Monday, July 5, 2010

A Sweet Tooth

I love dessert. I am a firm believer that there is always extra room in my stomach for a delicious piece of chocolate cake or a peanut butter chip cookie.

However, I was looking for something a little different and came across this recipe in the Williams Sonoma Dessert Cookbook. As summer time is a time for camping and delicious campfires, I thought that elevating the outdoor treat to a bar form would be something unique and fun. Besides, those of us city dwellers don't always have access to a campfire.

Of course I took the recipe and tweeked it. I added less butter, more graham cracker and way more chocolate. I mean, what's a s'more if it isn't goooey and oooeey.

If you don't have a food processor, you can do this by hand. Just take the graham crackers, put them in a ziplock bag and make sure it's sealed tight. Take a mallet or hammer and just beat the living daylights out of the crackers until they're pretty much broken up into teeny tiny crumbs.  The rest of the ingredients can be mixed in by hand or mixer, depending on if you have one.

9x13 baking pan
2 packs of low fat graham crackers (16 crackers)
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 stick of cold butter, cut into teaspoon pieces
12 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 bags of good quality milk chocolate chips (I use ghirardelli) 
2 heaping cups of mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350

In a food processor, add graham crackers and process until they are finely ground. Add flour and both sugars and mix. Add butter piece by piece and blend. Once the butter is blended into the mixture, and it should have a mealy look, add the eggs and blend again. When finished, the batter should be sticky to the touch but semi-firm.

Place batter in the greased baking pan, spread evenly (you'll need to use your hands, since the batter will stick to the spoon).

Bake for roughly 45 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch. I would check on it every 5 minutes or so starting at the 25 minute mark. 

When the cake is finished, take it out and sprinkle the marshmallows all over the cake. They're going to get a little melty, that's totally okay.  Let the marshmallow covered cake cool down for a bit.

When you're ready, in a small sauce pan, add the heavy cream and put on low heat. Wait until cream is simmering, remove from heat and then slowly add the chocolate. Stir the chocolate until smooth and fully mixed. This should take about 5 minutes or so. Remember to stir slowly.

When the chocolate is silky pour it over the cake and smooth it out. It will probably be easiest to do this by taking the sides of the pan and lightly tapping the bottom of the pan on the counter. This will even out the chocolate without having to force your spatula all over the cake. Besides, when you do this, it evens everything out and makes the top smooth

Place the cake in the refrigerator and cool until the chocolate is firm.

Be prepared, the edges (especially the corners) are going to be a little firmer. Some people enjoy eating this cold, others like it to get to room temperature. That is totally up to you. Obviously the warmer it is, the gooier the chocolate is going to be. So make sure you have napkins. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer lovin'

So, yeah. It's been more than a while. It appears that my schooling got in the way of my blogging. Good thing for the blogisphere that I'm on summer vacation. And short of a few weeks in India and the coast of North Carolina, there isn't much keeping me out of the kitchen.

Summer to me is an evening on the rooftop deck, a beer in hand (or margarita depending on the cuisine) and the grill going. Growing up, my family would grill no matter what the season. One Christmas Eve, it was in the low teen's outside and my dad was standing outside trying to grill salmon for dinner. Sadly we learned that when its that cold out, you can't really grill very well. But short of those super cold days, we grilled year round.

Now that I live in Chicago, I have a few more of those nights that it hits the teens, which makes my grilling a bit more seasonal. But if I think I can put some seer marks on something, I'm out on our grill. I should say that this post is not my ode to strip steak (bison and beef are both delicious and will go over those at a later date), I am going to talk about what my dad never did on the grill... veggies.

One of my favorite summer go to recipes, is a Southwestern Pasta salad. It's super colorful, filled with grilled veggies and covered with a super light cilantro vinaigrette. It's incredibly easy, doesn't take much time and you don't need a grill for it (although it is easier and you save your fingers from burning on the stove top!).

4 Bell Peppers (Red, Green, Yellow and Orange, the more color the merrier)
2 ears of Yellow Corn, husked
1/2 Red Onion
7 large Tomatillos
1 bunch of Cilantro
2-3 Jalapeños (depending on how spicy you want it or how hot your peppers are)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TSP each of  White Wine Vinegar and Red Wine Vinegar
1lb orecchiette, campanelle or
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a separate pot, cook the pasta

Heat the grill, add whole corn cobs and peppers
Grill the corn and peppers, rotate every few minutes ensuring that all sides are getting color. Cook until the peppers are soft and about to collapse (the outside should be charred), the corn should have grill marks. This is roughly 15 minutes on the grill.

Remove from grill and let cool until you can touch them.

Chop red onion and place in large bowl.

Husk tomatillos, wash and quarter. Place into same bowl as red onions.

Remove the corn from the cob, this can be done by holding the corn vertically and using a knife to remove the kernels. Or, if you're a gadget hound like me and have one of these cool corn strippers (, use that! Place the kernels into the bowl with the onions and tomatillos.

Remove the skin from the peppers, core and cut into strips and add to bowl.

Clean cilantro, cut the bunch right above where the leaves turn into stems.

Cut jalapeño in half, depending on the level of spice that you like, you can either totally deseed, or partially deseed the pepper.

In a blender, add cilantro, ONE jalapeño and the olive oil, blend until smooth. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. The vinaigrette should be smooth, thin and have a slight kick to it, if you want more spice, add 1/2 a jalapeño at a time. If its a little thick, add more olive oil. You should not be able to taste more olive oil or more vinegar, the two should balance each other.

Add the pasta to the veggies and finally add the vinaigrette. Mix and add salt and pepper to taste.

And there you have it. A light and veggie filled pasta salad that will be sure to fill you up. I make this at home and bring this to barbecues all of the time, it makes everyone happy.

So enjoy!