A Sicilian Snack Via Scotland
The trendy Leith neighborhood of Edinburgh, Scotland, is better known for its abundance of pubs, but as of recently you also can grab excellent Sicilian snacks to go with your pint of lager. Sicilian native Michele Russo uses imported ingredients to make a wide array of nut and seed brittles, which he sells from a streetside stand called Tipico Handmade Sweets. Our favorite was the nutty-savory-sweet toasted chickpea brittle. Russo’s products aren’t available in the U.S., but it’s easy to make your own. In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine 1 cup white sugar and 2 tablespoons each honey and water. When it bubbles, stir once, then cook without stirring until deep mahogany brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, fold in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 6 ounces (about 2 cups) roasted, salted chickpea snacks (sold bagged in the snack aisle). Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray, pressing it evenly. Cool completely, then invert onto a cutting board and break into chunks.
A Safer Way to Slice
While exploring the kitchen shops of Buenos Aires, we discovered a safer, faster way to get paper-thin slices of garlic and fresh ginger. The German-made Leifheit Comfortline Gourmet Cutter resembles a small, handheld canister that twists. Insert peeled garlic cloves or a knob of ginger, then turn the top. Shavings so thin they are nearly transparent fall from the bottom. It’s best for garlic and ginger you intend to use raw or only barely cook, as the slices would scorch quickly. Available on Amazon for about $12.
A Better Salted Cocktail
Salting the rim of the glass is an old-school way of adding a pop of flavor to a margarita. But in Edinburgh, Scotland, we recently discovered a fresh interpretation. At Lady Libertine, a cozily lit cocktail bar, the Fourteen Autumns (tequila, rhubarb syrup, Campari and sherry) was served in a rocks glass dusted with a blend of tangy red sumac and salt. It added a bright, citrusy flavor to the drink that had us licking the side of the glass. To make, in an electric spice grinder combine 1 teaspoon ground sumac, 1 teaspoon white sugar and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Grind for 15 to 20 seconds, until reduced to a red-flecked fine powder. To use, spread on a plate, wet the rim of an empty cocktail glass, then overturn it into the sumac mixture to coat the rim. Its lightly sweet-sour flavor makes it an excellent choice for tequila-based cocktails.
Drizzling Butter? There's a Pot for That
In India, the finishing flourish of many dishes is whole spices that are bloomed in hot fat, such as oil or ghee. The process, called tarka or tadka, draws out the flavors of the spices to infuse the fat and permeate the dish. While this can be done in any small saucepan or skillet, in Mumbai we found specially designed tadka pots. The small pots are made from anodized aluminum and heat quickly and pour easily. For tarka recipes, see 177milkstreet .com/tarka. The pots are available in a variety of designs and sizes on Amazon starting at around $10.
Drizzle the Savory Side of Honey
Turmeric is used liberally in the cooking of India, adding delicious tannic-earthy flavors to vegetables and meats. Turns out it pairs well with sweets, too. In a Mumbai gourmet shop, we discovered jars of Sprig Curcumin Imbued Honey, which has a rich, lightly savory flavor we were happy to eat by the spoon, or drizzle over vanilla ice cream, aged cheeses, sliced melon or deeply roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower. Sprig’s honeys aren’t available in the U.S., but you can make your own by mixing together 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and ½ cup honey. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Color-Changing Chilled Tea
For centuries, electric-blue beverages—not to mention a fair amount of similarly hued food—have been staples of Southeast Asian cooking. Credit goes to the dried flowers of the butterfly pea plant, which are used to add a delicate floral flavor and intense color to drinks and foods. They are particularly good in the lightly sweet Thai chilled tea called nam dok anchan. We found the taste refreshing, and we enjoyed watching the acid-sensitive tea change from blue to vibrant violet when the lemon juice is added. To make, pour 4 cups boiling water over 3 heaping tablespoons dried butterfly pea flowers. Stir in 1 tablespoon white sugar and steep until deep blue, 4 to 5 minutes. Strain into a clean container and refrigerate. Divide among four ice-filled collins glasses, add a squirt of lemon, then watch the color change. A 30-gram bag sells for $14.50 on bluechai.com