Monday, December 22, 2014



 Baubles are hung on the Christmas tree, pretty glass orbs reflecting the lights filtering in through the windows shooting colors across the room like prisms, baubles buried into the green among the drapes of shimmering tinsel and popcorn garlands. Baubles and trinkets tucked into tissue paper, wrapped and beribboned, rings to be slipped on my finger; baubles offered, he waiting, watching expectantly as I open the bag, push back the tissue paper, a ring placed on my plate in a restaurant, hidden by my menu, or pulled out as the Hanukkah candles are lit or the Christmas dinner finished, dishes cleared, a ring of champagne crystals and silver bubbles.

 Chilled Champagne and sparkling wines, festive for the holidays. Bubbles are always reserved, always essential on these special occasions. I wonder why? I have a dirty little secret I keep hidden, one I never admit to anyone especially he who joyfully proffers flutes of bubbles on each and every celebration. I prefer flat to bubbly. Effervescent, petillant, bubbly is splendid in a personality but in a glass I prefer sans. Bubbles in water, bubbles in wine, Champagne, is so sophisticated, so adult, so desired, yet I prefer without.

 An infinite abundance of minuscule, microscopic bubbles like a mouthful of air or big, fat bubbles that burst on the tongue, shooting straight to the brain, light and fizzy, ethereal or robust, energetic bubbles. Which do you prefer? Champagne glass shaped upon, or so legend has it, the lovely assets of Marie Antoinette or a flute, tall, slender, elegant, sending the bubbles straight up your nose? The floor strewn with wrapping paper and curls of ribbon, the little children are offered glasses of sparkling cider, fizzy apple juice, joining in the fun, feeling so adult with the bubbles but without the alcoholic kick, simply drunk on excitement. 

 A spray of foam on a circle of golden-crusted scallop in a Michelin-starred restaurant, reminiscent of the ocean in wild, angry weather. A froth of bubbles modernizing an old-fashioned pudding, a classic île flottante. A mouthful of bubbles slurped up then rapidly disappearing, foam melting into an afterthought of flavor, a hint of basil, a memory of citrus, an intimation of oyster, an impression of vanilla. Bubbles of food, bubbles savory or sweet, nothing to sink one’s teeth into, nothing to chew, no satisfaction, all the rage. Like the tiny bubbles, spheres, orbs of molecular gastronomy, shimmering beauty yet unrecognizable but for the burst of flavor, pearlescent bubbles popping like caviar. Bubbles evaporating into nothingness.

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. - William Shakespeare

 Steamy water, near scalding. Sink down into the tub, bubbles circling my neck like an ermine stole, a landscape of winter white spread out before me. Listen carefully, the sizzle, sputtering, crackle of the popping of those tiny bubbles as if an invisible being, an angel, pinpricks each minuscule bubble one by one. A glass of bubbly close by on the rim of the tub, a book in hand, quiet time, girl time, alone time in bubbles. Alone time in my own bubble.

 We had a bubblegum pink bathtub big enough for two and would fill that tub with bubbles and slip below the surface, neck deep in bubbles, and talk oh-so quietly.

 A luxury hotel in the heart of Paris in the dead of winter a bathroom all in black and white with touches of gold. A bathtub big enough for two and a bottle of Champagne. Bubbles in white, bubbles in pink. Bubbles frothing over the edge onto the black and white floor.

 Adult bubbles romantic. Effervescent.

A child’s laughter bubbling up and spilling over.

 Bubbles were such a part of my childhood, the magic and fascination of bubbles being such a childish thing. My brother and I would blow hard into straws pushed down into the dregs of cups of chocolate milk, blow and blow until bubbles churned up, blow and blow until blue in the face, until those bubbles of chocolate milk haze arrived up to the cup’s rim. A contest.

