12 May 2007
Every woman has an intimate relationship with the cooking of their mother. Perhaps she stands at the chopping block cutting tomatoes just like her mother taught her when she still had to pull up a stool to reach the countertop. Or she puzzles over a family recipe scribbled by butter-stained fingers on a wrinkled index card, trying to remember how mom did this all those years when she should have been paying closer attention. If her mother was a bad cook, then the perfect roast chicken is a rebuttal, because cooking for others is a primary act of nourishment, and thereby motherhood. No matter what, a woman standing fussing over a boiling pot is also, in a way, having a conversation with their mother.
My mother is a very good cook in her own right, my go-to source for chicken-pot-pie, a Sunday roast, or anything involving yeast. Over the years, my cooking interests have grown and expanded beyond my mother’s, and I long-ago took over being the primary chef when we’re together. I’ve added za’atar and soba noodles to our family repertoire, I recently christened my mother’s spiffy new grill which had been sitting unused for over a year on her back deck (“what do you mean you don’t know how to use it!”). So, sometimes I forget that my mother has a wealth of culinary knowledge that far exceeds my own, after all, much of cooking is about experience, and she certainly has some years on me there. I’m often surprised when she’ll say, “oh yes, I made that once,” in reference to items like bagels, yogurt, complex Indian curries or French stews. And though she doesn’t cook much anymore (she claims she’s waiting for retirement), she’s still a wonderful resource.
Naturally, I’ve inherited some of mom’s recipes, her seafood crepes that are worth the days of preparation, a rich moussaka. But one of the standouts are her chocolate chip cookies, which is exactly where a good cookie recipe should come from. My mom’s recipe (originally titled ‘Not Mrs. Tollhouse’ cookies) makes the best chocolate chip cookies, they’ve swayed many a cookie connoisseur. There are a few keys here: ground oats add some texture to the dough, grated chocolate adds extra chocolateyness, and brown sugar brings a deeper flavor.
At the beginning of all this, I said a woman cooking is like having a conversation with her mother. I don’t know if that’s really true, most of the time, I’m just looking to see if the onions have caramelized yet or if the water’s boiling. But if I were to subject myself to my own analysis, my cooking, my search for quality ingredients, my worry over the roast turkey, is in tribute to the nourishment of my mother’s own kitchen, an appreciation of her unflagging encouragement. Simply put, I am saying thank you.
Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
This is my quintessential chocolate chip cookie. The ground oats are key to the taste and texture of them- oats behave differently than flours, so the cookies have just the right chew. We like them small in size and always without nuts, but you can make them larger if you like.
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups oats, blended to a powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz chocolate chips
2 oz milk chocolate, grated
optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Blend the oats to a powder in a food processor or blender. Combine the oat-flour with the regular flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, set aside.
3. Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolates and nuts, if desired.
4. Place golf ball sized cookies two inches apart on a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies 6-10 minutes, until just golden.