This week is Valentine’s Day. What, you hadn’t heard? That’s because we Americans are so thrifty and self-reliant. Conspicuous consumption isn’t really our thing, so the advertisers don’t really capitalize on V-Day like they could. It’s a good thing we don’t need to create a national holiday to trick ourselves into thinking people love us more than they really do. We don’t need to spend a statistically significant portion of our GDP on bad chocolate for people who would prefer a nice grapefruit, just so we feel better about ourselves.
But really, even though Valentine’s Day is a big Hallmark-sponsored load of horsepucky, I love it. So this week’s theme will be Things Jess Loves. Up first: salt.
I may have mentioned this fabulous 16-piece salt sampler box I got as a gift over the holidays:
I wrote it a poem for Valentine’s Day:
O woe is he who never tasted salt
And never felt that tingling rush it brings
A twisted lame-ass fate (it’s not my fault)
That salt makes some hearts fail and some hearts sing
My salt box is my kitchen Valentine
A Whitman’s box of joy in little tins
With special types for sprinkling it shines
A beacon of such flaky salty sin
I wonder how that Morton’s soul did rest
Or if he knew how tragic his salt tastes
It’s sure that no salt lover’s heart resists
True sea salts of all colors, shapes, and flakes
These sixteen little metal jars of love
Are all I’ve ever needed from above
Iambic pentameter and everything. (And now you’ve seen the limits of my poetic talent.)
Recipe for Rustic Salty Cashew Shortbread
Recipe 42 of 365
These are not the shortbread you get in the mail at Christmas; they’re light, a little crumbly, and utterly meltable. I sprinkle them with different colors of sea salt right before baking.
The plain cashew flavor is delicious, but finely chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, would make an awesome addition.
TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: about 36 cookies
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole roasted, salted cashews
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
Coarse sea salt, for topping cookies
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand-held mixer), cream the butter with both sugars on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse the cashews in a food processor about 30 times (or chop by hand), until the nuts are finely chopped but before they turn to a paste.
With the machine on low, add the flour to the mixer a little at a time, and mix until the flour is fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the mixer with a plastic spatula when needed. (The dough will be a little crumbly.) Stir in the cashews by hand.
Dump the dough out onto a 2 foot long piece of aluminum foil. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a 6” square, wrap it in the tinfoil, and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets, and set aside.
Let the dough come up to room temperature for a few minutes, then roll it out with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface (a big cutting board works well), into a roughly 12” square. (If the dough cracks, just push it back together with your hands.) Using a big knife or a pizza cutter, trim the edges (if desired) and cut the dough into 36 equal squares. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets (there is only minimal spreading, so you can put them pretty close together) and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake the shortbread for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, or until the cookies are only very barely beginning to brown at the edges. (They will not look much different from when you put them in.)
Cool the cookies 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.
The dough can be made and refrigerated, wrapped well, up to one week; just thaw it on the counter until it’s soft enough to roll out.
As an alternative to the roll-out method (or if you don’t have a rolling pin), you can also form the dough into three (2” diameter) logs, wrap them in wax paper, and refrigerate or freeze the logs. Using a serrated knife, slice off 1/3” thick slices and bake as needed.