 Blowing bubbles from liquid soap, that tiny little wand sunk deep into the colorful plastic tube then bubbles blown, over and over again, the dog jumping up to snatch at each bubble snap snap, the taste of soap, my brothers and I laughing and laughing and teasing that dog by blowing more and more soapy bubbles. Blowing bubblegum bubbles the size of my head until that tremendous pop and pink, sticky stuff all over my face. Bubble baths on Sundays, bubbles scented of lavender or strawberry or bubble gum, bubbles scooped up and stuck on my chin and on top of wet hair, beards and weird hairdos just for a laugh. That swirl of white bubbles could turn me into a movie star just like mashed potatoes or chocolate pudding painted on puckered lips.

 Soda pop drunken too fast, soda pop sucked up through a straw, the bubbles blowing straight up into my nose causing a coughing fit, an itchy nose and a sneeze. As long as the soda didn’t squirt out of my nose I was okay.

 Scooping up handfuls of bubbles at the beach as I ran along the water’s edge, collecting shells and sea glass or blowing bubbles, head underwater, at the swimming pool. We would then stop at the ice cream parlor for chocolate milkshakes on the way home and nothing more fun than sitting in a booth blowing air through a straw, blowing thick, drowsy bubbles in a chocolate milkshake.

I’m forever blowing bubbles, 
Pretty bubbles in the air

 I cook, you wash up. Our marriage is one of trade offs and compromise and since we both cook, this has been our deal since the very first meal we prepared together in that tiny little doll’s house in the Paris Suburbs. (Although I clean as I go and leave behind me very little to do while he, yes, he leaves behind a tornado of a mess.)

 Plunging my hands into a sink full of bubbles, I think of all the years we never had a dishwasher. My mother never owned one, refusing the installation of a dishwasher in 1962 when the house was built, explaining that extra cabinet space would be more useful. Every single evening until I left home eighteen years later, it was I who was selected to help with the dishes. Can I wash? Please? I would beg, night after night. No, she would invariably answer, I wash you dry. And I would watch longingly as she plunged her hands into the hot water and bubbles, scrubbing each plate, rinse and stack. That was what I wanted to do. Grudgingly, under threat of punishment, I would stand next to her wiping dishes, glasses and silverware with a towel growing gradually damper and damper, and my mood growing damper and damper. Hands in a sink full of warm bubbles, the rhythmic, hypnotic movement of cleaning is soothing, therapeutic, a time to let my mind wander and dream.

 Kitchen bubbles. The slow motion movement of a bubble rising to the surface of thick, creamy cake batter, a bubble growing then bursting, popping with a tiny pop revealing a pocket of air hiding a bit of flour, batter flopping over and melting into the quicksand of batter. The slow rise and fall of bubbles on the surface of soup, simmering, rise and fall, the easy, sluggish rise and fall of bubbles like lava in slow motion or the quick, violent succession of bubbles and when a bubble bursts it sends a fine spray of soup spattering on the stovetop. Glug glug spit or rat-a-tat-tat spatter. Yeasty bubbles forming a hilly landscape along the surface of bread dough, languid and sticky, bubbles just begging to be poked. Bubbles baked onto the top of a cake like blisters.

We would like to wish each and everyone a joyous Holiday Season. 
We will see you in the New Year! Cheers!

Monday, December 15, 2014


Dates and Figs

 Long, narrow boats of Styrofoam holding dates packed in like sardines, head to toe, back to back, side by side squished into place leaving nary a breath between them. Plastic pulled tightly over them all, stuffed in. There was always a boatful of pretty little dates in my parents’ refrigerator. Dates and dried figs. While the figs, dried and withered, the color of caramel, of autumn leaves, of baseball bats, were tough old things and stuffed with tiny little seeds that crunched, that stuck between teeth, dates were soft and tender, sweet as candy.

 Peel back the plastic and pick off a date, sticky as glue. Packed in as they were, wedged into that boat, and pasted together, tacky, the dates had to be pulled apart, fingers wedged in and around, picked at, tugged out one by one. Sugary sweet candy coating, something syrupy, those dates stuck to fingers, the caramel coating remaining long after the date had been eaten. But how I loved those tender, sweet dates.

