♥ ♥ ♥

Archive for the ‘snacks’ Category

Asparagus mimosa

In Brunch, gluten free, snacks, spring, vegetarian on 26 December, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Image

So with Christmas come and gone we’re approaching high summer (thirty degrees in Wellington yesterday! Who would’ve thought it?!), suddenly tomatoes and courgettes are cheap, sweetcorn is… well… if not yet cheap, at least available, and asparagus season is getting ready to wind down. I’m sure for many of you the initial excitement around the appearance of one of the most-celebrated spring vegetables has died down. But not for me: I was in Japan for most of asparagus season this year and I’m in serious catch-up mode now.

I adore all forms of asparagus (except tinned ones and those that have been boiled to death), but more often than not you’ll find me eating them with eggs. I know, not the most imaginative combination, but there’s something just so perfect about the contrast between bright, earnest green and runny yellow yolks that, given the option between doing something new with asparagus and having some with topped with a poached egg, I’ll almost always choose the latter.

Which is probably why it took me so long to try out this recipe for asparagus mimosa from everyone’s* favourite Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty. Because who can be bothered looking up new recipes for asparagus when you can just chuck some spears in the oven drizzled with olive oil, or in a pool of garlic butter sizzling in a skillet, then sprinkle over some salt and pepper, top with a poached egg, bam. Need variation? Lemon zest/juice, or parmesan, or pine nuts or all three. Or soy sauce and butter, or miso butter. Too easy.

So I almost always skip the asparagus recipes, and I don’t really think too much of it. But today I thought, it’s Boxing Day, why not do something a little special? And now I’m kicking myself for not having made this before: it’s incredibly simple, I almost always have all the ingredients at hand, but it feels a bit fancier than my usual poached egg on asparagus. Ottolenghi suggests adding some chopped tarragon to make it extra nice and I couldn’t agree more – the subtly aniseedy flavour adds a sort of haunting sweetness that ties together the sharp saltiness of the capers and the soft grated egg. If you have tarragon in the garden, don’t leave it out. (If you don’t have tarragon in the garden, I suggest you plant some asap.)

I ate this greedily, messily, alone in my lounge following an afternoon swim at the beach, and it was the best thing ever. I’ll be doing this again before asparagus season’s up.

Image

Ottolenghi’s asparagus mimosa
(adapted from my favourite cookbook of all time, it’s probably safe to say)

For 1-2 people as a starter or a snack:

Boil an egg. Ottolenghi suggests simmering it for 9 minutes or so; I lost track of time and cooked mine for about 11, but even still it was only just hard-cooked, so use whatever timing/method you trust the most. (You don’t want it to be overcooked, but you want the yolks to be cooked through so you can grate them.) Let the egg cool down in a bowl of water. Peel the egg; grate it on a cheese grater.

Take a bunch of asparagus – ten or so thick stalks will do, more if they’re slender – and snap off the woody ends. Bring some water to the boil in a pot wide enough to hold the asparagus stalks. Simmer the asparagus for a couple minutes or until tender. Drain and run some cold water over them – not enough to cool the stalks completely, just enough to slow them down, they’ll continue to cook if they’re still hot.

Coat the spears with the best olive oil you have – something with clean, grassy notes will play off the herbaceousness of the asparagus quite nicely – using your hands to roll the tips in the oil if you need to. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and top with the grated egg and capers. Sprinkle with chopped fresh tarragon if you have it.

Best eaten alone**, with your hands, dipping and smushing the asparagus into the grated egg, scooping up capers with your fingers, pushing each spear into your mouth, licking your fingertips afterwards. Or just use a fork.

*well, if you’re me or anyone I know who owns this book, anyway
**or in the company of someone whom you don’t mind witnessing this slovenly spectacle

Image

Advertisements

grilled corn with miso butter

In eating in, sides, snacks, summer, vegetarian on 13 February, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Tonight I was actually going to get back to the next instalment of the pancake project (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here), and I’m sorry if you think it’s a bit repetitive of me to feature miso in two consecutive blog posts (sesame-miso cookies here!), but I couldn’t not share this, the most delicious of ways to eat corn on the cob.

