Gravlax with a Twist

Blueberry & Coriander Gravlax with Quick Pickles

Gravlax is something I only think to make a couple of times a year, and then kick myself for not having it at least monthly. It’s incredibly simple to make — the only difficulty is leaving enough refrigerator space for a few days’ curing time — it keeps well and for much longer than you’re likely to have it around, and it’s impressive enough to serve at parties or holiday gatherings. I’m the only one in the house who’ll enjoy gravlax in its standard dill-heavy format, so when I came across a recipe for blueberry-and-coriander gravlax in my weekly Taste email, I jumped on the opportunity to share it with Gil (and with you as well, since I decided to break my blogging fast just to tell you about it).

It’s a treat in every way. I mean, just look at it. They say you eat first with your eyes, and that’s surely true here, especially if you like bold, lively color on your plate. The texture is firm and the flavor is subtly sweet with zesty pops from the coriander and lemon. I honestly can’t gush enough about it.

But wait, there’s more! Darcie Hunter of Gourmet Creative came over to style this up for the cuttingboard.com photo contest we’re entering (#cutthecheese2017, ya’ll!) and brought over some of her homemade pickles to pair with it. She also whipped up a quick horseradish-and-sour-cream topping, and the combo of the gravlax with the pickles and horseradish was outrageously good. Check out Darcie’s pickle recipe at her blog and our behind-the-scenes photo on my Instagram feed, showing off my new cucoloris baby.

If you’re looking for a new spin on an old classic, do give this gravlax recipe a try! You can find it here, and while you’re at it, sign up for their emails. You’ll be happy you did.

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

Cup4Cup Week: The Biscuits

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While pie-baking has long vexed me, biscuits only began to do so when I went gluten-free. In my mind, biscuits are the true test of a gluten-free flour blend, because none I’ve tried to this point has given me an acceptable biscuit, much to my eternal Southern disappointment. No amount of cane syrup could make those starchy hockey pucks palatable, and I practically wilted from each letdown while the vapors nearly overcame me, dahlin’.

But one of Cup4Cup‘s great claims is that you can sub it for AP flour in your recipes, so I gave this a go with a simple recipe from Three Many Cooks. And you know what? They weren’t only passable, but truly good. I’m talking airy and moist, the way a good biscuit should be.

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Just look at them! Don’t you want to load up a plate and slather them with sweet butter?

For pie recipe with Cup4Cup Flour, click here.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Cup4Cup Week: The Biscuits”

Cup4Cup Week: The Pie

Gluten-Free Pie with Cup4Cup flour

You can blame/thank Joy the Baker for this entire week of posts. If not for her gorgeous strawberry-ginger pie and enthusiastic championing of Cup4Cup Flour, I never even would’ve attempted this pie, much less five posts on the topic of… flour. My frustration with the intersection of pie crusts and small countertops is well-documented on this site, but I miss having a good slice of pie, especially after going gluten-free. See, I LOVE pie. I’m a pie girl. If you give me a choice of cake or pie, I’ll choose pie every day and twice on Sunday. I’m not too picky on the filling as long as it’s freshly-made and not dumped in from a can, but a bland or god-forbid bad crust really offends my delicate sensibilities. As Joy’s detailed instructions gave me hope of making my own pie with an amazing crust, I dove in after receiving my flour order.

Gluten-Free Pie Dough with Cup4Cup flour

Looks like pie dough, right? There’s usually a trade-off with gf flours: you don’t have to worry about overworking the dough, but it’s often so sticky, it’s tough to approximate an old favorite recipe. Not the case here, though! Win-win!

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I didn’t buy strawberries at the market, but did come home with a load of beautiful peaches and blueberries, so I swapped out the filling. Like I said, I’m not that picky.

Gluten-Free Pie with Cup4Cup flour

Into the crust it went. I was down a peach, so the filling wasn’t as bountiful as it should’ve been, but it didn’t matter too much in the end.

Gluten-Free Pie with Cup4Cup flour

Sure, my crimping skills aren’t up to par, but let’s just call this intentionally rustic and leave it at that. I topped it with a mixture of palm sugar and cinnamon instead of white sugar because I’ve been on a real palm sugar kick lately; it can be subbed one-for-one with white sugar but has a much more complex flavor, somewhere between cane sugar and brown sugar without the added moisture. I just love it and it gives a little color to your baked goods. It’s also in the spotlight at the moment because it’s supposed to be low on the glycemic index. I don’t eat enough sugar to be that concerned with sweeteners, but if you do, you might want to look into it.

