Garlic & Chocolate

AriCooks, Autumn, cookies, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian, Winter

Comfort food is a very subjective thing. While macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes with butter may be classic examples of foods that warm both hearts and stomachs, a lactose intolerant person would probably feel quite differently. A midwestern American’s idea of home cooking could be a large juicy hamburger or a steak with potatoes, while someone from Vietnam might crave a big bowl of pho. In our house there are two foods that we uphold as soothing standbys through thick and thin, summer and winter. They are, chocolate and garlic.

One happy fact about these two ingredients is their versatility. I cannot imagine ever getting sick of this or these for example, and I am delighted to share two new recipes that feature the amazing talents of roasted garlic and dark chocolate, exploiting their abilities almost beyond what you may have previously thought possible. Fasten your seatbelts people — this is serious.

The following soup and cookies are brought to you by a wonderful brunch I had today with well-known blogger and all-around fabulous woman, Sharon Kitchens. During our power-catch-up session we discussed cookbooks, as we tend to do, and I realized that when Sharon asked me to list my five favorites for her blog a couple weeks ago, I neglected the wonderful old standby, The Joy of Cooking. Shame on me.

The Joy of Cooking, though dated in some ways, will never cease to be an incredibly useful tool for  home cooks. Simple and straightforward recipes for pie dough, sugar cookies, vegetable stock, potato salad, brownies, pumpkin pie, stuffing, sandwich bread, vinaigrette, stir fry, miso soup, white cake and waffles are just a few of the (literally) thousands of recipes contained in this treasure of a book. And although its author, Irma Rombauer, was depicted in a less-than-flattering light in the movie Julie and Julia (hey- we can’t all be Julia Child for goodness sake), I can assure you that I have rarely had one of her recipes fail me — MANY of them adapting very well to vegan and vegetarian substitutions. Yes, this is a cookbook I stand by.

Friday Night Comfort Food….

Roasted Garlic Soup with Spinach and Manchego and Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt, both adapted slightly from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer

For the Soup:

6 heads of garlic (yes entire heads)

2 quarts of vegetable stock (I like the Whole Foods 365 brand)

3 slices of wheat bread, cut into small cubes

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp hot paprika

black pepper to taste

juice of half a lemon

A few handfuls of baby spinach (my addition)

gated parmesan or manchego cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 325ºF

Cut off the top thirds of all 6 garlic heads and drizzle each one with a little olive oil. Wrap the heads individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, unwrap and let the heads cool for a few minutes. While garlic is roasting, you can whip up your cookie batter (below).

Meanwhile pour broth into soup pot. Squeeze garlic into the pot– it should be squishy– (this is messy and takes little time) and bring stock and garlic to a simmer, while whisking. Add cubed bread when stock is hot, and whisk to break up. Add salt, pepper, paprika and fresh lemon juice. Whisk everything into a slurry and add baby spinach (soup should not be boiling). When spinach has wilted, ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese, if desired.

For the Cookies:

The cherries and the sea salt were my additions, feel free to omit them or substitute nuts for the cherries. Makes about 30 cookies.

1 cup, plus 2 Tbs flour (I used a mix of all purpose and whole wheat pastry)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks (or any margarine or unsalted butter of your choice)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar (she called for 1/2 cup of each, but I like my cookies, like my men, just subtly sweet)

1 large egg

1/4 tsp table salt, plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1 1/2 tsp vanilla, plus a dab or two behind your ears

1 cup dark chocolate, chopped (I used a mixture of Scharffenburger bittersweet and Sirius 56 %)

3/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries

Increase over temperature to 375º F

Whisk flour and baking soda together, set aside.

In  a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until well blended. Add egg, vanilla and table salt. Slowly mix in flour mixture, then add chocolate and Cherries.

Drop heaping teaspoons of cookie batter onto to greased sheets and sprinkle sparingly with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes and sprinkle with sea salt again if desired. Cool on racks.

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