The last couple days have been brilliantly sunny and for once I haven’t been moaning about the weather (er, sorry about that) but have been revelling in its gloriousness, running around outside at night bare-legged and bare-shouldered*, drinking cold beer and cider and eating salads and tacos and all the sweetcorn I can get my hands on. Doesn’t take much to make me ridiculously happy, apparently.

You know when corn is so fresh and sweet you can just bite into it raw, straight from the cob, each kernel bursting milky-sweet, slightly starchy juices into your mouth as you bite? The kind where you nearly eat the whole ear without bothering to cook it, only popping it in a pot of boiling water as an afterthought, “oh I bet this would taste pretty good cooked too”? This was that kind of corn.

Growing up I loved corn in the summertime. I mean, who doesn’t? But I never had it anything other than cooked until a few years ago, when I was back home in the States, and there was this guy at the local farmers’ market handing out raw sweetcorn for free. It’s so fresh and sweet, he was saying, just picked yesterday in Michigan, drove down this morning. I wasn’t sure whether the picked-yesterday bit was just a sales pitch but it worked; I was drawn in.** I didn’t know what was about to hit me but that first bite was a revelatory moment: cool, sweet, refreshing. If I could have drunk a glass of that juice, I would have; instead, I did the second-best thing I could think of and bought a half dozen ears of corn. I think I may have eaten one on the way home, peeling the husks off like a banana skin, though that could just be my imagination.

Ever since then, when summertime rolls around and sweetcorn starts getting cheaper and cheaper I’m always tempted to take a couple bites out of each ear, just in case it’s as sweet as that first bite. This summer, they’ve been pretty close. But I’m happy to cook corn, too.

In Japan in the summertime you often get 焼きとうもろこし (yaki-toumorokoshi) or just simply 焼きもろこし (yaki-morokoshi), sweetcorn usually flavoured with soy sauce and sometimes butter. The flavour’s so distinct that you can find chips, pretzels, even Kit Kats with yaki-morokoshi flavour. It’s got that addictive combination of saltiness and butteriness and the sweet, almost-caramelised crunch of the corn, the kernels just starting to crisp up at the edges. At summertime festivals when others would be headed for the takoyaki or shaved ice stalls I’d be on the lookout for some grilled corn. And in my own kitchen more recently, when I just need a snack, I’ll melt some butter on an ear of corn, drizzle some soy sauce over it, and savour that memory.

But I’ve discovered a new thing. Something even more glorious than soy sauce and butter: miso butter. I’d seen it mentioned in a couple forms in some Japanese cooking magazines (good old Lettuce Club and Orange Page again). I first tried it out a couple weeks ago on some corn I’d just boiled. I didn’t get the miso:butter ratio quite right, and I didn’t bother grilling the corn, but it was pretty damn good, an umami party on my tongue. I was sold on miso butter.***

This time I got it right. One part miso to two parts butter. Make sure the butter’s soft so the miso blends in nicely, but not melted, or it won’t blend in at all. Grill the corn, brushing miso butter over it from time to time so it melts right into the cracks and the surface gets all blistered and almost-charred and then, when you’re ready to serve, melt some more miso butter over the top and bite in and holy crap, YES.

*Who would’ve thought? In summer? My goodness.

**Actually, never mind, I’m drawn in by most samples, regardless of whether they’re accompanied by a tempting sales pitch…

***And, the next morning when I spread some on toast with a bit of honey? That was the reminder for me to make those miso cookies I’d been dreaming of. With great success.

MISO BUTTER

Mix 1 tbsp miso into 2 tbsp softened* butter, stirring well until all the miso is blended in and it’s a nice smooth consistency. You can make the quantity greater or less; just use the 1:2 miso:butter ratio – easy enough to remember! Keep stored in the fridge where it will firm up a bit.

This is great on sweetcorn, but also anywhere you might want something buttery and rather salty. I can think of a few:

  • on toast, with honey
  • on French toast, with maple syrup**
  • to brush over some fish before baking/grilling
  • with green beans, or asparagus when it’s in season, or brussels sprouts
  • tossed through hot pasta or some boiled new potatoes

*room-temperature or slightly softer, but not melted

**I actually think I’m going to try this tomorrow morning. Will update with the results…

GRILLED CORN WITH MISO BUTTER

Grill your corn how you like, but slather some miso butter all over it before you do so it gets in the crevices and makes everything all salty and buttery. Here’s my lazy/non-BBQ-owning method:

First, slice up the cob into halves or thirds (or just leave it whole). Bring some water to the boil and add the corn, cook for a minute or two until it’s an eyepopping sunflower yellow. Remove from the pot.

Preheat the grill/broiler in your oven. Heat a ridged grill pan* until nice and hot, almost smoking. Coat the corn with miso butter (a pastry brush works great here) and place on the grill pan. Let it start to sear a bit on the bottom, then rotate it a bit, brush with more miso butter, and stick under the hot grill in the oven. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, giving it a turn every now and then and brushing with a bit more miso butter. When it’s nice and golden brown, almost-burnt in places and the miso stuck between the kernels is beginning to caramelise, pull the pan out from the oven.

Brush with more miso butter if you like. Go on, do it.

*a cast-iron one that can go in the oven is ideal. If you don’t have one, just heat the grill in your oven, skip this step and chuck your corn in there on a baking tray, making sure to rotate and brush with extra butter.

garam masala & coconut popcorn

In gluten free, snacks, vegan, vegetarian, year-round on 6 December, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Today’s post is not so much a recipe as it is a set of instructions on making one of the best snacks around.

The other night around midnight, after a failed dinner, a failed blogging effort and a failed attempt at sleep, I found myself wide awake with a semi-growling stomach and so I pulled myself out of bed and into the kitchen. Yep, that’s right. Midnight Snack Time.

Sleeping is something I don’t normally find difficult, so Midnight Snack Time is hardly ever something I experience (unless you count, of course, those post-revelry takeaway noodles I sometimes find on my bedside table on certain weekend mornings, but those don’t really count; for one, they’re usually eaten far past midnight to qualify as a Midnight Snack).

But Sunday night I was all out of whack, after a week packed with post-holiday catching-up and madwoman running around organising wigs and gowns and celebration plans for that thing I did on Friday*, and then that thing on Friday and then of course the celebrating and then on Saturday morning I woke up at an ungodly hour** for family activities with my visiting parents and by Saturday evening I was in bed, asleep, before it was even dark out (don’t you love that about summer?) and so Sunday I was physically well-rested and mentally drained: not a good combination for trying to will yourself to sleep.

I’m not sure why popcorn and garam masala were on my mind at that hour of the night, but it was lucky I had chosen those two things rather than, say, cereal or yoghurt or hot buttered toast or even leftovers, because as a consequence of my recent Melbourne trip, I’ve had very little money left with which to buy staple foods like milk or yoghurt or butter.

Or… butter. The realisation struck me as I opened the fridge, after I’d gotten out the popcorn and spices. I was completely out of butter (and, as luck would have it, all other cooking oil). I was about ready to add Midnight Snack Popcorn to my list of Sunday failures when I remembered the bag of random goodies (gin, chocolate, conditioner, my old silk scarf, and so on) my parents had left with me as a parting gift. I was pretty sure the bag also contained a jar of coconut oil. I was right.

So, out of desperation came this pretty damn amazing combination of coconut oil and garam masala on popcorn. I’m not going to pretend I’m the first person to discover it, because it’s pretty elementary. But the discovery, for me, was one of my biggest post-midnight triumphs yet.***

Garam masala (or sometimes curry powder, or other spices) on popcorn is an old trick I’ve had up my sleeve since my university days when I needed a quick study snack. But I’d always turn to butter or vegetable oil to cook my popcorn. I should’ve tried coconut oil sooner: the coconutty flavour isn’t that obvious at first, and the aromatic spiciness of the garam masala fills your mouth with each bite. But then, beneath that, there’s a subtle burst of supple, mellow, almost-sweet coconut flavour that melds with the spices, evoking the warm sea breezes and swaying coconut palms of someplace far from here (that possibly exists only in my imagination, but hey).****

This is better than any movie theatre popcorn (or microwave popcorn, or whatever’d otherwise take your fancy). The spices give it a lingering heat that sticks around far longer than the popcorn actually stays warm; for this reason, it’s ideal for prolonged nibbling over the course of a ninety-minute feature film. Or you can scarf it down, standing in the hallway, at Midnight Snack Time. It’s up to you.

