Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Bars

Last week, everyone from my dad to CNN was warning of the storm of the century. Hurricane Irene was making a bee-line for New York City, and we should all prepare to hunker down with sandbags, flashlights, and bathtubs filled with water for at least a few days, if not more. Most of us felt like the warnings were completely overblown, but echoes of Hurricane Katrina were playing around in my head, so I did everything they told me to do. My go-bag was packed, my cooler was filled with ice, and I was on the verge of taping up the windows. But after some harrowing wind and rain on Saturday night, the worst of the storm was over and when I got up at 6 am Sunday to catch the predicted water surge that would leave all of lower Manhattan under 6-12 feet of water, nothing happened. People in upstate New York suffered tremendously from flooding, but here, I can't even say we had a casualty. In fact, the storm prep motivated us to clean the porch and the fridge. So by Sunday mid-morning, I was feeling quite a bit of post-partum depression. I was all psyched up to sit inside, away from the windows, listening to the howling wind and playing scrabble by lamplight. Now, the sun was shining, birds were singing, and I had no tragedy to focus my energies on. So I decided to make dessert to bring to the home of some friends for dinner that night. I used a recipe from Gourmet magazine from 1999, and while I followed the perfectly good recipe, I would make several modifications to make the bars less sweet and more coconutty the next time around. I used an Epicurious recipe for the shortbread base, but used a light wheat flour instead of white flour. I'll call these chocolate macaroon bars Hurricane Bars probably forever.

Chocolate Macaroon Bars

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar (I would use 1/2 cup sugar, or the same amount of sugar with a non-sweetened coconut)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup light wheat flour
a 7-ounce bag sweetened flaked coconut (about 2 2/3 cups) (I would use 3 - 3 1/2 cups coconut, and perhaps half or all unsweetened coconut)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Shortbread Base

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups light wheat flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare topping.

In a bowl whisk together whites, sugar, and vanilla until combined well and stir in flour and coconut. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over hot shortbread. Let chips melt and spread evenly over shortbread. Drop small spoonfuls of coconut mixture onto chocolate and with a fork spread evenly. Bake in middle of oven until top is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars. We served ours with vanilla gelato.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Late Summer Harvest

Assembling fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil takes just moments, but when the ingredients are just right, there's nothing better in the dog days of summer. (I know the Dog Days (of Summer) Are Over as of August 11th, but it sounded good). I picked up these lovely tomatoes and basil at the farmer's market on Sunday, and used them on Tuesday night. I stored the basil incorrectly, so very few of the leaves were worth using after two days in the fridge, but luckily enough leaves to accompany the tomato slices. The mozzarella was fresh-made at Fairway. Drizzle some quality salt, cracked black pepper, and a good deep green olive oil and you're good to go. Serve it on a pretty dish and you'll make you dining partner or dinner guests swoon. (This is served on one of a set of owl plates our friend Jess gave us as a wedding gift.) Next time, I would serve with a side of nice crusty/chewy bread to sop up the excess oil. Yum.