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There’s this great restaurant in Austin that serves blistered, roasted edamame in shells, and another great place that serves steamed spiced edamame. I could snack on either of these versions for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. But when the two come together, and you remove the shell (as delectable as it is to bite it and suck out the bean, savoring the salty starch), you’re left with a snack that feels more like popcorn, and with no shells to clean up!

raw edamame

Roasted edamame is a little crisp on the outside, with that not-quite-burned flavor that makes us love grilled corn on the cob. The papery exterior gives way to a soft, savory explosion when you chew it. It’s seriously fun to eat, but then I’ve always felt that way about edamame. Like its starchy friend, corn, these crisp and tender beans would benefit from a squeeze of lime and a dash of chili powder just as much as they would be elevated by the simplicity of oil and salt, so feel free to experiment with spices and other flavorings.

roasted spiced edamame

The clear winner for me, though, is the salty-spicy cajun seasoning. I made these on a rainy Sunday when I didn’t get out of my pajamas until after 5, and that was just because I was meeting my mom for dinner. I snacked on these while I watched Bones and snuggled with my cats, and didn’t feel the least bit guilty.

Roasted Spiced Edamame

You will need:
1 cup edamame, shelled
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. cajun seasoning, or other flavorful seasoning

Preheat oven to 475.

Toss edamame with oil on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and sprinkle with seasoning.

Roast about thirty minutes, or until edamame are blistered and tender. Serve immediately.

roasted spiced edamame

Today, I’m going to let you peak behind the curtain. I don’t have photos for the hot mess that I’m about to share with you (my hands were covered in curry powder, so pardon me for not running to grab my Canon), but I have a description.

Picture this: a recipe for gingered, curried almonds, the perfect salty/ savory/ spicy snack to add to your gift baskets. A three-pound bag of almonds in your freezer that you bought so long ago, they feel free. You assemble the ingredients: almonds, butter, sugar, and spices, and get to work.

jarred spicy almonds

Guys, I followed the recipe exactly. I don’t know what happened. Or rather, I know what happened, but I don’t understand why it happened. See, the recipe said to add the sugar and spices to the butter and melt it all together for about 5 minutes on the stove, until the sugar dissolved. It was supposed to make a glaze.

Instead (and I’m trying to paint a word picture here, so bear with me), what happened was this: The mixture bubbled and separated. The sugar and spices all clung to one another, refusing to dissolve or emulsify. The butter swirled around, failing to incorporate the spices. Eventually, I took the “glaze” off the heat and poured it over the almonds, hoping that adding in the almonds would mean things would sort themselves out.

spicy almonds, close-up

They. Did. Not.

As I used my hands to toss the almonds with the glaze, the butter separated from the other ingredients even further. It was like the spices and sugar were seeking each other out, eager to huddle together for refuge from the butter and almonds. Eventually, I had buttery almonds and a huge, Play-Doh-like lump of spices in the middle of the pan.

Four years ago, I would have panicked. I would have thrown it all out, cried, and never made roasted almonds again. As it was, I still needed to call in reinforcements to know how to proceed, but I was pretty sure all was not lost. D is a lot better than I am at rescuing that which threatens to be lost, so he helped me redirect this project, suggested a spice mixture, and even suggested an explanation that made this strange paste failure not my fault. (Yes!)

Instead of the original recipe, I wound up with something radically different, but still complex and delicious. And now you all know that what happens on this blog isn’t magic, or even talent. It’s success, over and over again, snatched from the jaws of defeat.

spiced almonds

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Almonds
Makes 2 cups
Note: The chile and cayenne powder measurements are approximations– use more or less to your taste. Don’t be afraid to taste an almond to see what you think you need to do. Feel free to substitute another spicy mixture– curry powder, Thai spices, or pumpkin pie spices would also be great here, even with the cayenne.
Also, I wish I had cooked mine longer, as I really wanted them to be more crisp than they were, but I was afraid of burning them. Use the timing here as a guide, and don’t let the nuts burn, but err on the side of “more done.”

You will need:
2 cups raw almonds
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. chile powder
1 tbsp. cayenne
Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350.

Spread almonds in one layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Roast almonds, dry, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, chile powder, and cayenne in a small bowl and set aside.

Let the almonds cool until they are cool enough to touch. Pour the melted butter over the almonds and toss with a spoon or your hands to coat.

Using a spoon or your hands (I just got messy), sprinkle the almonds with the sugar-spice mixture and toss again. Shake the pan so that the almonds are again in one layer.

Roast another 15-20 minutes, until almonds are dry-ish. Sprinkle with kosher salt while still warm, then let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

Pigs in a blanket

I got my undergraduate degree from the football school to rival all football schools. I’m an Auburn tiger, I bleed orange and blue, and I still keep a copy of the Auburn creed in my wallet. Most fall weekends in the “Loveliest Village on the Plains” were spent preparing for tailgating, tailgating, watching the game, and post-gaming at a bar. I’ll keep to myself how much of this prep work involved jello shots and flasks, but we prepared some real food, too.

Most of us had crock pots, even in our tiny apartments in which we never cooked, so someone always brought some Velveeta-and-Rotel queso and someone else brought Lil Smokies in barbecue sauce. The lazier of us would run to Publix to stock up on every variety of chips we could think of. My roommate would usually make cookies or monkey bread. And someone almost always made pigs in a blanket using the “tiny sausages rolled in canned crescent dough” method.

