Flat cookies
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Welcome back to Front Burner, a culinary advice column for cooks of all skill levels. In this installment, we have a mix of questions from LNP | LancasterOnline colleagues and readers, from those searching for ways to use up abundant fresh produce to cracking the code to why cookies aren’t turning out just right.

Arugula

Arugula.

I grow a garden in my backyard. I have my cool weather crops in the ground now and I am getting just so much arugula, you can’t even believe it. Kim, there is SO MUCH ARUGULA. It’s really delicious, and you can smell the “spice” of it when you pull it. So my question is: Besides in a salad, what can I use all of this arugula for? I’ve been eating it with prosciutto and figs and/or fig jam and holy cow, it’s delicious. Any other ideas?

— Alex Henry, Brand & Communications Manager, Marketing, LNP | LancasterOnline

I have arugula growing in my garden, too!

Also known as rocket, this tender green is sturdy enough to cook. Think of it as a more peppery version of spinach, which needs a minute or so of heat to wilt. One of my favorite things to do is to stir chopped arugula into a hot pot of rice, quinoa or farro; the heat from the grain is enough to soften the arugula and let it wilt. Add tomatoes, olive oil, a few squeezes of lemon and you’ve got the makings of lovely warm salad. The heat also mellows arugula that has become a tad too peppery.

Now that basil season is behind us, think of arugula for your next batch of pesto. You’ll need about 8 cups, half of which you will wilt in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 3 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced. Turn the arugula until well coated; it will shrink considerably in just 2 minutes. Puree that mixture with the remaining uncooked arugula, plus about ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and ¼ cup of walnuts. You will end up with a gloriously green puree. Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and transfer to a bowl. I like to mellow out the puree with about ½ cup of ricotta or cottage cheese, but use more if you like. If you have some nutmeg on hand, add a pinch for a nice lemony pop. The pesto makes a great sandwich spread or can tossed into pasta.

Fresh cabbage this time of year means homemade coleslaw to me. I’ve been told to salt the cabbage to lessen its water content and therefore make a less runny dressing, but how do you then rinse off the excess salt without re-creating the original problem?

— Colleen, Conestoga

Salting cabbage the way you describe — lots of salt that results in a watery brine — is more appropriate for making lacto-fermented kraut. (Learn more about that at bit.ly/KimchiLNP.) For a fresh slaw of cabbage (or kale, a close relative), a light coat of salt is helpful for two reasons — it both seasons and softens the cabbage. For about 5 cups of chopped cabbage, you need only ½ teaspoon of salt to get the job done, a fraction compared to what’s needed for kraut (1 tablespoon).

Try sprinkling the salt all over the cabbage, then with tongs or salad forks (or clean hands), toss and turn it until completely coated. You will quickly notice the cabbage shrinking and softening but not creating a watery pool that requires rinsing. Now add acid of your choice — vinegar or juice of a fresh lemon, for example — and keep turning the cabbage to soften it some more. Taste it before you add other vegetables and herbs and add more salt as needed. You should like how it tastes before proceeding. Drizzle in some oil and build the slaw as you like.

Why do my chocolate chip cookies sometimes turn out flat?

— Mary, East Hempfield Township

When you’re looking at a cold stick of butter, it’s easy to forget that it contains a fair amount of water, about 16%. As it warms and softens, that water releases. If the butter is really soft, it creates a really soft and somewhat wet cookie dough. Those conditions are the perfect set up for melting butter and cookie spread in a hot oven. One remedy is to chill the dough for about an hour before baking, which slows down the melting process and limits the spread.

There are a few other possible explanations:

  • Your baking soda is old and unable to do its job of leavening.
  • The sheet pans were too hot for second and third rounds of baking; let them cool for a few minutes and consider lining the pans with parchment or a silicone baking mat to regulate temperature.

One more thing: All-butter cookies typically do spread more than those made with shelf-stable vegetable shortening, which contains no water whatsoever.

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