Classic British chocolate teatime biscuits, with a traditional chocolate cream filling and two bonus fillings – whipped peanut butter, and matcha green tea with vanilla. These crisp, dark chocolate wafers are the perfect companion for a cup of tea or your preferred alternative.
Call it winter blues, call it having a massive sweet tooth, or call it being homesick for my mother country’s dessert items, but over the last few weeks I’ve had a big old hankering for biscuits. Brits (and Commonwealth-based readers) will know exactly what I’m talking about, but just to make the point clear: I don’t mean American-style “biscuits”, the savory (sometimes cheesy) risen doughy product with a soft interior that you might slather with butter and eat for brunch. Neither are they exactly “cookies”, in the strictest sense.
If I was the dedicated type, this is where I might insert a Venn diagram of dessert snacks with a big circle in the middle representing the set of “cookies”, and another circle representing the set of “biscuits”. Depending on who you ask, “biscuits” might totally be a subset of “cookies” (i.e., all biscuits are cookies), or it may have a significant overlap (many biscuits are cookies, but not all), but it’s hard to make the argument that the two are completely separate. As for the “all biscuits are cookies” camp, while that may be technically true, if you asked me for a cookie and I gave you a Rich Tea biscuit you’d be pretty miffed. So here’s the best definition of “biscuit” that I can come up with:
A small, lightly sweetened, unrisen baked item, that will break with a snap (it should definitely not bend), and is typically eaten as a light snack with a drink (tea, coffee, milk). Some are a single layer (digestive or Rich Tea), and some comprise two layers sandwiched with a thin cream filling (custard creams, Bourbons).
If it helps you to think of them as “tea biscuits” or even “sweet crackers”, feel free. Of course, living in Britain, few people would go to the trouble of making a variety of a store-bought biscuit, since it’s a matter of minutes to pop into the nearest shop and pick some up. Here in the US, though, we’re just going to have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. And we’re going to start with the classic sandwich chocolate biscuit, the Bourbon.
Falafel – crispy fried nuggets of ground chickpeas, flavored with herbs and spices – are an essential Middle Eastern dish. Serve them as a meze appetizer with Lemon-Garlic Tahini Sauce, or stuff them into warm, home-made Pita Bread with a veggie salad.
All right, we’ll admit it: we’re unapologetically carnivorous. I mean, we’ll try anything, more or less, but when it comes down to “what to make for dinner”, at least a few times a week our protein of choice will be some kind of meat, hopefully raised and butchered responsibly, but still animal. And those of you who’ve been following us for a while know our shtick: we’re not adherents to any one particular diet or another, we don’t do paleo or Atkins or South Beach or whatever, we’re just home cooks who swear a lot and occasionally drop whole dishes of cauliflower cheese on the floor. But we do love vegetables, and the environment, and we also have friends who are vegan, or gluten free, or both, and who will squint and poke us in the ribs from time to time and say “What about me, bud? What about me?” These falafels, my friend, go out to you.
I don’t know why it took us so long to blog a falafel recipe. Emily grew up going to Mamoun’s (the best falafel joint in NYC), and her college years were spent bunked up with vegetarians, Moosewood cookbooks and, frankly, a severe lack of funds. This gave her a pretty good foundation in the dishes that could be put together with varieties of grains, beans and rice. And Matt rarely meets a bean he doesn’t like, but is frequently disappointed by boring veggie burgers. But these spicy deep fried delights? Yeah, these tick all our boxes. While the dried chickpeas require an overnight soak, and the mixture has to chill for a couple of hours, the rest is easy and actually a lot of fun to make. And the good thing is, you don’t even need a deep fryer.
Silky smooth and packed with flavor, Tahini Sauce with Lemon and Garlic is absolutely essential on falafel but delicious on so much else. It’s bright and tangy and as creamy as sauce with no cream (or any dairy) can be.
Pretty much now considered an essential recipe, our Tahini Sauce is based on the version in Michael Solomonov’s wonderful cookbook, Zahav. Don’t be alarmed by the whole head of garlic used in the sauce; like some kind of magic trick, blending the whole, unpeeled cloves with lemon juice neutralizes the formation of allicin, which is the chemical responsible for garlic’s harsher flavors. The resulting sauce is delicately garlicky, with almost no pungency.
Perfect pita pockets served fresh out of the oven, using a combination of white and wholewheat flour to create just the right chewy texture. Use them in a Greek sandwich, or tear them up for dipping.
When putting together recipes for falafels and tahini sauce, we realized that using store-bought pita as an accompaniment would be a bit of a cheat. Certainly when the process for making it at home is as easy as David Tanis makes it in this New York Times recipe, it’s almost more effort to actually go to the store. Pita is leavened, so it does need a rising stage, but it’s nowhere near as time-consuming as for more substantial breads. In fact, the whole process can be completed in less than two hours. And it’s a lot of fun!
Unapologetically rich, boozy and indulgent, French Onion Soup asks nothing of you but time, but gives back a thousandfold in flavor, warmth and comfort. It may become your new winter BFF.
(2018 update: We’re busy this weekend working with Beacon Farmers Market’s “Soup4Greens” event, where volunteers cook up a whole variety of soups which are sold to fundraise for a program helping local people to buy healthy food. Come and join us if you’re in the area! We’ll be making Sausage, White Bean and Escarole soup, but since we’re on a soup kick, we decided to repost this article from a few years back: one of our favorites and we think it’ll become yours too.)
Do you feel a disturbance in the force? As though millions of voices cried out in annoyance and were suddenly told to quit whining? That was the entire population of the east coast of the U.S. simultaneously accepting the fact that this winter will never, ever end.
You’ve made your point Nature! Sheesh. No reason to be such a weiner about it.
So, if you too happen to live in a frozen hell-scape (or just enjoy delicious French Onion Soup), this recipe is a great way to spend a frigid afternoon. Plus, it includes Winter’s top food groups. Bread, cheese and booze. Yes, there is lots and lots of alcohol in this soup. Three different kinds in fact, sherry, cognac and white wine. This might seem excessive (or if you’re like me, quite restrained), but the alcohol is entirely cooked out, leaving just a warm, rich decadence. Yum.