Monday, January 26, 2015

Citrus Pistachios and Vietnamese Spicy Wings Heat Up Super Bowl Sunday Snacks

What are you going to serve on Super Bowl Sunday? Chips and dips, frozen pizza and grocery store salads. No way! Special events deserve special food. Snacks that reach out and grab you, that make you stop watching TV and say, "That is amazing!"

Here are two of my favorite snacks. One, the pistachios, I figured out last week. The other, the Vietnamese-style wings are a long time favorite. What they have in common is an addictive salty-sweet heat.

Have a great game!

Citrus Pistachios

My only debate about this snack is whether to use pistachios in the shell our shelled. Personally I like the fun of cracking open the shells. If you want easy-snacking, use the shelled pistachios. 
I prefer to use raw pistachios. If the only pistachios available are already roasted, check to see if they are also salted. In which case, do not salt the nuts.

Serves 10-12


16 ounces pistachios (in the shell or shelled)
1 cup citrus peel (oranges, grapefruit or tangerines), fresh, washed, dried
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (do not salt if the pistachios are already salted)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon 
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
Pinch cayenne 

Using a sharp chefs knife, cut the peels off the citrus of your choice. I like a mix of flavors, so I use equal amounts of grapefruit, orange and tangerine peels. Once you have removed the peels, you can cut the citrus into segments and make a delicious fruit salad by adding cut up apples and pomegranate seeds. 
Lay the peels out on a cutting board and select portions of the peel that are unblemished. Use a sharp knife to carefully remove most of the pith from the back of the peel. Leave a little white layer for flavor. Cut the peels into thin ribbons approximately 1/8 inch thin.

Heat a nonstick pan on a medium flame. Add the citrus peel, spices, sea salt and sugar. Toss frequently. The goal is to flavor and dehydrate the peels.

When the citrus peels are lightly browned, remove from the pan. Using the same pan, heat the pistachios and toss until lightly browned.

In a bowl mix together the citrus peels and pistachios. 

Serve warm in a bowl.

Spicy Sweet Ginger-Garlic Chicken Wings

Make the wings a day or two ahead. Reheat the wings just before half-time and feast.

Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer

2 pounds chicken wings, washed, disjointed, wing tips discarded or reserved and used to make stock
½ cup white sugar
½ cup warm water
¼ cup fish sauce--preferably a light caramel colored brand
¼ cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic minced
1 dried Chinese Szechuan pepper, stem removed, seeds and skin minced
3 tablespoons or 3” ginger, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste


Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large non-reactive bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Add other ingredients, stir to mix well. Place chicken in marinade. transfer to a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate one hour or, preferably, overnight.

When ready to cook, separate wings from the marinade. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Add brown sugar. Stir to dissolve. Over a low flame, reduce by half. Taste and adjust for more sweetness if desired by adding more brown sugar.

Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil for easy clean up. 

Place in oven. Turn every ten minutes. Cook until tender, about thirty minutes.

Serve on a plate of Asian noodles, steamed rice or shredded lettuce. Just before serving, pour the heated marinade over the top of the wings.

Monday, January 12, 2015

One Pot Winter Pleasure - Lentils

Yesterday the rain beat down steadily all day. At first more like a mist at a car wash, then in steady sheets that drenched any one deciding the time was perfect to visit a favorite restaurant. Which is exactly what we did. We met our sons at Yabu in West Los Angeles (11820 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064, 310-473-9757)  for a 2015 New Year's dinner.

Outside the weather was damp and cold. We were happy to be inside the warm busy restaurant. We ordered our favorite dishes: udon with mushrooms. tempura vegetables and shrimp on seasoned rice, salmon sashimi with pale white daikon threads & wispy pickled seaweed, spinach salad seasoned with mirin and sesame paste, sea urchin (uni) sushi with quail yolk, egg omelet sushi (tamago), baked crab hand roll and hot soba in soup with thinly sliced scallions and paper thin sheets of fatty duck breast.
We talked, shared a bottle of hot sake and looked at photographs from our holiday trips. A great way to begin the new year.

Yesterday the rain was reduced to a light drizzle. Not enough to soak through a thick sweater but enough to chill skin and bone. When it was time to think about dinner, I had only one thought. Cook something easy. Cook something in one pot. And make sure it is hot, filling and delicious.

A few years ago a press trip took me Spokane, Washington and Moscow, Idaho. The area is well-known for its agricultural products, most importantly lentils. A representative of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council gave us a "Lentils 101" talk that described the many varieties of lentils, their nutritional value and economic importance to protein-starved regions of the world. Each of us was given a copy of The Pea & Lentil Cookbook: From Everyday to Gourmet which has recipes using dried legumes in dishes as varied as appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts.

Cooking with lentils is easy.

The basics are wash and rinse the lentils, discarding any broken or misshapen lentils. For four servings one cup of dried lentils are mixed with two and a half cups of water. Simmer covered for 30-50 minutes, tasting the beans as they cook and removing the pot from the stove when they are to your taste. Cooking them longer, lentils will soften and can be used in purees for soups, dips, sauces and spreads.

I like the lentils to retain their shape so cook them only until they are al dente. Surprisingly easy to cook, healthy lentils have a delicious nutty flavor.

Lentils with Shiitake Mushrooms and Vegetables

The roasted tomato thickens the sauce and adds a pleasing acid. Canned tomato sauce may be used, but it is less expensive and more flavorful to make your own by placing a whole tomato onto a Silpat lined baking sheet and roasted 45 minutes in a 350 F oven. If you have already roasted tomatoes and made sauce, use the frozen or canned sauce. For Zester Daily I wrote about making roasted tomatoes and sauce to keep in your freezer.

Lentils come in many colors and varieties. They are not all the same. Find the ones you like. My favorites are Beluga or black lentils and Spanish pardina lentils, which I used last night.

Serves 4


1 cup lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 garlic clove, washed, skin removed, minced
1 medium sized yellow onion, washed, paper skin, root and stem ends removed, finely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, preferably shiitake or brown, washed, the ends of the stems removed, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, stem cut off, peeled, washed
2 cups spinach leaves, washed and thin sliced
1 large roasted tomato, washed, stem removed or 1/2 cup roasted tomato sauce


Rinse the lentils, discarding any that are broken or discovered.

In a 2 quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Add the dry spices and garlic. Lightly brown.

Add the onions, mushrooms and carrots. Saute until lightly browned.

Add the lentils and water. Stir well. Bring to a simmer. Cover.

The lentils may take 25-45 minutes to soften. How long depends on many factors. Cook them covered for 25 minutes, then taste a few lentils. If they need more cooking and the liquid has evaporated, add enough water to keep the lentils covered. At this point also add the the roasted tomato sauce.

Stir well, cover and continue cooking, checking the pot every 5 minutes until they have achieved the desired texture.

Serve hot.