Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grain Free Banana Bread

As part of our Gluten-Free January project, I've tried a few (very few) recipes for baked goods that will satisfy our acquired-over-decades taste for something ....well, baked.

I say "few" because one thing you don't want to do in a healthy diet is replace something unhealthy (white flour baked goods) with something grain free (made with almond flour, almond butter, etc.) and eat it in the same amounts as the white flour stuff.

Muffins, breads and pancakes made with almond butter or almond flour are superb, but they contain enough fat to boost your daily fat intake up to even the Primal Diet's 65 percent fairly quickly.  Fortunately, they are also more satisfying and filling!  Because they contain few to no concentrated carbs, they don't set you up for the never-ending, carb-craving cycle.

A slice of this bread for breakfast, with fruit, fits nicely into the overall scheme.  The Smart Palette's recipe called for unsweetened chocolate chips, which I measured out and had standing by.  But I forgot to put them in!  I also forgot to sprinkle the top with date sugar, as called for!

No matter.  A delicately banana-flavored and filling bread this is, indeed.  You will be amazed that it is flour free.
From The Smart Palate, who adapted it from Grain-Free Foodies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 cup unsalted almond butter

2 tablespoons freshly ground flax seeds (I used a blade coffee grinder)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Generous pinch of fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1/3 cup chopped unsweetened dark chocolate or unsweetened dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon date sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium mixing bowl, with electric mixer, combine bananas, eggs, almond butter, flax seeds, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.  Blend very well; mixture should be quite smooth.

Add baking soda and vinegar and mix briefly.  If desired, stir in chocolate.

Spoon batter into a greased (use butter, ghee, or coconut oil) small loaf pan.  I used a small Pyrex loaf pan that measures 7-3/4" by 4-1/2".  If desired, sprinkle date sugar atop batter.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes on a rack, then gently loosen sides with a thin spatula, turn loaf out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely before slicing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Butternut and Spinach Frittata with Cream and Walnuts

Mmm, creamy, squashy, nutty ... superbly satisfying on a cold January evening, with a green salad and grapefruit wedges.

Crank's Bible is a rich compendium of intriguing combinations, and gives great consideration, in an easygoing way, to the pleasure of both eye and palette. I found this cookbook on a sale table some years ago, picked it up, put it down, walked off, walked back ... you know the drill.

I'd had this recipe marked for weeks, and, finally, the perfect evening for it arrived.  I used my CSA butternut squash cubes, previously frozen, and local Davis Farms walnuts, Pure Eire cream, and CG Ranch eggs.

Believe it or not, I took this recipe down by half.  Nadine Abensur's version was positively Bacchanalian, with a whole dozen eggs and a cup of cream!  I did, however, use her full amount of garlic, on my yet-to-be-disproven theory that in most savory dishes, garlic is always welcome.
Adapted from Crank's Bible, by Nadine Abensur

6 local eggs
1/2 cup Pure Eire cream
4 fat garlic cloves, or 8 smaller ones, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 pound butternut squash cubes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon tamari
Dash of Tabasco, or red curry paste, or ground chipotle

5 ounces spinach leaves, washed and big stems removed, or use baby spinach
About 1/4 cup walnut pieces, broken into large-ish pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In small bowl, whisk eggs, cream, garlic, salt and pepper, and set aside to infuse.

In large bowl, toss squash cubes with olive oil, tamari and Tabsco, and spread on Silpat-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash is fairly soft and edges have begun to carmelize.

Remove squash from oven, spread spinach leaves over squash, and stir the spinach in gently.  Return to oven for a few minutes, or until the spinach has wilted a bit.

Carefully spoon squash and spinach mixture onto a frittata pan or suitably sized ovenproof nonstick or seasoned cast iron skillet.  Heat over medium heat just until skillet is hot.  Pour egg mixture over squash, to fill out to edges of pan.

Now, you may either gently move the squash around, scraping with your spatula through to the pan bottom to allow egg mixture to fully cook, as the author did, or use my optional method of setting the frittata back into the oven, checking every few minutes to see if the eggs have gently set.  You don't want the frittata to get dry.

Sprinkle walnuts atop, and leave to set a while at room temperature.  Nadine Abensur says this gives it "time to settle and ease into itself."  (You see why I bought her cookbook?)

Serves 4 generously.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mixed Berry Flaugnarde with Vanilla Bean

Mixed berry what?

This lush, earthy yet sophisticated dessert proved a beautiful, delicately vanilla-scented solution for a Costco-sized bag of mixed berries that had crouched for months (years?) in the bottom of my freezer.   You know, the one you keep moving around when you're looking for other stuff.  And you think, "What can I do with two pounds of mixed berries?  Why did I buy them in the first place?"

I love The Nourished Kitchen blog, and was enchanted by this recipe that is so satisfying to the senses, uses my berry largesse, and assuages my conscience for ignoring that bag 'o berries for so long.

A flaugnarde (flewn-YARD) is apparently kin to the clafoutis (kah-floo-TEE), but it is flourless and more custardy.  As it happened, my aunt had given me a tube of vanilla beans (she'd been to Costco, too, and shared), and my Pure Eire cream was ready for something new.

