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sweet & spicy

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Spicy Heirloom Carrot Thai Salad

Back in May we ordered four thai bird chili seedlings on Amazon.  A few weeks later we received a USPS box stuffed with styrofoam squiggles and four tiny plants that could fit in the palm of my hand. They were so small and frail looking we weren’t sure we’d be able to keep them alive.

Not only did they survive, but they got huge! They even made it through our month long trip to Asia totally unattended on our balcony. They’re surprisingly hearty little plants…and so so spicy.

So now we have four giant Thai chili plants that provide more chilis than we know what to do with. I’m always trying to think of ways to incorporate them into our meals.

P1140487This past weekend we picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and carrots from the farmers market. The tomatoes became a Heirloom Tomato Tart with Gruyère & Thyme. I wanted to do something with the carrots that would keep them front and centre while also highlighting their beautiful colours. A soup would have blended all the colours together and roasting seemed sort of boring.

I was picturing beautiful ribbons or spirals of carrot but wasn’t sure what would go with them. To cook or not to cook? I decided to leave them raw in all their natural glory in a spicy Thai peanut dressing made with none other than our abundant chili harvest.

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I used a veggie spiralizer for the carrots. You could also use a vegetable peeler and run it down the carrots to make ribbons. I think that might work better because the spiralizer doesn’t do very well with smaller narrower vegetables so it wasn’t able to get through a lot of the carrot. My vegetable peeler has a serrated blade (for some reason) which would have created a ridged effect on the carrot ribbons that I didn’t really want. I also tried using a mandolin but that made very straight julienne like carrots, rather than curly spirals. So, your best bet is a vegetable peeler or a veggie spiralizer if you don’t mind some carrot by-product. I’m going to roast the remaining carrot later today and make a curry soup.

I probably used 6-8 chilis for about 2 servings. I removed the stems, sliced them thinly and removed the seeds to reduce the spice while keeping the flavour. Between spiralling, slicing, and making the dressing the whole dish took less than 20 minutes. It made a great lunch but would be good for dinner too with some protein on top. Also, simply omit the sugar to make it paleo. Peanuts are apparently not paleo and I don’t think this would be much of a dressing without them so turns out the sugar isn’t the only problem….apologies paleo eaters!

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Ingredients

450 grams / 1 lb spiralized/ribboned/julienned heirloom carrots

6-8 Thai bird chilis, sliced and seeded

2 TBSP peanut butter

1 TBSP palm sugar or brown sugar

Juice of one lime

1 TBSP fish sauce

1 clove garlic (mashed)

1 cm cube of fresh ginger (mashed)

3-4 TBSP hot water

2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro

Fresh slices lime, chopped cilantro and peanuts for garnish (optional)

 

Method

Spiralize carrots with a veggie spiralizer or ribbon by running a vegetable peeler down them to create long strips. You can also julienne if you don’t have the other tools but it’s not ideal. Put the finished carrots in a bowl.

Slice and seed the chilis (or don’t – it’s up to you how much spice you like). Add to the bowl with the carrots.

In another smaller bowl combine the peanut butter, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, mashed garlic and ginger, and enough hot water to make them all blend together. For me it was 4 TBSP but do one at a time and see how it looks, you don’t want it to be watery.

Pour the sauce over the carrots, toss until coated. Sprinkle in cilantro and toss again. Garnish to your liking.

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Spicy Double Chocolate Mexican Cookies

Around this time last year I made a few different kinds of cookies that Bogdan took to work. Honestly, these chill-chocolate cookies were included as sort of a last minute afterthought. Now, a year later, I had to really dig deep to remember the other types because the chocolate-chili Mexican cookies were by far the crowd favourite. You see those ones on the end? They’re cream cheese frosted pumpkin spice cookies. The ones on the other side are lemon & walnut shortbread. I still don’t get why the chili-chocolate were so much more popular!

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I’m noticing more and more lately that people won’t necessarily be impressed by whatever I think is most exciting. For example, a little while ago I posted my Harvest Biryani With Chickpeas, Dried Cranberries, and Pepitas and my Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oat Brûlée (again, as an afterthought) at the same time on Instagram (see my feed to the right!). I thought people would like the Harvest Biryani way more…the pictures were striking, it had much more going on and was (relatively) a bit more complex than the Oat Brûlée.

Wrong.

The Oat Brûlée was way more popular.

Back to a year ago. There were a few requests for this recipe at the time. One, in particular, was from one of Bogdan’s co-workers. Bogdan reminded me so.many.times.  The conditions just weren’t ever right: I was in exams, I didn’t have the right vanilla, or cocoa powder…it was summer and too hot to bake spicy chocolate cookies….

Finally, a whole year later, this post is dedicated to you, patient coworker. I’m sorry for delay but it had to be perfect!

I changed the recipe up a bit to make the cookies a little more moist. The chocolate is now inside of them instead of on top but you could easily drizzle more chocolate on top if you like. Also, I used white and bitter-sweet chocolate because it was what I had on hand. I think if I were to do this again I would try bitter-sweet and milk chocolate. Up to you how you do it. The white was really good too.

These cookies are really chocolatey and fudgey with enough spice to really make them pop. I also recently picked up some Vietnamese cinnamon from the girls at Dirty Girl Farm. It has a very bright and rich cinnamon flavour compared to conventional cinnamon. Makes a big difference. Definitely recommended if you can get your hands on some.Ingredients

115 grams / 4 oz / 8 TBSP (one stick) salted butter (softened)

64 grams / 2.25 oz / 1/2 cup granulated sugar

32 grams / 1.12 oz / 1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (my go-to is vanilla bean paste)

1 egg

160 grams / 5.6 oz / 1 + 1/4 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

32 grams / 2oz / 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

90 grams / 3 oz / 1/2 cup each of white & bitter-sweet chocolate chips

1.5 tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cinnamon (my favourite is Vietnamese cinnamon)

32 grams / 1 oz / 2 TBSP granulated sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon for edges (optional)

 

Method

In a large bowl cream together the softened butter and sugars until smooth.

