Valentine’s x4 and NYT Essentials

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February 15, 2011 by buttermilkbaker

Happpppy Valentine’s Day!

While today is the official Valentine’s Day, the Boy and I have been celebrating since Friday. Yup, you heard that right. Friday.

You know what that means? An inordinate amount of food, chocolate, dessert, food, and vino. Did I mention food?

We did our gift exchange Friday, cooked dinner Saturday, baked (more) cookies Sunday, and ate out (a Thai feast) tonight. I. Am. Stuffed. That’s what V-day is all about though, right?

I mean aside from all the lovey dovey stuff.

(Almost forgot about that.)

Aaanywho, we had every right to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a little zeal this year. You see, last spring I was abroad in Rome for over three months and one of the consequences included spending the big day apart. We sent each other care packages, letters, and emails that kept us feeling happy and loved, yes, but of course it wasn’t the same. So this year, maybe we went a wee bit overboard, but we were together! And it felt really good.

First up, my gifties from the Boy:

FANCY SHMANCY VANILLA!!!!!

Which went directly into these:

The famed New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies.

You know, the ones that call for 24-36 hours of fridge time before baking?

Okay, I have to be honest. This batch of cookies was not as good as it looks. The cookies came out hard and crispy, mere minutes out of the oven. Major disappointment. Nothing a little ice cream couldn’t fix, though!

Alas, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning of dinner, shall we?

This is my new favorite thing: The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Over 1000 recipes, personally tested by Amanda Hesser, and compiled into this bold, beautiful cherry-red, no-nonsense encyclopedic tome of delicious recipes. Organized chronologically, this book of NYT Essentials takes you through the evolution of cooking and eating in America since the mid-19th century. Cool, eh?

For our romantic dinner, we chose a simple yet sensational main course:

Pasta with Fast Sausage Ragu…aka heaven on a plate. And ready in less than half an hour. No Rachael Ray gimmicks here! Promise.

We swapped out regular pork sausage for chicken sausage, but other than that followed the recipe to a T!

The Boy was in charge of the sauce…

And within minutes it went from this,

To THIS! Meanwhile I was composing an exquisite green salad, replete with 3 kinds of pears (erm, stolen from the dining hall, perhaps?)

Shaved parm and balsamic vinagrette (which I have to give the Boy props for–he’s a fabulous dressing maker).

The whole shabang!

Our delicious wine, thanks to Buttermilk Mama:

This went perfectly with our ragu.

My plate. (Times two.)

So, how were the NYT recipes? The pasta (we used rigatoni) was divine. Seriously so tasty and so easy–even the Boy agrees. The cookies were, as I said, a bit disappointing the first time around, buttttt I ended up baking the 2nd half of the cookie dough roll (pictured below) and they came out so much better. I’m attributing this to the different baking techniques I used: for the first round, I simply sliced-and-baked the cookies, straight from the refrigerated roll of dough. The dough looked dry but I sillily (is that a word?) forged ahead.

The recipe says there should be a 60-40 ratio dough-chocolate. How’d I do?

Mmmm maybe not quite 60-40. More 75-25?

The 2nd time, I rolled the dough in my hands for about 20 seconds and allowed it to become more moist and pliable. I also added some Reese’s chips…because I got it like dat. And guess what?! They came out thicker and chewier and not at all dry or crispy!!! Victory!!

Too bad I didn’t take a pic. Foo.

Regardless, the flavor of these cookies was always there. I gotta say, while the recipe is obviously great and all, I think it was the vanilla. It gave these babies that little extra oomph, ya know?

Now I’m cozied up on the couch, deep in a food coma, contentedly watching the Bachelor. Chantal is fa-reaking out. I’m getting annoyed. Don’t you think Brad & Emily should just get together already?! …Do you guys watch the Bachelor, or any reality TV for that matter? What are some of your favorites, and if by chance you do watch the Bachelor, who do you think Brad should end up with (if anyone)?!

Night!

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