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Friday, July 23, 2010

Baby, You're a Star!

My grandmother and sister getting silly...



My grandmother just turned 90 years old which is amazing. She and my grandfather lived a few blocks from us when I was growing up so I have many culinary memories of her over the years. When I was young and thought of my grandmom's house, I thought of grilled cheese. Her sandwiches were just a little better than my mom's (sorry mom)...and she made them often. My grandfather was old school Catholic and would not eat meat on Friday, even when it wasn't Lent. Grandmom made him a grilled cheese many a Friday afternoon. Her secret, of course, was the cheese. While my mom used American cheese, Grandmom used Cooper Sharp cheese, which is divine. My mom eventually switched over to Cooper Sharp as well...probably after getting tired of hearing how great Grandmom's sandwiches were!

Another specialty of grandmom's was her potato salad. Man oh man....this was better than the grilled cheese! She always said the secret was to drink a beer while making it. Not sure how that helps but in the spirit of following directions, I do this as well. She always used red potatoes, a generous amount of finely diced onions, a few hard boiled eggs and Miracle Whip. As is the case with many family recipes, I am not aware of a written version of her potato salad recipe, but I will ty to replicate it in a few weeks and share it here. It tasted amazing along side some ham and fresh home grown tomatoes from my mom's garden.

Rounding out Grandmom's trifecta was her cooked dressing. She made this for all sit down special dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's got bacon, vinegar, onions, a little bit of sugar.....you cook it on the stove, let it cool and then pour it over some chopped up iceberg lettuce. Hmmm...

She made other dishes like vegetable soup and fried eggplant, to name a few. But the grilled cheese, potato salad and cooked dressing are the things that remind me the most of Grandmom...well, that and some of her famous sayings (me: "grandmom, what's for dinner?" Her: "Bees knees, grasshoppers and a little bit of bug juice").

For her birthday, I wanted to send her something nice. Since she lives in Philly and I live in LA, making her some potato salad as tribute was a little out of the question; cookies are easier to ship. I found this recipe called Twin Stars in the Best of Sunset Cookies magazine. They were a bit labor intensive (I feel like I have been saying that alot lately...) but turned out well. The original recipe called for stacking two cookies on top of each other but I opted to leave them unstacked. I used the food processor to make the dough. This is the first time I have done this and it worked out really well.


Twin Stars

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter at room temp cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 cup strawberry jam

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted powdered sugar

2 teaspoon lightly beaten egg white

1. In food processor or bowl, whirl or stir flour, sugar and salt to blend. Add butter; whirl or cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. In another bowl, whisk egg, vanilla, lemon peel, and lemon juice to blend. Add flour to the mixture in food processor or bowl; whirl or stir until dough forms a ball.

3. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each portion, between sheets of wax paper or parchment into a round 1/8 inch thick. Stack and freeze rounds until firm about 30 minutes (or chill for 2 hours).

4. Cut out shapes with a floured 2 inch 5 point star cutter. Space cookies 1/2 inch apart on buttered or parchment lined 12x15 inch baking sheets.

5. Bake cookies in a 325 degree oven until pale golden at tips, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Reduce oven tempeture to 150 degrees.

6. In a 1 quart pan over medium heat, stir jam until melted. Push through a fine strainer (I skipped this part because I had no strainer), discard residue, and return liquid to pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes to thicken, stirring occassionally. Let cool until just warm to touch, 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons water until smooth.

7. Brush cookie with jam, then place slightly apart on baking sheets. With a clean pastry brush, paint a thin film of powdered sugar glaze over each cookie to completely cover the jam (beginning with the cookies coated earliest with jam).

8. Bake cookies until glaze is set and dry, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

9. In a small bowl, stir remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the egg white until smooth. To assemble cookies spoon a dot (1/8 teaspoon) of powdered sugar mixture in center of one cookie, then gently press another cookie on top with the star points offset. (I skipped this step as well since I didn't stack my cookies).

10. Let cookies stand until icing is set, about 1 hr.

71 calories, 2.9 grams of fat (this represents a stacked version of the cookie).

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