1

Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

mapleshortbreadsfinal

Where I come from, spring is marked each year by the ritual tapping of trees.

It’s a silent act; you rarely see them attaching their rustic metal buckets to the maples that dot the roads and form the woods of the county. You’re lucky to catch them at work, collecting the golden sap that later ends up in shiny bottles on local store shelves.

It’s one of few true labours of love I’ve ever seen. It’s intensive, barely profitable and time-consuming, but I don’t think you’ll ever meet a sap-maker who’s ever so much as considered not tapping each spring. And if you’ve had the pleasure of tasting fresh, still-warm maple syrup, you’ll understand why they do it – it’s nature’s pure unadulterated caramel.

When I was a kid, one of the highlights of the spring thaw was visiting the sugar camps in the height of the season. They were always out in the middle of nowhere, at least an hour’s drive away, but the anticipation of it all made every agonizing mile stuck in the back seat of the car well worth it.

I remember the steam bursting from the boiling buildings, visible as soon as you got within a five-mile radius of the camp. If you rolled down the window, you could smell the air perfumed with sugar.

Most of all, I remember the maple syrup lollypops – these were the highlight of each trip. Workers would bring a simmering bucket of syrup out to a wooden block filled with fresh snow – they’d drizzle steaming sap over the ice crystals as us kids jammed wooden sticks into the gooey mixture, swirling them around madly to get as much sugary syrup as gravity would allow. We’d rush to jam the lollypops into our mouths before they cooled down too much – the heat, after all, was the best part.

I still love everything about maple syrup – the rich, smooth texture and bold earthy-sweet taste. And that smell – one whiff of it and I’m home. If life were easy, I’d swear I’d ditch the city in a flash and give it all away for a sugar camp.

It was during one of these maple sugar daydreams that I dreamt up this twist on the classic shortbread. Each cookie has just a hint of maple, but when combined with this super-easy maple syrup glaze, it’s like you’ve died and gone to a sugar camp.

Rosettes

Pecans

Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Makes 32 to 36 cookies.

Ingredients

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 – 1 1/2 tsp maple extract
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 3/4 cup cake and pastry flour
1 3/4 cup bread flour
32 – 36 pecan halves

Glaze
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup icing sugar

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and shortening until smooth. Gradually add sugar, stirring on low until light, fluffy and no lumps remain. Add maple extract and salt and stir until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and gradually stir in eggs.

3. In a large bowl, sift flours. Gradually mix into batter until just combined. Working in batches, transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe batter in a tight, circular formation to form 1 1/2 inch-wide rosettes. Top with pecans and bake until bottoms are golden, 8 to 12 minutes.

(NOTE: If you’re not into piping, simply gather the dough into a ball, chill it for 30 minutes to an hour to firm up, then roll out and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.)

4. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Prepare glaze: In a small saucepan, heat maple syrup on medium. Add to clean stand mixer and gradually mix in icing sugar until smooth and slightly thick. Let cool.

6. Once cookies and glaze are cool, transfer glaze to a re-sealable ziplock bag and seal tightly. Snip a small hole in one corner of bag. Using bag, drizzle glaze over cookies. Set aside until glaze is set.

Enjoy!

Advertisements
0

Apple Pie Cookies

Historically, I haven’t been very good at taking care of myself. I eat well and I exercise, but I’ve never really paid attention to what I really need, which is something a little less superficial.

Because every once in a while, I feel myself slipping. It’s tempting to ignore, to pretend it’s not lurking there under the surface. A really good counselor once told me that I need to make appointments with myself. Write it in your day planner, she said. “7 pm – 7:45 pm: Read a book/watch tv/go for a walk. Whatever you want.”

Except I never did it. And here I am, six years later, still struggling with the same issues that brought her to give me that advice. So call this an early New Years’ resolution, or my own personal Happiness Project of sorts, but as of today, I’m going to take care of myself.

After much consideration, deliberation and flat-out day-dreaming, I have come to the conclusion that the key to keeping my sanity, staying cool and being myself lies within the following items/events/random compilation of things I like:

Evenings. I love ‘em. Cozy jammies, hot tea and a good book are heaven to me. For some reason, they never seem to feel as good when the sun’s out.

