Taro

January 11, 2010

Hairy Taro

What a mousy looking root vegetable taro is! It seems to be in need of a shave. Taro are easily found in Vancouver, and make for an interesting starch instead of potato. Texturally, they’re quite similar to potatoes and they taste ever so slightly sweeter and nuttier. I made golden, crispy rounds of taro yesterday. If you buy some taro you might like to try cooking them as I did. First, pick out some cute, mouse-like taro root. The ones I bought were called baby taro, probably a good size to go with since I’m going to recommend that you try frying them. When you get them home you can peel – not shave – them, and then slice into 1/4″ or so rounds. Heat half to one teaspoon of coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle taro slices with sea salt and place in hot pan to fry. I hope you don’t have a fear of frying. Just a few minutes of sizzling on the first side, and then a couple on the second. Done! Really a tasty little treat.

Mmm, mmm fried goodness!

Mmm mmm fried goodness!

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Brown Rice Sushi

August 27, 2009

Spicy Tuna Maki

Spicy Tuna Maki

Let’s make brown rice sushi! Brown rice contains more than three times the fiber of white rice and is naturally nutrient-rich. One thing that Japanese white rice has going for it when making sushi is its glutinous stickiness, it really holds together when you make nigiri or maki. Not so with brown rice. I made brown rice sushi two days ago and it was a bit tricky to roll. I think if I wasn’t set on taking a photo for this blog I wouldn’t have thought too much about the rough aesthetic of it. Hmm. What to do? And then it hit me that adding a couple of tablespoons of ground flax might provide the necessary stickiness. Ground flax is pretty good at binding, it can make for a great egg substitute. It worked. And has the added bonus of increasing the healthfulness of sushi. Let’s roll!

Makes approximately 4 large rolls and 4 small rolls, up to 8 pieces per roll

2 cups brown rice

4 cups water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar – more healthful than Japanese rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon stevia

2 tablespoons ground flax

8 sheets of nori – roasted seaweed

assorted fillings – too many to list – you know what you like

traditional accompaniments such as wasabi paste, pickled ginger and tamari soy sauce

It takes a long time for brown rice to cook so start that as soon as you can. I have a rice cooker, so I just push a button. If you’re cooking brown rice on the stove top make sure to use quite a large pot as brown rice likes to bubble over. Bring brown rice and water to a boil over medium heat, cover and reduce heat to low once it begins to simmer. It can take up to two hours to cook brown rice over low heat. While your rice is cooking prepare the ingredients you’d like to use for filling – in the roll above I used avocado slices and some chopped albacore tuna mixed with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and dried chili flakes. See what’s in your fridge, use your imagination or go traditional. In a small measuring cup mix apple cider vinegar with sea salt and stevia. Turn hot, cooked brown rice into a large, wide, non-metal bowl and sprinkle with the seasoned vinegar and ground flax. Use a rice paddle or wooden spoon to fold vinegar and flax through, try not to mix or mush. Lay nori on top of a bamboo rolling mat and, using dampened fingertips, scoop and gently press about 1/2 a cup of warm rice over top. Spread rice right to the edge of nori on three sides – left, bottom and right – leave a 1″ border at the top of the nori sheet. Don’t use too much rice, you should still be able to glimpse the nori here and there – see photo below. Place your chosen fillings – it doesn’t take much – about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the nori and rice, lift up the mat and start rolling firmly but gently, taking care not to roll too tightly or too loosely. Roll right up to the border, dampen exposed nori edge and roll to the end. Use all of the seasoned rice, making up to eight rolls. For small rolls such as kappa, which is cucumber, fold a full sheet of nori in half and tear, use half a sheet per roll and less than a 1/4 cup of rice. Use a very sharp knife to cut into six or eight portions, wipe knife clean with a damp cloth between each slice. Please enjoy your beautiful, healthy, home made brown rice sushi.

Brown Rice on Nori

Brown Rice on Nori

Sharp Knife, Kappa Maki

Sharp Knife, Kappa Maki

Gnocchi

August 10, 2009

Out of the Pan

Out of the Pan

Wow, gluten-free gnocchi is better than the original. That never happens. These simple potato dumplings are the lightest I’ve ever had. And, if you choose to finish them in a close-to smoking pan of olive oil as I did, they puff up into the most golden, crisp little pillows imaginable. Actually, they puffed and lightened so much that they lost their smart textural lines. No matter. Have you made gnocchi before? I had my friends Suzanne, Courtney and Richard for dinner, they wanted to learn. Richard was by far the best at rolling the gnocchi dough into narrow, even ropes. And Courtney was a natural at pressing the gnocchi across the lined wooden paddle – it’s called a cavatelli. Suzanne made sure they both knew what they were doing, she is an excellent project manager and enjoys eating more than cooking. Try this recipe. I swear, you won’t be disappointed.

