All posts by jonimichiko

Fueling for Panamania


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Sam and I just returned from a 10-day, 26-mile trek through the insanely beautiful Panamanian rain forests, beaches and headlands with one of our closest friends. It was, to say the least, a trip of a lifetime. We experienced fairy-tale like circumstances that circulated between The Jungle Book, Peter Pan and Cast Away (minus the Tom Hanks crazy), discovered the art of the salted rim on a perfect Chelada, sweated like mo-fos under 90+ degree weather and 100% humidity, and learned the many ways one can appreciate the kilt (don’t ask). Of course, waking up before the sun rose everyday (EVERY. DAY.) to embark on these treks left us insatiably hungry during the course of our trip, but being the Asian Martha Stewart that I am, I stocked us up with an arsenal of snacks that included dozens and dozens of power bars. We ended up needing every last morsel – I actually ate the last granola bar right before I boarded my flight back to LA.

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Our stockpile of adventure snacks included the granola bars here as well as two date-based power bars. My dad said (via text) that they were the “bombest protein bars in existence” and I can’t decide if it makes me prouder to say that he conveyed his approval over text message or that he colloquially uses “bombest” as an adjective more often than I do. Nonetheless, his wise words attest to the greatness of the recipes that follow:

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Spice Date Power Bars

Recipe adapted from here

1 cup almonds
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup Medjool dates
1 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon sea salt
Place nuts, dates and cherries in a food processor and pulse until well ground. Pulse in vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and salt and remove mixture from food processor and press into an 8×8 baking dish. Refrigerate overnight (6-8 hours) and cut into squares and serve.

Coconut Apricot Power Bars

Recipe adapted fron here

1/2 cup cashews
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Line a 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, set aside. Place cashews in a food processor and process until nuts are evenly chopped, set aside. Put dried apricots in the food processor and process for 3-4 minutes to finely chop. Add coconut, oats, agave syrup, coconut oil, hemp seeds, ginger and salt. Process until mixture comes together. Add the chopped cashews and pulse until well combined.

Put the apricot coconut mixture in the parchment lined baking pan and firmly press into pan. Cover the bars and place in a freezer for one hour. Unmold bars, trim ends and cut into even rectangles. Bars will last up to one month if stored in an air tight container in the fridge.

Staying classy

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A great friend of mine graciously gifted me with the Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook for Christmas last year. Now, I typically cannot commit to a recipe without an overload of imagery (of both process and final product – note to foodisbomb.com) but the recipes in this cookbook have made me finally overlook my pictorial needs.

In a genius move, each recipe is grouped not only by course but also by season, with notes on picking the freshest batch of the bounty. These shortbread cookies are categorized as “evergreen” and thank god because they are so simple and perfect for any occasion. Even just having some frozen dough on hand for an impromptu tea or wine sesh with friends would be absolutely clutch.

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Something about eating a shortbread cookie makes you feel so proper: perhaps it’s the way you have to daintily hold each cookie between thumb and index finger while ever-so-slightly cocking your chin out to gently take a bite (and avoid an unnecessary crumb attack). Or, maybe it’s because they are always an accessory to a high tea or coffee date. Whatever it is, these cookies are definitely a snack to stroke our inner elitist, which is ironic since they are unbelievably easy to make.

I drizzled some orange honey on top for a little extra somethin-somethin but I also think these would make great jam sandwich cookies.

Happy shortbreading my classy friends!

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from the Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook

1/2 cup roasted and unsalted pistachios
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup pistachio meal
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbs honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set aside a good 24 whole pistachios and finely chop the rest. Sift together flour, salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and powdered sugar on high speed untel blended. add the pistachio meal and beat until creamy. On low speed add the flour mixture.

Scrape dough onto parchment paper and shape into a log about 8.5″ long (like a sushi roll). Make sure there are no cracks in the dough. Brush all sides with the egg. Roll the dough in the chopped pistachios and chill for at least an hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge and let sit for 10-20 mins before slicing into 3/8″ rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet 1″ apart and press one pistachio in the center of each cookie. Bake for 16 mins or until cookies are slightly golden and puffed. Let cool and drizzle with honey to your hearts content.

New Year, New Recipes

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Call it bandwagon health, but when the new year comes, I do like to challenge myself to a month of (semi) healthy eating. It’s not because a new year brings promise of being a different person, or losing x number of pounds – it’s because, for one, the holidays are an unhealthy time from which you do want to recover, and for 2, the healthy recipes in cooking magazines can be seriously great. Magazine after magazine of delicious new and different healthy recipes leave me inspired and with a Pinterest board of ideas that can last all year. Last year, I found a month-long cleanse recipe issue of Whole Living and challenged myself to make each recipe in it (although I was allowed to eat other food on the side – you can’t live off of beet soup and smoothies). But by far, the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse is the favorite that I look forward to with each new year.

