Friday, August 30, 2013

Ottolenghi's Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie

This may not be the prettiest Yotam Ottolenghi dish I have made in the past several months of cooking with him but it is full of the usual great flavors his recipes always seem to have. This Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie from Plenty, makes me think of dolmas or dolmades, those tasty little grape leaves stuffed with rice and rolled. There is no rice in the pie, but the thick texture from the yogurt and rice flour make it almost seem that there is. The herbs--mint, dill, parsley and tarragon, and toasted pine nuts add layers of flavor and texture. 

Ottolenghi says, "Whenever I walk into a bookshop I find myself in the cookery section within seconds; it's an urge I can't control. On a recent visit to a secondhand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, the capital of bookshops, I came across a real treasure, Classic Turkish Cookery by Ghillie Başan, published in 1995. This book offers a fantastic introduction to one of the world's most accomplished cuisines and it is packed full of recipes you just know you must try. It is there that I came across this unusual savory cake originating from the Turkish part of Cyprus. It makes a substantial snack or a light starter."

Grape Leaf, Herb and Yogurt Pie
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4)
20 to 25 grape leaves (fresh or from a jar)
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (I used 1 Tbsp)
1 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve
2 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped tarragon
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 Tbsp finely chopped dill
4 Tbsp finely chopped mint
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup rice flour
3 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs (preferably panko)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the grape leaves in a shallow bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Then remove the leaves from the water and dry them well with a tea towel. Use scissors to trim off and discard the bit of hard stalk at the base of each leaf.

Sauté the shallots in 1 tablespoon of the oil for about 8 minutes, or until light brown. Leave to cool down.

Take a round and shallow ovenproof dish that is roughly 8 inches in diameter, and cover its bottom and sides with grape leaves, slightly overlapping them and allowing the leaves to hang over the rim of the dish. Mix the melted butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; use about two-thirds of this to generously brush the leaves lining the dish.

Mix together in a bowl the shallots, yogurt, pine nuts, chopped herbs and lemon zest and juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the rice flour and mix well until you get a homogenous paste. Spread this paste evenly in the baking dish.

Fold the overhanging grape leaves back over the top of the filling so they cover the edges, then cover the filling completely with the remaining grape leaves. Brush with the rest of the butter and oil mix. Finally, scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the leaves crisp up and the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warmish or at room temperature, with a dollop of fresh yogurt.

Notes/Results: I really like the flavors in this dish--some fresh, herby and tangy from the yogurt and lemon juice. I also like how the grape leaves crisp up like the little sheets of roasted nori (seaweed) that I like to nosh on. I kept the recipe mostly as written except for reducing the oil and butter. I still had plenty to baste with and I don't feel the dish suffered at all for it (and my thighs and heart suffered less!). Seasoning was a bit tricky--I didn't want it to be too salty with the jarred grape leaves so I probably slightly under-seasoned but it actually ended up working out well with the toppings. Ottolenghi recommends topping the pie with a dollop of fresh yogurt but I had some feta in the fridge that I wanted to use. With crumbled feta on top and slices of lemon to squeeze over the dish it ended up pretty perfectly seasoned--and I think more fun than the yogurt. Trickier than the salt amount was successfully cutting and serving it--definitely pull out your sharpest knife, it's a bit unwieldy and not that easy to cut through all those leaves. ;-) This recipe does take some prep with all the fine chopping, grape leaf prep, sauteing shallots, toasting nuts and assembling, but it is easy enough. I liked it warm but it tasted even better to me cold, after sitting in the fridge. Light but satisfying, I would make this again. 

"Pies and Tarts!" is the theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can check out the dishes that everyone made by going to the post and following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday and have a great Labor Day holiday weekend!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Bisque: Made Dairy-Free for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Some soups taste far better than their looks will have you believe. This Grilled Portobello Bisque would be one of them. There just isn't a lot you can do to make mushroom soup "pretty" besides put it in some colorful bowls to brighten up all the brown. This soup came from Fine Cooking. I was drawn to it when I saw it in an email but wanted to make it a bit healthier. Removing the butter and dairy and replacing them with vegan options reduces the calories, saturated fat and cholesterol but keeps all of the rich decadence of a good bisque. 

