Restaurant workdays are long. My memories of sitting for meals have faded, and food you can eat without silverware is common in our kitchen. A normal day at the restaurant (a good day, really) might consist of half an apple, a chicken wing, a carrot, a date, a green juice, a handful of pecans stolen from the sauté station’s mise en place and a couple cups of coffee with milk. My diet includes lots of chicken—lean meat that helps nourish without making me feel lethargic—and seaweed; I always have some on hand. Large meals tend to weigh me down during a busy day, so a series of small meals help sustain me.
When I finally make it home from the restaurant or when I am organizing the next day's deliveries from my desk at the end of service, I find myself reaching for foods that won’t make me fall asleep on my keyboard. I throw together snacks that satiate but also leave me feeling energized for the following day’s early-morning run to yoga prior to opening the restaurant. Here, five of my go-to late-night snacks.
1. Strained yogurt with apple butter, coconut butter crumbles and salted-sprouted nut butter (preferably pecan or hazelnut). This snack is great because it’s loaded with protein and healthy fats, plus it’s reminiscent of a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, my ultimate comfort food. The apple and coconut butter (which I bake into a crumble) makes this dish just sweet enough, while the tangy yogurt and saltiness of the nuts keep it on the edge of savory. I sleep great after this snack, and I don’t wake up feeling full.
2. Warm Japanese sweet potato chunks with wilted spinach, cumin yogurt, avocado, paprika, lemon and cilantro. In the winter months, this mash-up is my standby meal. It’s an amalgamation of leftover ingredients taken from one of our seasonal salads of layered sweet potatoes, avocado, fennel, feta and pickled green walnuts (the full recipe can be found in our recent book, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes). Even post-service, I always think of balancing flavors—sweet, sour, creamy, fatty. And for texture, I often throw some mung bean sprouts on top for added crunch. This dish also melds sweet and savory into a light meal that doesn’t leave me feeling heavy.
3. Roast chicken with fermented ramp mayonnaise and lemon. I eat chicken any time of day. Actually, it’s one of my favorite breakfasts, but it’s the perfect late-night snack, too. High in protein and healthy fats, this dish leaves me satiated and ready for a good night’s rest. At the restaurant, we have a smoked potato dish with fermented ramp mayonnaise that has been on the menu for almost three years. Our dishes change frequently, but we love this combination, so we never take it off. As a result, we always have this mayonnaise lying around. I’m a firm believer that mayonnaise is good for you and that it’s appropriate on just about anything. We ferment about 500 pounds of ramps every spring and use them throughout the year in a myriad of ways but most consistently for this condiment. Its earthy creaminess complements the subtlety of the chicken. I usually squeeze fresh lemon on top for a slight acidic kick.
Related: Ramp Aioli Recipe (with Fish Fry)
4. Bone broth with a poached egg, wilted kale and shiitake. This dish will nurture your body from the inside out. Light, satisfying and full of flavor, this mineral-rich broth helps the body replenish after a long day of activity. Plus, there is nothing quite as delicious as this broth. The gelatin in the bone broth is rich in protein, and the bones themselves are full of glucosamine and chondroitin, which are known to help joint pain. Kale is also a nutrient powerhouse full of vitamins and protein, while shiitake mushrooms are packed with B vitamins and have been known to strengthen immunity. Add an egg to boost the protein content, and don’t forget to crack lots of black pepper into the broth.
5. Popcorn with shichimi and Bragg Liquid Aminos. When it’s all about snacking, I like to eat a big bowl of popcorn with lemon, homemade shichimi and Bragg Liquid Aminos sprayed on top. Bragg is a protein-rich amino acid spray that is made from soybeans and is reminiscent of soy sauce. I use it as my salt component for this snack. Our restaurant has a “seasonless” larder. We pickle, ferment, preserve and cure year-round, which allows us to use summer produce in the winter and winter ingredients in the summer. A large portion of our pantry is dedicated to spices and spice mixes—chutney spice, furikake, charred eggplant spice. My favorite mix for popcorn is shichimi, a blend of dried and powdered wild nori, sushi nori, dried hops, sunflower seeds, sweet paprika, hot paprika, green onion, kale, lemon peel and salt. Sometimes a late-night wind-down needs to conclude with a punch of flavor.
Related: Spicy Japanese Popcorn Recipe