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Escabeche + Savory Granola (+ Las Manas Tamales)

Sometimes a recipe stops you in your tracks.

A few weeks ago Bryan and I attended a dinner party for my friend Amber’s new business, Las Manas Tamales [1] (more on that in a minute). The first course was described as a spring vegetable escabeche with savory granola. I didn’t really know what to expect and certainly had no idea I would be so moved by the dish.

Maybe I should start by saying that both Bryan and I love vinegar. Love it. Pickles of all kinds (except Bryan hates bread & butter—too sweet) would be in both of our top 5 favorite foods.

So, you can imagine our delight when a plate of pickled asparagus, beets and carrots topped with a mess of puffed millet, seeds and spices arrived at our table. After our first bites, we both nodded in agreement. This is so good. A few bites into it and we were saying it out loud after every bite. This is so good. Bryan even did the little neck thing he does when he really likes what he is eating.

The vegetables were sharp, intensely flavored and very vinegary. The granola is toasted, salty, sweet, and umami. Together, they were one of the best things I have ever eaten.

I know, I know, there I go with dramatic proclamations again— but I really mean it!

Fast forward to the end of the meal, when I first started begging Amber for the recipe. She is a reasonable woman, and happily agreed to share it with me—and all of you. Last weekend I made this at home for the first time and fell in love all over again. Seriously good food, people. Amber adapted the granola from a recipe that appeared in Saveur [2]. I haven’t tried the original, but I can’t imagine it being better than this adaptation.

So, now that you know Amber is such a talented cook, you might be wondering about those tamales. If you are in Chicago, you can stop wondering and go get some. Amber is going to be selling her wonderful homemade tamales at Green City Market [3] all summer! I am so excited to see GCM mix it up a little in terms of the types of prepared foods that are for sale. Tamale flavors might include delicious combinations like: Mint Creek bacon, Green Acres chives, and butterkase cheese; braised Heartland beef brisket, charred Werp ramps, Nordic Creamery jalapeno cheese and Seedling sungold tomato jam; or Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese, Green Acres sorrel, and River Valley crimini mushrooms. That is some amazing local flavor! Like everyone at Green City, she’ll be using local, sustainably raised produce and meats in all of the tamales.

So, stop by Las Manas Tamales [1] on Saturday and welcome Amber to the market. Try some tamales, and tell her you can’t wait to make her escabeche with savory granola. (Thanks, Amber, for sharing this recipe with all of us!)

A couple of notes on the recipe:

I know puffed millet is hard to find. But I believe in you. You can do it. (If that fails, I found it here [4].)

The vegetables are super acidic. If you want to tame these beasts, simple replace some of the vinegar with water (try 2 cups vinegar and 2 cups water). I would never do such a thing, but I know not everyone loves vinegar as much as I do.

Keep in mind, the pickles need to sit in your fridge overnight, so make these the day before you want to eat them. They’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Go crazy! Both of these recipes can be taken in so many different directions. The possibilities are endless. Have fun.

Savory granola is the food of the future!

Savory Granola

Fry the cilantro in sunflower oil until crisp (about 10 seconds, make sure the cilantro is dry to avoid splashing) and allow to cool/drain on paper towels. Save leftover oil for another use (Amber uses it for dressing). Mix the cilantro with the millet, pepitas, manchego, sesame seeds, chile powder, cumin, and garlic. Toss with the agave nectar. Season to taste with salt (I ended up using about a teaspoon).

Spread on a sheet pan, lined with a silpat or parchment, and bake at 250°F until toasted, 35-40 minutes.

Escabeche

Preheat the oil in a large dutch oven, then add the jalapenos, scallions, garlic and the vegetables (except for asparagus, add asparagus for about a minute before adding the vinegar, etc.).  Saute for about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, water, salt, herbs, and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer until vegetables are al dente. Allow to cool and refrigerate overnight.