Monday, September 29, 2008

Edamame Avocado Sandwich Spread

My friend Michelle and I are always trying to figure out how to diversify our kids' lunches. If you think of a school year as being 180 days of turkey or peanut butter sandwiches, it takes on a new meaning. Kids are not the only ones suffering from the dreaded bore of the lunch hour. Many of us grown-ups have a hard enough time coming up with an exciting dinner day-in and day-out so the last thing we want to spend energy on is our weekday lunches.

Last week, I was inspired to make an edamame spread after visiting Mary Ann's blog: Meet Me in the Kitchen. She posted a great looking Edamame, Tomato Cheese Melt. I ended up making my own version because of time constraints and other technicalities. My kids and I love this vibrant green spread which reminds us of green tea ice cream. It made a tasty sandwich.

edamame spread dish

Later that day, I brought some over to Michelle's. She has been asking for the recipe ever since.

Edamame spread close-up

Edamame Avocado Sandwich Spread
16oz frozen edamame (soybeans), shelled and thawed
1 ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoon of soy mayonnaise or other
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape the sides a few times and process again. Serve on bread or with crackers.

One more delicious sandwich-filling recipe for you to enjoy:
Wild Salmon Salad with Dill

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers September Challenge: Lavash Crackers & Toppings

lavash 4 ways

I was so excited to find out that my very first Daring Bakers challenge would be a gluten-free treat. For months, I have been amazed at the wonderful posts of DB participants; I finally gathered up my courage to sign on. This month's challenged was hosted by Shell at Shellyfish and Natalie at Gluten A Go Go.

This month's challenge was to make gluten-free lavash crackers with a vegan, gluten-free topping. Lavash is a delicious middle eastern cracker bread.

The recipe that the Daring Bakers all followed came from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. However, we were given the freedom to be as creative with the flavoring as we wished to be.

Here's the recipe for the Lavash crackers as it was given:
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

I decided to make two versions: For the first one, I started thinking about it in terms of color. I wanted a contrast between red and green.

lavash cracker with beet

I used beet cooking water for the first batch of dough. I added 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds for extra flavor. I also thought it would be fun to shape the cracker dough into little cups to hold the spread.

lavash cup stack

Then, I whipped up an eggplant, spinach and roasted garlic dip topping to go with it.

For the second batch, I wanted to create a different type visual point of focus. I used the recipe given but decided to incrust whole cilantro leaves in each cracker and coarse sea salt. I served it with a velvety butternut squash white bean dip.

It's wonderful to see how inventive everyone has been with this challenge. Some bakers made sweets with the very same recipe and with a dip to match. Some concocted brilliant salsas... Check out the creativity by going through the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Here are the recipes for the dips I created:

Butternut Squash & White Bean Spread with White Truffle Oil

Butternut bean dip

12 oz frozen butternut squash, thawed
1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 teaspoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor.

Eggplant Spinach Spread with Roasted Garlic

eggplant spinach dip

1.5 lbs small eggplants, end-cap removed (should be about 3 small)
1 head garlic, top layer cut off to reveal cloves
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive tapenade
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped

Preheat oven 375F
Oil cookie sheet.
Sprinkle olive oil on head of garlic. Wrap the whole head of garlic in aluminum foil.
Place the wrapped up garlic and eggplants on the cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven.
Let cool until cold enough to handle.
Cut eggplants in half and scrape the inside off with a spoon. Transfer to bowl of food processor.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor, followed by all the other ingredients. Pulse until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times if necessary.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Promise Fulfilled: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

lemon meringue cupcake

I look at cupcakes and I see a promise unfulfilled. My husband use to feel that way about coffee. He use to say that coffee smelled great but tasted awful. After fifteen years, I have corrupted him. He is now a coffee aficionado.

Cupcakes always look so playful and whimsical. Their frosting reaches for the sky, triggering a waterfall of desire that cannot be ignored. You imagine moist cake batter baked to perfection, decadent fillings melting on your tongue and flavors bursting sweetly in your mouth. At least that's what I imagine...but too often, you get overly sweet oiliness, with a slightly metalic aftertaste, and a dry texture that leaves nothing to be desired.

