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Tag: snack

When Waiting for Dinner and/or Summer: Fig Jam

There are many reasons, I suppose, that cheese and crackers are such an evergreen entertaining staple. They’re is easy, doesn’t have to be expensive, and pretty much everyone except the lactarded (raises hand) loves it. Of course, ubiquity has its own drawbacks, boredom being chief among them. The question, then, is how to keep the combo from going stale… metaphorically, at least.

I’m not about to start making my own cheese though, and if I’m going to make crackers they’re going to be sufficiently awesome to not need cheese on top. That, then, leaves the third point of the cheese, crackers and… whatever triangle. Frankly, the “whatever” part is often the most fun to futz with. Fruit, nuts, shmears of honey, or dribbles of balsamic; these can all wake up a cheese plate with their presence.

And while baked feta and goat cheese with jalapeno jelly are both really fun, sometimes one needs something a little more deconstructed…. a little dish that friends can customize and fiddle with while I finish up dinner preparations. It’s nice to whet the appetite and give them something to do, if only to keep them from offering to help.

Enter this lightly spicy, wine-dark fig jam. Great with a variety of cheeses, from mild to sharp and soft to firm, it’s perfect for this time of year when there’s not much going on in the produce department yet but the desire for little al fresco nibbles is running high. The figs are simply simmered in wine with a little chili and shallots adds their regal oniony background. Cutting both into ribbons makes for a compulsively scoopable, tangly mess that ’s great with cheese and crackers, but could also add verve as a sandwich spread or as a pan sauce for chicken or pork.

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Holiday Treats of Distinction: Sugared Walnuts

I can’t quite face the backed-up sink and the wet “squish” noise the garbage disposal button is making right now (though I suppose I’ve not been electrocuted, so THAT’S good news…). Thus, I’m going to share one of my favorite holiday treats instead.
These sugared walnuts made their annual appearance on Christmas Eve, which we spent at my aunt and uncle’s house. There was always a broad array of tempting sweets, from iced sugar cookies to delicately twisted kringla, fragrant with cardamom. I always partook of these other offerings, but I was really there for the walnuts.

I can’t quite express to you how good they are… the contrast between the meaty, slightly bitter walnuts and their creamy, sugary cloaks pretty much makes for the most addicting thing ever. Just thinking about them makes my eyes roll back in my head a little.

What’s more, they’re kind of unpreposessing to look at, so they’re easily missed on the dessert table. I made them for our holiday party and had to point them out to a few select people–who agreed with me on their superlative tastiness: “Oh my god, I’m so glad you didn’t tell me about these earlier. They’re SO GOOD.”

Also: yes, this has demon corn syrup in it; and yes, unless you want to mess around with little plates of half-congealed sugar, you need a candy thermometer. Blah blah blah, whatever. You really should have the latter, and you just need to get over the former. It’s not like we’re making IV drip bags of double-strength Kool-Aid for preschoolers. Ok, objections dealt with. Let’s get on to the deliciousness…

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Turning Japanese: Onigiri

onigiri1Oh, onigiri. How I love you. Often said to be the Japanese equivalent of the sandwich, these balls of rice are at once ubiquitous and extraordinarily varied. They are also easy, tasty, and very accommodating of necessity or invention. They can be mixed or filled or wrapped with just about anything, which makes them even more deliciously endearing. When tooting around Japan with Wonder Twin #1 this summer, we would stop every morning at the closest 7-11 or Lawson for breakfast, where we were invariably greeted by a wide array of surprisingly tasty tinned coffees and myriad triangular, nori-clad onigiri.

Ingeniously packaged so the moist rice and seaweed remain separate until you unzipped it all and it pops into your hand all done up in the still-crisp nori. (This is a nifty piece of engineering that needs to be experienced to be believed.)  The Wonder Twin usually went for tuna, which I found a bit much at 9am. I usually picked up the ume-shiso, a salty blend of pickled plum and grassy shiso. Mr. T generally had tea sandwiches, but he’s English. Thus fortified, off we would go to conquer whatever temples, shopping districts, or Important Cultural Assets were on our agenda for the day.

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