Archive | Small plates

Crispy Parmesan Brussel Sprouts with Capers (Also, a few photos from our trip north of the border)

Love VancouverHello strangers!

Yeah, I basically took the rest of the summer off from blogging.  Then school started 1 1/2 weeks after we returned from vacation, and shell shock set in.  It’s definitely been a whirlwind past couple of months, but things seem to be settling back into a slow groove (for now).

You might remember I mentioned in my last post that we were headed to the Pacific northwest for several weeks, kids in tow this time.  Everywhere we went, everywhere we ate, every place we covered during our 2,300 road trip made us falll in love over and over again.

But Vancouver stole our hearts.


Almost all of our hearts (our daughter liked the city also, but she got to visit with a friend in Seattle so, of course, that was her favorite stop).  Vancouver is culturally diverse, ridiculously clean, and magnificently beautiful.  There are REAL bike paths throughout the city, and by real I mean safely separated from automotive traffic.  The motorists respect the pedestrian and bike traffic, unlike drivers in most bigger U.S. cities I’ve visited.  It almost doesn’t make sense to drive your car downtown, especially since there is no major freeway into the city.  Vancouver is surrounded by water on three sides, which means there are plenty of bridges.

We did all the touristy things:  The Canadian Trail, biking the seawall, visiting the Granville Market and (of course) we ate.

And ate….and ate.

One of the standout meals was a lunch we had one of our first days in the city.  On a beautiful breezy afternoon in a part of the city called gastown, we opted for an outdoor seat along one the cobblestone streets at a tavern-y place called The Flying Pig.  Our lovely, engaging waitress (gosh, I wish I could remember her name!) made several menu suggestions, but the crispy Brussel sprouts small plate  was most intriguing.  After confessing my hate of the vegetable, she relayed that many haters are turned lovers after trying it and so we ordered it.  We gobbled it down at record speed and immediately began plotting how to fit another visit back to the restaurant into our already jam-packed schedule.  I refused to leave until the waitress described the chef’s recipe to me.

Flash frying is a method of quick cooking in an extremely hot neutral-tasting oil with a high burn point for a short period of time, thus reducing greatly the amount of time the food is in the oil.  Because the oil is hot, the food only needs to be submerged for about 30 seconds or so.  A few tips for flash frying:

1).  Use grape seed or sunflower oil.

2).  It’s hard to say how much oil you will need.  It will depend on the size of your pot, but you want the brussel sprouts to just be submerged.  I used an entire quart of grape seed oil.

3).  Make sure you choose a deep enough pot because there will be a bit of spitting and splatter when you drop the sprouts in.

4).  Cook in small batches.  If you put too many sprouts in at a time, it will reduce the temperature of the oil too much.

5).  Don’t be intimidated!  It really is a quick process.

crispy brussel sprouts

Crispy Parmesan Brussels Sprouts with Capers (from The Flying Pig)


  • 1 pound of fresh brussel sprouts, halved and woody stems removed
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • grape seed or sunflower oil

Bring brussel sprouts to room temperature (this will help decrease splattering)

Heat oil in large, deep pot over medium-high heat. I used a candy thermometer and heated mine to almost 200 degrees fahrenheit.

Gently and carefully drop 8-10 brussel sprouts into hot oil. I used my hand and dropped a few in the oil and stood back a few seconds until the initial spitting subsided. Again, you should dividing the brussel sprouts into about 3-4 cooking batches.

Watch the brussel sprouts because they will crisp quickly. When the edges of the leaves begin to turn a golden brown color (about 30 seconds), remove them to a plate lined with paper towels.

Complete the process, working in batches until all the sprouts are flash fried.

Transfer the crispy sprouts to a bowl or plate.

Sprinkle capers on top and squeeze lemon juice over sprouts.

Top with fresh grated parmesan to taste.

Enjoy immediately or the brussel sprouts will lose their crispiness (they still make great leftovers, though!)

crispy brussel sprouts crispy brussel sprouts


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Shrimp Spring Rolls

shrimp spring rollsThe assembly of these is a bit of a chore, but once you roll one or two, you get into a rhythm.  Plus, they look freaking impressive.  These traveled well in a picnic at our favorite winery.

Shrimp Spring Rolls


  • one pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber (peeled or not), thinly sliced
  • cilantro leaves
  • parsley leaves
  • 8 rice wrappers
  • 4-6 ounces of rice (also called glass noodles)
  • salt and pepper
  • sauce for dipping

Place the shrimp in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Add the lime zest and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Heat one Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and sear on all sides about 3-4 minutes until opaque and cooked throughout. Don't overcook. Remove to a plate to cool.

Prepare vegetables while the shrimp cools. After the shrimp have cooled, slice them in half. This will enable them to lay flatter on the wrapper when rolling.

Get ready to roll:

Place the rice noodles in a bowl with some warm water to soften them. Drain.

Add some warm water to a shallow dish (I used a pie tin), submerge one rice wrapper in the warm water for approximately one minute to soften, being careful not to let the sides fold in. Remove and spread the wrapper out on a cutting board or other flat surface. Place vegetables and parsley and/or cilantro leaves on the bottom third of the wrapper. Add a few of the rice noodles. Place 3 to 4 shrimp, cut side up, above the noodles on the wrapper.

Start rolling the rice paper from the bottom and over the vegetables, tucking as you go. Once you have rolled over the vegetables once, tuck in the sides of the rice wrapper to form a package. Continue folding and tucking all the way, until it resembles a burrito. Cut in half with a sharp knife.

I served this with Trader Joe's Gyoza dipping sauce (because I was in a hurry), but these go great with peanut sauce, also:

2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1-1 1/2 TBSP water

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper


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Oven-Baked Crispy Onion Rings

Baked onion rings

When something is more trouble than it might be worth, I’m going to tell you the truth.

If you love/miss crunchy fried onion rings and don’t mind a teensy bit of mess, then these are definitely a healthier alternative.  My oft-professed love of all things onion make these a crave-worthy substitute for the deep fried variety, but the prep relegates them to only the occasional serving.

Serve with a little sriracha veganaise and you’ve got yourself some bonafide bar food.

Oven-Baked Crispy Onion Rings


  • 2 large sweet onions (such as visalia), sliced to 1/2 and rings separated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (homemade, if possible)
  • 1 1/2 cup cornflakes (I use Arrowhead Mills organic Corn Flakes)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

In a food processor, pulse corn flakes and bread crumbs until ground to a meal. Place half in a shallow plate or bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne pepper to to form a batter.

Carefully dip each onion ring into the batter first, shake off excess. Place in crumb mixture, using a fork or spoon to press the onion into the crumbs and coat on all sides. Lay the onion ring on a plate or platter.

Continue dipping and coating each onion in this manner. When the crumb mixture becomes too lumpy to work with, add the remaining crumbs to the bowl and continue until all onion rings are coated.

Place the olive oil in a rimmed baking sheet and preheat in oven for 2-3 minutes.

Remove carefully from oven and place the onion rings in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Return to oven and cook until onion rings are golden brown and crispy, about 15 minutes, turning halfway through.

Salt and pepper to taste while still on cookie sheet.

Oven-baked Onion Rings


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