Sriracha Cauliflower

Recipe by Mary Reilly, Food Styling by Joy Howard, Photo by Dominic Perri

This may never replace the iconic wing, but these spicy bites are pretty darned addictive. Plus, a hot oven gives you crispy florets while keeping you away from the deep fryer. Use your favorite purchased blue cheese dressing, or whip up your own by whisking sour cream, a splash of red wine vinegar, a generous amount of ground pepper, and a handful of blue cheese crumbles. When cutting up the cauliflower, don’t toss the core—cut it into thin strips and roast it along with the florets.

Serves 6 as a snack

1 medium cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)

½ cup flour

½ cup water

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

⅔ cup sriracha

2 tablespoons butter, melted 

Heat oven to 450°. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, water, salt, and pepper. Add cauliflower and toss to coat well. Lay onto baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp.

In a large bowl, stir sriracha and butter together. Toss the baked cauliflower in the sauce. Return florets to the baking sheet and bake for another 30 minutes, or until crisp. 

Serve with blue cheese dressing and carrot and celery sticks if desired.

Cracker Jill

This recipe, taken from the blog of Cathy Barrow, friend of Edible Pioneer Valley (cathybarrow.com), makes the perfect bar snack. Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste: Leave out the nuts, amp up the pepper, swap the bourbon for rum, and so it goes … Cracker Jill lasts about two to three days in a tightly covered container. 

Makes about 12 cups

6 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled, 1 tablespoon bacon fat reserved

1 cup popcorn kernels

⅓ cup grapeseed oil

2 cups salted peanuts, or slivered almonds (if you have run out of peanuts)

6 ounces unsalted butter

8 ounces light brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon gochucaru chili powder (or pimente d’Espelette, or Aleppo pepper, or cayenne), depending on your pantry and your preference

Heat oven to 250° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

In a 5-quart heavy pot, heat the grapeseed oil and 3 popcorn kernels. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn, remove the pot from the heat, cover and wait exactly 30 seconds. Place the pot back on the heat, shaking often until the corn stops popping. Dump into a very large bowl immediately. Add bacon, bacon fat, and peanuts. Set aside.

Make the caramel: In a 3-quart saucepan, cook the butter, sugar, and salt until dark amber and a candy thermometer reads 265° to 270°. Add the baking soda and stir well, then add the bourbon and chili powder and stir very thoroughly and carefully, as the bourbon may sputter. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir gently and thoroughly to coat with caramel.

Spread the popcorn out on the baking sheets lined with parchment. Slide in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Cool completely. Break up especially large chunks.

Chickpea “Fries”

Recipe by Mary Reilly, Food Styling by Joy Howard, Photo by Dominic Perri

Chickpea flour is used in snacks across the world. In Italy, chickpea flour is mixed into a crispy crèpe called farinata. In India, chickpea flour (called besan flour) is used in pakoras and other fritters. This recipe hews closely to the French panisse, a french fry–like fritter. Chickpea flour is easily found in supermarkets and Indian markets.

Serves 6 as a snack

6.4 ounces (1½ cups) chickpea flour

1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted 

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2¼ cups water

Oil for pan-frying

Garlic mayonnaise for serving

Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with pan spray. 

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour, cumin, salt, and pepper. Whisk in water until there are no lumps. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir continuously with rubber spatula until the mixture is very thick. Scrape the batter onto the baking dish and spread it into a ½-inch-thick layer. The batter may not cover the entire dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. 

The next day, unmold the batter and cut it into french-fry-sized strips. In a heavy skillet, pour oil to a depth of ¼ inch. Heat oil until very hot, but not smoking. Gently lay the strips into the oil in batches and fry, turning to brown all sides, about 5 minutes total. Do not crowd the pan; the strips should not touch each other. 

Drain hot fries on paper toweling. Serve with garlic mayonnaise. 

Garlic Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup prepared mayonnaise 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1 to 2 cloves garlic, to taste, minced 

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch paprika

Mix all ingredients together. Keep cold until ready to serve. 

Inside-Out Shishito Poppers

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Recipe by Mary Reilly, Food Styling by Joy Howard, Photo by Dominic Perri

Jalapeño poppers are standard bar fare. In this recipe, shishito peppers and a tequila-spiked queso dip offer similar flavors in a slightly more elegant package. No deep-frying required!