Date Night

 We instilled the tradition of Date Night early on when the first baby was born and tiny. And have continued it through the years. Now that the boys are grown, Date Night needs no planning, no organization, the search for babysitter is happily dispensed with. And Date Night now comes more often.

 Date Night. The chance to dress up, slip into a something nice, something rarely worn (what with feeding babies, chasing after toddlers, catering to teens, walking dogs and cleaning house) and high heels, a dab of perfume and slip out into the night. Date night always means a choice restaurant, somewhere ethnic or Michelin-starred, a meal eaten while holding hands, listening to soft words rather than children’s babble or teens’ complaints. Or a movie and a box of popcorn.

 Although Date Night meant working out dates, comparing agendas and calendars, scratching down dates on a bit of paper and taping it to the refrigerator door, nowadays Date Night needs no specific date. Would you like to go out tonight? he asks. Want to do something special? A walk? Cinema? Restaurant? And we put on our shoes, our coats and, hand in hand, head out for our date. An escapade, a weekend away, restaurant and hotel, these dates have been an important part of our marriage these twenty-some years. Keeping our marriage sweet, tender, tasty, as sweet, tender and tasty as dates.

Double Date

 Date: My mother always had a date nut bread, more cake than bread, in the refrigerator. And we knew that it was off limits, only for her, like those single serving fried egg sandwiches, cold canned creamed corn loosened with a bit of milk, frozen Oh Henry candy bars tucked way back in the freezer, and iced coffee. Her private pleasures, what separated her from the kids. Date nut bread from a can; popped out, it kept the shape of the can as she whittled it away, slice by slice. Or date nut bread homemade slathered with cream cheese frosting, white against the deep brown, the color of chocolate cake but tasting of molasses. And dates.

 Double date: What’s this? he asked, holding up a jar he had removed from my sack, scrutinizing its odd, sepia-colored contents suspiciously. Curiously. Oh! That’s Date Mustard! I explained, silently scolding myself for not packing it into my suitcase that I had checked before heading to airport security. You can’t take this in your carry on, he returned. It’s more than the permitted three grams.

 Earlier that morning, before my voyage home, I had accompanied two friends to a shop in the heart of an upscale London shopping district, a shop devoted to dates. But not just any dates, not the dates of my youth. These were exceptional dates, choice dates. Expensive dates. Like rare diamonds, precious gems, exquisite jewels, artisan chocolates, these dates were beautifully arranged, laid out behind glass in a specially crafted display case in the luxuriously appointed boutique. As my friends were offered tastings of each kind of date, I roamed around the shop looking at the other products, condiments, mustards, chutneys, sauces and jams, each made with dates, many blended with other choice ingredients. Each as expensive as the dates themselves. I decided to purchase a jar of date mustard, intrigued by the flavor, knowing that my husband would love it.

 And so I found myself confronted by a man in uniform threatening to take that jar of date mustard from me. But, I tried to reason, to keep my calm, smile pasted onto my face, it isn’t a liquid, is it? And it’s a gift for my husband! You wouldn’t take away this gift to my husband? Desperation had begun to creep into my voice and I found myself perilously close to begging. The haggling went back and forth, he explaining that a paste was the same as a liquid, that rules were rules, that exceptions could not be made, I pointing out again and again that it was a gift, that it was extremely expensive, that I hadn’t been aware, apologizing for anything that crossed my mind. Time was rushing by and my flight would soon be boarding, I was running out of time and he wasn’t budging. He felt sorry for me, apologizing in his turn, even asking his higher-up to weigh in. I was near tears by the time I realized that I couldn’t stand there any longer, my pleading, my innocence only making his own eyes well up. Ah well, I finally, conceded, then you keep it, take it home. If my husband can’t enjoy it, then you do. It’s my gift to you, don't let it go to waste, as I dashed off to my gate, keeping my date to fly home.

Hot Date 

 Our very first date, if date one could call it, happened when I was dating another. The one, the other was away, far away in Africa, and there I was, nose to nose with him, dancing.

