Friday, May 29, 2009

Fudgy Brownies and Chocolate Revel Bars

Revel Bars
Chocolate Revel Bars

Text from me to J around 3 pm on Wednesday:"If you buy eggs on your way home, I'll make brownies."

J got home around 7:00 pm, we made dinner, drank a bit of wine, ate some strawberries--suddenly brownie-baking sounded a lot less appealing than it had earlier in the afternoon. Well, J knows just what to say to get me going--"Really? No brownies? My mom could whip them up in thirty minutes. What's the big deal?" The boy was kidding--and commenting more on his Mom's baking insanity than my domestic skills--but it still spurred me to action. Of course, I required his help, and by 11:45 pm we were dunking warm, fudgy brownies in cold glasses of milk as a bedtime snack.

I used Martha Stewart's brownie recipe in her Baking Handbook--perfectly fudgy and dense, though perhaps a bit too much sugar. Good, but I imagine most people reading this blog already have a favorite brownie recipe of their own.

So...let me share with you a distant cousin of the brownie that J's mom is known for--Chocolate Revel Bars. A few years ago J and I visited his folks for Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before the holiday, J's mom tasked with baking these, ginger snaps and a few other cookies as "treats to have around" for the weekend. They were not for a specific dessert or day, but just for J and his two brothers to snack on. Baking insanity, indeed.

These are the ultimate Midwest church basement bar--straight out of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and ridiculously delicious. They are a favorite of J's, and when I want to surprise him, I dust off my copy of the book (which is actually a great repository of cookie, bar and dessert recipes) and bake them. You can find the recipe here; I usually halve the recipe, and omit the nuts. The only downside to halving the recipe is I never know what to do with a leftover half-can of sweetened condensed milk, but that's probably better than having a full batch (75!!) of these bars around to tempt me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tomato-Topped Herbed Wheat Shortcakes

Tomato-topped herbed shortcakes

Let me introduce you to what is destined to become a summer staple around these parts--a savory shortcake topped with fresh, bright vegetables. A variation on a panzanella, but with homemade biscuits instead of bread.

Alas, I cannot take credit for this innovation--that goes to food writer Shanna Masters. The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook includes five different recipes by Masters for savory shortcake toppings, including grapefruit and avocado, muffaletta, red onion, and Greek salad. The shortcakes themselves come in different flavors too--herbed wheat, cornbread, lemon-herb.

Using Masters' tomato topping recipe as a rough guide, I substituted what I had on hand: cherry tomatoes, black olives, green onions, red bell pepper, chives, and thyme--all chopped and stirred with a bit of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I followed the shortcake recipe more closely, but changed the dried herbs based on what I had in the cupboard. The recipe makes six smallish shortcakes; J and I ate two apiece for dinner, with a hefty tomato topping and a mixed green salad on the side.

Herbed Wheat Shortcakes
feel free to use whatever dried herbs you have on hand

1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 c. white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
1/2 tsp. mixed "grill seasoning" (dried onions, garlic, hot pepper, etc)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir. Make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients. Stir quickly and gently, until all dry ingredients are moist.

Using a spoon, drop dough onto baking sheet into six equal mounds. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops are browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Moules Marinieres

Mussels Aftermath

Steamed mussels are quite possibly the easiest, most delicious summer supper around, particularly if you buy well scrubbed ones (ours came from Fairway). Bring them home from the grocery as fast as you can, and store them in the fridge--make sure they are not suffocating in a sealed plastic bag--they're alive and need to breathe!


When it's time to eat, chop some shallots, mince some garlic, and wash a handful of thyme sprigs. Scrub the mussels in some running cold water, snipping their beards as you go (kitchen shears are perfect). Discard any that are open or feel extremely heavy (probably filled with sand). Heat a bit of olive oil or butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute your shallots for a bit, until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and thyme, stir and let sit for a couple minutes. Gently add the mussels and about 1 cup of white wine for every 1 pound of mussels. Bring to a boil, cover, and let cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the mussels are all open (if any don't open, don't eat those).

Serve with a lot of crusty bread and a crisp white wine. Happy summer!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Savory Ramp & Cheese Scones

Ramp & Cheese Scones

A Google search for ramps turns up an interesting mix of skateboard accessories, how-tos on making your home wheelchair accessible, and--the subject of this post--recipes for wild leeks. Food bloggers go wild for ramps in the spring, and in the midst of finals a few weeks ago, I stopped at the Morningside Heights Farmers' Market to pick up my first bunch. They stunk up my locker at school quite nicely, and after reading this post about ham and ramp biscuits, I knew they'd make their way into a baked good of some sort.

These scones make a lovely dinner when paired with a mixed green salad or a bowl of vegetable soup. They're best right out of the oven--overnight they lose their crisp exterior. I used this recipe for savory scones, with a few modifications. A medium sized bunch of ramps took the place of the green onions--I used both the white parts and the green leaves. Also, I used goat cheese in place of the feta, only because I didn't make a grocery list and thought that's what the recipe called for. A perfectly fine substitution nonetheless. Finally, for years now I've baked my scones on a pizza stone, and it really helps to crisp them up. Highly recommend it if you have one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Edamame Yogurt Dip & Pantry-Cleanout Couscous

Spinach Edamame Yogurt Dip

Last week, the Health Services department at my university sent a note on "end of semester self care." It recommended satisfying your sweet tooth with a banana, orange, apple or melon. Huh? I love me some fruit, but after a few stressful days of papers and presentations? I head straight for the Twizzlers, followed by a doughnut and then a chocolate bar. Burp.

To balance the inevitable finals period junk food fest, I try to ensure that I get some veggies into my system. This edamame yogurt dip was dinner the other night. You take some thawed frozen edamame, frozen spinach, plain low-fat yogurt, lemon juice, garlic clove, salt, pepper and whirl it all in the cuisinart for a few minutes. Serve with some whole wheat pita, and the Health Services office would be proud. Beware the garlic cloves however--I started with one, tasted it, decided to add two more. Big mistake. Overnight, raw garlic quadruples in strength, and my leftover dip was inedible. Hat tip to Pink of Perfection for the dip inspiration!

Pantry-Cleanout Couscous

Tonight, after a week of dinners that included a burrito the size of my head, a grilled cheese, and approximately an entire package of crackers smeared with peanut butter, I decided another detox meal was in order. I cooked up the last of some spinach couscous, and stirred in the following treats found in my cupboards and fridge: black olives, parsley, raisins, cannelini beans, and some sauteed shallots and onions. Ahhhh. I feel almost healthy.