So when I heard that Foodbeam was hosting Sugar High Fridays and that the theme was cupcakes, I had to participate. I took my sweet time figuring out what kind of cupcake would be worthy of the name. In the end, I created a moist nut batter filled with tart and sweet lemon curd and crowned with a moist but crusty meringue. One bite and I was in heaven--cupcake heaven.

lemon meringue cupcake platter

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes (Makes 12 Gluten Free Cupcakes)
I used a Cooking Light recipe to make my lemon curd. The cupcake batter is my own, vegan and an excellent eggless base for any cupcake.

Artsy-Foodie's Tip:
When beating egg whites, start out by wiping your bowl clean with a towel moistened with vinegar. This step ensures that an oil residue won't interfere with the fluffing of the egg whites.

12 teaspoon homemade lemon curd or store bought

Cupcake Batter:
2/3 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xantham gum

12 cupcake liners

3 egg whites, brought to room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla
6 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix wet cupcake batter ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
Mix the rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xantham gum together in another bowl.
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and mix well.

In an oiled muffin pan, place the paper cup liners. Inside each cup place 1 rounded tablespoon of batter. Follow with a teaspoon of lemon curd. Then finish with the remaining batter, dividing it equally among all the cupcakes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until baked through and slightly golden.
Remove from the oven but leave the oven on. Let cool slightly while you prepare the meringue.

In a mixer combine the three egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Slowly incorporate the sugar while the mixer is on. Continue mixing until the sugar has melted into the egg and mixture is fluffy, glistening white. Put uncooked meringue into a piping bag. Pipe the meringue onto the cupcakes in a circular motion, finishing with a peak in the center. Bake for just 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue is slightly golden. It's important to keep a close eye on it as meringue can burn easily. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

lemon cupcake inside

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Awards and Generosity

Monday morning was wonderful. I received two separate messages letting me know that I had been given an award for Artsy-Foodie. I have been honored by two wonderful bloggers.

The first one is from Elra. A super talented cook, whose adventurous palette knows no bounds. All the recipes she posts are mouthwatering and delicious. I know, I have fed my family quite a few of them. However, there is so much more to her talents than just cooking and baking, because she is an avid gardener as well. I have the ambitions of a gardener but the reality of my brown thumbs. It gives me the hope and the strength to keep trying. It was heartwarming to receive the "E" award from Elra and I thank her so much for her generosity. So now in turn I would like to pass on this award to the following bloggers:

Cannelle et Vanille: Aran is the woman behind this amazing pastry blog. She needs no introduction among food bloggers. I am sure that she has received many awards but I feel the need to pass on this one to her. Her pictures and beautiful work is an inspiration. She is immensely talented, creative and artistic.

FoodCraze: Cecil's blog is just lovely. She whips up exotic dishes which I find inspiring. I always feel motivated to try new dishes or ingredients after visiting FoodCraze.

Dine and Dish: Kristen's magical prose makes me laugh. Her posts are funny and witty. She cooks great dishes that are accessible to anyone. She is generous beyond words. She is also the mastermind behind the Adopt a Blogger program.

Tartelette: Another famous food blogger who inspires me. Helen is a talented pastry chef whose creations are like music to my soul. She is working on a cookbook at the moment and yet still finds the time to delight her readers with posts and gorgeous desserts. My hat goes off to you Miss Tartelette!

Jugalbandi: Their pictures are always stunning, their recipes delicious, and their hearts so open. Bee and Jai are such wonderful people. Their kindness permeates through their offerings of food, scenery and thoughts.

Mike's Table: Mike's blog is a culinary adventure. He tries so many interesting dishes and techniques. I always leave his site with a head full of ideas or must-try dishes.

Meet Me in the Kitchen: is another one of my regular destinations. I love Mary Ann's enthusiasm. The love for her family comes out in every dish she posts. We have been known to post about similar food ingredients or ideas, which always makes me smile. The recipes she tries are accessible as well as delicious.

Flagrant delicia: If you believe that poetry can be visual and sweet, this is the blog for you. Leonor is a talented pastry artist, whose blog is a complete visual, mouthwatering delight. She deserves praise for her efforts and the joy she brings people like me who visit her site regularly.

Clumbsy Cookie: Her food blog is fun and always surprising. She comes up with very unique ways to present and prepare food. I am often floored by her creative take on themes. A visit to Clumbsy Cookie is never boring!

