Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Simply Spiced Fried Chick Peas

First a confession. I ate a whole batch of these in one sitting! They are wholly addictive! I'm not sure if the nutritional benefit of chick peas is completely offset by the fact that they are deep fried, but I'm going to cling to thinking that this is a healthy snack. I like to keep chickpeas around the house to make hummus - being allergic to sesame means I can't buy it already prepared at the store. But, I enjoy that so much I end up eating way too many pita chips. Sigh.
When I stumbled upon the inspiration for this snack, I was excited to have another use for the pimenton my sister had given to me as a gift a few years earlier. The first place I tried substituting it was in a Chicken Paprikas dish, and it was not a good idea. Waaay too overpowering when it was the primary spice. But, for this salty bar snack, the pimenton is perfect.

Simply Spiced Fried Chick Peas

One 15 oz can chick peas, or equivalent amount of dried beans
1 Cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 - 2 teaspoons pimenton

1. Thoroughly rinse, drain and dry chick peas by setting over colander with paper towel for several hours, or overnight. If you are in a hurry, as I often am when the urge strikes to make this snack, spread chick peas in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in 250 oven for about 20 minutes.

2. Heat oil in small, deep sauce pot over medium high heat. Add a single chick pea to the oil as it heats up. When the chick pea begins to sizzle, you'll know the oil is at the right temperature.

3. Add half of the chick peas to the oil and fry for ~10 minutes. Keep a close eye to avoid burning. Remove (with a high temp safe utensil!) and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chick peas.

4. Toss hot, drained chick peas with salt, pepper and pimenton. Share with friends if you can keep from eating them all yourself!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

Valentine's Day! Since the kids came along, my sweetie and I haven't been able to continue our tradition of dining out on Valentine's Day. So, in recent years we started having our indulgent meals at home with the family. And, of course, they must be finished with a decadent dessert. This year, that requirement was met by chocolate mousse.
I know there are those out there who will balk at making this recipe because it has raw eggs. Or, simply because the level of effort can be kind of a pain. But, it doesn't actually take that long - I think my husband occupied the kids for less than 1/2 hour which let me put the whole thing together, start to finish. And, I promise, this is well, well worth the results.
A few key pointers for those who are sold that the reward is worth the effort. First - you can make this with Baker's chocolate, but this is certainly one of those times when you can go ahead and splurge. Second - don't omit the coffee. We are not a coffee-drinking house, but a good lesson learned over the years is that almost all chocolate desserts are kicked up a notch with a small amount of coffee. For this, and other dessert applications, I keep a small box of instant coffee singles on hand.
The best part about making chocolate mousse this year? The oversight that Valentine's Day fell the day before my sweetie left town for work travel, and that I ended up with six portions left in the fridge the next morning. Clearly, one should not give that much chocolate, sugar & coffee to little kids when single-parenting, so I confess I over-indulged a bit. (And made one neighbor very happy.)

Chocolate Mousse
As adapted by David Lebovitz from Julia Child's recipe

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup dark-brewed coffee
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon water
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

4. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo above. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.

6. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don't overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

7. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm. (May be kept in fridge up to 4 days, though it likely won't be around that long!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jansson's Temptation (or Jansson's Frestelse or Jansson's Kiusaus)

I try to keep looking at the silver lining associated with my husband's ridiculous amount of work travel. Besides the obvious benefit of beaucoup frequent flyer miles, his exposure to new countries and cultures has translated in delicious learning experiences here at home. This week is his first time in Scandinavia, and my friends who are from/live there insisted that Jansson's Temptation is a must for us to vicariously experience a proper meal from this part of the world.
For those unfamiliar with this Jansson's Temptation (as I was a few short days ago) it's a potato and onion casserole-like dish which contains Swedish anchovies, aka sprats. It's a bonus that our new dish to try contains seafood - no doubt a pleaser for my kids. Unfortunately, yes, as I sit here typing after assembling and putting this in the oven, my fingers decidedly smell like pickled sprats. Hopefully seventeen more washings will erase that aroma. (Note: it only took four.)
Procuring Swedish anchovies, I'm told, is key. Substituting regular anchovies is not acceptable, namely because it's not even the same fish. After reading this adventure of trying to locate them in NYC, I was a bit concerned if I would be able to find them in Houston. Luckily, we have Ikea, so in 65 minutes I was back home with the goods. And, some crisp bread to eat with it, as advised by said friends. (And some ligonberry preserves, what I'm planning to do with them is still TBD.)
There seemed to be several variations of this recipe around the web. But the one I made was (more or less) followed exactly from Rebecca, who claims authenticity through her Finnish husband. My kids thought it was a hit. Spencer declared Jansson's Temptation to be "AWE-SOME!" and Charlotte was fascinated with the crisp bread.

Jansson's Temptation
from Kaarle & Rebecca Rautio

2 large baking potatoes (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1 large onion (diced small or sliced thin)
1 1/2 - 2 Cups cream
1 tin Swedish anchovies (diced, reserve liquid)
1 tomato (sliced)
salt & white pepper

Chop the potatoes into matchsticks and dice the onion. Put all of this into a bowl and combine well.

Pour half of the potato/onion mix into a well-buttered casserole dish. Layer with diced anchovies. Season with white pepper and a bit of salt, if you like. Dot with butter (cut into small pieces). Pour remainder of potatoes on top. Again, add a little white pepper and salt, if you like.

Pour anchovy "juice" over casserole and then pour cream over. Liquids should be about half the depth of the dish. Place slices of tomato on top of casserole, dot with butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. Uncover and bake just a bit more to let top become brown.

In traditional style, you must serve this with some dark rye bread, butter, sliced cheese (for the bread), and a nice green salad! Hyvaa Ruokahalua! (Enjoy your meal!)