Tuesday, April 29, 2014

S'Mores Crispy Treats


Huge instagram photo because S'MORES CRISPIES! by @kelsamur 

I've been pondering, plotting, pouring over recipes, and generally bothering MJ constantly about different ideas and stratagems relating to the great quest to create a S'Mores Crispy for the past few days.
Golden Grahams or real graham crackers?
Milk or dark chocolate? Or BOTH?
Yes, definitely both. 
How to best get toasty marshmallow flavor?
Marshmallow fluff for softer, gooeier crispies?
Yes.
Should I toss in some of those marshmallow bits that are usually in hot chocolate? Sure, why not.
All of that.

 I think the name pretty much says it all, but just in case you want a definition for S'mores Crispy Treats, this new dessert hybrid blends the genius combination of toasted marshmallows, melty chocolate, and graham crackers with an extra ooey gooey rice crispy. I had high hopes for this concoction, and this blend of recipes did not disappoint. In fact, my triumph was so great that I spent a large part of the evening yelling "S'MORES CRISPY!" at random intervals. Sorry neighbors. It was even the last thing I whispered to my husband before I fell asleep. He knows it means love.

 
Late night snack @kelsamur 

I think these treats might have the potential to trump the Cronut (TM) for next hybrid thing–no disrespect to Mr. Ansel, who is truly a genius and shockingly thin. But I don't even want to spare the time to wait in that line much less the 3+ days it would take me to make one. Ain't nobody got time for that!

 But this recipe takes about thirty minutes, and you don't even have to wait for the marshmallow and chocolate-laden squares to cool before you dive right in. In fact, I suggest you don't. Get a stack of napkins and go crazy.

S'Mores Crispy Treats

What really sets these glammed-up rice crispies apart from other recipes are two simple extra steps: 1) adding a layer of oven-toasted marshmallows, and 2) browning the butter, as inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Both take just a few extra minutes, but return huge dividends in the flavor department. (Can you tell I married a banker?) 


The oven-toasting method was actually a happy accident; I was working off a milkshake recipe that suggested using your oven's broiler to get toasty marshmallows sin campfire, but I do not trust my broiler. It's more temperamental than spring in NYC. Or Idaho. But I discovered that baking the marshmallows turns them into a lovely sheet of toasty goodness, which you can then layer in your rice crispy treats. You can also break them into small pieces once they've cooled, which I did with about half the pan, intending to mix the toasted 'mallows throughout. But it gets a bit sticky and next time around, I'll just do a double layer in the middle, as suggested below. Be sure to cover your baking sheet with a layer of parchment so you can magically lift off the entire sheet of marshmallows. Ooooooh. 

Makes an 8x8 pan of very thick bars, or a 9x13 with a single layer of marshmallows in the middle

Ingredients:
6 tblsp. butter
1 7.5 oz jar marshmallow fluff
5 oz. (half a bag) jumbo marshmallows
3 cups crisp rice cereal
6 graham crackers 
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
heaping 1/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt, preferably kosher
1/3 cup marshmallow bits (optional)

about 20 to 24 large marshmallows, for toasting

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter 20 to 24 large marshmallows evenly across baking sheet. You might want to toss on a few extra, for snacking. Bake until puffed and light golden brown. At the moment, I can not tell you precisely how long this takes, because while baking, I was distracted by a burrito that needed eating. This takes about 10 minutes, depending on your oven—keep a close watch, because the space between golden perfection and charred is not a big space. Set toasted marshmallows aside to cool. Grease an 8x8 or 9x13 pan with a light coat of cooking spray or butter; set aside. 

2. Measure crisp rice cereal into a large bowl with marshmallow bits, if using. With your hands, break graham crackers into small pieces (no bigger than a quarter) over the bowl. Stir to combine. Usually, I skip these "mix the dry ingredients" steps, because I'm a rebel. But this step will make adding the cereal and cookie bits to the marshmallow while it's still soft much easier. BONUS: Using a really big pan for the melting the butter and marshmallows means you can pour everything else in there later, then only clean up one sticky item. 

3. In a large (5 qt or bigger) pan, melt butter over medium low heat, stirring often and scrapping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or a stiff heat proof spatula. The butter will melt slowly, then begin to foam and brown. As soon as it begins to brown and smell nutty, turn off the heat and add marshmallow fluff, 5 oz marshmallows, salt, and vanilla. Stir until combined and just a few small marshmallow lumps remain. Pour in cereal and graham cracker blend, and stir until well combined. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips and all dark or semi-sweet chips. Stir until just combined–-more chocolate will be concentrated in some areas and that's okay. 

4. While still hot, press half of the mixture into greased pan. Top with reserved 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips (feel free to use more if making a 9x13. I don't think anyone will mind). Peel cooled toasted marshmallows off parchment and layer them across the top of the chocolate chips, breaking the marshmallows apart as needed to fit pan; they will be slightly crisp and break apart easily. For an 8x8, you should have enough marshmallows for a double layer. Press remaining half of marshmallowy rice crispy and graham goodness over the toasted marshmallow layer, packing down to bind layers together. 


