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Entries in snacks (15)


This is What Way Too Many Latkes Looks Like; and Maybe I Should Buy a Food Processor


This is, by weight, approximately ten pounds of latkes, and making them entailed the grueling and forearm-building process of hand-grating every last ounce of potato. That's just how much I like my friends (who needs a Jewish mother for guilt when there's Hungry Sam?).


The following is a list of things I learned last Saturday in the context of the Chanukah get-together I was hosting and feeding (after the break):

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Procrastination Tastes like Sausage, Apple, and Cheese

Help me procrastinate a little. Instead of applying to law school right now, I'm going to a) put together a fantastic and delicious snack and then b) blog about it.


This is a nice slice of peppery, garlicky, slow-cured pork sausage atop sharp cheddar cheese and a slice of apple. This snack is brought to you -- well, me -- by my impulse purchase of an Olli Salumeria sausage at Whole Foods the other day. Now I have an awesome treat.

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Prosciutto Wrapped Melon: Ham and Interns

What a confusing title for this post, Hungry Sam! you might say. Ham and Interns? Shigawhat now?

I'll explain. First things first -- I ate prosciutto-wrapped honeydew melon the other night, and it was super.

This tasty treat was the fortunate, shotgun marriage between two strokes of luck: I had found a truly superb honeydew (I know!) and Kevin (the roommate) had picked up a small package of tasty, smoky, nutty, sweet prosciutto.

The Melon: I have a friend who (accurately, I think) calls honeydew the "intern" of melons. Like interns, honeydews are so often useless. It's so hard to choose good ones -- there are so few exterior signs that the particular one you've chosen is worth it. More often than not, they're just not ready. But.


When you find a good honeydew/intern, it's fanTASTIC. Both improve any project they touch, whether a fruit salad, position paper, or ham-based hors d'oeuvre (had to look that spelling up).

*Caveat: if my organization was a fruit monger, we would ALWAYS have good honeydews. We're just that good at picking interns.

**I wish there were more opportunities in English for use of the word "monger." Or that its standalone usage were more appropriate.

The Ham: Prosciutto is Italian for ham.

Ok, I'll provide more detail. In English, Prosciutto refers to cured ham, often very thinly sliced and eaten as antipasto (appetizer) or in a Caprese salad. The curing process involves salt and a long hang in a cool, ventilated area for nine months to two years. The salt does the "cooking," if you will. By the time it's wrapped for our enjoyment, it takes on a ripe, heavy scent and tastes quite intensely rich and sweet.

Now, next time we'll try to get our hands on some Prosciutto de Parma, cured ham from the city of Parma, Italy.


Plantains FTW

Enhanced with a bite from Hungry Sam!

Ok – can’t rock a hiatus forever. I’ve found a new apartment, I’ve moved, I’m somewhat unpacked, work is busy but (for the moment) not unmanageable. In sum: I can take a deep breath, savor my food, and write up some of my awesome food adventures.

Tonight, we make baked fried plantains. Or fried baked plantains. No, I think the first one.

Obligatory backstory: I am a meat lover, but honestly, the best part of Brazilian churrascaria is the fried plantains. Doesn’t matter what absurd quantities of beef and lamb and chicken and pork I consume right of the sword from which it’s served – I ALWAYS have room for just one more sweet, browned, rich, earthy chunk of plaintain.

So when I saw some perfectly overripe, oversized plantains stacked high in my strange, wondrous/kinda smelly Latin grocery store in my new neighborhood, I knew it was time to try it myself.

"What are plantains?" a person might ask. "This is a plantain," I reply:

"Isn't that just a banana?" that same person might also ask. "NO DAMMIT," I calmly reply. Then I check Wikipedia, and see that a plantain is, in fact a banana. There is no "botanical distinction" between a banana and a plaintain; the former is smaller and sweeter due to specific environmental factors and not to a difference in genetics. The terms, then, are tied to more to usage than anything else -- a "plaintain" is a cooking banana.

Being a little adverse to fried food generally AND disliking the oil spatter burns I inevitably suffer whenever I fry things, I decided to coat the plantains with a little oil then bake them. The same general strategy works when I make my sweet potato fries, so hey, why not?

Several recipes I found online noted that overripe plantains are the best for this dish; these can be identified by their intense yellow color and black spots. I chopped off the ends, peeled the fruit, then sliced at a diagonal into 3/4 inch chunks.

For oil, vegetable would probably have been the right direction, but having just moved, all I happened to have on hand was olive. Using a spritz bottle, I coated everything lightly and evenly and spread the coins on a tray I'd also spritzed. Just for giggles, I used cinnamon and a little brown sugar on half, and set the whole shebang to bake at 450 degrees. 

As sometimes happens when trying a new technique, I didn't know quite the amount of time to bake the dish. I knew the general consistency I wanted (very tender, a slight browning crisp on the edges) -- trial and error, then, was the name of the game. I think I tried them at 10 minutes, 12 minutes, and 15 minutes; they were finally done to my liking at 18 minutes.

