Medz Mama’s Cookies, aka Armenian Butter Cookies.

Was it really so long ago that I went to Eastern Lamejun and bought some mahleb, with the intention of baking cookies? Honestly, where has the month gone? Oh, right — I remember now.

Regardless, with Easter around the corner (where has the month gone?!) I have shifted gears into a sort of terrifying overdrive — we’re expecting fourteen people over Sunday, and rumor has it they all expect to be fed. I’ve been trying to stay organized by preparing as much as I can ahead of time, and that includes desserts. Hopefully, a mostly-cookie spread will help me keep a firm grip on my sanity, even as shelf space in both my fridge and freezer dwindles. Thus far I’ve gotten two different types out of the way, as well as the mahleb cookies I’ve been wanting to bake for a while.

These cookies are traditionally made around this time of year but, in all honesty, seasonality has nothing to do with my desire to make them. After all, do I need a holiday simply to make a batch of cookies that are lusciously buttery and nutty, that are fun and easy to make, and that remind me of my grandmother?

I grew up eating these cookies, the recipe for which my mom cajoled out of my father’s mother. To this day, we still call them Medz Mama’s cookies; in Armenian, medz means big. To a child, that sort of logic makes perfect sense, no? Not that you have to be a child to enjoy this delicious little treat.

Medz Mama’s Cookies

img_2203.jpg2 sticks butter, melted
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar (add up to 3/4 cup if you prefer sweeter cookies)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons nigella seeds (caraway seeds are acceptable)
½ teaspoon mahleb
1/4 cup Mazola oil (I used olive oil)
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds

img_2213.jpg1. Preheat oven to 325°. Mix the first eight ingredients (up until the egg) until they are all totally incorporated. The resulting dough will be somewhat on the oily side; if you find it too oily add a little bit more flour.

img_2214.jpg2. Pinch off about one tablespoon’s worth of dough. On a clean surface, roll dough into a wreath, a twist or any other shape and set on baking tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Though the cookies will not expand much during baking, try to keep them about two inches apart. Brush with cookie tops generously with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.img_2230.jpg

3. Bake for approximately thirty minutes or until the cookies turn a nice deep golden color. Let cool, then store in an airtight container. I’m not quite sure how long the cookies keep for, because they don’t last long around me.

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Sandwich from Bloc 11.

img_2182.jpg I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve remarked upon my love for certain foodstuffs. Most recently, there was mention of peach Lambic and the Kir Royale. Prior to that, it was choreg. Prior to that it was, what, cookies? Cupcakes? Crêpes? Corn fritters? This is precisely what I mean. While there are far too many items to tick off, that is in no way going to stop me from adding another to the list: sandwiches.

Oh, how I love them. I love that the bread serves as both packaging and major ingredient; I love the collection of flavors and textures and colors jam-packed into each bite; I love that they can be eaten in my most favorite fashion — messily, and with my hands.

I spent most of Sunday morning drinking lattes at Union Square’s Bloc 11; given the intensity of my feelings for sandwiches, I wasn’t able to resist the long list of options for very long. To slim down the lineup, and for that reason alone, I decided to limit myself to ordering exclusively from the cold sandwich section of the menu. Still, I was overwhelmed. There was, to indulge in, the Terrace: rosemary focaccia laden with roasted red pepper hummus, Gruyère, tomato, sprouts, greens and cucumber. Also beckoning me from behind the counter was the Fuse: apple curried tuna with tomato, cucumber, greens and onion atop sourdough.

At last, I settled on the Station 11, though in this case “settle” is a horribly inaccurate word. By choosing the Station 11, I wasn’t settling at all. The combination of flavors — bitter greens, salty and buttery prosciutto, bright tomato, soft and comforting herby ricotta, crusty ciabatta and a veritable pile of sweet caramelized onions — was exceedingly delicious. I will say that, at first, I wished for more ricotta but as I ate I realized that the cheese melded so thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients, adding a subtle creaminess to the sandwich.

The perfect size, the Station 11 left me completely satisfied. In terms of fullness, that is. I easily could have consumed another sandwich, if only to further savor the taste.

Bloc 11
11 Bow Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
617.623.0000

Bloc 11 Cafe on Urbanspoon

Dinner and Dessert with Book Club.

