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Time for a Snack

Healthy, gluten-free snack

I’ve been obsessed with avocados lately, just snacking on a half straight from the shell, sprinkled with a little salt. It’s a healthy and satisfying treat. But after reading that my friend Nicole at Love Life and her son Luca add honey and lemon to the mix, I now have a new favorite way to enjoy them. So, so good.

Update: Jeannie left a comment suggesting avocado with a drizzle of soy sauce, which I’ll be trying with my very next one. So what’s YOUR favorite way to enjoy avocados? I’d love to hear more suggestions!

February 12, 2012|Avocado, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Pictures, Vegetarian|15 Comments

From the Market — Week 3

Caramelized Scallops with Strawberry Salsa

I haven’t come close to using everything I picked up at the market this weekend, but here’s a good sampling of what we’ve had.

Strawberries. Oh, yes. Divine, luscious, sweet, knock-your-socks-off strawberries, the memory of which will drive me away from the display at the grocery store that tries to tempt me, so redly and smugly. “Hey Amy, it’s still summer. Doesn’t a large, mealy strawberry sound delicious right about now?” Erm, no. Even more so (possibly) than tomatoes, they’re just so much better from the local growers.

They deserved a more special treatment than sliced over homemade yogurt (though they popped up there, too), so I worked up a strawberry salsa to top caramelized scallops. I tempered the fruity salsa with red wine vinegar so it would balance the naturally sweet scallops.

And we both loved it — if only I’d made more than just the appetizer portion you see here! But I set some aside for a very different, but still delicious appetizer, inspired by this post at Chocolate & Zucchini. Instead of using smoked sea salt, I smoked the remaining scallops with alder chips in my Camerons Stovetop Smoker, but otherwise stuck to the general recipe, then topped them off with fleur de sel.

It wasn’t difficult, but was a bit more trouble than the original would be. I think I’d happily feature the radishes with smoked salt for a party, just for ease of assembly.

My refrigerator is also seriously stuffed with all sorts of greens which I haven’t delved into (much) yet, but weeknight dinners are looking up!

recipe after the jump

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Who Doesn’t Love a Parfait?

Parfait of dairy-free coconut ice cream and rhubarb-strawberry topping with slivered almonds

Not me, that’s for sure. Especially during a heatwave. Especially when that heatwave comes on the heels of a winter that lasted a record-breaking two years and four months. (Well, that’s what it felt like, but I’ll be honest and say I’ll take summer and all of its stankiness over winter’s misery any day and twice on Sunday.)

But we were discussing parfait, right? When a dessert’s based on a premise of perfection, it’s tough to mess up. You can get pretty creative with it — just do a quick Google search to see what I mean — but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple, either. For these, I just layered dairy-free coconut ice cream with a rhubarb and strawberry topping I threw together in about 10 minutes, then topped it with toasted slivered almonds. And you know what? It really was perfect.

Dessert parfait

I don’t keep anything like a dairy-free diet, but there was no milk or cream in the house and I wanted needed to make ice cream. Since I usually have coconut milk in the pantry, I gave that a go with this recipe and loved the outcome — very coconutty/custardy with a rich, creamy texture. The fruit topping recipe came from here, and it’s very bare bones, but when you’ve got stunning strawberries and juicy rhubarb from the farmers’ market to work with, why gild the lily?

recipe after the jump

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Spicy Mushroom Soup

It’s been some winter so far. Not content to bury us under successive blankets of snow, the heavens punished us yesterday for some undisclosed sin we’ve collectively committed by raining shards of ice on our heads. Knowing icy vengeance was coming our way, I made a pot of, well, I’m still not sure what to call this soup. It’s very, very loosely based on yuk gae jang, a mind-blowingly spicy Korean beef soup. It was a favorite of mine in my 20s, but the beef was always just a little too chewy for my taste, so I started tinkering with meatless versions sometime in my 30s and landed on this one in my 40s.

So you could say it’s been a long time coming. I’m not done with it yet, but it’s a dish that obviously can handle a fair amount of tweaking.

The secret ingredient in this bowl of bliss is gochujang, a fermented condiment heavy on the red pepper. Looking for an expiration date on the jar that’s been in my refrigerator for a couple of years (at least), I noticed a prominent ingredient was wheat, which I’m really avoiding in earnest these days. So I did what I always do — looked online for a gluten-free recipe, and found one right away. The ingredients were few, the time commitment was minimal and the rewards were great (it’s possibly more delicious than commercial-grade). I really can’t complain. Even though my Korean chili pepper was a little out of date and the gochujang wasn’t Insanity Pepper-hot, it still lit up the pot of soup like a torch.

As insurance against the weather, I added a hefty dash of chili flakes to the pot. You can see them swimming alone around the edges of the bowl, as if the vegetables were crowding together in the center for protection.

recipe after the jump

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January 19, 2011|Asian, Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Mushrooms, Pictures, Soup|4 Comments

You say, “Chayote,” I say, “Mirliton”

Mirliton’s kind of sneaky. Your odds of finding it by that name outside of Louisiana are about as good as a collection agency making a successful phone call: “You’re looking for Mirliton? Yeah, sorry, he just stepped out. … Who, me? I’m, uuuhhh, Chayote. Oh, and Mango Squash is around, too, if you’d like to talk to her.” If you can’t tell, it goes by any number of aliases, so finding them in your neck of the woods shouldn’t be especially difficult.

Like a summer squash, it’s not exactly assertive on the flavor front, but does a great job absorbing seasonings from its dish-mates. My grandma used to make a wonderful mirliton bread (similar to zucchini bread) and a mirliton casserole with fresh shrimp and crabmeat that would be pretty familiar to most people of the Cajun persuasion. I may have to recreate that casserole soon, but first I had to attempt the pickles my cousin Darrin made last Christmas. Slightly sweet, spicy and just crispy enough to provide some resistance… well, I just had an envie, cher.

Luckily, chayotes were abundant at my grocery, so I picked up what felt like 10 pounds to my pipe cleaner arms for the recipe I’d chosen from Chef John Folse’s site. I knew these pickles would really cure any homesickness I was feeling thanks to the Zatarain’s bath and copious amounts of garlic that were featured.

Before getting started, I recalled my previous encounters with mirliton and pulled out the most important items for dealing with it in its raw state:

Seriously, these things are paradoxically slippery and sticky once you cut into them, so you’ll dearly regret it if you don’t invest in a cheap pair of gloves. They’re not especially hard to slice or to peel, but I’m a big proponent of sharp knives and it made for a better picture.


They really resemble mutant, juicy apples, at least in cross-section.

I didn’t bother canning them proper-like because I was sure that: 1) Refrigeration, plus the vinegar in the brine would keep them from spoiling, and 2) They wouldn’t be around for very long, anyway.

And I’m very happy to report that success was achieved. No picture of the finished product because they’re pickles, ya know? But they really set off a spicy Bloody Mary, and anyone I’ve shared them with has raved. Could be mere politeness, but I prefer to think Chef Folse hit another one out of the park.


You know, they also resemble shriveled centenarian mouths.

recipe after the jump

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A Very Special Mid-Week Post

aka, the ass-kicker

< cue swelling strings > OK, it’s not really special at all — just a garden-variety post — but if you’ve been here before, you’ll know I only update once a week at most. This is me trying to be better about that sort of thing.

Another change for the better? Instead of my annual satisfying-yet-ineffective tactic of resisting the return to fall, I’m embracing it with open arms this year. No, seriously: I didn’t whine even a little bit about the annual closet switchout, dutifully donned a hat and jacket when morning temperatures and the Hudson Hawk made my walk too brisk for bareness and have sucked it up about not seeing my house in daylight during the week. Just trying to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive here, and the easiest way I know to do that is through cooking, focusing on seasonal goodness.

Gil can attest to my current pumpkin/winter squash obsession. (We’ll be attending castings for Jersey Shore if I don’t cut it out. Coming soon to a boardwalk near you: Amy “The Back End” and Gil “The Incident” Roth.) I’ve been roasting pumpkin like crazy for custards, puddings and mashes, but my favorite use so far has been for soup. What you see in the picture above isn’t revolutionary and won’t set the world on fire, but it’s thoroughly delicious and feels rich and indulgent even though it’s (gasp) vegan. It’s a lush pumpkin soup flavored with roasted garlic, coconut milk and Singapore curry — a lovely, light spice blend that doesn’t overwhelm any other components of the dish.