Serves 4

1 pound russet potatoes, about 2 medium, baked and cooled

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg yolk (save the white to add to your morning frittata)

a few swirls of extra-virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

* some variations

Set a large, covered pot of water on the stove to boil. Prepare a sheet pan with a small puddle of olive oil and set near the stove for when the gnocchi is done. Peel your cooled potatoes and grate, mash or rice into a large bowl. Add the brown rice flour, cornstarch and salt and mix together with a fork. Add the egg yolk and briskly stir together. A shaggy or rough dough will begin to form. Turn this shaggy dough out onto a lightly cornstarched surface. Knead gently several times to form an uneven ball. Divide ball into four pieces. Knead each piece of dough into a somewhat tidy ball and then roll and form into a long, narrow rope. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi dough. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut the ropes into bite-size, 1/2″, dumplings. Now create texture. You can do this by pinching each dumpling in its centre, creating a chunky bow-tie-like shape, or by running each dumpling quickly down either a fork’s tines or an inexpensive ($3) lined paddle, a cavatelli. In four separate batches, gently boil the gnocchi. They pop up to surface like miniature bouys when they’re done, and cook very quickly so don’t leave the stove. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and turn them onto your waiting olive-oiled pan. They are ready to use now, you can serve them in pesto or tomato sauce or garlicky olive oil. Or you can take them one step further and turn them into crisp, golden pillows. Set a large frying pan over high heat and swirl in some olive oil, get it really hot, just this side of smoking. Add the fresh, still-warm gnocchi, let it sear and crust, toss the pan after a couple of minutes. Keep cooking and tossing until the gnocchi have crisped all over, throw in a little sea salt. Tip out onto a platter and finish with some freshly ground black pepper. Be careful not to blister the roof of your mouth with your fresh, ultra-hot potato dumpling .

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

* There are endless variations for gnocchi. Try the plain potato gnocchi first, and then you can tweak it as you get more practiced. Some suggestions: a couple of cloves of minced garlic; fresh chopped herbs; use one yam or sweet potato in lieu of one russet; or add a handful of parmesan. I’ve added a little cooked, grated beet to create a bright magenta gnocchi. You can experiment.

Zaru Soba

August 5, 2009

Fresh Soba

Fresh Soba

Buckwheat is a protein-rich seed that’s related to rhubarb, and when ground it’s a flavourful gluten-free flour. I wanted to make chilled zaru soba but I had difficulty finding soba noodles that were made entirely with buckwheat. Admittedly, I only looked in two stores for all-buckwheat soba before I decided to try to make my own. I bought Anita’s Buckwheat Flour in the second store. Zaru soba is traditionally served on a bamboo tray, or zaru, with a small dish of cold dipping broth and assorted accompaniments. I was really pleased at what a lovely dough this made. I was concerned about the lack of gluten in buckwheat, as gluten is the protein that contributes to elasticity in dough. I needn’t have worried. This is one of the easiest, nicest, silkiest doughs I’ve ever worked with, and probably very good for a beginner to try.

Serves 4

2 cups buckwheat flour

3/4 – 1 cup water, as needed

That’s it for the soba ingredient list. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, measure 3/4 of a cup of water into the buckwheat and mix with a fork, it will clump together, more or less. If your dough is ultra crumbly, mix in a tablespoon or more of water. If it is too sticky, add a bit more buckwheat. Turn out onto a buckwheat-floured surface and knead lightly several times. Dough will come together into a nice, smooth ball within a minute. Now roll out. I used a rolling pin but if you have a pasta machine then use that. Roll a large rectangle approximately 16″ x 30″ and then cut thin strips of noodles using a pastry wheel or a knife. Your large pot of water will likely be boiling now, turn down to a simmer and carefully add about half of the buckwheat noodles. They cook up quickly, and float to the surface when they’re done. Scoop out with a large strainer and gently, thoroughly rinse under cold water. Drain well. Repeat with remaining noodles. Divide noodles amongst four zaru’s (highly unlikely) or four soup plates (more likely). Serve with cold dipping broth and assorted garnish.

Green Garnish

Shades of Green

Makes 4 cups of broth, or ichiban-dashi (1st brewed soup stock)

1 – 8″ strip of kombu (dried kelp)

1 oz katsuobushi shavings, or bonito flakes – this is equivalent to a good handful

Measure two cups of water into a medium-sized pot. Add konbu and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in katsuobushi. Let steep for several minutes before straining. If you want, you could make a secondary broth called niban-dashi (2nd brewed soup stock). I’m a bit sheepish about the fact that I’ve only made niban-dashi once, I usually discard the kelp and bonito. Now add two icy cold cups of water to your dashi. There – you just made dashi! This easy and classic stock is the base for many Japanese soups. To make the dipping broth mix in:

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons agave

Serve in a small dish alongside your cold soba noodles with assorted garnish. I enjoyed mine with wasabi, nori, green onion and cold steamed radish greens.