No peppers on hand? The queso dip is also great with tortilla chips or cut vegetables. 

Serves 4 to 6 as a snack

2 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil

1 pound shishito peppers

1 batch Tequila-Spiked Queso Dip

Coarse salt

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat until very hot. (If you have an exhaust fan, this is the time to use it.) Add the oil to the pan, then the peppers. Let the peppers rest in the skillet until charred, then stir gently to spin and char evenly. Let the peppers cook for another minute or two. The peppers should be charred and starting to soften. 

Remove from skillet and sprinkle with salt. Serve with queso dip. 

Tequila-Spiked Queso Dip

(adapted from Rick Bayless)

Makes about 2½ cups

1 tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil

1 small red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup diced tomato (canned is fine)

3 tablespoons tequila 

½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups) 

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened. Add the tequila to the skillet and cook until it’s almost completely evaporated. 

Reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle the cheese into the pan. Stir constantly, until completely melted. Stir in the sour cream and cilantro. Keep warm in a small chafing dish until ready to serve. 

Mini Potato Skins

Recipe by Mary Reilly, Styling by Joy Howard, Photo by Dominic Perri

Perfect for game day or any day, these two-bite morsels will tick all the essential snack boxes: crispy, cheesy, and salty. Try fingerlings or tiny new potatoes. If only large ’taters are to be found, follow the recipe (the baking time will be longer), but cut the potatoes into inch-wide wedges. 

Serves 6 as a snack

1½ pounds little potatoes (about 12 small potatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

½ cup shredded cheese (try cheddar, pepper jack, parmesan, or a combination)

¼ pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons minced chives

Heat oven to 400°F. Bake potatoes until cooked through, about 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool until cool enough to handle. 

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out some of the potato, making a boat. Drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and crispy.

Preheat broiler.

Divide the cheese and bacon between the potato halves. Broil until the cheese melts. Remove from oven and top with sour cream and chives. 

A New Take on Milk and Cookies

Story and food styling by Joy Howard, Photos by Dominic Perri

My 6-year-old daughter will dip anything into what she’s drinking. It’s like a compulsion. Whether it’s cookies in milk or baby carrots in juice, there seems to be something deeply satisfying to her about the act of plunging a morsel of food into her cup and gobbling it up. Searching for a treat that pairs well with her quirky habit recently led me to a new baking project: biscotti.

If you think of these crunchy, dunk-worthy cookies as a sweet reserved for grown-up coffee drinkers, you couldn’t be more wrong! In Italy, where the recipe originated, they’re traditionally served at the end of a meal with a dessert wine called vin santo. While it’s true that neither coffee nor wine is a kid-friendly accompaniment, you don’t need my daughter to tell you how delicious a homemade slice of biscotti can be any time of day with a glass of milk. (It also makes a wonderful ice cream topping if you crumble it.)

This version features toasted almonds and a hint of orange zest. The flavors are subtle and perfect for soaking up all sorts of drinks—both kid- and parent-approved. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the texture of the cookies, which are dry and crunchy but not dense and hard like the ones often found in pastry shops and cafés. Making the cookies is a two-step process. After the dough is baked and cooled slightly, it’s sliced and returned to the oven for several minutes more. This allows each cookie to develop its characteristic texture. During the first step, kids can mix, roll, and shape the dough; and in the second phase, they can take charge of arranging the cookies on the baking sheet before the second bake.

Easy Almond Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons almond extract

½ teaspoon orange zest

½ cup lightly toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and set at medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and blend between each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract and the orange zest and continue to blend until incorporated.

Reduce the mixer’s speed to medium-low. Slowly add the flour and blend well. Add the almonds and mix for just a few seconds to incorporate. With floured hands, scoop up the dough (it will be very sticky) and place it on a lightly floured surface. 

Evenly halve the dough and roll each portion into a 1½- by 15-inch log. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and arrange with a few inches between each log. Gently press the top of each to flatten it slightly.

Bake until golden and puffy, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes. Reserve the baking sheet. 

With a sharp knife, slice each log into ¾-inch cookies. Arrange on the baking sheet, standing upright, and return to the oven. Bake until lightly dried, deep golden, and crisp on the outside, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.  

