Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers

These are the Goldfish of your dreams.

Giant Goldfish Crackers

Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers

Cheesy, buttery, smiling giant goldfish crackers.  Perfect for a special snack, as they are rich and addictively delicious for the cheese lover.

cookie cutter and straw

cookie cutter and straw

The key to getting the goldfish shape is to augment a diamond ring cookie cutter by elongating the round portion, and adding a dent in the jewel part.  To make the eye of the goldfish, just use a drinking straw.  And for the Gluten Free folks out there, this recipe works well with GF flour.   Enjoy!

Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers
(makes about 24 crackers)

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated and warmed to warm room temp.
8 oz unsalted butter, room temp
12 oz (2 1/3 cups) unbleached white flour or GF flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, fine
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

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butter and cheese before blending in food processor

In a food processor, blend cheddar cheese with butter until creamy and uniform.  You will likely have to scrape down the bowl a couple times to achieve the right consistency.

Add the dry ingredients, and combine in food processor using low power pulses until a dough forms.  Turn out the dough onto plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, then wrap and cool in fridge for about an hour.

Roll out chilled dough onto parchment paper, dusting with a little flour if necessary to prevent sticking.
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Cut the fish shaped crackers and then place on cookie sheet.  Use a drinking straw to create an eye, and a sharp knife to cut a little smile in the dough

Goldfish, just before going into the oven

Goldfish, just before going into the oven

Bake for 18 – 20 minutes at 375, or until they are beginning to brown on the edges.  Cool just until room temp and enjoy.  Store airtight for best texture.

Pickled Eggs three ways

I recently ate an amazingly delicious snack:  a pickled egg.

Pickled eggs three ways

Pickled eggs three ways: Lemon with black pepper, Sriracha, and Meyer lemon with fresh thyme

The guy at a local cheese shop where I bought it assured me they were “stupid easy” to make at home after I asked him how they had conjured such amazingness.  So I went home and tried my hand at making some.  They really are easy to make and customize to your taste buds.

clockwise from top left: Meyer lemon, black pepper, lemon, fresh thyme

clockwise from top left: Meyer lemon, black pepper, lemon, fresh thyme

The humble hen’s egg takes very kindly to a number of potent flavor combinations.  I offer you three flavors of pickled eggs, paying homage to my California roots:  Lemon with black pepper, Meyer Lemon with fresh thyme*, and Sriracha.  Enjoy!

pickled eggs with Meyer lemon and fresh thyme

pickled eggs with Meyer lemon and fresh thyme

Pickled Eggs
(makes eggs and brine for a dozen eggs)

12 large eggs, boiled and peeled
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
3 TB Diamond crystal kosher salt
Option one: zest of one meyer lemon and several sprigs of fresh thyme
Option two: zest of one lemon, 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Option three: 1/4 cup Sriracha

Combine the vinegar, water, and salt.  Stir until salt is dissolved.  Pack boiled eggs and your choice of flavor options in a lidded glass jar.  Pour brine to completely cover the eggs and herbs, for options one and two.  For the Sriracha option, combine 1/2 of the brine with 1/4 cup of Sriracha before pouring over the eggs.

Store in the fridge.  It takes at least 3 days for good flavor to develop.  Eat the eggs within two weeks for best freshness.  The whites of the eggs will become firmer over time.

*Meyer lemons are common in California, and their scent profile is different from a regular lemon, and share characteristics with thyme.

Sautèed Edamame

Here’s a tasty little nibble for any casual event.
IMG_7880Super simple, and as delicious as they are nutritious.  Three ingredients, a couple minutes in a hot pan, and you’ve got a savory nibble for happy hour.  Enjoy!

Sautèed Edamame

8 oz fresh or frozen soybeans (edamame) thawed
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, soybeans, and salt.  Sautè until they are hot and beginning to brown.  Use chop sticks and nibble away.

Dried Persimmon – 2015 update

Subtle, sweet, complex, mellow and addictively delicious Dried Persimmon – YES.  It’s Halloween, and in the bay area, backyard persimmons are at the best state of ripeness for drying:  orange, but still hard.  Once they begin to soften, they’re too ripe to use for this technique.  I’m re-posting this recipe to help get you inspired.   When to pick the fruit is key, and the time is upon us.

