Day of Unusual Snacks

Today I have a cold. A massive, awful, requiring-of-medication cold. Not only that, but there’s an unnerving ice storm going on outside that, according to the weather channel, will continue in various iterations until Monday at 4 pm. Yes, I made stock (beef). Yes, I made soup (split pea-lettuce). Yes, I made GALLONS of tea (lemon-ginger). All of these things are good for colds/days-of-inclement-weather. For some reason, though, I really needed something more, something that I could indulge myself with. I ended up making two rather involved snacks.

I’m not usually one for finicky prepared snacks; if anything I go for hastily sliced cheese or arm-long celery stalks out of the crisper. I don’t know what possessed me on a day when I felt so horrid, but I spent considerable time hovering over the stove and wrestling with implements, resulting in 1. popcorn with browned butter and orange zest and chocolate, and 2. homemade toasted soynut butter.

The popcorn recipe is one I had first noticed on seeing an episode of Michael Chiarello’s show on the Food Network. I’m addicted to Nigella Lawson in any form, and her latest show is broadcast at noon on Sundays; if I’m not at work, I never miss it. Chiarello’s show follows immediately after, and through complete laziness and sloth, sometimes I watch at least part of it, too. I don’t remember anything about that particular episode as a whole, but I do remember the popcorn. I was captivated by the idea of coating popcorn with browned butter (and intrigued by Chiarello’s tips on browning the butter without burning it), feathery shavings of orange rind zested on the spot, and chocolate grated with the same implement.

Teacherman stirred furiously while I zested the chocolate and watched the popcorn become slowly covered with melted flecks. It was the perfect snack food. The popcorn absorbed the butter, the chocolate set almost hard and the orange breathed in the background of every bite we took. It wasn’t too messy, but I still wimped out and ate it with a spoon.

Later, digging through our chest freezer to find one of my myriad bags of summer-frozen fruit, I happened upon half a package of soy flour, bought for a recipe I made nearly a year ago. I stood there, the freezer open and icicles developing on my sleeves (not that our back porch needs help in that regard, even though it’s enclosed), and remembered the soynut butter that I used to buy before the ingredient list started making me nervous. Why couldn’t I make soynut butter at home? I knew I couldn’t just grind it the way I do nuts, but there had to be some way.

I bundled the soy flour on top of my bag of rhubarb and carried it back to the kitchen. I threw about a cup of it into a big nonstick pan and stirred it over lowish heat until it started smelling toasty. I will gloss over the part where my medicine-head made me stare out the window at nothing, my stirring hand immobile until I returned to reality, shrieked and whisked the pan off the stove.

I added 2 Tbsp of roasted peanut oil (one of the best things ever invented, by the way, and I curse the day the nearby health food store stopped stocking it), an enormous splash of water and an equal amount of flavored coffee syrup. (That is, syrup for flavoring coffee with, not coffee-flavored syrup. This particular syrup was hazelnut-flavored). It was quite, quite lovely, and tasted much nicer than the store-bought variety; the sweetness is subtle, the toastiness rounds out the flavor and the texture is more like a real nut butter than the terrifying emulsification of the jarred. I don’t think I’d make this every weekend in order to have a continuous supply in the fridge, but a soft, sweet spoonful is a comforting indulgence for a snowy weekend with a cold.

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Published in: on February 24, 2007 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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