Fine Cooking says, "This fresh take on cream of mushroom soup gets deep flavor from grilled mushrooms, sun-dried tomato paste, and a dash of brandy."

Grilled Portobello Bisque 
Adapted from Judith Fertig, Fine Cooking Issue 124
(Serves 4)

4 medium portobello caps, wiped clean with a damp towel and gills scraped out with a table knife
olive oil, for brushing
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used vegan Earth Balance butter stick)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
1 cup lower-salt chicken broth (I used a low-salt veggie broth)
1-1/2 cups half-and-half (I used coconut non-dairy creamer)
2 Tbsp brandy
snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Asian chile oil, for garnish (optional)

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the portobellos on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the portobellos gill side up until grill marks form on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to grill until  tender, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Finely chop the portobellos. (Note: I used a grill pan)

In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then whisk in the broth and portobellos. 

Purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot, add the half-and-half and stir over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Add the brandy and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chives and a few drops of chile oil, if you like.

Notes/Results: Rich and satisfying. The mushrooms add their earthiness, enhanced and slightly sweetened by the grilling. If you wanted to make this alcohol-free, you could omit the brandy, but it does add another level of flavor which is nice. This soup goes together really quickly and easily, making it great as a starter to a nice dinner. In fact, I think it would be a great way to use up any portobello leftovers after your next vegan grilling spree. ;-) I would make this again. 

We have some soups and salads waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look.  

My pal Heather of girlichef is here with a big bowl of Food 'N Flix, Harry and Sally-inspired Smoky Chicken Paprikash Soup. She says, "I went back and forth on what I wanted to make, but in the end, I went with a spin on Chicken Paprikash. In the form of soup. I used smoked paprika and smoked sea salt, which lent a deep...well...smoky (duh)....flavor to the dish. I found it utterly addictive. And I ate it for every meal that followed until it was all gone." 

Sue of Couscous & Consciousness, my I Heart Cooking Clubs co-host and friend sends over creamy Tahini Soup and says, "My first impression when I tasted for seasoning before serving it was "pleasant enough, nice nutty flavour, but somewhat ordinary".  But, don't be fooled ... add the topping of toasted sesame seeds, smoky paprika, warming cayenne, and zesty lemon, along with a drizzle of the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can lay your hands on, and all of a sudden you have wow factor in spades.

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food shares this summery Arugula and Cucumbers Pasta Salad and says, "Yes to more salad-type one-dish meals, and more easy and light cooking. This is how summertime has changed our eating habits. In the hot summer days, a flavorful pasta salad that is easy to put together is definitely welcoming to the appetite which yearns for light and refreshing taste. What's better - a pasta salad that also stands as a main dish.

Kim, of Stirring the Pot, my friend and fellow IHCC host sends this full-of-flavor California Chopped Salad with Shrimp and says, "This salad is bursting with bright fresh flavor and hits all the notes that a good salad should.  You get the crispness form the lettuce and tortilla strips, the creaminess of the avocado, the smokiness from the grilled corn and zucchini, tender bites of sweet grilled shrimp, and the fresh flavor of juicy summer-ripe tomatoes.  This colorful salad gets tossed in a zingy and refreshing lemon vinaigrette that quite simply brings all the flavors to life."  

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week! If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Note: Souper Sundays is posted a little early this week as I am picking up my best friend from junior high/high school at the airport to hang out here for a couple of days. If any entries come in after it posts, I will add them later tonight. ;-)

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Labneh (Creamy Strained Yogurt Cheese) with Olives, Pistachios & Oregano


It always intrigues me how adaptable a container of plain yogurt can be. Add it to a smoothie, replace sour cream or mayonnaise in dressing, sweeten it a bit and it becomes a dressing for fruit, or use it to replace the fat in muffins or quick bread. Or, the best of all, strain it for a day or two and it turns into tangy, spreadable cheese, called labneh in Middle Eastern countries. In this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, the labneh is spread on a plate and topped with a mix of briny olives and toasted nuts and spread on crusty bread for an easy and tasty appetizer.