In this year’s issue I found a recipe for white bean chili with root vegetables, and I was instantly on board. For one, it’s been chilly enough in San Francisco that I’ll try anything with soup, and for two – chili. This one has a ton of flavor for a veggie chili, mostly coming from massive amounts of ancho powder. While my ambitions to use dry cannellini didn’t exactly pan out (you have to remember to soak them the night before!), a mix of canned black and kidney beans was a perfectly delicious substitute. The chili has a ton of seasoning, the root vegetables blend in really well, and when you top it with some sliced avocado it’s perfection. This is a perfect example of how flavorful those healthy new year recipes can be!

White Bean Chili with Winter Vegetables
From Bon Appetit

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and 1″ of pale-green part, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 2 large or 3 medium parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise if large (remove woody center, if needed), cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1–1 1/2 tablespoons ground ancho chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used Mexican oregano)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 3 cups of cannellini beans (or two cans of whatever beans you have on hand)
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks, garlic, and 2 Tbsp. water. Cook until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips; stir to coat. Cook, stirring often, until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add ground chiles, cumin, oregano, and 2 tsp. salt. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Fold in beans. Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to allow flavors to meld, about 30 minutes (if using soaked beans, cook until tender, which may take a few more minutes). Season with salt. Garnish with avocado and cilantro.

Just go with it

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I’m going to be straightforward – this is a recipe for something called cracknuts. They are a fiery, addictive, hellish, fantastic mix of sweet, spicy, salty nuts that my roommate Molly famously makes and the rest of us famously eat despite our best efforts. They are given their name for this very lack of control that they induce on people. I finally asked Molly for the recipe and made them for my office christmas potluck and will be making them much more often now.

This recipe is pretty simple – mixed nuts, thrown together with sugar, water, salt, and insane quantities of fennel seeds (yes, fennel, go with it) and chile peppers. It may sound crazy, but the combination is insane in the best way. Molly first had them at a bed & breakfast and asked the owner for the recipe. And now they continue to sweep the nation!

These delicious nuts are not for the faint of heart – there is a truly outrageous amount of red pepper in there, and like all spicy foods they are vaguely masochistic. When making this recipe, it really feels like you put as much fennel and chile as you do nuts. Just go with it, though. It works. Especially when the fennel gets all stuck up in the walnuts (these are the moments us cooks savor). One of my new year’s resolutions (yes, here is where I tie it all together) is actually to embrace JFDI (just effing do it) – whether “it” is paying a parking ticket or going to grad school. So in cooking and in life, I will embrace being a little bold. And trust me, these are some bold nuts.

Cracknuts (Fennel Chile Nut Mix)

4 cups of mixed nuts – almonds, walnuts, and cashews
3/4 cups brown sugar
4tsp salt
4tsp crushed red pepper
8tsp fennel seed
4tbsp water

Mix the sugar, salt, red pepper, and fennel in a bowl. Add to the nuts, along with the water, and combine with your hands. Place on  a baking sheet lined with foil (don’t try skipping the foil – because you are essentially making caramel around the nuts, this stuff sticks to a pan like you wouldn’t believe). Bake in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. WATCH THESE NUTS LIKE A HAWK. They will burn if left unattended, faster than you will expect.

Let cool before storing away, breaking up into smaller clusters if needed. Serve, or leave out on the counter and let your roommates nibble away.

A Little Rock N’ Roll

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One of the things I love about getting a CSA box is that it forces you to get a little adventurous with your meals every once in a while. (What can I cook with beet greens? How do I cut a butternut squash? What the hell do I do with all these oranges?? #bougieproblems) Now, I’m definitely not saying these are daredevil-like risks we’re taking here, just a little push to get out of the weekday safety meals. As noted in a previous post, I received a festive box of fresh cranberries in my last shipment from Farm Fresh to You, so never having cooked with them before, I hit the blogosphere for inspiration. After a solid hour had past (this is why I don’t need a television) and a good twenty recipes had been added to my food board on Pinterest, I found a recipe in the LA Times for this cranberry orange cornmeal cake. It is perfection.

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I am drawn to simple, no-fuss recipes with equally low maintenance ingredients and prep time, and this one definitely fits the bill. This cake is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll: the cornmeal creates a lovely homey texture, and the cranberries give a tart little kick. The ricotta is the secret ingredient that makes the cake super dense and ridiculously moist-two adjectives used only on rare (and lucky) occasions when describing cornbread.

