Friday, August 5, 2011

Brown butter and vanilla rice crispy treats

Another no-oven recipe for the summer, this grown-up version of the classic rice crispy treat is absolutely delicious. Perfect for bringing to picnics and other outdoor events. I brought it to a Friday evening outdoor concert, and the adults were chowing down faster than the kids. (The kids loved it too.)

If you're looking for a good and reasonably priced source for vanilla beans, I recommend Penzeys Spices. They're currently selling three vanilla beans (Madagascan or Mexican, your choice) for $7.65. Nope. This is not a paid advertisement or lured by freebies. I just love having this huge variety of reasonably priced spices as close as my laptop.

Brown butter and vanilla rice crispy treats
From Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Two 10-ounce bags marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
9 cups crispy rice cereal

Butter a 9-by-13 baking pan.

In a large saucepot, melt the butter over low heat. As the butter melts, use the tip of a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the butter. (Reserve the pod for another use. I suggest throwing it into a container of sugar to make vanilla sugar; see page 29 of the book.)

Once the butter has melted, it will start to bubble and crackle. If you lean in and listen, it will sound like an audience of people politely clapping their hands. Watch the butter carefully, and you will see it slowly browning. As soon as the bubbling subsides, after about 5 minutes, the butter will be fully browned, and you will need to add the marshmallows. (Note: This really does happen. It's amazing. It feels a bit nerve-wracking at first. Like waiting for the right moment to stop the microwave from popping popcorn. But it works. The butter won't be crayola brown, but you will see the color difference.) Add the marshmallows and salt and stir constantly over low heat until the marshmallows are completely melted, and the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the cereal, and mix well with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer. (Note: I used a piece of parchment paper to help me do this.) Let cool for about 1 hour, or to room temperature, then cut into pieces.

These treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Korean-style hobakjeon (or zucchini pancakes)

We've been literally snowed under (zucchinied under?) by summer squash and zucchini from our CSA and farmers market. What to do with it all? There's savory tacos de calabacitas or the standard sweet zucchini bread. But really, there are only so many tacos and so many loaves of bread one can eat.

So I found this, Korean hobakjeon or zucchini pancakes. Think of them as the Korean potato latke. They're so simple...only five ingredients, all of which you'll have in your kitchen. The hobakjeon is delicious with some dipping sauce (I love it with the Trader Joe's soyaki sauce) or on their own sprinkled with salt.

Korean-style hobakjeon (or zucchini pancakes)
Adapted from

1 and 1/2 cups julienned zucchini
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water
vegetable oil

In a bowl, add julienned zucchini, flour, water and salt. Add ground pepper to taste. Mix well.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Using a spoon, spread zucchini mixture evenly and thinly onto the pan to form a large circular(ish) pancake.

Cook for a few minutes, pressing down gently with the spatula, until the bottom turns light brown and crispy. Using a spatula, flip the pancake to cook the other side. Add a bit more oil if necessary.

When both sides are browned and crispy, transfer pancake onto a dish. Serve on its own, lightly sprinkled with salt, or with soy sauce or dipping sauce.