(Note: Although I can sometimes find goat's milk yogurt, it takes a drive and costs a lot more. I made a half-batch of this recipe using good-quality, plain Greek yogurt.) 

Labneh with Olives, Pistachios & Oregano
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, via The Guardian
(Serves 4)

450g (16 oz) goat's yogurt (I used 17.6 oz plain good-quality Greek Yogurt)
450g (16 oz) natural yogurt

coarse sea salt
20 black olives, pitted (I used a mix of black and green olives)
1 1/2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

grated zest of 2 lemons
1 small garlic clove, crushed
100ml (3 1/2 oz) olive oil
20g pistachios (about 1 oz), lightly toasted
20g pine nuts (about 1 oz), lightly toasted

1/2 tsp flaked chilli
3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced (I omitted)

Line a deep bowl with cheesecloth or muslin. In another bowl, stir the two yogurts and half a teaspoon of salt, pour into the cloth, bring together the edges to form a tight bundle and tie securely with string. Hang the bundle over a bowl, or over the kitchen sink from the tap, and leave for 24-36 hours. After this time, much of the liquid should have drained out and the remaining yogurt will turn thick and quite dry; the centre may still be creamy.

Although I have both a small yogurt strainer and cheese cloth for larger amounts I use my large fine strainer layered with a damp paper towel.

Remove the labneh from the cloth and transfer to a serving platter. Spread it over the plate with the back of a spoon, creating a loose, wavy pattern about 2cm (about 3/4 inch) thick.

Next, roughly chop the olives and put them in a bowl with the oregano, parsley, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil (reserving two tablespoons of the oil for the tomatoes). Use a pestle and mortar to crush the nuts roughly, leaving some just broken and others finely crushed. Stir into the olive mix, then spoon this over the labneh, leaving a border of about 2cm (about 3/4 inch) around the edge (if you want your labneh a bit milder, don't use the whole quantity), then sprinkle with chilli.

Finally, cut the tomatoes into thick wedges and mix with the sliced onion. Arrange on a side plate next to the labneh, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the reserved olive oil. Serve the labneh and tomatoes with torn chunks of bread.

Notes/Results: The thick creamy and tangy yogurt cheese is perfectly wonderful with the mix of olives and nuts. The chili flakes add just a little kick. I kept the recipe mostly as written, except for using just cow's milk yogurt and mixing in the green olives. I liked this with the bread and the ripe local tomatoes (I wasn't feeling the red onion so I left it off the plate) but I liked it even better spread on seeded flat bread crackers. I will make this again.  

This is my Potluck recipe for I Heart Cooking Clubs as well as my IHCC Optional Monthly Community Recipe--where we are making labneh and using it in an Ottolenghi recipe. You can check out all the Potluck creations by going to the post and following the links.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Book Tour Stops Here: "Discovery" by Lisa White with Shrimp Cocktail Salad & "Superpowered" Green Goddess Dressing

Grace Mackay believes that she is normal--just an average almost 22-year-old, working as a waitress at a country club in a small Southern community. Sure she is shy, a little socially awkward with a few quirks and she was orphaned at the age of four--but overall just a normal girl. In fact, Grace is far from normal and there is a whole world she doesn't know about--a world that is dependent on her for survival and where the forces of good and evil battle for her. When Grace turns 22, she will come into her special abilities and either the Powers and their formidable Council, or the Anti-Powers will have her. If good wins, the secretive world of the Powers will stay that way and humanity survives. If evil gets its way, the Anti-Powers will take over and let's just say things won't look good for Grace and the whole human race. Ben, Grace's childhood best friend whom she has an unrequited love for and who serves as her Council-assigned Guardian, fights to save Grace from her potential fate but harbors feelings for her that his mission can't allow. This is the world of "Discovery" by Lisa White, a paranormal new adult romance and the first book in the Council of Powers Trilogy on TLC Book Tours for July and August.

