I was struggling with what to write for our first blog of 2022.
Travel plans? Something philosophical? New Year’s resolutions?
Aha! Thanks to Magellan I had a jumpstart on a longstanding New Year’s resolution—and a blog idea.
Cooking has been a big factor in keeping me sane (relatively) during Covid.
But recipe management has continued to drive me crazy.
Every new year, I recycle the resolution to tackle the seven binders and bulging accordion folder filled with recipes torn from magazines and newspapers. Five decades worth. More recipes crowd my computer, scattered under bookmarks like Lemon Cake Ricardo that Margie introduced us to, hidden in emails like Teresa’s Ricciarelli, and in folders titled “Food,” like Joan Didion’s Devilled Crab.
In the 80s I bought a recipe-organizer book, penning entries one-on-top-of-the other to the point where finding the recipe for Cod au Gratin from Fogo Island Inn could take longer than making it. Yearly progress on my resolve has amounted to no more than a pinch of salt in a pot of stew. I tossed recipes calling for three cups of cream like Lemon Posset, bought a new and bigger accordion file, searched for a new book to organize all that paper, looked at recipe apps…
Now, this will come as no surprise if you know Magellan, the guy who wrote Texaco Canada’s first valuation program (1970), bought our first Macintosh (1984), computerized our blinds (2007, ongoing) and installed a program on our home computer to organize recipes (in the 90s, ill-conceived as Prune Whip.) One day last November he came into the kitchen with a demeanour I recognize after fifty-two years of marriage; he has an idea to sell me that needs calculated persuasion. He announced that he’d bought the perfect recipe-management app, already installed it on my computer, set up categories and was ready to help me load recipes.
“I did a lot of research and I think you’re going to love Paprika,” he started. “When you type dill into the search function, every recipe containing dill pops up.” Because I can (often rightfully) be accused of say, buying a leg of lamb so as not to waste a handful of dill, a family joke is “Leftover dill?” So naturally that’s where Magellan began his pitch.
In less time than it takes to boil an egg, he convinced me.
Feel like chili but can’t remember which recipe is your fave? Easy; look for the ones you’ve given five stars. Want to cut the recipe for Cashew Chicken with Bok Choy in half since it’s just the two of you tonight? Simple; use the scale function and there you have it, no math required. Cooking times are displayed in a blue font. It even has a timer!
Paprika (don’t you love the smokin’-hot name!) makes it simple to load recipes. The easiest way, honestly, it takes a minute, is to search for the recipe online, download it, click its category and add a rating. The Notes function even lets you hash-tag recipes: #Christmas for Grapefruit-Fennel Shortbread Cookies, #Spring for Asparagus and Leek Galette.
For recipes not online because they’re too old, copyrighted or whatever, there are three solutions: provide a link to your paper copies; scan them into a Word document and load them in; or retype them. For “Oriental Noodle and Chicken Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce,” a family favourite for thirty years that we call Dog-Day Salad, I entered the recipe name and its source: Gourmet, August 1981. Now all I need to do is open my kiwi-green binder for recipes from Gourmet and look under the 80s tab. (I also bought binders for Food & Wine and Bon Appetit). Magellan scanned recipes not from these magazines, like Karen Barnaby’s Halibut & Chips from The Vancouver Sun, and I copied the Word files into Paprika. Only recipes too illegible to read like my grandma’s Perishka, too brief to waste time scanning like Fresh Muesli, or handwritten like mom’s O’ Henry Bars were typed in.
December flew by—an exhilarating project for an over-organized list-driven Virgo like me.
More than that, it was a culinary caper down memory lanes.
