St. Patrick’s Day Snack ~ Shamrock Whole-Wheat Crackers with Parsley

I’m not Irish, but St. Patrick’s Day is still one of my favorite holidays! I always try to make something fun in the kitchen to celebrate. This year I made a couple of batches of these shamrock-shaped crackers with flecks of parsley for a little added color. (Gotta have a little green on this holiday!) I served mine with an Irish cheddar and Guinness spread to make this snack even more Irish.

Shamrock Whole-Wheat Crackers with Parsley

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling the tops of the crackers

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the flours, parsley, salt, and baking powder to ensure the parsley is very fine. Add the olive oil and water, and pulse until combined. Take the dough out of the processor, and knead a couple of times with your hands until it becomes a cohesive ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 3 portions. Lightly dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with all-purpose flour. Roll out one portion of the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Dust with a little extra flour if it sticks as you roll it. Cut out the crackers into desired shapes. (I used a cookie cutter in the shape of a shamrock for my crackers.) Repeat with the remaining two portions of dough.

Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt on top. Dock the top of the crackers with a fork to ensure they don’t rise and bubble very much as they bake. Bake each tray individually for about 12 minutes, turning once, until the crackers are crisp and lightly golden.

PS. After I took my photos for this blog entry, hubby said the cheese spread was also something delicious I should blog about! So here’s a bonus recipe. 🙂

Irish Cheddar and Guinness Spread

4 ounces sharp Irish cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Guinness stout

Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Process a few minutes, until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Korean Culinary Adventure! ~ Spicy Shrimp and Winter Squash Canapés on Sesame Crackers

My hubby and I visited a Korean restaurant earlier this winter, which sparked my interest in this delicious cuisine! Coincidentally, the Winter Olympics are now in South Korea, so this culinary adventure was well timed! I have made many visits to the Korean grocery store and cooked many traditional recipes this winter to explore the wide range of dishes. We’ve tried everything from japchae to tteokbokki to kalguksu to bibimbap to name a few. And I still have many many other dishes on my wish list that I want to try! A lot of the dishes are hearty and comforting (and spicy!!), so they are the perfect way to liven up our wet and gray winter days here in Seattle.

These little bite-sized appetizers were inspired by this Korean culinary adventure. I made sesame crackers as a base, since sesame seeds and/or oil are used in many traditional recipes I’ve tried. I made a winter squash purée as a seasonal sweet center to contrast with the salty cracker and the spicy shrimp. Then I topped it with shrimp coated in gochujang (Korean spicy pepper paste), sesame oil, and soy sauce. I also added a little gochugaru (Korean spicy pepper flakes) to kick up the heat a little more.

Spicy Shrimp and Winter Squash Canapés on Sesame Crackers

Makes about 25 canapés

For the crackers:

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the tops of the crackers

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

For the squash:

1 butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into approximately 3-inch chunks.

Approximately 1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil, such as rice bran oil

Salt to taste

Water for thinning the purée

For the shrimp:

2 tablespoons gochujang

2 tablespoons warm water

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Gochugaru to taste, optional, (if you like it extra spicy!)

Approximately 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, such as rice bran oil

Approximately 1/2 pound small raw shrimp (I used 70-90), peeled and deveined

For garnish:

The green portion of approximately 4 green onions, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces, sliced into very thin strips

For the crackers:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, seeds, salt, and baking powder. Add the olive oil and water, and stir until combined. Knead the dough until it becomes a cohesive ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 3 portions. One portion at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch. Cut out crackers in desired shapes, or make squares with a pizza wheel. I used a biscuit cutter that was about 2-inches wide.

Place the crackers on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little salt on top. Prick the top of the crackers with a fork to ensure they don’t rise and bubble very much as they bake. Bake each tray individually for about 12 minutes, turning once, until the crackers are crisp and lightly golden.

Set the crackers aside as you work on the squash and shrimp.

For the squash:

Increase your oven temperature to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the pieces of squash with oil and salt until coated. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once, until soft and slightly caramelized.

In the bowl of a food processor, purée the roasted squash. Add a little water if it is too thick. (It should be a consistency that allows you to pipe the purée.) Season with more salt to taste if needed.

Cool the squash purée to room temperature.

Scoop the squash into a piping bag with a large round tip.

Set aside.

For the shrimp:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the gochujang, water, sesame oil, and soy sauce until smooth. Add a pinch of gochugaru if you would like the sauce to be spicier.

Preheat the high-heat cooking oil in a medium sauté pan until shimmering. Add the shrimp, and sauté on both sides until just cooked through. Toss the shrimp in the bowl with the gochujang mixture until well coated.

To assemble:

Pipe a small dollop of squash onto the crackers. Top with 2 shrimp. Top the shrimp with the green onion. Serve immediately.