It does add a little continental flair to say "we're having flewn-YARD" for dessert, but this lovely dish would be good even without announcing it with a French accent.
Adapted from The Nourished Kitchen

2 pounds mixed fresh or frozen berries
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup maple syrup

1 vanilla bean (optional)

Preheat oven to350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss berries with vanilla extract.  Put berries in a baking dish, and roast them for 20 minutes. They should have released most of their juices.

Carefully spoon berries into a colander set over a bowl.  Let them drain thoroughly; a screen mesh colander is best.  You want them to be as juice-free as possible.  Save the juices to use for flavoring other things like smoothies and ice cream, or simmer the juices down to make a lovely, vanilla-scented syrup.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk thoroughly the egg, egg yolks, cream and maple syrup.

Pour the strained berries into a shallow baking dish.  I used a 10 1/2-inch Corning ware dish with 1 1/2-inch-tall sides.  Spread berries evenly over bottom of dish.  If using vanilla bean, lay it on top of the berries.   Pour batter over berries and bake for 45 minutes or until the flaugnarde browns and the egg is just set.

Best served warm, after it cools just a bit.

Makes 4 generous servings, or 6 smaller ones

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fourth and Fifth Boxes

Box Five ... onions, garlic, salad greens, chickpeas, carrots, chili peppers, a Carnival squash, a New Zealand Blue squash, and (I think) another Kabocha. 

Box Four ... taters, squashes, popcorn, lavender, beets, salad greens, and lentils.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Best Kale Dish You've Ever Made

This post's title is a direct quote from Mr. Eating the Scenery, after he finished off his second helping, leaving the dish empty.  This was indeed a spectacularly delicious way to prepare kale, which is often found braised with garlic and olive oil, ho hum.

The funny thing is, the original recipe called for crushed coriander seed.  For reasons unknown, I read "cardamom," and duly crushed cardamom seed and sprinkled it in at the appointed time.  The round, sweet, spicy, exotic flavor seemed to fuse the kale and apples and onions in a wondrous waltz of taste.

I didn't notice until sitting down here with the recipe that it called for coriander seed.

Sometimes a mistake can be wonderful.

The photo I took before we dug in, however, is best forgotten.  The sunrise above, looking east from our home, is much more attractive, if tangential to the food theme.  Trust me.
From The Smart Palate, tweaked a bit

My bunch of kale was rather small, so this recipe made about two very hearty servings (or four smaller ones).  If you use a large bunch of kale, you'll want to increase the olive oil and perhaps use a large onion and a second apple, and increase the spices a bit.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale (I used Lacinato, aka Black Tuscan), washed, cut from center ribs, then sliced thinly

In large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Toss in the onion and apple, and sprinkle all with salt and pepper.  Saute for a minute or so, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until apple and onion begin to sweat (sorry, I just learned that culinary term a bit ago and keep wanting to use it), about 5 to 8 minutes.  Add a little water if necessary to keep things from sticking.

Sprinkle cardamom and crushed red pepper over the apple mixture and stir it in, then stir in the kale.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until kale reaches the consistency you like.

An amazing dish.

Makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on size of your kale bunch

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homemade Ice Cream with Cherries and Dates

Ever seeking to reduce my use of refined sugar, and increase good fats, I decided to try making some ice cream with no refined sugar at all.  I'm certain that using our wonderful, local Pure Eire Jersey cream gave this ice cream its eye-opening, superior taste and texture.

Just a small dish is immensely satisfying, much like Italian gelato.

1 cup frozen pitted sweet cherries
10 pitted dates
3/4 cup water

2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups Pure Eire cream

Place an appropriately-sized glass container with cover in your freezer so it is ready for the ice cream.  If you are going to serve it freshly churned, freeze little serving bowls. 

In a blender, puree the cherries, dates and water until smooth.  Add vanilla and cream, and blend just until cream is incorporated and mix is smooth.

Pour into ice cream maker and process for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the ice cream stiffens and begins to curl around the paddle blades in a big way.

Serve the ice cream right away, or spatula it (hey, if you can spoon something, you can spatula it, right?) into your frozen container.  Put right into the freezer.

Makes a little under 4 cups of rich, delicious ice cream, or about 8 servings to savor slowly!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Kabocha with Clothes On

Amazing!  Who knew there were squashes whose peels you could eat!  Apparently people eat unpeeled kabocha squash all the time!  I love it when I emerge from the culinary dark, finally to see something that others have known for millennia.  Here's how you do it.

Slice off the stems and blossom ends. Cut off any bumps or damaged spots, and remove any divots.

Then cut the squash in half.  Be careful.  If you have trouble getting the knife through, take the squash to a concrete area and bang it to complete the split.

Use your trusty serrated ice cream scoop to remove the seeds. Cut squash into dice (about 3/4 inch) and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the dices with salt and pepper.

Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once at midpoint.   The squash will begin to caramelize, and will taste exquisitely sweet and dense.

Other squash varieties whose skins are edible are Delicata and acorn.  But you have to make sure the squash is fairly fresh.  Apparently the skin grows thicker throughout the winter as the squash loses moisture.