The recipe for Blood Oranges with Pomegranate Molasses reminded me of many winter dinners, including KJ’s going-to-Qatar party. It was a joy finding the long-lost recipe for Braised Spicy Orange Steak Roll, unidentifiable among the many handwritten under Beef in my recipe-organizer book. Sicilian Seafood Stew with Almonds and Couscous drew me back to Palermo. (Paprika even picks up recipes from Latitude65, like Nicoletta’s Fig-Peckers.) I renamed a recipe for Greek Chicken to “Bill Prefers Tarragon” based on Myrna’s handwritten note. “Pumpkin Cake Roll: A Killer Recipe from Heather” from my days at Sunalta School made me smile, too. Daily, for hours, I took a perverse pride in overfilling the garbage can in my office with more, and more, and more, paper copies of butter-stained, tomato-sauced or crinkled recipes after they had been entered into Paprika—1, 287 recipes, so far.
Now, a recipe for you, Apricot-Tarragon Cocktail Cookies, a treat to begin the New Year.
For the decade since the recipe appeared in Food & Wine, these have been a house favourite. They are both sweet and savoury, like life. Sweetness boosted with the floral taste of apricots, (belonging to the same plant family as roses) savouriness with the subtle liquorice notes from tarragon. They are a cookie and a cocktail snack; and we’ll need plenty of both again, in 2022, I’m thinking. They’re easy to make, too. And JSYK, the recipe is from one of the world’s most acclaimed bakers, Dorie Greenspan—I give you it almost verbatim because why tinker with her perfection?
Apricot-Tarragon Cocktail Cookies
- 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup 4 oz unsalted butter
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt crushed
- 2 cups flour
- In a small bowl, cover the apricots with hot water and let stand for 10 minutes until they are plump. Transfer the apricots to paper towels to drain.
- In another bowl, (large enough to hold all the dough; save on dishes) rub the tarragon leaves into the sugar until they are moist and aromatic.
- Beat the butter with the tarragon sugar at low speed until creamy.
- Beat in the egg yolk until just combined, about 1 minute.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and beat until smooth.
- Add the salt and flour and beat until just incorporated.
- Using a large spatula, fold in the apricots.
- Turn the cookie dough out onto a work surface and knead until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Slide the disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour until very firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with one piece of cookie dough at a time (I find it helpful to leave the second disc of dough in the freezer until you've completed cutting out the cookies from the first one), peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out the cookies as close together as possible. (This dough becomes soft easily so you don't want to have to roll it out out more than twice.) Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden. (If you use the cookie sheets on which you froze the discs of dough, the baking time may be longer.)
- Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Now, for pairings.
Afternoon coffee or tea, of course. Lynn gifted us an Apricot Tea from Murchie’s, “a Ceylon-Keemun blend with the delicious flavour of ripe apricots, which emphasizes the natural fruit notes in the smooth base teas,” that pairs beautifully.
Feeling like more sweetness? The Preservatory, Lee and Patrick Murphy’s farm-based artisanal food company and winery here in BC, makes an Apricot with Tarragon & Riesling jam. It is divine. (I wonder who first had the idea for this pairing, Lee Murphy or Dorie Greenspan? Or was it some wise Turkish farmwoman centuries ago?)
Would you prefer a savoury paring? To accompany their Apricot with Tarragon & Riesling jam, Lee and Patrick suggest Gorgonzola.
Or, you could have it all—sweet and savoury, as we have done by spreading The Preservatory’s jam on Apricot-Tarragon Cocktail Cookies and topping it with a thin slice of cheese and a leaf of tarragon.
As Patrick is a vintner and Riesling is in The Preservatory’s Apricot and Tarragon jam, you have an expert’s suggestion for wine pairing. I know some of you will be thinking a snifter of Scotch would be nice…
For more on Dorie Greenspan, check out her website.
At their Vista D’oro Farms & Winery in South Langley, BC, in addition to wines, Lee and Patrick Murphy specialize in seasonal preserves using traditional cooking methods and innovative flavour pairings under the name The Preservatory. Every flavour we’ve tasted leaves you wanting another spoonful.
Paprika—a great recipe-management app. Currently $30, a one-time cost with no monthly fees.