Panna Cotta

gluten-free dessert

Gil and I go to Fairway entirely too often, or more frequently than we need to, anyway. It’s usually because Gil’s running low on the only dried figs that meet his standards, but if you turn me loose in a well-stocked grocery, I’m going to do some damage whether I have a list or not. Gil and I tend to divide our labor unnecessarily; he pushes the cart while I scan the aisles, but he wanders off while I’m picking up groceries, so I spend the next 10 minutes looking for him. Fun times! But we never learn, so our last visit found me wandering around the produce section with my arms full when I spotted him back by the entrance, gazing longingly at fresh figs.

Which never last. That’s why he doesn’t buy them.

But these figs were calling his name, so he challenged me to do something with them before they turned brown and moldy, which usually happens within 3.7 seconds of hitting the fridge. They actually sat there like a ticking time bomb for three days before I got around to making this panna cotta, but all turned out well in the end. I remembered the beautiful coconut panna cotta photo posted at Inspiring the Everyday and wanted to create my own low(ish) fat version with goat’s milk. A quick stop by David Lebovitz’s blog gave me a perfect panna cotta recipe, and I was off!

I infused goat’s milk with almonds for the base instead of using a mixture of milk and cream in an effort to lighten it. I’m generally fine with rich desserts, but wasn’t feeling it at the time. The topping came straight from the coconut panna cotta recipe, only I used vanilla sugar, which I always have on hand instead of the plain sugar plus vanilla bean.

Since I enjoyed this so much, I probably won’t discourage Gil from filling the cart with his own finds next time we’re wandering the aisles at Fairway.

Cup4Cup Week: The Bread

FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Even though the taint of the Saints’ scandal lingers and I’m still smarting from the BCS championship game last January, I can’t help but be excited for the start of the season. We Saints/Tigers fans are an optimistic lot. The booze helps.

Of course, you’ll need good food for the games this weekend, and you could do so much worse than a muffuletta, the Sicilian-by-way-of-New-Orleans sandwich invented by Salvatore Lupo at Central Grocery. It shares a meat-and-cheese situation with the Italian sub, but goes above and beyond in two important ways — the bread (a soft, round Italian loaf that’s light but substantial enough to take on the filling) and olive salad (with pickled vegetables and heavy on the garlic). Since I have no hope of ordering the sandwich in north Jersey or of getting a gluten-free muffuletta loaf at the bakery, I made my own.

And, well, I have to say the bread was not great. Looked nice, though:

I really don’t know if it was the flour, the recipe, my own incompetence, or some combination of those factors, but it didn’t work for me at all. The bread rose — more than I expected, actually — but emerged from the oven dense as dwarf star matter. Still, I had loads of meats and cheeses and a ridiculous amount of olive salad in the fridge, so I plowed ahead with the muffulettas, hoping a good soaking with olive salad oil would render the bread pliable enough for ingestion.

I used Emeril’s recipe and thought his olive salad was delicious, but lacked garlic. I KNOW, RIGHT? Craziness. Emeril is garlic’s ambassador, its Kris Kardashian. He revels in garlic the way David Foster Wallace reveled in footnotes — unashamedly and without regard for the reader. “Perhaps you could add another footnote or five, David?” The effrontery! But this is no time for balance and restraint; the more garlic you throw at olive salad, the clearer its point becomes.

If not for the bread issue, it would’ve been a damned fine sandwich even with the garlic paucity. Each muffuletta probably was less than a quarter of the Central Grocery sandwich, but I still only managed to eat a half, and that without the top of the bread which threatened to destroy the roof of my mouth. No thank you, bread; my Cap’n Crunch days are long behind me.

So all good experiments must come to an end. I’ll look for a new bread recipe with the Cup4Cup and let you know how it turns out. But do give the muffuletta a try if you have access to good bread and a cast iron stomach.

And happy footballing!

Cup4Cup Week: The Cake

After the biscuit victory, I was hooked — is there anything this flour can’t do? The next test was a little unfair, simply because the cake recipe I chose uses a lot of butter and juicy nectarines and it’d be tough for any gluten-free flour not to shine under those conditions. Still, summer’s ending and I hadn’t made my favorite cake of the season yet — the Nectarine Golden Cake.

Gluten-free cake with Cup4Cup flour

The cake didn’t rise quite as high as cakes made with regular AP flour, but the flavor and texture were indistinguishable. Big win!

recipe after the jump

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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!

gluten-free

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

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From the Market: This & That Edition

I realized there were a lot of half-finished posts in my folder that didn’t quite meet the mark individually, but worked together as a summertime pot luck, so that’s what you get today. Hope you don’t mind leftovers!

To blame my recent lack of cooking and posting on the lazy, hazy days of summer wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but wouldn’t be the whole story, either. Now that I don’t have those killer workdays anymore, I find myself wanting to take it a little easier. We wake up at 6:30am now instead of 5, which is a lovely thing. After walking the dogs, I have a strenuous-for-me yoga workout, then start my day after Gil goes to work. Our house is the cleanest it’s ever been — not as easy as it sounds with perpetual shedding machines underfoot — plus I’ve gotten my portfolio and billing system in order. (There are a few projects on the horizon, but no contracts in hand yet, so I’m taking advantage of this down time while it lasts.) You’d think I’d want to spend at least part of my day making a big production in the kitchen, but that just hasn’t been the case. While we’re swimming in beautiful, local produce, going overboard isn’t necessary at all.

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Grilling’s another story since it doesn’t heat up the house and takes so little time to accomplish great things. For the bastardized bi bim bap above, I salted and grilled a nice grass-fed steak for about three minutes per side then brushed it with a mixture of equal parts miso, Dijon mustard and melted butter* and cooked it for an additional minute on each side. After the steak rested for a few minutes, I sliced it up and served it over rice with some vegetables I had in the fridge — carrots, asparagus, and shredded spinach and arugula — and thinned out a little of my homemade gochujang with water to make a simple dressing. An over-easy egg would not be a bad idea on top, but this was more than enough food for me.

* Since I first read about the miso-mustard-butter blend on the always-excellent Cookblog, I’ve been obsessed. We went through a stretch of eating it a few times a week as I experimented. I can report that it’s gorgeous with salt-roasted root vegetables and welcomes maple syrup with open arms.

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A few days later, our friend Mark paid a visit. I love having him over, not just because of the great conversation and incredible stories (check out the Virtual Memories podcast he recorded with my husband), but also because he really knows how to make a cook feel appreciated. Planning a menu is a lot of fun when you know someone will get a kick out of it. The main course was smoked chicken, so I started us off with a simple appetizer to eat while the chicken was cooking low and slow. It took advantage of the massive amount of beautiful English peas we had in the market at the time.

I wanted the flavor of the peas to shine through, so after shelling and blanching them, I kept the rest of the preparation minimal.

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Peas, sweet onion, avocado, a little fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I whirred it to taste in a food processor with some salt and fresh thyme, and had a silky dip perfect for crudités or spreading on toast or crackers.

gluten-free

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The idea here was to make a spaghetti-like dish using julienned zucchini and yellow squash in place of the pasta, because I don’t like to be weighed down by all those carbs when it’s blazing outside. For the sauce, I smoked some roma tomatoes in my Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker, then blended them with a little olive oil, some lemon, garlic, onion, thyme and goat’s milk ricotta. Salted & peppered to taste and topped off with a sprinkling of Parmesan. This dish was awfully good with a crisp rosé…

Local produce from Bialas Farms. Grass-fed steak from Snoep Winkel Farm. Ricotta from Edgwick Farm.

From the Market: Stone Fruit Edition

Stone Fruit Edition

“You’re gonna get the shits.”

It was the late 70s and I was maybe 10 years old — 10 being my default age for somewhat indistinct childhood memories — and the wind was whipping my hair into a rat’s nest. It was summer and I was riding in the back of a pickup truck with a group of kids, heading back to our meeting place after an afternoon of picking peaches. Oh, there was an adult riding with us who was there in a supervisory capacity, because there has to be ONE responsible grown-up around when you’re transporting a bunch of kids IN THE BACK OF A PICKUP TRUCK. No, we weren’t day laborers or or migrant peach-pickers, but a group of Mennonites gathered for a weekend pig roast in Mississippi to celebrate the dedication of a new church building. I suppose the adults wanted to get us out of the way and thought we’d burn off some energy gathering fruit.

I don’t remember the activity of picking itself, but the trip home is firmly planted in my memory. As I rode IN THE BACK OF THE PICKUP TRUCK, feeling the exhilaration of flying down the road while smiling with my mouth closed to prevent accidental bug ingestion, I saw those sacks of peaches before me and was overcome with a powerful peach-lust, the likes of which I’d never felt before. The scent was overwhelming, the skins so soft! I almost could imagine how Roberto Benigni felt about those pumpkins in Night on Earth! So I did what any kid would do; I devoured many peaches and started a full-scale peach-eating frenzy among my compatriots, complete with pit-spitting from the truck. I can only imagine the extent of the chromosomal damage done by eating so many unwashed fruits sprayed with who-knows-what insecticide was popular back then. After seeing me pluck one peach after another from the sack, the lone adult interjected that I miiiight possibly be concerned about my bowels later on if I continued (not a word about chromosomal damage, though). Lucky for me, there was no grand shitting incident then or later at the pig roast, but that experience did inaugurate my life-long love of peaches and, by extension, all stone fruits.

So when I saw the bounty of organic stone fruits at the Orchards of Concklin booth at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market, I got a little giddy. But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and I came home with far too many fruits to eat on their own before they spoiled. Good thing there’s no shortage of recipes for such a problem at this time of year. I remembered saving this grilled kale salad from Bon Appetit to one of my Pinterest boards, and it turned out to be a perfect lunch. Grilling kale is nothing new, but the tartsweet plums, the creamy goat’s milk ricotta from Edgwick Farm, and honeyed balsamic vinaigrette shone against the background of smoky kale and set this apart from a standard salad preparation.

gluten-free

While I was grilling the kale, I cut the rest of the fruit in half, oiled it lightly, then tossed it on the grate to cook so it would last through the week. It made a great, simple dessert right away — an assortment of grilled fruit with more of that luscious goat’s milk ricotta drizzled with a little aged balsamic vinegar (the sweet stuff, not the grocery-store variety), fresh thyme and truffle honey.

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Need. More. Of. This. Better add it to the list for this weekend.

gluten-free

With the rest of the grilled fruit, I made a mixed-fruit butter. The skins slipped off after grilling, so I threw the fruit halves in a saucepan with a little sugar and a splash of brandy, then cooked them down till the sauce was thick. To get it velvety smooth, I puréed it in my food processor for a bit. I’m not too proud to admit it’s pretty satisfying just spooned from the jar, but if you make this, save a little, because it’s stellar with pork chops. And eat to your heart’s content — I’m sure you won’t have any, er, troubles.

More Quebec City and Montreal

If you’re a fan of lovely old stone buildings and mansard roofs and want to stick close-ish to home — assuming you’re in the northeast — Quebec City can’t be beat. We stayed in the old city and thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the EXTREMELY hilly, winding streets, seeing the sights, and taking loads of pictures.

One of my regular destinations for the few days we were in town was this boardwalk next to the Frontenac Hotel. The open space and benches overlooking the river afforded me the opportunity to bask in the warm weather with just my thoughts for company or to take in more of the surroundings and people-watch.

Flame-juggling street performers on stilts attracted a nice crowd, as they are wont to do.

More pictures after the jump…

Continue reading “More Quebec City and Montreal”

From the Market: Think Pink Edition

Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

When the unrelenting greigeness of the winter landscape weighs heavily on my soul, especially so in March when my internal calendar — still set to Southern seasonal rotations, even after all these years — says the world should be warm and bursting with life, I dream of color. By May, our yard is awash in yellow forsythia and tiny purple blooms in the grass — probably weeds, but I don’t care — and I begin to recover. Still, the really vibrant colors don’t come until later, and not until the Farmers’ Market starts up again around Memorial Day do I bother to buy fruit. There’s just no comparison between the beautiful but insipid berries you see at the market and the beautiful and flavorful ones you get locally. (The strawberries taste like strawberries, and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!) So last week I decided to think pink.

Rhubarb Syrup and Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

Though rhubarb seems to be long gone by now, I still have a bottle of lovely rhubarb syrup in the fridge that mixes will with all sorts of things, and is still a classic with strawberries. I blended up a little shake to get me through the morning — strawberries, rhubarb syrup, lemon basil, goat’s milk yogurt and ice. Nothing fancy, but so delicious and fresh, I feel healthier just remembering it.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Smoothie with Lemon Basil | Minimally Invasive

Honestly, couldn’t you just have a glass of that right now? Aaaahhhh…

But one can only drink so many strawberries and they don’t last forever, not even close, so I had to come up with something else for them. Lucky for me (and all of us, really), Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for strawberries & cream biscuits a few weeks ago.
Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive
whimper

I converted the original recipe to gluten-free, using Jules Gluten-Free AP Flour. Because the last batch of biscuits I made with this flour blend turned out fairly dry, I played with the proportions of ingredients, adding more butter (two extra tablespoons) and cream (an extra 1/4 cup). Like that’s ever a bad thing. With all of the extra liquid, they had to bake a while longer to turn golden brown, but they eventually did, after about 25 minutes. The tweaks certainly took care of the dryness, but I think there’s something about the GF flours that kept the juices from spilling out of the biscuits. The cornstarch, maybe? Not that I’m complaining; they were awfully tasty anyway.

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

But boy, do they ever not reheat well. Just a warning for you.

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

Gluten-Free Strawberries & Cream Biscuits | Minimally Invasive

I think we still have a few weeks of strawberries before they’re gone for another year. I fully intend to enjoy these ephemeral beauties until then and store the memories for the long winter ahead.

Strawberries | Minimally Invasive

recipe after the jump

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