Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Red Lentil in Watertown

I wasn't so sure at first, but Red Lentil in Watertown came highly recommended as a great place for food that also offers gluten free options.

Its a completely vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options. The menu clearly listed vegan, gluten free and nut containing dishes, with veggie and fruit juices as well as smoothies on the menu. I started off with the beet-potato latkes. They arrived hot, and vibrant - the magenta pancakes were topped with two sauces: a cilantro vinaigrette and an apricot sauce. The cakes were more soft than crispy, but were light and not greasy.

My main was the pistachio and herb encrusted tofu with corn cake and my fellow diner had the millet loaf with local farm seasonal vegetables. The tofu was the hands-down star. Thinly sliced and coated in the vibrant green nuts, it was flavorful and went really well with the sauce and greens on the plate. The corn cake under it was good, and clearly would be excellent with fresh corn. The millet loaf was really tasty when it soaked up the ratatouille, though the bechamel sauce seemed missing.

Overall, they are very light-handed with the salt, but I just dashed some on at the table and it perked everything up.

They were sold out of everything but the carrot cake, so I skipped dessert. All their desserts are always vegan, and they said they usually have one gluten free, but they were surprisingly busy for a Tuesday night.

The food was fun, more composed than I expected from the relaxed atmosphere, but worth the price and I am excited to visit again.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll - 1st attempt

So I had 2 pounds of leftover brioche dough and thought that it could be best served as an attempt at cinnamon buns.

I rolled out the cold dough onto the counter that was well covered in rice flour:

It was so so so soft and gooey it barely needed any push from the pin at all:

I covered it with egg wash:

Then sprinkled the top with a mixture of 1 cup sugar & 1 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon:

With the help of a cutting board and assistant, we rolled up the dough - it was so soft, it was impossible to roll by hand, it just oozed.

I cut the log in two, and threw them on a pan and stuck them in the freezer to help firm them up so they could be cut - you can see how the middle is oozing and weeping out.

About an hour later, I cut the logs into portion and plopped them into greased muffin tins:

I put them on the stove to proof before baking:

Baked at 350F for 12-20 minutes, I rotated them once and pulled them out and allowed them to cool in the pans - this was a mistake and they were a pain to get out:

Overall - the dough was not as soft, light or moist as the brioche and the filling oozed a bunch so the felt more like a forgot-the-pecans sticky bun, than a cinnamon bun. I really think the brioche recipe should have butter in it, rather than oil, and that the butter would make the dough easier to work with. I am going to chock this one up to a work in progress.

Medieval Salt Cod

A few years ago, I took a food history course on the culture and cuisine of Italy with Ken Albala and one of the many surprises was a sweet and sour salt cod recipe from a medieval cookbook by Scappi. The recipe involved breaded and fried salt cod, verjus, pine nuts and raisins, a sweet, sour and salty concoction that when I read it I thought it sounded horrible. Salt cod is strong stuff and I had never heard of verjus (also spelled verjuice), but once the fish was rehydrated, and sauteed with the vinegar-like verjus, a fermented mix of unsweetned grapes, it was a surprisingly delicious dish.

For this Christmas I wanted to do a take on this recipe, but didn't find any verjus in time, so I subbed in apple cider vinegar and some sugar.

First I soaked the salt cod in clean water over night:

The next day, I drained the fish and cut it into cubes:

I dredged the cubes in a combination of sweet rice flour, potato starch, salt and pepper:

I pan fried the cubes in canola oil - note the use of a handy splatter guard which saved me from getting hot oil in my eye, well after I got hot oil in my eye before employing this amazing device.

Drained fish on a paper towel:

Made a batch of garlic, spinach mashed potatoes with butter and alleppo pepper (I was going for red and green)

Return the fish to the pan with apple cider vinegar (I started with a few tablespoons and wound up with about a 1/4 cup), 2 tbsp of sugar and two handfuls of golden raisins:

I ended up throwing in a few teaspoons of water to loosen the sauce which really tightened up from the rice flour and potato starch.

