cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

How can something so delicious be so easy to make?  I would have been making brittle for years if I knew I could do it in under 30 minutes.  I might have made it earlier, except that, I had no cravings for brittle until now.  I am not quite sure what inspired me suddenly perusing the internet for brittle recipes, but once I did, I had to make some, but make some my way.

pumpkin seed, almond, pine nut brittle with red chile

“My way” meaning, it needed a bit of spice, a kick if you will and something to balance out the sweetness. I really don’t have a sweet tooth, but if something sweet is balanced with something salty and has a bit of spice too, I am in. I recently made some caramel truffles with fleur de sel and that is what likely set me on my way, the fleur de sel. It was a perfect end to a bite of delight. If it worked for chocolate, it will work for brittle too.   And it did.

I made a triple batch for starters, as the effort seemed too much for one cup of nuts. After that, I went a little crazy and did some smaller experimental batches. Two of those and then one more triple batch a week later as I had a lot of nuts and needed more brittle to give away for gifts.

First batch: Pumpkin seed, pine nut, almond brittle with NM red chile and fleur de sel
Second batch: Macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel
Third batch:Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle with fleur de sel – for a friend with nut allergies.
Fourth batch: Cashew, macadamia, almond and coconut brittle with cayenne and fleur de sel.

Coconut cardamom cayenne brittle macadamia nut, almond, coconut brittle with cayenne

I think I can take a week off from brittling now. Yes, I know, I just made a word up. Every once in a while you just have to make a word up.
First, toast your nuts, or not, I like a toasted nut better, but you don’t have to.  These are pre-toasting.  I won’t show you the pic of the post toast. Needless to say, I severely burned the nuts I roasted for the first batch and had to re-roast. I am pretty good at burning nuts thanks to my uneven heating oven.  They went to the squirrels.  The second post toast I have no photos of.

nuts for toasting for brittle

Brittle with Fleur De Sel and Cayenne

3 cups nuts of your choice or unsweetened dried coconut
3 TBS chilled diced unsalted butter
3 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp fleur de sel
1/2 tsp cayenne – more or less to taste – I like it hot.
3 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (keeps the sugar from seizing)

candy thermometer or temperature probe if you have one – it’s not necessary, just easier

Toast your nuts if you are a nut toaster. If you have a silpat, get two or three of those out and place them on your counter overlapping. If not, use three large cookie sheet size sheets of foil, over lap them slightly and butter them lightly with unsalted butter. The silpat needs no butter. In a bowl, combine nuts, diced butter, baking soda, fleur de sel and cayenne pepper. In a 3 quart pot, add your sugar, water and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil and let it cook until it is an amber color – this will be around 350F to 370F if you have a thermometer. It takes much longer to get to this point with this triple batch than with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup water. Ten to 20 minutes. No need to stir the sugar mixture, but I can’t help myself, so I do. As soon as the color starts to darken, be on red alert and ready to go in an instant. Once it appears to be the color of honey or medium amber, cut the heat and immediately stir in the nut mixture, stir fast and stir hard. The mixture will sizzle and bubble up and act very excited in a happy way. Once incorporated, start pouring it out on to the buttered foil and spread as fast and thin as you can.  Admire your work and let it cool while you clean the pot. The easiest way to clean the pot and spoon is to fill the pot back up with water and bring it to a boil. Sugar of course dissolves in water. No scrubbing. No work.
Once the brittle is cooled, about 10 minutes more or less, you can start breaking it up into whatever size pieces you want. This brittle will keep in a sealed container for at least a month if your nuts were fresh. Try making it last that long, I dare you. Make sure you give some to your dentist, just in case you eat too much of it.

cashew, macadamia nut, almond and coconut brittle with fleur de sel and cayenne

i’m out

Menu Plan of the Week April 7th: Asparagus!

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday - Asparagus

asparagus for risotto

For some reason, this week, my creativity in the kitchen is struggling. Perhaps it is the lack of inspiration of Bon Appetit this month (that mag is going down hill fast) or the lack of watching cooking shows, or perhaps it is that the weather has finally changed and it is sunny and 60 F out, although it is still cool in the evening. This is not normal weather for the first week of April, but it sure is nice. I have been a grilling fiend already.

I have a couple of recipes I want to get in before it gets too warm to justify eating them and that time is coming soon, so this will be the week. Once the farmer’s market is going , then I can do a more seasonal spring menu. Garden produce is still a long way off. We still have some piles of snow lying around right now even if the tulips are attempting to poke their heads out.

