Monthly Archives: February 2011

Streetwise…a series on street foods… Coconut and chili toasted cashews…

Winter has me dreaming of travel, mostly for the warmth, but also for some color and energy and experience of the senses. Street food is one of the best ways to get to know a culture and to discover what the people and food are really about.  I always find myself wondering about the back story of the vendor’s lives, what their homes look like, their family, and what actually goes on their dinner table. I love the sounds of food being cooked, sold, bought, and wrapped up on the streets.  One scene in the film Monsoon Wedding has always particularly captivated me. It depicts a betrothed couple stopping for chai at a makeshift, roadside café. The colors, sounds, and the exchange between the vendors and customers shows a local intimacy that I like to imagine streaming through the street food. There is such warmth and familiarity, and it illustrates a utilization of a local food culture.

One of my favorite places for exploring the street vendors was in Bangkok.  There is a market for just about anything; fish, fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, fabrics, and little plastic do dads.  Food vendors sell an array of meats on sticks (which seems to be popular cross culturally), noodle soups, sodas tied up in plastic bags with crushed ice, caramelized bananas, and my favorite: spicy toasted cashews.  I’m sure the real thing sits in a well oiled, well seasoned pan for days, absorbing the savory goodness.  However, this recipe is quick and delicious.  Here is my first installment of recipes inspired by street foods.

Coconut and chili toasted cashews…

2 cups cashews, whole

1 tbs raw coconut oil

¾  tsp kosher salt

¾ tsp chili powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

pinch of sugar

2 heaping tbs shredded, dried coconut shavings

2 heaping tbs fresh cilantro, minced

serve with lime wedges

In a large pan over medium heat, melt raw coconut oil into liquid.  Add cashews, coat in oil and begin toasting, mixing regularly.  Add salt and chili powder.  Toast until medium golden brown, and the aroma of cashews is evident. Add pepper flakes and sugar.  At the very end add shredded coconut. Careful not to burn the coconut as it toasts quickly.  Remove from heat. Add cilantro. Serve warm and with a wedge of lime. They can make a beautiful appetizer at a party served in cones of colorful paper lined with parchment paper. You know, kind of like an amped up beer nut.

I would love to hear suggestions, requests, stories, and ideas about street food experiences…good ones that is!

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


Avandaro poached eggs…

With all this cold and snow, I have found myself daydreaming about warm places, far, far away.  My memory stumbled upon my time spent in Mexico, just outside of Mexico City, in a beautiful lake town called Valle de Bravo.  I was fortunate enough to live there for about six weeks on a pear orchard nonetheless, right near Lake Avandaro. As I was imagining my body consuming the sun’s heat on my favorite rooftop, I also remembered this breakfast.  This is a very quick version of a more authentic breakfast, but my memory’s appetite was pleasantly surprised.

Avandaro poached eggs…

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/2 poblano pepper, diced

1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, diced

1 14 oz can white/black beans, rinsed

1/4 tsp chipotle powder

½ tsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbs olive oil

4 eggs

corn tortillas

tomatillo salsa…

4 tomatillos

½ small red onion

2 cloves garlic

½ jalapeño pepper

handful of cilantro

salt and pepper

juice of ½ lime

olive oil

salt and pepper

Start by making the tomatillo salsa.  Roughly chop ingredients.  Cook all ingredients (except cilantro, lime, salt, and pepper) in olive oil, in a pot, over medium heat, until softened. A little char adds a smoky note if you like that kind of thing. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée.  Add cilantro and lime, and olive oil as needed for consistency, process as needed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Then for the eggs. In a large pan over medium heat, begin with olive oil, shallots, and garlic.  Cook until softened.  Add poblano pepper, cook until softened.  Add tomatoes and beans.  Add spices, salt, and pepper. Simmer.  Then, one at a time, crack eggs into a small bowl or cup, making sure no shell came along for the ride.  Then pour egg directly into the tomato sauce.  Repeat with all four eggs.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer until eggs are just cooked and yolk is desired consistency (I like mine runny). They will poach in the tomato sauce. Serve a portion with egg over corn tortillas and top with tomatillo salsa.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!

Ginger molasses cookies…

I am forever on the hunt for the perfect ginger-esque cookie.  I buy them in coffee shops, I test them out at every new grocery store or market, I try friend’s mother’s and/or grandmother’s recipes, with and without molasses, crunchy or chewy. It can’t be too gingery but still needs a little heat. The closest to perfection that I have found in my search, was a little gem of a cookie called Ginger 3 Ways at Pacific Cookie Company in Santa Cruz, California. Little chunks of crystallized ginger in a perfectly chewy cookie dough.  I have no idea how they do it, but this is my ode to that amazing cookie.  I added molasses. I like the sweet yet mineral-like essence that it adds to the cookie.  I went for an organic, unsulphured molasses rather than the blackstrap.

While testing this recipe out, I was fortunate enough to have a seasoned and talented baker in our home.  This recipe reminds me watching my daughter giggle and play with her grandma, while sipping my coffee and munching on this cookie-all the while it was snowing outside.

Ginger molasses cookies…

preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

sift together and set aside

with a paddle mixer on low (or elbow grease), combine:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

then add:

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 tsp shredded fresh ginger

then add the dry ingredients to the wet, combine

then add:

1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

and mix until combined

roll dough into tbs balls, roll in sugar, place an inch apart on a baking sheet

bake 10 minutes (no more!), they will feel under baked initially, but when they cool they are amazing and chewy

eat together, toast to each other, and share!

Roasted sunchoke soup with feta croutons…

All that I have wanted to eat for the past two weeks is soup. Soup, soup, soup.  The temperature has been in the teens, and there is about a foot plus of snow on our balcony right now…with more to come!  When I saw sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) at the market, their warm, earthy flavor just made sense.  They are a slow to grow tuber, not actually related to the artichoke at all (which is a thistle), but rather are related to the sunflower. They are usually harvested in the late fall or early winter.  Sunchokes have the texture of a potato, with a thin, edible skin, and have a subtle artichoke essence that you can both smell and taste.  When you roast them, the skin caramelizes and creates a nice depth of flavor in the soup.  If you want something easy and hearty and rich for dinner to warm your belly, give this soup a try. These homely little tubers will steal your heart.

Roasted sunchoke soup with feta croutons…


7-10 small sunchokes, roasted

2 small cloves garlic, roasted

1 shallot, minced

2 cups vegetable broth

touch of cream

salt and pepper

olive oil


French bread

truffle infused olive oil

feta cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and scrub sunchokes clean. Cover both sunchokes and garlic in olive oil and place in the oven. Cook until fork tender. Allow to cool. Dice sunchokes. In a pan over medium heat, cook shallot until translucent.  Add garlic and sunchokes.  Then place sunchoke/shallot mixture in the blender with broth.  Puree.  Add cream, salt, and pepper to taste.

For croutons, cube bread. Cover in truffle oil, salt, and pepper.  Then cover in crumbled feta cheese.  Place in oven at above temperature, and toast. Turning regularly.

Serve soup with ample croutons on top.

I also added a small dollop of crème fraiche with a dash of cumin, it really complimented the earthy notes to this soup.

Stay warm, toast to each other, and share!