Field to Feast: Tomatoes

Tomatoes are here! I went a little overboard at the market as I tend to do with all produce that has such a short, shining season, but every tomato went to good use. So welcome to tomato week! I hope you enjoy.

Gluten-Free, Paleo Tomato Tart | Minimally Invasive

Starting things off, I have a hearty gluten-free/Paleo tomato conserva tart that’s bursting with fresh flavor. Because tomatoes release a lot of water as they’re cooking, I made each element of the tart separately, then assembled them at the end to avoid a big, soupy mess in the oven. The gluten-free tart shell was based on the Paleo Pie Crust at Elana’s Pantry with some Parmesan cheese and a handful of fresh herbs — basil, of course, plus rosemary, sage, thyme and chives — thrown into the food processor. The herbs turned the dough a beautiful shade of green, but if you’d rather a dough studded with herbs, just mince and stir them in by hand when you’ve finished mixing. I pressed the dough into a nine-inch tart pan, then covered the bottom with foil, weighed it down with dried beans, and blind baked it for 20 minutes at 350° F. At that point, I removed the foil (and beans) and baked it for 10 minutes longer to dry the bottom of the shell.

The middle layer, which isn’t visible here, was a blend of chèvre from Edgwick Farm, about two tablespoons of cream cheese, a hefty grating of parmesan cheese and the roasted garlic cloves and some oil from the tomato conserva, which you can find at Fine Cooking. I used a mix of tomatoes for the conserva, thinking of the end product visual, but use whatever you like. To assemble the tart, I spread the cheese mixture over the cooled shell and layered the tomatoes in a ring, overlapping, from the outside-in. I didn’t do it for the picture, but just before serving, drizzle the top with reduced balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and maybe a little more grated Parmesan if you love it as much as I do.

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This week, Kasha posted a wonderful mid-season recap of our Field to Feast posts at The FarmGirl Cooks. If you’re a newbie to this series and want to see all of the seasonal goodies we have to offer, head over there and dive right in!

This is the Pie You’re Looking For…

I’m pretty sure blueberries employ some kind of Jedi mind trick on me when I see them at the market. They coo as I pass, suggesting, “Strawberries are not the fruit you’re looking for; you will buy blueberries instead. We are better for you and more delicious.” How else to explain coming home with THREE QUARTS of them last weekend when I rarely eat fresh blueberries? It makes no sense, but I’ve come to terms with my inability to resist them if I wander in their vicinity. Do you have this problem, too? Ah well, it gave me some new items for my portfolio and today’s dessert, so I’m not complaining.

Without a plan and far too many berries (and nectarines, as it turned out) languishing in the refrigerator, I decided that pie would be a good idea. Yeah, I know. Pie/the bane of my existence/the very reason I hate baking. But I’m determined to make a go of pie for fear I’ll forfeit my Mennonite card forever if I don’t. I’m not sure what made me attempt a lattice-top version when I have trouble with a standard crust, but I sought instructions at Simply Recipes and it seemed doable, even ::gasp:: easy. And I was very pleased with the results! The lattice top is impressive and disguises flaws well; you love this pie and didn’t notice that I over-floured the edges.

Blueberries aren’t the only ones who can use Jedi mind trick. Hmph.

Now that my crust is semi-presentable, I really have to work on getting my fruit fillings right. It seems they’re either too juicy or too firm; I’ve never hit that sweet spot, which I think will come with experience. For this pie, I used the Cup4Cup crust recipe from this post, but rejiggered the filling a tiny bit. Because ground almonds worked so well as a juice-absorbing layer in my strawberry galette, I thought they’d be pretty successful here, too. I used about 1/4 cup of almond flour and it added a nice flavor, but my nectarines were freakishly juicy and overwhelmed the best efforts of the almonds. I’ll try double that next time if conditions seem the same. I’m sure I’ll have another blueberry situation before summer’s over, after all.

Gluten-Free Blueberry-Nectarine Pie | Minimally Invasive

I Love Donna Hay and her Crème Brûlée

Donna Hay puts out one gorgeous food magazine. The photographs aren’t just consistently beautiful; they’re consistently “Donna Hay Magazine,” if you know what I mean. Once you pore over enough images from a single source, you’ll come to recognize a photographer’s or magazine’s style, assuming they have just one, and DHM has cornered the market on simple food styling, cool tones, and ingredients so fresh you can’t wait for them to be seasonal in the northern hemisphere. I picked up a copy on the newsstand a couple of months ago because I wanted the whole thing for my inspiration file, but this recipe was the one that jumped off the page for me.