Add egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt.

Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until incorporated.

Add the chocolate chips and mix.

The dough should be chilled before baking. I recommend taking out a sheet of plastic wrap, piling your dough on in a rough log shape and then fold over the plastic wrap and shape it into a nicer log. Place in freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Mix the cinnamon sugar to coat the edges on a plate and then remove the log from the freezer. Slice into 1 cm thick pieces and run the edges through the cinnamon sugar, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You can also cut the log first into larger pieces and run the entire thing over the cinnamon sugar and then cut into 1 cm thick segments. Up to you.

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Bake for about 10 minutes or until the centres of the cookies are still soft but not jiggly. The ideal amount of time for me is 10 minutes for fudgey soft cookies, but conditions can be different so keep an eye on them the first time you make them. If you prefer your cookies crisp bake an additional 2-3 minutes. I also like to bake a test cookie before baking all of them just to make sure it’s to my liking. You could start with less spice, bake a test cookie, and add more if you wanted. If you do bake a test cookie just remember that the cooking time will be different for one cookies versus an entire pan full. Reduce time by 1-2 minutes.

PS: Bogdan’s favourite joke now is that he has to put in requests for things a year in advance. Ha ha.

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Soft & Chewy Spiced White Chocolate & Pumpkin Seed Cookies

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soft. chewy. crunchy. sweet. salty. spicy. chocolatey. warm. mouthwatering. totally perfect.

These cookies are ah-mazing. Think of a cross between a ginger snap and a white chocolate macadamia nut. I tested the recipe 3-4 times over the course of a week to get it just right. Friends and family were my willing guinea pigs and they absolutely loved these cookies. There’s a bit of extra salt to counter the sweet and the spice and I think that’s what makes them so good.

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Complexity is my goal with baked goods. I always use salted butter in sweet baked goods and then add pinch or two more because it compliments the sweetness so beautifully. As far as desserts go, there are few things worse for me than cloyingly sweet desserts with nothing to balance the sweetness. Those are one note wonders. The mark of really good homemade baked goods is exactly that – they aren’t just sweet. These cookies have such amazing flavours from authentic vietnamese cinnamon, fresh ginger and spicy cayenne combined with sweet white chocolate and salty roasted pumpkin seeds.

Please just trust me and make these for your next fall get together. Everyone will love them and you.

On a related note, I picked up some Vietnamese cinnamon recently and I’m totally obsessed. It has a noticeably different flavour from conventional cinnamon. The only way I can describe it is that it tastes more like a cinnamon heart and less like apple pie (but not at all in a processed candy heart kind of way!). If you can get your hands on some it’s definitely a must-try for your fall baking.

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Ingredients

115 grams / 4 oz / 8 TBSP (one stick) salted butter (softened)

64 grams / 2.25 oz / 1/2 cup granulated sugar

32 grams / 1.12 oz / 1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla extract (my go-to is vanilla bean paste)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

210 grams / 7.4 oz / 1.5 cups plus 2 TBSP AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Generous pinch of salt (I used about 1/2 tsp) + more for topping (kosher is especially nice if you have it)

60 grams / 2 oz  / 1/2 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds plus an additional 30 grams / 1 oz / 1/4 cup for topping

130 grams / 4.6 oz / 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

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Method

In a large bowl cream together the softened butter and sugars until smooth.

Add egg, vanilla and ginger and mix until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until incorporated.

Add the pumpkin seeds and white chocolate and mix.

The dough should ideally be chilled before baking. I recommend forming balls before chilling because it’s a little easier. This recipe makes about one dozen average sized cookies or 10 large ones. Form balls and stack on a plate with parchment paper in between then place in freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the centres of the cookies are still soft but not jiggly. For me the perfect time is 10 minutes but conditions can be different so keep an eye on them the first time you make them. For me 10 minutes makes soft and chewy cookies. If you prefer your cookies crisp bake an additional 2-3 minutes. I also like to bake a test cookie before baking all of them. If you do the same just remember that the cooking time will be different for one cookies versus an entire pan full.

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Honey & Chile de Árbol Skillet Cornbread

Usually whenever I want cornbread I just toss a few things in a blender and it’s done in about five minutes. This particular iteration of my many five minute cornbreads was absolutely perfect. It had a great sweet to spice balance and was just moist enough. I made it to go with frijoles borrachos – in case you’re interested. Best part is how fast it is.

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Ingredients 

2 cups cornmeal (I used medium ground like for polenta)

1 tsp baking powder

1.5 – 2 cups yogurt/buttermilk/kefir (enough to make a batter that pours)

1 egg

1/3 cup softened salted butter + 1 pad for buttering the top of the finished cornbread

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup of corn (frozen is fine)

Dried chile de árbol, seeds removed (use however many you can handle – I used 5 or 6 small ones and it was perfect for me.)

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Method

I usually just toss everything in my mini blender and it’s good to go but because this recipe has corn in it too I removed the batter to a bowl where I added the corn and mixed with a spatula. If you want to be precise about it you can mix wet ingredients first, then dry and pour the wet into the dry. However, I don’t see the point of dirtying more dishes when it isn’t necessary.

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If you aren’t using a mini blender or food processor I recommend you dice up your chile however fine you want it (ideally very fine) before adding it…in case that isn’t obvious.

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Bake at 400 F / 200 C for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 325 F / 160 C and bake an additional 5 minutes. The reason for this is that you want to achieve a solid centre without burnt edges.

Remove from oven and butter the top. Slice and serve with honey butter if you want to do things right.

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