I learn a lot from my job. It's one of the great things about writing about food: There are plenty of "Ah ha!" moments.
Sometimes they are subtle things; other times I'm blown away. I can remember many years ago learning to put a thin first icing on a cake to catch all the crumbs, then a second one to make it look perfect. I was flabbergasted that such a simple technique -- one that had been around for a long time -- was new to me.
Which brings me to these two recipes. These are subtle "ah ha!" recipes that use common ingredients in ways that make the recipes stand out.
Fast and easy cookies
From the food website Food52 comes this cookie recipe provided by one of the editors. Here's what Merrill (no last name provided) had to say: "My mother's cream cheese cookies couldn't be easier to make, which makes them ideal for last-minute bake sales or houseguests. They're chewy in the center, where the texture is kind of like a coconut macaroon, with buttery, burnished edges that crumble like a sandcastle gently collapsing. The cream cheese gives the cookies a nearly unidentifiable tang that keeps you reaching for just one more.
My favorite part, though? My mother got the recipe at a Tupperware party in the '70s. One of the women brought a batch of the cookies with her, and at the end of the party, she dictated the ingredients and instructions to all of the other guests. Who knows how many subtle variations of this recipe exist today, legendary among countless other families?"
Cream Cheese Cookies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a standing mixer or hand beaters, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Mix in the flour and salt, just until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and give it a quick stir with a spoon to make sure everything is evenly mixed.
2. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each cookie (they will spread a little).
Bake about 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Do not overbake, or the cookies won't be chewy. Cool slightly on the cookie sheet, and then remove with a spatula and let them finish cooling on a rack. Makes about 24 cookies.
This recipe from the same food site is a smart play on Spanish patatas bravas -- fried potatoes with a garlic mayonnaise. These are roasted, then instead of making the mayo from scratch, you sharpen the store-bought variety with lemon juice, Dijon mustard and garlic.
Spanish Roasted Potato Salad
1 pound pound small potatoes (white or red)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters into a bowl.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Mix and put on a baking sheet in a single layer.
3. Bake 40 minutes, flipping twice during baking. Make sure they turn a nice golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.
4. In a bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice and mustard. Mix and pour over the cooled potatoes. Serves 3-4.
Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, email@example.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.