Spaghetti Marinara

July 21, 2009

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

Wild rice pasta is a complex carbohydrate that’s really satisfying, and you’ll barely notice that it’s not regular old wheat pasta. The big plus is, other than being gluten-free, wild rice pasta is high in protein, fiber and vitamin B. You can use any shape of wild rice pasta that you like, there are a number of different shapes including spaghetti, radiatore and penne. As for the simple and quick tomato sauce there are two things you can do to make it taste rich and long-simmered. First, and most importantly, don’t chintz out on the tomatoes – treat yourself to a tin of organic San Marzano tomatoes, it makes all the difference. And second, toss in a couple more vegetables than just onions.

Serves 6

1 – 454 g package of organic brown rice spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 rib of celery, diced

1 small carrot, diced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes, optional

1 – 796 ml tin of San Marzano tomatoes*

1 small bunch of fresh basil, leaves rolled tightly together and sliced into thin ribbons, called chiffonade, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil – set aside a little fresh basil for garnish, if you wish

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in the two tablespoons of olive oil. Let warm and add chopped onions, celery and carrots. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chili flakes, if using. Continue to cook vegetables until thoroughly softened but not crisped. Stir in tomatoes, basil and sea salt. Let simmer for at least ten minutes, and up to half an hour over low heat, stirring every now and then. Taste for seasoning. Ladle about one third of the tomato sauce over the warm, cooked pasta and toss to coat. Divide pasta amongst dishes, and then top each with a little of the remaining sauce. Garnish with fistfuls of stinky, delicious parmesan fine ribbons of fresh basil. Speaking of basil, if you don’t want to make tomato sauce you could toss wild rice pasta with yummy pesto.

* If it says D.O.P. on your tin you bought authentic San Marzano tomatoes – it stands for Protected Designation of Origin

On a Hot Day

July 17, 2009

So refreshing

Cold and Sour

On a hot day I find nothing more refreshing than an icy-cold, verging on too-sour Japanese sunomono salad. The dressing is a simple sweetened vinegar, and the noodles are called harusame. Harusame, or cellophane noodles, are gluten-free and are made from either mung bean, rice, or sweet potato starch. This salad can be garnished with whatever takes your fancy. My mom uses cucumber, lemon and clams. You can see clearly what I garnished mine with – the frilly deep purple leaf is from my friend Alisa’s herb garden, it’s shiso, a Japanese herb. I also put in sea asparagus and wakame, or seaweed. Use whatever you like, some fresh hand-peeled shrimp or other seafood, a tiny bit of grated ginger, you get the idea. I think harusame noodles are probably void of nutrition, but if you serve it with a bit of protein – fresh grilled fish or chicken – it will do. Also, there’s not a lot of roughage on the salad, just a tidbit, so while I was making this salad I ate two mini cucumbers, some carrot sticks, a handful of wakame, and a lot of sea asparagus. The cold, cold, sourness of this salad is so satisfying. Not qualities you desire in a friend but in a salad, on a hot day, it’s perfect.

Serves 4 generously, or 6 for more restrained, Japanese-sized polite portions

1 – 200 g package harusame

1 cup Japanese rice vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar*

1/4 cup agave nectar, or to taste

pinch of sea salt

your choice of seafood and vegetable garnishes

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add harusame noodles and let boil for about three minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure the noodles don’t adhere to the pot bottom. Drain into a sieve and run cold water over them until they feel chilled through. Meanwhile, stir together vinegars, agave and sea salt. Divide noodles into bowls and pour a little of the seasoned vinegar over top. Top with a slice of this and some slivered that. Eat your vegetable trimmings and extras. You can find all these ingredients at Fujiya.

* traditionally you would use only rice vinegar, but I added some apple cider vinegar because it’s an unusually healthful acid

Veggie Burger

July 10, 2009

Half-Pounder

Half-Pounder

My friend Courtney is always on the hunt for a super-delicious veggie patty. Most of them are missing something – maybe it’s meat? Also, many of them are loaded up with sodium and preservatives, their list of ingredients is sometimes extensive. This is my first attempt at a veggie patty. It is lacking meat, being a veggie patty and all, but it’s pretty good. Courtney and I fixed our burgers with sweet balsamic onions, radicchio, avocado, mizuna, tomatoes and a light smear of Dijon. The bun I made is yeast-raised, super-easy and free of the usual bread ingredients. The recipe follows if you’re so inclined, or you could serve the patty over a warm salad* or garlicky greens.

