Snacks! Veggie, Cheesy, Pickled, Salty. Snacks!

I love snacks! And I think most of us out there do, too. The great thing about a well designed snack is you can use it as an appetizer, amuse bouche, small plate etc. for guests or a dinner party. This is a great example of one of those eat-at-home-alone or dress-it-up-for-guests snacks.

Ricotta and Radish on Crackers

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I can’t stop eating it, no joke. This little bite makes me want to put ricotta on everything, and everything on top of ricotta. I’ve gone through pints of the mild, creamy cheese in the last week just in order to combine it with anything I can find hoping to make it as unbelievable as it is with cracker, radish, salt and pepper.

It’s crazy easy, but it will blow your mind – and the mind of anyone you share it with. All you need to have is a thin, crisp but sturdy cracker, fresh creamy ricotta, and some thinly sliced radishes and a little salt and pepper, too, of course.

Or, for a little extra pizazz, omit the salt and sub the fresh radishes for some delish pickled ones:

radishandricottagoodsize

Shameless plug coming…… (contact me at KitchenEclectic@gmail.com    for pickle orders)

It’s a tasty trick for left overs, too. Last night’s salad of spinach, walnut, and cucumbers last was out of this world on top of ricotta crackers this afternoon.

And don’t forget to try your hand at your own ricotta – takes no time at all. A few minutes of work, 2 hours of sitting around doing nothing. Courtesy of me: Homemade Ricotta.

What else can you top ricotta and crackers with? Salted carrots? Beets? Enjoy a snack and let me know!

 

Spicy Pickled Slaw, (Repost, Update)

This post is a recipe from one of my first successful pickling experiences; since then I haven’t stopped. But I still use this same basic recipe and ratio. It’s a great way to pickle. I updated a couple things, but wanted to re-share it and get you all as excited about pickling everything in sight as I am! 

I was recently cursed with bout of the ugliest of flus, spending a week of my life on the couch. It sucked. Seriously, sucked. There were, however, one or two breaks in the clouds where I thought I was feeling better and so ventured out, desperate for some fresh air and to avoid the atrophy that was setting in on my body. One such evening, I weakly stumbled upon the Mission Community Farmer’s Market.


And by golly, what luck of the season (though I already knew), it was perfect timing. The market full of lovely purveyors, delicious pupusas and super scrumptious fruits and veggies. And, of course, as it’s that glorious season for all things canned, jammed, jellied and pickled with an adorable label, my heart let out a sweet giggle when I found this purveyor, Emmy’s Pickles and Jams:

I indulged myself in some quince butter (oh, mmmmmmm) and a jar of zesty pickles (double mmmmmm)…..

I’m going to get me some fig jam next time….

After chatting it up for a minute, I moseyed on for my own jarring (hah! oh, puns…) adventure. I was on the look out for some additions to a cabbage, fennel, onion, and carrot combination…. that’s right. Some additions to…. SLAW!

Mmmmm!

Edging dangerously close to the end of pepper season, I didn’t know what I was going to find – but I did know I was going to snatch up and hoard what I could. I got lucky and crossed ways with some real beauties!

The great thing about slaw / pickled items is that they’re incredibly versatile. You can use just about anything that’s available. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of some or all of the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Jalapenos (lots of ’em, some seeded, some not)
  • Fennel
  • Onions (white, red, yellow, shallots)
  • Green Beans
  • Yellow Wax Beans
  • Carrots
  • Padrons/Shishitos (stemmed and torn in half lengthwise)
  • Red, Yellow, Orange Bells and these gorgeous purple heirloom peppers I got at the market:

with a quick, mild pickle. 

Try this mildly pickle slaw (similar to Salvadorian curtido) on eggs, tacos and pupusas (duh), mixed with avocado and cucumber, in place of lettuce on any sandwich…the options go on and on.

Be sure to experiment with the brine, too, based on what your ingredients are. Sweeter peppers? Make a spicier brine. Spicier pickles, make a sweeter brine by using more brown sugar than white sugar and apple cider vinegar in place of granulated. Or, add some funky spices that you really love. Clove? Extra black peppercorn? Or make it crazy spicy with some whole dried cayennes. Try adding tarragon, star anise, who knows. It’s quick and cheap so you can experiment time and time again.

