Monday, April 2, 2012

White chocolate salted pistachio cookies with fresh thyme

I don't think of myself as a control freak or a perfectionist, given the ease with which I can think up reasons to avoid cleaning the house. However, one of the surest signs of being one bottle of Purell away from being OCD is to think you're not good enough to be a control freak.  Which I'm totally not.
My mother insisted she wasn't.  But every time I returned home, during vacations from college or between various housing 'gaps' in my transient 20s, my mother had painted more of the house white.  Even the brown wood paneling.  Because nothing attracts me more than a losing battle, I would fight her and fight her about rearranging my room and the house's increasing pallor.  I lost.

She had settled on her uniform by then: a white blouse, blue jeans, and a white sweater, from which she never deviated until the day she died.  When pressed to alter the uniform for a dressy occasion, she would switch to khaki jeans.  The sweaters were all scoop-necks: no turtlenecks.  She only wore brown jackets as outerwear with the exact same kind of style--a puffer coat with fake animal fur on the hood in the winter, a corduroy jacket in the warmer months. She made it very clear that my fondness for color in my clothing and in interior decor was a weakness and an aberration, a symptom of the fact that I could go two weeks or more without changing my sheets and not even care or notice.

My mother had wonderful taste lurking beneath her compulsions, and the house is filled with statutes of the Buddha and Chinese screens. Long before Asian art was fashionable, she collected as much as possible as was within her means. However, her taste was in continual war with her desire for order and cleanliness. Kind of like Martha Stewart, only with more eccentricities and less of an affiliation for food. 

Part of my mother's routine, after her divorce, also included a shift to microwaving her meat.  She had pretty much a standard 'rotation' of foods--hard boiled or fried eggs (no scrambled variations) for breakfast; rye toast; cut-up pieces of apple as a work snack; a microwaved slab of meat and vegetables.  She'd shake it up with peanut butter or Special K, sometimes jelly rather than butter on the bread, or eat the occasional potato or make chicken soup (no spices, just boiled chicken and vegetables in water). 

Since she spent so much of her life caring for my grandmother, this seemed to make sense--coping with the constant, unexpected demands of someone who was ill requires the comfort of structure.  But sometimes I just think that all human beings are made up of equal parts of chaos and control, and we just all find our own way of coping...some people give up all hope and end up living with piles of magazines on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink.  Others develop a strong dislike of red turtlenecks and get up at 6am to scrub the bathroom.

At some point, I'll paint the walls another color than white.  When I get around to it.

These innocent, nearly all-white cookies contain the startling and the unexpected.  I may play around with the butter cookie base a bit more, but I really like the flavor combination of salty pistachios, sweet white chocolate, and the bitterness of fresh thyme. So you see, mom, I do like white, really I do.  Even white chocolate, but I always find it more beautiful when pared with other, saltier and harsher accents of flavor.

White Chocolate Salted Pistachio Cookies With Fresh Thyme


--yields 36 cookies--

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
2 large, beaten eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons fresh, crumbled thyme

1 cup salted, shelled pistachios
1 cup white chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.  Cream the sugar and butter together, gradually folding in the eggs.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, and sea salt together.  Spoon dry mix into the wet.

3. Incorporate the thyme, and gradually scoop in the pistachios and white chocolate chips. Drop into rounded balls onto the baking sheets.

4. Chill for at least an hour or until firm (my batter was slightly soft, which may have been due to the moisture of my kitchen and the softness of my butter).

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly brown.  Cool for five minutes on the baking sheets, then remove.


  1. I like the idea of paring down all the options, but I couldn't do it myself. I'll always have stacks of unread books and at least one purse that still has all the tags on it because it was so pretty I had to buy it, even though I know that carrying a cherry pink handbag would make me feel like a fraud.

    Do you think these cookies would be good with milk chocolate? I dislike white chocolate, but thyme in a cookie sounds really good.

  2. The cherry pink handbag sounds beautiful, like something out of a 1950s technicolor musical!

    I'm not a big white chocolate fan either, but I did like the pairing of its intense sweetness with thyme, which is a slightly bitter herb. You could give the milk chocolate a try, but I think that rosemary would be a slightly sweeter alternative to thyme and a better pairing with regular chocolate, either milk or dark.

  3. Love that you have more thyme :) (see what I did :)?). One of my favourite cookies, which I haven't done in a while, pairs white chocolate with pistachio and I found the combination to be fantastic. I think milk chocolate or otherwise might not play as well with pistachios, but I've never tried, so what do I know :)?.
    I agree completely that we all have parts chaos and control, though I think the problem is when they are not equal. And when you fail to recognize that they are not is when problems can occur. Granted, looking at my desk at work, sometimes they balance themselves out in strange ways (i.e. a pyramid of empty coffee cups :)).

  4. @Adam--I know! It's been thyme-o-rama recently! I also have a thyme lime chicken recipe in the making!

    Although I'm not into white chocolate on its own, I love how it compliments salty and bitter things. I haven't tried milk chocolate with pistachios, but I do think that rosemary, milk chocolate, and pistachios might work...

    I hear ya about the empty cups. I'm convinced that dishes and silverware mysteriously dirty themselves. There is nothing more embarrassing than to reach for a plate and realize that you have no more clean ones left to use... (although in my defense, I don't have many 'everyday' plates).

  5. I hate hand sanitzer (which I think diminishes my OCD street cred), but I confess that I have a thing for white paint. When I first saw my apartment painted in that masking tape yellow-off white color I INSISTED that it be painted a bright white, even at an extra cost for me. It doesn't help that I have a neurotic mother who does paint colors for a living, which means I have it in my DNA to say "Oh, I hate Nantucket White, only Ballet White will do." White power indeed.

  6. @Mother Duck: I think you get a pass on the hand sanitizer, because now it's widely regarded to promote the spread of antibacterial-resistant microbes. (I prefer using nine zillion paper towels and regular soap when I cook). The white thing really must have some OCD validation--you, my mom and Martha. I am now off to Google the difference between Nantucket and Ballet White, although I am inclined to think that Nantucket is the color of faded plywood while Ballet is the color of the crisp, white tutus that the girls who got farther in ballet than I did were allowed to wear.