Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Arroz con leche ... y masmelos!

My Friday evening began just great: a flurry of gossip with BFF Liz over martinis at my Park Slope apartment and the two of us giggling all the way into the city to meet our pals, fueled by a water bottle half-full of more martini (on second thought...). But it ended sadly and prematurely with a desperate and fruitless search for my 40s-glam-meets-noughties-excess fur collar on the floor of "secret" bar and a discouraged subway ride home alone (which resulted in me nodding off and ending up in bumble-youknowwhat, Brooklyn).

Headache and heartache be damned, I awoke early the next morning determined to put some positive memories between me and the loss of that furry little thing (which is just a THING, after all). So: a cardio class at Crunch ... a visit to the library and greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza ... a few hours of hard work on my various projects ... and baking, the ultimate self-medication (believe me -- in my younger years, I tried a few).

What are the sweet things most likely to make both baker and recipient grin wildly with joy? Why, brownies and Rice Krispie treats, of course. But not just any. Oh no. My "signature" brownies are super-fudgy and low-fat, with no egg yolk, a little butter, and applesauce to replace much of the sugar. (Believe me, this works.) The Rice Krispie treats were an on-the-spot innovation -- a REVELATION, if you will. (And I'm not exaggerating to say that these bars have all the makings of a revolution -- if you, dear readers, should join me, bake a batch this weekend, and share them and their recipe with everyone you know, as well as strangers just passing by.)

That's basically how I was recruited to the cause. There's a very talented baker who sells her creations out of a van near the Brooklyn greenmakert on Saturday mornings (forgive me for not knowing her name; I'll get it next time.) Anyway, she has a crispy rice and marshmallow bar that is made about 1,000% better with the addition of dried cranberries, almonds slivers, and flax seed. I recreated it to devastating effect (that's good, by the way). Recipe below.

But hey, wait a minute, isn't this a "historical cooking blog?" Although I could argue that the Rice Krispie treat is an American institution, dating back to 1939, and hence fair game for this project -- the fact remains that Ms. Molly O'Neill did not include it in American Food Writing so it doesn't "count."

She did include a surprisingly funny recipe for "Mother's Rice Pudding," published in 1877 in Elizabeth Stansbury Kirkland's Six Little Cooks. That's her to the left. Don't let the starched collar fool you, this lady had a sense of humor. The book is written as a trite little tale about a fictional Aunt Jane, a cooking dynamo, her simpleminded niece, and her niece's five friends, who really want to be good little wifeys someday but, you know, cooking class is so hard.

I'd like to think Kirkland is actually being rather subversive.

The recipe is: "one cup rice, ten cups milk; bake five hours."

And then it continues in prose: "'Why, Aunt Jane, that is the shortest recipe I ever saw,' said Mabel.
'That's all there is to it,' answered her aunt, 'except that of course any cook would know that there should be a little salt added -- perhaps a teaspoonful. You must wash the rice carefully...'" Aunt Jane continues in this vein for another 30 lines. A nine-word recipe has four paragraphs of footnotes, a parable (I believe) that warns against those who would cook by rote and without passion.

"'Won't you let me write down some more receips [er, recipes], aunty?"' silly little Mabel asks, obviously not getting the point. "'Oh yes, a dozen of them if you want them," aunty replies. Kirkland doesn't describe the smirk on Ms. Jane's lips, but we know it's there.

I followed Aunt Jane's so-called recipe with the same reverence with which it was offered. I had to guess at the temperature of an oven fire that is "steady and slow" (um, 250 degrees?). I went with her offhanded suggestion to toss a few raisins in, and on my own volition, added a few seasonings, too. So without one ounce of facetiousness, I humbly present my pudding "receipt"...

Slow-Cook Rice Pudding

"Pour a half-cup of short or medium grain rice and five cups of full-fat milk into a buttered 9 by 9-inch oven-proof pan. Add a half-cup of raisins, a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Bake it in a 250F oven for about five hours, until it is firm when jiggled. Serve hot or room temperature or cold, with a dollop of apple butter or a pat of dairy butter or a bit of apple sauce or a swirl of maple syrup -- or plain, as we enjoyed it back in the olden days in Park Slope."

"Why, Nora, that's just about the easiest recipe I've ever heard."

"Why yes, dear, and maybe next time I'll teach you how to make mama's dirty martinis."

Extra Special Rice Krispie Treats

You, too, can be the most popular girl at the party with these no-fail, insanely delicious yummies-for-dummies! Feel free to substitute the Kashi cereal for another whole wheat crispy rice cereal and about a half-cup of almond slivers or crushed pieces -- as well as a tbsp. or so of flax seeds, for that little something extra.

6 tbsp. butter
3 cups Rice Krispies
3 cups Kashi Go Lean Crunch Cereal with Honey, Almonds & Flax, crushed into itty-bits in a Ziploc bag
6 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups dried cranberries
1 tbps. vanilla

Butter a 9 by 13" inch pan. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, add the marshmallows and stir as they melt. When uniformly creamy, turn off the heat add the cereals, cranberries, and vanilla and stir until blended. Pour the mixture into pan, press it down until firm and smooth on top. Allow to cool before slicing.

21 comments:

LunaPierCook said...

But ... I really don't want to be the popular girl ... ;-)

Rice Krispy Treats are a family tradition with my 77-year-old mom, who still makes them probably once-a-month. I'll pass this version on to her ... sounds great!

Nora Leah said...

Oh, you don't need these bars -- I'm sure you slay 'em with your rat-a-tat jokes!

Please do share with you mom and let me know how it goes! There are so many other ways to experiment with Rice Krispie treats -- besides the chocolate-heavy ones that are somewhat popular.

JEP said...

OMG---love these recipes :) Kashi cereal is one of my favorites, too.

Chef JP said...

First time vistor to your site--really enjoy the work you're doing here. Great stuff. I do a food blog round-up every Friday and will definitely give your site a mention. Thankss for the recipes!

Nora Leah said...

What a vote of confidence! Thanks, friends!

Lulu said...

Dear Nora,

I just tried your delectable Apple Butter over toasted whole wheat bread. Delish! Your blog is wonderfully entertaining-I'm already succumbing to its gastronomical enticements. My first Thanksgiving turkey should be memorable thanks to your brine idea! Congratulations!

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