Anyway, it was so good that I had it again yesterday afternoon when I got home from work. Still tasted just as impressive. I urge you to try it, especially if you have some coconut oil (or can get your hands on some). If you don’t, I’d just use butter or a neutral-flavoured oil, and maybe toss some shredded coconut in along with the garam masala just to give it that faint, sweet whiff of some imaginary tropics. Go on. (edited to add: if you’re doing this, might be better to add the coconut in at the end to prevent burning. Thanks, Lucia! x)


*!!!!! It was super exciting.

**of course, with a half-eaten box of char kway teow next to my bed.

***not that I have many post-midnight triumphs (for the most part, I’m asleep at that time of night and when I’m not, I’m not sure I’m achieving much), but still. This was definitely a triumph.

****I’m pretty sure the reason why I associate these particular spices with coconuts and tropics is because my mum brought them over to me from Kerala, a place I’ve never been but which exists strongly in my imagination as a place where there might possibly be hot sea breezes and coconut trees.

GARAM MASALA & COCONUT POPCORN

Melt 1 1/2 – 2 tbsp coconut oil* in a saucepan with a lid. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and 1 tsp** garam masala. Add 50g (approximately 1/4 cup) popcorn kernels and cover the pan with the lid. Heat over medium-high heat, giving everything a good shake every now and then to coat the kernels, until they start to pop. Keep shaking the pan over the heat, using a back-and-forth motion, until the popping slows down. Remove from heat and add more salt and/or garam masala to taste; toss and serve.

Devour while hot or make a big batch and pick at it slowly through the course of a movie: it’s up to you.

*bonus: if you get some on your hands you can slather it all over your skin and you will smell delicious. True fact. (If you don’t have coconut oil, cook the popcorn in the oil of your choice, perhaps adding some shredded coconut with the salt and spices).

**or more, to taste

chilaquiles, and the best salsa verde

In autumn, Mexican, snacks on 30 April, 2011 at 8:38 pm

It started with these tomatillos. Well actually, it started before the tomatillos: it started with this blog post. Or you could say it started even before that; all summer I’ve been keeping an eye out for tomatillos, with no luck whatsoever. I’m sure once, years ago, I saw them at Moore Wilson’s, but whether I missed them this year or they weren’t there I’ll never know.  Anyway, I’ve been hanging out for a good salsa verde, the Mexican kind, with tomatillos and jalapeños and coriander. The kind that came standard with a bowl of complimentary, freshly fried tortilla chips at the late-night taco shops I used to frequent as a teenager in suburban Chicago (which were way better than I just made them sound, by the way).

So when Sue blogged about her tomatillos over at Five Course Garden, one thing led to another and I ended up having a cup of tea and a chat in her hot-cross-bun-scented kitchen last Saturday afternoon, and left with a bag full of tomatillos (as well as parsley and sorrel that went into another kind of salsa verde altogether, and a wee passionfruit) she kindly donated to my tomatillo-deprived kitchen.


