Monday, October 31, 2016

No Tricks – Just a Holiday Treat
What’s cooking? Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with Tomato Jam

I read somewhere that most children think Halloween is the most important holiday after Christmas/Hanukkah. Makes perfect sense to me. After all, who doesn’t like pretending to be someone or something else and getting candy as a reward? Even the spooky/scary part is fun for many, because deep down, you know it’s not real fear, but excitement.

For me, the scariest part about Halloween is sticking my hand inside the giant pumpkin. I’ve mentioned before that the Kitchen Goddess isn’t fond of slimy or gooey, and hardly anything beats slimy and gooey more than a pumpkin’s innards. So I really have to brace myself before the annual pumpkin-carving ritual.

And it is a ritual. No one else in my family – and that would be my husband – seems to have any interest in buying the beast, deciding on the face, and gutting/carving the flesh. Just saying it that way makes me feel a little creepy. But I love Halloween even if no little ’weeners show up at our doorstep. More candy for me.

These days, I also have to send Halloween cookies off to New Jersey. One batch for the grandkids and another for the hospital staff where my younger son is a third year resident. I figure it can only help his popularity to show up with a tin of cookies now and then.

Once Halloween is over, though, the real pressure sets in. It’s the start of the holiday season, with all sorts of demands for hostessing and gift-giving. (I refuse on principle to use the non-verb “gifting.”) So today, I will get you started in that regard with a recipe for terrific shortbread cookies and a savory tomato jam you can use to turn those cookies into delicious tea cookies. It’s a combination from the kitchen of David Lebovitz, whose book, The Perfect Scoop, is my bible for frozen desserts.

I found this recipe on, where it received almost universal raves, for the cookies alone or as sandwiches with the marvelous tomato jam. The cookies are buttery but light, with a really sophisticated flavor that’s only mildly sweet. And the tomato jam is also terrific with a sharp cheese.

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with Tomato Jam

Adapted from and Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes, by David Lebovitz

Makes 40-44 cookies, or 20-22 cookie sandwiches.

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (40 grams) yellow cornmeal or polenta
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces Crisco
2 large egg yolks
1½  tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Tomato Jam (see below)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and Crisco together at medium speed, just until smooth. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until well combined, then mix in the chopped rosemary. Add the dry ingredients in a couple of batches, mixing until the dough is smooth and holds together.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of wax paper lightly dusted with flour. Using your hands and the wax paper, mold each half into a log about 6-7 inches long and 1¾-2 inches in diameter. Wrap the wax paper around the logs, and place the logs in the fridge until firm, at least an hour. (You can refrigerate the logs overnight, but if you do, wrap them again in Saran Wrap to keep them from drying out.)

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350º, with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. To make the dough easier to slice, stick the logs into the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

Line a couple of baking sheets with baker’s parchment. Slice the logs into disks about ¼ inch wide, and place the disks on the parchment about ½ inch apart. Bake about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Keep an eye out as the time grows short, because they can get overbrown quickly. You want just the edges of the cookies to brown lightly.

Kitchen Goddess note: The KG must be more hot-blooded than she thought, because at some point the logs got a bit soft from holding them while she sliced, producing “disks” that were slightly off-round. Undeterred, she simply mashed them into shape, which meant that some of the disks had more of a mound shape. But they still developed a flat side in the baking, and made perfectly decent sandwiches. And they still tasted great. The lesson here is not to get your knickers in a twist over the shapes, as long as they’re reasonably round.

Let the cookies cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely before making them into sandwiches.

To make into sandwiches, spread 1-1½ teaspoons of the jam on the underside of a cookie, then add a second cookie, with the flat, bottom side into the jam. You can store the filled cookies in an airtight container for 3-4 days; or you could store the cookies without jam – again, in an airtight container – and add jam when you’re getting ready to serve. Also, you can make the dough and store it in the freezer for up to a month.

Tomato Jam

Adapted from and Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes, by David Lebovitz

Makes 2 cups.

2¼ pounds ripe tomatoes (about 5 large)
2 cups sugar
2 or 3 fresh grinds of black pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. With a paring knife, core the stem end of each tomato, then cut a shallow X on the bottom.

Place the tomatoes, one or two at a time, into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. The skins will have loosened, so once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. Discard the skins and the water.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and gently squeeze or spoon out the seeds and juice. Dice the tomatoes into ½-inch pieces.

Put the diced tomatoes in the saucepan and stir in the sugar, pepper, and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to keep the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once most of the liquid has evaporated – i.e., you can draw the spoon across the bottom of the pan and the jam doesn’t immediately come back together – remove it from the heat and stir in the Aleppo pepper and lemon juice. If, during the cooking, you see foam  rising to the top, you may want to skim it off with a large spoon. (Removing the foam makes the jam clearer.) If you like to use a candy thermometer, the jam should reach 220º when ready.

Ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let it cool before refrigerating. It’ll keep at least six months in the fridge. Or you can process it like preserves and it’ll keep outside the fridge for a year.

Happy Halloween!