Cat Cuddles. If you’ve ever so much as ran into me on the subway platform, you probably gained from my fur-covered pea coat that I like to spend quality kitty time.

Writing. It should come as no surprise that writing is my therapy – there’s something cathartic about transforming the dozens of thoughts that race through my mind at once into words that I can organize into logical sense.

Water. I was born in what was literally called a “cottage” hospital beside the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Newfoundland’s north west coast. I grew up in a small town known for having the highest tides in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to shake that intrinsic need to be near water, and I’ll never fully understand the sense of belonging that comes over me when I hear the sound of a tide lapping against a nearby rock.

Jodi Picoult. Yeah, yeah, she’s hardly Jane Austen, but I’ll be damned if I can put one of her books down once I’ve opened the paperback spine.

Mashed Potatoes. Only my boyfriend knows this about me, but when I’m really stressed, I’ve been known to fill a bowl with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, gravy and as much cheese as I can rummage from the fridge – then microwave the lot until it’s greasy and bubbling. There is nothing better.

Apples. When I was a kid, I would buzz through these by the bushel. Some of my clearest memories are from visiting the apple stands that would dot the country road not far from where I grew up. The smell of the Jonagolds, Galas and Spartans would drive me into such a frenzy that my dad would have to pull over the car before we got home just to wash one off for me to eat right then and there.

Pie. What’s not to love about a flaky crust and warm juicy filling with a heaping, melting scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top?

Cookies. There’s just something so irresistible about a dessert you can palm. I love them moist and chewy, with lots and lots of rich chocolate chunks.

So whether it’s enjoying an evening on my couch with a book (perhaps with a furry cat nestled on my lap) or taking a walk down to the lake, I’m going to make at least one of these things part of my everyday.

Which brings me to the topic of this post – to get a jumpstart on this daily task, I’ve compiled three of my absolute favourite things – apples, pie and cookies – into these adorable little treats.

I can’t take credit for the idea – they were inspired by the apple pie cookies at this cozy restaurant around the corner from my apartment called The Good Fork. If you’re ever in Toronto’s Bloor West Village, check them out. Or you can save yourself the trip and just make these pies yourself.

They’re a lot easier than they might look – once your dough is made and chilled, roll it out very thin. If it’s too thick, your cookies will be too dense, and that’s no fun. Then you punch out the circles, dollop some apple filling on top and cover with a second circle. Voila! Apple pie cookies!

Apple Pie Cookies
Makes 30 to 36 cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

5 1/4 cups flour, plus additional for dusting
1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp sea salt, divided
2 tbsp plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 lb shortening, chilled
2 large eggs, divided
2 Gala apples, peeled and diced (1/4 inch)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat 1 egg and enough cold water to make 1 cup. Slowly add to flour mixture, mixing with a fork; add only enough liquid to make the pastry form a ball.

3. Turn pastry onto floured cutting board and knead until mixture is just smooth; do not over-mix. Divide into thirds and refrigerate for one hour.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine apples, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp salt and clove, stirring to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. (TIP: If refrigerating for a while, drizzle with a few drops of lemon to prevent apples from browning.)

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust work surface with flour. Roll one-third of dough about 1/8-inch thick. The dough should be thin and pliable, but thick enough to hold the filling. With a 2-inch round cookie cutter, punch out circles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

6. In a small bowl, beat remaining 1 egg. To assemble cookies, spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of apple mixture into center of 1 dough circle. Take a second dough circle and brush its underside edges with egg. Place over top of filling, pressing edges to seal. Push the tines of the back of a fork up against edges of cookie to seal completely. Cut 4 slits in top of cookie. Repeat with remaining dough circles and apple mixture.

7. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, until tops are golden. Let cool on sheets for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

I love them served warm with ice cream, but they’re a great on-the-go snack, too. Enjoy!

0

Nova Scotia Blueberry Pie

It’s hard to be easy on yourself.