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I jumped feet-first into serious cold-weather cooking last weekend to satisfy a craving for chickpea soup (pasta e ceci, minus the pasta this time around). To make it gluten-free, I substituted ribbons of rainbow chard for the pasta, adding them to the soup just before serving so they wilted just enough to turn silky but still provided some texture with each bite. It’s a different animal than the original, to be sure, but the chard really added a nice dimension to the soup and I figure extra servings of greens are always a good thing.

When I was doing my grad school stint in St. Louis, one of the guys in my program announced to the office, “I can always tell who the Southerners are when it gets cold. You people bitch all winter long.” So yeah, I’m sure I’ll change my tune once we get deeper into the season, but for now, I’m happy enough not to fight Mother Nature. Wow, can roasted root vegetables be far behind?

recipes after the jump

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From the Market: Week 8

Or, corn week

And we’re back with another weekend of cooking, fresh from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market. Despite temperatures that reached the triple digits a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t really feel like summer to me until this weekend, when I first spied corn at several booths at the market. And because corn heralds the arrival of tomatoes (thus my favorite food weeks of the year), I’m a happy, happy girl.

So with a full bag of corn and some adorable baby eggplants, I set my sights on grilling this weekend. The only question was what slant to give the meal, and after some consideration (Mexican — lime & cotija? Italian — balsamic vinaigrette? Cajun — loads of paprika, oregano & pepper?), I decided to go for Middle Eastern with a harissa rub/dressing since the cumin, coriander and paprika would play so well with the flavors of the grill.

There are lots of ways to grill corn and I’ve tried most of them. Rolling the shucked ears in foil with a little butter and spice is where I started years ago, but that only takes advantage of the grill’s heat and doesn’t capture its essence. Grilling already-shucked ears bare on the grate is a little more satisfying, but the kernels tend to dry out and turn rubbery, no matter how attentive you are. So I’ve turned into an unshucked griller. I remove some of the outer husks, peel back the rest and keep them attached at the base, then strip the silk from the cob. At that point, it’s really simple to season the corn however you like, re-cover the ear with the husks and tie them at the top with one of the detached husks. Some people like to soak the cobs, but I prefer not to so the outer husks burn and char, and infuse the kernels with the smokiness of the grill.

For this weekend’s meal, I brushed the kernels with olive oil, then sprinkled them with dry harissa. I like to keep the dry rub around because I’m never quite sure how long the paste will keep with fresh garlic in it. Using powdered garlic and leaving out the water solves that problem, and it’s easy enough to turn it into a paste later. The corn roasted over a hot fire for about 20 minutes while I turned the ears frequently. The outer husks charred to black and began to crumble away after a time, but we were left with smoky, tender corn cooked through perfectly. Just before we dug in, I drizzled it with some harissa sauce (more on which later):

SUMMER'S HERE!

Although I’d be perfectly happy making an entire meal of grilled corn, Gil probably wouldn’t be, so I threw together a quick salad as well. While the corn was grilling, I placed the baby eggplants in the in-between spaces and let them cook until they were charred and had just enough form to escape going all Bruce Davison in X-Men. Once off the grill, I sliced them in half lengthwise, slathered them in harissa sauce mixed with lemon juice and honey and let them marinate till they’d cooled down and were shot through with spicy-sweet-tart flavor. They were perfect over a simple salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, and damn if this isn’t going to be a go-to recipe for me this summer. The flavors just marry so well.

a fine side dish

Last weekend, I was fooling around with some basil and decided to use it in a green apple sorbet, but never got around to posting it here because the recipe isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. It’s awfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but is just a little too reminiscent of frozen applesauce for my liking. Once I find the appropriate level of tartness I’ll share, but for now, here’s a picture to serve as a placeholder.

refreshing!

Hope you all had a great weekend and managed to stay somewhat cool.

recipes after the jump

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