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To top it off, I drizzled a bit of honey over the cake after pulling the it out of the oven. It just seemed right. This cake is also not too rich or too sweet, which makes it a perfect ending to a heavy holiday meal. Especially when accompanied with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Just sayin.

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake

find recipe here

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.

With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

The Perfect Lunch

Title_Image_1After going deep into a take-out only phase during a 2-month GRE study fire drill, I’ve come back out into the world. Which means I’m ready to do things like see people, clean my room, sleep…and start making lunch again. I needed to ease my way back in, and was brainstorming some  basic salad or sandwich options when my fabulous co-author here sent me a recipe with the challenging subject line “The Perfect Lunch?” That name has a lot to live up to. For us nine-to-fivers The Perfect Lunch must be supremely easy to make. It must be easy to bring in, especially if you commute on the most crowded bus ever in San Francisco (me) and have had a traumatic bus experience involving an exploded tupperware of soup, where you had to let it spill into an upside down umbrella until you could get off (yep, me again). This lunch must be nutritious, cheap enough to beat its takeout competition, keep you full all day, and easily combat the “well maybe I’ll eat it tomorrow” feeling when your coworkers tell you they’re doing another trip to the Grilled Cheese Truck. The Perfect Lunch? Obviously, I was intrigued.

This recipe hits all the main points of a solid lunch – filling beans, starchy sweet potato, lots of kale, warm spices. All wrapped up in an easy to eat pita. The recipe calls for making your own whole wheat pita and actually baking the filling in – which sounds amazing, I just wasn’t ready for it. It also calls for lentils, but canned black beans sounded pretty great in this dish and they take all of 2 seconds to open. It was a great foray back into lunch-making in particular and domesticity in general, and I really did feel ok next to the grilled cheese.

Spiced bean, sweet potato, and kale pita pockets
Adapted from here

1 onion
1 bunch of dino (lacinato) kale
1 large sweet potato
1 can of black beans
salt/pepper
cumin
a pack of whole wheat pitas

Preheat your oven to 350, pierce your sweet potato, and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Slice the onion into slivers and sautee over medium-high heat in a pan with olive oil until it starts to turn brown, about 10 minutes. Add chopped dino kale, salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin and let cook, about another 8-10 minutes.  Add black beans to pan with another healthy dash of salt and pepper, and a few dashes of cumin. Peel your sweet potato and cut into half-inch chunks. Add the sweet potato to your pan. Toast pita and fill with your mixture.

Fueling up

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Although I am prone to baking sweet sweet desserts, every so often I do make something savory (and that I actually consume instead of pawn off to coworkers and friends). I thought about bringing this dish to thanksgiving to moderate the carboload, but quickly reconsidered to avoid having to defend quinoa to my entire extended family. Japanese people take their grains very seriously.

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This is a second-hand recipe from 101 Cookbooks, grandfathered from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman is more or less a prophet of the plant-based diet, his NTY column his prophecy. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks is also a veg goddess in her own right, and I’ve made many of her recipes to stellar reviews. Her SF-based blog is also an aesthetic inspiration, with great photography that really captures the misty and magical essence of her city.

The butternut squash quinoa bake you see before you is a deliciously hearty vegan recipe that I made entirely with ingredients from my CSA box! Whenever I am able to use 80% of my produce the first week it feels like a major feat… It’s the small things!

photo (5)It’s time to fuel your body well in these final weeks of the year! Your body will thank you after you’ve wrecked havoc on it with a champagne diet on NYE, which is a completely acceptable social diet when you’re used to spinach, quinoa and kale the rest of the year, right? RIGHT??

Mark Bittman’s Autumn Quinoa Bake
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup quinoa (Bittman and Heidi both use Millet, but I had quinoa on hand)
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (learn to appropriately cut a butternut squash here)
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced thyme and/or rosemary
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed water (or stock) over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes. (Don’t forget to cover! I did the first time and needed to add a lot of water to make up for the dryness)

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned, another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like).

Holiday Foreplay

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Pumpkin is the foreplay to the holiday season. This time of year, we are bombarded with pumpkin flavored everything, and for good measure- that shit is bomb. When you see that pumpkin latte at starbucks, you know it’s only a few days until you’ll start making those christmas (or Hanukah, kwanza??) lists and checking them twice. I’ve personally been amping up my pumpkin intake through my breakfasts (a little pumpkin in your oatmeal or green smoothie goes a long way), and of course dessert!

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This recipe is a take on pumpkin pie, and adapted from a recipe I found on a blog en Español (thank you google translate), which made for an interesting baking adventure. The crust is baked a bit beforehand, which browns the butter and makes a deliciously nutty base to a thick, rich pumpkin cheesecake-like bar. It’s really simple and only calls on a few ingredients. Pumpkin needs less than a bit of cinnamon and sweetness to take center stage.

