Book club snack time! My book club met last night, so I thought I’d try out a new snack recipe ahead of the holidays. If it worked, great, and if it was bad, we’d have wine to distract us. Win-win!
They were nutty, salty, tangy, savory from the fried shallots, and addictive. Great party food. I apologize for the lack of photos; this was a hands-on recipe [involving hot oil, yikes] and I only have the before and after to share with you. That being said, here’s how to make it!
Place the cashews in a large, wide bowl. Finely zest the three limes, setting the zest aside. Juice the limes and pour the lime juice over the cashews, marinating for one hour.
As these soak, slice each shallot in half lengthwise and finely chop the halved into thin half-moon-shaped slices. In a deep saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat; it will be ready when a shallot dropped in sizzles and immediately starts to cook. Add the shallots to the hot oil and cook, stirring often for about 2 minutes until they’re golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and leave the heat on.
When the cashews are done soaking, drain and pat them dry. Add them in two batches to the hot oil, cooking and stirring until brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Remove with the same spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to cool and sprinkle with salt, to taste (go heavy, they’re raw so they need lots of flavor). Pour the cooled cashews into a large bowl and mix in the lime zest; top with the fried shallots. All done! Go party!
Hello! Happy New Year! And brr. Is it cold where you are? It’s cold cold in St. Louis. To combat the low temps and up our veggie intake après holiday indulgence, I whipped up this roasted spread to nosh on last night. This spread-slash-dip can be slathered onto hunks of crusty bread, dipped with crackers (we used wholesome and hearty Mary’s Gone Cracker), spread on a sandwich, dolloped onto soups, tossed with olive oil on pasta or rice, and so on. Great stuff to have around on cold, winter nights and snowbound days.
The roasted peppers and onion give a big flavor kick; you’ll find the spread hard to put down, which is a great thing when it comes to vegetables, amiright? It was all I could do to not eat the whole batch in one sitting. I enjoyed it hot out of the oven, chilled the next day with lunch, on a baked potato the next day, and at room temp as a dip- all delicious and the room temp option makes this wonderful picnic and party fare. Oscar party fare, perhaps? ‘Tis [almost] the season!
minced garlic cloves, to taste (at least 3), or a tablespoon already-roasted garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher alt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 1/3 tbsp tomato paste
Preheat your oven to 400. Cut the eggplant, red peppers, and red onion into large, 1-inch dice. In a large bowl, toss the veggies with the raw minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Turn out onto a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Your kitchen will smell freaking amazing.
lovely, lovely veg
When 45 minutes are up, add the veggie mix, tomato paste, and pre-roasted garlic, if using, to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until pretty well combined. You want to leave this with some texture, so don’t completely purée it.
The dip was my pre-workout snack before a girl’s night preview of Core3, a new fitness option in St. Louis. Terribly, terribly fun stuff. Core3 blends TRX, RealRyder indoor cycling (the bikes that move laterally), and Surfset indoor surfing. Yes, indoor surfing! My arms, legs, and abs all felt it today and I’m pretty sure I smiled throughout the entire workout. I highly recommend trying Core3- another exhilarating way to beat the bitter winter temps. #cowabunga
Brought this sweet, salty, spicy snack to a punch party last weekend. PunchPartySayWhaaa? Ya. PUNCH PARTY. A party where a very generous, very fun cocktail-minded couple serves several authentic, throw-back, boozy bowls of punch- fancy little punch cups and all. God love ’em for doing it.
I needed a quick recipe and wanted to use what I had in the cupboards. Hmm, can of pumpkin purée? Not exactly a crowd-pleaser…. Cat food? Better not…… Box of arborio rice? Too crunchy…. AHA! Popcorn kernels! Et voilà- a star was born. A thrifty, 5-minute party snack hit for the ages. The punch party patrons partook with pleasure. Please, prepare your own personal pot (insert When Harry Met Sally paprikash joke below).
This recipe moves quickly, so set yourself up first. Grab a small saucepan for the glaze and a wide, lidded one for popping the popcorn. Ready a large bowl and a spatula for glazing the popcorn and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper to turn the finished product onto. In the wide pan, heat the tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels and shake the pan around like a madman/woman until all kernels are popped. This will happen fast- about a minute thirty or so.
Shake, shake, shake until the popping slows down. Remove the pan from heat and dump into the large bowl. On to the glaze! Add all remaining ingredients to the small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium, stirring constantly. Boil for about a minute, then remove from heat to cool for another minute.
