Monthly Archives: February 2010

Turkey Congee (Jook) with Brown Rice

I love a good deal. I clip coupons. I shop clearance bins. I buy clothes at the end of the season so that I can take advantage of reduced prices. I even subscribe to blogs that alert me of great deals. So when I can make meals that are so cheap, they’re almost free, I feel virtuous.

Free? Well, not entirely. But with a few frugal actions, a few inexpensive pantry ingredients, and a bit of mostly unattended time, a meal (or several) for the family is served. While it’s not the most elegant of meals, to be sure, it’s certainly not lacking in flavor or nutrition. As far as I’m concerned, it ranks right up there in terms of most craveable comfort meals. And it feeds the family easily for well under $10.

What is this magical meal? Congee. Or jook, as it is sometimes called. Congee is a rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries, many times, for breakfast. (A practice of which I am quite fond.) At its simplest, congee is rice simmered with water until the rice breaks down and the porridge becomes thick. Of course, there are a lot of variations – including adding meat, fish, salted eggs, spring onions, or soy sauce. Regardless of how it’s eaten, it’s a humble, comforting meal, and a great way to stretch a dollar.

I first learned of congee from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. She posted congee as a great way to use up the leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving. Following her example, I made congee for the first time after this past Thanksgiving, loosely following her steps, and improvising a bit on my own. I was in love. I ate the congee for several days, and froze the rest to bring for lunch during the week. It was such a delicious, belly-warming delight to eat.

A few weeks back, after I found some free-range, naturally-raised turkey on sale for $0.99/lb, I immediately knew I would be making congee again. After I’d roasted the turkey, (I used the meat to fill enchiladas, top salads, and fill sandwich wraps) I placed the bones in a few large ziploc bags and froze them. (I do this with chicken carcasses as well to use later for stock.) This weekend, I pulled out the turkey carcass, threw it along with some veggies in a large stockpot, and walked away to do other things. You see, while congee takes some time to prepare, most of that time is hands-off. It’s great for a weekend when you have other tasks around the house – it just sits there, happily simmering away, while you go about your business.

Just how is this dish nearly free? First of all, most of us simply throw away turkey (or chicken) bones when we’ve finished roasting and eating. This makes these bones almost like they’re a free ingredient, as you’ve put something that was previously “garbage” to use! As for the remaining ingredients, the rice used in this dish might cost $0.75, and the onion, carrots, and celery, another $2-3. (If you also save carrot ends, peelings, and celery tops for stock – you can simply throw these all together in a ziploc whenever you have them, and place in the freezer – then these can be considered “free” too and can be used here.) The dried shrimp might be an additional cost, but they’re relatively inexpensive, as are the rest of the pantry ingredients. For me, these are all items that I keep on hand, so I spent next to nothing to throw this dish together. I’d estimate the cost for the ingredients at around $6 for the entire recipe, which means each serving is less than $1. Definitely a good deal!

This time around, I opted to include dried shrimp, which enhanced the “umami” flavor of the porridge, and I used brown rice to boost the nutritional value of the dish, allowing me to enjoy it for breakfast guilt-free. You certainly can change up or omit these types of ingredients as you see fit – congee is a dish that begs to be personalized. After my congee simmered for a good long while, a taste test confirmed my hopes – this porridge, while humble, was viscous, creamy, and warmly satisfying. After eating a few more spoonfuls (I had to double and triple-check the flavor, after all!), I packed the rest away for breakfast and/or lunches. I can imagine it already, with a squirt of Sriracha and a preserved duck egg. Yum. It’s gonna be a good week!

You don’t have to wait until turkey “season” to make this – if you roast chickens (or even if you buy rotisserie chickens), simply save up a few of the carcasses. I would imagine 3 leftover chicken carcasses would work perfectly here.

