Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Other Man

Mark Bittman, who writes the Minimalist column in the Dining section of the New York Times, is the one man I’d leave my husband for. He’s a smart, funny, tall, handsome Jewish guy who cooks. And, since he cooks, I’m willing to bet he knows his way around a dishwasher.

My crush developed after I began reading his column, long before the Times added accompanying videos and I knew what he looked like or heard his mellifluous voice. My feelings developed slowly. I wasn’t interested in him because of something as shallow as physical beauty. Every man I’ve ever been attracted to because of the way he looked has turned out to be a complete dick. There are no exceptions to this phenomenon, and this goes back as far as the fifth grade. That MB is always ready to crack wise and makes cooking accessible, fun and easy just makes him more scrumptious.

For as long as I can remember, the thought of making candy petrified me. There was a Minimalist column a few years ago on peanut brittle. I read the recipe, watched the video on the Times site, and I made peanut brittle. Easy and delicious.

I am not so blinded by MB’s culinary charm, though, that I can discard my picky eating habits. For me, his recipes fall into three categories: 1. Perfect as is; 2. Needs some adjusting, but then perfect; and 3. Yuck. Will not attempt. Recipes in the third category are rare, and though I may not attempt them, sometimes they inspire me despite their grossness.

Last year MB did a Minimalist column and video the subject of which was a vegan Mexican Chocolate Pudding made with tofu. Now, I’m all about the vegan love, but I. hate. tofu. While I was watching him concoct this pudding and debating whether I really had to throw up or only felt like it, I got the idea for a Mexican chocolate chip cookie. I wrote the recipe and later that morning baked my first batch of New Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I’m happy to share with you today the product that was born of something that initially made me want to hurl. I don’t hold that tofu pudding against Mark Bittman. There should be ample room for differing tastes and opinions in any relationship. Even when those relationships are imaginary.

New Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Please use real maple syrup when you make these. No corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors are needed. These are also really good for ice cream sandwiches if you are so inclined. Use soy or coconut milk ice cream to keep the vegan theme going. If you want more heat, use more chile powder. I used chopped, toasted almonds in the first batch I made, and the general consensus is that the batch with almonds is superior to the batch without. I made them optional here, so listen to your heart. That’s what I always do.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
½ cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground New Mexico chile powder (or another mild ground chile)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips (I like Whole Foods’ 365 brand)
½ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped (optional, but extremely delicious)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line baking sheet with parchment. If you don’t want to use parchment, no worries, just don’t grease the baking sheet.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and chile powder. In large bowl, whisk together Earth Balance, maple syrup, sugars, applesauce and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Stir in almonds, if using.
3. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. When completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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