Day three: Emergency snacks

The phone rings. Guess what? Friends are dropping by. In the next 30 minutes.

This scenario is as common as that little drummer boy during this season of the year. You need a quick snack in your holiday arsenal, and this is a good one. It’s a savory alternative to Christmas cookies, and I often make it for New Year’s Eve munching. I keep the ingredients – including an overgrown rosemary bush – on hand year round.

The recipe is from “The Herbal Kitchen” by Jerry Traunfeld (William Morrow, 2005). Be sure to thoroughly dry the chickpeas on towels, because any water will spatter like mad.

Popcorn Chickpeas

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a strainer. Turn them out onto paper towels or a clean dish towel and pat them dry. Pour the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and toss in teh chickpeas. Cook them for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan often. They won’t really brown, but they’ll turn several shades darker, shrink a bit, and form a light crust. Pour the chickpeas back into the strainer to drain the excess oil and then return them to the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the rosemary and garlic. Stir for another minute or two until the garlic begins to brown. Sprinkle with the salt and a few grindings of pepper. Toss again and pour them into a serving bowl. Serve warm.

Use up more of that rosemary with this cocktail from “The Herbal Kitchen.”

Rosemary Gin Tonic

Makes 1 drink

1 lime wedge

1 3-inch sprig rosemary

2 ounces gin

Tonic water

Lightly crush the lime wedge and rosemary in a 10- to 12-ounce glass with a few strokes of a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon. Pour in the gin. Fill the glass with ice and top off with tonic water. Stir to position the lime and rosemary in the middle of the glass.

Sip and be sustainable

The Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro, N.C. is the group that sponsors the spicy Pittsboro Pepper Festival each year. The organization promotes sustainability, local food, renewable energy, stronger community – all that stuff that makes me feel like I should be wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt as I write this. But these people know food, and have been making those issues taste good for years. And that’s great by me.

Their latest event is coming up on Friday evening, and you can read more about that here. What caught my eye on the menu: the Dogwood Martini. It’s a combination of vodka and – persimmons. It’s the creation of Gary Phillips, a member of the Abundance Foundation board. Phillips is also on the board of Dogwood Alliance, an Asheville, N.C.-based group that promotes sustainable forestry and highlights poor forestry practices. The Friday party is being held in conjunction with Dogwood Alliance to help the two groups work together.

But here’s what you want to know – the Dogwood Martini, courtesy of Gary Phillips: Place 1 tablespoon persimmon puree (Phillips uses fruit from his yard), 2 ounces organic vodka, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until an ice haze permeates the shaker. Strain into a martini or sherry glass.. Top gently with 1 ounce chilled Champagne.

Food News Roundup

There are cold meals for hot days, information on coconut milk and a talk with Poole’s Diner chef Ashley Christensen on her “Iron Chef” appearance in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) today. But the most interesting item for me was the note that A Southern Season, a Chapel Hill, N.C. palace of food delights for more than 35 years, has been sold to a group of local investors. Read more here.  I’ve been wandering its aisles since I was in college, and my roommate and I rode the bus ‘way out from campus to satisfy our rum-cordial chocolate fix.

There is one cold soup that I will not look upon initially with suspicion, and Kathleen Purvis agrees with me. Read her thoughts on gazpacho in The Charlotte Observer, here.

Where else but Asheville? Vegfest, celebrating vegan and vegetarian eating, will be held there on Sunday. Guess you won’t see anyone walking around with the mastodon-sized turkey legs from fairs, but there will be beer – it is Asheville. Read more here.

Speaking of vegetarians, there probably aren’t a lot of them in Louisiana. Tofu boudin – I don’t think so. The Baton Rouge Advocate has a recipe for a tuna burger as a way to liven up the summer burger repertoire here.

Try a Mr. MacGregor’s Spritzer in this article on creative, non-alcoholic mocktails in the Chicago Tribune. No sickly sweet Shirley Temples here.

If you need a kick to your juice – and, with this heat, I sure do – check out the beverage on Green Eats Blog. And if you don’t like that one, here’s another at JanNorris.

Pity the poor restaurant reviewer. No, really. Stop laughing, now. Do you really want to eat out four or five nights a week, and tell your friends what to order….oh, you already do that. Well, read Eatocracy anyway for confessions of restaurant reviewers and a fake name that takes some pop culture knowledge to spot.



Ye olde hot buttered rum

While everyone else looks at today at Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the people at Mount Gay Barbados Rum have decided that Jan. 17 is Hot Buttered Rum Day. Well, if every dog has its day, I guess every beverage must, too.

I’m trying to envision what this old-timey drink would taste like. I imagine warm alcohol covered with an oil slick. And the recipe I found in my 1975 edition of “Joy of Cooking” doesn’t do much to change my mind: Mix 1 teaspoon powdered sugar with 1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup rum and 1 tablespoon butter in a hot tumbler. (Yeah, I have lots of hot tumblers lying around.) Fill the tumbler with boiling water, stir well and sprinkle with grated nutmeg.

A note with the recipe expresses surprise that the Puritans made drinks like this. But if you go to the Colonial Williamsburg site, there’s an outline of the many ways that early American settlers saw alcohol as good for them. From the site: “Colonial Americans, at least many of them, believed alcohol could cure the sick, strengthen the weak, enliven the aged, and generally make the world a better place. They tippled, toasted, sipped, slurped, quaffed, and guzzled from dawn to dark.”

Sounds like a Super Bowl party.

Woo Woo for football

The proper libations are crucial to a successful tailgate, be it at home or on the road. Anyone can buy a six-pack, but it takes a truly dedicated tailgater to open the bar. Jan Odgers of Raleigh, N.C. (a former Ms. Wuf for North Carolina State University, so she’s really a fan) and her husband, Ted, enjoyed a beverage in New Orleans so much that they nagged the recipe out of the bartender. They now serve it at every tailgate. It’s even the right color, if you’re an N.C. State fan.

Obligatory disclaimer here: Don’t be stupid and drink at the wrong time, in the wrong place and to the wrong amount. Check the rules for your tailgate location, and pick a designated driver.

Here’s the Odgers’ recipe for their tailgate treat, the Woo Woo: Into a large glass full of ice, pour 1  1/2 ounces peach schnapps, 1  1/2 ounces vodka and  3  1/2 ounces cranberry juice. Squeeze a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then squeeze the wedge into your Woo Woo.