New Adult / Paranormal
E-Book 374 KB / 249 Pages
Crimson Romance--April 22, 2013

"Discovery's" paranormal world is well-hidden from humans and consists of people with various powers such as the ability to levitate, move at super speeds, posses extraordinary strength, bend and melt metal with their minds, etc. Powers are born with different abilities and those gifts don't start showing until the child is 4 or 5, and don't develop fully until they have been trained. Generally the Powers are good, unless they are converted by the Anti-Powers. It's a detailed and potentially confusing world but author White does a good job of layering in the details as Grace learns them. The action is well-paced throughout the story and it makes it a quick, page-turning read. The romance comes in between Grace and Ben, but as this is a young adult/new adult novel, their interactions are pretty mild.

My favorite parts of the story were spending time with the "Misfits"--a group of not-quite-human-but-not-quite-Powers individuals who have special abilities that aren't developed or useful to the council. (Reminded me a lot of The Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) ;-) The Misfits' community is hidden away in Appalachia and it becomes a place of refuge for Grace and Ben. The Misfit characters were fun--Petra who sees the future--sometimes and Dave who can sometimes sees the past, and their group of other Misfits with undependable abilities like intermittent speed, slow shape-shifting, flying only when the sun is shining, whole-body glowing, tracking ability dependent on allergies etc. Also fun was the idea that the famous Super Heroes that we know and love--Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman to name a few are all Powers with Marvel Comic's creator Stan Lee behind them, hoping to improve their image so the human world would accept them. 

The Island of Misfit Toys--Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
"Discovery" ends with a mild cliff hanger--not entirely satisfying but making me interested in reading the second book. As she spent most of "Discovery" either unaware, making some not-so-smart choices and being a bit of a victim as the world as she knows it completely changes, I look for Grace to hopefully further develop and gain more confidence and maturity in the next books. Although new adult romance isn't a genre I read a lot of, the writing and paranormal themes kept me engaged and entertained and got me to escape for a bit on my Kindle--just what I needed during a crazy couple of months.

Author Notes: Author Lisa White was born Tennessee and raised in Virginia. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in Italian language and literature, she obtained her law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law. When not practicing law, Lisa enjoys gardening, spending time with friends and family, and, of course, writing romance novels. Her first novel, "The Laws of Love," was released by Crimson Romance in July 2012. Lisa currently lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two children.


Although not a foodie book, food does appear in "Discovery." From meals served at the country club where Grace waitresses, to burgers, onion rings and Caesar Salads, Birthday cake, diner breakfasts, hash brown casserole and a feast of a dinner in the Misfit Community. Before Grace's world begins changing, she brings society matron Lady Covington, one of her customers at the Southern Pines Country Club, a shrimp cocktail served in a martini glass before her salad arrives. For my book-inspired dish, I decided to recreate the shrimp cocktail, but put the salad with it and change the typical cocktail sauce to a healthy "Superpowered" Green Goddess Dressing or dipping sauce.  

Green goddess dressing typically contains mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, anchovy, tarragon, lemon juice, and pepper. I "superpowered" this version in honor of Grace and The Powers by switching out the mayo and sour cream to non-fat Greek Yogurt, milk and healthy avocado and adding baby spinach to get in some nutrient-dense greens. The tangy herby taste goes perfectly with the sweetness of the shrimp and makes a nice alternative to cocktail sauce. I served it in a martini-glass-shaped dessert glass on top of a salad of shredded baby spinach and baby tomatoes. (I think Lady Covington would approve!) ;-)

"Superpowered" Green Goddess Dressing
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen 
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup non-fat milk + more to thin
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 handfuls baby spinach
1/2 cup mixed herbs (I used 1/4 cup tarragon + dill  & parsley)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 to 1 small lemon, or to taste
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Place yogurt, milk, avocado, spinach, herbs, anchovy paste, rice wine vinegar and 1/2 of the lemon juice in blender and blend until smooth. Place dressing into bowl and stir in additional lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste. Thin with additional milk if needed. Chill for a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend.