Saturday: Indonesian grill out

Pork loin basted in coconut water/milk with lemon grass, grilled on charcoal and snow peas sautee with Indonesian curried rice. Appetizer: lime leaf shrimp satays from Simply Ming with ginger added and fresh coconut used. They were great. I didn’t have wooden skewers so I just rolled them into oblong logs and dropped them in.

Sunday: Fusion picnic

Jerk chicken on the charcoal and potato salad in a French vinaigrette style dressing and broccoli. Oh and a mango margarita.

Monday: Greek comfort food

Moussaka with eggplant and grass fed beef and a Greek style salad with feta

Tuesday: Asian love of the Thai persuasion

A yet unknown dish involving tofu, napa cabbage and plenty of cilantro, ginger and garlic. Throw your ideas this way.

Wednesday: Modern English/American

Grass Fed roast beef with a garlic horseradish crust. We have some big hunks of beef in the freezer and I need to tackle my fear of roast beast. Prime rib on the other hand, I have no fear of. Roasted asparagus and I would guess some red wine to go along with it all. Perhaps a Yorkshire pudding to match the gravy that must occur with the roasting. It looks like Yorkshire pudding is just a giant gougeres with no cheese.

Thursday: Headed to Sault Saint Marie for overnight work. My Sweetie will grill brats and eat a romaine lettuce salad most likely. Or leftover roast beast.

Friday: Quebec

Poutine (crinkle cut fries and gravy (I might try the nutrient yeast gravy) with cheese), a big green salad and maybe some grilled asparagus.

What’s cooking in your kitchen?

i’m out

Wild Ginger

While in Seattle I thought I would see if we could get into Wild Ginger for dinner. For some reason everything I had read lead me to believe that one must have a reservation long in advance. Turns out that is not the case, at least not on a Monday night. We were escorted right in. They are very helpful in steering you towards the GF menu items. We sat in a very dark corner of the bar and I had several great martini’s. My one bad comment was that it was so dark, that I literally had to use my cell phone light to read the menu as even candlelight wasn’t cutting it, but the wall sconces were not lit.

wild ginger martini

This is a snap of my martini in the light.

What did I have? One of the best meals of my life! I started with their Laska, a spicy bouillabaisse from Malaysia loaded with seafood in a rich coconut broth. Then I had the Vietnamese Prawn and Crab salad served on a bed of watercress with lots of cilantro, ground peanuts, garlic and fried shallots. So fresh and light. I think the crab had been marinating in a sweet and spicy fish sauce base. For my entree (I was splurging here) I had their special: sturgeon with green mango. Michigan’s sturgeon is protected and you never see it on a menu, so I decided it might be my only chance to try it. I was glad I did. This sturgeon was marinated with lemon grass, galangal, garlic, lime leaf and turmeric, then pan fried and served on a green mango salad that had a delicious sauce on it, again, I think it was fish sauce based. It was terrific. It was too dark to really take photos and not look like total geeks, but I think we got one of the salad (albeit not a flattering one) claiming we were celebrating something. My darling BF had the pot stickers and the Wild Ginger Fragrant Duck which he really enjoyed. For cocktails I had Ginger Martini’s; wild ginger infused vodka, pretty much straight up and chilled.

Washington 08 215

So, tonight I am attempting to replicated the sturgeon dish with salmon and grill it instead of pan frying. It turned out pretty great, but will need a bit of tweaking. I used salmon as I didn’t have anything super similar to sturgeon (I think a firm thin white fish would work great). I marinated it and then dipped it in coconut flour. Next time I will use rice flour as I think it will crisp up better. The coconut sort of burned a bit due to the fat content. The flavor was great. I didn’t have any green mango, but I will try to make that salad someday. In keeping with the coconut theme, I made coconut rice which is rich and nutty (and not healthy). Broccoli rabe sauteed with sesame oil, ginger, garlic and tamari rounded the meal out. I did make this elaborate lemon grass coconut sauce and put it in the microwave to warm it up and forgot about it until I was cleaning up, so needless to say, the fish didn’t need it.

March 08 food 204

Here’s my recipe cobbled together from a memory!