Turkey Congee, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Turkey bones from a 15-20 lb turkey, with 95% of the meat removed (or the bones from 3 roasted chickens)

3 celery stalks, sliced

2 carrots, sliced (don’t even bother peeling)

1 large chopped onion (don’t even bother peeling)

5 quarter-inch slices of fresh ginger (don’t even bother peeling)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

9-10 cups water

½ c dried shitake mushrooms

¼ c dried scallops or shrimp (optional)

½ c shaoxing wine or dry sherry

2 c short-grain brown rice

1 T fish sauce

1 T sesame oil

2-3 T gluten-free soy sauce

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

Cilantro, for garnish

Put the carcass in a large stockpot. (You may have to break it up a little to make it fit) Add the next 6 ingredients and bring to a boil. (It’s okay if the water doesn’t completely cover everything.) Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, covered with a tight-fitting lid, for 2 hours. Strain into a bowl to remove bones and solids, and pick the meat from the bones. Add meat back into the strained stock, along with the mushrooms, dried scallops/shrimp, wine, rice, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and carrots. Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer, partially covered. Allow to cook for 2 hours or more, until the rice breaks down and the entire dish becomes thick. Adjust fish sauce and soy sauce to taste, and garnish with cilantro as desired. Serves 8.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Rice, Soups

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by two of the most talented bakers I’ve seen in the blogosphere: Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. And what a doozy of a challenge this was! Not only did we have to make tiramisu, but we had to make the mascarpone cheese and the ladyfingers from scratch! (Of course, I’d have to make ladyfingers from scratch regardless; I’ve yet to come across gluten-free ladyfingers in the store.) This was definitely an exciting (albeit a bit daunting) challenge. I am so glad it was chosen: I had only tried tiramisu once before, and wasn’t too impressed with it. I was chatting with a friend of mine about this (as I know she loves tiramisu), and she told me that I just must have eaten tiramisu at the wrong place, because it’s the most amazing thing ever.

You know what? She was right. This dessert is the perfect pick-me-up. Both decadent and light at the same time, rich, but not too rich, with such a layer of complex, yet seemingly simple flavors. It was delightful. Aparna and Deeba definitely know how to choose a good dessert. I had to take most of my creation to the office to share, lest I be tempted to eat the whole thing. It was that amazing.

Prior to this challenge, I’d never made cheese of any variety. Not sure why I waited so long. Making mascarpone, while it takes a bit of time, is SO simple. I’m now inspired to move on to other fresh cheeses – the mascarpone set up so deliciously thick and creamy, it far surpasses store-bought. I can only imagine how a freshly-made ricotta or goat cheese would taste.

As for the ladyfingers, I followed a gluten-free recipe from The Art of Gluten-Free Cooking. I was a bit concerned when my batter was rather thin (I think my eggs were a bit too cold, and the whipped egg whites didn’t stiffen as much as they should have), but I pressed on. The resulting cookies were a bit thin, but they were deliciously crisp, with a slightly soft center. In the tiramisu,  they performed beautifully – they didn’t fall apart or get extremely soggy. Heaven.

While it was a bit of work, I’d definitely make tiramisu again – likely for special occasions. (to the family: put in your birthday requests now!) It was definitely worth the time and effort. Note: If you choose to make this, allow yourself enough time for preparation. The mascarpone needs to be made a day in advance, and the zabaglione and pastry cream need 4 hours to chill. Your ladyfingers will also need to be completely cool before you assemble the tiramisu. (I made my cheese two days in advance, and made the zabaglione and pastry cream the day before.) Enjoy!

 

For the mascarpone cheese, adapted from Baking Obsession

2 c heavy whipping cream

1 T fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour the cream in a medium stainless steel bowl and place in the simmering water. Heat the cream, stirring often, until it reaches 190 degrees (this will take some time). Add the lemon juice and continue stirring until the cream curdles. (You won’t see actual “curds”, but it will get a lot thicker, coating the back of a spoon.) Remove the bowl from the water and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a fine-meshed sieve with 4 layers of dampened cheesecloth and place over a bowl. When cool, pour the cream mixture into the sieve. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Keep refrigerated and use within 3-4 days.

For the ladyfingers, adapted from The Art of Gluten-Free Cooking

4 eggs, separated

1/2 c + 1 T sugar

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1/4 c sorghum flour

1/4 c + 1 T arrowroot powder

1/4 c tapioca flour

1 t baking powder

1 t guar gum

1/8 t salt

1/2 c confectioner’s sugar (if you can’t tolerate corn, you can always put regular sugar in a food processor and process until fine)

Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until creamy and the yolk falls from the whisk in ribbons. Stir in the vanilla. Set aside. Beat the egg whites until stiff and add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and whisk for about 30 seconds, making sure the egg whites cast off a glossy sheen.

Add the sorghum flour, arrowroot powder, tapioca flour, baking powder, guar gum and salt together and whisk. Add to the egg whites in three separate batches, folding gently with each addition. Then fold in the egg yolk mixture. Spoon your batter into a pastry bag with a 1-inch tip. (You could even just use a plastic ziploc bag and cut the tip off of it.)

Pipe fingers that are about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide on your parchment-lined baking sheets. Dust tops with confectioner’s sugar. Place the sheets in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Switch the baking sheets and bake for another 10 minutes or until ladyfingers are lightly golden on the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Makes 1-2 dozen ladyfingers.

Tiramisu, adapted from The Washington Post

Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:
For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice. (I used my 8-inch springform pan, lined on the bottom with parchment paper.)
Mix together the warm espresso, rum and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Working quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

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Filed under Baked goods, Desserts, Eggs, Gluten-Free

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli

Some up-front honesty before we get started: I debated whether to post this. Not because it wasn’t delicious – it most certainly was. No doubt about that. I just felt that the photo doesn’t do the dish justice. This is a dish that is bursting with flavor, demanded that I take seconds, and was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. In my opinion, this photo just didn’t convey those attributes enough. Unfortunately, it was also so well-enjoyed that by the time I downloaded the photos from my camera and came upon this realization, the opportunity to retake the pictures was long gone. All that remained were a few stray rice grains in the pan. Has this ever happened to you?

After some serious consideration, I decided to go forward with it. After all, why should I make you wait until next time (and there will be a next time!)? You should be able to enjoy a dish like this today. I’m a firm believer in immediate gratification when it comes to food.

The inspiration for this recipe came from the latest edition of Food and Wine magazine, amid other healthy, delicious recipes. (Yes, Food and Wine published a lot of healthy recipes this month! I was pretty darned excited, if I do say so.) Su-Mei Yu was the creator of a delectable Stir-Fried Red Rice with Sliced Sirloin Steak and Peas dish. Unfortunately, I didn’t have red rice on hand, and I knew it would require a bit of searching to locate. While I fully intend on tracking down some red rice, just to try it out, I wanted to make this dish now. (You know, that while immediate gratification thing.) So I substituted short-grain brown rice, changed up the vegetables a bit, and basically took a large number of liberties to suit my needs. Not sure that in the end, I’m actually following the original recipe at all, but regardless, I was definitely inspired.

The verdict? As you saw in the first paragraph, this was a hit. Who says healthy has to be bland or boring? I loved the slight heat the chile oil gave, loved the brightness of the cilantro and lime, and practically licked my plate clean. Even the husband was pleasantly surprised. (He’s not much for Asian cuisine, especially when it comes to a bunch of vegetables stir-fried together.) This recipe will definitely appear on the Tasty Eats menu again in the future.

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli, adapted from Su-Mei Yu – Food and Wine magazine

1 large head broccoli, cut into florets

2 T olive oil (not extra-virgin)

8 oz sirloin steak, sliced thinly into strips

Salt and pepper

½ large sweet onion, diced

1 ½ T grated fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and julienned

1 c frozen peas, thawed

2 c short-grain brown rice, cooked (either follow your rice cooker’s instructions, or follow Nicole’s super-cool instructions for perfect brown rice) and cooled to room temperature

2 T gluten-free soy sauce (La Choy and Tan-J sell gluten-free varieties)

1 T fish sauce

1 t sesame oil

½ t chile oil (optional – can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

½ c chopped cilantro

1 lime, sliced into wedges

Fill a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the broccoli, and bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water and set aside. When water is boiling, add broccoli and submerge. Boil for 1 minute and drain, and quickly dunk broccoli into ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain broccoli and set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil at medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the steak strips, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and spread out into a single layer. Brown for about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots and sauté for another minute or two. Add the broccoli, peas, and rice and stir. Let sit untouched for about a minute, until you hear everything sizzle. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and stir. Add the steak, sesame oil, and chile oil and stir again. Remove from heat and serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Rice

Kids in the Kitchen: Pan-Fried Trout and Baked Potatoes

In case anyone around here is keeping track, Brandan likes seafood. It’s his first choice for many of his meals. (Squid? Swordfish? Octopus? Brandan’s done it all!) So it comes as no surprise that he chose rainbow trout for this week’s dinner. Personally, I love rainbow trout. It’s a flavorful fish, and high in Omega-3s. It’s also fast-cooking, which made dinner tonight much easier. Along with a simple but delicious, baked potato, everyone was fed well; stress-free. The hardest part was watching the fish fry.

Brandan was indeed happy to go back for seconds (so was I) on the trout – it was tender and the skin was nice and crisp. Brittany wasn’t much for the fish (not to discredit it; she hasn’t happily eaten any fish for as long as I can remember), but she was extremely happy with her baked potato.

Because honestly, who wouldn’t be?

Pan-Fried Trout

½ t garlic powder

½ t onion powder

½ t paprika

¼ t chile powder

¼ t black pepper

½ t salt

1 1/2 – 2 lbs rainbow trout fillets

oil for shallow frying

Combine spices; sprinkle lightly over fish fillets. Heat a half-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add fish fillets (Brandan had to fry 1 fish at a time) and fry 2 minutes. Flip carefully and fry just until cooked through; about another minute or two. Remove and set on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining fillets.

Serves 4.

Baked Potatoes

(Not really a recipe, and not really anything ground-breaking. But sometimes, a simple baked potato can be heaven.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub cleaned Idaho potatoes with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Skewer each potato (helps them cook more quickly) and place in the middle rack of the oven for 45 minutes or up to an hour – until the potato yields gently when pressed. Remove skewer, and cut into the potato. Top with butter, salt, and pepper. (Of course, you can also add sour cream, cheddar, chives, bacon, etc. I opted for simple here.)

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Seafood, Side Dishes

Gluten-Free Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

If you ask people what their favorite comfort food is, chances are, macaroni and cheese will be one of the most popular. And why not? Macaroni and cheese is creamy, cheesy, and at its best, baked with a bit of crunch on the top. It soothes our souls and makes for happy bellies. The popularity of macaroni and cheese is proven by the countless variations offered at restaurants all across the country. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board recognizes this, and so when they approached me to contribute to their new blog, 30 Days 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese, how could I say no?

But when you’re following a gluten-free diet, macaroni and cheese is not something so easily acquired. Since going on a gluten-free diet, I have not had the joy and comfort that comes from this humble dish. At times, memories of Luby’s creamy macaroni haunted me. (If you lived in Texas for any length of time, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Luby’s may not be the finest of dining establishments, but they have some of the creamiest macaroni and cheese. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.) Well, the pining stops here.

Meet gluten-free macaroni and cheese, made simple by my best pasta friend, Tinkyada. Of course, you can use any gluten-free pasta that you choose – I just love Tinkyada’s brown rice pasta because it doesn’t turn mushy. And since it’s made from brown rice, I’m getting a bit of fiber into the dish. (Not to say that this is health food – it’s still macaroni and cheese, after all!) And no, Tinkyada isn’t paying me to tell you about all of this – I just love their products.

This Parmesan macaroni and cheese is relatively straightforward. Of course, if you choose, you can add ingredients to your liking – bacon, chopped tomatoes, or other cheeses would all be welcomed here. We have a tendency to be purists in our home when it comes to macaroni and cheese, so we opted to keep it simple. And let me tell you – simple was delicious!

Gluten-Free Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

4 cups dry gluten-free pasta (I used Tinkyada brown-rice fusilli)

1/4 c (1/2 stick, or 4 T) butter

3 T tapioca starch/flour

2 1/2 c milk

3 t dry mustard

1 t paprika

1 egg, beaten

12 oz mild white cheddar, grated

2 oz Parmesan, finely grated

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

Cook the pasta as directed on package, removing from water 2-3 minutes early, so that the pasta is very firm. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large baking dish. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, and pour in the tapioca starch.Whisk constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until light brown. (Do not let it burn.) Pour in the milk, and add the mustard and paprika.  Whisk until smooth, and cook, whisking constantly, until very thick. Reduce heat to low. Pour about 1/4 cup of the thickened sauce into the egg and whisk constantly to avoid the cooking the egg. Pour egg mixture into sauce, and whisk in all but about 1/2 cup of the cheddar and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust as needed.

Pour in the pasta and stir to combine. Place into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until sufficiently browned.

Serves 6-8.

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Pasta, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Pancakes with Maple-Orange Butter

If I had dreams about perfect gluten-free pancakes, these would be those pancakes. Crispy edges, fluffy interiors, and a gorgeous yellow hue – these are indeed the stuff of dreams.

Normally, I’m not a big pancake person. I prefer savory breakfasts, and a sticky-sweet start to my morning is just too much. Thankfully, these pancakes aren’t sticky-sweet. In fact, they would be just as comfortable in a savory setting (cornmeal pancake-sausage-egg breakfast sandwich, anyone?) as they were served with real maple syrup (none of that corn syrupy fake stuff for me, thank you!), blackberries (yes, I realize it’s not blackberry season – I fell victim to some not-so-local ones at the grocery!), and some maple-orange butter.  Hungry yet?

These will definitely become a regular for our weekend breakfasts. They’re the best gluten-free pancake I’ve ever encountered. Just so you know, the batter for these is thicker than most pancake batters. The best way to pour the batter is to use a measuring cup, and spread out the pancake slightly with the bottom of the measuring cup each time. I actually preferred these thick – they were fluffy inside with a lovely crust outside. Yum.

This recipe was designed to feed John and me this morning – so feel free to double or triple it to feed a larger crowd.

Gluten-Free Cornmeal Pancakes with Maple-Orange Butter (butter recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

2 eggs

3/4 c buttermilk

3/4 c cornmeal

1/4 c masa harina

2 T tapioca starch

1/2 t xanthan gum

1 T sugar

1/4 t kosher salt

2 T butter, melted

1-2 T butter for cooking the pancakes

Beat eggs in a large bowl until well-blended and frothy. Add buttermilk, cornmeal, masa harina, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt and blend. Add melted butter and stir to blend.

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Swirl to melt. Working in batches, pour ¼ cup of batter into skillet. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on bottom, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet and keep warm (I use the “warm” setting in my oven). Repeat this process, adding more butter to the pan as necessary.

Serve with blackberries, maple-orange butter, and additional maple syrup if desired. Serves 2-3.

For the maple-orange butter:

4 oz unsalted butter, softened

1 T fresh orange juice

1 T pure maple syrup

1 t orange zest

1/4 t kosher salt

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Can be refrigerated for up to a week.

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Filed under breakfast, Gluten-Free, Quick and Easy

Daring Cooks: Mezze

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have good friends that live just a few miles from us. Lately, we’ve been enjoying one another’s company by cooking together. We wanted to have a “Greek night” together, so it was perfect that the Daring Cooks challenge for February was to create a mezze. Michele of Veggie Num Nums was our host for this month’s challenge, and what a great job she did! A mezze is perfect food for a crowd – everyone can pick at every component of the meal, munch, and customize as they please. We were required to create pita breads and hummus, and we could add any additional recipes we chose. I went with falafel and cucumber raita, (two recipes Michele also shared with us) baba ganoush, and lamb kofte with muhammara. It was a feast!

Unfortunately, my gluten-free pitas did not turn out as beautifully as hoped. They were edible, but the texture was so different from what I remember from wheat pitas. Even more unfortunate – I saved the recipe I created on my hard drive. That very same hard drive that went “kaput” that night. So I did my best to re-create my steps below – but follow this recipe at your own risk! It was touchy even if I’ve documented it correctly, and could use some tweaking. I did eat my pitas, however, dipping in baba ganoush and hummus. Yum.

Everything else, however, was delicious. I’d never cooked dried chickpeas before (yes, I realize that might be weird.). Honestly, I’m not much of a chickpea fan (except in hummus), so if I buy them at all, I opt for the canned variety. Soaking and cooking from dried is MUCH better! The peas are much more tender, but not at all mushy. And they blended beautifully in the hummus, which was silky smooth. My personal favorite of the night, however, was the baba ganoush. I’ve made that baba ganoush several times over the past few months, and I fall more in love with it each time. With a large plate of baby carrots, I could finish off a bowl of it by myself. It’s that good. My second favorite was the muhammara that went with the meatballs. I could envision using that on other cuts of meat – muhammara-glazed skirt steak, maybe? It was so easy to make, I definitely need to consider future uses for it.