What's for Lunch Honey?: Meeta is a talented cook, who experiments with all kinds of culinary delights. She graces her posts with stunning photographs, that never fail to inspire and frankly make my mouth water...

By the way, this award comes with rules, here they are:
Please find at least 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent; but hey if you only come up with 3 or 5, I don’t mind.
Post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them.
Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know too.
Congratulation to all!

My second generous benefactor is Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen. I did award her an "E" award above, so I might be repeating myself a little. I enjoy her blog, posts, comments, pictures, and recipes so much. She is great person and I feel honored that she has chosen to give me this award. Here are the people I am passing it on to:

The Summertree Cafe: Katie's food blog is a mirror of who she is: a creative, adventurous and generous person. I enjoy seeing the fun lunches she comes up for herself. She's also posted her beautiful jewelry on the blog... Did I mention she is very talented?

A Good American Wife: Annie is just the type of person you'd have a blast hanging out with. She is witty and just plain delightful. A visit to her blog puts a smile on face. Her talents don't end with her witty prose, she also cooks yummy dishes that she eagerly shares with her readers, and she always tells it like it is.

Big Red Kitchen: Robin Sue's blog is a delight. It's well designed and easy to navigate. Her posts are always fun to read. The recipes she features are so tasty (I highly recommend the Chicken Satay). I love the $20 bucks meal challenge she posted about. I thought it was brilliant, plus the dishes looked amazing looking. She is a generous and wonderful individual. I am learning so much with her as my "adopt a blogger" mentor.

Passionate about Baking: Deeba is passionate about everything! A true culinary inspiration who makes my favorite types of dishes with ease, and presents it on a platter of beautiful pictures. She never ceases to amaze me with the abundance of her offerings.

Adventures in Kookery: Rachel is enthusiastic and passionate about cooking and baking. She experiments and shares her love for cooking through each one of her post. I enjoy her comments and delightful offerings.

Elra's Cooking: I cannot say enough nice things about Elra. Her meals are scrumptious. Her talents delightful. A visit to her blog is like taking a trip to some exotic location, where you're the guest that she spoils with delicious dishes.

Dhanggit's Kitchen: The bubbly Dhangghit makes "life tastier", indeed. Her posts are fun, and colorfully display her wonderful personality. She avidly creates delectable dishes that she shares from the sunny side of France. I get a little dose of my roots when I go say: "hello".

Here are the Award Rules:
1. when you receive a diamond, make a post about it on your blog.
2. name the blogger from whom you got it.
3. award the diamonds to seven other bloggers.
4. link them.
5. and tell them they got one.

Greek Meat Patties in a Tomato Sauce

Lamb Meatballs with Pasta

My husband and kids really love meatball dishes. A few days ago, I came across a recipe for Soutzoukakia, a meat patty dish from Greece featured in From Tapas to Meze by Joanne Weir. The picture was gorgeous and immediately caught my attention. However, it was the inclusion of orange zest in the meat mixture that sealed the deal.

Ground Lamb with Zest

I decided to alter the recipe for my own convenience and dietary needs. Overall, my ingredient list is still true to the original spirit of Joanne Weir's recipe. I simplified things a little here and there.

Lamb Meatballs

This made one delicious meal. The meat patties were fragrant as well as moist, and yet they kept their shape beautifully. The sauce had a nice depth of flavor. It paired up perfectly with rice pasta and the salty olives provided a nice contrast to the sweetness of the tomatoes. There were absolutely no leftovers, only rave revues from my little crowd.

Soutzoukakia Meat Patties (serves 6)

I used chickpea flour but feel free to replace it with all purpose flour if you do not have any in your pantry and are not concerned with gluten or wheat intake.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onions, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 slices of gluten free bread, or other
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 cloves of garlic, put through a garlic press
1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley + 1/2 cup reserved
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 28oz can of Italian tomatoes in puree
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sautee onion and green onion until tender and starting to turn golden (10 minutes).
In a large bowl, combine the bread and 1/2 cup of the red wine and mash the bread into the liquid. Add to the bowl the onion mixture, the cumin, coriander, allspice, garlic, lamb, zest, 1/4 cup of parsley, thyme and salt. With your hands, mix well until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.

Form meat patties with about 1/4 cup of meat mixture for each. And coat each one with the chickpea flour.
In a large pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil under medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the patties and let brown for at least 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Then carefully remove them from the pot to a platter. Pour in the pot the tomatoes and sauce from the can, mash and break up the tomatoes with a spatula. Add 1/4 cup of red wine, and sugar. Scrape the bottom of pot with a spatula and continue mixing well. Simmer like this for ten minutes and reintroduce the meat patties. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. If you wish to serve it with pasta, boil a pot of water at this time.

Lamb Meatballs Inside

Here's another great meatball recipe for your enjoyment...

Izmir Kofte

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You Say Courgettes, I Say Zucchini...

zucchini casserole slice

I had a house full of kids last week and nothing planned for lunch. That's how well I plan ahead sometimes! I did have zucchinis though: not usually a favorite among children but I took my chances. I came up with a crustless "quiche-like" casserole that was very well received. The older kids liked it so much they kept looking back at the dish nervously, to make sure there would be enough for seconds. I always like to see that. It wasn't so with my youngest boy, Mr. Picky, who would have gladly given his slice away: too many green flakes for him. His older brother, who has turned into our official leftover disposal in the past year, was only too glad to be the one to clean his plate. I guess that's what happens when you grow 6 inches in eight months.

As an aside, the English call zucchini: courgette, which is the French word for this humble squash. I love words and their origins. This one particularly intrigues me. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it sounds so funny, and it's so hard to spell. It so happens that I did a little bit of research, and that zucchini comes from the Italians. Zucca in Italian means pumpkin. Zucchino means--drum roll please--zucchini.

zucchini casserole

Zucchini Cheese Casserole (6-8 servings)
This makes a wonderful lunch or brunch dish. If you are not concerned about gluten or wheat, use any pancake mix you have on hand.

2 cups shredded zucchini
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup shredded mexican cheese mix
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup GF pancake mix (such as Pamela's GF Pancake and Baking Mix)
1/3 cup egg white
4 whole eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven 350F.
oil a medium size round oven proof dish.

zucchini casserole prep-bowl

In a small bowl combine the eggs, egg whites, olive oil, salt and basil.
In a larger bowl combine the zucchini, onion, cheese and pancake mix.
Mix the egg mixture into the zucchini mixture. Mix well and transfer to pre-oiled dish.

Bake for 50 minutes or until cooked through and golden.

One more egg dish for you to enjoy:
Zucchini Blossom and Dill Frittata

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making Sandcastles: My Take On Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies and Cookie jar

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Mary Ann's blog: Meet Me In The Kitchen. She had posted some amazing looking Cherry Pistachio Wedding Cookies. One look at them and I knew I had to try them.

I had to tweak her recipe a bit for my dietary requirements and some other items which were missing in action in my pantry. I chose to make mine with dried cranberries instead of the cherries. I also decided to experiment with replacing 2 of the 8 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of canola oil instead. I still left plenty of butter for the rich taste and texture it provides. I used raw pistachios instead of salted ones. Finally, since the cookies are coated with powdered sugar, I reduced the sugar in the cookie batter to half a cup. These little gems were a big hit for dessert. My kids loved them. Thank you for the inspiration Mary Ann!

mexican cookies spilled

They were a lot of fun to make and so easy. It all happens pretty much in the food processor and then it's like a day at the beach... You get to fill a tablespoon measurer with the sandy dough, pack it in tight and invert it onto a cookie sheet. I was alone at home when I made them, a rare thing in itself, and I was reminded of the many summers of my childhood.

I grew up in Nice, France, where most of the beaches are covered with smooth stones. My family use to drive on the weekends to a place outside of Nice called: "Passable". It was a cove, where the beach was filled with sand. We would spend all day, picnicking, swimming, and making sandcastles with our little buckets. We would pack in the wet sand firmly, because experience had taught us that if we didn't the tower would crumble. Making those lovely cookies is exactly like that. You get a treat and a trip down memory lane all in one.

