Friday, July 9, 2010

Things to Keep Around

Have you seen Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer's Delicious Dish spoof of NPR? When I was really young my parents listened to the show that must have been the inspiration for this sketch. It was truly infuriating, listening to this oddly low-key woman discussing the merits of different types of bagels. We couldn't stand her, but listened anyway, just so we could roll our eyes and snort derisively at the inanity. Once she did an entire show on the merits of always keeping a tub of toasted sesame seeds in the house. An entire show! I mocked this episode relentlessly. But I'm old now, very very old - almost 30! - and I'm humiliated to admit that I find I agree with her completely. I adore having large quantities of toasted ingredients on hand whenever I need them. Almond slivers, shredded coconut, and, of course, sesame seeds. Especially sesame seeds. Not only do they come in handy, but boy they sure do smell nice when you're toasting up a big batch on the stove. I reach for these yummy ingredients quite often.

I grab my tub of sesame seeds for one of my favorite munchies: Sesame Soy Snap Peas. I used to stop in at Bryan's, a superior market down the street, when I wanted my fix, but their deli carries them only intermittently, often leaving my craving unfulfilled. And, honsetly, I can eat such embarrassingly large quantities it only made fiscal sense to start making it at home. De-string snap peas, toss them with soy sauce, drizzle with sesame oil, and shake on lots of toasted sesame seeds. Toss it all together and you get a crisp, salty vegetable dish of which I just can't get enough.

Another of my favorites for these nutty little treasures is Sesame Soy Garbanzo Beans. I'm really creative with these names, huh? My mom actually invented this one, though I'm not sure she'd remember. This random combo just stuck with me because I enjoyed it so much the first time. You can use store bought Soy Ginger dressing, but it's so simple to throw together - Smart Balance Mayo or peanut oil, freshly grated ginger (store the roots in the freezer and you don't even have to peel before you grate!), sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar or other sweetener. It's a cinch! Pour over garbanzo beans, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped onion, and, of course, copious amounts of toasted sesame seeds.

Both slivered almonds and toasted coconut add a pick me up to dull salads and cereals. You can toss the almonds in with a batch of green beans or a bowl of crispy napa cabbage slaw, or sprinkle coconut on top of fish tacos or fruit and granola parfaits. They're both so versatile! But there's one dish I find myself making over and over again that uses both: Coconut Curried Brown Rice Salad.

Since I always have brown rice either leftover in the fridge from a Thai outing or in the freezer from Trader Joe's, I make this often and with many variations, depending on what currently occupies my cupboard. Start with 2 cups cooked and chilled brown rice. Into the rice, mix just about any combination of fruits, nuts, and vegetables you desire: toasted coconut shreds, toasted almond slivers, peanuts, or cashews, fresh or dried cranberries, apricots, mango, and/or grapes/raisins, fresh apple chunks, pineapple, or pomegranate seeds, green onion, bell peppers... Get creative! I often even make this with the plan to add shredded chicken breast, but I find I almost always end up sticking to the fruity vegan version. For the dressing, mix about 1/2 cup coconut milk, roughly 1/4-1/3 cup rice vinegar, 1 clove crushed garlic, and curry powder to taste. I've seen recipes call for as little as 1 teaspoon of curry, but I throw in as much as 1 whole tablespoon, so it must be a personal preference thing. I usually go with the light version of the coconut milk to save calories and fat - coconut milk is good for you and all, but with all the coconut curry and Tom Kha I eat, I think I may already surpass the bounds of its nutritional benefits vs. its saturated fat content. In a pinch you can even skip the coconut milk and use oil or SmartBalance mayo, instead. Then it's just "Curried Brown Rice Salad." In this case, I recommend replacing a couple tablespoons of your fat of choice with extra vinegar plus agave nectar or sugar to reclaim lost sweetness.

So now I've become one of those wacky Delicious Dish gals in real life, babbling on and on about toasting vast quantities of ingredients in advance so they're always at the ready. But with so many wonderful things like this to eat, can you blame me?


  1. This was so incredibly helpful! I hadn't thought of your ginger tip. I always end up throwing out the remainder of what I don't use when I store it in the fridge.

    This has made me so hungry... time for ballard food festival.

  2. Great tips & love the post. And Delicious Dish is one of my favorites! Haha.