 And then there was a second date which melted into a third and a forth and where one date ended and the next began is a blur. Sticky sweet like a box of dates. Simmered and heated up, heated through. Hot date. 

 He introduced me to North African cuisine, soups and stews and gelatinous, chewy loukoum, which left a trail of powdered sugar down my chin and shirt, the sweet stickiness of rose and orange on my front teeth. We would wander through the streets of Paris, the neighborhood of shops overflowing with North African goods, shiny gold hookahs, stacks of colorful baboush slippers and leather poofs, footstools of skins smelling like camels. Traditional filagree lamps, intricate and feminine, that would throw delicate ethereal shapes on the walls in hazy pinks, blues and yellows, the colors of the glass panes. And food shops filled with traditional terra cotta tagine pots in rich gorgeous jade, blue, orange, red next to ingredients and canned foods, spices and boxes of couscous grains.

 And dates. Yes, we could find the small, slender dates sticky with sugar, but not only. I discovered long branches of dull dates, matte brown rather than shiny, dates not candied, withered not slick and glossy. And fat dates, plumper and more tender than even those I knew. Red dates, Chinese dates the color of sundried tomatoes, like odd little olives more than dates. And Medjool dates, the queen of dates, tremendously, astonishingly large. Astonishingly melt-in-your-mouth tender and sweet, sweet as cake. Dates not only to be eaten just like that, like candy, but dates to be cooked, simmered into stews, dates and apricots, prunes and raisins, walnuts and almonds. Simmered and stewed.

 Hot dates.

Well before our first date, my husband spent two years living and working in Morocco; he spent much of his spare time hanging out in the kitchen of the house in which he boarded watching the women cook. Since we married, couscous and tagines have been a part of our repertoire, cooked and eaten at least once a week. Personally, I prefer tagines, lamb, beef, chicken or fish, with some kind of fresh or dried fruit adding sweetness to the dish. Dates, widely used in Moroccan cuisine and commonly found in tagines, pair beautifully with lamb. The sweet potatoes give added sweetness and depth to the dish while the mint perfumes it gently and intriguingly. 

Serves 2 – 4

 The sweet potatoes can be replaced by large chunks of pumpkin and the Medjool dates can be replaced with any tender, sweet date. If using pumpkin, feel free to add fingerling potatoes or serve the dish over couscous grains.

21 oz (600 g) lamb shoulder cut in large cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic peeled and sliced in half
About ¼ tsp turmeric or saffron powder
1 Tbs ras el hanout or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 large Medjool dates
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 21 oz / 600 g), peeled and cut into thick wedges
1 small juice orange
1 Tbs chopped or snipped fresh mint

 In a large, heavy-bottom pot, heat 2 tablespoons margarine or butter and 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chopped onion and the garlic clove in the hot oil until the onion is tender and translucent then add the lamb, tossing to coat with the oil and onion bits, and cook until the lamb is browned on all sides. Salt and pepper, add the ras el hanout and saffron powder and toss the lamb to coat. Pour about ½ cup water in the pot and stir up to dissolve the spices and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the sweet potato wedges and the juice of the orange, add more water to cover the lamb and potatoes about ¾ the way up. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes or a bit more. The lamb should be cooked through and tender. Add the dates, simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes, stir the chopped mint into the tagine and add a couple tablespoons of slivered almonds if you like. Serve hot.

  Share on Tumblr

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Black caviar

Little Black Dress

 My friend once dreamed of a black garden, black velvet woven through the green foliage. She planted roses and tulips, irises and dahlias in shades of black the color of eggplants, aubergines of a violet so deep and dark they shimmer like caviar, the color of licorice whips and black pudding, boudin noir. Spring, summer and well into autumn, she waded in black until black flowers turned the color of rust, drooped and scattered black petals in the dirt.

