Summer Tomato Relish

I used to hate tomatoes as a kid. If it wasn’t in a sauce that required being covered in cheese. I more than likely wanted nothing to do with it. Of course over time with the maturation of my palette and the ability to experience new things. Tomatoes are no longer on my hit list. And though I have a mild allergy to them that tends to cause itching. I often find my epidermis at the altar of sacrifice to enjoy the juicy fruits…and whether or not you consider them a fruit is a dispute for another day.
Summer Tomato Relish on The Local Forkful: Recipe by Charles Hunter III       I love the summer time and not just because pool season is in full effect. It’s the abundance of beautiful fresh produce that becomes available during this warm time of year. I enjoy the fact that living in Nashville leaves no shortage of the summer gems. Farmers Markets are readily available within a short drive to your summer gold. And it’s kind of hard to keep up with what produce is in season if you’re not paying attention.

Here’s a little list to get you started:

S’mores Bars…Hello Nostalgia!

S'mores Bars     I mean, seriously? Who doesn’t love a good s’more on a rainy and wet or cold day? This is the perfect snack to satisfy your sweet tooth! While I was in the process of making these bad boys I felt myself fall in to the vortex of nostalgia. In the days where mom and dad were assisting you in putting your marshmallows on to the tip of your skewer, or coat hanger. (Hey!, whatever works!)
My sister and I would sit on the back porch and make S’mores while watching the deer run around our backyard. Dad would start a fire inside a couple of empty cans. We both had our own set-ups on a plate and off we were to a place where the fingers were sticky and your cheeks were smeared in chocolate.(Heaven)
The graham cracker crumbs trickling into your lap and for a moment all your worries dissipated into every crunchy, creamy, gooey bite of divine perfection. Now, onto the recipe.

S’mores Bars
2 c. crushed graham crackers
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. heavy cream
5 T. unsalted butter
2 c. marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You can use crushed graham crackers if you prefer. But I bought the whole ones and crushed them in the food processor until fine ground. Set aside in bowl. Melt butter in microwave for 15-20 sec. You do not want the butter to start boiling. So take a peak and remove, just as it starts to break down. This will make it easier to handle when mixing in graham cracker crumbs.

2.Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter together until the mixture holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hand.Spray the 8×8 in pan lightly with cooking spray. Spread crumbs evenly and press down until you have a solid base with no holes. Bake for 15-25 min. (oven times may vary) Bake until crust is firm and set. Allow to cool for 20 min. Turn on your broiler and allow to heat while you melt your chocolate.

3. While you are waiting on your crust to cool. Prepare a double boiler.(a small pot of water and stainless steel bowl)On medium heat allow water to come to a soft boil and turn down the heat to a simmer. You just want steam to come off the surface of the water. pour heavy cream into bowl and stir until heated through, about two minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir, incorporating the heavy cream into the chocolate. In 30 second intervals, remove the bowl from pot and stir for 15 secs.(you don’t want the chocolate to seize)Repeat this process until you have a homogenized mixture. Pour chocolate into the center of your crust and spread evenly to the sides.

4. Quickly before the chocolate begins to harden. evenly distribute your marshmallows over the top of your chocolate. Then, lightly with your palm, press down so that one-third of the marshmallow is in the chocolate. This is a good time make sure there are no holes, you want a majority of the chocolate to be covered by marshmallows to keep the chocolate from burning under the broiler.

Toasted Marshmallows

5. Place pan under broiler for 3-4 min. max. I left the oven cracked and watched the marshmallows reach the desired level of char. I advise you do the same. DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT. walk away. Once the top is charred, allow to cool in the fridge for 20 min.I prefer to remove the whole bar and cut into strips on a cutting board. do whatever feels comfortable for you. If you would like to cut them inside pan first and then remove them, so be it. Using a icing spatula, prod around the sides to release your bars and Enjoy! Don’t forget your glass of milk.

S'mores Bars

Recipe Suggestions:
-Feel free to customize this recipe to your own child hood memories:
*Two Tablespoons of peanut butter spread across the crust before adding chocolate would be a nice twist.
*The addition of a 1/4 c. of crushed nuts into your chocolate mixture for a crunchier texture.
*Or you can even substitute the plain milk chocolate for an artisan bar of some sort…upgrade!

Easy Salted Caramel

Don’t be intimidated! This recipe only contains six ingredients!…Score! And once you’ve made it; that feeling of accomplishment will be rather satisfying. Now, it’s a little more rustic of a sauce than you’re use to. Brown Sugar has molasses in it, so the sugar crystals won’t be fully broken down. But nonetheless, it’s good. Caramel, marshmallows and rock candy are recipes that tend to overwhelm the typical home cook. But no fear, a simple recipe is here and I hope you enjoy it as a garnish, dipping sauce or ingredient in your next batch of brownies.20130316-120639.jpg

It seems that we can’t steer from the salty & sweet combination. But then again. Why should we? I love the marriage of caramel and salt, chocolate and salt, fruit and salt. Some of you just raised your eyebrows. Don’t second guess it, next time you have a ripe slice of melon in your possession. Just grab a smidgen of kosher salt and give it a sprinkle. The pairing is euphoric. But yes, back to salted caramel. I usually make this stuff in small batches and keep it sealed in a storage container for rainy days when I want to jazz up some boxed brownie mix or simply use it to dip my apples slices.

Salted Caramel Sauce

2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
2 T. water
3 T. unsalted butter
smidge of kosher salt (to taste)

Preheat burner to medium heat. Add 2 T.butter, water, lemon, and heavy cream. Once butter melts, add brown sugar. Stir mixture and let it come to a soft boil 3 min. stirring occasionally. Using a spoon to scrape or a pastry brush and water. Paint down the sides to keep brown sugar from crystallizing. Then, add the remaining butter and the smidge of kosher salt.