Category Archives: Hors d’oeuvres

Indian Hot and Sour Cashews

hot and sour cashews

My bucket list includes a number of places where I’d like to travel, professional things I’d like to accomplish and then a few harder to classify items: learn to do the splits, have a squash named after me, hug a Muppet, be in a Bollywood movie.  That last goal is perhaps what inspired me to join a professional Bollywood-style dance team called Bollywood Groove last fall, and I have been having a blast dancing with them ever since.  And despite the fact that that goal sounds ridiculously unattainable, I actually got surprisingly close when Dhoom 3, a Bollywood movie, was being shot in Chicago this Fall and Bollywood Groove was asked–and then, ahem, un-asked–to be dancers in the movie.  For the record, we’ve been described as “sizzling” on our own website.  It’s their loss.

A few days ago, my friend Ajanta, who founded Bollywood Groove, asked me if I would share a holiday recipe with her newsletter followers.  Ajanta also teaches amazing cardio classes through Bollywood Groove (Think Indian Zumba.  What??  I KNOW.), so her followers like to celebrate Indian culture, but are often looking for healthier, active ways to do so.  I wanted to share something easy and festive with a little Indian flair, so I decided to share my all-time favorite spiced nuts blend.  By using lots of flavorful Indian spices, I’ve created a snack that’s crunchy and satisfying and will be an unexpected hit on any holiday hors d’oeuvres spread.  If you aren’t hosting, these are a great gift to bring along to a party as well, just package them up in a pretty glass jar.  And of course, filled with protein and healthy fats, these Indian Hot and Sour Cashews also double as an excellent post-workout snack should you ever hit up a Bollywood Groove dance class.

Amchur (green mango powder) is a souring agent used frequently in Indian cookery.  Most sour spices, like sumac and black limes that I used in the Persian Black Lime and Herb Soup, can be harder to find since they aren’t as popular in American cuisine.  Check out Indian markets for amchur or find it online.  If you don’t have it on hand, a squeeze of fresh lime juice on the spiced cashews before serving will give that same sour kick.  Asafoetida is a pungent seasoning reminiscent of onions and garlic that’s used all over India, but garlic powder is an easy substitute.  And the pomegranate seed and cilantro garnish is entirely optional, but I love the festive, holiday look that it gives to this dish.

If you are looking for more ideas for holiday entertaining, I’ll be teaching a cooking class on easy an inexpensive appetizers at the Whole Foods Market in Downtown Evanston on Thursday, December 6, 7pm.  Read more and reserve your spot here.

hot and sour cashews

hot and sour cashews
Indian Hot and Sour Cashews
Makes 2 cups

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other light oil)
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili flake
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons amchur
large pinch asafoetida or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grind sea salt
2 cups raw whole cashews
pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and saute until they start to pop out of the pan. Add chili flake, turmeric, amchur, asafoetida/garlic powder and salt.

3. Turn off the heat and add the cashews to the pan, coating them thoroughly in the spiced oil.  Spread evenly on the sheet tray.  Bake at 300 for 12 – 15 minutes, stirring twice during cooking time. Cool and garnish with pomegranate seeds and cilantro.  Eat and enjoy.

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Marinated Mixed Olives

With the holiday season upon us, it seems that every other night there is a holiday party to attend (yay!), often with the request to bring a snack to share (boo!).  But forget that three-dollar bottle of Trader Joe’s wine;  Mixed Marinated Olives are a festive, no-cook recipe that’s easy to tote along to a cocktail party.  More flavorful and colorful that regular olives in brine, they have a homemade look with minimal effort.  The strong pine flavor of rosemary and thyme hold up to the salty olives and give the dish a wintry flair.

Olives are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and contain high amounts of copper and iron.  While they are high in fat (80-85% of the calories in an olive come from fat), it’s the “good kind” that we hear about–monounsaturated fat, which the same good fat found in extra virgin olive oil.  No surprise there.  Olives are also a good, wholesome way to satisfy that salty snack craving that seems to arise at a party about one beer in.