Like most, I’ve long been aware of the fact that I truly am my worst critic. No one obsesses over my mistakes and translates them into failures quite as harshly as myself.

Case in point:

I’ve been having a hard time with school lately. Working full time and then rushing to class two nights a week is draining, and to be honest, I haven’t been enjoying chef school as much as I thought I would. It’s hard – really, really hard – in a way that I’m not used to. As it turns out, a liberal arts degree doesn’t really make you cut out for a hard-ass chef’s kitchen.

But this week was different. Despite my usual fretting and mad scrambling to get everything done on time for the chef, I received a really good compliment from him. Like really good.

After I got over my initial shock, I was elated. I danced in my car on the drive home from class. I cried a little. I actually believed that maybe going to chef school wasn’t just some frivolous pipe dream, but could actually lead to something I never thought myself capable of. I was, as I announced to my boyfriend that night, proud of myself.

And then something stupid happened. I’m not 100 per cent sure where it came from, but suddenly the idea popped in my head that maybe I hadn’t turned the gas oven off at school.

At this point, a normal person would probably brush the worry aside and go back to basking in their temporary glory.

But not me. I neurotically fixated on this minute detail, going through all of the nightmarish possibilities over and over until well past 1 am. Visions of the George Brown campus bursting into flames danced over my eyelids, but most of all, I pictured the chef peering down at me next class, taking back what he’d said that had made me feel so good.

It’s almost like a perverse denial of self-respect, like my mind couldn’t allow myself to be proud, so it desperately sought out some way to cloud my happiness. It’s frustrating, but sadly not something that’s by any means foreign to my psyche.

My mom is no stranger to this self-deprecating behavior. Despite being a successful overachiever, over the years I’ve watched her struggle with her own doubts and fears. So naturally, I knew who to call when I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling.

As expected, she knew exactly what I was going through, and had had a similar situation just last week. But what she said really stuck with me. Probably because it was true.

We don’t let ourselves accept compliments when we don’t think we deserve them, she said. We find some way to negate the positive, some justification for our own feelings of self-doubt.

Most of the successful people I know suffer from this, so I guess in a way I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for being hard on myself. But nonetheless, if you have any pointers for getting over this – or at the very least, pushing them aside in order to sleep at night – I’d love to hear them.

This recipe comes from my mom, who’s aptly from Nova Scotia. Every fall, she hauls out her classic old Nova Scotia recipe book and automatically thumbs her way to the blueberry-spattered page. It’s a favourite of mine too, especially since it’s such a simple dessert to throw together when you’re busy trying to get dinner on the table.


Nova Scotia Blueberry Pie
Serves 8 to 10.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup white sugar
4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 9-inch unbaked deep dish pie shell

Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, cold, cubed

Whipped Cream (optional)
1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp white sugar, or to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.

2. In a large bowl, add 1/4 cup flour, white sugar and blueberries, stirring to coat berries. Stir in lemon juice and transfer to pie shell.

3. Prepare topping: In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, rubbing between your fingers if needed. Pack over berry mixture.

4. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350˚F and bake for 45 to 50 more minutes. (NOTE: If using fresh blueberries, bake for 10 to 15 minutes less.)

5. Prepare whipped cream: In a medium bowl, use an electric hand mixer to whip cream, vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form. Taste for sweetness and adjust as desired. Serve over pie.

Enjoy!

1

Orange Cranberry Bread

I’m easily overwhelmed.

I don’t always hold up under pressure.

I only assert myself when pushed, and even then, it’s not nearly enough.

And I have this nasty habit of not believing in myself.

That’s all to say that I really don’t have what it takes to be a good chef.

At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I rushed back and forth between my stovetop and workstation at school the other night, all under the critical eye of the chef who would eventually be judging my performance on a scale of one to 100.

“It’ll be fun,” I kept telling friends and family about my starting chef school this fall.

Fun isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe that first night. Terrifying is a bit more apt.

I was yelled at for using the wrong sink. I chopped too much onion and not enough leek. I spilled water on the gas burner and burned my finger on the oven rack. I stuttered when talking to the chef. And I got a $40 parking ticket at the end of it.