Pour the glaze over the popcorn in the large bowl and toss to coat with the spatula. It will be hot, so watch those delicate digits! When the popcorn is coated, spread it out onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and let cool. Break up any large clumps and serve! Try not to eat the whole dish before your guests arrive…
Cut to tomorrow (ooh! time travel)!: I highly suggest nursing your next-day case of the zings with a jazz brunch, a proper bloody Mary, and a trip to your local art museum. Worked for me, but it was also 63 degrees outside- in December. Just the way I like it!
Perpetual baked potato cravings have become somewhat of a thing with me. My go-to is classic: a plate-sized Yukon gold smashed with butter, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and lots of sour cream. The winds of change had me in their grips the other day, inspiring me to mix it up. I madly added things from the fridge like a [hungry and impatient] mad scientist and chuckled when I realized that my combo was green- a Frankenstein potato!
Behold, my creation!
BAKED POTATO WITH AVOCADO AND GREEN ONION
1 medium/large Yukon gold potato
salt and pepper
sliced green onions
Bake or microwave your potato. I am a microwaver. When I want a baked potato, I want it within the next ten minutes. No judgement here for my lazy, impulsive kinsfolk. Cut in half, smash up with a fork, sprinkle with salt and crack on pepper, add a few pats of butter and smash up a little more, smash on some buttery avocado, and top with green onion. Hell of a snack.
As if belonging to the YMCA doesn’t make me happy enough, my local Y has started a book exchange program (a well-intentioned, pile, rather) in its lobby. Members donate books they’re done with to the pile and the donated books become fair game for anyone who’s interested. On my way in and out, I stop to scan the boxes and bags and bins of books for new finds. The selection is delightfully varied and makes me love my fellow members even more, quirky smarty pantses that they are. Recently, I made quite the haul when I lifted a few tattered textbooks to find six (SIX!) Peter Mayle books peeking out from underneath the castoffs like rays of Mediterranean sun. “Bring us home!,” they said, “love us and read us and dream of meals in Provence with us!” Um, OKAY GUYS!
It’s cliché to be an escapist American or Brit who loves to read Peter Mayle, but I’m an American who loves to read Peter Mayle. I really, really do. His books fill the mind with Provençal scents and smells and breezes and dreams of sunny, lazy lunches soaked in wine and olive oil that are much cheaper to read about than to create (faster, too). A Year In Provence and Encore Provence are favorites of mine, as is A Good Year, which Ridley Scott made into a Russell Crowe-starring movie in 2006. Also cliché: women who love Russell Crowe movies. I don’t want to, I try not to, there’s nothing interesting or noble in doing so… but my heart can’t be swayed. He was wonderful in A Good Year, as was lovely Marion Cotillard. Such pretty people in such a pretty setting. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? Speaking of the pretty setting, let’s take a look at the grounds of Château la Canorgue, where the movie was filmed. Le sigh.
So very lovely. A Good Year, both book and movie, are near and dear to me. If you want to make a fast, faux getaway to the south of France, check out A Good Year or A Year In Provence. Here’s my warm-weather recipe inspired by the currently very warm St. Louis weather, the good luck of finding a stack of favorite books, and the hazy, sepia-toned romance of A Good Year. I imagine Max and Fanny serving this in the leafy shade of their terrace on a sunny Provençal day…
Buns. Bao. Pillowy, chewy, savory steamed buns stuffed with decadent pork belly, spicy sriracha, and bright, contrasting cucumber. Chef David Chang, the Korean-American, French-trained creator of legendary New York noodle bar and ramen heaven, Momofuku, rocketed pork buns into their sweet-salty limelight when he added his often imitated version to the Momofuku menu in 2004. Chang’s Momofuku is largely credited for the ramen craze and his signature pork buns have been equally influential.
say this ten times fast in front of your mother
I like David Chang. He’s smart and talented and somehow an “everyman” but incredibly special at the same time. His Instagram makes my mouth water and he designed the Momofuku logo in part as a tribute to Eat a Peach. Which makes him fine by me. There are homages to Chang’s tasty buns (heh, heh, heh) everywhere, even in anti-coastal St. Louis, so the pork bun trend is established and legit. Let’s make some, mmkay?!
