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

IMG_0068

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!

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs!

People scoff, and people squirm – they’re grossed out and disgusted. But really, it’s a fairly regular thing around the world. People eat bugs. If livestock, cattle, and even legumes aren’t readily (cheaply) available to you, your community has found another way to get a source of protein. As a person who has been a vegan in the past and is now (temporarily!) forced to not eat meat, I get it – a human body craves protein. So, bugs it may be! They’re everywhere, they’re cheap, and they’re super high in protein for their size.

So what do they taste like? Not much (at least most of them)- which, of course, means they don’t taste bad. Most of them are crunchy, as you would expect, and usually kind of just taste like what they’re cooked in – which depends on where you get them.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, you can get ants and grasshoppers from big huge baskets at the markets; they are fried and coated in chili and salt. They’re dry, crunchy and taste like nothing much more than chili and salt (which, in itself, isn’t so bad). You can feel their tiny little wiry legs a little. I like it, it’s funky. Oaxacans use them for topping Tlayudas (a local most delicious crispy blue corn tortialla-y specialty topped with refried beans, Oaxacan cheese, and any variety of other items depending on where you are), among other things.


Here in San Francisco, Don Bugito is a local food truck doing tasty treats based on Aztec snacks (the Aztecs ate a lot of larvae-esque bugs). The larvae for the tacos are sauteed in garlic and butter, and are deeee-lelish (but isn’t everything in garlic and butter?). The larvae are not the squishy weird texture that you think they would be, either.

And of course, all over southeast Asia they’re bug crazy! And Thailand just might take the cake.

 

I think it’s mostly the size of them that’s so intimidating….

Lucky for me, I’m only blocks away from Koreatown and their boastful supermarket and kind-of mini-mall, Koreana Plaza.

Koreana is no Thailand – there are certainly no bugs the size of your fist; but if you’re shopping for something squirmy yet edible, you won’t leave empty handed.

Alright, so I’ll be honest….boiled silkworm larvae isn’t the tastiest bug on Earth…but, it’s reasonable. It’s not disgusting. There are, however, big secrets to cooking them. Just read on and you’ll learn better than I did…Sometimes learning by doing can create quite a mess…. (see photo below)

But if you stick with it, you’ll go from this:

To this!

Now don’t tell me that’s not hella classy. Homemade tortilla chips, corn and heirloom tomato salsa, crumbled cotija cheese and one tidy little bug, sauteed in butter, chili powder, tamarind, tequila, garlic, and lime.

 

For the chips

  • one package (give or take, depending on how many you’re feeding) of flour tortillas, cut into 6ths
  • ground black pepper
  • salt
  • chili powder
  • olive oil
  • Toss the cut up tortillas with the olive oil, salt, pepper, chili powder so they’re all well coated. Roast in the oven on a sheet tray at 400 until you see a little bit of browning. 

 

 

For the Salsa

  • 2 ears worth of fresh, de-cobbed corn kernels
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped finely

  • 1 basket of mixed heirloom cherry/globe tomatoes, cut into halves and quarters (depending on the size)

  • a large palmful of cilantro, picked and finely chopped
  • 5-6 basil large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, oven roasted and seeded, then finely chopped

  • 1 decent pinch korean chili flakes
  • lots of salt and pepper, to taste
  • small sprikle of tequila (to taste)
  • Gently mix all the ingredients together, adding salt, pepper and tequila slowly while tasting. 

 


      Jalapenos:

  • Preheat your oven to 425  and toss the jalapenos with olive oil and salt – make sure they’re well coated. 
  • Shove them in the oven on a sheet tray, and let them go for 10-15 minutes or until the skin is browned and bubbly.
  • Let cool, then split lengthwise down the middle and the skin should come right off.
  • Use the back of your knife or careful hands (that you wash in a serious way right after) to pull the seeds out of the pepper. They should come out very easily in a clump. Depending on how hot you want the salsa, you can leave a couple seeds in there.
  • Finely chop the de-skinned, seeded jalapenos and you’re done!

For the bugs 

  • You know, I wanted to figure out how to merge the obviously Asian/Korean influence of the bugs themselves with some Mexican influence, full of flare. I knew it had to be possible, but I wasn’t sure how. So I searched. I flipped through magazines, I googled and epicurious’ed ideas – and nothing. Finally, I searched through my giant spice cabinet hoping something would pop out at me. It was one big “no, not this” after another. UNTIL! I ran into tamarind. Mexican? Totally – mmm agua de tamarindo – and Asian? Yep, totally dudes and dudettes. Check out an example.
  • butter
  • tequila
  • lime
  • salt
  • chili powder
  • minced garlic
  • tamarind paste (peep at this great guide to using tamarind paste)

1) Drain any water or liquid from the bugs. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a hot sautee pan, and add the tamarind before the butter gets too hot, stir it well to dissolve and equally distribute the tamarind.

2) Once the butter is nice and hot and the tamarind is mostly distributed, add the bugs and minced garlic, give it a quick stir around the pan and then add just enough tequila to get all over the bugs (not enough to make it soupy).

3) Let the alcohol cook off a bit (just a quick couple minutes) and add the rest of your items – a squirt of half a lime or so, a sprinkling of chili powder all over those guys, a pinch of salt, and be sure to have a lid handy because they will start to pop and fly across your kitchen if you don’t. (you saw the picture above, right?)

4) Let them cook for just a hot minute, shaking the pan often.

5) Once browned and just a little crispy, grab a chip, put a spoonful of salsa on it, sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese and drop a bug or two on that bad boy.

6) And, of course, enjoy!

Things to remember for this recipe:
  • When you get these guys in a pan, they pop! Not like whole cranberries pop, but like a grasshopper jumping through weeds. All over the kitchen, exploded and smooshy with silkworm guts. You saw the picture above. So, make sure you use a pan that you have a lid for.


  • This generalized recipe should also work for other kinds of bugs or worms that you might find around, which is why I don’t give specific measurements. You can adjust it for how many bugs you have.

 

So, now that we’re no longer quite as weirded and grossed out (right????) because we get that bugs are a pretty regular part of most of the world’s cultures and we have a nacho recipe to make them delicious in our own home – here’s a little info on why they’re so great….

  • Take a look at this chart and compare fish and beef to the protein content and overall nutritional value:

 

  • Fat in lean ground beef is 10g per 100 grams of beef; chicken breast is about 6.5 grams per 100 grams and for broiled cod, it is next to nothing. Look at that compared to the fat content in bugs. They’re seeming pretty healthy, aren’t they?
  • They are also easier and cheaper to mass produce and much lighter on our environment; I think we’ve all heard plenty about the damage that livestock production does to the Earth. Bugs, though? They take less space to produce higher protein yields with obviously less resources to farm.

More bugformational links:

Check it all out, and let me know what you think. 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!

 

 

This Is How We Camp

This is how we wake up.

This is how we have lunch.

 

And here’s how you can have a bangin’ lunch too:

  • Dinner Rolls
  • Mayo
  • Spicy Mustard
  • Fresh Taragon leaves (not optional, it makes the sandwich incomprable!)
  • Mixed Greens
  • Very Thinly Sliced Onions
  • Avocado
  • Salami

 

  1. Put it all together into a sandwich, making sure to put the mayo into hearts.

 

This is how we follow up, with dinner on the fire:

Marinate your steak in a ziploc bag, grill it up on a fire that looks like this:

Get those grill marks, and serve it with some fennel potato salad:

You’ll be a happy camper, too.

Thanks to Amy Tso for photos