Since this was the first thing I baked with Cup4Cup flour and I’ve decided to turn it into a review series, you’ve probably already drawn the conclusion that it’s pretty good stuff. And it is. No complaints at all so far. Of course, the pie crust isn’t as flaky as one with AP flour would be, but it was leagues better than any other gluten-free crust I’ve tried — flavorful and tender. It’s a pretty starchy flour blend, but not so starchy that the crust squeaks when you bite into it. And it browns beautifully. Thomas Keller’s no slouch, as it turns out. Heh. On the basis of this pie alone, I’d recommend Cup4Cup.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Cup4Cup Week: The Pie”

From the Market: Weeks 9 & 10

peach ice cream

The word of the week was peaches. They’re my favorite fruit-as-fruit (with tomatoes as my favorite fruit-as-vegetable), so I’ve been heading to the farmers’ market even more eagerly on Saturday mornings than usual. The peaches have been spilling over, so apart from being eaten out of hand, mixed with yogurt for breakfast, atop salads and in salsas, they made a command performance in the quintessential summer dessert — peach ice cream (using my Aunt’s recipe for the custard base).

And because I love nothing more than gilding the lily, raspberry-blueberry coulis really set this off, providing a tart counterpoint to the smooth sweetness of the ice cream. It’s really simple to make, too. Just throw 2-3 handfuls of berries into a small saucepan, add a little sugar (I used about a tablespoon of vanilla sugar) and some lemon juice. Cook it over medium heat until the berries break down and the sauce starts to thicken. Cool, and use it to top whatever comes to mind.

Peaches from Treelicious Orchards and Orchards of Conklin and berries from the latter.

We’ve been eating out a bit lately, discovering new dishes and supporting new restaurants, which resulted in haunted dreams of Picnic‘s truffled corn chowder and the urge to create my own summer dish. Since buying a truffle is hard to justify as part of an experimental dish for only Gil and myself, I went in a completely different (read: cheaper) direction while still keeping it in the chowder family. What I came up with was nothing like Picnic’s masterpiece, but it was a worthy addition to my repertoire. Here’s what I did to make Smoked Corn Chowder.

It started with meat, as you probably knew it would. I scored the skin of two duck breast halves, gave them a good all-over coating of my beef rub, then left them uncovered in the fridge for a few hours before firing up the smoker. To keep the corn from overcooking (and to take advantage of the delicious duck fat that would be rendering from the breasts), I placed two shucked ears of corn on the lower level of my Weber Smokey Mountain (just above the water pan) and the duck breasts in the center of the top rack.

Before I go any farther, you should know that Gil takes whatever’s put in front of him with equanimity, typically. He keeps his head down and eats whatever I make without much censure or praise, no matter the how I feel about what’s on the plate. But these duck breasts earned the title The Best Thing Ever from him. (Take that as you will.) And they were awfully good, even if the skin didn’t get entirely crispy, which turned out to be a good thing for the chowder.

To take advantage of that extra fat on the smoked breasts, I devised a workable solution: I’d chop the seasoned fat from 1/2 of a duck breast and render it in place of bacon in the chowder. When the skin had crisped and given up as much fat as possible, I set it aside to use as garnish for the finished soup. The rest of the chowder was a pretty standard affair, but the smoked corn and slight hint of duck really added something special to it.

with crispy duck skin

I liked the proportion of smoked corn to fresh — the smoke wasn’t overwhelming, but gave the silky chowder a depth it doesn’t usually have. Feel free to play with amounts for more or less of the smoky goodness.

I assume Gil agreed, because we ate it all in one sitting. Nom, indeed.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Weeks 9 & 10”

From the Market: Week 3

Week 3 at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market was all about dogs and berries for us. It took almost an hour to make a full circuit as we stopped to play with other dogs, chat with their owners and meet fellow dog lovers who happened to be without canine companions at the time. One of the best things about heading out there every Saturday is getting to chat with the people in our neighborhood we’d never see otherwise.

And the berries – oh, my, those berries. See, I’ve always loved the idea of strawberry pie or tart more than the actuality of it. Reason consistently took a back seat to desire whenever I’d see those plump, glistening berries perched atop a golden crust until I took my first bite and found … nothing. No satisfaction, certainly, but not even much in the way of flavor. Too often, those strawberries bore a striking resemblance to supermarket tomatoes — beautiful, and about as tasty as plastic. With that disappointing history, I put the thought of a strawberry tart out of my mind until I realized the Orchards of Concklin‘s berries are so juicy and luscious that any dessert featuring them must be just as spectacular.