For these Marinated Mixed Olives, I used a mixture of pitted castelvetrano (bright green), kalamata (large purple) and nicoise (small purple), but use any olives that you like (I’m a big fan of meaty-tasting gaetas as well).  I think olives with pits tend to taste better than pitted, but depending on the familiarity of the party guests with one another, you might want to go pit-less.  It can be hard to pick up a dude while spitting an olive pit out of your mouth.  Or so I’ve heard.

marinated olives 2
Marinated Mixed Olives

makes 1 quart

1 quart of olives (I used a mixture of castelvetrano, kalamata and nicoise)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flake, or more to taste
zest from 1 lemon (use a microplane or fine grater)
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons minced thyme
4 garlic cloves

1. Drain the olives from their brine and put the olives in a large bowl.

2. Add the olive oil, chili flake, lemon zest, rosemary and thyme to the bowl. Using the side of your knife blade, smash each garlic clove and peel of the skin and discard. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the bowl and stir everything to combine. Refrigerate and return to room temperature before serving.

These can be served immediately or days later but taste best after one day of marinating.

Mushroom Walnut Pate

When I told my friends that I was starting a blog to share my recipes, the most common response I received was “Can you put recipes on there for SANDWICHES?!?”  Not exactly what I was expecting.

At first, I was worried about those friends that needed explicit directions on how to make a sandwich.  But the more I thought about it, the Sandwich, particularly the Vegetarian Sandwich, is often sadly lacking in style and substance, filled with a few soggy pieces of lettuce and maybe a couple slices of sad, clammy, deli cheese.

But those sad, droopy sandwiches bow down in the presence of this vegan Mushroom Walnut Pate.  It has a meaty, umami taste that’s incredibly rich, considering it has no animal products in it and is mostly lentils and vegetables.  Lentils and walnuts are packed with protein and fiber, so this sandwich will keep you full and energized all afternoon.  It takes about an hour to make, but you’ll have plenty for sandwiches, snacks, and creative leftovers all week.  But it probably won’t last that long.

So friends, here are your sandwich instructions: Make the pate from the recipe below and slather it on toasted whole wheat country bread.  Add green apple slices and fresh arugula for a perfectly balanced, hearty vegetarian sandwich.

Another serving option for this pate is to unmold it and put it on a platter with crackers, crostini or crudite for an hors d’oeuvre.  It’s a real crowd-pleaser since it’s delicious, decadent and figure-friendly.  If you are serving it to a crowd, I would definitely spring for the dry sherry.  It gives the pate an elegant, winey acidity that’s really irreplaceable.  But I’ve also used balsamic vinegar for a similar sweet-tart kick and that’s also quite delicious.

Put any leftover pate to good use by taking a couple tablespoons and stirring them into freshly cooked pasta for a quick mushroom ragu (just add a little pasta water to thin) or add a spoonful to vegetable broth and vegetables to give a mushroomy undertone to a vegetable soup.

I can’t stress enough how phenomenal and addictive this pate is.  I gave my sister a spoonful of it last night, and her response? “OH YES.”

Mushroom Walnut Pate
makes about 3 cups

1 cup Lentils de Puy (French green lentils)
3 cups vegetable stock, preferably unsalted
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 8-10 ounce package of cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons of salt

1. Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a large pot with the vegetable stock and the Herbes de Provence and bay leaf. The stock should be about 2 inches above the lentils; add water if it’s not at that level. Bring up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are fully cooked, about 45 minutes, adding water as necessary. The lentils will retain their shape, but will no longer be hard or gritty on the inside.

2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray, spread out the walnuts and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. They will be slightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

3. Heat up a large saute pan and add the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt until it is soft and golden brown. Then add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and saute until they are brown and much of the liquid has evaporated. The whole mixture should be soft and look caramelized. Then add the dry sherry, using it to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until most of the sherry has evaporated. Then remove from heat.

4. In the food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Then add the cooked lentils (drained from their water and with the bay leaf removed), the mushroom mixture and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add salt until it tastes perfect. Then add two extra pinches of salt. It will taste too salty warm, but once it cools, it will taste perfect again. The palate perceives salt differently in hot and cold food.

5. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan, mold or tupperware and cover with plastic wrap. Then place a similarly-sized container on top and weigh it down to press the pate.  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Invert on a plate to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or spread on bread for your sandwich.