To test for peel edibility, you could cut a cube and microwave it to see if the skin goes soft.

Our venerable CSA farmer grows umpteen varieties of squash and held a squash tasting that I was not able to attend.  Perhaps he mentioned this wondrous quality of certain squashes!  It certainly speeds the preparation process, and provides an easier source of cubed squash to freeze or roast!

Wilted Salad Greens

Traditionally known as "wilted lettuce," this tangy and deeply satisfying salad was commonly served back in the Day.  Generally speaking, I refer to the Day when people did not consume processed carbohydrates in the volumes and concentrations found in Big Gulps and giant Venti frappuccinos, unless they were hoisting bales of hay onto trucks all day, or suchlike.  And no one fueled themselves on chemical stews of fractured transfats, because they were not concocted yet. 

Thus, real fat (butter and such) wasn't cause for any hand-wringing.  In fact, our (mostly long-lived) forebears would probably have prepared significantly more of the hot dressing for this salad, hence the "wilted" moniker.  But the amounts I use here won't take down your lettuce volume by much.

As we further reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates we consume, and prepare more fresh vegetables, we find that adding real fat becomes appropriate.

Options for additions and variations are many:  hard boiled eggs, green onions, herbs, cream in the dressing ... personalize it your way, or find your grandma's recipe for wilted lettuce and find out just how good the Good Old Days really could be!

If you use bacon you have already cut up, fried, and frozen, just heat it in a little skillet to crisp it and release some of the fat, then use olive oil to reach the 2 tablespoons of fat amount.

A medium sized bowl of fresh, CSA salad greens
Natural bacon
Olive oil
Sucanat or agave syrup

In a little skillet, fry about a cup of bacon pieces (about 4-5 slices).  Remove bacon to drain.  To the bacon fat, add enough olive oil to reach a volume of about
2 tablespoons.  Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar (any kind, really), and  2 teaspoons of your chosen sweetener.  Sprinkle on some salt.  Whisk and cook a little, until the sweetener is dissolved and the liquid is hot.

Spoon the hot dressing in a swirl over your salad greens.  Scatter the bacon pieces atop.

Makes 4 hearty servings

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Things We Do for Squash

No other vegetable plays so hard to get.  Even optimistic I, on occasion, am daunted by their thick-skinned impenetrability.  But as everyone knows it's better to have attempted to cook squash than never to have cooked it at all. 

To that end, with visions of happy-ever-after roasted squash dishes dancing in my head, I boldly brought in my CSA squash a while back, during that particularly cold spell we had where the north wind was bitingly fierce.  Darkness was falling.  I couldn't get the knife to fully split the squash, so gathered squash and knife and headed out my (north facing) dining room door to the back patio, where there was concrete.  The wind immediately blasted into the house, so I pulled the door quickly shut.

Not until I had slammed the knife-impaled squash onto the concrete, thus splitting it, did I find that I had failed to fully unlock the door.  I was now locked outside, in the near dark, with a split squash, a knife, no coat, and an unmercifully arctic north wind bearing down upon me.

I recalled with great vividness the discussion Mr. Eating the Scenery and I had recently about our non-operative garage door keypad.  It was still inoperable.  The keybox by the back door (also north facing) was my only hope.  I don't think I've ever been as close to frostbite as I was fiddling with that frigid metal keybox, feeling for the number sequence and punching numbers in the dark, for around 20 minutes, failing to get it unlocked and growing fumblier minute by frosty minute.

Still, I have wonderful neighbors, and had they been home, I'm sure they would have welcomed me in, big chef's knife, squash and all, for tea and cookies while I waited for Mr. Eating the Scenery to arrive home. As it was, at last I succeeded in opening the keybox and the door.  I needed no trip to the emergency room but was fascinated by the pain involved in slowly thawing my fingertips under tepid water.

Squash hurts.

Greek Potatoes

So good it makes you want to do a stomping dance and break some glassware.

Earlier this fall, as I was buying leeks (when my local ones were gone, I didn't seem to be able to be without them) at the grocery store, the checker asked me what I did with them.  There are so many things!  But of course I was struck dumb, as we so often are when there is so much to say, and could only blurt things like "soup" and "eggs."

But I shall take this recipe to her.  No one who asks me for ideas or recipes shall be left in the dark.
Adapted from Plenty by Diana Henry

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 cup lowfat yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil
5 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into chunks
1-1/4 lb. Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks slightly larger than the leek chunks
Salt and pepper

12 to 16 ounces spinach, chard, or other greens, more or less to taste, sliced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
A glug of lemon juice

Mix the garlic and yogurt and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Add leeks and potatoes, and season them with salt and pepper.  Heat over a low temperature for 20 minutes or so.  Check occasionally and add water if needed.  This seems to be called "sweating," and indeed the potatoes and leeks will look a bit like they are doing hot yoga.

When potatoes are not crisp but are less than tender, add the spinach and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix gently, add a little more water, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the greens have wilted nicely.

Stir in the dill, mint and lemon juice. At this point I stirred in the garlic/yogurt mixture, but the original recipe advises us to serve it alongside, a perfectly acceptable option.

Makes 6 side dish servings