I resently found myself reading an article in the Bangkok Post entitled “Yes, adults can have chocolate for breakfast” by my favorite NY Times food columnist Melissa Clark. Well, yes indeed…why not? I was in the kitchen early the following morning cooking up Melissa’s recipe which turned out exactly as described and, as always, was absolutely delicious.
In the article Melissa cuts right to the chase. “…there will always be something grey and Dickensian about a bowl of morning porridge. ” Who hasn’t had those very same thoughts while stirring and peering into the saucepan of simmering opaque pasty grey oatmeal. “Unless that is you add chocolate.” There is the game changer!
The idea of mixing grain with chocolate has been around since the Maya and Aztecs’ invented atole. Atole is a warm gruel made with corn based masa harina (corn meal/ flour) flavored with chocolate, panela (unrefined cane sugar), and canella (cinnamon). That said, a chocolate oatmeal is still a bit of a revelation that turns oatmeal into a much more enticing prospect for breakfast along with some added health benefits a well. Unsweetened cocoa powder is naturally fat free and loaded with antioxidants. Just try to keep the sweetener of choice to a minimum. Bitter sweet is better than too sweet!
Before continuing, a quick rundown on oats available for making oatmeal. There are steel cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oats. Steel cut means the whole oat groat is cut into smaller pieces. It resembles rice and will have a pronounced bite when cooked.For rolled oats, the whole oat groats are steamed and then rolled to flatten them. Rolled oats will cook faster while still retaining a bite. Quick, or instant, oats are precooked groats that are dried, and rolled. They cook faster, but most of the texture is lost in the process.The cooked quick oatmeal tends to be mushy.
Melisssa’s recipe calls for steel cut oats, but rolled oats are more readily available and work just fine with a slightly shortened cooking time.
To read Melissa Clark’s article and recipe (click here)
Brown Butter Chocolate Oatmeal (Recipe; Melissa Clark, NY Times) makes 4 servings
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups steel-cut oats
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 4 1/2 cups water, or 2 1/4 cups water and 2 1/4 cups milk
- Raw sugar, honey or maple syrup to taste
Cream, milk or coconut milk
- Flaky sea salt
- Sliced bananas
- Shredded coconut
- Sliced dates
- Sliced avocado
1 In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Let cook, swirling occasionally, until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty, 2 to 4 minutes. You’ll know it’s close when the bubbling quiets down as the moisture cooks off. Add oats and saute until they turn golden at the edges, 2 to 4 minutes. Scrape the sauted buttered oats into a bowl and reserve.
2 To the same pot (no need to rinse it out first) add 4 ½ cups water (or half water and half milk) and bring to a boil. Add the cocoa powder and whisk well to dissolve lumps. Whisk in buttered oats and salt.
3 Lower to a gentle simmer. Let cook stirring occasionally until the oatmeal begins to thicken, Then stir more frequently until done to taste, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for 5 minutes. Check the thickness, thin with boiling water if needed. Stir in sweetener to taste and serve with toppings of your choice.
Now days Nochos are as much American as they are Mexican. The story of Nachos began in 1943 in the Mexican town of Pedros Negras across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. There is where Ignasio “Nacho” Anaya invented Nachos, nacho being the diminutive of Ignasio. By the 1950’s Ignacio’s creation spread across the US and Mex-Tex food became as American as apple pie.
And who doesn’t love nachos! Well, even today nachos can be a bit baffling for the uninitiated living beyond the Americas. Visually nachos do look like a “mash up” and then there is the challenge of how to eat them. With your hands… of course! With that all inhibitions are off the table and the fun begins. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love nachos.
Nachos have many incarnations and can veer well beyond the Ignacio’s original idea. Fast food joints are notorious for drowning the whole affair with a lava flow of processed cheese and mountains of faux sour cream.
My advice is to choose your ingredients with consideration so that that each ingredient’s flavor is complimentary, identifiable, and does justice to Ignasio’s original concept. Less is more makes all the difference here.
The recipe that follows does require the gathering together of several preparations made in advance, but there are some shortcuts. Mexican chorizo is readily available where there are Mexican communities and canned beans can be used in lieu of cooking them yourself. I highly recommend splurging on the corn tortilla chips and cheese. For this recipe I have used Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn chips and Spanish Queso Manchego cheese. Queso Manchego is a semi hard sheep milk cheese from the arid plateau of La Mancha in central Spain with fruity, grassy, and tangy notes. It shaves beautifully and well worth a try.
Nachos can be served with drinks, as a snack, or even as a main course as I often do. I assure you nachos will become an all time favorite with friends and family and they will love you for all your efforts!
See sourcing tips in Chiang Mai below.
Blue Corn Nachos with Mexican Chorizo
- 1 teaspoon cold pressed peanut oil
- blue or yellow corn chips
- refried beans, warmed (see recipe here)
- Mexican chorizo warmed (see recipe here)
- Monchego cheese, thinly shaved (or other)
- sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
- flame roasted tomato salsa (see recipe here)
Have ready a cast iron comal (grilling platter) or skillet.
preheat oven to 350f/180c
Lightly oil the cast iron platter or skillet. Arrange a layer of corn chips over the bottom of the platter and add a second layer of chips crisscrossing the first layer.
Spoon the refried beans here and there over the corn chips.
Generously spoon the chorizo over the chips and beans.
Distribute the shaved cheese over all.
Transfer the platter to the oven and heat for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is just melted.
Remove from the oven and add dollops of sour cream or Greek Yogurt over the nachos.
Serve with the flame roasted tomato salsa which pulls all the flavors together!
Sourcing tips for those of you who live in Chiang Mai
For those of you who don’t have a cast iron comal or skillet, Rimping at Promenada have stocked a rugged looking skillet that looks perfectly functional at just under 1000 Baht!
Top’s Market has a full selection of Garden of Eatin” organic corn chips and well worth the 115 Baht.
Rimping Markets carry El Charro Nacho Chips which are made with stone ground masa. They are the real thing and made in Thailand.
Canned beans are available at Top’s Markets and Rimping Markets. Rimping at Maya has recently added black beans to their selection!
For an an alternate cheese source check out Wine Connection’s retail cheeses and meats. They often have cheeses that are not available at other retailers and their prices are generally cheaper.
Paul’s Cold Pressed Peanut Oil is available at Rimping Markets. Wonderful peanut flavor and the perfect substitute for lard when cooking Mexican food
Summer’s soaring heat has already arrived here in Thailand so it’s timely to think about cooling it down in the kitchen with some easy summertime chilled favorites.
You can call me old fashioned, but what came to mind where a couple of dog days of summer lunchtime favorites that my mother used to make up for us when we were kids. Egg and olive sandwiches, pickled watermelon rind, and a tall pitcher of lemon iced tea were all set out on the old Victorian oak kitchen table where lunchtime was always peppered with lots of chatter and wild laughter. Lunch was then topped off with strawberry ice cream cones for all! An hour later we were all running off to the creek for a swim. Those were the halcyon days of summers past!
With the glow of those summer days on my mind I couldn’t help thinking about how beautiful the forms and colors of the ingredients are as I gathered them together while recalling the recipe as I remember it to be. Cooking does have this wonderful narrative that captures your imagination as you work from garden to table. You may well have your very own favorite recipe for an egg and olive sandwich What ever the case, this is a sandwich that may have fallen through the cracks of time, but it is a splendid old time favorite that is well worth a deserved revival.
Egg & Olive Sandwich makes 3 to 4
- sliced white bread (or my preference panini), lightly toasted
- 4 hard boiled organic eggs
- 8 pimento stuffed olives, sliced into thin rounds
- 1/3 cup finely diced young tender celery (or Chinese celery; not to be confused with coriander/cilantro)
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced broad leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise + more for spreading
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- sea salt to taste
- several twists of ground white pepper
- iceberg lettuce
As mentioned my alternative for white bread is panini, which I like for its soft billowy texture and slight scent of olive oil.
I have used Chinese celery as blanched young celery is not available in Thailand.
Place the eggs in a saucepan and add water to cover the eggs. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 10 minutes. This will insure that the yolks are soft.
Fill a bowl with water and add ice cubes. After simmering for 10 minutes, promptly transfer the eggs to the iced water bath.
When cool enough to handle, lightly bash the eggs and peel off the shells under cold running water and set aside.
Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks and gently chop them. Place them in a small bowl and set aside.
Slice the egg whites lengthwise and then slice into thirds crosswise and place in another bowl. Add the sliced olives, celery, and parsley and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon Mustard, and salt and pepper. Whisk together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings to you liking.
Add the mayonnaise mixture to the bowl with the egg whites, olives, celery, and parsley and fold the mixture together until evenly coated.
Add the chopped egg yolks to the bowl and gently fold them in with out breaking them up if possible.
Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready to make the sandwiches.
To assemble the sandwiches lightly toast the bread or panini slices. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the slices. Place iceberg lettuce on half the slices and top with the egg & olive salad mixture. Top with the remaining bread slice and serve.
As suggested serve with pickled watermelon rind (see recipe here) or pickles of choice.
…and don’t forget the strawberry ice cream cones afterwords!
Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin)…Kung hei fat choi (Cantonese)….a happy and prosperous lunar new year from my kitchen to yours!
The recipe that follows is probably more a figment of my imagination or a recreation of a dish I vaguely recall from the distant past. I am of course not Chinese and make no claims for the authenticity of this recipe other than than to say it is one of my favorite Chinese inspired cold weather quick meals using lap cheong (Cantonese)/ la chang (Mandarin)/ Gun chiang (Thai), a dry Chinese sausage with a sweet and spiced flavor as the main ingredient. The aroma and warming flavors of this dish are sure to sooth away any of winter’s biting chill.
Braised Chinese Sausage with Glass Noodles serves 4
Have on hand a lidded ceramic baking casserole.
Preheat to oven to 350f/180c
- 3-4 dry Chinese sausages
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced batons of young ginger
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 2 cups thinly sliced bok choy (or green cabbage)
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth (heated)
- 6 oz/180g dry glass rice noodles (rice vermicelli)
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (wu xiang fen) (see note)
- fresh ground toasted Sichuan pepper (hua jiao) to taste
Prick the sausages all over with a wooden skewer and place them in a large skillet along with about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the sausages and set aside to cool. Discard the cooking water.
When the sausage is cool enough to handle thinly slice it on the diagonal and set aside.
Return the skillet to the stove set over medium heat. When hot add the oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the onions, garlic, and ginger and saute while continuously stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the Shaoxing rice wine and saute until it is nearly evaporated. Add the bok choy (or cabbage) and the sliced sausage and cook until the bok choy is wilted. Promptly add the hot broth and stir in the rice noodles. Then stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, 5 spice powder, and Sichuan pepper to taste. Cook until the noodles are wilted, about 1 minute.
Transfer the mixture to the baking casserole and cover with the lid. Place in the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until most of the broth has been absorbed and the noodles are lightly browned around the edges.
Remove from the oven and serve in individual bowls!
Note: Five Spice Powder (wu xiang fen) is a seasoning mix of ground star anise, ground cassia bark (cinnamon), ground Sichuan pepper corns, ground fennel seeds, and ground ginger. There is no set recipe but equal parts of each ingredient works well. You can adjust the mix to suit your own tastes as well.