Tasting notes: Texture was close, about as close as I was going to get without actually frying. The edges were crispy but the interior never reached the silky, smooth, melt-on-your-tongue tenderness that you get from fried plantains. Flavor-wise, the cinnamon sugar side was delicious; the un-seasoned side was a little bland. Perhaps it was the fruit I purchased, but these babies benefited from a little extra sweetness. I thought the baked plantains were decent, but not as good as fried -- if I use this technique again in the future I intend to use significantly more oil.

On another note, I'm taking these pictures with my new camera. Learning the manual controls will take some time, but definitely better pictures, no?


The Great Granola Caper of 2011

Well, I like to think that I gained delicious granola, rather than losing delicious granola BARS. Yes, I failed at granola bars, hard.

But I made epic vanilla granola.

Also, I shall name my vanilla granola concoction: "GRANILLA." Sweet.

This afternoon, I visited Whole Foods and played "Bulk Foods Aisle Master Challenge," which is where you attempt to create complex meals using primarily and as many ingredients from the bulk foods section as possible. I opted to make granola bars using every item that could reasonably or conceivable be included, including:

  • rolled oats
  • flax seed
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • bran
  • coconut
  • pecans
  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • craisins
  • dried mango
  • banana chips
  • raisins
  • dried figs
And...I eyeballed ALL the quantities. Mostly small handfuls of everything, except for the oats (I bought about 2 1/2 c. of regular rolled oats -- not quick cook).

The tab? $5.34. Why buy granola? Ever? Yeesh.
The root of my granola BAR fail lay in my ratios. I started by making a basic granola -- I toasted everything but the fruit, then tossed all the ingredients with melted butter (1 T.), vanilla extract (2 t.), and honey (1/2 c.).

Then, at the suggestion of the interwebs, to turn regular granola into bars, I pressed the mixture into a buttered 9" x 9" pyrex pan and baked at 325 F for about 25 minutes.

It had so much "bar" potential!
I suppose what I really needed was significantly more of the butter/honey mixture in relation to the dry ingredients. Although the recipe baked just fine, and although I refrigerated until bars were cool, everything just sort of fell apart...
...Yet didn't really stay in "bar" form.

Flavor-wise, I was pretty happy with the results. I forgot to put in any spices (I mean to use ginger, or maybe cinnamon), but the result was that the vanilla really burst through as the primary unifying flavor. The texture was super, inevitable when using this many diverse ingredients, although I particularly dug the figs. 

I really had been looking forward to making little bars, but hey -- I basically have awesome homemade cereal for a while. A bittersweet granola victory, indeed.

But not really. Pretty much just sweet.

***Look how much better the picture are in daylight!


Spicy Chai, Anyone?

To anyone who enjoys the spicy, intense Mexican hot chocolates or chocolate bars modeled after the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican xocolatl, here's a new one for you: the Aztec Chai at Bourbon Coffee.

The Aztec Chai, as I read the menu, is a black tea latte (steeped black tea with steamed milk and foam), two shots of espresso, dark chocolate, and cayenne pepper. Woah now.

Foamy, spicy awesomeness.
What I liked about it: 
  • Delicious
  • Spicy! Mostly at the finish, but the drink had a solid kick that left my palate a little dry and tingly.
  • Not too sweet. This is my beef with most coffee shop chais/lattes etc. They always end up saccharine sweet, which a) makes me sick and b) makes me feel like it's a kick in the gut, healthy-eating-wise.
  • Delicious
What I didn't like about it:
  • Only 16 oz? I don't know.

I think giving this place an awesome review will be my first legit Yelp review.


Mini-post: Homemade Crepes

Why do crepes feel like such a treat? Why do so many people whip up epic quantities of pancakes on Sunday morning but haven't thought of making crepes? As Jen and I discovered this weekend, it's as easy as making pancakes, healthier, and the opportunities for creative genius in fillings are endless. And it's fun in pretty much the same way making your own pizza is fun.

Ham, apple, swiss cheese, and honey crepe.
Inspired by my favorite cooking magazine, Everyday Food, we whipped up a half-batch of crepe batter -- enough for four crepes. The key here was pureeing the batter to ensure even blending of the ingredients, and I added a little cinnamon because I like cinnamon. Nutmeg would be interesting too. You should also allow the batter to sit once blended, apparently in order to let bubbles dissipate.

We did a sweet (Nutella and banana; boring but delicious) and a savory/sweet (ham, apple, swiss, and honey). The genesis of the latter came in me wandering Whole Foods, in my own mischievous and hungry little world, as Jen trailed behind making sure I was actually picking the right things off the shelf. She's used to this sort of thing. It's probably a lot like babysitting.

I have to say, making the crepes, stuffing them, and baking them was A LOT of fun. I fully intend to host a build-your-own-crepe brunch at my house (takers?) and do a far more in-depth post about crepe-ing at that time, but for now, awesome and easy dinner.