I couldn’t sleep later that night – just kept tossing and turning as I ran though every single screw-up, obsessing over how I could have done things better or whether or not the chef thinks I’m just another spastic 20-something going to chef school to “discover herself.”

It wasn’t a total flop, though. I made my chicken stock, then my soup, cleaned up my station and went home at the end of it. I learned what sink to use and where not to park. I learned that yelling “hot behind” when you’re carrying a hot pot isn’t nearly as embarrassing as it sounds, and that as much as I may want to pack it up and go home halfway through, I can stick it out and do just fine.

This experience is testing me, and will continue to test me over the next two years. It’s exposing my weaknesses, questioning my talents and thrusting me out of my comfort zone, into a competitive arena of people who are faster and better than me.

I’m not okay with it, but I’m going to have to adapt. I’ll always be the person who falls behind for stopping to help another student out, and I’ll probably never achieve the perfect brunoise. But I will learn to trust myself, and to keep my cool under pressure.

And at the very least, I’ll learn to cook with confidence.

Here’s one of my grandmother’s recipes that I’ve adapted, inspired by this amazing orange cranberry scone I had when I was in Ottawa last month with my mom and dad. And if you’d like to check out another of my grandmother’s recipes, check out my most recent post on Clean Eating magazine’s new blog!

Orange Cranberry Bread

My grandmother’s original recipe called for raisins instead of cranberries, so feel free to experiment with a variety of dried fruit, or try swapping out the orange for a large lemon.

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium orange, zested and juiced
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups white all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan and dust with flour.

2. In a 1-cup measure, add orange zest and juice. Add enough boiling water to fill cup. Transfer to a small bowl and add cranberries.

3. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Stir in egg and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and stir until just combined; do not over-mix. Fold in orange-cranberry mixture.

5. Transfer to prepared loaf pan, smoothing top with back of spoon. Bake in centre of oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in centre.

Enjoy!

2

Vanilla Peach Scones

I can’t remember exactly what was going through my mind when I clicked the “register” button on my computer’s screen.

Some combination of excitement, nervousness and sheer, unadulterated fear, no doubt.

I felt that same frenzied conglomeration of emotion welling up in my throat yesterday afternoon, as I carefully fastened the last button on my newly acquired chef’s jacket, my fingers trembling with trepidation.

I didn’t know what to expect when my eyes met in the mirror – to be honest, I thought I’d look like a phony playing dress-up.

Except as I stepped back and took a full stare at myself, from the crisp white jacket to my carefully tied-back mop of hair, I felt something a little different. I felt like me.

In two weeks, I start my chef training certificate, a two-year program I’ll take on evenings and weekends between work. It’s expensive, time-consuming and in a terribly inconvenient location, but I don’t care. Because at the end of it, I get to be a chef.

It’s been two years since the idea first popped into my head – in fact, just as I’d filled out my application to Prince Edward Island’s Culinary Institute of Canada, I was offered my job here in Toronto. Needless to say, my application was tossed in the garbage bin as I packed for the move.

I thought that working for a food magazine would settle my desire to go to chef school, but if anything, it made it stronger. My passion for food developed into full-on obsession, and I’ve been rolling up my sleeves to develop recipes in my own kitchen ever since.

I wish I could say that I have some sort of plan – that after graduating, I want to work for a bakeshop and bake cupcakes all day, but there’s no such thing. Maybe I will decide that cooking is what I’m meant to do, maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll just be a better home cook, or maybe I’ll turn out to be a real culinary genius. Either way, I owe it to myself to give this a shot, to open myself up to failure and accept that I have a whole lot left to learn.

This recipe is the result of some over-zealous grocery shopping – I spotted a sale on fresh Ontario peaches and stocked up, not realizing that my boyfriend hates the stone-fruit, leaving me to devour all four pounds of peaches before they start to get mushy. So, armed with a basket of the yellow fruit and a pantry full of baking goodies, I set out to make the best peach scone I’ve ever had. With speckles of vanilla bean, flaky pastry and chunks of juicy peaches, these scones are just that. And with whole-wheat flour, a sprinkling of flaxseeds and very little sugar, they’re a perfect healthy start to my day.