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

I LOVE Dried Persimmon when served with good cheese (manchego is fabulous) and a quality sherry for a lux happy hour.  Enjoy!

Dried Persimmon

My friend Janet has a mature Hachiya persimmon tree in her backyard, which produces lots of beautiful fruit each Fall.  I’ve picked the dark orange mature fruit, when they are the consistency of jelly, and made the puree into cakes and other confections.  Two years ago she learned a simple technique for drying these fruit, a practice that hails from Japan.

sliced of dried persimmon

sliced of dried persimmon

A stunning natural transformation occurs when these supremely astringent unripe fruit are peeled and left to air dry for several weeks:  they turn into a most delicious, delicate, sweet natural confection.  Here’s what to do, if you find yourself with a big crop of Hachiya persimmons one Fall.

Pick the persimmons when they are bright orange all over and still quite firm and opaque.  Keep a cross-shaped section of the branch on which the fruit hangs — you will need this to secure string for hanging.  Clip the sepals to a neat circle on the top of the fruit.  Peel the thin skin off the whole fruit, leaving a dime sized patch at the base.  Secure a string on the stem of the fruit from which to hang the fruit.

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

Hang each fruit so that it doesn’t touch its neighbor.  Good air circulation is key.  Hang the peeled persimmons in a warm dry room.  I hung a wooden closet dowel from some bike hooks I screwed into the ceiling, then secured the strung persimmons to this dowel.  I had 50 fruit, which was pretty heavy to begin with.  Over the course of several weeks the fruit will turn darker, and shrink, then pucker.

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

Some of the fruit may drop off — so it’s wise to place a towel under them, just in case.  When the fruit is about 1/2 as big as original, give each one a gentle massage.  This will help to distribute the moisture for even drying.

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

As long as the fruit doesn’t smell sour it’s good!  When the fruit is the consistency of a soft gummy bear, it’s ready to eat.  Slice into pieces and enjoy!

Spicy Marinated Vegetables

This is my version of a common side dish in local mexican restaurants:  mildly spicy, toothsome vegetables in a balanced light brine.  I make mine with carrots, cauliflower, jicama, and jalapenos.

Spicy Marinated Vegetables

Spicy Marinated Vegetables

Spicy Marinated Vegetables

Spicy Marinated Vegetables, in jar for the fridge

This is a great recipe to make in the winter, as these vegetables are all readily available.  These will last for several weeks in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Spicy Marinated Vegetables

6 large carrots
1 medium head cauliflower
2 jalapeños
8 cloves garlic
1 small jicama
2 cups cider vinegar
5 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
about 20 whole black peppercorns
1 onion, peeled and sliced (optional)

Start by prepping the vegetables.  For the carrots, peel and then cut on the diagonal into bite sized pieces.  Peel the jicama root and slice into 1/4 inch rounds, then into bite size wedges.  Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces.  Slice the jalapeños into small slices.  Peel the garlic cloves and rough chop them.  Set aside.

Fill a medium sauce pan with 4 inches of water.  When the water comes to a boil, add the carrot slices and boil for 3 minutes.  Then add the cauliflower pieces and boil for an additional 3 minutes.  The goal is to have the vegetables crisp-tender.  They will continue to soften just a little after cooking, so be sure to not over cook them.  Drain the carrots and cauliflower in a colander and set aside.

To the now empty pan add four cups water, vinegar, salt, and peppercorns.  Heat until just beginning to simmer.  Take the pan off the stove.  To the hot brine add the cooked carrots and cauliflower, jicama, jalapeño slices, chopped garlic, (sliced onion, if using) and olive oil.  Mix to combine, then cover and set aside on the counter or in the fridge.  When cooled to room temp, transfer the whole thing — vegetables and brine — to a glass or plastic covered container and put in the fridge.

These vegetables are ready to eat immediately, but will taste best if allowed to sit in the liquid for a day or two before serving.  Store for up to three weeks (maybe longer, if they seem to be in good shape) in the fridge.

 

Homemade Hummus

Smooth, tasty, and as old school as it gets — homemade hummus is really simple.  This classic chickpea and tahini dish has been made for centuries in the middle east — no food processors needed.  (But if you have one, it takes less effort.)

