Eating this election: A recipe for world peace
First there was the taco bowl.
Wearing an American flag on his lapel and a toothy grin across his perennially peach-hued face, Donald J. Trump proclaimed on Cinco de Mayo this year his love of Latinos over a taco bowl salad made, as he proudly noted, at Trump Tower Grill.
The “taco bowl salad” is, of course, no more Mexican than, say, the pastrami sold at taco stands across this city. Trump’s attempt at reconciliation with Latino voters via a fried flour tortilla bowl may not have worked — he still trails Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton among the demographic — but the incident proved to Americans that, even besides the big food policy issues (such as the Farm Bill or GMO labeling), eating is a touchstone for politics in this country, especially when it comes to ethnic identity and immigrants.
We’ve seen other examples during this heated election season. Clinton says she carries hot sauce in her handbag, a clear reference to Beyoncé’s 2016 “Formation” song, where she uses the condiment carrying-habit as a call to arms among African-Americans. Even if Clinton’s handbag indeed includes this piquant detail (aides for the presidential nominee clarified that the specific brand she carries is Ninja Squirrel, a type of Sriracha sauce made by Whole Foods Market), that Clinton borrowed Queen Bey’s reference had mixed results among voters, some of whom saw it as pandering.
But it’s not only presidential nominees who have found themselves mired in the politics of food this election. Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump warned of the perils of Mexican immigration to this country by suggesting that we could find ourselves in the apocalyptic situation of having “taco trucks on every corner.” Of course, this is a moot point in Los Angeles, where we’ve nearly reached that dire state.
Then there was #risottogate. Just last month, WikiLeaks scandalously revealed that John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, possesses heretofore unknown skills in cooking risotto. In an email response from 2015 to one of his interested colleagues, Podesta explained the deliberate addition of small amounts of liquid (usually chicken stock) in timed increments to build the requisite starchy component in risotto. Obviously we now know why Clinton chose this man to lead her campaign.
Finally, and just in time for the election, last week famed baker Dorie Greenspan came out with perhaps her most exciting cookbook. It’s called “Dorie’s Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and it features her updated recipe for World Peace Cookies, so named because if everyone ate them, we would know world peace.
So, while voting is the most important thing you can do this election, after you’ve cast your ballot, go get some tacos (or try some hot sauce), and then share some of these cookies with your compatriots. We’ll all be better for it.
WORLD PEACE COOKIES
– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
– 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular bits
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogenous, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. This is an unpredictable dough: Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, no matter what, the cookies are always great.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide it in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length — get the diameter right, and the length will follow. (If you get a hollow in the logs, just start over.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
Prior to baking, center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Working with one log at a time and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (The rounds might crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. (If you’ve cut both logs, keep one baking sheet in the fridge while you bake the other.)
Bake the cookies for 12 minutes — don’t open the oven, just let them bake. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, and that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can munch them, or let them reach room temperature (I think the texture’s more interesting at room temperature).
Bake the remaining dough on cool sheets.
The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just bake the cookies 1 minute longer. Packed in a container, the cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 months.
Makes about 36 cookies.
Text excerpted from “Dorie’s Cookies” ©2016 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Lara Rabinovitch has written about food for the Los Angeles Times, VICE and Lucky Peach, and served as consulting producer for the documentary “City of Gold,” about food critic Jonathan Gold. She is the curator of the Skirball Cultural Center’s L.A. Food Studios on Nov. 13, which will feature six of the city’s most adventurous chefs and their dishes. For more information on that program, visit skirball.org.