Banana Crème Brûlée | Minimally Invasive

Banana crème brûlée. Discovering it was was a real come-to-Jesus moment.

Banana Crème Brûlée | Minimally Invasive

I can’t find the original photo or recipe online, but it’s a cinch to make. Just peel and slice a mini banana in half lengthwise and insert it into the dish of crème brûlée before putting it into the oven. Bake as usual, dust with sugar and torch it as usual, and enjoy (quite a bit more than usual, if you’re anything like me).

Field to Feast: Strawberries & Rhubarb, Part II

As much as I love strawberries, I’ll admit that bringing home four pints at one time might have been overkill. Strawberries have such a short shelf life that you have to do something with them pretty quickly or you’ll find your very own science experiment growing in the refrigerator within days. Which is to say we were swimming in desserts last week. In addition to the galette I posted yesterday, I made a crisp (this time with rhubarb!) to use up a good portion of my bounty. We really tore through these desserts, not from fear of spoilage, but just because we couldn’t help ourselves.

And really, who doesn’t love a crisp? I’ve been trying to perfect a gluten-free version for the past few months, but the all-purpose flour blends weren’t working for me at all. Even after cutting back on the butter, they still oozed into a big sugary mass over the fruit instead of, well, crisping nicely on top. Since I’ve had such good luck with almond flour recently, I thought it might be worth a try here. To compensate for the extra fat from the almonds, I halved the butter from my regular crisp topping. And without patting myself too enthusiastically on the back (it’s just a crisp, after all), I want to tell you that this was really, really good. Gil rarely compliments my cooking, but he was over the moon with this one from the first bite, so I’d say it was a win-win —  a gluten-free dessert that’s marginally healthier than the original (if you don’t count the sugar) and delicious.

Gluten-Free Crisp Recipe at Minimally Invasive

I may have to reconsider my status as a non-baker if this lucky dessert streak keeps going!

Hah, who am I kidding? You know I’ll always prefer imprecise, improvisational “cooking” over baking.

Unripe Strawberry at Minimally Invasive

Learn about growing strawberries and check out the delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce at The FarmGirl Cooks!

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

I used finely-ground almond flour in this recipe, but I think it would be okay to substitute flour with a coarser grind here, like Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour. Of course, I haven’t tested it so it’s just speculation, but if you try it, please let me know what you think. Also, if your berries are very sweet, you’ll need to cut back on the sugar in the fruit base. The strawberries I used here were moderately sweet, but I know they’ll be even more sugary in the weeks to come. 

Fruit Base

3 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (Discard any leaves and trim stringy layers from thick stalks.)
3 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt

Topping

1/2 cup finely-ground almond flour, packed
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix rhubarb and strawberries with sugar. Macerate 10 minutes, then mix well with almond extract, optional balsamic vinegar, cornstarch and salt, and let sit for an additional 20 minutes.

Combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sliced almonds and toss until evenly distributed.

Pour fruit into a 2-quart casserole dish or into individual oven-safe serving dishes. If using individual dishes, fill almost to the top with fruit base. Spoon the topping over the fruit. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Field to Feast: Strawberries & Rhubarb, Part I

To be perfectly honest, rhubarb won’t make an appearance until the second post, but I hope you’ll forgive me, because today’s strawberry galette is a doozy on its own. And that was a surprise to me, because I usually find cooked strawberries a bit underwhelming on their own.

Galettes are one of my favorite desserts to make when spring rolls around because they’re incredibly easy and are supposed to look like crap RUSTIC, imperfection being a key selling point of this dessert! And honestly, I need no particular encouragement to make my baked goods look RUSTIC and HOMEY!

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

See? RUSTIC! 

I’ve always been happy enough with the crust I use for galettes; it’s shot through with cornmeal, which gives it some heft and a really pleasing crunch that goes so, so well with whatever filling I’m using. This time around, I did swap out AP flour for Cup4Cup because I bake gluten-free now, but it worked perfectly.

