Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And quick

I went out of town last weekend. Took a very brief -- but very wonderful -- trip to New York City to see Sir Paul McCartney perform at Citi Field. Husband got the tickets, and I just couldn't not go. I mean, someone offers you a chance to see Mozart perform, you take it. That's how I feel about the Beatles: their music will be celebrated 400 years from now. So you don't pass up the chance to see one live and in person.

The show was amazing. Paul is such a professional; there is no other way to say it. He is 67 years old and didn't so much as take a sip of water during the high-energy, nearly three-hour set. He hit every note, his voice as perfect as it was 40 years ago. If I age half as well as he has, I will consider myself to be very lucky, indeed. Highlights included personal favorite "Mrs. Vandebilt," off Band on the Run, as well as "My Love" and Abbey Road's "Something" and "The End." Hearing Paul sing "And in the end / the love you take / is equal to the love you make" made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I can't stop thinking about it.

Though I was in town for Sir Paul, that didn't stop Husband and I from gallivanting around two boroughs on food-related pursuits. Friday we enjoyed a very late dinner at Co., Jim Lahey's minimalist shrine to perfect pizza dough. We ordered the spinach-laden Popeye, bright and salty and smoky, as well as a pizza bianca, an artichoke and arugula salad and a cup of ribollita, digging in with great gusto as a particularly fabulous waiter strutted by our communal dining table singing along to RuPaul: "Sashay. Shante."

Saturday we spent the late morning on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx, the borough's little Italy, packed full of imported Italian foodstuffs and pastry shops. I found the brand of Sicilian olive oil that I normally buy at only 60% of the price I usually pay. I also procured a Nutella-like pistachio spread and a pound of Sardinian cheese. A more fruitful morning it could not have been.

We next meandered to Chelsea Market, snacking on Italian pastries along the way. Husband's office is in that building, so we stashed my Arthur Ave. cheese in the office fridge, confident that no hungry employees of Major League Baseball would decide that they needed a large hunk of Sardinian cheese. We then had a look around the Italian grocery in Chelsea Market, where I discovered bottarga- and artichoke-flavored malloreddus. Next stop: New York Cake & Bake, a veritable smorgasbord of baking supplies. I was in heaven among the cake boards and hefty rectangles of Valrhona baking chocolate.

Finally, we headed to Manganaro's in Hell's Kitchen, of recent Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations fame. As Husband and I gorged on very large chick-parm sandwiches, the friendly woman behind the counter told me that she didn't know if the family's younger generation wants to continue the business. She said she didn't even know if she wanted them to -- she thought about the decades she has spent there and concluded that you have to have a passion for the place to give your life over like that. She was honest, and friendly, and inquired several times if I liked her sauce. I did. Manganaro's is well worth a trip (488 9th Ave.).

Thereafter we went to Queens and participated in the mass adulation of a Beatle. But I already told you about that.

When I got home on Sunday the garden was overrun with funky round light green zucchini, growing larger than they should be for optimal flavor. (The garden has a way of doing that when I'm away. It's like it says to itself, "She's out of town! Hurry! Grow!!") I had to do something with them, and quick.

Thus I present to you: zucchini whoopie pies.


Adapted from

These delicious treats are best made while listening to Ram. I'm just saying.

For the cakes:

2 c. zucchini, coarsely grated (about 10 oz.)
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 c. well-shaken buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 c. walnuts, chopped

For the filling:

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 t. kosher salt

First, make the cakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Place the grated zucchini on a clean kitchen towel, wrap up and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt until well combined. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well combined. At low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the zucchini and walnuts and mix until just incorporated.

Spoon 1/4-c. mounds of batter 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 18 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through the baking time. Tops should be puffed and golden and spring back when touched. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Assemble the pies by spreading a rounded 2 T. of the filling onto the flat sides of each of the cakes. Top with the remaining cakes. Eat.

(I don't know what it is about filled cookies, but I think they are all sticking out their tongues at me. This one especially; he is sticking out his little walnut-tongue.)

Makes 10-12 whoopie pies. Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, allowing them to come back to room temperature before serving.


Unknown said...

I am quite sure that you brought some Sardinian foodstuffs home for your sister, right???


(I am sticking my tongue at you just like that cookie)

Dianne said...

I did! I thought you would especially enjoy the bottarga-flavored malloreddus...we can eat them together along with some c-o-f-f-e-e. I also bought a pound of the Sardinian cheese so I could share some with you, if you can stop sticking out your tongue at me.

Tracie said...

I think I'm pretty much jealous of every single item in this post! :) Consider that little whoopie pie sticking it's tongue out the perfect summation of my feelings exactly!

Glad you had a great time.

Unknown said...

OK! I love bottarga and c-o-f-f-e-e!

And, the zucchini whoopie pies were good!

Kyle Wirth said...

Oh nice, Paul McCartney is a huge artist, I am a big big fan of his since childhood, my favorite song is Maybe I'm Amazed He's absolutely the best of the best. Thanks a lot for the recipe given over here, I love that you provide plenty of pictures in your posts, it's such a joy to look at them.