I was beginning to wonder if maybe I'd hit some sweet spot - a Bermuda Triangle of good recipes, great recipes even. After all, when was the last doozy I made? I can't even remember. We've been eating well around here lately.
And then. I attempted to make the tahini cookies that Charles Perry raved about in last week's LA Times. I wouldn't call them a disaster, because something tells me they turned out just as they should have, but they were abso-loo-tely, defi-nit-ely not my kind of cookie.
(I guess now is the time I should confess that I don't really like tahini. I have it in my fridge because of the glories of homemade hummus. But after Charles waxed so rhapsodic about the Armenian cookies, I thought I might have found a way to use up the rest of the tahini, and I hoped I could possibly find a soft spot in my heart for the gluey stuff.)
I made one batch of the spiraled cookies (I'm not even going to get into the fact that I found them difficult to roll and that tahini oozed all over my Silpat making the rolling and slicing even harder and that the oven just made the cookies slightly tough, burned on the bottoms and still not-browned-enough on top), let them cool for a bit and then tried the smallest one. Hrmph. The cookie part was tough and bready, and the tahini filling was in no way transformed, the way I'd hoped it would be. It was still its pasty, slightly bitter self.
So much for that.
In other totally thrilling news, however, the Greenmarket had both ramps and fresh spinach today, heralding spring. This evening I heated olive oil in a pan, threw in a quarter-pound of cleaned, sliced ramps, let them saute for a bit over high heat, then added a pound of washed spinach and let everything cook down into a vibrantly green, sweet pile of vegetal goodness (don't forget a good sprinkling of salt on top).
And if that wasn't enough to rejoice about, my latest visit to D'Agostino's (which I usually only visit grudgingly) found me gyrating with glee in front of the refrigerated section where, inexplicably and improbably, Giovanni Rana's fresh pastas had appeared. (Remember my Sicilian uncle? He is my Personal Food Authority and, according to him, this is the only commercial fresh pasta you should deign to eat.) Up until recently, Rana was only available in Italy and was thus entirely out of my reach.
So beside the rampy spinach tonight, we had artichoke tortelloni, dressed with melted butter and sage from my grandfather's garden in Italy, and they were (woody artichoke piece and all!) delicious. The tortelloni made me think of my family, too, which made them taste extra-nice. And begged the question: who needs cookies when you've got artichoke tortelloni?
Makes 24 to 32 cookies
2 2/3 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3/4 to 1 cup tahini paste, divided
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, yeast, one-half cup sugar and salt. Add the vegetable oil and mix at a low speed to combine.
2. Fill a liquid measuring cup with 1 cup warm water. With the mixer speed on low, start adding the water slowly — just enough for the dough to come together (we used just shy of 1 cup water), neither too wet nor too dry. Continue to mix at medium-low 2 to 3 minutes until the dough is evenly combined and smooth. Be careful not to overmix. Cover the dough with plastic film and allow to rise until doubled, 2 to 3 hours.
3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees (for either a convection oven or regular oven). Divide the dough in half and place one half on a floured work surface. Flatten it gently with the palm of your hand to a general rectangle shape; continue flattening it with a rolling pin until the rectangle is about 18 by 10 inches. Do not worry if the dough bubbles slightly while it is rolled out. Brush 5 to 6 tablespoons of tahini paste all over the rectangle to get a thin layer and then sprinkle 4 tablespoons sugar over the tahini.
4. Roll the rectangle up lengthwise and trim the ends. Cut the roll into 1- to 1 1/4 -inch lengths; you will have 12 to 16 pieces. Place each piece between your hands, cut sides against your palms; press to flatten into a disc (they will look like rosettes).
5. Place the discs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes in a convection oven or 18 to 20 minutes in a regular oven, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough.