Monday, September 21, 2009

Gluten Free Beer Batter Crepes ! ! !

Dear Shauna (@GlutenFreeGirl), props to you, the intrepid explorer of the gluten free foods domain. I’m so in love with Teff flour, which I only know about from your blog.

Last night was another of those, ”Lord, I’m so hungry and I don’t know what to eat” moments. Hubbers recently scratched red meat and cheese from his diet (we’ll see how long THAT lasts), so the chuck roast was off the menu because there was no time to slow roast all of the fat into a drip pan.

I started out thinking pancakes with chipped ham, but it began to look complicated in terms of proper gluten free recipes that mapped to our preferences. Along the way, I discovered a recipe for Injera from The Healthy Hedonist Holidays by Myra Kornfeld. This was published with permission online and showed up in several blogs.


Hmmm. Mr. Wonderful LOVES crepes and I’ve been longing for a recipe that we could share, one that doesn’t bump up against his “I don’t LIKE gluten-free” filter. With a couple of wee modifications, this could work! A fast and easy blender recipe that we might both enjoy! How exciting!

Read more to find out how I did it.




Thank God for Rosie’s organic boneless skinless chicken breasts, vacuum packed without Styrofoam (such an environmentally aware company). I had a package of these in the defrost tray of my fridge, so there was the basis for the filling in my dinner crepes. Wish I’d had some mushrooms but the frozen ones don’t work too well in food that is prepared quickly.

I pulled out the large cast iron Le Creuset skillet and set it over a medium flame to begin heating through. Meanwhile, I began assembling the crepe batter:

Ingredients:

1 Cup Teff flour

¼ Cup Tapioca Starch

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 TBS melted Earth Balance non-hydrogenated shortening

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1 egg

12 oz (one bottle) Redbridge gluten-free beer

Process:

Pour gluten-free beer into the blender first, then add the eggs and the vinegar. (I don’t enjoy Redbridge as a beverage, but it is a fine ingredient for cooking, so my introductory six-pack will not go to waste.) Next, layer in the dry ingredients and add the warm melted shortening (or butter if you prefer) last of all so that it will not pre-cook your eggs. Whirl the whole lot on medium speed for about 1.5 minutes.

While the batter is blending, add some oil to the skillet. When heated to almost smoking, pour the first crepe into the pan. This batter was very thin, as a good crepe should be, and it held together beautifully. I soon learned NOT to tilt the pan to spread the batter more thinly, as this caused the crepe to break apart in the middle.

I cooked each crepe about 2 minutes on the first side, about 1 minute on the second. I made 5 crepes successfully (and a couple of duds in the beginning), each about 10” in diameter. I covered them with a glass (see-through) vented cover while the first side cooked, but left them uncovered to finish the second side. They flipped perfectly, the edges were just a little crispy, and after the cooking part was completed, they were easy to fill and fold without breaking up.

I lined a pizza pan with foil and turned the oven on to 250 degrees to keep them warm, separating each with a sheet of sandwich paper which I bought at a restaurant supply to use as microwave splatter guards.

While the crepes were in process, I cubed one chicken breast and ground it in the food processor. I added some curry powder, some cumin, and some saffron, along with a ½ tsp of Kathy Casey’s French Seasoning Salt. I heated a small dutch oven and added some walnut oil and some olive oil, then tossed in 2 TBS of diced shallot. When the shallot was cooked through, I added the ground chicken and cooked it off over medium high heat, deglazing the pan with a wonderful organic Malbec Rose’. To this, I added about 1/2 Cup of organic tomato sauce and a small handful of fresh lemon thyme, then simmered without a cover to reduce the liquid.

We spooned the hot filling into our crepes and I added a tiny portion of shredded Fontina cheese to mine. These crepes were so good that they disappeared before I even had a chance to photograph them! The Vida Organica Malbec Rose’ was a purr-fect pairing with the meal.

Try it and let us know what YOU think!


Friday, September 11, 2009

ChaCha Chicken Tikka Masala

Mr. Wonderful loves Indian cuisine. LOVES it! I enjoy it, too, as long as it isn't overly hot/spicy. Since we've had numerous business contacts who are Indian, I spent some time a few years back learning to prepare authentic Indian food -- from scratch. It was a wildly successful experience which I thoroughly enjoyed, but the authentic style is extremely labor intensive.

One of hubber's favorite dishes is Chicken Tikka Masala, a gorgeous dish that is not difficult to prepare, but is generally constructed with generous portions of yogurt and heavy cream -- not foods that my body can enjoy nearly as much as my taste buds.

Last evening, I had about 40 minutes to prepare dinner before my next meeting and two plump organic chicken breasts to work with. We've had enough stir fry and gluten free barbeque for now and I didn't have enough skewer friendly foods on hand to do kebabs. Hubber had a road trip coming up, so I opted for a very quick preparation of Chicken Tikka Masala -- inspired by the desire to try out Chef Kathy Casey's ChaCha Chipotle Lime seasoning.

I have been dreaming in a background program about a possible milk substitute to use in cooking and baking. It seemed like the perfect time to try it out on a simple recipe.

The dish was absolute heaven! Mr. Wonderful was alarmed when he learned that I had modified the traditional approach, but after he had a couple of bites, he declared emphatically: "Next time you make this, double it -- and DON'T CHANGE A THING." Hey Mikey, he likes it!

Read More to learn my secret approach to this food homily.


ChaCha Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients for Marinade:

1 Cup "So Delicious" Coconut Milk Kefir, original flavor
1 TBS organic lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
2 large boneless organic chicken breasts, skinned and cubed

In a large bowl, combine kefir, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, ginger and salt. Stir in cubed chicken, cover and refrigerate.

Ingredients for Dish:

1 TBS organic butter (see below)
1 clove of garlic
1 small chipotle pepper, whole
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kathy Casey's Cha Cha Chipotle Lime seasoning
1 tsp paprika
8 oz organic tomato SAUCE -- not paste
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
4 TBS organic Coconut Milk Fat (see below)

Heat the butter in a heavy pot. Ok, it's dairy, but it doesn't bother me; subs 1-2 TBS WALNUT oil if you can't use butter. (RIP, Julia Child) Walnut Oil is the BEST substitute for butter in stovetop recipes. It is heart-healthy AND it gives you that rich mouth feel that we all miss when we eliminate butter from our repertoire. It just happened that I was out of walnut oil on this occasion.

Add the garlic and whole chipotle. Saute until the garlic is clear and the fat is well-seasoned, 1 or 2 minutes. Add seasonings and stir. This is the great trick in Indian cooking: you basically fry or saute the seasonings until they begin to turn dark and release all of their oils and flavors into the dish. Over medium heat, this will take about 3 minutes. Add the almond milk, coconut milk fat and the organic tomato sauce.

Simplest way to get good coconut milk fat (not the same as coconut oil) is to open a can of organic coconut milk (full fat variety, not the lite version) and spoon the fat off the top. Do NOT shake the can before opening. The milk will be on the bottom of the can and the milkfat will be at the top.

Stir the liquids to combine with seasonings, then simmer (really a very slow boil, so just above simmer) for about 20 minutes. The sauce will thicken only slightly, so it becomes a sort of spicy tomato gravy.

MEANWHILE, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, lift the chicken from the marinade and drop it into the skillet. It is not necessary to remove all of the marinade, but you want don't want a large pool of it in your skillet, either. Saute the chicken until cooked through, not too fast. Cooking time will depend upon the size of your cubes. I sauteed for about 7 minutes and my cubes were small enough to fit 2 or 3 in a regular cereal spoon.

Stir the sauce, make sure it isn't sticking. If it is beginning to thicken, then reduce the heat to low. DO NOT COVER the sauce, it will thin out from condensed steam.

Turn on your broiler and slide the skillet with the chicken into the oven. (Obviously, I used an ovenproof skillet and I trust you will do the same!) Broil the chicken just long enough to achieve a golden brown finish, stir/turn the cubes and broil for another couple of minutes to finish the other side.

Remove the skillet from the oven, add the chicken to the sauce and PRESTO! Quick and easy, dairy free Cha Cha Chicken Tikka Masala. Heaven!

You would think this dish would develop a sort of Thai flavor, but it didn't! It was thoroughly Indian in flavor, mild enough for me (add cayenne in the sauce if you need more heat). Serve with saffron rice and a side of fresh cantalope. The Cha Cha seasoning created the perfect balance of salt/spice/heat for my palate and I am certain that this dish will become a regular on our menu at Chez Croquet. Enjoy!

Ready to try this at home? Major ingredients available through Amazon.com, compiled for you right here:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Homemade Stock: Stretching our food dollars for good health

Today is soup day. My approach to homemade soup is a synthesis of things I learned from my grandmother, from Chef Bruce Naftaly at Le Gourmand/Seattle, and from health and wellness masters along the way.

