Those of you who don’t see me in my day-to-day have politely inquired if I’m still alive, if I’ve been suffering from a physical ailment or if I’ve escaped to a cabin in the woods without access to electricity or other humans.
While these are all very inventive deductions, none of them (fortunately?) reflect reality. I didn’t fall into a bottomless pit or knock my head and get amnesia. The truth is much more boring. The truth is, I’ve just been…
There are times when things hit you full throttle, all at once, and you end up spreading yourself a little too thin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (except for the spreading too thin part – that, as it happens, leads to migraines). It just means you have to reassess your free time so that you don’t completely lose your marbles. In my case, that means evenings and week-ends have been gobbled up by a variety of commitments, most of them in the realm of food – some involving menu-planning and cooking, some involving writing and research, and some involving an intersection of both – and all of which (unlike this blog) have been tightly connected to other people’s scheduling, all of it having to be done outside of the hours of my full-time day job. (which itself has a lovely by-product in the form of a 2-hour daily commute.) (bless all you people who do this with children. You are forces of nature.)
In the few sporadic lulls, I haven’t had the juice (nor physical, nor mental) to put down words on this page, opting instead for some catch up of these and these and reading this and listening to this, usually during those 20 gorgeous minutes before bed, or the relentless commute to and from work (I like my job, but that bus+subway+bus commute is a total soul-sucker). In the few quiet moments, I’ve stuck to things I know will be a guaranteed good time and, most importantly, far, far, far, faaaar removed from anything having to do with food.
The first two weeks in October are stacking up to be a bit bonkers too, but I’m taking advantage of this Monday night respite to bring to you two recipes, both of which were made for a cocktail gathering organised by a photographer friend for a low-key shoot. I think you’ll like them – the almonds are smoky, salty and sweet, and partner up well with a pre-dinner drink (beer! bourbon! vermouth!); the artichoke bites come from a recipe I stole from my mom, who stole it from my grandma (thieves, the lot of us…). Mom’s is a much lighter version, as it uses panko instead of traditional breadcrumbs, which tend to get heavy and bit stodgy. I like to serve them warm with a lemon aïoli and some raw veg, like fennel or radish. Both recipes are highly addictive and tend to make a splash at parties – make them for friends and/or anyone you are trying to seduce. You’re bound to make the right impression.
A final note: if I disappear again for a little bit, know that I’m likely still kicking around somewhere – perhaps invisible, but not far – and thinking about the next tasty concoction I’m eager to share with you.
Until next time, be well. Eat well.
Spiced Almonds – adapted from Laura Calder (makes about 3 cups)
- 1 cup whole, unsalted almonds (with their skins)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon hot paprika
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- fleur de sel (or sea salt)
Heat the oven to 400°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until darkened and fragrant (about 8 minutes). Remove and spill into a sauté pan, placed on medium heat. Add the cumin, cumin seeds, hot paprika, rosemary, and sugar. Drizzle with the oil and toss over the heat to coat (shaking the pan to coat them evenly works best). Add the fleur de sel and spill onto a baking sheet to cool. Once cooled, serve or store in a jar.
Breaded Artichoke Bites – makes approx. 30
- 2 cans (about 13oz each) artichoke hearts – in water, not oil
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
(*Note: the flavourings can be adjusted to suit your taste, so feel free to play around with the quantities of garlic, parsley, cheese and salt by tasting the breadcrumb mixture as you go)
1) Strain artichokes and cut into 3-4 pieces (depending on the size you want); place on paper-towel or dish-towel and set aside.
2) Mix together panko breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, parsley and parmesan.
3) Set up the flour, beaten egg and panko mixture in separate bowls.
4) Working in batches, place a few artichoke pieces in the flour and, working with two forks, dip into the beaten egg mixture, then the breadcrumbs, tossing lightly to coat.
5) Place finished pieces on a plate while you finish up the others.
6) Place a frying pan on medium-high heat and add the oil to the pan.
7) Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), reduce the heat to medium and fry the artichokes in batches, turning them once the bottoms are barely-golden and cooking them until the coating is evenly golden. Repeat in batches (try not to overcrowd the pan)*.
8) Transfer cooked artichokes to a paper towel-lined tray.
9) Serve warm or refrigerate (2 days max) and reheat on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for 8-10 minutes, turning once halfway through.
(*Note: if at some point the oil seems to be “dirty” with lots of darkened bits of breadcrumb, discard the hot oil in a tin and start the next few batches with fresh oil).
Lemon Aïoli – makes about 1 cup
- 1 large egg yolk (the best you can afford)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup olive oil (the best you can afford)
- lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
- lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 tsp salt
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and mustard. Whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. The aïoli should be quite thick. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Serve chilled, alongside artichoke bites.