They sat in a bowl in my kitchen till Monday (poor Easter planning on my part meant I  had no corn tortillas at home) but then I did what I had to do: cut up some tortillas, fried into chips, sprinkled with a bit of salt, drained on paper towels. Tomatillos, jalapeños, roasted till juicy and blistery, dumped in a blender with coriander, garlic, onion, salt, a bit of water; blended till smooth and the sharp, familiar scent of tomatillos filled the air. Thinned out with a bit more water, just enough so that it was reminiscent of the salsa verde at my favourite Chicago taqueria, snuck a taste, let sit for a bit to let the flavours meld. Got way too excited and started eating all the chips dipped in the almost-too-hot salsa: bliss. I only stopped myself because I remembered the whole reason why I made chips in the first place was to try this recipe for chilaquiles verdes.*

Rather than baking them in the oven I ended up using the technique from this recipe (for chilaquiles rojos), where the chips are tossed in a pan of bubbling sauce and cooked till just soft. Once I had all the components ready it only took a few minutes to put together, simmering the fresh chips (there aren’t many snack foods better than freshly made tortilla chips) into the bubbling green sauce rounded out with sour cream and chicken stock, slopping the whole thing on a plate, topping with chicken and cheese and sour cream and more salsa. It took even less time to devour.

I wasn’t sad then, because I still had plenty of salsa left. But by the following night it was all gone – used up for the best enchiladas verdes I’ve ever made – and I had that twinge of guilty longing you get when you’re enjoying something with no guarantee you’ll have it again, at least for a long time. Bittersweet, like the last meal on an overseas holiday. I wanted every bite to last forever. I also wanted more salsa to magically appear so I could make more chilaquiles. Oh well. Maybe next year.


So. If you’re lucky enough to have a good source of tomatillos**, make this before the season’s over for the year. Otherwise I’d suggest planting some next spring (it’s what I’ll be doing, and they seem to grow well here), and then making this salsa. And then: these chilaquiles.

I couldn’t say this enough, but many, many, many thanks to Sue at Five Course Garden for giving me these tomatillos. I was the happiest person in the world eating this.

*Looking through internet recipes, it seems there are as many variations on chilaquiles as there are breeds of dog. Er, that makes it sound like this recipe somehow involves dogs, which I can assure you it does not, but you know. Lots. And I haven’t been to Mexico (though I did grow up in a city with a big Mexican population) so I can’t vouch for authenticity at all. But whatever. These are damn good.

**I’ve seen cans of them in Moore Wilson’s but at $9 a pop they’re not cheap. If you are reading this from a more tomatillo-acquainted area, I am so jealous of  you.

ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE:
(adapted from this recipe

Preheat the grill/broiler setting on your oven. Take roughly 500g tomatillos – remove the papery outer husks and rinse (they’re sticky) – and slice in half.* Place on a tinfoil-lined baking tray, cut side up, along with 2-4 jalapeño peppers (depending on how spicy you want the end product).** Pop this in the oven right on the top rack; cook for a few minutes until the tomatillos are soft and almost-burnt and the jalapeños are charred (don’t worry, you’ll be peeling off the charred skin). Peel the jalapeños and remove the seeds if you prefer a milder salsa. Put the tomatillos, jalapeños, a big handful of coriander, 1/2 a chopped onion, and 2 cloves garlic into a blender. Add about 1/4 cup water and a bit of salt in there as well, and purée until it reaches a sauce-like texture.*** Add more water if you want a thinner salsa; season with salt, let chill for at least 30 minutes so the flavours have a chance to mingle a bit.

This recipe makes quite a bit – it says 2 cups but I swear I got at least 2 1/2, maybe closer to 3.

*I don’t know why I did this instead of leaving the tomatillos whole. Maybe so they’d cook faster. Anyway, you can skip this if you want, but you may need to leave them in the oven a bit longer.

**I used 4, and left the seeds in; the salsa had a big roundhouse-kick heat to it but wasn’t too bad for my tastes. I like spicy food, though, so if you’re not big on chillies you may want to use less, or add them to the blender one at a time.

***you can make this smoother or chunkier depending on your preference.

HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS:

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a method: cut corn tortillas into triangles, fry in a bit of hot oil till golden, drain on paper towels. Sprinkle some salt on them while they’re still hot. Eat as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Save some for the chilaquiles.