Gran would make her famous Refrigerator Soup two or three times per month and it consisted of a wondrous array of everything that had been put back into the fridge since the last batch was made: grilled chicken backs and wings, ends of kielbasa, left over Spanish Rice, the remaining half a tomato from someone’s most recent sandwich, spinach or green beans that my brother had attempted to hide in the back of the fridge so he couldn’t be forced to finish them off, the bottom crusts of sandwich bread that I always cut off because I hated how they felt in my mouth.

It may sound like a nightmare, but it was never, ever that. I can’t say what magic she performed while no one was looking, but I know we always sat still for soup dinners, spoon in one hand and large hunks of bread in the other. Soup came to the table in a large, cast iron dutch oven and our family of six (more if the neighbor kids were eating with us) would generally empty the pot in one sitting. Gran was a child of the great depression and she knew how to get the most out of her groceries. It’s a mindset that was ingrained in me from an early age as I stood beside her and “helped” her cook through the years.

Chef Naftaly may be the most under-represented food genius in our very food-centric city of Seattle. He was serving all local and organic foods many long years before it was “trendy” to do so and his growing list of provisioners is truly breath-taking to an amateur food-a-phile like me.




Early in my Seattle residency, I attended some of his cooking classes. These are absolutely “must do” events. For the price of the class, you sit in his warm kitchen on a ladder-back chair with ten or twelve other newfound friends and watch him prepare a meal. You get recipes, dinner with dessert, wines paired to each course, AND you get the benefit of learning his kitchen efficient style and cooking techniques. He is a wonder to behold and his meals are divine. One of many things you can generally count on is that Bruce prepares his own fresh stock daily for use in his wonderful recipes.

My own treasured trinity for the stock pot is based on celery, carrots and French shallots – fresh, organic basics in our kitchen. I prefer baby carrots because they are so much easier to work with. Today, there were no carrots to be found at Chez Croquet but I found some fennel stalks and set to work.

A couple of tablespoons of olive oil and an equal portion of Earth Balance non-hydrogenated shortening went into the stock pot. While these were heating up, I whirled some celery stalks in the food processor, then dropped some chopped organic garlic into the hot pot. Since I was currently also short of fresh shallots, I added some dehydrated shallots to the pot and pulled it off the heat to prevent burning. I keep these on the shelf for just such a moment.

The fennel stalks and some leaves of rainbow chard joined the celery for a whirl about the food processor, then into the pot with all of the greenery. I also added the last of a portion of vegan cilantro pesto made at PCC/Fremont and the better part of an orange tomato that was never going to make it to a salad bowl. Sliding the pot back onto the medium heat, I popped the cover on and sweated the veggies, then added one cup of Orvieto and one half can of Ito En Sencha Shot. I simmered these for about ten minutes, then dropped in the magic basket.

Until now, everything that has gone into the pot will remain in the stock forever. The magic basket is for everything that would otherwise need to be sorted and strained after cooking. If you love to cook, but HATE to clean up afterwards, you want this.

Today’s magic includes the remains of the roast chicken from a previous dinner and half a small spaghetti squash, quartered. I also added two organic bay leaves and two sachets of Bija Cold Stop tea. This is a caffeine-free, immune-boosting blend of herbs that makes a fabulous addition to your stock during cold and flu season. Several stems of fresh lemon thyme, kosher salt, some cumin and some tumeric along with a helping of ground white pepper rounded out the profile. Then for the sake of my grandmother, I added a fatty end from a grass-fed beef steak which I had reserved for this purpose.

With the magic basket fully loaded and a couple of quarts of filtered water added in, it was time to let the simmer go to work. After a good 20 minutes, I added another two quarts of filtered water. (It’s important to let the stock pot boil gently for these long intervals of 20 – 30 minutes at a time to ensure that any micro-organisms are destroyed in the cooking process.)

Once the basket contents have fully rehydrated and the flavors have set, I like to use a stainless potato masher to press things and release these flavors into the stock. At around 50 minutes of cooking time, I will turn off the heat and just allow the ingredients to steep. Our climate is moderate to mild here. Don't try this in Tucson!

At dinnertime, simply lift the basket out of the stock pot and set it into a large bowl to drain. Use a stick blender to liquefy the vegetables that remain in the stock and boil gently for 3-5 minutes prior to serving.

I like to puree the spaghetti squash (minus the skin, of course) into my soup, but my husband loathes it. Instead, I save the squash for my own lunch fare and add a little tapioca starch to thicken the stock just slightly.

Served in large noodle bowls with freshly baked gluten-free bread (mine toasted), we enjoyed a delicious and nurturing meal with no downside.

And just now, it's raining outside as I head back to the kitchen to portion the remaining stock for freezing. It will be there, at the ready, any time we need a healthy flavor boost. Very hyp, indeed.

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