Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sautéed Chorizo and Pak Choi Chips

Today was the first day of our first CSA (that's a mouth full) and I'm not sure we could be any more excited. Mr. and I have been patrons of our farmer's market for years but we have never been able to sign up for a CSA because we have been students forever and it usually takes a rather sizeable chunk of money for a share. We lucked out because the Hutten Family Farm has established a CSA that is affordable and generally fantastic because it's a bin filled with beautiful greens, carrots, apples and the sweetest peas that I had to force myself to leave because I would have eaten the whole bag in one sitting.

We had a few fresh sausages kicking around in the fridge and they also happened to be gluten-free so dinner was looking up. The kids had the 'Gourmet' version which was gently spiced with a hint of fennel whereas our chorizo had a great flavour but was it ever spicy! Mr. and I spooned a bit of goat yogurt on top to quell the heat and allow the flavours to come through. If you are in and around Halifax and you are looking for gluten-free sausages, check out Pete's Frootique. Their in-house sausages (the Gourmet, Chorizo and ... another one that I did not buy) are all gluten free. I really love Sweet Williams' line of sausages because they are delicious and local but I am unsure if they are gluten-free. If you know, let me know!

Pak Choi Chips

4-5 pak choi (the little bunches, not the individual leaves!)
olive oil
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Slice the stems off the pak choi and lay on a lined cookie sheet. I lined mine with a silicone baking sheet, feel free to use parchment paper or silpat.

3. Drizzle just a bit of olive oil and sprinkle the sea salt on the leaves.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy.

5. Enjoy!

Sautéed Sausage

half onion
two chorizo sausages (make sure they are fresh, not dry cured)
yogurt to taste
fresh peas
olive oil
optional: half apple (or a whole - we currently have massive jona golds)
tablespoon white wine

1. Dice onion and add to heated pan with olive oil. Stir around and allow to soften for about 3-5 minutes.

2. Cut a seam into the sausages and pull out the meat. Break it into chunks and add to the pan.

3. Cook for about 8 minutes. I did not add any extra salt because the sausage is salty enough on its own. If your chorizo is spicy you can add the diced apple and white white for a bit of sweetness. Cover to all the wine to cook down.

4. Plate the sausage and apples, sprinkle with the fresh peas and top with a few spoonfuls of yogurt. Serve with the pak choi chips.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gluten-free Red Velvet Cupcakes

I am a private person. I bristle when my life is discussed, when my sense of self is put on display and fodder for others interests. And then I have this outpouring and everyone is so kind that it amazes and makes me cry. I sometimes tire of my gluten intolerance and it's frustrating, mostly because I cut out gluten for one reason and when that didn't work I couldn't just go back to eating bread and all kinds of good wheaty things and that sucks. I know that makes me sound like a 15 year old but it's true. My gluten intolerance wasn't linked to my bipolar, it didn't fix my brain but it certainly fixed the rest of my body. It's a good thing that I stopped eating gluten. It really is.

As a way of breaking out of this baking slump I took the advice of Chef Dennis and wandered back into the kitchen. I poked around in the cupboards, watched an episode of Triple D, snooped in the kitchen and went online. It was while I was monitoring Twitter for any suspicious behaviour, such as recipes I had not yet seen, I discovered Jenna from Eat • Drink • Pretty and her Red Velvet Cupcakes. Obviously I would not be able to follow her recipe exactly but I was able to make this gluten free and I was really proud of the delicate texture and flavour of these cupcakes.

However, I'm not going to share with you. Yes, I am. The recipe is below. There was a mishap with the notebook which contains the recipe.

The Recipe

note: I think I might be overzealous with my flours but this garnered a fantastic texture.

57 g rice flour
57 g quinoa flour
37 g chickpea flour
70 g teff
30 g corn flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
one teaspoon baking soda
one teaspoon salt
one teaspoon guar gum/xanthan gum (I prefer guar gum, use what you like!)

one cup goat milk w/ tablespoon of vinegar*

2 eggs
1.5 half cups sugar
3 tsp. vanilla (seems like a lot - I find I need more with gluten-free baked goods)
half cup oil (should be neutral, I did use olive because it's all we had)
one tablespoon red food colouring

*This is instead of buttermilk. My babies (all three of them) are intolerant of cow's milk but they can have goat. If you do not imbibe any dairy, the same ratio applies to soy milk in order to make the curdled buttermilk!

1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Those are conveniently separated in the first batch!

2. Mix together the wet ingredients, the batch of all wet stuff in the last grouping.

3. Add the dry to the wet, alternate with the buttermilk. Since this is gluten-free it is extraordinarily runny, I don't remember wheat based cakes being this runny.

4. Fill lined cupcake pans. Bake at 325* for 15-20 minutes. Remember my tremendous muffin tins? I also have super small cupcake tins. Yup, only extremes around here ... we shan't mention the crazy. :)

Traditionally, red velvet cake is served with cream cheese icing. Like usual, I have used goat quark. I love quark because it is a lot lower in fat than other cream cheeses, my beloved babies can eat it First, allow me to apologize for the Wikipedia. In my other life as a university student it is seriously frowned upon, though I do have an unhealthy addiction to it!

The Icing

4 tbsp. quark
1.5 cups icing sugar
hot water (splash)

Mix all ingredients together. The hot water is there to thin it out if you find the icing is seizing and will not mix.