FLOWER WINE (ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE) 

Photo by Pascal Baudar

This is an old traditional European recipe for making wine with elderflower. In Southern California we have Mexican elders (Sambucus mexicana) at low altitudes and the regular elder (S. nigra) in the mountains. One of the peculiarities of the Mexican elder is the fact that the flowers can be smaller, usually half to a quarter the size of the regular elder, which changes the recipe a bit. 

I don’t know why the wine is called a champagne—perhaps it’s due to the color and the fact that it’s bubbly. The old recipes make no mention of adding yeast, because it’s present on the flowers. I’ve had moderate success (probably around 70 percent) with spontaneous fermentation from the flowers, so these days I usually add some champagne or wine yeast if I don’t see any signs of fermentation after a couple of days. 

30 large Mexican elderflower heads or 20 regular elderflower heads 

1 gallon (3.78 L)
 water

3 cups (500–600 g) white sugar

3–4 lemons, zested and sliced

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)

Champagne or wine yeast (optional—flowers should have wild yeast) 

Pick the elderflowers when they’re fresh and full of pollen. Fresh Mexican elderflowers look a bit greenish, while the older flowers are whiter. You’ll discover very quickly that elderflowers are loaded with little bugs. My solution to get rid of (most of) them is to place the flowers in a bowl outdoors for about an hour; the little bugs will vacate. You can’t really remove them all at this point, but as you strain your solution later on, it will take care of the remaining ones. 

Place the water in a container, add the sugar, and stir with a clean spoon to make sure it’s dissolved. 

Add the lemon zest and lemon slices, the elderflowers (remove as much of the stems as you can without going crazy about it), and the vinegar to the container and stir briefly with a clean spoon. Some people add commercial yeast at this stage. 

Close the container, but not so tight that fermentation gases can’t escape. You can also place a clean towel on top. Let the mixture stand for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. If you didn’t use yeast, you should see some bubbles after 48 hours, indicating that the fermentation from wild yeast is active. If this doesn’t occur, then add some yeast at this stage. Using a clean spoon, make sure that you stir the liquid for a few seconds three or four times a day during this process. 

Strain the liquid (after 48 hours if additional yeast was necessary) into your fermenting vessel (bottle or bucket). Let the fermentation go for another 4 days. Using a layered cheesecloth when straining the liquid removes any remaining little bugs.

Your final step is to bottle your champagne in recycled soda bottles or swing-top glass bottles. Let it ferment for a week before enjoying. I like to check the pressure from time to time by unscrewing the bottle slightly to make sure it’s not excessive. 

Recipe and photo by Pascal Bauder, courtesy of Storey Press.

CHILLED RADISH AND GINGER SOUP WITH GRILLED RADISH AND SCALLIONS

by Sanford D’Amato, Food styling by Joy Howard, Photo by Dominic Perri

CHILLED RADISH AND GINGER SOUP WITH GRILLED RADISH AND SCALLIONS

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For 8 to 10

2 tablespoons regular olive oil

1½ pound trimmed radishes, cleaned and cut in quarters

8 ounces Granny Smith apples, washed, cored (not peeled), and cut in medium dice

2 ounces fresh ginger root, washed (not peeled) and sliced

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom

8 cups unsalted chicken stock

Zest of ½ lemon

In a 1-gallon sauce pot, place the oil over medium heat. Add the radishes, apple, and ginger and cook for 10 minutes (do not brown). Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, and cardamom and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock. Bring up to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the radishes are very tender. Remove the bay leaves and thyme, add the lemon zest, and carefully purée in a blender until very smooth. Refrigerate.

To Finish the Dish

12 scallions, ends trimmed

3 tablespoons regular olive oil, plus more if needed for coating

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

24 radishes (large enough that they won’t fall through the grill grates), cleaned, ½ inch of green tops left on, and cut in half

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1½ tablespoons granulated sugar

Prepared Chilled Radish Soup

Toss the scallions with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then season them with salt and pepper. Grill over a hot fire for 1–2 minutes per side, until cooked. Toss the radishes with the remaining oil, salt, pepper, and sugar, and grill over medium heat until very tender, 4–5 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and toss with the lemon juice. Cut the cooled scallions on the bias into 1-inch lengths. Toss with the radishes and divide between bowls. Pour the soup around the radishes and serve.