To up the ante on the tart, I decided to go with a butter/lard crust instead of a regular all-butter one. To be honest, I chose to use lard as much for its reported baking benefits as for the cracklins that come as a by-product of the rendering process:


Cracklins and a quart of lard. Is it just me, or are you looking at that Mason jar and thinking, “This cow got into an onion patch,” too?

As far as I can tell, our local market doesn’t carry leaf lard, so I ordered a couple of pounds from two sources — Flying Pigs Farm and Bobolink Dairy. It’s important to me to get quality animal products from reputable sources; factory farms have horrible reputations for animal welfare and antibiotic use, so I just avoid them and (admittedly) buy more expensive meat, but eat much less of it than I used to.

The rendering process wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined nor as smelly as its reputation. In fact, if a person is willing to eat lard at all, I don’t understand how they wouldn’t want their house to smell the way mine did while the lard was on the stovetop, bubbling away. If you’re looking to render your own lard, I found this to be an invaluable resource.

Despite the deep color of the lard when it came off the burner, the tart crust didn’t have a porky flavor in the slightest, but instead was slightly nutty with a rich and decadent feel. I chose an Emeril Lagasse recipe mainly because it came up first in my search and called for pastry cream instead of berries glazed with a sugary syrup; pastry cream is one of those things that just makes my toes curl. Instead of the crust in the recipe, I tried a gluten-free version, but wasn’t happy with the combination of flours I used. I’ll continue to experiment and will give you something that really works…soon, I hope. But for now, we’ll just enjoy the penultimate tart we have, instead of crying over missed perfection:

Later on, I glazed the berries with some of the raspberry-plum jam I’d happened to pick up from B&B Jams. It added a much stronger flavor than plain apricot jam would’ve without overpowering the fresh berries; in fact, I think it complemented them very, very well.

Oh, and the peonies we picked up a couple of weeks ago? Still beautiful, though decaying:

Next up: Vegetables of Insane Greatness.

From the Market: Week 1

Kofta with Spinach & Arugula Salad

The Ringwood Farmers’ Market opened this weekend, and not one minute too soon! I’ve been craving their fresh produce since the weekly market closed last November; winter market (new this year) only took place once a month, and the pickings were slim. It was winter, after all.

But now we’re back to greens, berries, honey and meats from small local farms, so let’s dive in.

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What I missed most about the early markets was the amazing spinach and arugula from Bialas Farms, not to mention the rest of the veggies and fresh herbs that always make up the bulk of my shopping experience on weekends. Because I was impatient to try the first haul, I made brunch as soon as we got home — a quick pesto with the spinach and arugula, some walnuts and grated locatelli, all smoothed out with a Ligurian olive oil. The pasta was a gluten-free selection from Fontanarosa’s, which I only visited for the first time this weekend. I now plan to shop there all summer long.

[About the gluten-free thing: I cut out the major sources of gluten about a month ago after reading The GenoType Diet. I’m highly suspicious of any diet at all (and definitely didn’t try this to lose weight — so don’t worry, those of you who know me), but thought I’d give this one a try since a lot of what the author said about my type rang true, given my experience. Anyway, I can honestly say that the mild-to-moderate joint pain I’ve had for the past few years has completely disappeared since I cut the out the gluten. (Other things I won’t go into here have cleared up as well.) Maybe it’s all unrelated, and I hope it is, but we’ll see how I feel when I re-introduce regular pastas and whole-grain bread into my meals.]

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Even though we were invited to a BBQ Sunday afternoon, I had to get in a little grilling of my own this weekend, so I threw together a quick-ish lunch. The appetizers were inspired by this post at Smitten Kitchen and I was thrilled with the way they turned out:

That’s a lot of good stuff packed into a couple of bites, and it came together with almost no effort on my part. I just grilled 1/2-inch-thick slices of homemade bread till they were toasted, smeared them with loads of truffle butter, some room-temperature robiola (one of my favorites, but you could try whatever you like here), and topped them off with ribbons of asparagus, crunchy fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.

To make the ribbons, just grasp the tip of the spear and use a vegetable peeler to shave down the length of the asparagus.

Our main course was a kofta salad. The spinach and arugula made another appearance here, tossed with tzaziki sauce for the salad base. I had a few extra asparagus ribbons from the appetizers, so I threw them on as a garnish. But the real draw was the kofta made with ground lamb from Snoep Winkel Farm. I used the recipe that’s become my standard, substituting walnuts for pistachios since those were, um, about 18 months out of date. Oops.

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And then we went to a BBQ where I consumed lots of steak and delicious veggie skewers, so I was pretty meated- and veggied-out by Sunday morning and took it easy with a little goat’s milk yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries and honey. (Sadly, the blueberries were store-bought since they aren’t quite in season here, but the The Orchards of Concklin‘s strawberries are as perfect as ever, and their peonies aren’t half-bad either. I’ll bring my camera next time we go so I can show you just how popular Rufus and Otis are with the proprietor. The honey is local, too — from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, where we buy our fresh eggs and where I’m evidently known as Rufus’s mom.)

gluten-free

Hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend.

Redo weekend

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Sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit old favorites. I’ve been really blah with overtones of meh lately about pretty much everything including preparing meals. Like Milli Vanilli, I’ll blame it on the rain, but that doesn’t make the prospect of cooking any more exciting. So what’s a girl to do when her hair is permanently frizzy, she hasn’t seen the sun in days and can’t be bothered to update her cooking blog? Declare a Redo Weekend!

The day started with an update to the cornmeal blueberry pancakes I first tried last summer. With so many gorgeous berries at the market right now, it seemed a shame to limit the pancakes to blueberries, so I halved the batch and did a strawberry version as well. Couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I just alternated them on the plate and doused the stack with maple syrup.

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Cut to two hours later.

After waking from my sugar coma, I got to work on another old favorite: tongue tacos and refried beans. Mmmmm-hmmmm. I’d picked up a three-pound behemoth at the Snoep Winkle Farm booth a week earlier and it had been weighing heavily on my mind. I tweaked the old recipe pretty heavily, doubling the beer in the braising liquid and adding hefty amounts of toasted cumin and coriander seeds.

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After braising, I set the tongue aside to cool. Then came the peeling, which didn’t skeeve me out nearly as much this time around.

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It still wasn’t pleasant, mind you, but my toes didn’t curl at all. PROGRESS!

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While my hands were still covered in tongue juices (am I not the most enchanting creature ever?), I shredded the meat before cooking it down a second time with onions, additional spices and even more beer.

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The tongue tasted heavily of beef as you’d expect, but turned silky and tender in a way no other cut can. We had the tacos with and without salsa because, again, it was too hard to decide which way was better.

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No picture of the refried beans because I’m just not that good of a photographer, but they were creamy and delicious. I used borlotti beans (an odd choice, I’ll admit) from Rancho Gordo cooked in the usual way — onions, garlic, cumin, beer, beef broth, salt & pepper — until they were soft, then fried them with some bacon fat and onion, mashing them down as they simmered. It might be too soon for another Redo Weekend, but I’m really tempted to do this again for the 4th.

Inspiration has been peeking around the corners for me this week, so I hope to have something new for you soon. But in the meantime, enjoy the weekend and try a redo if you need to.

Summer lovin’

Oh, boy, do I ever love summer — buying berries by the quart doesn’t require a loan, and the best desserts are the simplest, like this blueberry and blackberry galette.

<Sigh> It actually makes me a little sad, knowing this will come to an end so soon. </Sigh> Guess I’ll just enjoy it while I can and take lots of pictures to tide me over during the long winter to come.

And hey, there’s always apple crisp season to look forward to!

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Summer lovin’”

Another post about pancakes

The comments section of a well-traveled food blog can be a pretty useful and interesting place to visit. For the same reason I enjoy reading letters to the editor in a magazine, I’ll at least skim comments on a post that has caught my attention.

Sunday morning, I found myself back at Smitten Kitchen‘s pancake tutorial because I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more with my blueberry stash than to toss them in a big stack of pancakes for breakfast. (My runner-up would’ve been a galette, but you know how I feel about pastry dough, and I just couldn’t face failure so early in the morning; I find it sets a bad tone for the day.) And even though hunger was calling and I wanted to eat close to immediately, I started to skim the comments section out of habit. Good thing, too, because one of them left a rave review of another recipe that sounded more intriguing than the traditional buttermilk pancake. I googled it and was off!

This recipe was posted by The Wednesday Chef, who adapted it from the NY Times Magazine. I adapted it further, substituting blueberries for the cranberries, and loved it; Gil even nodded his approval between bites. The cornmeal in the batter gave these pancakes just the slightest crunch, the hefty amount of baking powder made them light and fluffy, and because the batter wasn’t too sweet, topping them with a goodly amount of maple syrup didn’t send us to a sugary slumberland. At least not right away.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Another post about pancakes”