Archive | March, 2011

Vanilla Agave Granola

28 Mar

When you can’t find a recipe on the internet, it’s time to experiment.  This is sort of a melding of a Bobby Flay and an Epicurious recipe.  I am into the idea of making your own granola, but I hate that it can be so packed with sugar.  This uses agave nectar instead of some of that sugar- but still has the right amount of sweetness.  This recipe is very adaptable, so go crazy.  I enjoyed some w. milk- and some in a giant bowl w. greek yogurt, maple syrup, pomegranate seeds, bananas and raspberries- delicious. If you are having people over for brunch you could, as mrs. weiner suggests, make into pretty parfaits- layering the yogurt, berries and granola.
Let’s also talk for a minute about vanilla beans- which can add a great boost of vanilla flavor.  Unless you shop at the co-op, these can be pretty expensive [just to tell you how awesome the co-op is (again) i’ve seen them cost $7 for one bean, and at the co-op you get 3 beans for $1.44.]  Sometimes they come in glass viles, be sure to store beans in these or other air tight container, otherwise they dry out.  To use, run your knife down the bean, splitting it in half lengthwise.  Then run your knife down each side, scraping up all the little black specs onto your knife.  Add specs to whatever you are flavoring. You can put the scraped out bean in a little jar, fill with white sugar, close, wait a week- and boom- vanilla sugar.  Great to have on hand for things like this, french toast, baked goods etc.

4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 cup vegetable/canola oil (maybe coconut oil would work too?)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
if you have it: 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar and vanilla bean

Optional add-ins.  If adding a cup or more of something else, I’d only use 3 cups of oats
1 cup chopped dried fruit such as raisins, figs, dates, dried cherries, cranberries or mango
almond slivers or other nuts
2 teaspoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons flax seeds
1/2 cup of any other seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower
shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Whisk together honey, oil, agave, vanilla, cinnamon and sugars.  In a large bowl, mix together oats, salt and any seeds/wheat germ/nuts.  Add wet mixture to dry and coat thoroughly.  Spread on baking sheet.  Cook 25-35 mins- stirring once- until crisp and golden brown.  Put baking sheet on cooling rack, allow to cool slightly, then break into chunks.  Mix in dried fruit. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.  I think it could keep for at least a week, though mine disappeared much more quickly.


Mint Brownies with Homemade Peppermint Patties

21 Mar

Chocolate and mint.  One of the best combos.  When Terry sent me this recipe from David Lebovitz’s blog, I knew I had to make them. He adapted it from Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies.  And what was most impressive about David’s post- is that he makes his own peppermint patties!  He doesn’t include the recipe- so I scoured the internet- finding one on Epicurious- and finding out that people actually make these… from scratch. And as ridiculous as this is- the more I thought about it- the more I had to do it.  All I needed was a lovely weekend at Mrs. Weiner’s- with a lot of time and counter space- to get these done. These brownies are crazy awesome good. Next time, I don’t feel like it is wholly necessary to make your own peppermint patties- and would probably just use Yorks- to cut down on time.  I would make the peppermint patties again though- to eat on their own- and have included the recipe below.  I have huge respect for Maida and her brownies– and have come to trust anything she does.  This makes a shit ton of brownies.  They are very rich- so best to cut them into thin bars or small squares.  Enough for a party.  And I am just going to say something wild here— but I bet you could do the same thing with peanut butter cups. And can even your own on those too… peanut butter patties… or maybe even caramel ones…ah, for another day.

Mint Brownies
8 ounces (225g) unsweetened chocolate
8 ounces (225g) unsalted butter
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso
3 1/2 cups (350g) sugar
1 2/3 cup (170g) sifted flour
about 2 pounds (1kg) chocolate-covered thin mints (peppermint patties) or you can make your own

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC).
2. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil, shiny side down. Smooth the foil then butter it lightly or coat it with nonstick spray- see Just the Tips #2.
3. Chop the chocolate and cut the butter into cubes, then warm them together in a medium bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat as soon as both are melted and smooth.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or by hand, whip the eggs, vanilla, salt, instant coffee, and sugar on high speed for about ten minutes until foamy and stiff.
5. By hand, stir in the chocolate mixture, then the flour.
6. Smooth half of the batter into the pan. Place a layer of thin mints over the chocolate, breaking the mints into pieces to fill in any large gaps. [or as I did use measure one giant slab of mint pattie]
7. Pour the rest of the batter over the mints and smooth the top.
8. Bake the brownies for 35 minutes, rotating the brownies midway during baking.
When the brownies are done, they will have a firm crust on top but a toothpick inserted into the center should come out wet. Do not overbake the brownies. [I took mine out after 30 mins and they were perfect- they cook more as they cool]
9. Let the brownies cool completely [this took several hours], then lift them out of the pan and slice into rectangles.
Storage: The brownies will keep at room temperature for up to three days. They can be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to two months.