Vanilla Peach Scones
Makes 6 scones.

The trick to baking with peaches is to blanche them first – this allows you to peel away the skin, revealing supple, juicy flesh ready to stir into your favorite pancakes, muffins or scones!

INGREDIENTS:

1 large peach (or 2 small peaches)
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup half-n-half
1 tsp almond extract
1 vanilla bean pod (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Slivered almonds, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and arrange near stovetop.

2. Turn peach upside-down and cut a shallow ‘x’ mark into bottom of skin; do not puncture flesh. Add peach to pot and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully remove from pot and immediately transfer to ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel peach by lifting skin by the ‘x’ mark. Dice peach and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, flaxseeds and salt. With the large holes of a box grater, grate butter into flour mixture, occasionally tossing flour over shards of butter. With your fingers, work butter into flour mixture by rubbing together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add peach and toss gently to coat.

4. Split vanilla bean and run the tip of your knife through center to extract beans. In a small bowl, whisk half-n-half, almond extract and vanilla beans. Form a well in center of flour mixture and add half-n-half mixture to well. With a rubber spatula, gently mix until just combined.

5. Lightly dust a cutting board with flour. Turn dough out onto flour and gently form into a ball. (TIP: Do not knead or overmix; the key to flaky scones is to work the dough as little as possible). Flatten ball into a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick circle. Cut into six equal pieces.

6. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush each with egg. Top with almonds and bake in center of oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until golden. Let cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Enjoy!

2

Raspberry Lemonade Ice Pops

I once joked with a friend of mine who’s also from the Maritimes that if we eventually move back East, we’ll be so desperate to shake our hardened Toronto ways that we’ll drastically overcompensate by harassing poor bedraggled homeless people, begging to hear their stories and thrusting unsolicited toonies in their fists.

It’s a constant struggle, every time someone in scraggly clothes begs for spare change or even just an ear to hear their troubles. One of the first things I learned when I moved here was to avoid eye contact, but nine out of ten times I slip up. More often than not, it ends with me emptying the contents of my change purse into their hands or winding down my car window to hand them a five dollar bill.

Except for today. Today I was all Toronto.

I was walking home from the bookstore this afternoon when a girl stopped me to ask for some change. She said she lost her bus pass and needed money to get back to Mississauga.

I took one look at her slightly grubby t-shirt and baggy pants and made a mental assessment that she was probably lying. I said I had no cash on me and walked away.

But as I started to walk up the steps to my apartment, my mind started racing with all of the possibilities. What if she wasn’t lying? What if she really was stuck in Toronto for the night with no place to go?

I was still wrestling with myself as I switched the lock on my apartment door and slipped my shoes off, arguing that I can’t give into every person who bums, that I’ll just be taken advantage of. But no more than five minutes later, I found myself rummaging through my wallet for change and running out the door.

I ran back to the spot where she approached me, but she was gone. I walked up and down the street, scoured the nearby subway station in case she’d gone in there, but she wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

Maybe she was trying to take advantage of me. Maybe they can sniff me out as vulnerable.

But that won’t stop me from opening my wallet the next time someone asks for change. Because I’d rather end my day a few bucks poorer than lose sight of who I am, and most of all, where I’m from.

Raspberry Lemonade Ice Pops
Makes 4 to 6 pops.

For a minty twist, boil one sprig fresh mint with the lemon mixture, or chop three or four sprigs and stir them into the lemon-yogurt mixture before you freeze the pops.

Tools

measuring cups and spoons
2 small saucepans
wooden spoon
small bowls
4- to 6-pop ice pop molds
wooden popsicle sticks

Ingredients

1 pint fresh raspberries
2 1/2 tbsp sugar, divided
Juice 2 lemons
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt, divided

Instructions

1. In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, 3/4 cup water and 1 1/2 tbsp sugar. Heat on medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a separate small saucepan, combine lemon juice, 3/4 cup water and 1 tbsp sugar. Heat on medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Remove raspberry and lemon mixtures from heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to separate small bowls and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

4. To raspberry mixture, add 1/2 cup yogurt and stir to combine. To lemon mixture, add remaining 1/2 cup yogurt and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

5. Layer raspberry and lemon mixture in pop molds. Insert sticks 3/4 way into pops. Freeze until hardened, about 5 hours.