The crumb on these cakes had me so impressed and -dare I say it- proud of my new baking skills. I love baking, the properties of gluten free baking have pulled the rug out from beneath me. It's a journey, and we never really get there, but isn't that the point?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photo Friday: Lentil Burger with Chive Polenta

lentil burger • chive polenta • creamy tomato

A note: I would much rather leave the Photo Friday post wordless but I have a quick question: What are your opinions on the editing of food photos? I have edited the last two photos in this series and while I like the effect, I am leery of playing around with the colours and compositions of the foods. I think I'd like to remain true to the food but I am not sure. I included an unedited version (the top) for a point of comparison.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Lament for Gluten

A lament for all the food I will never have, a sigh for all the recipes that will remain locked in between the tattered pages of my beloved cookbooks. It is in these moments of sorrow that I second-guess my decision to divorce gluten. Chewy dinner rolls that tear under the weight of butter will no longer patiently sit at my table, their yeasty scent enticing my diners. It is into this self doubting hell that I descend and it is precipitated by only one thing or perhaps many: I remember that my dream to live in France and attend cooking school is probably a bad idea. My kids are away for the night, my hubby is at work and I am left to my own devices to cook for myself (I am unabashedly lazy about cooking for myself). I start flipping through my stack of cookbooks and realize that I can't just walk into my kitchen and whip up any given recipe, I'll have to do some math, use a million flours and hope for the best. Why?

Why does it matter if I don't eat gluten? In a very small voice I will sometimes ask Mr., "Do you think it matters, I mean, really? What if we went out for brunch tomorrow and I had toast. Real toast with crevices for pools of butter, so sweet and milky and just the perfect size for a fairy to swim in, or enough to make me sigh with pleasure ...." and Mr. doesn't say anything. He just smiles because my eyes are going to fill with tears and he knows I won't do it.

I sometimes feel like my gluten intolerance has gotten out of hand, as if it is no longer in my control. A few months ago I went off my medication for bipolar disorder. I was tired of feeling sick all the time, the horrid headaches, the hand tremors and the brain fuzz. I am a writer and I couldn't always spell or tie together complex ideas. That is not exactly helpful to a Literature and Women's Studies student. Instead, I started doing research into alternative treatments for my disorder and one of them is to forgo gluten because gluten has been linked with mood swings. Let me just say, I do not, in any way, ever, at all recommend going off of psychiatric medication. It will lead to The Incident.

Whenever I have my big doubting moments about living gluten free, the times where I lay on the floor and sigh dramatically Mr. will gently remind me that the digestive problems I have dealt with my entire life are finally gone. The debilitating leg pain and headaches have faded away. If all of this isn't enough, Mr. will take me down to Pete's and buy a bundle of cheese, gluten free crackers and a lovely bottle of wine which we will eat in the sun on our balcony. That makes gluten-free life a little easier, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lamb Chowder ... or is it Stew? Soup?

I cook without formal training. I will often hold two herbs up to my nose and sniff to see if they match. That's my big secret. Sometimes I line up three bunches of herbs and drift my nose back and forth, attempting to isolate the perfect pitch of flavour. I rely on my sense of smell as much as I do my sense of taste, perhaps even more so. I believe cooking is instinctual, I dream about the flavour combination I plan on making, I text myself kitchen missives when out and my favourite store is a gorgeous grocer that specializes in local produce and imported and specialty items. I love playing with food and sometimes dinner is a learning experience and sometimes it really, really works.

The original platter of deliciousness.

This dish is not easily classifiable. Mr. thinks it was more of a chowder but I was channeling stew as I diced the onions, chopped the carrots and stirred in the hearty hunks of lamb. The lamb was from dinner the night before, a lovely meal of beets, sweet potatoes and the most tender and delicious lamb I have ever eaten. Mr. slowly roasted the lamb in red wine, fennel and onions. At least, these are the main spices (and root vegetable) I am aware of; I've been dealing with my own cold as well as the babies' collective stuffy noses. The beans and meat give this meal a stew-like consistency but the milk throws it off entirely and transforms it into the chowder. This is Mr.'s reasoning and he's not relenting so we'll go with chowder. I think chowder stew thing of yumminess is more apt.

The Recipe

one onion, diced
3 carrots
2 cups beans (I used soldier and red kidney beans)
8 oz. cooked lamb (fennel, rosemary, rhubarb, red wine, pink and black peppercorns*)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
8 cubes pre-made stock (these are ice cubes, not those powder things)
one cup almond milk**
decent handful of spinach
S&P to taste

1. Sweat the onions in butter that has been slowed with olive oil.

2. Add the carrots and beans. At this point add the red wine and 3-4 cubes of stock. I always use this for stock. Cover and let it simmer to cook the carrots. I had to leave mine for a bit because my beans were half-cooked. If your beans are in better shape, use your own discretion.

3. Chop the lamb into one centimetre square pieces and add to the pot. Basically a good (big people-sized) spoonful of the chowder will have a bite of lamb, at least one bean and a carrot.

4. Add the last of the soup stock and the almond milk. Lower the heat to about medium low so that the almond milk doesn't scald.

5. Chop the spinach into strips and add to the pot just a few minutes before serving. Don't forget to salt and pepper to your taste!

*Mr. gave up his spice mix! You would definitely have to change the order in which you add/cook the ingredients of this stew but with this spice mix you could emulate it! Yum! Plus, if you are vegetarian (uh, not sure why you'd be reading this post all the way to this point, but if you are, thanks!) you could forgo the lamb and fake the flavour. Score.

**Usually I would have used goat milk because soy milk is a total pain when it is cooked because it curdles, not in a make you sick way but in a really, really annoying way. The almond milk seemed able to hold its own and the only adjustment I needed to overcome its sweetness

Mr. does almost all my plating because I am not very good at the balancing and pretty-fying aspect of food. He topped our stew with Roquefort and the kiddies and my mom had Drunken Goat (a hard goat cheese). The stew wasn't overly heavy so it's really perfect as a spring chowder and it will cure the common cold. Really.*

*This isn't true. That's why the common cold is so damn awful.