*Adaption- Peanut Butter brownies– so I didn’t try it with the peanut butter cups- which I still think is a great idea. Instead, I used the same brownie recipe and incorporated a peanut butter swirl. To do this, you can pour in half the batter, then glob big spoons of creamy peanut butter- don’t use natural- in random places. Then take a knife and run it in figure 8s to swirl the peanut butter. Pour rest of batter and repeat the process. When I made in the Adirondaks- we only did peanut butter on top layer- and the general consensus was that people wish there was more pb throughout- instead of mainly on top. Otherwise- follow recipe as above.

Peppermint Patties

I would definitely make these again.  If not for the brownies, then just as a candy treat.  This recipe came from Epicurious but I simplified it quite a bit.  To make little circular patties, they suggest rolling out the mint center, cutting out circles w. cookie cutters, and using a candy thermometer- which, if you read my salted caramel post- know my dislike for.  And then they dip the rounds in chocolate- but dipping was enough of a pain in the ass for the cake balls– that I steer clear of it where I can.  For the brownies- I doubled the recipe- and made a giant slab- and then trimmed it to the brownie pan specifications.  But even if I was not using them for the brownies, i’d still make a big block and cut in rectangles like Andes.  Or if you want to be fancy, take a cookie cutter and cut out any shapes you want from the finished slab.  This is much easier to me than dealing w. the dipping.  The whole candy thermometer bit, which I ignored, is that you don’t want the chocolate to be so hot that it melts the mint.  So what I did was. once the chocolate was melted, just wait a minute until it is slightly cooled to use.

I doubled the recipe below to fit in the brownies.

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used ghiradelli bittersweet which is 60%)

Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (or rectangle) (less than 1/4 inch thick) [I doubled the recipe so had about a 10 x 15 ovalish shape- trimmed later to 9×13 rectangle]. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.
Line a cookie sheet w. parchment paper. Melt half of chocolate in a metal bowl(or pyrex) set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  [If the chocolate is too hot it will melt the mint.] Pour chocolate on parchment paper and spread with spatula or some such into a thin chocolate layer- should be about the size of your mint layer. Place the frozen mint layer on top.  Put in the fridge while you melt the rest of the chocolate.  Melt rest of chocolate- allow again to cool slightly- spread over mint layer.  Put cookie sheet in fridge to set, about an hour.  Cut into little Andes size rectangles- or cut out desired shapes. I think these are best kept in the fridge.

Green Salsa

17 Mar

I love green salsa.  And what I loved about New Mexico– when I was there, maybe 5 years ago? with my friend Justin– was that they have green salsa everywhere- to put on anything.  So feel free to use this on anything- with chips, fish tacos etc.  But what I especially love it with is eggs, breakfast burritos etc.  Man oh man.  So, when I saw this recipe in Alice Water’s cookbook  in Chrissy’s apartment- I expressed to her what good use the book would get in my kitchen– and she let me borrow it on extended loan 🙂  In this book- Green Kitchen- Alice has all her friends give very simple recipes.  This recipe– is in a whole section about how awesome a mortar and pestle is– and i’m sure it is- but i don’t have one. So instead, I basically took my clean plastic cutting board and a slotted spoon and continually mashed everything together on that- incorporating the tomatillos one at a time.  This recipe can also be done w. tomatoes- as red roasted salsa- which i’m sure would also be delicious.   I am generally reticent about adding cilantro or parsley- because I am not so into it- and I always end up buying a big bunch, using a little and the rest going to waste.  But, as I had some cilantro already- I added it in- and I would say yes, it really does make a difference- so you should spend the extra 87 cents (price at the co-op) and get it. Also, my salsa definitely had a little too much onion.  I had never heard this  before- but it suggests you rinse the raw onion under cold water to get out some of the bitterness.  Next time, I think I would start out w. maybe a 1/4 cup of chopped onion– and then add more from there– to taste.  I suppose maybe I used more of a medium than a small onion?  And since I had so much onion and heat from the jalapeno- I think I used an extra lime– again, start w. 1 lime and add more to taste.