Store tightly covered for up to 3-4 days. 

Notes/Results: A tangy and tasty creamy dipping sauce or salad dressing with the flavor of tarragon coming through. If you aren't a tarragon fan, you could use other herbs or change up the amounts to make it less of a focus. The avocado makes the sauce thick and creamy, so to use as salad dressing, you can thin it out a bit with extra milk. This dressing would pair well with vegetables, roasted or raw and would make a great sauce for fish. I would make it again.

Note: A review copy of "Discovery" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cold Cucumber-Avocado Soup (with Watercress) for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

On-sale Haas avocados 5 for $5 at Whole Foods on Friday were too good to pass up. I started looking around for a soup recipe and took out my "soup bible"--Love Soup by Anna Thomas. With 160 vegetarian soup recipes, it never fails to turn up a great recipe. In this case a creamy and refreshing Cold Cucumber-Avocado Soup--made from just a few healthy ingredients.  

Thomas says, "This lovely and refreshing cold soup earns raves in the hot days of late summer. Serve it in small bowls, each cool green pool scattered with drops of olive oil, bright red cubes of tomato, and a few crisp croutons."

Cold Cucumber-Avocado Soup (with Watercress)
From Love Soup by Anna Thomas
(Serves 5)

2 lbs (900 g) soft-skinned cucumbers
6 oz (170 g) watercress
3/4 cup (180 ml) fresh lemon juice (or to taste--see notes below)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small jalapeno pepper (use more if mild)
1 large Haas avocado (about 7 oz; 200 g)
1-2 tsp sea salt

For garnish: 
-fruity green olive oil
-1 ripe red tomato, finely diced
-homemade croutons 

Trim the ends off the cucumbers, taste each end, and trim off any bitter part. Cut the cucumbers into cubes. Wash the watercress, remove any heavy stems, and chop it roughly. You should have about 2 cups. 

Combine half the cucumbers and most of the lemon juice in the container of a blender and puree. The cucumbers will soon be a liquid, and then you can easily add the remaining cucumbers, the watercress, garlic, and jalapeno. Puree until everything is smooth, working in batches if you need to. (Thomas notes: I find that my immersion blender does not work well with this raw soup.

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, peel the avocado, and cut the flesh into cubes; you should have not quite 1 cup of diced avocado. Add the avocado to the cucumber puree, along with a teaspoon of sea salt, and process again. This mixture will become thicker and creamier. Stir everything together in a bowl and taste. Add more lemon juice and more salt, a bit at a time and stirring thoroughly each time, until the balance feels right to you. (Thomas notes, "I like to feel the citrus edge against the creaminess of the avocado, and while I don't want a distinctly salty taste, the various flavors become clear only when the right amount of salt is added. Use your taste buds--it's fun.)

Chill the soup well. Serve it in small bowls, and drizzle each serving with a little fresh fruity olive oil, then scatter a few tomato cubes and croutons on top.

Notes/Results: I like this one. It has a lot of flavor for just a few ingredients and it is a good combination of cooling, creamy, tangy and a bit peppery from the watercress. Watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense greens, so this is a healthy vegan (leave off the croutons if you want to keep it raw) bowl of soup that even with the avocado, only clocks in at about 85 calories a serving. I did end up using only about a scant half cup of the lemon juice and it was plenty. I would recommend starting with the smaller amount and working your way up until you get it to your flavor preference. Nice and cooling on a humid day. I would make it again.

We have soups and salads waiting in the Soupers Sundays kitchen--let's take a look.

Joyce of Kitchen Flavours is here with Thai Chicken Noodle Soup and says, "Overall, I'm very happy with this bowl of noodles, especially the kids, they love it, mild enough for them to enjoy and very tasty too. Though I would advise to add on some prawns and fishballs like I did! I would not mind cooking this again, though the next time, I'll make some sambal belachan (a chili condiment paste) to go along with it, with a squeeze of lime! Enjoy!"

