For some reason, food that you eat while walking around in the open air is just somehow better. And the culture of “street food” is something that remains consistent no matter where you go. Whether you’re at a small town carnival, in downtown New York City, or exploring the bustling open markets of the third world, the food that you buy from street vendors somehow seems to represent everything that is common and shared in that culture. Food is the landscape where differences are set aside and people bond over their most beloved treats. If you want to truly know the heart and soul of an area, skip the tour books and internet searches and head straight for the street vendors. You’ll be part of the family before you know it.
So in honor of street food cultures everywhere, I’m beginning a series of recipes where I will be tying in all the elements that I love from the various ‘street food’ experiences in my life while still working within the dietary limitations that I currently live with. Just because I can’t have some foods in the same form that I originally had them, doesn’t mean that I can’t still capture the essence of what makes those foods so beloved. So come along for the ride and let’s grab something awesome to eat on the way.
One tasty example of street food that I can never seem to get enough of is fried chips! The smell of frying potato chips is one of the things that makes the state fair so memorable and for this recipe, I am taking advantage of BEET season! Sliced thin and fried, these chips have all the crunch and nostalgia of warm nights under the ferris wheel. Not to mention all the beauty and color that’s so characteristic of root vegetables. Like the lights on a tilt-a-whirl, these chips practically flicker as you cook them.
The recipe below contains instructions for making both fried and baked beet chips. Of all the methods that I have tried, these two sets of instructions have equally become my favorites. So head over to your local farmer’s market and buy up all the beets you can find and try them both. You’ll be crunching away and dreaming of the fair in no time!
Beet Chips w/ Cashew Tzatziki (Baked or fried)
3-5 medium sized beets
2-3 cups organic palm oil shortening. Or 3 tablespoons oil, if using “baked” method.
Coarse sea salt
1. Frying method (as pictured above and my preferred method): Cut the stems off each beet then wash and peel them. Using a sharp knife, cut off the ends so they are straight and smooth.
2. Using a mandolin slicer (best choice), sharp knife or food processor, evenly cut the beets into very thin slices (the more even they are the better). Lay sliced beets out on a paper towel or flour sack towel. Pat them dry. This helps them to cook faster and helps to not introduce too much water into the oil.
3. In a pot or pan (I like cast iron), over medium heat, bring the oil to 325-350 degrees (no hotter than 375). The oil should be at least 2 inches deep. Using a thermometer will ensure that your oil gets hot enough to fry evenly, but not so hot that it goes above the oil’s smoke point.
4. Fry the beet slices in small batches to ensure even cooking. When the chips are ready, they will turn a lighter color and show signs of just beginning to brown. Be sure to remove chips before they burn. Each Batch will take about 5-7 min. Drain on a paper towel. Gently pat dry & salt. Beets should crisp up as they cool.
Note: If the beets are not completely crisp you can finish them off in a 325 degree oven till crisp again. Watch closely as beets can burn quickly due to their high sugar content.
Beet chips are best eaten right away. If you store them, keep them in an airtight container or bag. If needed, you can “re-crisp” them in a 325 degree oven.
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
2. Follow the prep instructions as for the fried chips (up to the “frying” part).
3. Coat the thinly sliced beets with oil of choice (about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the amount of beets used). This can be done by tossing them in a bowl (be sure to coat each beet entirely) or lay them out on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet, lightly coating each side with a pastry brush or with your hands. (warning: red beets may stain your hands for a little while)
4. Once the oiled beets are evenly placed on your rimmed baking sheet, use another matching rimmed baking sheet (with the bottom lightly oiled) and place it on top of the beets. This creates a type of “press”, helping the beets to cook evenly and flat. You can do two sets of these at a time if you have 4 matching rimmed baking sheets. You will need to rotate the sheets part way through the cooking process.
5. Bake the beets in the ‘press’ on the center rack of the oven, for 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the beets). Check the beets a few times during the cooking process. When the edges of the beets start to dry out some, remove the top baking sheet. Continue baking the chips uncovered for another 10-15 min or until they start to turn lighter in color and brown slightly. Remove the chips as they look finished.
Note: If it looks like the chips are browning too quickly, finish them by turning the oven off in the last 5 minutes of baking. Let them sit in the oven till they finish. It helps to rotate the baking sheet a few times during cooking process. Again, remove chips as they finish.
6. Allow to cool. Chips should become crisp as they cool. As with the fried chips, if they are not completely crisp, you can put them back into the 325 degree oven “crisp” a little more. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
Ingredients For the Tzatziki:
1 to 1 1/4 cup cashews + 1 cup warm (not hot) filtered water for making cashew yogurt
1-3 probiotic capsules, or at least 10-18 billion organisms (I use one 18 billion capsule)
OR skip making the cashew yogurt instructions and just use 1 1/4 cups coconut yogurt and move on to step 4.
1 garlic clove minced or pressed
1 (peeled and seeded) cucumber, finely minced or roughly grated, about 3/4 cup
1-2 teaspoons dill to taste (I like to use freeze dried but fresh is great too)
1/2 tablespoon fresh minced mint leaves (or about 7 leaves)
1/2 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1/2 tablespoon minced chives (the tiny kind)
1 teaspoon lemon juice, or juice of one large lemon (or to taste)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt (or to taste)
Pepper to taste
more water as needed to reach your favorite consistency.
Can also use dried herbs. But you will need to use about half the amount of fresh herbs or to taste.
1. To make cultured cashew yogurt: Start with clean sanitized equipment. Blend together the cashews, water and the probiotics. Any brand will do. Mine happen to be 18 billion live organisms per capsule, so I use just one. Check you package and use accordingly.
2. In a high powered blender or food processor, blend the cashews and water till VERY smooth. Be patient and let it blend as long as it takes. Stopping if needed to stir. If you need to, add extra water 1 tablespoon to JUST keep it moving through the blender/food processor. Smoothness is IMPORTANT here. The mixture will thicken some as it ferments.
3. Stir in the probiotics (be sure that the cashew mixture didn’t get to hot if using a lower powered blender before adding) Transfer to a bowl and cover with cheesecloth. Let sit at least 16 hours in a warm environment, such as an oven with just the light on, a yogurt maker or dehydrator. Length of fermentation time will depend on the environment, strength of probiotic and how tart you like your “yogurt”. I make mine at night and let it culture till about lunch time the next day. Sometimes longer. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge.
4. When ready to use, add the garlic, herbs cucumber and lastly the lemon juice.
5. Mix until combined, adding water or more lemon juice if needed to get desired consistency. Then add salt and pepper to taste
6. Serve, or chill and serve. As the tzatziki is stored and can get thick again. Just add water to get desired consistency. Makes a great salad dressing too!
Makes about 1 1/2 cups