Saturday, November 3, 2007

NIBBLE, Nibble, nibble...

When everything else in the world (mid-terms anyone?) seems pretty "blah" and boring, bold flavors and spices can give a special boost to all the monotony. Though a lover of peace and soothing silence, sometimes I get the need to randomly sing bad songs 8 octaves higher or pretend to do the moonwalk with my slippers on a bamboo mat. These quirks might make a stranger run for the door, but it somehow keeps my insanity in check and makes me remember that I'm alive. Also, as I am in the 20s range of the life-spectrum, my mom always tells me, "It only goes down hill from here". So, since living is so short, why not add a little bit of fun?

That's why I decided to make something I've never made before: chutney

However, the catch was that I needed to use what I had on hand: mainly onions. Most of the recipes I had researched on chutney used raw onions, but as much as I can take a kick from some strong flavors, raw onions would be more like a jack hammer being slammed into my face. Nevertheless, determined to try something new, I persevered and decided to mix various aspects of different chutney recipes to create my own rendition. It's not traditional by any means, but it's quite delicious.

I caramelized the onions, mellowing the flavors to reveal their deeply sweet undertones. Red pepper flakes with a dusting of curry powder and cardamom countered the sweetness, but only to find harmony within a splash of tangy vinegar. With the chewiness of chopped dried cranberries, the chutney was reminiscent of all the Indian foods I've cherished, yet still had a hint of myself in it.

Caramelized Onion chutney on Walnut toast with mozzarella

3 medium onions
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cardamom (or mixture of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg)
1/2 tsp dried basil (add 1 tsp of fresh basil if that's what you have on hand)
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
3 tbsp red wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have on hand)
1/4 c dried cranberries
1 loaf walnut bread
1 medium-sized ball of fresh mozzarella (or a mild cheese that melts well)
2 tbsp olive oil for bread

Equipment: knife, cutting board, sautée pan, spatula, baking sheet, stove with oven and broiler

Slice the onions into half pieces. From there, slice them into thin 1/2-1cm slivers.

Chop the dried cranberries into small dices, set aside.

Heat the pan over medium heat with olive oil. Add all the onions when the pan is hot enough for the onions to sizzle.

Add all the spices (salt&pepper, pepper flakes, curry and cardamom)

Fry the onions for 1 min, and then put the pan on medium-low heat. Let the onions cook slowly and stir occasionally over 7-10 min or until the onions are golden brown and soft.
-Do not let the onions fry because they will get black and pretty darn untasty.
-You want a gentle sizzling sound as they're caramelizing.

Set the stove to medium high heat.

Add the vinegar and stir the onions together until the vinegar's liquid has been soaked into the onions and there is no extra liquid coming out (~2-3 min)
-Warning: Don't put your nostrils anywhere over the onions when you add the vinegar. Unless you have a high tolerance for intense scents or you've got a major case of congestion, this will wipe your sinuses clean!

Add the cranberries and cook for 1 min to let them warm.

The beauty of chutney is that you can eat it however you please to eat it. Be it as a tasty garnish on top of grilled meat or like me, as a great nibble when your mouth gets a little bored and your tummy is starting to whine.

For the nibbles:

Slice a loaf of walnut bread into crostini (think mini toast) sized pieces.

Slice a ball of fresh mozzarella (or whatever mild flavor cheese you prefer) into slices that accommodate the amount of toasts.

With 2 tbsp of olive oil, brush each side of the bread (just use a spoon- ladle oil and spread) and place on a baking sheet.

Set the oven to broil and place the bread slices. Be wary and watchful as each broiler has different intensities and the closer your bread is to the broiler, the faster it toasts. My bread took 1.5 min to toast, so aim to check your bread at the 1 min mark.

Flip the toasted sides with the untoasted sides and place in broiler to toast again.

Once toasted, place a helping of the chutney and top it off with a slice of cheese.

Return the bread to the broiler and take out once the cheese browns and melts (~1 min)

Chutney can be saved in the fridge for around 3-5 days, but it's also a great freezer item. I put them into plastic bags with appropriate portions and freeze the bags. Whenever I'm in the mood for chutney, I defrost and reheat in the microwave (a staple item in my life).

The upcoming week is going to be rough, so this chutney might just be the thing to enliven me...

No comments: