Showing posts with label gluten-free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gluten-free. Show all posts

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Mainer Cooks Soul Food

If you grew up in the southern United States, you probably won't get very excited about this recipe. Black-eyed peas, humbly seasoned with pork and onion, are a soul food staple. On New Year's Day, they're served with leafy greens and hot sauce for good luck: the greens symbolize money, and the beans, which swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity.

We in the north grow up on baked beans, a warming dish of navy beans stewed or baked in a tangy tomato sauce, sweetened with molasses or maple syrup. Sometimes we eat them with ketchup or mustard (especially if tofu pups are present), but we would never dream of dousing them in salsa.

My husband's grandmother introduced me to black-eyed peas; originally from Oklahoma, she can practically whip them up blindfolded. She leaves out the pork, but sometimes she throws in sliced okra. Ask for her recipe and all you'll get is a list of ingredients; the method and measurements are instinct. The following recipe contains my best guesses and the addition of bay leaves. A little bit of liquid smoke would be a nice touch, particularly if you grew up on pork-seasoned black-eyed peas.

Now that temperatures are below freezing and I'm busy preparing for BabyMitten, meals like this one—easy, satisfying, and nutritious—are just what I need. So why wait until New Year's to share?

Oklahoma Black-Eyed Peas
Inspired by Grandma Shaw

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
8 cups water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
½ cup brown rice
freshly ground black pepper
optional: cooked, sliced okra or chopped greens (collard, turnip, or mustard)
salsa, hot sauce, or sliced pepperoncinis

Soak beans for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse.

In a large pot, bring beans, water, garlic, onion, salt, bay leaves, and rice to a simmer. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until beans and rice are tender. Add more water if needed to keep beans from sticking to bottom of pot. Stir in freshly ground black pepper, and vegetables, if using. Stir until greens are wilted. Serve with salsa, hot sauce, or pepperoncinis.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spice Up That Winter Squash

Our CSA has just wrapped up for the year (no frost at my house yet, but I expect it any day now!), and our last deliveries brought the end of summer squash and the first of the winter squash. My basement shelves are lined with delicata, butternut, acorn, hubbard, and pumpkin.

When treated with consideration, squash is a joy. Sweet, rich, and packed with vitamins, it yields to a variety of preparation methods and gets along with all types of flavors. Unfortunately, many of us first became acquainted with squash as it was scooped onto our school lunch trays: a cloying, orange, pre-macerated mush we had to swallow before going out to recess. Pairing naturally sweet squash with even sweeter cinnamon and sugar is a Crime Against Vegetables. Treat your squash right: give it something rich, something savory, and something spicy.

Here is a quick, lazy weeknight recipe that relies on store-bought red curry paste. If you have the ingredients, the time, and the knowledge, go ahead and make your own curry paste from scratch (and then by all means, brag about it!). The squash, coconut, and a touch of brown sugar work with the chili sauce to make each bite spicy up front with a mellow, lingering sweetness. Omit the tofu and turn this into a side dish, or substitute for the zucchini and summer squash any vegetables you like; red bell pepper and cauliflower come to mind.

Double Squash Red Curry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 small winter squash (acorn, buttercup, or pumpkin), cut into in 1-inch cubes
14 oz. coconut milk
½ cup water
3 tablespoons red curry paste
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced (about 4 cups)
chili sauce (preferably Sriracha), to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry tofu, tossing frequently until golden brown on all sides. Add cubed winter squash, coconut milk, water, chili paste, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until squash is softened but not mushy. Stir in summer squash and cook, uncovered, another 5 minutes, until summer squash is tender. Taste and add chili-garlic sauce or additional sugar if desired. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice. Serves 4.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Zucchini Corn Cakes in the Newest Issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle

The latest issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle Magazine is out, featuring my recipe for Zucchini Corn Cakes with Black Bean Salsa Cruda. Made with chickpea flour and cornmeal, they're savory, hearty, and quick. Try them with any late summer vegetables that may still be hanging around your pantry.

Maine Food & Lifestyle is available by subscription, or on magazine stands throughout the state.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

It's finally autumn. I love wearing handmade socks, pulling up the hood of my sweatshirt during early morning walks, warming my fingers over the steam rising from a cup of tea. It's time again for soup, squash, and warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It's time to get out the oven mitts and get back to baking.

Inspired by my recent success with zucchini muffins, I swapped out applesauce for canned pumpkin, added brown sugar and maple syrup, and warmed up the flavors. The ingredient list is long, but it's worth the effort for gluten-free muffins this moist and cozy. These muffins aren't overly sweet, but if you'd like to, you could use a crumb or sugar topping, or substitute chocolate chips for the dried fruit.

As with the zucchini muffins, if you don't want to bake 18 at once, spoon the extra batter into lined muffin cups and place it in the freezer. Once the batter is frozen, remove the cups and store them vapor-proof freezer bags until ready to use. When you're ready to use them, just pop the frozen batter into a muffin tin, and increase the baking time by 10 minutes.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
⅔ cup sorghum or millet flour
⅔ cup tapioca flour
⅔ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
15 ounces canned pumpkin purée
1½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with liners.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. Stir in nuts and dried fruit. Distribute batter evenly among 18 muffin cups.

Bake for 22-25 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating, or they will stick to the liners.

Makes 18 small muffins.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Portland Pie Co.

After my recent post about Flatbread Company's gluten-free pizza, several people pointed me toward Portland Pie Co., which has four locations in southern Maine and New Hampshire and carries a gluten-free crust, as well as vegan cheese. This weekend I stopped for lunch at the Scarborough location, in the soulless new Cabela's shopping plaza. It had the atmosphere of any good-time shopping mall chain, but where there's gluten-free pizza, I can overlook faux-brass fixtures or a stuffed moose head over the bar.

For $1.25 each, the toppings on my 10-inch pizza were pretty scarce. I went with red sauce, Daiya vegan cheese, black olives, broccoli, and garlic.

The gluten-free crust was thin and crisp. It's not bad if you prefer Neopolitan-style pizza; I've always loved big puffy crust with bubbles. The sauce wasn't notable. While I like Daiya in moderation, here it was just too heavy, and it tasted a little like plastic. I put a lot of salt and red pepper flakes on this pizza in an attempt to make it taste like something, but in the end, it wasn't much better than a frozen Amy's Rice Crust Spinach Pizza.

Of course, as a gluten-free vegan, I'm grateful anytime a restaurant provides me with more than an undressed garden salad. Portland Pie Co. doesn't do gluten-free pizza as well as Flatbread Company, but it's another option for gluten-free, dairy-free folks who want to enjoy a meal alongside omnivorous friends. Next time, I'll probably skip the vegan cheese and spring for lots more veggie toppings.

For carrying Daiya, Portland Pie Co. earns three chickpeas for vegan-accessibility. I'd love to see more creative vegetarian sandwich choices—currently there's a hummus wrap (yawn) and a toasted cheddar and veggie option. Portland Pie Co. is worth a visit if you're trying to appease a crowd with varying tastes and dietary restrictions.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer Vegetable Sauté at Maine Food & Lifestyle

If you've still got more zucchini than you know what to do with, try this quick, easy Summer Vegetable Sauté. In this dish, which takes only 20 minutes to prepare, fresh summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, white beans, and Italian herbs are satisfying and elegant. Visit me at the blog of Maine Food & Lifestyle Magazine, where I've posted the recipe. This meal is in heavy rotation at my house!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Something To Do With All Those Damn Zucchini

For the last few weeks I have been suffocating under a zucchini avalanche. I'm getting 6 or 7 pounds of the stuff in my CSA, and coworkers are giving us shopping bags full of it. My neighbors have set up a table next to their mailbox where they leave piles of summer squash, free for the taking. Zucchini is a delicious source of fiber and of vitamins A and C, but this month it's coming on too strong. Give me a chance to miss you, zucchini, before showing up on my doorstep by the dozen.

I've dried and frozen most of my excess zucchini; it will show up later in soup. Another way to store zucchini is to bake it into bread which can be frozen and enjoyed all winter long. I had serious misgivings about adapting a traditional zucchini bread recipe. In my experience, gluten-free quickbreads sink in the middle and get gluey. Mini-loaves and muffins require less support; when you're baking without gluten, a high ratio of surface area to insides is best.

I worked with Gluten-Free Mommy's recipe for Carrot-Zucchini Muffins, which is itself an adaptation of Martha Stewart's Spiced Carrot Muffins. The crumb topping comes from FatFree Vegan Kitchen. Substituting vegan ingredients was easy; I also adjusted the spices and added walnuts. I used Ener-G egg replacer because I was feeling risk averse, but if you try these with flax or another egg substitute, let me know how they turn out, okay? I made one batch with sorghum flour and another with millet. I prefer the millet because it is slightly less sweet, but both work well, so use whichever is in your pantry.

Now for the exciting part: you can make the batter now and have zucchini muffins fresh from the oven in January. I learned this trick from Martha: spoon the batter into lined muffin cups and place it in the freezer. Once the batter is frozen, remove the cups and store them vapor-proof freezer bags until ready to use. When you want fresh muffins, there's no need to thaw the batter—just increase the baking time by 10-12 minutes. I've got plenty of these babies ready to go in my freezer.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
⅔ cup sorghum or millet flour
⅔ cup tapioca flour
⅔ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup of granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 tablespoons warm water
5 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2½ cups zucchini, grated or shredded

Crumb Topping (optional):
2 teaspoons vegan margarine
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon brown rice flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with liners. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix crumb topping ingredients (if using) and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. Distribute batter evenly among 18 muffin cups. Sprinkle crumb topping.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating, or they will stick to the liners.

Makes 18 small muffins.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gluten-Free Dough at Flatbread Company

Before going gluten-free last September, Flatbread Company was one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. I loved their crispy brick oven pizza and hippie toppings, their thoughtful salad and drinks (especially the maple lemonade), and the patio and wall of windows that look out on docking ferries. After I gave up gluten, I quit going to Flatbread Company—who wants to sit around and watch other people eat pizza?

It turns out my self-imposed exile from Flatbread was unnecessary. Though it's not listed on their website or menu, Flatbread carries a vegan, gluten-free pizza crust made by Mommy's Muffins in New Hampshire. For four dollars extra, you can make any small pizza gluten-free. And it's really pretty good!

The dough is made with chickpea and rice flour, as well as all the familiar GF starches. It tastes like a nutty whole-wheat crust, and serves as a neutral backdrop for toppings. Mine didn't char like the traditional crust, but it held together and supported toppings without becoming a brick.

The gluten-free dough is handled carefully and cooked on its own tray, but cross-contamination is possible (there is a lot of flour flying around back by the oven). Flatbread also carries brownies and whoopie pies that are gluten-free but not vegan. I can't imagine why these gluten-free options aren't on the menu; I avoided Flatbread for almost a year because I thought they couldn't feed me.

As far as I know, Flatbread Company is the only place in Maine where you can order a gluten-free vegan pizza. Not only is it delicious, you can eat it while waiting for seals to pop their heads up beside the dock. I'll be back!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just A Little Post About Scones

Most of July has been too hot for baking, but this week brought cooler temperatures (along with some exciting thunderstorms). A while ago I signed up to bake something for an event at our Maine Audubon center, and though I got off to a bad start with Flying Apron's Gluten-free & Vegan Baking Book, I decided to try the scones. (Kittee swears by Flying Apron's scone recipe, and I trust her tastebuds.) If you don't own this pretty but inconsistent cookbook, you can find the recipe by going to Amazon and searching the look inside feature for Blueberry Cinnamon Scones.

I made these twice (the #1 rule of gluten-free baking is always do a test run). The first time, I swapped the blueberries for raspberries and added some orange zest, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. The dough was too wet to knead, so I added about ⅓ cup additional brown rice flour. The finished scones were tasty (the chickpea flavor bakes right out), but fragile. Fresh from the oven, their texture was crumbly, but by the next day they disintegrated if I even looked at them funny.

I added ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum to my second batch, and the results were perfect. These scones are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, and they withstand gentle handling the way scones should.

Unless you like scones the size of your head, I recommend forming the dough into two 2-inch disks and slicing each of these into eighths, for 16 hand-sized scones. Bake smaller scones for 25 minutes. A drizzle of simple confectioner's sugar glaze makes these as fancy and a tasty as anything you'd find in the Starbucks pastry case. A dusting of turbinado sugar (before the scones go in the oven) would also be nice.

For the first time in a long time, I baked something gluten-free that's good enough to serve to normal people! It feels good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Portland's Pepperclub: A Welcoming Spot for Eaters of All Kinds

Portland boasts a half-dozen restaurants with vegan-friendly menus, but since going gluten-free, a few of my old favorites are sadly off-limits (who wants to go to Flatbread Company and smell pizza?) Being gluten-free adds a whole new level of difficulty to dining out, and I've gained an appreciation for the rare eatery where I can sit down, tell the server I am vegan and gluten-free, and have my dietary restrictions understood without further explanation. Fortunately, Pepperclub on Middle Street is a safe bet, with knowledgeable staff who go out of their way to ensure I eat well.

The dinner menu typically features 12 entrées, half of them vegetarian. Of these, 3 or 4 can usually be made without eggs, dairy, and gluten. I've visited twice, and each time the server has bee able to provide information about ingredients and preparation methods. Pepperclub serves wine and beer, with an emphasis on Maine producers, though several St. Peter's gluten-free beers are available.

We stopped in for dinner on a recent Saturday night, and took advantage of Pepperclub's prix fixe special. My first course was a rich, lightly salty carrot-peanut-cilantro soup. It was simple but delicious; I want to try making it in the fall with some of my CSA carrots. Behind the soup you can see some rice crackers that our thoughtful server brought for me in place of bread and butter.

A simple green salad with a sweet citrus vinaigrette followed the soup. I didn't even have to remind them to hold the croutons.

We chose two gluten-free vegan entrées, planning to share. The mushroom loaf with gravy and puréed root vegetables was pure comfort food.

It would have been more appropriate to a cold night in November, but I loved every bite. It was tender but not mushy, with rich flavors of mushroom, red wine, and sweet potato. And who would have thought an orange slice belonged on that plate? It was perfect!

The coconut tempeh stir-fry, on the other hand, was ill-conceived. You can't just slice up cold tempeh, throw it in a recipe in place of chicken, and expect it to taste good. This tempeh was dense and dry; I wondered if it had even been marinated. The vegetables were done right, cooked just long enough to retain some crunch, but the coconut sauce was too heavy. The lime slices make me suspect they were trying to go Thai here, but the dish was dry and the tempeh, having not received the requisite TLC, was sour and out of place. It's dishes like this that convince meat-eaters and new vegetarians that they don't like tempeh. Tofu, or even plain old cashews, would have been a better choice.

After soup, salad, and loaf, I had barely a square inch left for dessert. But how could I pass up orange cake with chocolate mousse?

Oh my, that mousse. So dark. So creamy. Thick as freshly-churned butter, it coated my tongue and brought tears to my eyes. It made me wonder why I don't just give up on disappointing gluten-free cupcakes and make more pudding.

The cake had a pleasantly sweet citrus flavor, but it was so dense and crumbly, I thought it had to be intentional—one of those polenta cakes I've heard so much about. Inquiry revealed that the texture was the result of using brown rice flour, and nothing else, in place of all-purpose. I was okay with it, but if you're used to eating gluten, order something else. Pepperclub's dessert menu varies, but a vegan chocolate cake and vegan cardamom cake are usually available.

While a couple of the things we tried were disappointing, everything about our first visit to Pepperclub last November was incredible. I remember a spiced pumpkin curry with quinoa that was so simple, honest, and fresh, it had me wondering, again, why I hadn't thought of it before. I also remember a bottle of St. Peter's triple blonde least the beginning of it.

Though it's not a a dedicated vegetarian restaurant, Pepperclub deserves four chickpeas. Even gluten-free vegans have choices here, and that's a rare treat.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Peach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

It's late June, so I've got lots of two things: lettuce and strawberries. Here's an easy but exciting salad for a hot summer day.

I've posted the recipe at Maine Food & Lifestyle. Visit me there!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cooking With POM Wonderful

I usually steer clear of food fads. Isn't eating a varied plant-based diet enough? Can increasing consumption of any individual food really prevent or solve health problems? I'm skeptical of marketing that presents a product as integral to a healthy lifestyle.

Lately there's been a lot of hype about antioxidants, molecules that purportedly prevent cell damage and reduce cancer risk. Juice company POM Wonderful claims that pomegranates are the "antioxidant superpower", higher than other fruits in phytochemicals, substances that protect plants from pests and ultraviolet radiation. While many people have jumped on the pomegranate bandwagon, I usually take these miracle food claims with a grain of (sea) salt. Wild Maine blueberries also contain a heck of a lot of antioxidants, and they're grown within 30 miles of my house. Is pomegranate juice so superior that it's worth paying $2.99 for an 8-ounce plastic bottle shipped all the way from California?

But free pomegranate juice? Yes, please. When POM Wonderful offered to send me a few bottles to try out and play around with, I couldn't pass them up. As with any product sent to me for review, I figured if I liked it, I'd say so, and if I didn't, I'd say nothing.

At first I just drank it, as a midmorning pick-me-up. It's juice for sipping, not gulping; its tart flavor falls between wild blueberries and unsweetened cranberry juice. Other members of my household found it too tart, but I believe that any food that hurts a little is good for us, so I drank the juice with gusto.

I had peaches in my fridge, and I couldn't help but think they would be perfect paired with pomegranate. Since last weekend was warm, I experimented with sorbet.

I used this recipe for the pomegranate sorbet, and followed these basic guidelines for making sorbet out of fresh peaches. The combination of sweet and tart quenched my sweet tooth on a hot afternoon.

I'm certainly not the first to dream up this flavor pairing. I based these baked peaches with pomegranate sauce on a recipe I found at The Gluttonous Vegan.

The peach is warm, soft, and sweet, and the puckery pomegranate sauce begins to solidify when it hits the frozen ice cream. This dessert looks elegant enough for a four star restaurant, yet it takes less than 10 minutes of active cooking time to throw together.

You can tell my mind is fixed firmly on the freezer, since the next thing I concocted was a pomegranate hot fudge:

Nothing more than 8 ounces of pomegranate juice plus 3 ounces of melted dark chocolate, this sauce packs a grown-up bittersweet flavor that is not for the faint of heart. If you favor dry red wines with lots of tannins, you'd like this. It solidifies when chilled, so you can either reheat it or use tiny scoop to make intense dark chocolate-pomegranate truffles.

Occasionally I do eat foods that are not ice cream. I used one bottle of juice to make a pomegranate reduction balsamic vinaigrette, and drizzled it over a salad made with fresh CSA veggies:

I followed this recipe, and I'd recommend cutting back on the salt or increasing the sugar.

Whether its health benefits live up to the marketing or not, POM Wonderful's intense flavor and deep magenta color make it lots of fun to cook with. I haven't become a devotee, but I can see buying it occasionally for a treat. Because pomegranates are so popular right now, there are lots of recipes out there to explore.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gluten-free! Whoopie!

Saturday June 26 is the first official Maine Whoopie Pie Day. Recently whoopie pies have joined the mainstream; as the cupcake craze faded, these portable frosting sandwiches were last summer's trendiest dessert. Ten years ago, the term whoopie pie was still largely unknown outside of Maine; I went away to college in Massachusetts and was shocked to find my that classmates, even those from New England, called them "moon pies" or "black-and-whites," and snickered at my use of the term whoopie. My husband, who is from the west coast, had never heard of the dessert, and had to be informed that it is sort of like a puffy, hamburger-sized oreo.

The "bread" of the true Maine whoopie is the darkest possible devil's food, lighter than a cookie but denser than cake. The frosting is a simple blend of vegetable shortening and confectioner's sugar that melts on the tongue, immediately washing the brain in dopamine. Some people (heathens) prefer a frosting made with Marshmallow Fluff. You'll find whoopie pies served in nearly every bakery and diner throughout Maine, and sold, wrapped in plastic, beside every gas station cash register. The trouble is that none of them are vegan or gluten-free (the cake portion of the whoopie pie is usually made with eggs). I parted ways with the whoopie pie years ago, but I held on to the memories.

Earlier this week I stopped by Frank's Bakery on State Street in Bangor. They recently added a selection of gluten-free products, and though I was prepared for disappointment, I hoped I would find something that didn't contain eggs. Incredibly, Frank's offers more than a dozen gluten-free items, including breads, rolls, pizza crust, cookies, cakes, and pie. They're all made on site and frozen. Most of them are made with eggs or dairy, but I was able to walk away with a loaf of millet bread and, incredibly, a couple of whoopie pies. My excitement and disbelief were such that if they hadn't been frozen, I probably would have eaten both whoopie pies right there in my car.

Now get this: They taste like the real thing. No weirdness. No grit. They taste so much like the whoopie pies of my youth that only today, after not getting sick, do I really believe they are gluten-free. Frank's Bakery, you have given this pregnant woman back her whoopie pies, just in time for picnic season, and for that I will never be able to thank you enough. (Incidentally, the millet bread is better than anything I've found at the grocery store. It's light and airy and makes great toast. Frank's serves lunch, and I can't wait to stop in for a hummus and avocado sandwich on millet.)

So along with the rest of the world, I'll be able to celebrate Maine Whoopie Pie Day this Saturday. Dover-Foxcroft will host its annual Whoopie Pie Festival, but as it's emceed by the Marden's Lady, I plan to stay well away. If you'd like to bake up some vegan whoopies of your own this weekend, try these recipes from two of my favorite bloggers, Hannah Kaminsky and Allyson of Manifest Vegan. Eat outside, get frosting on your face, and celebrate summer like a real Mainer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Hannah Kaminsky's Blondies and Brownies

When Hannah Kaminsky of BitterSweet asked me if I'd like to review her new ebook, Blondies and Brownies, I made sure I had permission to modify her recipes in order to make them gluten-free. Since different gluten-free flour blends yield drastically different results, your success with these recipes may vary.

I began with the Double-Chip Peanut Blondies (though mine were actually single-chip: vegan white chocolate chips get expensive when you have to pay shipping and handling). To replace Hannah's all purpose flour, I mixed three cups' worth of Gluten Frida Mix from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, which amounted to a little more than three cups of rice, tapioca, almond, and quinoa flours, plus some ground flax seed. I added one and a half teaspoons of xanthan gum for good measure.

Because of the xanthan gum and my bulky flour blend, the final batter was almost too thick to mix; I had to add a quarter cup of water. After 35 minutes in the oven, the brownies smelled like roasted peanuts, and the edges were dark. I allowed them to cool for several hours, but when I finally attempted to slice them, I wished I'd waited: everything underneath the top crust still resembled a thick batter. The next day the blondies were perfectly sliceable; you really do need to wait until they're completely cooled.

These blondies have a great sweet and salty peanut flavor, with highlights of gooey melted chocolate. The recipe calls for unsweetened apple butter, and because mine was heavy on the cinnamon, that flavor shone through, too. Next time I make these, I'll use a lighter gluten-free flour blend.

Next I tried the Browned Butter Pecan Praline Blondies. These fancy things require some planning ahead: you have to make candied pecans (the recipes calls for a microwave, but my stovetop worked just fine), and the browned "butter" needs a few hours in the fridge to solidify.

This time I used a Self-Rising Flour Blend from Living Without magazine, a mix of sorghum, rice, and tapioca flour with xanthan gum and baking powder. Gluten-free baking tends to be dense, so I figured the extra leavening wouldn't hurt. The batter was thinner, with a consistency that seemed just about right for brownies. Unfortunately, after 40 minutes in the oven the edges of the batter were dark brown while the center still jiggled. I thought maybe the brownies would firm up overnight, but the next day they were still sticky and uncooked and had to be thrown away. Maybe the flour mixture was wrong for this recipe, or maybe it required more time in the oven at a lower temperature. Not all gluten-free flour blends are created equal, and in this case my misguided choice ruined an afternoon's baking.

Though I had a freezer full of peanut butter blondies and a trashcan full of pecan goo, there was still one more recipe I wanted to try: German Chocolate Brownies. They were a good candidate for de-glutenizing, since the recipe called for one cup of coconut flour, one and a half of cocoa powder, and only one cup of all-purpose flour. This time, I used a version of Karina Allrich's Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix, a blend of brown rice and quinoa flours, cornstarch, and xanthan gum.

The brownies turned out incredibly rich and almost as dense as fudge (there's no leavening agent, so I assume this was intentional, and not the fault of my flour). They're deep, dark chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. The topping, made with coconut milk, margarine, shredded coconut, and toasted pecans, is easy to whip up and hard to resist. I could have eaten it all with a spoon, but I dutifully spread it across the brownies. After a few hours, these cut into squares easily.

These recipes are just a sample of what you'll find in Hannah's ebook. She takes the concept of brownie in a dozen directions, using everything from lemon to salted caramel to avocado. The recipes are easy to follow and accompanied by yummy photos. If you're baking gluten-free, experiment with flour blends; you'll find that some of the recipes are more conducive to adaptation than others.

If you're craving something rich and sweet, give Hannah's new collection of Brownies and Blondies a try!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My New Rainy Day Comfort Food

I was spending a lazy Saturday watching PBS when Lidia's Italy came on. Lidia drank wine, she sliced polenta with a string, she kissed people on both cheeks. I don't usually get excited about Italian food (not enough cumin), but when she returned to her kitchen studio and whipped out two bunches of kale, I sat up and took notice.

First Lidia made polenta (with bay leaves? good idea!), and then she sautéed the kale in bacon fat. "That could be dinner if you added white beans," I said. And sure enough, she added white beans! Did I feel clever. Once the polenta was thick and bubbly, Lidia scooped it into a shallow dish and topped it with the kale, beans, and bacon. The dish, Lidia's Polenta with White Beans and Black Kale, took less than 20 minutes to prepare. It had such potential as an easy, healthy staple meal, I knew had to veganize it.

First off, there's no need for bacon. Olive oil and lots of fresh garlic lend the kale and beans a flavor that's just as rich and interesting. Soak and cook your white beans ahead of time with some salt and bay leaves if you like, or retain the weeknight gourmet aspect of this meal by using canned beans. Lidia uses black kale, also known as Lacinato and dinosaur kale, but regular old curly kale is fine. Fiddleheads, if you can find them, would be outstanding in this rich, garlicky dish. A drizzle of really good, peppery olive oil is the perfect finishing touch.

Polenta with Kale and White Beans
(adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy)

3 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
⅔ cup yellow polenta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 packed cups kale, roughly chopped
½ cup low salt vegetable broth or water
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
½ teaspoon salt (reduce if broth is salty)
high quality extra-virgin olive oil (to drizzle)

In a medium saucepan, boil water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and bay leaves. Pour in polenta, whisking to ensure no lumps form. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cover. Stir frequently.

While polenta cooks, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds, just enough for the garlic to become fragrant but not begin to brown. Add kale and toss with garlic (this is easiest with tongs). After 2 minutes, when kale has begun to cook down, add broth, beans, and salt. Sauté another 5-6 minutes, uncovered, until most of the liquid has boiled off.

After 20 minutes, the polenta should be thick and creamy. Remove bay leaves and scoop into shallow bowls. Top with kale and beans. Drizzle additional olive oil over kale if desired.

Serves 2.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fire Up the Grill

There are few things cuter than an old-fashioned charcoal grill. Since Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer (even if our temperatures are still in the 50s), we uncovered our little Weber and grilled up tofu with Brown Sugar Jalapeño Barbecue Sauce, corn on the cob, and potatoes. I'm working on a recipe for grilled potato salad, but the weather hasn't been cooperating this week. A hint: skewer and parboil your potatoes before tossing them on the fire to brown. This ensures they cook all the way through.

What are your favorite vegan foods for the grill?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tempeh in the Newest Issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle

The new issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle Magazine is finally here, and my column is now online.

I made this Tempeh Harvest Pie way back in November, but because of editorial changes at the magazine, it is just now coming out. So bookmark the recipe for autumn, or a stretch of cool, rainy weather. It's truly filling comfort food!

Edit: Tempeh is listed in the recipe's procedure, but not the ingredients. How embarrassing. You will need 8 ounces of tempeh to make four servings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Now I Can Eat Pad Thai Every Day

Last month Mark Bittman's pad Thai recipe was one of The New York Times' most emailed stories. It's no wonder Americans love pad Thai: a combination of soft, starchy noodles and crunchy, nearly-raw vegetables in a sauce that balances sweet, sour, salty, and hot, the dish appeals to every part of the tongue and quickly makes you its zombie.

In Boston I lived near a phenomenal hole in the wall Thai restaurant, and take-out tofu pad Thai became my regular Thursday pick me up. The chewy noodles soothed away the week's stresses and indignities, while lime, sugar, and chili jazzed me through one last night of correcting math tests. Leftovers, if there were any, tinged Friday morning with giddy anticipation.

I was lazy, and while I had access to take-out I never bothered to make pad Thai on my own. I assumed I couldn't recreate that magical sauce without dozens of imported ingredients. Sadly, Bangor's Thai restaurants either don't know whether their pad Thai is gluten-free, or won't go to the trouble of making it without fish sauce. I'm on my own, and the little portion of my heart that belongs to pad Thai has been lonely too long.

Bittman's recipe calls for tamarind paste, but limes are easier to find and just as good. Tamari works in place of fish sauce. Bittman suggests clubbing pad Thai's intricate flavors over the head with scrambled eggs (the man's fondness for eggs is positively indecent), but obviously we'll omit those, because we are not disgusting. Tailor the sauce to your own tastes, and add any grated or julienned vegetables you like.

Easy Vegan Pad Thai

8 ounces flat rice noodles (¼ inch wide)

juice from 2 limes
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup wheat-free tamari
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or other chili garlic sauce)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1 large carrot, grated

chopped scallions
chopped peanuts
lime wedges
mung bean sprouts

Boil a large pot of water and remove from heat. Immerse rice noodles for 6-8 minutes, until soft. Drain and toss with a drizzle of vegetable oil to keep from sticking together. Set aside.

Whisk together sauce ingredients.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high. Fry tofu 4-5 minutes, until golden. Add garlic and toss for 1 minute. Add cabbage a carrot and immediately remove from heat. Toss until vegetables are wilted.

Toss tofu and vegetables with cooked rice noodles and sauce. Top each serving with scallions, cilantro, peanuts, bean sprouts, and a lime wedge.

Makes 3 hearty servings.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Colorado Eating

I'm home from Denver, and now that I've had a chance to unpack and do laundry, I'll share with you some other highlights of the trip.

Sweet Action Ice Cream was a bit of a hike from downtown (you can also take the #0 bus along Broadway), but worth the trip for two scoops of vegan mint chip:

Sweet Action usually offers two coconut-based vegan flavors (on the day I visited, the other was brownie swirl), and gluten-free cones are available.

We revisited City O' City and WaterCourse Foods several times; they were near our hotel, and both restaurants offered several intriguing gluten-free options. Here is City O' City's La Osa salad, with a side of barbecued tofu:

Underneath all those tortilla strips were mixed greens, dried apricots, chickpeas, red onions, and avocado. The dressing, a jalapeño lime citronette, tied everything together in a tangy way. The spicy tofu was a little dry on its own, but it would be amazing on a sandwich with vegenaise and cole slaw.

Rod was on a buffalo seitan kick, so he ordered some on top of a caesar salad:

On Cinco de Mayo, we shared this gluten-free margarita cupcake:

It was cute, but it couldn't compare to the Ho-Ho. The vanilla cake was dense, and some of the protein-heavy flours left an aftertaste (I'm guessing sorghum?). The lime frosting was crunchy and fun, but nothing special. I recommend the Ho-Ho, night after night.

On another visit I tried the Scout Cookie, a gluten-free vegan version of the Samoa:

Made from shredded sweet potato, shredded coconut, walnuts, and chocolate, it's incredibly simple and insanely delicious. It tastes just like a Samoa—no hippie flavors are discernible. Scout cookies are served cold, so the edges stay firm and crispy while the center is soft and chewy. We all know my feelings regarding coconut; I'm afraid I could eat 6 of these in a sitting.

I recommend the mashed potatoes and the chocolate cake at WaterCourse, though my nighttime pictures don't do them justice. Denver has a few other vegan-friendly restaurants (The Rebellion will make any pizza or burger on their menu vegan, and Sputnik is known for divey vegan bar food), but we skipped them because they seemed gluten-heavy.

Before leaving Colorado, we rented a car and took a day trip to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park to the northwest. Since Boulder is full of hippies and greenies, vegan food is easy to find. On our way up to the park, we dropped in at VG Burgers, an all-vegan fast food restaurant. I'd heard mixed reviews, but I couldn't resist a menu that included vegan milkshakes and veggie burgers on gluten-free buns. Here is Rod's *ahem* bacon cheeseburger:

It was just a mess of pickles, vegenaise, ketchup, tempeh bacon, and cheeze sauce. He liked it. I ordered the standard veggie burger. It was gritty and tasted like seaweed, but it was alright as a vehicle for ketchup. I was disappointed with my coconut-based milkshake, which was slushy and thin. VG Burgers is a novelty, but I'd never take anyone there who isn't familiar with and amused by vegan food.

Dinner in Boulder, at upscale Leaf, was much better. I ordered a banana tofu curry, which was a crazy mix of soft sweet bananas, savory tofu and firm vegetables, and a rich spicy sauce. I was afraid to pull out my giant camera in such a posh restaurant, but this rather dull picture taken with my purse-sized camera conveys the dish's artsy presentation:

Rod had a bowl of spicy kimchi soup and the Asian Mizuna Salad with wakame seaweed, mizuna greens, carrots, water chestnuts, snow peas, bamboo shoots, and sesame sweet chili vinaigrette. Everything tasted fresh, healthy, and creative, down to my sweet and sour mint lemonade.

Between eating bouts in Boulder, we spent the day driving on mountain roads. It was cold at 11,000 feet (many of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park reach over 14,000 feet, but the roads were closed because of snow):

The best part of the trip was seeing the park's wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, and this fearless chipmunk, who came within six feet of our camera:

Look at his little knuckles!

I'm happy to be home, and eating light to recover from last week's dessert bender. Rod is already talking about finding some buffalo seitan around these parts, but I think he may be out of luck.

Farewell for now...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mile High Vegan

I'm eating my way through Denver this week, so I thought I'd share with you some of the city's vegan and gluten-free highlights. When I think about Colorado cuisine, I think buffalo meat and rocky mountain oysters, but like most major cities, Denver has a respectable selection of plant-based (and testicle-free) fare.

After arriving in Denver, our first stop was WaterCourse Foods, a vegetarian restaurant with a vegan-friendly menu. The atmosphere was bright, casual, friendly, and young.

WaterCourse serves sandwiches and dinner entrées, but they are known for brunch, which is available until 5pm. Choices include vegan and vegetarian scrambles, omelets, pancakes, and pastries. All of the scrambles are gluten-free, and instead of deep-fried breakfast potatoes and toast, you can ask for brown rice and corn tortillas.

I had the Capri Scramble with tofu, Greek olives, tomatoes, grilled zucchini and carrots, and fresh basil (sheep's milk feta is optional). The flavors were good (you can't go wrong with green olives), but the scramble was wet and crumbly.

Portions were modest, so we had room after lunch for Sweet Action vanilla ice cream. It's coconut-based, which is a plus in my book, and the texture is perfectly smooth and creamy. WaterCourse offers it by the scoop, or you can enjoy it in one of their vegan milkshakes.

Almost everything at WaterCourse Foods is available vegan, and about half of it can be made gluten-free. Four chickpeas for ample choices!

For dinner, we headed to City O' City, a vegetarian coffee shop, bar, and restaurant located near the state capital building.

Operated by the folks from WaterCourse Foods, City O' City is hip, edgy, and geared toward adults. They boast an impressive selection of whiskey and Colorado microbrews; a sign above the bar endorses daytime drinking. While WaterCourse Foods feels clean and airy, City O' City is dark and graffitied, and most of the iPhone-using diners and drinkers sport self-consciously disheveled hairstyles and tattoos of literary significance.

City O' City is next door to WaterCourse Bakery, which supplies both restaurants with vegan and gluten-free breads and pastries. Many of City O' City's appetizers are gluten-free, including a Mediterranean plate with hummus, olives, and gluten-free flatbread. Salads, pizza, and the occasional entrée can be made gluten-free. Sandwiches and wraps cannot.

Thrilled at the opportunity to eat a pizza I didn't make myself, I ordered the La Chagall on WaterCourse Bakery's gluten-free crust. It comes with apricot sauce, brie (I substituted the house cashew ricotta), green olives, roasted garlic, and fresh tarragon.

It was truly, truly weird. At home I would never be brave enough to make something this bizarre, but somehow it all worked. I would order apricot pizza again. The crust, made mostly of chickpea flour, was delicious but insanely filling; I had to cry uncle after three slices.

Rod ordered a Buffalo Seitan Wrap with fries. He reports it was intensely tangy and spicy, and his mouth burned for hours after dinner (that is a good thing). It was also quite filling.

Of course the highlight of my visit to City O' City was the pastry case. According to WaterCourse Bakery's website, they strive to create gluten-free vegan baked goods that are even better than traditional pastries ("We have failed when someone comments, 'that's pretty good for vegan or gluten-free'"). I was skeptical, but wanted desperately to be proved wrong.

The evening's selection included Ho Ho Cupcakes, Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcakes, Sugar Cookies, and a giant version of Girl Scout Samoas. I was torn, but I went with a Ho Ho, because 1) it was shiny, and 2) personal experience has shown me that gluten-free cake is more difficult to pull off than gluten-free cookies.

Underneath that soft, shiny ganache was a layer of fluffy white buttercream, a layer of dark chocolate cake, more buttercream, and finally more cake.

My thoughts upon eating the Ho Ho Cupcake:

1. What?!? This is so good! Not even a little bit weird! They're lying—no way this is gluten-free!
2. How did they do this?! I am so jealous.
3. This tastes exactly like the chocolate cake my mom used to make.
4. Is there a WaterCourse Bakery cookbook? (Sadly, no.)
5. Why don't I live in Denver?

I can't wait to go back and try every other gluten-free thing in that case. Four chickpeas for City O' City!

More from Denver soon!