My relationship with fruit fillings has always been a bit complicated. I like the individual berries to still have some form after baking — mushiness doesn’t do it for me — while tossing them with flour seems to muddle things on the visual and flavor fronts. I honestly didn’t think there was anything to be done about the flour because the juice that develops during baking has to go somewhere, but I was wrong to think there wasn’t another approach. Oh, so wrong. While looking around for some general amount of flour to use on the strawberries, I found a really interesting way around it; using ground almonds mixed with flour and sugar as a base layer, then topping it with sugared berries.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

You can see above how the berries still glisten with sugar (and with balsamic vinegar, one of my special additions that really adds some complexity to the dessert) before baking. I nibbled on so many of these before putting the galette in the oven that I’m surprised the pastry was still filled by the time it started baking.

Gluten-Free Strawberry Galette at Minimally Invasive

But the minimal amount of self-control I exhibited paid off with a dessert I’ll be making again and again while strawberries are still in market. The ground almond layer handled the juices like a champ and kept the strawberries looking and tasting exactly as they should, even after baking.

You can use any combination of berries you like in a galette, so if strawberries aren’t your thing, maybe blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or even cherries would be more to your liking. Or maybe rhubarb. Or later in the year, maybe try apple or pear…

Learn about growing strawberries and check out the delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce at The FarmGirl Cooks!

Strawberry Galette adapted from Cooking Light and Laura Calder/Cooking Channel

The ground almond layer added a very subtle almond flavor, which I loved. If you want more of it, use the optional almond extract.

Pastry Crust
1 3/4 cups Cup4Cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

Filling
1/2 cup ground almonds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon Cup4Cup flour
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved if large
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional

To prepare pastry crust, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a food processor; pulse two times. Add butter to flour mixture; pulse 4 to 5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add buttermilk through food chute; process just until dough forms a ball. Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; wrap tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Unwrap dough and place on a sheet of parchment paper, dusting with flour if dough feels a little tacky to the touch. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll dough into a 15-inch circle. Carefully peel off top piece of parchment and slide dough with bottom sheet of parchment onto a baking sheet.

To prepare filling, whisk together almonds, Cup4Cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Spoon onto prepared pastry, leaving a 2-3-inch gap around the edges. Combine strawberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar, balsamic vinegar and optional almond extract, then spoon carefully onto the almond flour mixture.

Using a bench scraper, carefully fold edges of pastry up and over the strawberry filling. If you see any rips, pinch to seal. Lightly sprinkle edges of dough with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350°F for 50 minutes to one hour, or until pastry is golden brown and strawberry juices are bubbling. Carefully slide galette still on parchment paper onto a rack. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Finally!

coconut flour, almond flour

After choking down loads of dense, eggy breads, biscuits and pancakes that felt like they were expanding in my throat, I decided coconut flour just didn’t live up to its reputation as an exciting (or even acceptable) paleo/gluten-free flour. No matter what it was blended with, the results were off just enough to remind me that I was eating a substitute for the real thing. But high praise from Jenny at MFAMB for a chocolate chip cookie made with a blend of coconut and almond flours* but no eggs led me to reconsider. The recipe at Cookie & Kate sounded deceptively simple, so I went straight to the kitchen to test the vegan version** with coconut oil. After cooling them on the pan until they were firm enough to be handled — 10-15 minutes — I bit into a delicious, standard chocolate chip cookie that was crisp at the edges and soft in the center. I defy anyone to identify them as gluten-free by taste alone.

coconut flour, almond flour

Naturally, I also baked a batch with butter instead of oil, but I made a few other big changes at the same time:

  • I browned the butter instead of just melting it, because brown butter makes everything better.
  • Taking a cue from the awesome Jacques Torres cookie recipe that swept the food world several years ago, I rested the dough in the refrigerator for three days before baking.
  • I doubled the size of the cookies from one tablespoon to two, flattened them slightly, and topped each with a sprinkle Maldon sea salt before baking for 13 minutes.

Weirdly, the butter amplified the coconut flavor more than the coconut oil did, but otherwise, I much preferred the second batch. It’s a heftier cookie that gets its only crunch from the sea salt, which accents the chocolate and just leaves you wanting more. And more. And still more.

Gluten-free bakers, this one’s a home run. Be sure to try this recipe.