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog shares refreshing Cold Yogurt Cucumber Soup and says, "Yogurt and Cucumbers are two of my favorites on a hot summer's day. However, blended together with herbs and spices the duo makes a sensational soup that is extremely refreshing . Ordinarily, I am not a big fan of cold soup; I prefer my soup hot, but the temperature has been so ridiculously high and humid that I haven't felt like cooking. This easy soup was made in my blender, chilled for a minimum of 2 hours, and served ice cold. It really hits the spot on a 95 degree day."

Janet from The Taste Space brought this Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette to a raw vegan potluck and says, "As we each introduced the meal we brought, I felt a bit sheepish because I ended up picking a dressing with maple syrup, which is technically not raw. This is not a problem for me, and I think most people still tried it because there wasn’t much left by the end of the night. In any case, I thought it was delicious. I usually eat my kale salads with a citrus dressing, but the maple-miso dressing worked really well with the sweet peaches, earthy kale and crunchy hazelnuts."

Spencer of Live2EatEat2Live Blog is back with a new trick--soaking onions and an Onion and Tomato Salad inspired by them. He says, "Recently learned that soaking onions in water for a little while (about 30 minutes) takes away the tears and “harsh” flavor. I’m not sure how this works, whether some compound is removed or what. ... Made an onion and tomato salad, topped with a tin of sardines. Simply dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and white balsamic vinegar."

Finally a salad/wrap combination from Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food, these Pea, Corn, Pumpkin Seed Lettuce Wraps. She says, "This is the kind of warm salad that I enjoy, minimal dressing required. It also keeps well and can be prepared in advanced. All you have to do before serving is to warm up the salt and black pepper pea and corn combo, sprinkle with  toasted pumpkin seeds.

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Spiced Garam Masala and Rosemary Roasted Nuts: An Ottolenghi-Inspired Snack Treat

The theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week is Nuts and Seeds. There are plenty of Yotam Ottolenghi recipes that feature these ingredients but I was craving some snackable roasted nuts.

Perusing online, I found a couple of Ottolenghi spiced roasted nuts; this one for Spiced Cashews and this one for Spicy Nuts.  Both sounded good, however it was these Rosemary Spiced Nuts for sale at the Ottolenghi online store that caught my eye. Described as "This is a new take on our much-loved recipe. A sweet and salty blend with the heat of cayenne pepper and the aromatics of garam masala and rosemary. The perfect snack for any occasion: cocktail parties, pre-dinner or as a gift." Garam masala (the one I have includes coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon), keeps popping up lately on garbanzo beans, veggies and other dishes in my house and it sounded perfect for a bowlful of warm, toasty mixed nuts.

I took the product ingredient list and guessed at added my own measurements and proportions for the spice blend based on the order of ingredients, and gathered up a nut selection from what was readily available in my freezer. The result are these wonderful  Ottolenghi-online store inspired savory nuts--without the shipping cost and the wait-time to order them from the U.K. ;-)

Spiced Garam Masala and Rosemary Nuts
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Makes 4 Cups)

4 cups mixed unroasted nuts (I used cashews, pecans, almonds, Spanish peanuts, pine nuts & pumpkin seeds--heavy on the cashews)
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp garam masala
1 heaping tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
scant 1/2 tsp cayenne 
1 heaping Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F. 

Place nuts in a large mixing bowl and add sunflower oil, mixing to coat evenly. Thoroughly mix garam masala, garlic salt, celery salt and cayenne together in a small bowl. Stir spice mixture into nuts until evenly coated.  Place nuts in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes, until dry and lightly browned.Remove pan from oven and sprinkle fresh rosemary evenly over.  Let cool slightly and enjoy!

Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

Notes/Results: Garam marsala + nuts + rosemary = pretty wonderful! These roasted nuts are deliciously salty, garlicky and savory with a good little kick of heat at the end from the cayenne. Ottolenghi's for-purchase version used peanuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin seeds. I used whatever was on my freezer "nut shelf" without having to dig too deep. Particular favorites for me were the Spanish peanuts, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds--they gave texture and size variation to the standard cashew, almond and pecan assortment. Which, (besides the joy of munching them warm) is the big reason to make your own nut assortments in the first place--you get to control the kind of nuts and the amounts that go into your mix. No avoiding a bowl full of almonds and Brazil nuts because all of the few "favorite" nuts that were in there have been picked out.  Note: This mix was also great when I mixed part of it with some vegan mini dark chocolate chips for that salty/sweet trail mix fix. I will make these again--maybe to give out for the holidays. 

