Tag Archives: saltines

LIL’S ICE WATER CRACKERS – SANTA FÉ MONSOONS

At last the summer monsoons (Yes, that’s what they are called.) have come to Santa Fé. Clouds build over the mountains in the early afternoon and develop into towering thunderheads. By late afternoon the clouds darken and horsetails of rain begin to stream in patches over the valleys and mesas. Sometimes you get a shower. Sometimes you don’t. We have been suffering from a severe drought for the past three years, so the rains have been a welcome relief. Even though the drought has not been broken, the new moisture has helped the grasses to green and ripen, and the flowers have been encouraged to bloom. The white clouds and blue skies are an important part of the New Mexico landscape, They are among the things that have attracted so many artists over the years. Georgia O’Keeffe clearly loved the clouds, and that love is captured in her famous series of paintings, Sky Over Clouds. One of the series, Sky Over Clouds IV, has a prominent place in the Art Institute of Chicago, while others hang in museums all over the world.

Georgia O'Keefe's Sky Above Clouds, IV, Art Institute of Chicago

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above Clouds, IV, Art Institute of Chicago

The rains have brought water to the dry arroyo in our back yard, and the water, lightning, and thunder have encouraged the spade-foot toads from their long sleep in the mud at the bottom of the pond to serenade us all night long.

My digression on monsoons has led me far away from the food topic of this entry, but I wanted to share the good news of moisture at last. Now on to crackers.

One of the food blogs I like to follow is Dinner of Herbs. The author has been trying out a lot of different recipes for crackers lately, so I decided to look through my collection of cracker recipes. I came across an old favorite that I got from Bernard Clayton’s classic, New Complete Book of Breads, (Simon and Schuster, 1987) I’m not sure if the recipe is in the original edition, published in 1973. Marion Cunningham has also been credited with first publishing the recipe. That has some importance because there are a lot of entries on the Internet describing this or that as the “original” version. In any event, Clayton says that he got the recipe from Lillian Marshall, a noted cook and author from Kentucky, hence the name, “Lil’s Ice Water Crackers”. I have made some changes and suggestions about the recipe that you can read in the “Comments” section after the recipe.

Actually, the recipe is NOT for crackers, but instead how to turn plain saltines into something tastier and fit for company. When you read the recipe you will ask yourself how can this turn out to be anything but a pile of glop?

Trust me, you will love the results.

RECIPE

Lil’s Ice Water Crackers

Ingredients

  • 24 single saltine crackers (a sleeve of crackers contains about 36)
  • 1 quart ice water
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Method

  1. Arrange the crackers in a single layer in a 11 x 17 inch jelly roll pan with a turned up edge
  2. Pour the ice water over the crackers and let them stand for 3 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove the crackers with a spatula or slotted spoon and place them on a towel covered layers of paper towels. The crackers will be soggy and fragile so take extra care with this step.
  4. While the crackers are draining, wash and dry the jelly roll pan.
  5. Pour half of the melted butter into the pan and spread with a spatula or your fingers so that the bottom of the pan is completely coated.
  6. Arrange the crackers in the pan and drizzle the remaining butter over them.
  7. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 475°F for 15 to 20 minutes, checking frequently to make sure that they don’t burn
  8. Serve immediately while still hot.

Comments

  • A sleeve of saltines contains about 36 crackers, but some of them will probably be broken. Also, 36 crackers may be too many to work with at one time, especially if you are just trying out this recipe. Some of the crackers might begin to disintegrate before you can transfer them. As well, if they are too close to one another, they tend to stick together.
  • The original recipe called for 2 quarts of ice water, You don’t need that much to moisten the crackers, and the amount is a bit unwieldy.
  • Three minutes is tops for the crackers to soak. Some recipes say 10 minutes, but that is too long. The crackers need to swell up, but they will start to disintegrate with long soaking.
  • Wet crackers may stick to a wet paper towel, so be sure to have enough layers of towelling to absorb all of the excess moisture.
  • Allow plenty of space between the crackers so they don’t stick together.
  • If some of the crackers do stick together, don’t worry. They may take longer to crisp than the single crackers, but the way to deal with that is to remove crackers when they are golden and crisp and return the unfinished crackers to the oven until they are fully baked.