The Patties – makes 10 – 3″

1 cup dried adzuki beans, cooked in 2 cups of lightly salted water for about 45 minutes, or until tender, drained and cooled

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled

2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 cloves of garlic

10 mushrooms, I used cremini, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 cup ground flax

2 tablespoons water

Heat a skillet with 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms and salt and let cook for two minutes. Stir in the spices – the smoked paprika, cumin and garam masala. Remove from heat and let cool while you pull out your food processor and toss in the adzuki beans and brown rice. Okay, the onions et cetera have cooled enough, add all remaining ingredients and process until well-combined. You might need to scrape the bowl of your food processor and then pulse to make certain that it is all mixed together. I didn’t process too, too much. There should be some texture remaining, don’t process into a paste. Now form into patties. I used a regular-sized ice-cream scoop (mmm… ice cream), two scoops per patty. If you’re wondering “Well, how big is a regular-sized ice cream scoop?” I measured it, and it’s two ounces per scoop. You’re welcome. Now you can just sear off the patties for your burger. I did mine in a pan, but I see no reason why you couldn’t grill them on a barbecue. This is kind of a lot of work for a burger, a lot more than whipping through a drive-through, so make the whole batch. You can give some to Courtney or another pal, or freeze them, or invite all your desperate, vegan, celiac, healthy, fitness freaky friends over for dinner.

Sweet Balsamic Onions – enough for 10 burgers

4 sweet onions, such as walla walla, sliced into rounds

1 – 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

two or three pinches of sea salt

good splash of balsamic vinegar

Heat a large skilled over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add sliced onions and sea salt and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Drizzle in a little more olive oil as needed, if needed. Onions will shrink down and become a light, fragrant, golden brown. Add the balsamic vinegar, give another stir and let cook for a few more moments until the balsamic reduces and turns a bit syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside until you’re ready to assemble your burgers.

The Buns – makes 10

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup whole ground flax seed

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons xantham gum

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons tepid water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for lightly oiling baking ramekins or tins

1 teaspoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons sesame seeds for sprinkling on top of buns, optional

Lightly oil ramekins or small baking tins with olive oil. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients, set aside. Combine all the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, and then pour over dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork – dough will be thick and sticky, kind of paste-like. Divide dough evenly amongst your prepared tins or ramekins, and press into shape with damp fingertips. If you’re using sesame seeds, sprinkle them over the buns now. Drape with a damp tea towel and let rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º for the last 15 minutes of rise. Slide buns into oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Veggie Patty

Bunless

* here’s the veggie patty lounging on some sautéed mushrooms and bright yellow kale buds

Breakfast for Dinner

July 2, 2009

New and Improved

New and Improved

Yesterday afternoon I came to a screeching stop at a roadside blueberry stand and bought 10 pounds from a very friendly couple. Other than scarfing them down as I drove home I knew exactly what I wanted to make with them first off: blueberry pancakes. Now, pancakes are not my forte, my husband Michael is the resident pancaker in our home. In fact, his pancakes are almost famous. They are flawlessly fluffy, absolutely bursting with scalding blue juices, and positively slathered with butter and dripping with puddles of warm maple syrup. If he ever has you over for pancakes you will be served them one at a time, hot off the griddle. They require some worthwhile waiting. His pancakes are not healthy. So I set about to make some that are at least refined sugar, dairy and gluten-free. And, huge compliment, Michael pronounced them really good. That is high praise and I’m pleased. This is what we had for dinner last night.

Makes 6 – 6″ pancakes

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour

1/4 cup virgin coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 large whole eggs

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon agave nectar

3/4 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 – 3 teaspoons coconut oil, for frying

Whisk together dry ingredients and lemon zest in a medium-size bowl. Toss the blueberries in, and stir gently to coat with flour mixture. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs first with melted coconut oil to blend together, then whisk in agave, almond milk, and vanilla. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and use a rubber spatula to combine the two together, it doesn’t take much stirring, and be mindful not to crush the blueberries. Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron griddle or a frying pan over medium heat with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Check if your pan is hot enough with a few drops of water, the water will dance and sizzle and then evaporate when your pan is ready. Scoop 1/6 of your pancake batter onto the griddle. The batter is quite thick and you will need to encourage it to flatten into a round-ish shape. After three to four minutes of cooking, or until the edges of your pancake look set, flip over to finish cooking on the other side, about two minutes. By now the blueberries will be close to bursting, so turn onto a plate and repeat until you’ve used all of the batter. You may need to use the remaining two teaspoons of coconut oil to finish cooking the pancakes, I used a teaspoon for every two. I served a stack for each of us with fresh berry compote, but you can do as Michael does and serve them and eat them one at a time, piping hot.

Bright Berry Compote

Bright Berry Compote

Fresh Berry Compote – makes enough for six pancakes

12 fresh strawberries

small handful each fresh raspberries, blueberries, and pitted, halved cherries

1 teaspoon agave nectar

In a small bowl, crush half of the strawberries. Slice the remaining strawberries over top of the crushed ones, and add the rest of the berries and agave. Stir together, and pile on top of hot and healthy pancakes.