Cocktail Nibbles

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These make a terrific cocktail or wine-tasting accompaniment.  The first recipe came from my amazing friend Tina, who is a supertalented chef and artist, made this recipe for me once when she was hanging out at our place. I promptly stole it, and have passed it off as my own ever since. I think she’s okay with that. She’s pretty cool.  The second one is the evolution of my families preferences, and it can be easily personalized to fit your family too.

Olive Oil Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

2 cups whole, skin-on almonds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt – try a Sicilian, Italian, or Spanish sea salt, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with herbs, roasted garlic, olives, red wine, or curry

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon herbs de Provence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread almonds out on a dry baking sheet. Toast for 15-20 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Stir every 5 minutes or so to ensure even browning.
  1. Pour the hot nuts into a bowl, and add oil and salt right away. Toss to coat, then add cheese and herbs and toss again. Cool to room temperature before serving. Store airtight.

Grown up Gorp 

Nuts and dried fruits have a very long relationship. From pemmican to girl scouts, they are perfectly matched. The sweet, spicy salt additions in this recipe bring this trail tradition into a modern culinary setting.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

Grated zest of one orange

1 ¾ teaspoon unrefined sea salt – try American sea salt from the Pacific Northwest, Australian Murray River, a smoked salt, or a sea salt infused with citrus, curry, saffron, or chiles

½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup whole, skin-on almonds

1 cup cashews

1 cup sunflower seeds (hulled)

1 tablespoon sesame seed

1 tablespoon flaxseed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup dried cherries or cranberries

½ cup pitted dates, chopped

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup zante currants

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray and set aside. Mix together sugar, herbs, orange zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  1. Toast pecans, almond, and cashews in the oven on separate dry sheet pans until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes each. (I prefer to toast them separately.) Pour the hot nuts into a bowl, and add the sunflower, sesame and flaxseeds. Add the butter and honey, and toss to coat. Add the sugar mixture and continue to toss until evenly coated.
  1. Spread the mixture out in an even layer on the prepared pan. Bake in 5 minute increments, stirring in between, until sugar has melted, and the mixture is evenly toasted. Remove from oven, toss with another teaspoon of sea salt, then cool completely.
  1. When cool, add cherries, dates, raisins and currants. Toss together, and serve, store air tight for a week, or freeze for longer storage.

 

Kale Chips

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I know—kale has morphed from the it-food to the hipster joke. But that’s a little unfair. It has been around for a long time, and not just as an ornamental plant. You all know by now that dark greens are the good ones, so lay off the jokes, and make these fantastic chips. They are salty, crisp, and (gasp) healthy. It’s another recipe from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon )

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients

1 pound curly kale, trimmed and torn into large but manageable bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined salt, divided – try Mali, Hana Flake, Alaea, smoked, or a salt infused with fresh herbs, fennel, paprika, seaweed, dashi, tea, sesame

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Rinse and drain kale leaves, and pat or spin dry. Place in a large bowl and toss with oil and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  1. Arrange leaves in a single layer on several baking sheets (You’ll probably have to work in batches). Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking at the 5 minute mark to prevent burning (ovens vary—check for your own oven’s hot spot). The leaves should be still green, but browned on the edges. They will crisp a little more after they cool.
  1. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining salt. Cool completely, and serve. Store airtight at room temperature for a day or two.

Variations

Veggie Variations – Try this same method to “oven fry” thinly sliced root vegetables, like beets, parsnips, carrots. Use a mandolin to slice thin rounds, or a potato peeler for strips.

 

Caramel Corn

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Happy Halloween!

If you have a house full of kids tonight, I can think of nothing better than cramming them full of sugar.

This recipe is a tradition in our house. I usually spread it out when hot, but it makes fine popcorn balls too. Any nut will do, or leave them out completely and add a bit more corn. It’s also fun to add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a sweet and spicy treat.

Also, you can forget the kids … it tastes great with beer!

Air popping makes a better products, as the candy sticks better to corn that is not greased up. But in a pinch, the old microwave will work too. Keep it warm once popped so that it doesn’t cause crystallization when added to the caramel.

INGREDIENTS

1-1/2 cup nuts
2 cups air-popped corn, kept warm
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
3 TB. unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla

METHOD

Spread out a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper, and coat evenly with pan spray. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water, and bring to a boil over high heat. At the boil add the butter, cook to hard crack stage (285˚F), and remove from heat. Quickly stir in salt, baking soda, vanilla, and stir until the mixture is foamy. Immediately add corn and nuts and stir quick to coat. Pour out onto prepared paper and spread as thin as possible. Work fast! The candy cools quickly! Cool, then break into chunks. Store air-tight in the freezer. Makes about 8 cups.
jack wars

Hummus and Baba Ghanouj

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It’s game day, and if you’re like me, you just realized it.  For those of you needing a quick and easy snack to keep your sports fans happy, I present the worlds easiest dips –   Hummus and Baba Ghanouj. They are fast, easy, and oh so delicious.

These recipes are staple items on every Middle Eastern table. Recipes vary; some are thick, some thin, some heavy on the tahini, garlic, or lemon. It is all a matter of taste. Feel free to adjust this recipe according to yours.

Hummus and Baba Ghanouj are essentially the same recipes, one made with chickpeas and one with roasted eggplant. The Hummus is rich and creamy, the Baba Ghanouj is fruity and tangy. Serve both with hunks of fresh pita or spread it on sandwiches, atop pizzas, or as a sauce for grilled meats, vegetables, and pasta.

Hummus

INGREDIENTS

2 (15oz.) cans chickpeas (reserve liquid)
4 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/]-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Puree all ingredients together. Add enough reserved chick pea liquid to reach a smooth, yogurt-consistency.
  2. Transfer to serving bowl and swirl the top with a spoon. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley and/or ground paprika.

Baba Ghanouj (babaganouj, baba ghanoush, babaganooj…you make the call)

Eggplant and garlic can be roasted ahead of time. In fact the puree is easier to make if these ingredients have had time to cool.

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants
2 heads garlic
1 large yellow onion
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat eggplant and garlic lightly with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast until brown and soft, 30-40 minutes.
  2. Puree all ingredients together. Add enough remaining olive oil to reach a smooth, yogurt-consistency. Transfer to serving bowl and swirl the top with a spoon. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley.

 

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