Happy holidays y’all!

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Pumpkin Pie Bars

Adapted from here

Ingredients for the crust:

.5 C + 1 TBS butter, at room temperature
.5 C brown sugar
3/4 C flour
1/4 C + 1 TBS oats

Ingredients for the cake:

2 eggs
½ C + 3 TBS sugar
1.5 C (400 g) pumpkin puree
1.25 C (350 ml) sweetened condensed milk
½ TBS salt
1 TBS cinnamon
½ TBS ground ginger

Make the crust: In a medium bowl, beat butter brown sugar. Add flour and rolled oats gradually. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with tin foil. Dump the crust mixture into the pan and pat down to condense. Bake at 350F degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the pumpkin puree, condensed milk, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Pour the mixture over the base and bake at 350F degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted wood comes out clean (if it tends to brown too much, cover with foil ). Chill in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 4 hours, to desired consistency).

Granola Bars, Part Deux

Good morning hunger pains! Per the usual, I woke up this morning completely ravenous, eagerly anticipating stuffing my face voraciously with granola (also quite typical). Shuffling my sleepy self to the kitchen with a craving for peanut butter, I realized I had prematurely gobbled up my granola supply (#firstworldproblems), so I quickly scrounged up the ingredients for these rockingly easy granola bars. This is a recipe so simple that any pre-caffeinated brain can handle on the emptiest of stomachs. However, waiting for these buddys to set before cutting may be a different story… These are definitely a new essential to keep on handy for satiating frequent morning (or afternoon, midnight, 3am…) hunger pains. Customize with chocolate, nuts and dried fruit to your hearts content! Peanut Butter Granola Bars adapted from here

2/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup agave syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

3 cups oats

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional Add-ins:

1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins (or any bite-sized dried fruit will work)

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped (or walnuts, pecans, peanuts…)

1/3 to 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a 9 x 13″ baking dish with tin foil. In a large microwave-safe bowl (think big, you’ll be mixing everything in here), combine brown rice syrup, peanut butter, agave, and heat on high power for 1 minute; stir to combine. Add vanilla, cinnamon, salt.

Add oats and coconut to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add any dried fruit, nuts and chocolate and fold to incorporate. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread parchment paper over mixture, and pack down firmly with a fists. Place pan in the freezer for at least 1 hour, or until you can’t take waiting anymore. Slice bars and wrap in parchment or tin foil for easy snacking and/or breakfasting!

Homecoming

I went home to LA for my mom’s birthday and as usual, my Bay Area culinary tendencies went straight out the window. Being raised on Southern Cooking is a hard, hard thing to walk away from. And why would you? There is a place in the world for kale slaw and a place in the world for vegetables cooked into oblivion with bacon and butter. I live with one leg in both of these places and plan to keep it that way.

One of my favorite coming home stories involves the fact that every time I fly down, my mom’s mac and cheese is always sitting on the stove waiting for me that night. Without fail. One night I asked my mom why she always made this particular dish for me on my first night home, and she said, “Well, because you usually get in after dinner so I know you just want something light.” Mac and Cheese. Something light. Did I mention she’s from New Orleans?

So it comes as no surprise that when our neighbors showed up with home-grown tomatoes, we found some unripe ones and decided to immediately fry them in fabulous ways. Fried Green Tomatoes. Coincidentally (or just completely not surprisingly) we had also been frying up some bacon, so we decided to fry the tomatoes in…wait for it… BACON GREASE. Yeah, I did.

These beautiful green babies are great on their own, or as the star of the best BLT you’ve ever had in your life. Best served with a glass of home-made sweet iced tea.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Sliced green (unripe) tomatoes
One beaten egg in a bowl
Cornmeal, or a mixture of cornmeal and breadcrumbs, in a bowl or shallow dish
All-purpose flour in another bowl or shallow dish
Salt and pepper
Some creole seasoning or season salt
Canola oil or bacon grease

Add salt, pepper, and seasonings to  taste to your breadcrumb bowl and mix, lining up next to your flour and egg bowls. Dredge tomatoes lightly in your flour bowl, and then dip in the beaten egg until coated. Transfer to your breadcrumb mixture until thoroughly battered, and shake off excess crumbs. Tip: Dip into the dry ingredients with one hand and the wet ingredients with the other – this keeps things a lot less messy!

Heat oil in a pan until nice and hot. Place tomatoes in pan until browned on one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip until the other side is also a delicious golden brown, and transfer onto a plate lined with paper towels or a paper bag.