* For the record, I used JK Gourmet Almond Flour rather than the more easily found Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, which probably had a lot to do with the smooth texture that mimics regular flour. If you use almond meal, I’m sure you’ll produce a cookie every bit as delicious as these, just a bit coarser.

** For vegan cookies, be sure to buy dairy-free chocolate chips. I know you dedicated vegans always read labels, but when you’re just starting out, it’s sometimes easy to forget.

Day 22, Alfajores

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 21

Hmmmm. These cookies, these cookies, these cookies…

I’ve had alfajores in the back of mind ever since Matt Armendariz first posted about them five years ago. I finally got around to making them this week, but my experience with them was mixed. Oh, they were delicious, as you’d expect from a dessert so dependent on cajeta. And the cookies themselves weren’t especially difficult to make; they didn’t spread at all in the oven, which can’t always be said about gluten-free dough. But the filling kept oozing out of them because I never quite got my cajeta to the perfect consistency despite cooking, cooling, cooking again, and cooling again. I realize this is entirely my fault, which is why I wanted to post about it anyway; you may have better luck than I did, after all. And if I wasn’t taking pictures for this blog, the consistency of the cajeta wouldn’t have been an issue, because who doesn’t love a layer of gooey caramel sandwiched between two cookies?

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 22

Come to think of it, maybe there was no problem at all. Have I mentioned that they were delicious?

Maybe rolling the edges in coconut as instructed would’ve helped, but I left it out because I didn’t want to interfere with the cajeta flavor.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 22

Get the recipe here and make it gluten-free with Cup4Cup Flour. The cajeta, as ever, came from Rick Bayless. I do heart him.

Day 20, Paleo Banana Bread

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 20

It’s hard to tell lately, but I’m on the paleo wagon much of the time. Grass-fed/pastured meats, a boatload of vegetables, a lack of grains, and the occasional treat really is an enjoyable way for me to eat, at least until I start craving buttermilk biscuits. But not all treats are verboten. These banana bread mini-loaves are made with almond flour and a minimum of sweetener, so they’re actually pretty good for you, as desserts go. Loaded with protein, they’re satisfying and don’t cause a sugar crash an hour after indulging.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 20

And they package up real purty, too.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 20

They have a dense, moist crumb, which is enhanced by toasting the slices slightly before eating. Adding a schmear of butter is entirely up to you.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Day 20, Paleo Banana Bread”

Day 19, Fig & Blue Cheese Savouries

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 19

While it may seem that all we do is consume sugar around here, salty or savory foods are what really do it for me. When I do want a little sugar, though, I’m happiest at the intersection of savory and sweet, which is exactly where today’s treats are located.

A few weeks ago, I was looking over my copy of the new Food52 Cookbook before its launch party when these beauties jumped off the page and demanded to be made. As always, I adapted this stellar recipe with gluten-free flour, but this time it took a little coaxing to get the results of regular flour. Still, this minimal extra work was rewarded with flaky, delicate pastries, so don’t let it scare you off.

(And how’s this for a shameless plug? Be sure to check out my recipe for Short Rib Ragu in the winter chapter of the Food52 Cookbook!)

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Day 19, Fig & Blue Cheese Savouries”

Day 18, Chocolate Chunkers

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 18

These chocolate chunkers may not be the most attractive cookies ever to grace a blog, but they surely rank among the most delicious. And why wouldn’t they? Dorie Greenspan developed the recipe. ’nuff said.

I’m a batter eater from way back and honestly had a hard time convincing myself to cook these at all, but after resting for 10 minutes out of the oven they somehow improved upon what I thought was perfection. As we nibbled in the following days, Gil and I took to microwaving the cookies for 15 seconds or so to melt the chocolate a tiny bit, which was a great idea; they’re rich, and one is perfectly satisfying when they’re ever so slightly gooey.

Did you know that you can click on any image and it’ll take you to its flickr page? I only bring that up because, unless you’re using the biggest of monitors, the following behemoth will be tough to view in one window. Sorry ’bout that, but these cookies merited an ingredient shot. Plus, I’d just bought that chocolate spear, which is AWESOME and makes chunking chocolate from a big bar so much easier than doing it with a knife.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 18

Get the recipe here. The only changes I made were to substitute equal parts dried bing cherries and chopped apricots for the raisins, and Cup4Cup flour for the AP flour.