You can check out the nut and seed-inspired recipes everyone made by following the links at this week's post at IHCC.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Better Chip: Product Review #2 (New Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt)

Offers to review products seem to come in cycles for me. I don't accept most of the ones I receive. They really have to relate to my blog values, represent how I choose to cook and eat and be something I would actually purchase myself. After a spate of ones that didn't match up--like fireplace logs (um... it's summer AND I live in Hawaii), bacon and pork products (I had to turn down the nice woman several times assuring her that since I went meat-free a few years ago there are plenty of other blogs people would think to visit for meat recipes) ;-), and a diet book for smokers (just hmm...). Finally, when Michael from The Better Chip emailed me last month and asked if I would be willing to try their newest flavor--Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt. I immediately said hell yeah! yes please! 

I reviewed The Better Chip last year (you can read that review here) and really enjoyed the flavor of the chips and the quality of the ingredients. I love me some greens and wanted to see how the new Spinach and Kale flavor would taste. (Also, the company sent me a super-soft, women's cut tee-shirt last year that I love and have about worn to death and I was really hoping for another.

My box from The Better Chip arrived with a large bag of Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt, small bags of their four other flavors (Corn with Sea Salt, Sweet Onions with White Cheddar, Red Peppers with Salsa Fresca and Jalapeno with Sea Salt), AND another tee-shirt! (I think I adore this even softer grey shirt {upper right corner of collage} with a avocado-ish green heart more than my green one from last year.)   

Now we can debate the whole health aspect of chips in general, and I am not here to tell you that snacking on chips is better than carrot sticks, but hey, sometimes the urge to grab a handful of crispy corn chippy goodness strikes and when it does, I prefer to pick a chip that is made with natural ingredients. 

The Better Chip offers:
  • All Natural and made with fresh Non GMO ingredients
  • Gluten-Free
  • Made in a completely nut-free environment on a line dedicated only to tortilla products
  • Vegan-friendly (except for the Sweet Onion with White Cheddar flavor)

Check out the ingredient label for the Spinach & Kale chips: Corn Masa Flour, Sunflower and/or Canola Oil, Spinach, Kale, Sea Salt. Simple, natural and absolutely nothing you can't identify or pronounce. The chips are a gorgeous green, not from food coloring, but from the actual spinach and kale that is in the chips. A serving of 1 oz--about 1/2 the bag or 10ish chips is 130 calories, 11% fat, 100 mg sodium and 35% of your vitamin A and 110% of vitamin K for the day. Not a bad choice when the urge for a chip strikes.

Taste-wise, The Better Chip's tagline is "The Flavor is Inside"--they have enough great flavor that you don't necessarily need to dip them, but of course you can. The Spinach & Kale have that sweet fresh green taste from the leafy greens but not the bitterness. They are definitely munchable right from the bag like the other flavors. I also found them a perfect match for homemade hummus mixed in a bowl with the Red Peppers with Salsa Fresca flavor. I also really like to cool a little of the fire of the Jalapeno with Sea Salt chips with guacamole. Mmm...

The Better Chip's products are not everywhere yet (although you can order them at Amazon and you can look up where to buy them in your state at the locator on the website). In fact, I was going to lament that I couldn't get them here in Hawaii but, the other day on my way out from a mad lunchtime dash for a brown rice ahi sushi roll from the Safeway deli, I saw a small rack with some bags of them. Sadly no Spinach & Kale, my new favorite, but I plan to investigate further and make a request--maybe while wearing my tee-shirt!  ;-)

Note: Although the chips and tee-shirt were provided to me from The Better Chip in order to do an honest review, I received no monetary compensation for the review and my opinions (and picky tee-shirt standards) ;-) as always, remain my own.