These are awesome while still warm. And you look good with chocolate all over your face. 

I would assume they will keep well in an airtight container for a few days, but it doesn't look like I'll be able to verify that anytime soon. 


Friday, April 25, 2014

Egg & Chorizo Bean Burritos

When I was a young college freshman, with not much money and even less spare time, I spent a large portion of a weekend at home in the kitchen of Maria Martinez, whose daughters are dear friends. Under her tutelage, I learned to make real enchiladas from scratch and incredible tortillas, which she rolled into perfect circles using an old dowel. But the dish that became a permanent part of my repertoire was a simple protein-packed dish she whipped up as an afterthought. Pepper-packed chorizo, a couple eggs, some pinto beans, and a pinch of salt rendered an incredibly flavorful dish. My late-night burrito habits would never be the same. 
Mexican chorizo differs from Spanish chorizo, which is considered a fine piece of charcuterie, in a few key ways. Spanish chorizo is cured, so it doesn't need to be cooked before you eat it, while Mexican chorizo is typically sold raw in a casing like sausage. It is flavored with paprika, chili peppers, and vinegar, which gives it a signature tang. I've had trouble finding chorizo since moving to Manhattan, but decided to try Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo yesterday; it was good, but lacked the punch of flavor that the traditional Mexican imports. However, since Mexican chorizo is traditionally made from fatty bits of pork, the soy version was definitely much more diet friendly. 



I'm using these stock images, as this particular chorizo dish is...less than beautiful. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in flavor. I like to use mine as a burrito filling, but it's also great as a dip or side dish. I like to finish my egg & chorizo bean burritos with a splash of lime juice, a few dollops of sour cream, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Any cheese will do, of course, but the tangy bite of cotija is perfectly suited to the smoky spice of the chorizo's flavor. Don't skip the sour cream, either; the cream is a great counterpoint to the bold flavors.

Egg & Chorizo Bean Burritos

Serves 4
This recipe uses half a package of chorizo, but it could easily be doubled. The finished beans store well in the fridge for at least five days; a quick microwave and perhaps a splash of water are all that's needed to reheat this burrito filling to perfection. 

For Filling:
5 to 6 oz. chorizo
2 large eggs
1 can refried beans
1/3 cup water
1/2 tbs. oil
1/2 tsp salt
dash black pepper

For Serving:
tortillas
cotija or other cheese
sour cream
lime juice
lettuce

1. In a large frying pan or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Squeeze chorizo out of casing and sauté until slightly browned, using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon to break up large pieces. Quite a bit of fat will render out of the chorizo if you use the pork variety; you can drain some of it off, but it has such great flavor I like to leave it in.

2. Crack eggs directly over hot chorizo. Scramble eggs with chorizo, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. When eggs are thoroughly cooked and no runny yolks or whites remain, reduce heat to low and add refried beans and water. Stir until eggs, chorizo, and beans blend together, add salt and a bit of black pepper, if desired.

3. Serve in warm tortillas, topped with a squeeze of lime juice, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce.




Sunday, March 30, 2014

Loaded Granola

In my mind, granola is one of those foods that just goes with Christmas. I just fills your house with the smell of sweet spices. My mother made huge batches every holiday season, cycling through various recipes and filling cellophane bags for friends and neighbors. This year, I followed suit, but had to make a completely different recipe, of course, 'cause you just can't compete with the goodies that come out of my the oven at my mama's house.


This granola is crisp, quite sweet, and full of nuts, seeds, spices, and dried fruit. And it's salty, so it makes a great anytime snack. (If you don't go for the salty/sweet thing so much, dial the salt back to one heaping teaspoon.) It's also flexible. So if you aren't a fan of pepitas—a.k.a. hulled pumpkin seeds—or have trouble finding them, you could swap them out for slivered almonds or another favorite nut. If you're questioning the pistachios, I highly recommend trying it at least once, unless you have an allergy, because their texture and flavor adds a lot to this recipe, since the nuts stay a little soft and taste almost creamy in this mix.

 Granola is rather forgiving, so you can play with ingredients quite a bit. I find that it stays crisper if you don't mix it with the dried fruit until serving; at home I liked to keep my dried fruit mixture chopped up and ready to use in a separate bag, so my granola doesn't loose its crunch.

Loaded Granola


This recipe makes enough to fill two cookie sheets. But it's irresistibly snackable, so you might want to bag it up and put it out of sight as soon as it cooled. The Mr. and I have demolished quite a bit just with walk-by munching. Cardamom can be tricky to find, and the granola won't suffer greatly without it. But it adds a little extra something special, a flavor that's a bit unfamiliar with just a hint of piney scent that seems fitting for granola. 


