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Recipe by Ricardo Heredia, executive chef, Alchemy

What I make depends on how I feel that day. I love Latin food. Anything South American. My grandmother was Mexican, so I grew up with Mexican food and really love that, too. Monday is my day off, so often I like to go out to have other people make me food. Last night I went to four restaurants in Hillcrest. I was in an Asian mood so I had some Vietnamese, bounced off to some Thai food, and then went to a wine bar for some cheese and pinot. I finished it off with some steamed buns at a Chinese restaurant. I almost always go out with friends. But, sometimes, they just can’t hang.

I started cooking really young. I think I was eight or nine. It was kind of a necessity — I had really bad parents. My mom would leave for days at a time. I used to go down the street and hang out with my grandmother in her kitchen. She didn’t really think a boy should be doing that, but I roasted my first chicken when I was barely ten.

I moved here — to San Diego — from Dayton, Ohio, when the culinary scene there was dying. People were going to corporate restaurants and all those self-made places were going under. I had to get out. After I got to San Diego, I met Ron [Troyano] and Matt Thomas when they were in the process of building Alchemy. We just clicked. They were very cool cats. It was like destiny, like we were supposed to meet. I just poured my life into the restaurant like they did. Alchemy has a home-like feel to me, like friends or family. I live above the restaurant now, so Alchemy is kind of like my living room. It’s convenient. Unfortunately, I don’t get off my corner often.

On Tuesdays, I teach a cooking class to kids in fourth to eighth grades at Albert Einstein Academy. They come over to Alchemy and I give them chef coats. I can only take eight kids at a time, so it was tough to narrow it down.

We make all kinds of stuff. Pastries and cakes. Breads. I had them make pizzas and stuffed peppers and chocolate ginger cookies, which are delicious. We also created a menu and executed a dinner for their friends and family for the last class.

We’re trying to push legislation to change the way kids eat at school. It’s ridiculous that they have to eat those lunches. It really surprises me what some people feed their kids.

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 lb. softened butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 C. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 1 C. dark chocolate shavings
  • 1/2 C blackstrap molasses
  • 5 C. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel (substitute with table salt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ground cinnamon

HOW TO DO IT

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease two cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. Cream softened (not melted) butter and sugar in mixer using paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add ginger, chocolate, and molasses and continue to beat slowly until fully incorporated. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon). Add dry ingredients a little at a time to the batter until the dough comes together. The dough will be a little sticky. If it’s too soft, chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Roll dough into 1-inch balls using a teaspoon as a scoop. Place them approximately 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheets for about 30 seconds.

Remove the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in zip-lock bags with a slice of bread to keep them moist.

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