Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chia Seeds: Tart Cherry Juice with Agave Nectar

My dad recently turned me onto chia seeds (yep, the same as our beloved childhood chia pets). He goes through a lot of phases where he'll discover something new and completely obsess over it for a while, until the next thing comes around. Great for me because I get to tap in whenever I see something I like! He'd hate that last line but it's true, I'll take the chia seeds tip but leave the recycled bicycle inner tube iPhone cases.. Sorry dad, cool idea but I just don't like the texture or my hands smelling like rubber.

Back to Chia. It originated in South America and was a staple in the diets of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. Chia seeds were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors; one tablespoon was believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours. The Aztecs also used chia medicinally to stimulate saliva flow and to relieve joint pain and sore skin.

Chia is very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (even more so than flax seeds), antioxidants, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. When added to water, chia forms a gel. Researchers suggest that this reaction also takes place in the stomach, slowing digestion; for dieters, this means consuming non-soaked chia seed leaves you feeling full with no more peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels. By soaking your chia seeds before consuming, you make them more easily digestible, allowing rapid transport of chia nutrients.

You can find Bob's Red Mill Chia Seed (about $10 for 1 lb) in natural food stores or find organic chia seed for even less on Amazon.

Ingredients:

Chia seeds (1 Tbsp for every 8oz of fluid)
Organic Just Tart Cherry Juice
Agave Nectar
Water


Of course you can use any type of just you'd like. I recommend getting something with no sugar added, that way you can add your own natural sweetener to taste.

I've read that there's no reason you can't soak the seeds directly into your juice mixture, but they seem to get more gel-like when I soak them in water first. Not really sure why, maybe it has something to do with the acidity in the juice. Again, use about 1 Tbsp for every 8 oz of fluid. I used about half water half tart cherry juice.


Make sure to stir the seeds at the beginning of their soak so they don't clump together, and allow 30 minutes to fully absorb. Chia seeds can hold up to 9-12 times their weight in water!

Mix the chia gel with your juice of choice and refridgerate. I like to add the agave as I pour individual glasses.

The seeds themselves add a slightly nutty flavor but it's more the texture (and energy level) that will get you hooked. As my dad says, "you can chew your juice!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tomatillo Sauce


My friend Kate and I were a little early to yoga on Saturday morning so we took a stroll through the Farmers Market while we waited. These beautiful tomatillos were the find of the day and the inspiration behind our Sunday brunch plans. I remembered seeing a recipe in Edible Austin last month so I flipped back through to find it. What we made is a modified version of Sibby Barrett's, Onion Creek Kitchens Tomatillo Sauce.

Ingredients:

1 lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 green onions
1 sweet onion
1-2 jalapeños
3 large garlic cloves
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili powder
1 cup vegetable stock
1 roasted green chili
Juice of one lime
½ bunch cilantro
2 Tbsp buttermilk (optional)
Salt & pepper

Procedure:

Place tomatillos in a medium pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cool and roughly chop by hand, set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet or stockpot. Add the sliced green onions, diced onions, minced jalapeño and minced garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, then add the flour, spices and pepper. Sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomatillos and chilies, and allow the mixture to reduce by about a third—about 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro and buttermilk. Salt and pepper to taste.

I hit it with the emulsion blender to get it nice and blended. I would just be careful not to go overboard. You want a few good chunks in it.


And here's the rest of our glorious brunch....
I brought over a loaf of homemade Pan de Mie for toasting.

We cooked up some fingerling potatoes and tatsoi.

Kate and Trace made some DELICIOUS fried tomatoes.

And lucky for us, Brooklyn Kitchen had just got an egg delivery from Raven & Boar.

Look at those bright yellow, healthy yolks!

Those are some happy plates.

And although this Veggie could not partake, Bruno saved the day with his pork belly quiche, relieving the grumbling human bellies while they waited for the 3pm brunch.

Thanks to the lovely hosts! Kate, Trace, Whit (the ladies of the house) and Bruno (the new french addition).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cayuga St. Kitchen: Celebrating Food, Friends & Family

Cayuga St. Kitchen: Celebrating Food, Friends & Family: Check out my friend Emma's amaaaazing food blog for a snapshot of the dinner I hosted last Friday. I invited some friends over to meet the parents and Emma did a wonderful job at capturing the evening while I had my hands covered in flour. Who am I kidding, I was covered head to toe!

I made up a batch of Saltie's naan dough the night before, which was really fun to do in my own kitchen. Dolores brought her yummy garlic hummus for dipping and my dad made his spicy green stuff and a big salad too. Mom added some beautiful tabbouleh stuffed tomatoes to the table. And the shining star of the meal was Saltie's famous potato tortilla. I've never made anything quite as satisfying.

Thanks for the post, Emma! And thank you to all my lovely friends, for coming (and for supplying to booze!). It was a meal to remember.
Xoxo

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gluten-Free Tarrytown Dinner

My folks were in New York visiting me this past week, all the way from Redondo Beach, CA. It's amazing how all the most important, planned out moments were centered around food. There was the lunch at Saltie to show them where I've been spending my mornings baking, the dinner I hosted at my apartment to introduce them to some of my closest friends, the trip to Brooklyn Bridge Park where we ate Grimaldi's pizza amidst stunning views of Downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty... But the most meaningful part of the entire week, was the trip we took up to Tarrytown to introduce them to Steve's parents. Parents meeting parents is quite the occasion, especially when they reside on opposite coasts.

Regina (Steve's mom) was preparing a beautiful vegetarian Thai dinner for us, extra spicy (and extra thoughtful!) to accommodate my hippie parent's taste buds. I decided to bake bread and dessert, two tasks that would normally pose a minimal challenge, but this time they'd be gluten-free... Regina has Celiac Disease, which means she's beyond gluten intolerant. Gluten is a protein composite found in ALL forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and related grain species (rye and barley). It's notoriously difficult to bake gluten free because it's what gives elasticity to dough, allowing it to rise in the oven and hold its shape.

So it's going to be trial and error until I get it right. I went with a "Multi-Grain Artisan-Style Bread" this time.. Sounds good right? Well take away the gluten, and this is what the new recipe calls for:

1/3 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten (reserve 1 Tbsp for egg-wash)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (aka 'sweet' rice flour)
1 1/2 cups white rice flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp sesame seeds (for topping after egg-wash)

The caraway seeds and flaxseed meal gave it a nice flavor but it wasn't the chewy artisan-style bread I was expecting. It was more of a breakfast or soda bread... I already have my next gluten-free bread recipe attempt picked out. Stay tuned.

Here's Regina's delicious thai dishes! Brown rice with veggies, spiced up with green curry paste-- and my fav, coconut curry with veggies and tofu. Love me some baby corn.

Gluten free dessert is far less intimidating than bread because it doesn't have to rise. I made a flaky tart dough with my standard 3:2:1 ratio and simply swapped out the flour with Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose and added some Xanthan Gum. The dough was almost gritty and had zero elasticity, but nothing a little extra TLC can't fix. For the filling I tossed some green figs with lemon, brown sugar, thyme, and a touch of rice flour (to help thicken).

Before baking, I folded them up in little stars (just like Saltie's yummy squash pockets!), applied a light egg wash, and sprinkled them with Herbes de Provence.

And of course I never pass up the opportunity to fold up some galettes. :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Herbes de Provence

Either Herbes de Provence is making a serious comeback or I've just been living under a rock. It's been popping up in recipes everywhere, which is great except it's not cheap and not always easy to find. One of my sisters was having a hard time finding it back in Redondo so we decided to make it ourselves. We had most of the herbs ready for the picking in my parents garden, and what we didn't have we could easily get, fresh at the Riviera Village Farmers Market.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which herbs should be included in Herbes de Provence. I wanted to make a versatile blend so I used five basic provencal herbs: rosemary, savory, marjoram, thyme, and lavender. Some other variations include basil, bay leaf, chervil, tarragon, and/or fennel. As long as the herbs being used are those typical of Provence, I think it's safe to call it Herbes de Provence.

Basic Herbes de Provence Recipe:

5 Tbsp dried thyme
3 Tbsp dried summer savory

2 Tbsp dried marjoram
5 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 ½ Tbsp dried lavender

How to Dry Herbs:

I took a backwards approach and did all my research after I was done drying... My herbs turned out fine but now I know how to do it more efficiently the next time around. One of the best articles I came across was The Low-Tech Art of Drying Herbs by Joanne Gardener. If you're really interested in drying herbs I highly recommend it. Joanne explains:

"The secret to success [of herb drying] is to treat herbs individually according to their needs and to dry them as fast as possible after harvesting. I divide herbs for drying into two basic groups: those such as mints (with the exception of apple mint) that are quick-drying and can be dried by the traditional bunching method, and those such as lovage, parsley and basil, which don’t dry well by bunching and should be chopped, then laid to dry on trays or screens. Those herbs that really don’t dry well, such as chervil and salad burnet, can be preserved in vinegars or only used fresh."

Seems so obvious but I wonder how many people actually do this.. You should also adjust your method based on your location and weather conditions (which I learned the hard way).

My herb drying ended up being quite the social event, starting with my niece, Aliya, helping bundle, then my best friend, Terra, helping hang, and ending with a very late night session of stripping the dry leaves from stems with my mom.

I underestimated the time it takes to air dry herbs, especially in chilly, damp, So Cal beach town weather. Since I had a plane to catch in the morning, I decided to speed up the process and transfer my herbs to a dehydrator.

My herbs were already halfway there so I didn't follow the usual steps, but if you're going straight for the dehydrator and you have time to do it right, I would recommend doing it like so:

1. Remove leaves from stems
2. Place leaves in a single layer on trays
3. Remove unused trays for better airflow
4. Dry on the lowest setting

Back in Brooklyn with my new mortar and pestle in hand! I started with the rosemary because it was the toughest to breakdown. My goal was to grind all of the herbs to roughly the same size so that when blended together I'd get a consistent mixture.

Makes a nice gift for anyone who likes to spend time in the kitchen!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Peach Galettes

One of my favorite things to bake these days is mini galettes. They're like the laid back, free thinking, go-with-the-flow sister of the more structured, consistent tart... You can make them all year round and simply swap out the filling for whatever's in season. You can make them sweet or savory or a combination of both. There are no rules to follow when folding them so each one is individually unique. And they have this intrinsically rustic, imperfect beauty that's very appealing to our generation of flea market flockers.

Another reason I love making these mini galettes is they are great practice with a rolling pin, which is something that I desperately want to master.

So I decided to make some peach oat galettes for a group of brunchers last week. You can refer back to my Shaker Lemon Pie post for the flaky tart dough recipe (although it's very simple if you just remember the 3:2:1 ratio by weight - 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part water) and the filling is as easy as it sounds. I cut up about 4 peaches and put them in a nonreactive bowl, added enough sugar to coat them all, added a bit of flour, oats, and lemon juice, and put them in the refrigerator to macerate overnight.

When you're ready to bake, roll out the tart dough in about 6" rounds (they don't have to be perfect), put a handful of filling in the center, fold up the sides in whatever fashion you'd like, egg wash the outside and in between folds, sprinkle with turbinado, and bake at 375° for about 40-50 minutes.

The Brooklyn food scene really is quite spectacular. I love browsing all the local artisan food markets for inspiration in my own kitchen. With Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Flea, Dekalb Market, Brooklyn Local, etc, there's never a shortage of markets to visit. The other day I saw a vendor who had baked a few pastries directly inside mason jars. Such a cute idea!

Using the same ingredients as my peach galettes above, I lined a mason jar with one of my tart rounds, filled it with macerated peaches, and topped it off with a little chevre goat cheese and honey.