 Black oreos twisted between palms to reveal pristine white cream, sugary sweet, teeth scraped across the surface, licked clean leaving only the black, black cookies to eat. Leaving clumps of black stuck to one's teeth. Black radishes, the surface much like the soil in which they grow, a dusty, rough black, thinly sliced to reveal white, pure creamy white. Black and white like panda bears or Boston Terriers. Sushi, maki rolls dressed in elegant, slick black sliced through to reveal white. Rice. Black encasing white hiding glistening pink and velvety green. Licorice whips; my father loved the black while I would only eat the red, strawberry red, the black much too bitter for me. Good & Plenty fooled me, played a dirty trick over and over again, pretty pink and white candy shells but once bitten through revealing bitter black. Spit it out.

 Black is for death, for farewell, dress in black for a funeral. Black is elegance and sophistication, little black dress for a party. Black beans, rough and ready; black chocolate sinful, the devil (devil's food cake) sparring with our angelic self. Black Forest. Black eye; I'd rather fight than switch.

Black eggplant

Black as Coal

 Early morning. I force myself out of bed, pushing back a jumble of sheets and blankets, loath to leave a cocoon of warmth, feeling blindly around in the dark for clothing, struggling into my robe and slippers. It is pitch dark outside, pitch black, black as sin.

 I stumble into the kitchen and put the water on, scooping coffee into the filter, setting two places for breakfast. I pull back the white curtains and peer out into the starless black. Tree branches stretch their naked ebony arms across the sky like black pencil drawings on black construction paper, deepening the black. What time is it? It seems like the middle of the night, the wee hours of the morning, the witching hour, the sky the color of ink, shoe polish, licorice. A winter morning.

 Black coffee. Espresso.

Black olives

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

 It was a splendid September day, certainly not a day for sitting inside, even with the windows thrown open to the blue skies and warm breeze. This was not a day for work, for burying oneself under a pile of papers and a heap of ideas. This was a day for heading out of town, into the country for a walk and a bit of sunshine and fresh air, for liberating body and soul. Black moods cleared, black moods scattered to the winds.

 We drove out of town, circled around and around, somewhat lost, finding ourselves in a secluded spot. The car pulled over to the side of the road, we hiked along the shoulder until we found a dirt path pushing into the trees and we, sense of adventure in hand, followed where it led. Trees and wild turned into farmland, cows grazing placidly behind crude wooden fences and on we pushed. An unexpected hot wind was blowing against us as we found ourselves deep in pastureland, wading ankle deep in dry, prickly grass and sharp, angry flora. And still we walked on. And were rewarded for our effort.

 Coming to the edge of the fields, as far as we could go, discovering a narrow, deep stream edged with thorny bushes thick with leaves. Suddenly he yelped with pleasure and called to me, pointing at great, fat blackberries clinging to the branches in bunches, blackberries ripe and sweet from the heat and sun. Wild blackberries larger, plumper, less savage somehow than those we would find growing along the paths that splayed out from the village where my in-laws, his parents lived, stumpy, hard littles blackberries they were. These were beauties, black pearls flashing in the light.

 Blackberries nestled in the branches as far as the eye could see, miles, it seemed, of blackberry bushes lining the pasture on three sides. But, he chided as I ogled the beautiful berries hungrily, we have nothing to collect them in. Ah, but we do! I exclaimed laughingly as I dug in my backpack, pulling out a large plastic bag and dumping out the snacks I had carried along for the trek and waving it at him triumphantly. And we spent the rest of the afternoon deep in those blackberry bushes, oblivious to the thorns, pulling off blackberries and filling the sack. Fingers and tongue long stained black.

 Blackberries for a pie.

Black squid and ink

Black & White

 Who sees the world in black and white? Bright as day, white light. Dark as night. Stars speckling the inky black, the furtive movement of trees, rustling of leaves in the night wind, black on black.

 Black and white, scattered photographs, black dissolving to grey, white smudged like a blur of pencil lead on paper, newsprint on fingertips. Black and white, images of my childhood, shadowy memories, clouded souvenirs. A dusting of ashes on white sheets. A vain attempt to remember yet conflicting recollections, confused interpretations, nothing is black and white.