Here’re the basics:

Prep Your Slaw Veggies:

      1. Chop or clean all the ingredients you chose to use into long strips that
          are as close to the same size as you can get.
      2. Mix them together in a large bowl so they’re evenly distributed. It should
          look about like this:

3. Evenly distribute the mix amongst the jars you have cleaned. Fill them fully to     the top.

4. Follow the instructions below to make the brine and pickle.

Basic Brine (for 2 cups)

    • 1/2 c. white vinegar
    • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    • 3T white sugar
    • 3T brown sugar
    • 2t coarse grey sea salt (substitute regular kosher salt if you can’t find coarse)
    • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1T black peppercorn
    • 1cup water
    1. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then pour immediately over your prepared slaw, in jars.
    2. Let cool until just comfortable to the touch, then seal with a screw top lid. (It’s not necessary to do a proper canning seal for this quick pickle, as long as you eat it within a week or so.)
      3. Let cool, then refrigerate and let sit for 24 hours, then

enjoy!

Roast Those Fall Veggies!

 

Previously, I was under the notion that everyone knew that one of the best ways to cook 96% of all vegetables was to oven roast them at a really high heat with olive oil, salt and pepper – and sometimes, a few herbs and spices. I mean, seriously. You name it, roasting is the tastiest.

  • Potatoes? Roasted, duh.  (rosemary and bacon)
  • Green beans? Hells yeah! Roast the shit outta those. (chili flakes or sesame seeds/oil)
  • Brussel sprouts? Of course! (lemon and chili flakes)
  • Carrots? Well, we already know that…

Bring it on, I dare you….give me a vegetable that isn’t delicious when roasted. Especially in the fall. I don’t think there’s a single one….

 

And for sure….

 

Cauliflower and Beets! (ahem…purple cauliflower and yellow beets…)

It was cauliflower, actually, that helped bring to my attention the sad fact that not every cook feels, in their soul, the value of roasting. I was reading an article in an old issue of Gourmet (RIP) that preached to the reader the glory of roasting, specifically for cauliflower. I’ll tell you – roasting cauliflower is the only way I cook it. It’s amazing. High heat, til it browns and it’s out of this world. Well, second to the breaded and fried cauliflower from Bar Bambino.

And, being fall and all … all the veggies that you want to roast anyways – they’re extra pretty. Purple cauliflower and yellow beets…


 

chioga beets…

purple and yellow wax beans…

romanesco (aka geometric broccoli)…

and so many more!

So here’s how you do it for a head of cauliflower and about 3 medium sized beets….

 

Cauliflower:

  • Trim it of leaves and the bottom stalk that hold most of the florets together, keep trimming down the stalks and the florets will naturally fall off into small pieces.
  • For the large ones, cut them in half down the middle so they’re about this size: 

Give or take… having some a little bigger, some a little smaller is fine. In fact, the smaller ones are crazy good because they get real crispy!)

For the beets:

  • Cut off the tops and greens (but save the greens, they’re delish!) and then slice them into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick, then cut those rounds like a waffle fry – crosswise, then the other way, so they end up being ’bout an inch square: 

  • Beets, too, are just a little bit “more of less” in size. Because they’re round, and because you’re not a restaurant that is willing to waste a little bit of beet in order to get them all the same size, they’re gonna vary just a tad.
  • Then, put both in a large bowl, toss with tasty olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and salt. I highly recommend using Alaea Hawaiian Red Salt – it’s great for roasting, because it naturally helps to retain moisture. Its iron content (what makes it red) and residual minerals also add great, but subtle, flavor.
  • After tossing it, lay it all out flat onto a baking sheet and drop into an oven preheated for 425 for 25-3o minutes, until there is good visible browning on both the beets and cauliflower, but not so long they’re mushy. Taste-test along the way.
  • Serve it up and eat it!

 

 

Choose Your Own Baking Adventure: Banana Walnut, Carrot, or Blackberry Cardamom Bread


I’m no master baker by any means; without a sweet tooth to call my own I generally stay on the savory end of the kitchen. Baking also requires a certain kind of attention to detail and scientific organization that after the daily patience my day job requires, I just can’t hang with. But I’ll tell you – you could be missing an arm and think a whisk is is some kind of sex toy and still be able to make this bread awesome! You can even get creative with it and use your savory skills to combine flavors without opening your oven door to yet another baking catasrophe.

Apart from being a quick simple recipe, the delicious secret to it is FRESH spices. If you’re using cinnamon and nutmeg, don’t use the janky stale powdered stuff that’s been sitting in your cabinet since three Thanksgiving’s ago when you made pumpkin pie. Get a zester or fine grater, some cinnamon sticks, and a hard nutmeg nut and make yourself sneeze with the freshness.
If you’re using cardamom, toast the fresh seeds quickly on the stovetop (not pods, but for extra freshness, you can get pods and crush them to extract the seeds) and grind them in a spice grinder (which you have already, right? It’s just a little coffee grinder that you use for spices instead of coffee….)

