Tag Archives: daring kitchen

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.


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

Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars

I was so excited to find out that Lauren of Celiac Teen was hosting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. Lauren always amazes me with her skills in the kitchen – I was just barely understanding the concept of cooking at her age! And to have a Daring Bakers challenge that I didn’t have to convert to gluten-free? Well, that made things a million times easier!

I’d never heard of Nanaimo Bars before this challenge. But now that I’m in the loop, I’m definitely making these again, with one requirement: that there other people are around to eat them all for me. These babies were SO good. But they were also SO bad, calling me from the fridge at all hours, begging me to have just one more. And I caved, too many times. With a graham cracker-almond-coconut-chocolate layer, a creamy vanilla layer, and another chocolate layer, who could resist?

I followed Lauren’s recipe rather closely, only substituting 1% milk for whole milk in the graham crackers. (I just don’t usually stock whole milk.) Those crackers were better than any gluten-containing ones I’d ever had – I munched on a few, and even used some for banana pudding (recipe to come soon!). And for the purpose of making graham cracker crumbs for these bars, they were excellent. I think that in the future, I’d love to try to make these with a mint filling in the middle layer. But honestly, they were amazing just as is.

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 c sweet rice flour

3/4 c tapioca starch/flour

1/2 c sorghum flour

1 c dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1 t baking soda

3/4 t kosher salt

7 T unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

1/3 c honey

5 T milk

2 T vanilla extract

In a bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal and you can no longer see chunks of butter.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be soft and sticky.

Turn the dough onto a a surface well-dusted with rice flour. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. (I did this on top of some plastic wrap) Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, 2 hours or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto a work surface and roll the doughinto a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour is necessary. Cut into 4X4 inch squares. Repeat with remaining dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Adjust the rachs in the oven to the upper and lower thirds and preheat to 350 degrees. Prick the wafers with a toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows. (I forgot to do this, but they still came out fine.) Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool completely.

To make crumbs – place wafers in a food processor and pulse until crumbs, or place in a large ziploc bag, force all the air out and smash with a rolling pin.

Nanaimo Bars, adapted from City of Nanaimo

Bottom Layer

1/2 c unsalted butter

1/4 c sugar

5 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 c gluten-free graham cracker crumbs

1/2 c almonds, finely chopped

1 c shredded coconut

Middle Layer

1/2 c unsalted butter

2 T plus 2 t heavy cream

2 T vanilla custard power (such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted – I did this.)

2 c powdered sugar

Top Layer

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate

2 T unsalted butter

For the bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar, and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts, and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8X8 inch pan.

For the middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.

For the top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. (Cool to room temperature. If you don’t, your top layer will swirl in with the middle layer.) Spread over middle layer and chill.until firm. Cut into squares.

Makes about 16 squares.


Filed under Baked goods, Desserts, Gluten-Free

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

When I read the challenge for Daring Bakers this month, I immediately felt that lump rise in my throat. Gingerbread house? Are you kidding me? (No offense to Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemon Pi – it’s a wonderfully festive idea!) It just seemed insurmountable. I’d never made a gingerbread house. And this baby had to be gluten-free.

Over the next few days, after I had time to digest the challenge and do a little research, I felt ready to tackle it. I looked around and found this pattern. Seemed simple enough to handle. And after researching gluten-free gingerbread, I decided on this recipe. I did choose regular butter instead of the margarine, I used more rice flour instead of the millet flour (I didn’t have millet flour on hand), and I opted to refrigerate the dough for several hours before rolling it out. I was so glad I did, because even rolling it out while chilled proved to be a test of patience. The dough was quite sticky and seemed to absorb a lot of rice flour – I kept dusting my board and rolling pin over and over, only to roll it out and have my cut pieces stick. When they didn’t stick, they came off of the board misshapen and I’d have to start over. It took me a while, but I did successfully roll and cut out two houses’ worth. Thankfully I had extras.

Once baked, they did warp a bit. No issues – I got out my knife and made cuts to make them fit. Easy peasy, or so I thought. I broke some pieces – and ended up with just enough pieces for one house. But they still didn’t fit together perfectly.

All in all, the house was a success – even if the sides didn’t fit together. (I’m so thankful for royal icing – it’ll stick any of those big gaps together!) I chose gluten-free candies (Dots, M&Ms, Sixlets, Hot Tamales, and Nerds) to decorate, and used Glutino pretzels for the roof. I wasn’t perfectly happy with it – but it was finished. The following day, my parents stopped by and I tried to show it off gain some sympathetic approval, and my husband mentioned to them that he’d never heard so many curse words come from the kitchen as when I was working on that house. Whoops. Guess my secret’s out!

What would I do differently next time? I might find a different recipe for the dough – but I have also since seen that there are molds for gingerbread houses. I think if I was to make one again, I’d definitely find some of these. Maybe that’s cheating, not sure! I just know it was quite an undertaking for me to finish this house!

All in all, I’m glad I participated in this challenge. Going beyond my comfort zone – that’s what it’s all about, right?


Filed under Baked goods, Gluten-Free