 Black coffee and dark chocolate cookies leave stains on white paper, a notebook in which I record my thoughts, capture ideas in black and white, scribble down recipes, measurements jotted down in black. Or blue. Splotches of coffee leaving puckered spots of black. Intertwining, interlocking rings of black like Spirograph shapes done by a kid in pencil, round and round. Crumbs dabbled across the page, black on white, snow in reverse. Trudging black footprints across white carpets, patterned on white tiles.

Black recipe-2

One of my projects that never really takes off is to recreate the octopus meatballs, polpettine di polpo, that we had years ago in a seafood restaurant in Galipoli in Apulia. The whole family remembers them and maybe that is why I haven't gotten around to make a serious attempt; I know that the memory and the expectations will never forgive my efforts. So I have to content myself with spaghetti with squid ragu but I have no problems with that because it is such a nice treat! 

4 servings

400 g/ 0,9 lb pasta, I used black squid ink pasta
400 g/0,9 lb fresh or frozen squid, cleaned
2 ripe tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1+1 tbs finely chopped parsley
pinch of chili pepper flakes
extra-virgin olive oil

   Chop the tomatoes finely; I often use a mandolin with the julienne part which is a very quick and easy way to chop them. Heat up some olive oil with chili flakes and parsley in a wide pan or a skillet and simmer it for a minute or two before you add the tomatoes. Leave to cook for about 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, finely slice and then chop the squid, reserving all liquid you can then adding it to the tomatoes; do not throw it away because it adds to the flavour. When the tomatoes have been reduced a bit, add the squid, taste for salt and leave it to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

   You have obviously cooked the pasta simultaneously so when the squid ragú is ready you drain the pasta and toss it in the pan and serve it straight away!

Monday, December 1, 2014


The Cut

Mrs. White in the Kitchen with the Knife

 Just a tiny nick, a slice, a cut. One drop and two, a bead pearling on white porcelain, a droplet of red.

 A rush of cool water, a swirl of red, beet red, cherry red, pomegranate.

 Serrated, butcher, paring, cleaver, anyway you slice it; cut against the grain.

 Cut flowers fresh from the garden, yellow roses, pink roses, fat hydrangeas, slender tulips. Herbs freshly cut from the garden, snipped, pinched, clipped. Cut short because of rain.

Cut knife

"The problem with sharing recipes," my husband pointed out, his voice so thick with annoyance one could cut it with a knife, "is that the cuts of meat are not the same. An animal is not divided into cuts of meat in France as it is in the States. And even when the cut is the same, it isn't necessarily called the same name; the name may refer to one cut here and another there."

 He often creates the savory recipes for my blog, the stews, the sauces and the tagines, for he is a better cook than I, a cut above the rest. We are definitely not cut from the same cloth: he cooks and I bake, he ad libs with inscrutable abandon and I follow directions with a scientific scrutiny. He knows his cuts of beef, la queue, l'entrecôte, rumsteak, gîte, onglet, macreuse. Yet I, on the other hand, know my lamb, épaule, gigot, selle, aficionado, lamb lover that I am. And even as he is still better able to handle a cut of meat, be it beef or lamb, rabbit or chicken, so much better than I, neither of us could elucidate, decipher the mystery of the equivalent cut across the pond.

 I follow him around the kitchen, pen and paper in hand, scribbling down his recipe as he cuts and chops and trims and dices, as he does his chefly thing so handily, I tossing questions at him as quickly as he tosses things in a pot on the stove, which he answers, chop chop. Until I get to what cut of meat. Cut off at the pass.

 Vive le French butcher! The French butcher is notoriously knowledgeable about what he or she is selling, a veritable Larousse Gastronomique of cooking times, choice selections, etc. Have a recipe or a craving? They’ll suggest the ideal cut of meat for a particular dish you are yearning to make. Or see a particularly splendid cut in the chilled case, simply point and ask and the butcher will explain how to best prepare it, offering oven temperature and cooking time for that particular cut. No hemming and hawing, no dithering around, that butcher will cut to the chase, offering you his or her own personal recipe for that cut, a dish that will certainly cut the mustard.

cur zest

 I've cut many things in my life.

