Monday, July 12, 2010

Texture contrasts: soft to crispy

One way to make almost any dish interesting is to make sure it includes ingredients with different textures. I have been impressed with the way Local 127 Chef Stephen Geddes uses crispy accents in almost all of his cooking, including even desserts. Ever since a meal we had at his restaurant a couple of months ago, I've been a lot more aware of texture in cooking.
Of course, flavor contrasts are important, too.
Here's a recipe for a rather addictive Indian snack that marries a lot of contrasting flavors and textures. It's from famed Seattle super-chef Jerry Traunfield, who calls it Spice Crispies.
If you don't have all these spices on hand, you can buy small amounts at many spice-specialty stores. (In Cincinnati, there's a great spices store inside Findlay Market.)

Recipe: Spice Crispies (Makes about 4 servings; can be doubled)
2 cups puffed rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
1/4 cup roasted cashews, unsalted
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted
1/4 cup wide coconut flakes
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 T peanut oil
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
4 large bay leaves
3 T light corn syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss together the cereal, nuts, coconut flakes and raisins.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan, just until it starts to shimmer. Add the mustard seed and cook until the seeds begin to pop, about one minute.
Add the next four ingredients (fennel through bay leaves) and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
Immediately drizzle the oil and spice mixture over the cereal, tossing to coat well.
Spread onto the baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the nuts are golden. (Your kitchen will smell amazing.)
Transfer to a bowl and serve.
You can also place the completed dish into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to four days.

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