Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Short stack... but not pancakes!

For this week's Weekly Wednesday Treat Day item, we decided to keep it simple, clean and studded with pistachios!

There are very little ingredients in the recipe for the Pistachio Shortbread I made today - simply flour, powdery confectioners' sugar, cubes of cold butter, toasted pistachios, a single egg yolk and a splash of sweet, fragrant vanilla are used to create the dough. What's even better? The whole shebang is done in a food processor!

The dough will be slightly soft after working with it, so you'll want to give it plenty of time to firm back up in the refrigerator. Being soft, the logs tend to turn flat on the bottom if you don't roll the logs often as they chill out - to solve this, just slip the wrapped dough in a old tube from a roll of paper towels. This works quite well and can be used for other types of slice-n-bake doughs that need to be chilled - if the dough is too big to slide into the paper roll, just make a slit down one side so you can wrap it around like a hot dog in a bun! You could freeze the dough at this point if you want to make it weeks ahead of the time you want them - however, you could also keep it in the refrigerator for a just about a week and just hack off a few slices at a time for freshly baked gems!

Bake these dainty cookies just until they begin to take on a lovely golden hue around the edges and let them cool right on the baking sheets. Tender, a little crumbly, oh-so buttery and just sweet enough to cut the richness, these pistachio-studded cookies would make a fine treat for any occasion. Toasting the raw pistachios before-hand allows their true nuttiness to bloom - adding them to the food processor at the beginning allows them to be evenly distributed into the dough with pebble-sized pieces. While you do loose a bit of their green color this way, it is definitely worth that sacrifice. If you want chunks of pistachio, you may want to add them just at the end and pulse them in. I'd love to try these again during the holiday season - maybe using some chopped and dried tart cherries or cranberries inside the dough and chopping up the pistachios to roll the outside of the dough in for a fun green and red flare.

Fresh pears are one of the foods I love to get at the market when fall rolls around - combined with a bit of cheese, a few chicken breasts and a healthy bunch of mature spinach, I couldn't wait to make this easy weeknight dish of Chicken Breasts with Spinach, Pears and Blue Cheese for dinner this evening.

Chicken breasts, seared to a golden brown finish on each side, are transferred into the oven to cook through, freeing up a spot on the stove to begin softening a bit of chopped mild red onion. A bunch, literally, of fresh mature spinach (you want that hearty texture and developed flavor to the leaves that mature brings, so try not to use baby spinach) is tossed in and around with the onions until the heaping mass wilts down to a manageable size. You may have a bit of liquid at this point, so you may want to drain some of it away so the spinach isn't too wet. The warm spinach is transferred to a few plates to form a bed, while the same skillet is used again to heat thinly sliced pears in a pool of tangy apple cider vinegar and a shot of extra-virgin olive oil. To freshen them up, a light scattering of fresh parsley is also added.

By this time, the chicken should be cooked through - sliced on the bias and arranged on top of the spinach bed, the juicy chicken is topped with the crisp-tender pear slices and warmed cider vinegar dressing. While we could have just dug in now, we couldn't forget about one of the most important ingredients - the cheese! Those crumbles of creamy, pungent blue cheese strewn randomly on top brought a notably aggressive bite, yet still allowed the rest of the flavors to come through. Not into pears? I bet this would be good with slices of crisp apples too!


  1. Ok, really, when can I come over for dinner? :) That dinner of yours is totally right up my alley! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Those pistachio shortbread cookies would be perfect for the holidays, and they sound SO easy!

  3. Oh man, I gotta get a job where Jeff works! Seriously, he has the luckiest co-workers to be treated to your delicacies each week! I hope that they appreciate your treats :o)


  4. Pears OR apples both sound like winners. I like the cookie tips and tricks. I have a bag of shelled pistachios that need using up...

  5. Sometimes simplicity can be such an art. Shortbread cookies have been a long time favorite. I like the addition of pistachios.

  6. I've been known to make a good shortbread but I think it's genetic because I'm Scottish!
    This recipe looks so good, I have to try it.

  7. Those cookies are gorgeous. How you get your cookies so perfectly round (or rectangle or whatever) is just beyond me!

  8. Using the paper towel roll is a great tip - thanks!

  9. Shortbread is pretty much the ultimate cookie. I like the idea of adding dried cranberries or cherries.


  10. TTFN - Stop on by!

    Hillary - Thanks!

    Courtney - me too! ;-)

    Lisa - I hope you give it a try!

    Helene - I agree!

    Tree - Let us know if you give it a go!

    Laura - patience, I think!

    LB - it really does work great!

    Quinn - I hope to try it out with those changes soon.