CHILAQUILES VERDES (serves 2):
(adapted from here and here

Heat a bit of oil in a skillet; when hot, add roughly 1  to 1 1/2 cups salsa verde. Give it a good stir while you let it heat up so that it’s nice and bubbly, then stir in 1 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup sour cream. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit, then bring back to the boil. Add roughly 120g tortilla chips (I didn’t weigh mine. You could easily just eyeball it depending on how much you think you’ll eat) and simmer for about 5 minutes until just soft. To serve, top with warmed shredded chicken (leftover roast chicken would do perfectly)*, cheese (I used a bit of crumbled feta and goat’s cheese), sour cream and a bit more salsa. Eat with a fork – these are messy in the best possible way.

*I didn’t have any leftover roast chicken. Unless you’ve had a roast the night before you may not either. So what I did was poach a chicken leg in a little pot of water along with bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, a spoonful of cumin and a couple sprigs of oregano. Once the chicken was cooked, I pulled the meat off the bones with a couple of forks and kept the poaching liquid to use for the stock called for in the recipe. Also, you could just as easily make these vegetarian by omitting the chicken and using vegetable stock, if you’re so inclined. 

white bean, tuna & pine nut bruschetta

In snacks, year-round on 5 April, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I’ve eaten my way through the emergency kit I so painstakingly assembled after the Christchurch earthquake. Er, well, at least the edible components of it. It started on Sunday when I had this insatiable chocolate craving and broke into the chocolate macadamia block nestled beneath spare undies, torch, deodorant, canned food, toothpaste.* And then yesterday happened and I came home to the sudden unmistakable reality of having no food in the house. For the second week in a row I hadn’t gone to the Sunday market (when did I become such a creature of routine?!) and the closest thing to fresh produce I had was a half-wilted bag of spinach and the potted herbs on my balcony.

And it was sort of an emergency: I was hungry, tired, things were starting to grate on me in the same way as that guy flailing (dancing?) in front of me at the last gig I went to, all shoulders arms elbows, throwing flecks of sweat my way. Rage.  It’s not often an empty stomach brings forth memories of bad crowds and other small annoyances, but there you go. I’d been struck by the dreaded hangrrr Sasa so often warns about.

So the need to Eat Something Now coupled with the lack of fresh food in my pantry led me to that same trusty emergency kit that had so conveniently been there for me with chocolate the night before, where I found cans of beans and tuna, and toiletries (ooh, I was running low on soap!). Score. And since I always have half-eaten loaves of stale bread in the cupboard this bruschetta quickly took shape. In under 10 minutes I had depleted my emergency kit** and was sitting down to this. Crisis averted, bad-crowd memories dissipated.

This is simple stuff, and you could easily play around with the components to make it fancier, but in a pinch it’s about as good as it gets. Soft, almost-creamy beans, meaty tuna, flecks of parsley and nutty parmesan, coated in this spicy-lemony-garlicky dressing that’s just as much revitalising as it is comforting.

*yeah, I didn’t say my emergency kit was the best-organised. It’s basically a bag full of random stuff I hope might be useful in an emergency. Now minus most of the food.

**and I realise now that 1 can of tuna, 1 can of beans and a block of chocolate is probably woefully inadequate for an emergency kit. However, it does make for a pretty satisfying meal.

WHITE BEAN, TUNA & PINE NUT BRUSCHETTA

Heat a knob of butter and a generous swirl of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice 1-2 cloves of garlic and gently fry in the butter and olive oil along with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous sprinkle of pine nuts. Add 1 can of white beans* (drained and rinsed), a can of tuna (drained) and a handful of chopped parsley. Squeeze the juice of 1 or 2 lemons over everything, season with salt and pepper to taste, give it a good stir so that the beans and tuna are coated with the garlicky oil.

Meanwhile, toast some sliced, day-old** baguette (another way to use up stale bread in the pantry!).*** When it’s nice and crisp, top with the tuna & bean mixture and grate a bit of parmesan over the top. Easy!

*cannellini, for example

**Ha! Feel free to take a liberal reading of this. The bread I used was way more than a day old… I wanted it nice and crispy, so stale was fine.

***I’m forever burning stale slices of baguette in the toaster so I usually do this in the oven, with a drizzle of butter on top.