Saturday, September 8, 2012

blank white canvasses

Today is the last forcasted day of our Indian summer here in the Puget Sound region.  I've heard rumors that we're in the midst of a record-breaking sunny streak, and I'm struggling to recall the last time the clouds broke loose and drenched the Emerald City with its signature rain fall.

Besides walking footloose and fancy free around town without socks or a jacket, huge aviators shading my baby blues from the abundant sunshine, I've been out and about making friends, eating food with them, and otherwise posing as the social butterfly that I normally am not.

Don't misunderstand, I love being social.  Especially when BBQ or dinner party escape my lips when describing my plans.  Already this week I've been to one dinner party and have two BBQ's waiting ahead of me... I couldn't be happier.  

The reality, though, is that I also love to be alone. 

Without the distractions or demands of anyone else in the world, I feel more me than at any other time.  My thoughts, my hobbies, my senses... and nothing else.  Ever since I was a child, I've preferred solitude to being surrounded.  Reading, writing, thinking... my favorite hobbies, all require it.  Even cooking and baking gain a sort of joy and luxury for me when I can do them solo, my complete focus on the ingredients, the measurements, the flavors.  Painting a blank white canvas in my mind.

Food becomes meditation.

This week that meditation coaxed a plate of cookies onto that white canvas in my mind. 

A pile of chocolate cookies, packed full of pistachios, chewy from the egg whites comprising its dough, spicy with crushed cayenne pepper.  Yes, that's right.  Spicy chocolate.  With pistachios.

I had a craving for cookies, you see, despite the added heat of an oven in summer time.  Cravings know no seasonal bounds, at least not in my world.  They creep up whenever they damn well please, nagging and whining with no regard for practical matters, like sweaty brows and clinging t-shirts in a late summer swelter. 

As you can see, I'm a slave to my urges.

The manifestation of this particular urge turned into a boldly flavored, distinctly textured cookie.  The combination of chocolate and pepper is a personal favorite, and the heavily debated addition of pistachios rounded the whole affair out into a wonderfully rich, nutty confection.

Tomorrow the Weather Man predicts a drop in the mercury, a presumed fare-thee-well to our unexpected dog days.  Soon, the oven will be in a constant state of fever, the thought of cookies a comfort in the dank chill of fall and winter.  I secretly yearn for that change in weather, that signal that summer is handing off to fall, the sweaters and scarves finally escaping from the closet, and the sound of rain on the window as I sit inside, painting blank white canvasses, all by myself.

Chewy Chocolate Chili Pistachio Cookies
based on this recipe from Relish
makes about 15 cookies

1 3/4 C. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 C. cocoa powder
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 egg whites
1 cup roasted, unsalted pistachio nutmeats

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt and cayenne.

  • Add egg white, stirring with a spoon, until the mixture comes together into a smooth, batter-like dough.  Add the pistachios and stir well to combine.

  • Spoon dough in generous tablespoon-sized portions onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing the cookies at least 2-inches apart.  The dough should be in ball-shaped mounds on the sheet.

  • Bake for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until cookies are glossy and crackled.  Over-baking will result in harder cookies once cooled.

  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.  Eat warm or cool completely and store in an air-tight container for a few days.

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