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The Cookstr Weekly: Festival of Lights

December 15, 2014
Latkes have been, for me, difficult to master. To achieve the ideal crispy edges, the potatoes have to be drained of their excessive water content. They must be seasoned just so. They can be grated and squeezed and mixed by hand, or food-processed, or thrown into the blender and spooned into hot oil with the brave and rewarding splat method. No matter how you make them, at their best, latkes are addictive, delectable, perfect for sharing and passing around on plates during each of Hanukkah’s eight nights. And with eight nights to celebrate, why not experiment? Apples, sweet potatoes, leeks, and other vegetables make for inventive spins on the classic.
Just add some sour cream, kugel, applesauce, and doughnuts and you’ll be set. Of course, a brisket and some roasted vegetables won’t hurt either, if you need a break from frying.
Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Amy Traverso

Every year, we host a big Hanukkah party for a couple dozen friends, serving up four or five different kinds of latkes (potato pancakes) at a time. These sweeter latkes, accented with the oniony bite of shallots, are always the first to go. And here’s a time-saving bonus: Because sweet potatoes contain less water than regular baking potatoes, you can grate them in the food processor without worrying about their releasing too much liquid.

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The Cookstr Weekly: Holiday Baking

December 15, 2014

Just as the weather drives us to want to hibernate indoors, invitations abound to tree-trimming parties and Hanukkah parties, yuletide fêtes and potluck white elephant swaps. It’s always good policy not to show up to a friend’s home empty-handed, but this time of year, I think it’s even more appreciated to come in from the cold bearing a bottle, a basket, or a baked good.

Even before Christmas cookie season is officially underway, nights in and chilly Sunday afternoons are a great excuse to fire up the oven and try out a new sweet tooth-satisfying treat.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Bill Yosses 

Fiery black pepper adds a little heat and brings the chocolate in these cookies back to its origins in Mexico. Historically, chocolate was always mixed with chile peppers and taken as a drink by the Aztecs. And to this day, in the rural areas of South America, cooks still grind cocoa beans with nuts and spices. The natural oils in the cocoa and nuts hold the mixture together in a disk, which is then scraped and shaved in the mornings to make hot cocoa.

This cookie is reminiscent of that sandy, crumbly disk. I keep the texture somewhat coarse by using whole peppercorns and cinnamon sticks and grinding them at the last minute. Then I add lightly crushed pink peppercorns so you get an overall background heat that’s enlivened with sharper peppery bursts with a slightly floral, piney note. Refrigerating the dough overnight helps it keep its crumbly texture after baking. It’s a pleasant surprise.

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The Cookstr Weekly: Thanksgiving Leftovers

December 15, 2014

Year round, leftovers are resolutely one of my favorite food groups. Cold pizza, reheated Chinese food, skillet-crisp squares of lasagna for breakfast or meatballs repurposed into a sandwich at lunch. But while leftovers are beloved by some of us all year long, they’re the stars of the show for the remainder of this holiday week. Just as Thanksgiving is the holiday of home cooks, the days post-feast hold a special place in the hearts of many eaters.

I would never suggest doing away with the classic leftover sandwich – cold roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and maybe a slice of sharp cheddar piled onto buttered bread – but the recipes below offer some further ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers that become standout meals on their own merits. For more ideas on Thanksgiving leftovers, check out the Clever Cookstr podcast and our partnership with American Food Roots.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Christopher Idone

Freshly made, warm, fluffy, and buttery mashed potatoes are absolutely one of my favorite foods in the world. Leftover mashed potatoes can be stiff, gluey, and tricky to reanimate, but in this recipe they’re mixed with an egg and turned into the topping for a lamb shepherd’s pie that provides a change of pace after a week full of turkey. Tackle this one after you’ve gotten through some of the recipes for leftover roast turkey, below.

More Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers 
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What’s New on Cookstr: Old-School Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
  by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

 
“This recipe is a riff on our favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. It has a whiff of old-school sensibility. It is the kind of cookie that made its way into our lunch boxes, if we were lucky. The kind of cookie that is full of rich, molasses-y flavor and overflowing with chocolate chips (yup, we added more chips than usual). The various-size oats provide a pleasing and memorable bite. Oh, and don’t fear the tiny bit of shortening; it really helps the cookie keep a pleasant shape.” 
 
- Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
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Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mailing us at editorial@cookstr.com. Tell us what you’re cooking and what you thought, and we might feature your recommendation in The Cookstr Weekly or on the Cookstr homepage!