PS. This appetizer is good warm, room temperature, or cold, so you can make all of the components ahead of time. If you are not assembling the appetizers right away, store the crackers in an airtight container, and refrigerate the squash and the shrimp.

Winter Wonderland ~ Snowflake Wonton Crackers

Remember the paper snowflakes you used to make as a kid? Fold up a piece of paper and cut slits into it. When you open it up again, you end up with a beautiful snowflake! That is the general idea behind these crackers. Let your inner child come out to play this winter with this fun little baking project. 🙂 Bonus: It will warm up your kitchen!

Snowflake Wonton Crackers

Round wonton wrappers

High-heat cooking spray

Salt to taste

Grated Parmesan, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fold each wonton wrapper in half, and then in half again. With a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, cut little slits into the sides of the wrapper. Open the wrapper so it lays flat again. Spray the wrapper with a light coating of cooking spray and gently rub the oil evenly over the surface with your finger. Season with a sprinkling of salt and Parmesan if you would like. Repeat with as many crackers as you desire.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the wonton wrappers are golden brown and crunchy.

 

One more culinary stop in Asia ~ Vietnamese Baby Clams with Sesame Rice Crackers

Baby Clams with Rice CrackersAfter my virtual stop in South Korea to try their famous bibimbap, I decided to try a Vietnamese dish on my next stop. After all, it’s only a 4 ½ hour plane ride from Seoul to Da Nang, so I’ll make a quick culinary visit, just long enough for an appetizer in Vietnam. 😉

This is a dish I order over and over again at one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, so I decided to figure out how to make it at home! Turns out, it is really easy! It just requires two special ingredients from the Asian grocery store. The first is a Vietnamese herb that is sort of like mint or cilantro called rau ram. The pretty little leaves are a little peppery and delicious. I also used black sesame rice crackers on the side to scoop up the clams. They puff up when they are cooked, which is so much fun to watch!

Baby Clams with Rice Crackers

Inspired by a recipe from Danang Cuisine

1 tablespoon safflower oil (or other high heat cooking oil)

2 small shallots, finely sliced

1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced

1 teaspoon fresh chili pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced (I like jalapeño or serrano)

1 garlic clove, minced

5 oz canned baby clams or chopped clams, drained and rinsed (Just try to find an all-natural brand, without any added preservatives)

4 tablespoons (approximately) of rau ram, roughly chopped (Fresh basil also works if you can’t find rau ram)

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-2 sesame rice crackers

Preheat a wok or nonstick pan. Add oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot, add the shallots, and cook until caramelized. Add the lemongrass and chili pepper, and cook until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the clams. Toss until warmed through. Turn off the heat and add rau ram, fish sauce, soy sauce, and black pepper. Toss and serve.

Take one rice cracker and microwave for one minute until puffy. Break into pieces. Serve as a “spoon” with the clams.

Baby Clams with Rice Crackers

Raise some dough for a good cause in a virtual online bake sale

A fellow food blogger at The Tomato Tart came up with a cool idea to raise a little “dough” for a good cause through a virtual online bake sale. All of the proceeds will go to Second Harvest Japan, which is an organization that makes sure perfectly good food that can’t be sold through mainstream stores in Japan make it to the people who need it. (Check out this little video from CNN if you’d like to learn more about the organization.) I am one of the many food bloggers participating in the bake sale. I will be submitting one of my all time favorite recipes from this website…Homemade whole-wheat crackers with tomato, oregano and Parmesan. If you are the highest bidder on March 30th, I’ll make you a big batch and send them your way! There will also be a bunch of other goodies to choose from, so come check out the fun :).  Here is a link to a little article about the bake sale at SF Weekly if you’d like to learn more. I hope you can check it out! 🙂

Our Favorite Homemade Crackers

One of my favorite things to do with my husband is to make homemade crackers. We have a tag team system where I make the dough, he rolls it out and I apply the final toppings. Then we watch a movie while we wait for them to bake, savoring the aroma that wafts through the house. It’s a really cozy way to have a date at home on a cold and rainy night. 🙂

Our Favorite Tomato, Oregano and Parmesan Crackers

1 cup and 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour

¾ cup and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon tomato paste

½ cup and 2 tablespoons water

Grated Parmesan and dried oregano for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together except for the Parmesan and oregano. (I find that kneading it together with my hands is a bit messy, but it works the best.) Then roll out little pieces of the dough as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Place the very thin dough in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will make enough crackers to cover about 6 baking sheets, so we do them in a few separate batches.) Sprinkle the crackers with a little grated Parmesan and dried oregano to taste. Bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on how thin you were able to make the crackers and depending on your oven. (Just watch them very closely because they are easy to burn.) They are done when they are golden and crispy.

I hope you like them as much as we do!