2 Serrano chiles (get these if you can– small green hot peppers.  I didn’t have so subbed 1 jalapeno)
4 tomatillos (or tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
1 small onion (chop and rinse under cold water to remove some of the bite. see note above)
1 lime (may use more to taste)
handful fresh cilantro

Heat a cast iron pan over med-high heat (I dont have a cast iron so used a stainless steel skillet).  Put whole chile and unpeeled garlic in pan.  Remove tusks from tomatillos and cut in half. Cook 10 minutes until they are softened and browned.  Turn over to brown other side- about another 10 mins.  Squeeze garlic out of skin. Remove stem from chile  and cut. Grind chile and and garlic w. a motar and pestle– or as i did, grind it into cutting board w. back of a spoon.  Add tomatillos and mash. I did this- incorporating them one at a time  (they are so cooked they break down pretty easily). Peel and dice onion.  Stir in.  Squeeze lime and add cilantro.  May need a little water to thin out (mine didn’t need). Salt liberally to taste. Good served w. avocado.

If you are left, as I was, with a lots of burnt stuff on your pan- check out Just the Tips #7- for a quick clean up trick.

Salted Caramels

10 Mar

Salted Caramels.  These were a major achievement.  Before this, caramel was both my greatest love and my nemesis.  First, there was the caramel popcorn.  3 attempts at that- 3 failures- ended up with some vegan crap, burnt caramel and some lovely burn scars to boot.  I bought a candy thermometer- piece of shit, mind you.  If you can’t tell the right fucking temperature then what good are you?  The first batch, I wrongly assumed my thermometer would be correct, so I burned to shit. (btw I first tried david leibovitz’s recipe, oy vey.)  Next, I turned to dear ol’ Ina.  This recipe is published in 2 different ways on the food network website- but thanks to the 109 comments, i figured out which was right.  I might have fucked these up in one way– it calls for 1.5 cups of sugar… I definitely added the half and honestly couldn’t remember if I added the one.  I was pretty sure that I didn’t- so I was preparing myself for disaster.  But in the end, whatever I did worked out fine.  Lastly, the thing to know is that making caramels is a pain in the ass.  Also, since candy thermometers are a joke, a few tricks around it.  But they are insanely delicious– like really– insanely delicious.

As David Leboveitz writes, when you are making caramels, one should be like a surgeon and carefully lay out all the tools– or as Jenna would say– make sure everything is mis en place.

Vegetable oil/pam spray
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling [if you can’t find, use sea salt- sea salt is pretty strong so many can use just a touch less]
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

First, line your baking sheet with foil or parchment.  I went foil. Spray with Pam or brush with a little vegetable oil.  Next, put your cream, butter and 1 tsp salt in a small saucepan.  Heat up cream on medium.  Once it starts to simmer, take off heat, and cover to keep warm.  Put the water, sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Heat sugar mix on med-high until boiling.  Don’t stir, swizzle pan if you have to.  Watch very very closely.  Wait until it turns a “warm golden brown color.”  This is the most important- yet easiest to fuck up part.  Too early, you got nothing.  But then, really quickly it will turn from nice golden into burnt.  So watch closely for warm golden- you’ll know what that means when you see it.  Take off heat.

Slowly pour the cream mixture into the caramel, will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla.  Put back to a medium-low heat.

Now, they say the goal is 248 and that should take 10 minutes.  Mine did not reach that temp- and cooked past that time.  So here is the trick- you want it to get to the “firm ball stage.” After 10 minutes you can start testing.  So get a little bowl of water, and you drop some caramel into it.  When you go to fish out the caramel, it should retain its shapes- but still be pliable.  A lot of people on food network comments said their’s was too hard, so I further think- you don’t need to wait until 248 (cuz you can’t trust the thermometers anyway).  But do it until firm ball… I think this took mine like 15/20 minutes?  Just keep testing it.  Once it is done, pour into prepped pan and refrigerate to cool for a couple hours.  Then, you start on one end and you roll up half, cut down the middle, then roll up there other half.  So you have two 8 inch logs.  Sprinkle w. more salt.  Cut into pieces.  Wrap individually in parchment or wax paper- this keeps them from sticking together too.  Can keep in fridge or room temperature- fridge helps them keep there shape a little more- but it really depends on how soft yours turn out.  Mine were just the right amount of soft and chewy… I sure hope I can replicate them…

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