The Cookstr Weekly: A Thanksgiving Feast

December 15, 2014

The contents of a Thanksgiving spread vary widely from family to family and from region to region. In a meal ruled most of all by the notion of “tradition,” the dishes that inspire nostalgia are just as powerful as those that inspire mouthwatering, belt-loosening delight. For that reason alone, it can be controversial to swap out the marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes for a side dish celebrating winter squash, or let some inventive new dessert sidle up along the pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

But I’ve found that what people really want in a Thanksgiving dinner is comfort food: dishes that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside and out. The plate-sized equivalent of propping up slippered feet by the fireplace. Pushing the boundaries should be celebrated, as long as you’re highlighting the roast-able, stuffed, mashed, and gravy-smothered elements of the meal that we all know and love.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord

“When I was a kid, my grandma Marina would smother a slice of apple pie with Cheddar cheese, then slide the plate into the toaster oven to form a thick, orange blanket over her dessert. I was a youngster, so the concept of sweet mixed with savory flavors left me totally baffled. Why would you ruin your sweet treat with a layer of cheese?

“Oh, if I had only been able to appreciate the wonderful flavor combination that is cinnamon apples and stout British Cheddar. Something about the sweet heat of the apples and the sharp sassiness of the cheese produces an unexpected pairing that just makes sense. These two strong personalities might be polar opposites, but they fit together like they were meant for each other from the very beginning.”

- Stephanie Stiavetti

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The Cookstr Weekly: Chili Season

December 15, 2014

I’ll start by saying that for me, the definition of ‘chili’ is very, very flexible. There are many chili purists in the world, and I respect their deeply held opinions on whether chili may or may not include beans, tomatoes, meat (ground or not), onions, cumin, etc. In my chili, it’s often the more, the merrier. While we’re at it, yes, I also put a little sugar in my cornbread.

The chili I cook is often vegetarian, just because there are so many vegetable options that I like (broccoli and corn, always), but ground turkey, beef, and even lamb find their way into the rotation. Whether made in the slow cooker or on the stovetop, cooked all day or whipped up as a last-minute dinner, chili is a perfect solution to the mid-week blues.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Lara Ferroni

“You can do chili slow and you can do chili quick. This is the quick version, which was my husband’s typical Thursday-night dinner growing up, served with a stack of toast on the side. Clearly, he isn’t from Texas, but that doesn’t make this chili any less delicious. You’ll want to use a really good chile powder for this recipe since that is the major flavor; I love the New Mexican Red Chile Powder from Rancho Gordo.” 

- Lara Ferroni

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The Cookstr Weekly: Roasting Season

November 7, 2014

As I begin gearing up for the holiday season, I’m thinking about one of the easiest cooking methods for proteins and cold-weather produce. Roasting is a hands-off method that melds spices and seasonings with whole ingredients, giving food an impressive depth of flavor and also making your home smell divine.

And if you’re planning menus for Thanksgiving and winter holidays down the road, why not take the first half of the month to test out some new recipes for roasted side dishes? Roasted vegetables can make a delightful anchor for a winter salad. And you can also look to roasting when thinking about what to serve for dessert.

Warmest regards,
Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Moosewood Collective

“Roasted vegetables, cucumbers, rosemary. and olive oil are typical ingredients in Armenian cuisine, but then many countries of the Near East and Mediterranean may lay claim to succulent, big flavored salads like this. It’s a beautiful dish, glossy and colorful, and the soft roasted vegetables and crunchy celery make for an interesting texture. It’s typical of dishes created by our partner and talented cook Laura Branca, who brings her Armenian heritage to our literal and figurative “table.” Picture a small, beautiful woman mixing an enormous bowl of some pilaf or other and coming up with a lovely, perfectly seasoned dish every time.” 
- The Moosewood Collective

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The Cookstr Weekly: Finding Your Inner (Julia) Child

November 6, 2014

Can you believe we’re halfway through October already? As the days get shorter, the amount we hope to pack into them can start to feel overwhelming, and the big food holidays are starting to loom. Add to that a goal of getting dinner on the table every night, and you can be setting yourself up for disappointment. I’ve been following with a lot of interest the recent debate over cooking at home – whether it’s a feasible job or even a worthy one, or just another way to make us (mostly, make moms) feel like we’re falling short.

At Cookstr, of course, we believe in the power of cooking to nurture us creatively and emotionally as well as calorically. We believe there is great value in learning to cook and in learning to cook well, from the experts, from the chefs and cookbooks that paved the way and from those up-and-comers who continue to explore and innovate. In many ways, our approach to cooking is informed quite directly by that queen of the kitchen, Julia Child. Her simple recipes, classic techniques and uproarious sense of humor always delight us.

Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director
Cookstr

  by Julia Child

 This recipe remains one of the most popular on Cookstr, which used to mystify me a little. Aren’t mashed potatoes pretty straightforward? But the longer I spend with the Cookstr recipes and community, the more I get it. We make mashed potatoes on big, important holidays, for celebration, for comfort, for a treat, to make someone’s day a little bit better. You don’t want just any mashed potatoes – you want the mashed potatoes. That’s what we aim for in the recipes we feature on Cookstr. To deliver just the right recipe, by a chef or cookbook author we trust, right when you need it. 


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