Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

A Simple Snack


I'll be honest in that most of the foraging done in my life happens in my cupboards, fridge and freezer. Not that what I find during these expeditions (AKA bouts of procrastination) is at all a disappointment. In fact, every so often, there's enough to pull together a treasure, like a golden coin here, a ruby ring there to make the time spent not at my desk all the more worth while.

This is one such example. WASA crackers that never seem to get stale, go bad or be enticing for pests, slathered with a phantom jar of sweet ajvar, some feta (ALWAYS have feta in your fridge. ALWAYS.) and a touch of dried mint.


Ajvar (pictured above) is a simple but relatively obscure product. Roasted peppers, with perhaps some onions and other summer veg that's pureed and jarred for indefinite use. God knows how long this jar as been stashed away. But my nose and preliminary taste testing (very official -- finger into jar, finger into mouth, wait 30 minutes; if not dead, then proceed to eat) say that it's still as good as when I bought it.

In addition to being worthy of a snack, it's also handy as a spread for sandwiches. Particularly when there's turkey involved. I can never manage to eat the blasted poultry unless it's been encased in some sort of fat (bacon, avocado, mayo, etc.) or slathered with something intense. Chutneys. And now ajvar.

Pizza lovers should consider this an alternative to the tomato sauce, only because there's no initial prep work and the flavor is intense with sunshine as any good red sauce. Omelettes beg for the brightness. An otherwise drab hummus, because let's face it, most hummus is pretty drab, soaks in some life and sweetness with a spoonful of ajvar ...


But for now, start with this.

Earth brown crackers, normally the Scandinavian pride and dieter's scourge. One if you're being parsimonious. Two if you're having a rough day. Spread the scarlet red mixture onto one side. The deep grooves (shown above left) will create little pockets of intense flavor, using more ajvar, or the flat surface that keeps things even.

Then crumble in some feta. The ajvar has a sweet tendency, so the more pungent and piquant the brininess of your feta, the better. And by crumbling, I of course mean, get your finger tips dirty. Dip into the brine container, pinch off a good sized chunk and press the index, middle and thumb tips together to gently rub out smaller flecks of white.

Then find some of that dried mint you bought, God knows how long ago. Take a good pinch between your feta-stained fingers and rub the dried leaves until their sweet, fresh scent is released. The fresh stuff will be toothy, leafy and too sweet for what you want here. The dried flecks impart an odd cool-heat. I don't want to say it's the Ben Gay of the spice cupboard, but that's the only thing that I can think of that creates the same sensation. By way of the herb, it's the subtle key that pulls the ingredients together.

Eat at your desk, risking the spray of crumbs from the wasa crackers and the finger licking. If further procrastination is your goal, then you will achieve it. Or, you can snack on these in the kitchen, over the counter on which you constructed this snack. If you find yourself hungry, then by all means, make another.