 I've cut velvet, lace and ribbon, craft and construction paper in shades of red and pink, for so many valentines, years and years of valentines yet it cut me to the heart when such care, my sentiments, those cut-out hearts were not returned. I've cut out snowflakes in white, silhouettes in black.

 I've cut yards and yards, thousands of yards, swathes of fabric during my years as a milliner. Always on the cutting edge of fashion.

 I've cut classes, oh very few but I did, cut classes (most notably the day my girlfriend and I wanted to spend a day watching soap operas). Never a cutthroat student was I.

 I've cut in line (Oh, cut it out! Don't look at me with that judgmental, withering stare. It won't cut any ice with me, for I know you have cut in line, too.)

 I've cut corners. Of course, who doesn't?

 I've cut a fine figure in my day, or I hope I have.

 I once had a pixie cut. Didn't we all?

 I've slipped a slender paper knife in between envelope and flap and cut, carefully. Billet doux. Love letter. I've slipped a slender paper knife in between the pages of a book, separating one leaf from the next. Uncut cut.

 Paper cut.

 I've cut back on sugar and fat, cookies and cake, bread and cheese. And wine. I've cut back and cut out but never for long. Cut me another slice of pizza.

 And I've cut up meat and veg into tiny mouthfuls for my little boys. I've cut up piles of fruit into salad for a little boy who ate nothing but. I've cut slices of cake and I've cut brownies into wedges for those boys. I've cut grilled cheese sandwiches on the diagonal and peanut butter sandwiches into squares. I've cut out holiday cookies for my boys, stars, menorahs, dreidls and reindeer, Santas and fir trees. Dusted liberally, festively with gaily-colored sprinkles and sugar. I've cut teeny tiny finger and toenails, I've cut their hair and not always with the best results.

 I once had a boyfriend who cut off the top of the bottle of Champagne, neck up, with a sword.

cut cookies

 I love to cut. Not chop, not dice. Cut. Long, narrow tubes of maki, knife pressing down through shimmering, pearlescent black nori, cutting through sticky rice and salmon and avocado. Long, plump cylinders of dough rolled around buttery, sugary, cinnamony filling or a jelly roll, a cake roll, a bûche de noël, an eddy of genoise or sponge and fruit or whipped cream cut into even rounds, even thicknesses. Sharp knife perfectly perpendicular to the table, to the roll, and press. Cut.

cut star

 To cut a long story short, these are the best cut out cookies ever, sweet but much less cloyingly sweet than your other butter cookies, the perfect balance of dense and tender, buttery and wonderful. The dough is so easy to handle, roll and cut out, and as long as you are careful when rolling that the dough is of even, uniform thickness, they bake up the dream. And are the perfect base for decorating. Once you try this recipe, you'll be looking forward to your holiday baking. These cut out cookies are really cut above the rest!


16 Tbs (225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
2 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs Amaretto, optional
½ tsp vanilla – use 1 tsp if omitting the Amaretto
3 ½ cups (525 g) flour

 In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition just to incorporate. Beat in the salt, the Amaretto and vanilla and then about a third of the flour until smooth. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible using the electric beater, then stir in the rest with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. If you haven’t stirred in all of the flour you can knead in the rest quite easily. Once you have a smooth, homogeneous dough, shape into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

 Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

 Working with about half the dough at a time, roll it out to a thickness of not less than 1/8-inch (no less than .3 cm), being careful that the dough is very evenly rolled out. Cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Gently transfer to a cookie sheet (I use unlined, ungreased cookie sheets with no problem at all).

 You can easily decorate the cookies with finely chopped nuts or colored sprinkles by brushing the edges or entire surface of the cookie very lightly with egg wash and then sprinkling with the colored sugar or gently pressing onto the edges.

 Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes. They will be set and appear cooked but they will NOT brown. You’ll know they are done because they will slide right off the cookie sheet when just nudged with a spatula. The underside of the cookies will be a faint golden color. Allow to cool. You can now frost them or drizzle with melted chocolate.

  Share on Tumblr