Monday, February 18, 2013

Houston Style Green Salsa

Tomatillos are a funny little fruit.  They look like green tomatoes but come wrapped in a papery husk.  Though they look like tomatoes, they have a very tangy taste.  I guess I would describe the taste and texture as a hybrid of a tomato and a lime--heavy on the lime in terms of flavor and a lot like a tomato in terms of texture.  Tomatillos are the basis of many green salsas.  I find these days I am reaching for green salsa over traditional tomato based salsas.  When I came across this Houston style green salsa I knew I had to try it.

I discovered this green salsa through Secret Recipe Club.  This month I was connected with Karen's blog, Cinnamon Freud.  Isn't that a cool name for a blog?  Even more so because Karen is a "counseling psychology doctoral student who loves food, cooking, and baking."  Her blog was new to me and it was such a treat to browse all her delicious looking recipes.  Karen has a nice mix of sweet and savory offerings.  And for once in my life, I gravitated to the savory recipes.  Once I saw the green salsa, my recipe for this month was a done deal.

Hubby and I enjoyed this delicious salsa during Super Bowl, alongside homemade tortilla chips and carne asada.  I've never been to Houston so I don't know what their green salsa tastes like.  But according to Karen this is reminiscent of a salsa she ate many times at her favorite local restaurant.  I loved it.  It's got tang from the tomatillos and lime juice and a lush creaminess from the avocados. An awesome flavor combination.  I topped it with a little cotija cheese to bring a little saltiness to the mix. All in all it was a hit!


Houston Style Green Salsa
adapted from Cinnamon Freud (originally adapted from Homesick Texan via Foodie Bride)

4 medium to large tomatillos
1/2 onion finely chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed and finely chopped
3 small cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 small avocados, pits and skin removed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Cotija cheese for garnish (optional)

Bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil (large enough to hold the tomatillos).  Remove husks from tomatillos and boil 5 minutes until softened.  Drain and set aside.  Once cooled chop into quarters.

In a small skillet heat olive oil and add onion and jalapeno and cook for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Using a food processor or blender, blend tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, garlic and lime juice until smooth.  Add avocado and cilantro and blend again until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with homemade chips and garnish with cotija cheese.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with M&M's

I have to start by saying I accidentally published this post before it was complete.  So if you received the one without photos and the recipe in your reader or email, please disregard it. 

I have a funny story about these cookies.  If you follow along here regularly you might remember back in December I had some family and friends over to bake for the Christmas edition of Operation Baking GALS.  Everyone brought baked goodies to send to the troops overseas.  My sister brought chewy chocolate cookies with chocolate and peanut butter chips that looked amazing.   Now the point of the day was to send as many goodies to the troops as possible, but, a few cookies, including 1, and only 1, chewy chocolate cookie, didn't fit nicely into the containers.  These leftover cookies, along with several broken cookies and the cut off edges of peppermint brownies and gingerbread blondies went on a piece of parchment paper on the kitchen counter that I fondly referred to as the "cookie graveyard."  It would be a major faux pas to let perfectly good tasting cookies and cookie pieces go to waste right? 

Fast forward to the end of the day and Hubby and were cleaning up.  Hubby was in the kitchen doing dishes and I was busy gathering empty appetizer dishes from the living room.  I came into the kitchen and immediately noticed my cookie graveyard was gone!  As in NOT THERE.  What!?  I had an instant reaction where I may have screamed/screeched, "What happened to my cookies????"  To which Hubby looked at me blankly.  To clarify, I pointed to the empty spot on the counter and said, "the cookie graveyard, it was sitting right over there."  He replied, "Oh.  I just threw those out a second ago.  It looked like trash."

Nooooo!!!!  Holy moly! Cookie scraps, and in this case, a few whole cookies, is so not trash.  I don't care what it looked like!  (Okay, it did look like a heap of cookie parts).  By the way, does my excessive punctuation adequately convey my astonishment and the fact that my ears turned red in these few moments where I realized my prized cookie was gone? 

I immediately flipped open the lid to the kitchen trash can and saw the parchment paper holding the cookie graveyard staring right at me. 

You know where this is going.

Without hesitating, I scooped up that bundle of parchment and opened it up to retrieve the one prized cookie I had been dying to try all day...Katie's chewy chocolate cookie.  I pulled out my little chocolate jewel....right out of the trash.  Yep. 

I know.  It's sketchy.  But rest assured the cookie was bundled inside parchment and I'm confident that it most definitely did NOT directly touch any other trash.  That makes it okay.  Right?  :)

Anyway, the dumpster diving was worth it.  The cookie was simply delicious.  Packed full of rich chocolate with both cocoa powder and chocolate chips/chopped chocolate.  I especially loved the chewy texture.  The coolest part is how the cookie can be tweaked to fit your tastes.  Katie added peanut butter chips, which were delish.  But you could easily add white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, milk, dark chocolate or any kind of chip/chopped chocolate that suits your fancy.  I know for the holidays this year I will be making these with Trader Joe's peppermint bark baking bits--yum.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself since it's only February...

When contemplating what to make for Baking GALS this month I knew these cookies would be on the menu.  The chewy factor makes them a good item for shipping long distances.  I wanted to dress them up a bit for the troops so I added red, white and blue M&M's (which I got from picking out white M&M's from a valentines bag and the red and blue from the normal M&M's bag).  They added a perfect little crunch and amped up the chocolate even further.  Definitely a keeper. 


P.S. If you have any recipes that would be good for long distance shipping and stays fresh for at least a week, please share your links in the comments. 

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with M&M's
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cook Book

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa (I used regular cocoa powder because it's what I had on hand)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1-1 1/2 cups M&M's

In a medium bowl whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt until well blended.  In a small bowl whisk corn syrup, egg white and vanilla together until fully combined.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the dark brown sugar and the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the corn syrup mixture until fully combined, scraping the bowl as necessary.  With the mixer on low add in the flour mixture and chocolate slowly until just combined.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir by hand to ensure no flour remains.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, allowing the dough to firm slightly.

While the dough is chilling, place the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375, positioning racks in the upper and lower middle of the oven. 

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Please note the dough does not get fully firm.  Don't over chill the dough. Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop out the dough and roll it in the sugar and place on the baking sheets 2 inches apart, fitting 8 cookies to a sheet.  Take M&M's and gently press them into the surface of the dough (do not flatten cookies) fairly close together, but evenly spaced around the top and sides.  The M&M's will spread out when the cookie bakes. I placed about 9-10 M&M's on each cookie.

Bake about 10 - 11 minutes or until the cookies are slightly puffed and starting to crack.  The cookie may look underdone in the cracks, which is fine.  Do not overbake.  Be sure to rotate cookies from top to bottom and front to back for even baking. 

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool for 5-7 minutes on the baking sheet.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cookies.