Overall, this was a great Daring Cooks challenge. We enjoyed preparing everything, and finished the evening with a considerable amount of Wii playing with the kids, chatting, and a bit of foosball and air hockey. Definitely a night worthy of repeating.

Gluten-Free Pita Bread, adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

(this recipe may not be exact – the recipe I created was lost)

1 T dry yeast

2 1/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees F)

1 t agave nectar

2 c quinoa flour

2 c amaranth flour

2 c tapioca starch

1 t gelatine

1 t xanthan gum

1 T kosher salt

2 T olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, gelatine, and xanthan gum. Add the flour mixture, a cup at a time, to the water/yeast mixture, stirring with each addition. Add in the salt and olive oil and stir or knead thoroughly until well-mixed. The dough should be somewhat sticky but firm. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. With wet hands, gently punch down the dough and separate into about 8 rounds, placing each on parchment-lined baking sheets, flattening into circles, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pitas, one baking sheet at a time, on the lower rack in the oven. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until no longer gummy in the center. Repeat with remaining pitas. Wrap in foil to keep soft. If desired, toast on a dry skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes about 9 pitas.

Red Pepper Hummus, adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

1.5 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking)

2 – 2.5 lemons, juiced

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

a big pinch of salt

4 T tahini (sesame paste)

1/3 c jarred red peppers

Drain and boil the chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Puree the beans in a food processor (or mash by hand), adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to puree in food processor until incorporated. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cucumber Raita, adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

1 t cumin seeds

2 c plain yogurt

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

fresh cilantro

fresh mint

1 cucumber, peeled and seeds removed

paprika, just a pinch, to use as garnish

Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small frying pan. Crush with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

In a bowl, stir yogurt along with cumin, garlic, cilantro and mint. Stir in cucumber and sprinkle with paprika. Chill before serving.

 

Gluten-Free Falafel, adapted from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com

1 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or well drained canned chickpeas)

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped

2 T fresh parsley

2 T fresh cilantro

1 t kosher salt

1 t chile powder (not “chili” powder – you want the kind that only has chiles in it)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 t ground cumin

1 t baking powder

4 T sweet rice flour

1 egg, beaten

canola oil for frying

Place the drained chickpeas and the onions in the food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, chile powder, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. You want it to look like crumbs. Sprinkle in the baking powder and flour and pulse and stir. Add the egg and stir in. You want the falafel to form into a ball and no longer stick to your hands – if it does, add a bit more flour. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for several hours, covered.

Form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of walnuts. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees and fry each ball for about a minute, or just until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve with cucumber raita.

Baba Ganoush, adapted from David Lebovitz

3 eggplants

1/2 c tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 t kosher salt

3 T lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, mashed

1/8 t chile powder

1/8 t cumin powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

a half-bunch of flat-leaf parsley

Preheat broiler of oven (or grill). Prick each eggplant with a fork several times. Char the outside of the eggplants all over under the broiler or on the grill until they look wilted, turning every few minutes.

Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. The eggplants should be completely soft.

Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and with a spoon, scrape out the pulp. Puree in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, until smooth. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with carrots and celery (as I did) or with gluten-free pitas.

Lamb Kofte with Muhammara, adapted from Bon Appetit

For the kofte:

2 lbs ground lamb

1/2 c minced fresh mint leaves

1/4 c finely minced onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 T paprika

1 t ground cumin

2 t ground coriander

1 1/2 t kosher salt

1 t black pepper

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 T olive oil, divided

2 large onions, sliced

For the muhammara:

1/2 c finely chopped jarred red peppers

1/2 c pomegranate juice

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, mix the lamb, mint, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Form into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and keep warm. Add the second tablespoon of oil to skillet. Working in batches, saute the meatballs until just cooked through, 8 minutes. Keep warm. Reserve skillet when meatballs are cooked.

Add red peppers to skillet and stir for 1 minutes. Add pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bites. Cook until reduced to 2/3 c, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.

Serve meatballs and onions in pitas with muhammara sauce spooned over.

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Filed under Appetizers, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Lamb, Main Dishes, Side Dishes