5 ½ cups rolled oats

¾ cup pepitas

¾ cup sunflower seeds

¾ cup pistachios
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tsp. salt
2 ½ tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger 
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cardamom 

½ cup maple syrup
½ cup honey
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup coconut chips

1 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried golden raisins

1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. (Parchment won't scorch like wax paper.) In a very large bowl, combine oats, pepitas, sunflower seeds, pistachios, salt, and spices. Add brown sugar, breaking apart the packed shapes from your measuring cup and sprinkling it over the other dry ingredients to help it incorporate more easily. Stir. 

2. Pour olive oil, maple syrup, and honey over dry ingredients. If you measure them all in the same measuring cup, they will make cool layers, like shown below. As you can see, I used a bit more maple syrup in this batch, because that's what was left in the bottle in my cupboard. So if you want your granola a little extra sweet, go for it. Stir granola mixture until all dry ingredients are moistened. 
Oooh, Science.
3. Pour granola on to parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and stir granola with a large spatula, turning over the mixture so the bottom doesn't scorch. I also like to switch which pan is on which shelf at this point, since the bottom of my oven is much hotter than the top. Set timer for 15 minutes, and stir again. At this point, add the coconut flakes, sprinkling them evenly over each pan and mixing in to the granola. Bake for at least 10 more minutes, until some of the coconut stars to turn slightly golden. Baking times may vary with altitude and humidity levels. After 40 minutes, I like to scoop some granola onto a plate, let it cool until edible, and test its crunchiness. If you want your granola a little more crisp, continue to bake it, testing at 5 to 10 minute intervals. 

4. When is granola crisp and golden (usually about 45 to 55 minutes), remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or large ziploc bag. Toss with dried fruit before serving (or gifting). Granola will keep for up to two weeks. But good luck with that. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bring the Heat: Fiery Tomatillo & Avocado Salsa

March is a tricky month. If you're like me and live in a climate with all four seasons, Spring is teasing you with hints of green poking through last Fall's detritus and blue skies with cotton candy clouds. But, if you live in somewhere northernish, like New York, it is still bitterly cold. You might believe the promise of those brilliant blue skies and run outside in an optimistically light jacket, only to return, windswept and numbed, a short time later. Yes, there are crocuses blooming, and I'm sure in a few months I'll be roasting, but for now, I want thick socks (highly uncharacteristic) and warm baked goods with melty chocolate (all too typical).

March is tricky for cooking, too. You still want something warm and a bit substantial, but after months of root veggies, casseroles, hearty soups, and creamy sauces...all that sort of hearty warmth has lost a bit of its comforting appeal. We're ready for crisp spring vegetables and vibrant colors of summer farmer's market stalls.

It's always this time of year that I dive into stir-fries with Thai influences, Indian curries, and, citrus-infused Mexican food. Sweet and sour becomes my sauce of choice and everything gets doused with citrus, just to ward of any scurvy that might be setting in. I realize that the possibility of developing scurvy pretty much doesn't exist, but that $#!% is terrifying, so, why even get close to risking it? Plus, limes are delicious.

So just don't. Try this salsa instead. Its vibrant kick is sure to brighten up tacos, salads, burritos, fajitas, or even just a big bowl of chips. I had, um, somehow managed to forget that serrano pepers are quite a bit hotter than jalapeños. I only used one, so the salsa wasn't too fiery, but I probably could have done without the pinch of red pepper flakes I added...

This is a terrible photo from my phone. But it's all I've got as far as
photography equipment goes right now. Wah wah. 

Fiery Tomatillo & Avocado Salsa

The flavor of this salsa is deepened by roasting some of the veggies before dumping everything in your blender and buzzing it to perfection. It's almost TOO easy. If you want less heat, you could definitely exchange the serrano for a jalapeño

3 or 4 medium to large tomatillos
1 small green bell pepper, seeded & halved
1 small yellow onion, halved & skin removed
1 serrano pepper
2 limes
1 avocado
Large handful of cilantro, about 1/2 cup
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
dash paprika
olive oil
salt, to taste (a heaping 1/2 tsp, for me)
water, for thinning consistency of salsa
for hotter salsa, add a pinch of red pepper flakes

1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Peel skins from tomatillos and wash thoroughly. Place whole tomatillos, serrano, half of the onion, & half of the bell pepper on a baking sheet lined with foil or in glass pan. Toss veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, and roast until slightly charred; this should take about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your oven. My oven heats very unevenly, so to get the char I wanted on my veggies, I had to turn on the broiler for the last minute or two of cooking time.

2. Let roasted veggies cool. Once they are cool enough to touch, break open the serrano pepper with your fingers and remove the seeds and membrane. (You can skip this step if you want atomic heat.) Add tomatillos, roasted peppers & onions to blender along with raw green pepper & onion, garlic, spices, and salt. Cut avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into the blender. Add the juice of both limes and a 3 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth. 

For thinner dressing-like salsa, add more water. 

Serve with chips, bell pepper strips, or on top of your favorite South-of-the-Border foods!