Mexican Wedding Cookies Inside View

Gluten Free Cranberry Pistachio Wedding Cookies (makes 32 small but delicious cookies)
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xantham gum

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/2 tablespoon GF vanilla extract
3 teaspoons ice water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup of finely chopped raw pistachios

1/2 cup powdered sugar, to coat cookies

Preheat oven 350F
Oil a cookie sheet.
Combine all the flours, 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch, salt, and xantham gum in the bowl of the food processor and blend together.
Slowly drizzle the oil into the food processor and pulse to combine. Then continue adding the butter pieces little by little, until you obtain a small crumb. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and make sure the butter is evenly distributed.
Add the water and ice water and process until well combined, scraping sides again as needed.
Add the cranberries and pistachios and process for 20 more seconds or so. Carefully, remove blade from bowl.

Using a round tablespoon measurer, scoop the crumbly mixture into the spoon and press hard to obtain a compact little patty (this is where your sandcastle building skills come in handy). Gently slide the patty out of the spoon and onto the prepared cookie sheet. Continue this step until you have used up all the cookie crumb mixture.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies are slightly golden. Remove and let cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into a bowl. Toss the cookies gently to coat with the sugar, return to cookie sheet and let cool completely.

Hungry for more cookies? Here's another favorite...
Lebanese Walnut Cookies

Friday, September 19, 2008

Delectable Cracker Crust Pizza-- A Friday Tradition


On Fridays, our family has a tradition of eating homemade pizza and having a game-night or movie-night. It's something that my children all look forward to and a great way to kick off the weekend. The challenge is to keep the menu interesting. Some weeks, I'll take requests and others I concoct a total surprise.

This is the type of dish that makes me not miss my wheat-filled days. Even back then, if someone had presented me with a slice of this pizza, I would have declared it a burst of happiness in every bite. The crust is just crispy enough to lend a wonderful texture. The aromatic chickpea flour serenades the sweet caramelized onions, while the herbes de provence spread a little sunshine on the whole scene.

Caramelized Onion Pizza

Caramelized Onion Pizza (serves 4)

For the Crispy Pizza Crust:
You can substitute the flour for Bob's Mill Gluten-Free Flour Mix but don't forget the xantham gum.
If you are not concerned about gluten or wheat use 1/2 cup of whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup of garbanzo flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose and omit the xantham gum.

1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of garbanzo flour
1 cup of sorghum
2 tsp xantham gum
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of water
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Oil a pizza pan.
In the food processor, mix the flours, xantham gum, salt and sugar. Add the olive oil and pulse to a coarse crumb. Add the water and continue pulsing until a ball is formed (adding more water in small increments if necessary).
Transfer the ball of dough to a surface dusted with a little bit of flour. Roll out into a thin roundish form. Carefully, transfer the disk of dough to your prepared pan. Brush the top with some more olive oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until crust looks cooked through.
Take out of the oven but increase the heat to 400F.

For the topping:
1/2 cup of shredded italian cheeses (ex: asiago, mozzarella, parmesan, romano)
1 cup of caramelized onions
12 kalamata olives (optional)
1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley

Spread the cheese on top of the cooked crust.
Add the caramelized onion slices and olives evenly on top.
Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
Spread parsley on top, slice and serve.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Memories of Socca

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mango Blueberry Kanten

mango blueberry agar agar platter

Fruit based desserts are by far my favorites. It wasn't always that way... There was a time when I would have traded my first born (sorry son...) for a good chocolaty treat. Nowadays, I enjoy dark chocolate in small quantities. It's a matter of taste not calories. I don't believe in skimming on taste when it comes to desserts--you end up eating the whole tray and still wanting more.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of making my way through the Millenium Cookbook and was introduced for the first time to Agar Agar as a substitute for gelatin. Then, my friend Ivette, who is an amazing cook, made me a fresh fruit kanten. It was wonderful, kind of like jello but creamier. It had a refreshing feel and taste, unlike anything else I had ever had. Jello lovers might want to throw their congealed transparent treats at me for saying this but Kanten beats jello in taste and texture any day.

After two years of experimenting, my family is unanimous: this mango blueberry version is our favorite.

mango blueberry agar agar terrine

Mango Blueberry Kanten (serves 6)

3 cups diced ripe mango
1 cup 100% white grape juice
2 tablespoons agar agar flakes (available in natural food stores)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

In a small sauce pan, bring the white grape juice to a boil. Add the agar agar, simmer while whisking until flakes melt into the juice (about 5 minutes).