Homemade hummus topped with olive oil

Homemade hummus topped with olive oil

cooked chickpeas

cooked chickpeas

Learn to make hummus at home and you will be a happy person, and keep some change in your pocket, too, as it’s a frugal dish.  There are a couple tips for getting the best consistency, starting with cooking dried chickpeas.  Canned are fine as a substitute, though the super creamy consistency of your hummus will suffer a bit.  Consider this recipe a template.  You can adjust seasoning and consistency easily by tweaking the ingredients.  Using fresh lemon juice adds an important lively note, while garlic and ground cumin add savory flavor.  Enjoy!

for Lucy

Hummus
makes about 2 cups

2 1/4 cups soft cooked chickpeas * (two 16 oz. cans chickpeas, drained, may be subsituted)
1/3 cup (3 oz) tahini
1/2 cup water
sea salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3 – 4 TB lemon juice
3 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on top
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and grind until smooth.  If you are using your own cooked chickpeas (recipe below), start with 1 tsp. salt.  If you are using canned chickpeas, start with 1/2 tsp. salt. Process until smooth, and taste the hummus.  Adjust salt, lemon juice, and spices to your liking.  The cayenne pepper won’t make this dish spicy at all — it serves to activate your taste buds.

This recipe makes a lightly seasoned, light and fluffy hummus.  Feel free to add a little more water if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Serve in a shallow bowl or platter.  If you like, drizzle with your best quality extra virgin olive oil, and perhaps add some additional cooked chickpeas or olives.  Serve at room temperature with pita, boiled new potatoes, cucumber spears, anything you thing would taste great with hummus.  Store uneaten hummus in the fridge for up to a week.  Hummus freezes well.  Just thaw gently and bring to room temp before eating.

If you don’t have a food processor, use a large mortar and pestle to grind and blend the ingredients until smooth.  They’ve been doing this for centuries in the middle east.  Though there is an ongoing debate as to the origins of hummus, I credit the Lebanese.

If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle, try using a large bowl and spoon.  It will really help to cook your own chickpeas rather than using canned if you use this technique.  Canned chickpeas contain salt and calcium chloride to keep them whole and firm — just the opposite of what you want from chickpeas for hummus.  Add some soft chickpeas to the bowl, and smash them against the inside of the bowl.  Repeat until they are all smashed.  Add the other ingredients and stir or whisk until smooth.

* I recommend that you cook your own chickpeas.  They are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and the texture of your finished hummus will be smoother.  In a large pot, put one pound rinsed dried chickpeas, 2 quarts water, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda.  Bring to a simmer, cover and barely simmer for about 3 – 4 hours, or until the chickpeas are very soft but still holding their shape.  Drain and cool to room temperature.  You can see my cooked chickpeas in the photo above.  This will make about twice as much cooked chickpeas as needed in this hummus recipe.  You may freeze the extra cooked chickpeas for use in another recipe, or just make a big batch of hummus and store in the freezer.

Mermaid Popcorn

This is a riff on a familiar treat – popcorn.  It’s a crunchy, umami-laced snack that any mermaid would love.

Mermaid PopcornThe addition of the common Japanese seasoning furikake makes gives it a great taste.  I find that grinding the furikake using a mortar and pestle helps to evenly distribute the flavor onto the popcorn.  You can also put the unground furikake on your popped popcorn — it’s a matter of preference.

Here’s the furikake, unground:

Mermaid Furikake

And here it is, after a few grinds with the mortar and pestle:
Mermaid furikake ground

Mermaid Popcorn – aka, Furikake Popcorn

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup furikake
sea salt, to taste

Grind furikake in a mortar and pestle until it breaks up and begins to get powdery.  Set aside.

Heat a large, covered heavy-bottomed stock pot on high heat.  Add the oil and then the popcorn kernels to the pan before it gets too hot.  Cover pan and listen for the sound of popping corn.  Leave the pot covered and the popcorn will pop vigorously, then slow down.  Give the covered pan a shake or two mid-pop.  When the pops have slowed down considerably, take pan off heat and immediately pour popcorn into a large bowl.  All in, the timing is pretty fast, just a minute from unpopped to almost all done.  (Be careful, as the pan will be hot.)  Season hot popcorn with ground furikake, adding extra sea salt to taste if needed.