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MOAB, UTAH: DESERT OASIS DESPOILED

On our recent trip to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone we stopped in Moab, Utah with a lot of mixed feelings. Forty years ago when we lived in Utah, Moab, Dead Horse Point, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park were our favorite places. We visited them often and as much as we could.  Moab was a sleepy little river town peopled by laid back river rats, denizens of the desert, and a lot of very nice folks.  We really didn’t spend much time in town, though, because we camped out in tents on the desert floor waiting for the sunlight to slice into the canyon making the slick rock and desert varnish shine. We also anticipated the distant morning call of the canyon wren, birds hopping around our camp site, and lizards and snakes seeking coolness under boulders. Exploring Canyonlands required a four-wheel vehicle and an adventurous spirit, but Arches was a wonderland of trails, canyons, and striking rock formations including the name-sake arches. One of our most memorable hikes was up the steep narrow trail to a rock window through which you could see a smooth rock terrace with Delicate Arch perched on the edge of the abyss and the glistening La Sal Mountains filling the horizon.  With a little trepidation you could sit under the arch. We and our small children spent a half day there by ourselves, pleased with our hike and awed by the breathtaking scene.

Since our long-ago visits, Moab has been “discovered” and turned into a Mecca for dirt bikers and river runners. We had heard that Moab had grown and changed a great deal, so we were a little nervous. But we were not prepared for what we found.  The main street had been widened with lots of traffic signals, and the streets were filled with still-shiny four-wheel drive vehicles with expensive composite kayaks strapped on top or $5,000 dirt bikes strapped on back or both. The cars created traffic jams, and one could only wonder why they were in town instead of the desert or beside the river. Above were giant billboards advertising this or that outfitter, and the streets were lined with overpriced motels and cutesy restaurants featuring local specialties like steak and lobster (lobster in the Utah desert??), pizza, tired-looking Italian, and more than one easy-to-forget Mexican restaurant.

We decided to forego Arches because we didn’t want to have our memories destroyed, and we didn’t want to see a parade of people shuffling in lock step up the narrow trail to Delicate Arch in the same way I imagine the current traffic jams on the final pitch to the summit of Mount Everest.

We did revisit two of our favorite places, and we were pleasantly surprised. The twenty-two mile drive to the Big Spring Canyon Overlook in Canyonlands was virtually isolated except for three separate bands of pronghorns. When we arrived at the overlook, there was practically no one else there, and the various hiking trails assured that the few who were there would not get in one another’s way. The view from the rim evoked an uncontrolled gasp, and it just got better as we walked along the edge of the sheer cliff. At one point we could just make out the ridge identified as Dead Horse Point, all the way across the huge chasm created by the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, 15 miles or more away. There is no exaggeration to say the place is as spectacular as the Grand Canyon.

Big Spring Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands

Nearly 40 years ago we made a camping trip along the edge of the river with friends. One of them was an artist who later did a show based upon our trip. A painting of hers remains a prized possession. Here is a detail from that painting in contrast with one of my recent images of the tributary San Juan River near Blanding, Utah.  You can see that nothing much has changed in forty years.

Colorado River by Ruta Dreimanis, 1973. Oil and fabric on masonite (detail)

San Juan River near Blanding

On our way out of Moab, we took a 20 mile side trip to Dead Horse Point, a Utah State Park so-named because of the legend of horses that perished while being constrained to the narrow peninsula by a gate. The park now boasts a modern visitors center, but just a short stroll down a well-marked path gets you away from anyone else. The view inspires another involuntary gasp. Again, nothing much has changed. You can judge for yourself by comparing a painting we purchased from another artist friend about the same time (We still marvel at how or why we paid as much as we did in those days of training) with one of my recent images.

Dead Horse Point by Denis Phillips, 1973. Oil on canvas

Dead Horse Point in 2012

This is mostly a food blog, so I struggled with what to write about Moab food in light of there being nothing of particular note there. Instead I decided to describe the perfect trail-side lunch for a hike in the desert. I have included a recipe for Gorp. No one uses that name anymore because it has been replaced with the term, “Trail Mix”, by aggressive retailers. Be assured, though, that any hiker above a certain age will know exactly what you are talking about with Gorp.

A perfect desert trail lunch including gorp

THE PERFECT TRAIL LUNCH FOR A DESERT HIKE

  •  1 sleeve of saltine crackers
  •  1 tin Kipper snacks
  •  1 can Vienna sausages
  •  1 plastic bag  Gorp

RECIPES

Gorp

Ingredients (you may use any or all, or choose something else of your own)

  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup mixed fancy nuts
  • 1 cup salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup M&M candies (CAUTION: under no circumstances use chocolate pieces, as they will melt into a huge mess in a back pack and 105® day temperatures in the desert
  • 1 cup dried apricots (or pack separately)
  • 1 cup dried apple slices (or pack separately)
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Mix together and pack either in a single large plastic bag or in smaller quantities in individual bags

Remember to pack out everything you brought in, like cans and plastic bags, but bring an odor-resistant container for the cans or you will smell like a kippered herring for the rest of the trip. Be sure to then secure the trash in either an animal-proof container or pulled up off the ground on a line until you are ready to pack it out.

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