Put mango pieces and agar agar juice mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a loaf pan (pyrex or ceramic is best). Add blueberries and smooth out by gently pounding loaf pan on the counter. This will help remove any air bubbles. Store in the refrigerator and let set for at least 4 hours. Gently unmold onto a platter or serve straight out of the dish.

mango blueberry agar agar bite

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Millet Summer Salad

millet salad bowls

I don't know about you but keeping up with my daily routine since the school year started has been quite the challenge. I manage to do everything and more but long for the lazy days of Summer which we have left behind. The days of art, gardening experiments, hikes and picnics are crawling off the screen and being replaced by duty and structure.

In other news, I accidently deleted my entire "Delicious Blog" section on this site. Ooops! I have no idea how or why... As I went to my link airport to visit my favorite foodie sites, they were all gone. I have tried to re-establish it but it might take me a while.

In the meantime, I am hanging on to what's left of summer with some easy salad lunches. No wheat means no bulgur, no couscous... So sad, for someone use to making an array of wonderful summer salads with wheat as the grain. Surprisingly, it hasn't been a problem. On the contrary, it has allowed me to expend my pantry and my family's nutritional intake. All Summer, my salads have featured quinoa, brown rice, and finally millet. Millet is a great replacement for couscous or bulgur. It looks like couscous but cooks like brown rice, with a 1 to 2 millet to water ratio. Then, the rest is up to you and the produce you have on hand.

Millet was a staple of ancient Asian societies. It's as good a source of protein as wheat is and very rich in B vitamins as well. If that is not enough to convince you to try it, you should know that it tastes great.

Millet Summer Salad (serves 8)
Don't be intimidated by how big a batch this recipe makes, the leftovers are great for lunches and will stay good refrigerated for two days after you make it.
To cook the millet: Saute for 1 minute 2 cups of millet in a medium sized pot coated with olive oil (1 tsp). Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed by grain.

salad bowl with knife

1 cup diced persian or english cucumber (small seedless)
1 cup diced colorful bell peppers
1 cup diced sweet tomatoes
4 cups cooked millet or other cooked grain, cooled
1 cup finely finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon sea salt

millet salad up close

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Another salad to make your Summer last a little longer:
Kohlrabi Broccoli Salad

Monday, September 15, 2008

I've Been Adopted!!!


Ever feel super lucky? I do! Dine and Dish's wonderful hostess Kristen put together this great enterprise called Adopt a Blogger. Newbie food bloggers get paired with pros as mentors for three months.

I started this blog in June of this year. Already, it has become a central part of my life. I am loving every moment I spend sculpting this site. I have met such nice people, united by the same culinary passion. It's truly an enriching experience.

Like cooking, blogging about food is an experimental process which involves many hours of planning, creating, researching and eating your props... As soon as I saw the post from Kristen announcing this event, I jumped on it. I am so glad I did because I have been paired up with a wonderful food blogger: Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen. Her blog is so beautifully designed and easy to navigate. The pictures and recipes are gorgeous and enticing. I have only praise for my new blog mom and her witty writing.

We have been emailing and she is already helping me so much with her wisdom as well as her technical expertise. I can see that I will be learning a lot, and getting the most out of her mentoring. First thing on my list was to taste some of her recipes. So this past weekend, I went through her delicious repertoire. I wanted to try everything I saw. I made things easy on myself and decided to put it to a vote with the family. They chose the Chicken Satay-- anything with peanut sauce is a favorite in this home.

chicken satay table

The flavorful recipe is so simple to make. I had most of the ingredients already in my pantry. It was the perfect ending to a relaxing day which started with friends at the beach and ended with this delectable meal.

chicken satay plate

I am planning on spending much time visiting her big red kitchen and trying out more of her recipes.

chicken satay with peanut sauce

Friday, September 12, 2008

Better than Nutella: Figs Stuffed with Chocolate Hazelnut Cream

Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed Figs

Nutella is catnip for humans. I have eaten more jars of the stuff in my life than I care to admit. It was a staple in our house when I was growing up. In my teens, I would stop at the boulangerie du coin (corner bakery) for fresh, hot out of the oven, pain brioche that we would lather with thick layers of artery-clogging hazelnut chocolatey goodness. Ah, the good old days...

When we moved out of our first house, my husband and I were packing boxes at 3 A.M. in anticipation of the moving van's morning arrival. We came across a jar of Nutella while packing the pantry. It looked so innocent in the bare cupboard. We unpacked several boxes to find a spoon, a spatula--anything that could act as delivery device. It was heaven in a jar. Nutella, which I had always loved, had never tasted so good. Frankly, it never did again--though my kids would beg to differ.

I know this little story doesn't explain how my version of Nutella ended up in the figs. You see, once I decided to make the cream I still needed a delivery device for it and figs are so pretty right now-- like little green or purple baskets waiting to be filled with homemade chocolate hazelnut cream...

Chocolate Hazelnut Fig Platter

Figs Stuffed with Chocolate Hazelnut Cream (makes 24)
If your figs are not ripe or sweet enough, simmer them in 1 cup of sugar diluted with 4 cups of water for 2-3 minutes. Make sure the sugar mixture is boiling before you introduce the figs and lower to a simmer. When they are ready, drain well and proceed as per recipe.

24 ripe fresh figs
1/2 cup shelled hazelnuts
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon GF vanilla extrat
3.5 oz of good quality dark chocolate
4oz mascarpone italian cream cheese
whipped cream, for decoration
12 hazelnuts, spilt into 24 halves
Dark chocolate curls, for decoration (optional)
Unsweetened chocolate powder, for decoration

With a pairing knife, cut the top off each fig and cut a X to about 1/3 from the bottom creating an opening for the filling. Gently pry the opening open.
Put the hazelnuts, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream in a mini food processor and pulse until smooth paste forms.
In a small bowl place the dark chocolate and the remainder of the heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. Continue microwaving and stirring in 10 second increments until completely melted and smooth.
Add melted chocolate to hazelnut mixture, mascarpone cream cheese and process until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Transfer chocolate to a piping bag or use a freezer bag and clip the corner. Carefully, pipe the chocolate mixture generously into each fig. Crown each one with a dollop of whipped cream, a hazelnut half and a chocolate curl (can be created by carefully passing a vegetable peeler knife on the edge of a cold chocolate bar). Then finish by sprinkling the platter with some unsweetened chocolate powder (I like to use a small handheld mesh strainer, tapping the sides gently to disperse the chocolate). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Hazelnut Fig

And one more fig recipe for you to enjoy...
Oat Fig Bars

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Painting on Tofu. Well, Not Really...

Tofu in Peanut Sauce

I really enjoy a good tofu meal. Tofu is a blank slate waiting for a creative approach. It allows the cook to play around with the many possibilities available to flavor the canvas. I have been eating it for about fifteen years now. I credit Deborah Madison's wonderful recipes for introducing me to alternatives to the simple moroccan stew I use to make with it when I was I first married. At some point, I took a leap and ventured away from other people's recipe and came up with my own variations. This lovely meal is the result a deviation which started from a recipe in Deborah Madison's This Can't Be Tofu.

Tofu in Peanut Sauce in Bowl

Tofu Sautee, in Peanut Sauce (serves 4)

1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
16oz firm tofu

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons GF soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, finely chopped

In the food processor, blend the peanut butter, chili sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, agave nectar, and vegetable broth. When the mixture is smooth, add the cilantro and green onions. Pulse a few times.

Cut thickness of slab of tofu in half. Then divide into four equal sticks and finally cut sticks horizontally halfway across. You should have 16 equal rectangles.

Tofu Rectangles

Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, then fry the tofu in it until golden on each side. Pour the sauce over the tofu and let bubble under medium heat for 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Wonderful Tasting Chicken Breast Recipe

Cilantro Thai Chicken

About a month ago my friend Robin sent me an email which read: "this chicken recipe is a keeper..." And boy was she right. It's hard to believe that such a simple marinade could bring out so much flavor and keep a common, bland chicken breast so moist.
I'll be trying it with tofu next, but for now here's this wonderful recipe, with some minor alterations, for you to enjoy.

Cilantro Thai Chicken with Lemons

Cilantro Thai Grilled Chicken (serves 4)

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons asian fish sauce or 1 tablespoon of GF soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Place all the ingredients above in a food processor and process until smooth.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Pour marinade over chicken breast and let flavors sink in for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Prepare your grill or broiler. Cook until temperature registers 165F on the meat thermometer. Let the chicken breasts rest for 5 minutes before serving, this prevents the meat from drying up.

In the mood for chicken? Check out these other recipes:
Fig Chicken with Rosemary and Thyme
Grilled Chicken Tenders with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Monday, September 8, 2008

An Early Taste of Fall: Pumpkin Chocolate Scones

Pumpkin Scone Tower

I need bread in the morning and so do my kids. My husband can take it or leave it. What is wrong with that man? I think it's genetic... Luckily, this may be the only thing we do not have in common-- Well that, and the fact that he is a night owl and I am a morning person. Our children, poor souls, take after me. So in the morning as I try desperately to inhale my coffee, they open their little beaks and start making little hungry sounds. On a good day, I am prepared with some homemade bread ready for the toaster. There are, however, those mornings where not a crumb is left and I need something fast to feed to them.

Muffins are great but scones are even better. It's like eating a cookie for breakfast. It goes so well with the warm gulps of coffee. The combination is just lovely.

Growing up in France, pumpkin was not a part of my diet but I'm quite fond of it. What is not to love?

Pumpkin Puree

It's orange, starchy, so satisfying and goes beautifully with all kinds of spices, as well as chocolate.

So in the spirit of all things orange and delicious, I give you a new family recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Scones.

Pumpkin Scones  and Ingredients

Pumpkin Chocolate Scones (11 scones)
As usual, if you are not concerned with your gluten or wheat intake, you can replace the brown rice flour, tapioca starch and sorghum flour with 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 1/2 cup of all purpose, as well as omit the xantham gum.

Ingredients Pumpkin Scones

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar or other granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree, canned okay
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lowfat milk or soy milk

Add Ins:

1/4 cup roasted walnut oil, or canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven 400F.
Oil cookie sheet.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix all the wet ingredients in a small bowl.

Pour oil into the flour mixture, then butter. Combine with your fingers until nice and crumbly. Make a well in the middle.
Pour the liquid mixture into the well and work in by mixing with a spoon until just combined. Add walnut pieces and chocolate chips and mix in.
Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop batter onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool for ten minutes.

Other quick recipes for breakfast:
Orange Blueberry Muffins
Candied Orange Muffins with Rosemary

Friday, September 5, 2008

Melon Blueberry Dressed-Up Salad

Melon and Blueberry Salad with Maple Dressing #1

When I was a child, my parents entertained a lot. Our home often buzzed with foreign or local visitors. My mother would cook beautiful multi-course meals to spoil our guests. She was a wonderful cook. I say: "she was" because she no longer cooks. She jokes that she forgot how to. Funny Maman!

Although I miss her homemade pasta, gnocchi and profiteroles, I have to say that I get a thrill from having her crave my food for a change. My style is very different than hers. I may serve elegant dishes but it's always in a casual atmosphere. I don't use fine china or crystal glasses. Instead, I let the food speak for itself on simple white plates. One presentation she use to make that I still love is using small melons or avocado halves as salad bowls. It was always magical to me: a sure sign that the rest of the meal would be delectable. She would put so much effort, care and generosity in her offerings and for that I am forever thankful.

Melon and Blueberry Salad with Maple Dressing w/ spoon

Just like my mother's use of fruits as bowls, creating a creamy sauce to coat melons and berries elevates the humble fruit to elegant status. It may not be reinventing the wheel but it's delightful never-the-less.

This one goes to Holler host this month of No Crouton Required.

Melon and Blueberry Salad with Maple Dressing #2

Blueberry Melon Salad with Yogurt Maple Dressing (serves 6)
I love to make fruit salads as part of the meal but feel free to use this delicious summer salad as a dessert as well.

2 cups of Blueberries
3 cups of melon balls, or large dices ( Cantaloupe or Charentais melon)

Melon and Blueberry Salad with Maple Dressing #2

Yogurt Dressing:
1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt (goat, soy, or regular okay)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon roasted almond oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place the fruit in a strainer and let the juices drain out. In a medium/large bowl mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and mix well. Transfer the drained fruit into the bowl with the dressing and mix gently. Refrigerate until ready to serve or serve immediately.

Melon and Blueberry Salad with Maple Dressing #1

Other fruity recipes:
Velvety Apricot Soup with Blueberries
Quick and Simple Jam
Related Posts with Thumbnails