Get this together:

1 cup smashed banana, ¾ cup toasted chopped walnuts (or)
1 cup grated carrots (or)
1 cup semi-smashed blackberries , 3/4 cup oats

      (or….):

1 cup any fruit, veggie, etc (wet ingredient that you choose and up to 3/4 cup any nuts, oats, small chopped dried fruit, coconut, choco/butterscotch/peanut butter chip or combination thereof that your heart desires

And here’s how to do it:


1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease 9×5 pan or (2) 6×3 pans

2. Mix 1 ¾ flour ¾ c sugar 1t each baking powder and salt and ½ t baking soda cinnamon nutmeg in large bowl (except blackberry bread, replace with a couple pinches cardamom), add dry ingredients (nuts, oats, dried fruit, coconut etc)

3. In separate bowl whisk 2 eggs, 1/2 c cooled melted butter or vegetable oil, ½ c. yogurt or sour cream, 1t vanilla, stir in wet stuff and fold into dry mixture until nicely combined.

4. Spread batter in pans and bake until tooth pick comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack bout 30 min, then pop out to cool the rest of the way, on a rack.

5. Eat it!

Candy Lollipops – with (or without) Booze!

You can get lollipops anywhere; big ones the size of your head at the carnival, semi-questionable corn-syrupy ones from Walgreens, germ ridden 6 month old freebies from the receptionists desk at work (my personal favorite) – but did you realize you can make your own!? You can make them tasty, you can make them pretty, you can make them big, or you can make them small. And you can make them with booze, which is what this little post is all about. It’s not too difficult, and it’s definitely fun as shit!

The inspiration for this came from Argentina. The last time we were in Buenos Aires, we went to La Vineria De Gualterio Bolivar. The chef from La Vineria is from Spain and built his career at El Bulli with Ferran Adria – the pope of molecular gastronomy. (If you don’t know Ferran Adria or El Bulli, take a peep at this video of Ferran Adria explaining some of what he does. The translator is one of my favorite chefs, Jose Andres, who was the sous chef there at El Bulli before he moved to the US and opened his own mindblowing restaurants in Washington D.C.) Needless to say, I was somewhere between “hyped” and “hysterically enthralled” to be eating food from a guy who learned to cook there, at what is recognized as the best restaurant in the world.

The meal was somewhere around 14 courses with wine pairings (which is why I can’t remember exactly how many courses it was). Three dessert courses and one of ’em was a big huge spun sugar looking lollipop. Though it wasn’t the tastiest part of the meal, it was the prettiest and most playful part – I fell in food love with this gorgeous lolli!

Yes, I fell in with a piece of candy – and had to made it happen with my own hands. Unlike the rest of the meal at La Vineria, making some lollipops at home is really no feat of molecular gastronomy. But you do have to pay some close attention and I hope you have a strong dishwasher.

Take a peek, there’s a decent instructional video on making lollies on Howcast.

You could do it their boring way, with plastic forms that you can get fairly cheap at Sur la Table – but just so you know, they don’t work very well. So instead, why not have some fun and try some playful artsy free forms:

You will need:

    Silpat (silicone cooking sheet) or wax paper coated with non-stick spray. I strongly suggest getting a silpat, though. They’re magical, nothing works quite like one. You’ll thank me.

    Lollipop sticks

    Candythermometer that goes up to 300 degrees

As well as:

    2/3C. water
    2C. white sugar
    1/4t. cream of tartar

    1. Mix the ingredients together and bring to a boil.

    2. Boil for about 10 minutes without stirring until it turns an amber color. It should reach 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can spoon a bit out and dip it into an ice bath; if it solidifies real quick, it’s ready.

    3. Remove it from heat and add the booze you choose (also color, if you like). Add 1-2 ounces of alcohol, depending on the strength and flavor of your choice. Fun ones to try are peppermint or other flavored Schnapps, Sambuca, Fernet, Cointreau, Red Stagg Black Cherry Whiskey, just to name a few. These ones that I did are with peppermint Schnapps.

    4. Make sure your sticks are laid out on your silpat or wax paper ahead of time, and right away start spooning the thick sugar water on top of them with some pizzazz! If the lollipop syrup starts to thicken or harden too much, put it back on the heat for a minute to loosen it up.

    5. Let them cool like this for 20 minutes, or until solid, then peel carefully off and wrap in pretty little wrappers that you can get at Sur la Table. If they seem a little soft, keep them in the fridge. Depending on the amount of sugar in the alcohol you use, it will sometimes keep the syrup for fully hardening.

    And now you have pretty little homemade lollies!