her weekly newsletter. It took a pandemic, making consumers and restaurants increasingly dependent on delivery, for third-party platform DoorDash to finally eke out a profit after quarter upon quarter of losses in the hundreds of millions. It’s a company that exploits the vulnerabilities of gig workers, gouges its restaurant partnerspreys upon restaurants that aren’t partners, and subverts government regulations. It’s not unique in its competitive set — it’s easy for both customers and restaurants to switch platforms — nor is it guaranteed to maintain profits post-pandemic.  I just wish the good fortune could lead to better deals for workers and restaurant partners.

There is no other way to say it but the pandemic has fucked the restaurants. The percentage of PPP that few of them received is so out of whack with what they should have received because most are independently owned by entrepreneurs.  They don’t all belong to a lobby that would be the voice for them at the Government table.  

Closing down the restaurants for indoor dining when it’s cold is like shutting down the aorta of the city.  NYers eat out.  We rarely eat in.  It’s a public city.  It’s about being out and experiencing not being inside looking at our walls.  

Restaurants have been hurting for awhile that means it has become very hard to even break even pre-pandemic. The only way to change this is through new tax structures for restaurants at different levels based on how many people they employee. Certainly McDonalds (a publicly traded company) is different than the Noodle Bar.  Cities need restaurants, period.  They touch an entire world of entrepreneurs from farmers to florists to wine makers who now all find themselves scrambling to make ends meet or are just closing the door.

We all know that commercial real estate will come down in price but that is just one part of the problem. We need fundamental changes at the tax level in order for restaurant business model to succeed.  We need healthcare for all so that restaurant owners can take that off their books knowing that each employee has Government healthcare. That is a huge expense right there. Payroll tax could be reduced too.

We need restaurants to succeed not only for the businesses surrounding the restaurant industry but for the brilliant artistic creative chefs who provide each community the ability to visit a new country nightly with food for our soul whether it be Pad Thai or a cardamon bun.

I applaud DoorDash for what they have done as they are helping restaurants distribute their wares but at the same time sucking them dry. If just 1% of that $60b went to the help keep the restaurant industry alive….well.

Will there ever be a political lobbyist for the restaurant industry? I am not convinced based on how they independently operate. At what point will our politicians, who I am sure eat in restaurants, open their eyes to what is hurting our communities outside of the large corporations and lobbyists standing at their doorstep with their pockets open.