Ginger Lemon Grass Salmon

For the marinade: dried turmeric, dried galangal (use fresh if you can), minced garlic, garlic chile sauce (I use a Vietnamese brand), sweet chile sauce (I use Maeploy from Thailand), chopped lemon grass (I found some chopped, frozen stuff in my Asian market – much easier), fresh ginger (I use a grater to mince it) and chopped lime leaf (I used this from my tree in my house). I rubbed the salmon in the above ingredients and let it set for a couple of hours in the fridge. Then I dredged it in coconut flour and I would use rice flour next time and tossed it in the cast iron pan and next time I would use a nonstick skillet as the cast iron stayed too hot too long. I then squeezed fresh lime juice on it and then added some fresh chopped cilantro and we served it with coconut rice that had been cooked with lime leaf and topped with cilantro.

The forgotten sauce: Coconut Lemon Grass sauce

Coconut milk, shallots, lemon grass, lime leaf, green chile and a dash of fish sauce and a litte water. Cook it all together for a bit and then when it has cooked down, strain it and serve. I forgot the serve part, but the sauce did taste great!

i’m out

Menu Swap for the St Patty’s Day week : special ingredient coconut; Cocktail of the week: Hard Cider

St Patty's Day prep, Irish coffee and bling

Finally, it is the day I wait for all year long: St Patty’s Day. You might think that I gave up partying hard for this day in my twenties (like most) or in my thirties (like the rest) but no! I still plan to do a pub crawl today (albeit with only two pubs) and wear green and loudly shout Irishisms that I can’t spell.

You see, I am a red head. This is a holy day for red heads, esp ones of Irish descent like me (Scottish and German too). This is the day I get to wear my favorite color: green. 80% of my wardrobe is green, so it really isn’t a hard to find something to wear.

What to cook? I alternate between Irish boiled dinner (which sounds so boring) and Irish stew with Lamb every other year now. We started the week off with fish and chips to get that out of my system.

What to drink? Whiskey and Cider of course since there is no gf Guinness and I prefer many other delish stouts to Guinness anyway, even if I can’t drink them. So I have chosen for the pub crawl locations that have cider on tap and whiskey on hand and music to jig to.

Can you tell I am excited?

Here’s this week’s adventure:

Saturday: Southwest Santa Fe: Carne Adovada (pork in red chile sauce) and pinto beans with guac and chips.

Sunday: Irish Coast: Fish and chips

Monday: Irish boiled dinner (although I never once saw corned beef when I was in Ireland) Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. The pressure cooker is already going and then this will go into the crockpot with the rest of the deliciousness to be ready by the time I am pub crawled out.

Tuesday: Asian Pacific: Grilled Salmon and broccoli rabe with garlic ginger. Salmon will likely have an asian flare to it – chile, garlic, tamari with a lemon grass coconut milk sauce or coconut rice to serve with it, or both.

Wednesday: Tex Mex: Pork enchiladas (casserole style with cheese and onions, lots of onions) with cucumber lime salad and Mexican rice and a pina colada with Mt Gay rum (my fav).

Thursday: Thai :Lard Nah with swiss chard and tofu on wide rice noodles. I will have to post this recipe as it is addicting (if you can eat soy).

Friday: German tour of the Rhine : Jagerschnitzel with Riesling mushroom sauce, spaetzle and rot kohl (or some sort of cabbage side) with a dry Riesling

Warning: Any one of these nights might get subbed out for takeout Gluten free Pizza from Mancino’s down the road (yes, finally, but it is 20 min away. They have a GF crust and a spelt crust!). Twenty minutes never seemed so close!

Erin go braugh!

i’m out and doing a jig, a celtic one……

after pub crawling....

Chaitini, cocktail of the week photos

Chaitini is the cocktail of the week.

Now, brown cocktails do not photograph well, but I will post the photo anyway.

I took chai spices and seeped them with vodka for many months (it doesn’t take that long, but I forgot about it in the fridge) then you have chai flavored vodka. I think the chai spices I used were ginger, cloves, allspice, anise, cinnamon and cardamom.

I mixed a little coconut milk with vodka (but I would really use coconut rum if you had some, I was out and wasn’t about to go to the store to make my cocktail, for once!) and then mixed some of the chai vodka with agave nectar or you could use simple syrup and then shook it over ice and poured it into a martini glass rimmed with sugar mixed with dried coconut. I used a cinnamon stick as a straw and voila: Chaitini!

chaitini Feb 08 food 073

I told you brown cocktails are not very pretty, oh well. They can be tasty though!

i’m out