2

Coffee-Spiced Sirloin with Sweet Bell Peppers

I recently tried to sign up for a cooking class called ‘Beef and Butter.’

By now, half of you are either salivating over your keyboards or scratching your heads in bewilderment. It all comes down to your cooking style, I guess.

I like to describe my style as simple. You won’t find extensive spices and foreign pastes lurking in my cupboards. If by some odd chance you do happen to come across one or two, I can almost guarantee you they’ve never been opened.

I like to eat simple things, so in turn, my most treasured culinary brainchilds consist of pretty basic ingredients. I like sea salt and sweet paprika, good quality canola oil and, most of all, butter.

There’s nothing quite like cooking with butter. The way it dances around your skillet with the slightest touch of heat, or how it morphs into this alluringly fragrant foam just seconds before melting into a rich and flavorful sauce.

Now imagine lifting a thick, juicy strip of sirloin out of its paper wrapping, and ever so gently resting it in that oozing buttery melt. The satisfying sizzle as the flesh immediately starts to form an unforgettably irresistible crust, the savory aroma infusing your kitchen with the smells of home.

That, for those of you who questioned the desirability of a class dedicated to “just” beef and butter, is why I was so sorely disappointed when the class was later cancelled.

I won’t lie – I moped pretty hard at the thought of missing out on my chance to spend an entire Saturday browning beef in butter. But after a while, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Class or no class, I was going to sear.

I’d been toying in my head the powerful combination of a good quality sirloin and the warm, rich notes of coffee for quite some time. When a recipe developer I work with pitched a steak dish with a coffee marinade a while ago, I stupidly questioned her judgement. Coffee and steak? Sounded like a grisly combo. And then I tried it.

It’s hard to describe exactly how this works, but it’s like every ambrosial grind of coffee just soaks into the tender, grainy flesh of beef, accenting its earthy composure in a way that no spice or seasoning can. The coffee is subtle, yet it makes its presence well known to your greedy little taste buds with every melt-in-your-mouth bite.

I really like the idea of a coffee rub. There’s something about the rough graininess of coffee that makes you want to slather it over a porous length of steak, working it into the flesh with your fingers.

I wanted to add a nice mix of classic spices to balance the strength of the coffee, so I opted for a blend of sweet paprika, chile powder and a touch of cayenne for heat, and just a dash of cinnamon for warmth. You can always play around with the amounts according to your own taste, and try adding in some new spices for a twist.


Coffee–Spiced Sirloin With Sweet Bell Peppers
Serves 4.

Sautéed bell peppers bring out the sweetness in this tender, juicy meat. I like to serve it with a fresh strawberry salad and some roasted baby potatoes.

Tools

Small bowl
Measuring spoons
Grill pan or skillet
Baking sheet
Small nonstick skillet
Wooden spoon

Ingredients

1 tbsp fine-ground coffee grinds
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 – 1 1/2 tsp chile powder (depending on taste)
1 tsp sea salt
3 – 4 grinds of fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Dash cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 lb sirloin steak
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 each red, orange and yellow bell peppers, sliced

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a small bowl, combine coffee, paprika, chile powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne and cinnamon.

3. Melt 2 tsp butter and rub all over steak. Rub spice mixture onto all sides of steak.

4. Heat a large grill pan or skillet on medium-high. Add butter and heat until melted. Add steak and sear, turning once, until a deep crust forms, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

5. Transfer steak to a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until steak is cooked to desired doneness, 15 to 20 minutes for medium-well.

6. Meanwhile, in a small nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add bell peppers and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and skins are slightly blackened, 10 to 12 minutes.

7. Remove steak from oven. Let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, top steak with bell peppers.

Enjoy!