Sometimes, when your significant other goes out of town for a long period of time, things around the house run so smoothly that his or her absence is hardly noteworthy. At other times, everything in the book that can go wrong does go wrong. Although nothing calamitous has occurred, I would still say that the Greek's current absence falls more into the latter category than the former.
There was the moment three weekends ago when, after attempting to preheat the oven, I discovered that the pilot light had gone out. I quickly realized that not only did I have no idea how to fix it (raise your hand if you have a gas stove and you actually know where your pilot light is), but that, in attempting to preheat the oven, I had also released so much gas that the very thought of lighting a match or using a lighter made me scared that the dog and I would die in a fiery explosion. While this scenario may strike you all as terribly unlikely, the simple truth is that I think the gas fumes had started to go to my head at that point, which is why I called PG&E and reported a possible gas leak. The good news is that, in such potentially dire situations, they respond; however, the bad news is that, although they read you a long list of things that you should absolutely not do in these situations--using a phone and buzzing somebody into your apartment are both on this list--the PG&E man called me to announce his presence and requested that I buzz him in. Somehow this behavior didn't seem terribly up to code.
Then, when I had to move--that ism to arrange for the moving of--the car this past week because of street sweeping, Maria, the Greek girl currently staying with me and helping with Elektra, and I discovered that the battery was dead. This led to my having no choice but to go and ask our neighbors for help at 9:30 in the evening. Because they are both good people and good neighbors, they kindly came down in their pajamas, accepted the fact that I could tell them neither how to open the hood nor where the battery was located (my own ignorance about cars became glaringly, embarrassingly apparent) and rescued our car with their jumper cables. It is thanks to them that I baked cookies this past weekend--my first true weekend without work since July 12-13 (yes, I've been counting).
It has, dear readers, been a glorious experience. You really don't realize how important the weekend is until you don't have a full one. But suddenly I again had two (two!) whole days to do not only whatever I wanted, but to catch up on some much needed sleep as well. I read some of my now slightly outdated food magazines, I took the dog to play, I cooked a Greek risotto that I love (I find that I eat a lot of Greek food--ouzo, feta, oregano---when the Greek is in his homeland; I think it's my way of not being left out of the experience) and caught up on both my current favorite TV shows and the majority of the blogs that I read. Blogging feels different these days, but this is a subject for a different post and one that I promise I will return to.
The fact that blogs and blogging seem to have changed so much aside, the beauty of reading food blogs is that you get a tiny glimpse into how others cook and eat and into what inspires them; food, I think, can tell you a lot about a person--his/her life philosophy, habits and preferences. I love this moment of revelation--what you can observe from a post or a photo; I often find that the things that resonate the most with me are the most mundane things: praising the simple act of roasting vegetables, making a salad with what's left in the fridge or even just taking a few minutes to enjoy a meal with no distractions (i.e. cell phones and computers at the table).
This was the case when I caught up on Casa Yellow this past Saturday morning; Sarah's latest post focused on the Lemon Honey Macaroons from Nicole Spiridakis' new book, Flourless. The cookies looked like the best kind of comfort food, and even better, Sarah, in describing both the cookies and the book, mentioned that most of the recipes are simple to make, but pleasingly complex in terms of texture and flavor. Always thorough, Sarah also included a few links to other articles that Nicole had written about flourless baking and, while reading one of them, I decided I just had to try--and immediately--the almond butter cookies. Not only did they seem low maintenance (only 10 ingredients and the cookie dough can easily be mixed by hand. I used a regular spoon and it worked beautifully), i.e. my favorite kind of cooking or baking these days, but also, to a lover of nut butters and nuts, they seemed like the kind of cookie I would naturally reach for if it were set before me on a platter of randomly assembled cookies.
My cookies instincts, as it turned out, were right; these almond butter cookies are crispy and light, with just the right amount of chocolate. It feels like a virtuous, protein-filled snack and a bit of a step up from my occasional snack bag of almonds and bittersweet chocolate. That said, I will admit that after my first bite, I did have a moment when I lamented the absence of that chewy, pillowy softness that all-purpose flour gives to cookies, but, after my second, I realized that I nevertheless liked what this cookie had to offer. And then, after I had wrapped and set aside the dozen intended for the neighbors, I ate another one...Tokens of gratitude can go a long way.
Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
yields almost 3 dozen
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup almond pieces (slivered, sliced, or roughly chopped)
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
-Preheat oven to 350F and line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper.
-In in medium bowl, stir together the almond butter and sugars, mixing until well combined.
-Add the egg, baking soda, salt, vanilla and maple syrup and mix until well combined. Then, stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.
-Using a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonfuls of dough and roll them into small, evenly shaped balls.
-Place on the prepared cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart (NB I think I was overly ambitious and tried to squeeze too many cookies onto one sheet. I would say it's best to bake only 12 cookies per baking sheet because they will spread out and bake into each other, becoming misshapen).
-Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
-Remove from the oven and place the cookie sheet(s) on a rack to cool for at least five minutes.