|Every Wednesday morning like clockwork, after the email has been checked and the first cup of tea has grown cold, I pull up the New York Times online and search the famed Dining Out section for "A Good Appetite," written by Melissa Clark.
Photo by Andrew Scrivani.
Melissa has one of those careers that other food writers dream of. Thirty-two cookbooks written, some in collaboration with the country's top chefs, and a regular gig with the New York Times. Her column is one of my favorites, and her latest book, Cook This Now, may well become a favorite of yours. There are 120 recipes in all, each with a focus on great flavors, proper usage of pantry items, and seasonal ingredients.
Melissa Clark is a working mother, and understands that daily meals need to accommodate a wide range of appetites. The recipes aren't too meat-heavy, which makes this book ideal for those who are trying to transition into a "less meat" diet, as well as those who live in a multi-diet household. Some dishes take a mere thirty minutes to prepare, while some substantially longer; but all are suitable for everything from a Monday night family meal to a dinner party for eight.
My current family favorite is definitely the homemade Mallobars (recipe below). My girls won't miss summer s'mores too much as long as I keep these around. Others recipes that shout out to me are the Curried Coconut Tomato Soup (made with canned plum tomatoes when fresh ones are still months away) and the winter salad of Fennel, Radicchio, Walnuts, and Manchego cheese.
As the book cover states, there are "120 easy and delectable dishes that you can't wait to make." So what are you waiting for?
MallobarsFrom COOK THIS NOW by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
This is my version of homemade Mallomars. But instead of painstakingly forming individual cookies, I use the bar cookie method, spreading everything in one large pan. I end up with a crisp, homemade graham cracker crust topped by honey marshmallow and a thick layer of chocolate. Though they are easier than the original recipe, I wouldn’t call them a super-quick dessert. You still need to devote a good part of an afternoon to their confection. Or try to make the components over several days if it’s easier to carve that out of your schedule.
However you manage it, the payoff is big: They are truly scrumptious, and I guarantee that if you bring them to a potluck or party, no one else will have brought anything remotely like them. They are unusual, crowd pleasing, fancy looking, and even slightly good for you (okay, just slightly) from the whole wheat flour.
Makes about 18 (2-inch) squares
for the graham cracker base
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
for the honey marshmallow
- 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
for the chocolate glaze
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
1. First, make the graham cracker base. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and honey until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat until the dough just comes together.
2.Wrap the dough in plastic and pat into a disc. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9 13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, or in between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a rectangle that just fits the prepared pan. Carefully transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Squish it to fit if it starts to tear (the dough is soft). Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake the graham cracker base until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before topping with the marshmallow. (The graham cracker base can be made a few days ahead; store, covered in foil, at room temperature.)
4. While the graham cracker base cools, prepare the honey marshmallow. Place the gelatin in the cold water to bloom. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, honey, and 1/2 cup water, stirring until the sugar dissolves, until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. When the sugar mixture has come up to temperature, carefully pour it into the egg whites while whisking. Continue whisking until the mixture has cooled slightly, about 1 minute, and add the gelatin and water mixture and the vanilla. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and quadruples in volume, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the marshmallow onto the graham cracker base and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow the marshmallow to set for 4 hours or overnight at room temperature.
6. To prepare the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate pieces in a bowl. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the glaze is smooth and shiny. Pour the glaze onto the set marshmallow and smooth with a spatula. Allow the glaze to set, about 30 minutes, before cutting into squares.
• What else can I tell you? If these seem like too much trouble, you can always just go out and buy some Mallomars. And, being a seasonal product themselves (they are only available in the colder months), they arguably fit into a seasonal kitchen if you don’t think about it all too deeply.
• The graham cracker dough also makes fantastic cookies all by itself. Just bake as directed above, but as soon as you take the pan out of the oven, while still hot, score the dough into 2-inch squares. Cool and break up into cookies.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.