Here is how book club normally works: we meet once a month, we talk books for about an hour, we stuff our faces, we chat about our lives and finish up with a series of inappropriate jokes. Honestly, they’re not fit for print. And we’re generally such nice girls…

Last night we met at Melissa’s to discuss An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clark; before we could get to that, we had to get down to the serious business of eating. Normally the host provides the obscene amount of food that book group requires, but since Melissa broke a metatarsal we decided to bring the food to her. We each took a course or item: Amanda = salad, me = dessert, Darlington = beverages, and Heather would pick up the pizzas from Za, since we all were coming from work.

Heather chose four pizzas — portabello mushroom, roasted red pepper, onion, roasted garlic and goat cheese; mac n’ cheese (elbow macaroni, caramelized onion, cream sauce, four cheeses and toasted breadcrumbs); broccoli, onion, garlic, diced tomato and four cheeses; and pear, sweet onion and Gorgonzola with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, thyme and scallion. I was absolutely terrified of the mac n’ cheese pizza (pizza and pasta and breadcrumbs?!) but eventually I made my peace with it, though ultimately I decided that it was lacking depth of flavor. Something was missing from it, but I couldn’t determine what. (Nutmeg? More cheese? Salt?) Of the four, the pizza best-loved by the group ended up being the pear. Sweet and crunchy, it surpassed the others easily. I did really enjoy the roasted garlic on the mushroom/pepper combo, and the onion was nice on the broccoli and four cheese, but they couldn’t compete with the pear and Gorgonzola.

(I just found out that Za and EVOO share both an owner and a chef; I went to EVOO for the first time earlier this year and am now interested to actually dine at Za and then compare the two. I’ll give you an update once there’s anything worth updating on.)

While I was quite happy with the pear pizza, my favorite part of the meal was Amanda’s salad of greens, avocado, pecans, blood orange and Parmesan. She also made a sharp and tangy dressing that went amazingly with the salad. Though it may not be obvious, especially considering that I seem to write mostly about rich and decadent and cheese-filled foods, I truly am trying to eat as healthily as possible, so I’ve been very focused on salads lately. Even if I were less salad-centric, I know I would have loved Amanda’s salad.

I had volunteered for dessert duty out of sheer laziness — I knew that, if I baked cookies, they would be the lightest item to carry on public transit. I decided to try a new cookie recipe and not rely on the few I know I can bang out. (Now, I want to make something absolutely clear: I am not much of a baker. I mostly have only made cookies that are easy, like chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, etc. Anything that requires rolling pins or cutters is too complicated, and have more of a chance of me fouling it all up. That said, I love cookies. I love cake. I love sweets. I just can’t make them.) I ended up making cinnamon peanut butter chocolate chip, and was thoroughly unhappy with the result because they were crunchy. I was expecting a soft and puffy pillow of a cookie, but these were the exact opposite. The girls said they liked them, but I don’t know…

arsonists5.jpgOnto the book portion of the evening…

Arsonist’s is the story of Sam Pulsifer, a self-proclaimed “bumbler,” who had been arrested, tried and incarcerated for accidentally torching the Emily Dickinson house in his hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts. Not only had he destroyed a landmark, in doing so he killed two of the museum’s tour guides — a married couple who were using chaste Miss Dickinson’s bed for an after-hours liaison — and effectively gets himself and his parents ostracized from the community. Sam is released from prison ten years later at the age of twenty-eight, completely determined to leave bumblehood behind. He marries, starts a family, moves to a posh tract-home neighborhood, and never once tells his wife of his past, going so far as to say that his parents died in a fire. In all likelihood, Sam would have happily remained on this course had he not been paid a visit by the son of the couple he unintentionally killed. After this, everything goes pear-shaped.

So. I really hated this book, so much so that I put it down at the halfway point and started reading a different novel; I disliked that book as well, but I was more interested in finishing it than returning to Arsonist’s. There was nothing that I considered enthralling about this novel — not the writing, not the plot, not the characters. Normally I can pull something of interest out of what I read (or what I eat or what I watch) but I couldn’t even do that here. The writing was boring, the plot was truly idiotic and the characters… Well, let’s just say that if Sam Pulsifer were real, I would want to deck him. Then I would move on to everyone else.

What is interesting to me is the fact that Melissa — who in spite of her foot, baked a ridiculously rich chocolate pudding cake — compared Sam in Arsonist’s to Christopher in Mark Haddon‘s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Sure, both characters tend to ramble and do make a bumble out of most things, but Christopher is autistic. Sam is just stupid. All right, perhaps that is a bit harsh. In spite of that, we did find ourselves wondering if there was something similar afflicting Sam. My verdict is no, but I’m open to hearing other readers’ opinions.

Za
138 Massachusetts Avenue
Arlington, Massachusetts 02474
781.316.2334
zarestaurant.com