Pigs in a blanket., uncooked

Pigs in a blanket are addictive. At our tailgate parties, the little hot dogs in bread were the first to go. They are the perfect gameday food: they don’t require plates, napkins, utensils, or condiments. They are tasty hot, room temperature, or even cool. They’re bite-size, so if you don’t want to look like you’re hogging all the food, just hang out near the food table and pop them in your mouth one at a time (as opposed to having to get a plate, make a mountain of tortilla chips, and then spoon several cups of queso onto the chips, making you look like a pig). They are adorable and manly at the same time, unlike cupcakes, which have a similar bite-size appeal but can seem “girly” to men who are concerned with that sort of thing. Everyone likes them (except vegans and vegetarians, but they’re over by the guacamole, so you’ve got less competition anyway).

They even go up-market really well. I was at a very fancy party for D’s work last year, and the passed appetizers consisted of a caprese crostini, polenta triangles, some sort of chicken skewer, and pigs in a blanket. Guess which appetizer was the most popular. About a hundred of us were standing around in cocktail dresses and neckties, holding beverages in real, appropriate stemware, making polite conversation, and eating pigs in a blanket. Pigs in a blanket are never inappropriate– they are the world’s most versatile appetizer.

Pigs in a blanket, uncooked

The crescent-roll method is classic, and I am not denigrating it. But as I’ve aged, I’ve found a slightly fancier, and not really more labor-intensive, way to make pigs in a blanket. The frozen puff pastry makes people think they took more work than they actually did, and the sprinkle of poppy seeds elicits stunned “oohs” and “ahhs” from the bringers of the bags of chips. I’ve made these a few times for potlucks, BYOB-and-side birthday parties, and Superbowls, and they’re always a hit.

Pigs in a blanket, cooked

Fancier Pigs in a Blanket
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 60 pigs in a blanket

You will need:
2 pounds mini hot dogs/ Lil Smokies
1 box (17.5 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Flour, for work surface

Optional:
Sesame or poppy seeds, for garnish
Shredded cheddar cheese
Caramelized onions

If using cheese or onions: Cut each hot dog lengthwise about halfway down– don’t actually cut the hot dog in half. Stuff the hot dog with cheese or onions.

If not using cheese or onions: Poke each hot dog a couple of times with a fork.

Working with one sheet at a time, roll each sheet of puff pastry into an 11″ x 14″ rectangle. Cut lengthwise into  7 equal strips, and cut each strip into 4 equal rectangles.

Working with one rectangle of puff pastry at a time, roll a hot dog in the puff pastry and seal the pastry well. Set aside on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. When you’ve completed this process for all hot dogs, brush all pigs in a blanket with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450. Bake pigs in a blanket for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

These are tasty fresh from the oven, or if you let them cool to room temp. Perfect for gameday!

Pesto Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 2
Note: These roasted tomatoes are delicious on their own, tossed with fresh thyme, basil, or oregano during roasting.

You will need:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 lb. small pasta, such as rotini
1.4 c. pesto
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss tomato halves and garlic with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on a cookie sheet in a 450-degree oven for about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions and drain. Toss pesto, remaining olive oil, and tomatoes with pasta. Serve immediately, topped with parmesan cheese.

You may remember me mentioning my overabundance of basil in my recent post on pesto roasted chicken, and how I mentioned that I made a metric ton of pesto with my zillion cups of basil. I thought I would share my recipe and methodology.

One note about the recipe: The recipe I used called for pine nuts, but you could also substitute walnuts. But whatever you do, please don’t waste five dollars’ worth of pine nuts by toasting them on the stove, looking away for a moment, and burning all of them. My pesto did not contain nuts of any kind (possibly because I made this mistake, but I’ll never tell), and I also omitted the parmesan cheese since I was freezing the pesto. If you’re using pesto fresh, feel free to add parmesan or romano cheese, and experiment with the nuts.

Homemade Pesto
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 1 cup pesto
Note: If you are freezing the pesto, the lemon juice helps keep the basil from oxidizing in the freezer.

You will need:
2 cloves garlic
2 cups washed and dried fresh basil leaves
1/4-1/2 c, olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, process the garlic until minced well. Add basil and a small amount of olive oil, processing until smooth between each addition. Once the basil has all been added, add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Store in the refrigerator up to one week.

To freeze: Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap. Spoon pesto into the tray and freeze. Life plastic wrap from tray and store frozen cubes in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost before using.

If you’re headed to a Memorial Day party and you’re not sure what to bring, make a bowl of this. In fact, quadruple this recipe, just to be on the safe side.

And go easy on the jalapeños… I nearly killed a good friend Friday night because jalapeños are totally in season where I live right now. It’s easier to add than to take away, people.

Homemade Guacamole
Serves 2

You will need:
2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced and seeded (leave the seeds in for more of a kick)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 2 limes
2 large ripe avocados, skinned
Generous handful chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro in a small bowl. Congratulate yourself, because you’ve just made pico de gallo! You won’t use it all, so serve whatever you don’t use alongside the guacamole.

Place the skinned avocados in a larger bowl and mash with a fork. Make a well in the avocados and add several tablespoons of the pico de gallo. Mash well, and add more pico de gallo as desired. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with extra pico de gallo and cilantro. Congratulations, you’ve made delicious guacamole!

Sever with warmed tortilla chips. To warm them, spread onto a baking sheet and heat in oven at 250 for a few minutes. Watch closely so they don’t burn.

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