If you have time to marinate, roast, and chill the pork and to make the buns, which rise three times, they’re simple. You just need time. Eh, maybe quite a bit of time. Allow for a few hours of rising and prep time for the buns and a possible overnight marinating and chilling of the pork. These are more of an appetizer when made with pork belly since it’s so rich, so you can either be hardcore like the Cruses and eat these as a straight-up meal (I ain’t never scared), substitute a leaner cut of pork, or serve as an app. Glaze and grill tofu or stuff with kimchi and cucumbers for a vegan version.
Vanity Fair on the yin and yang of David Chang: His achievements notwithstanding, he is constantly haunted by feelings that he is out of his depth, even in the kitchen. He ascribes this to han, a uniquely Korean form of angst that manifests itself as both a resigned acceptance that life is difficult and a grim determination to struggle through this difficulty.
For the pork and quick-pickled cucumbers:
4lbs pork belly
6 tbsp + 1 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp kosher + 1 tsp salt
2 cucumbers, cut into 1/8 inch slices
For the buns:
2 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/6 cup rendered pork fat, from the pork belly, at room temp
canola oil, for brushing
1 bunch scallions, sliced
sriracha, for serving
prepared kimchi, for serving
For the pork belly: mix the 6 tbsp salt and 6 tbsp sugar and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in a 9 x 13 dish or a roasting pan and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. When the pork is cured, pour off any liquid from the baking dish and heat your oven to a blazing 450. Roast the pork for one hour, uncovered, basting halfway through. Lower the oven temp to 250 and roast the pork for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate to cool and pour off some rendered fat to reserve for the bun dough (mmm. pork fat). Wrap with foil or plastic wrap and chill the pork until it’s cool enough to cut- we cooked the pork the day before we made the buns to allow for ample roasting and chilling time, which I highly recommend. Once chilled, the pork will slice and dice nicely. When you’re ready to eat, slice the pork into 2″ x 1/2″ slices and warm in a pan on the stove or microwave.
For the cucumbers: slice the cucumbers into 1/8″ thick rounds. I decoratively peeled mine with a zester because I’m fancy. Toss with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. So easy! Look at you, you’ve pickled something! So capable, you are.
For the buns: Add the yeast and 3/4 cup warm water to a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, dry milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and rendered fat. Turn the mixer on its lowest setting (I used “stir”) and let dough mix for 8 minutes, until it climbs the hook and forms a ball. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl and plop the dough ball in it; cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in size. What with it finally feeling like summer, feel free to place the bowl on a windowsill for extra cozy home points.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down with the back of your hand to expel most of the air. On a clean surface- I always use a large cutting board to work with dough, makes cleanup easier- form the dough into a ball or log. Divide into 5 equal pieces and roll those into logs. Cut each logs into 5 pieces the size of ping-pong balls. Use your knife to mark off the cutting areas before you slice. I made a double batch of dough, so these are double-batch photos:
Roll the ping pongs of dough into balls and place onto a baking sheet. Cover the sheet loosely with plastic wrap and allow the balls to rise 30 minutes. While these are rising, cut out 25 4″ squares of parchment paper to steam the buns on and slice the scallions. Refrigerate sliced scallions until ready to use.
When 30 minutes has passed and the balls of dough have puffed up a bit, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4″ oval. Brush each oval lightly with oil, place on a square of parchment paper, and fold in half by folding a bun over itself onto a chopstick and sliding the chopstick out. Guess what? They have to rise again. PLace the squares of parchment back on the baking sheet or maybe across a counter, making sure not to let the buns touch. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 more minutes. You’re almost there! We’re almost steaming!
And now…. we steam! Which means we eat soon! Set up a bamboo steamer (or other flat steamer) on a wok or over a large saucepan filled with about an inch of water, and bring the water to a boil. Place a few buns, parchment paper included, on the steamer, making sure not to overcrowd or allow the dough to touch. Cover and steam for 10 minutes per batch, removing buns to a platter as you go.
If you haven’t done so already, slice and heat the pork belly. Stuff 2-3 pieces of pork belly into each bun, topping with cucumbers, scallions, and 1 tsp hoisin sauce. Pass kimchi and sriracha and revel in your trendy culinary accomplishment!
Pretty simple entry- this is a healthy and delicious dip for apples, bananas, and probably anything else you can slather it on. It’s a quick and easy snack you can make a large batch of and keep in the fridge for a fast and filling and high-protein accompaniment to fruit. Here it is!