I really like how it turned out. Salty, sweet, sour and a little odd. Lets face it, salt cod is not for everyone. The texture is a little rubbery and not very fish-like, but in a way that I like to call toothsome. Those who liked it really liked it, the rest of the dinner party sort of avoided that corner of the table.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gluten Free Cornflake Wreaths

Cornflake wreaths were a holiday tradition that I think I forgot how much I missed them until I happened across the reformulated Erewhon Gluten Free Corn Flakes. I used to make them in holly shapes - aka blobs rather than the painstakingly long to make wreaths - and adorn them with cin-a-hots, which always fell off. (I never really minded much. I was only it in for the gooey flakes anyway.)

I am excited that these are back on the holiday menu!

Cornflake Wreaths
1/3 cup butter or margarine (if you are going dairy free here)
1 10oz. bag of marshmallows
1 tsp green food coloring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups gluten free corn flakes
red hots or red candy circles/buttons for holly berries
cooking spray, rubber spatula, wax paper

1. Melt the butter either on the stove or in a microwave safe bowl.
2. Coat the sides of the bowl or pot and rubber scraper with the butter.
3. Add in the marshmallows and heat until the completely combine with the butter. The marshmallows should no longer float above the melted butter, but the whole mixture should be one thing.
4. Off the heat, add in the green food coloring and the vanilla.
5. Stir in the corn flakes.
6. Spoon out the mixture onto wax paper.
7. Its a great idea to spray your hand, and any tools, with cooking spray to help prevent this mess from sticking to you. Form into wreaths or spread out into holly. Dot with red candies.*

*You may need to reheat the cornflake mixture if it starts to get hard and cold. Throw it back into the microwave for about 10 seconds and stir it so its loose again.

While the marshmallows are melting, set up the wax paper and your candy station.

The hardest part is waiting until their cool and firm to eat. I recommend scraping the bowl clean and then leaving the room, or else these will not last until your party.

Salt Cod (baccalà)

Better know an ingredient: Salt Cod (baccalà)

Salt cod is exactly what it says: cod that has been salted, that's it. Types and quality vary drastically - the main difference is whether or not the fish has been deboned or not. The second big difference is thickness. The thicker cuts are usually more expensive. The amount of salt and how dry the fish is also dictate price. If you are shopping for salt cod, you are looking for a deboned, thick piece of salt cod that has a little bit of give to it. If its hard as a rock, you can use it, its just going to take longer to rehydrate.

Unlike most fish advice, salt cod does sometimes have a fishy smell to it, but it should NOT be overpowering. Fresh cod should smell like the ocean and nothing more. Dried, salt cod is going to have the same saline thing going on, but also smell fish-like but not as strong as Thai fish sauce. Its a fine line, but a line to be sure.

If you are very lucky, you can come across an entire side of salt cod, which isn't cheap but if it looks good, and has a little bit of a bend to it, snap it up! It can be stored in a cool dry place for several weeks - but if you aren't going to use it right away, its a good idea to freeze it till you are ready to cook.

Rehydrating the fish
So much like country ham, salt cod needs to be rehydrated. All you need is a container large enough to contain the piece(s) of salt cod, plus room for them to expand, and water. Depending on the size of the fish and the amount of salt in the product, you will need to let it soak from 12-24 hours. If your fish is on the larger size, you will want to change the water out at least once. Before you cook with it - and yes, you need to cook it thoroughly - its a good idea to rinse the fish off.

What ever your final culinary destination, remember to reconsider salt. Its a good idea to hold off on adding salt until after you have added and cooked the rehydrated salt cod.

That all said... some recipes call for cooking with salt cod as is, no rehydrating necessary. If you are using a small amount, it will season an entire pot of ingredients (think of it like bacon seasoning greens).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cook Food Every Day, 2nd printing

The second printing of Cook Food Every Day just arrived.

Copies are available at the Sherman Market and online!

Gluten free brioche (Zoe's recipe posted about on from Cannelle et Vanille)

NOTE - this was probably the best gf bread I have ever made. I still think it needs some tweaking... maybe butter instead of oil and more something to hold the air bubbles, but it was really really good. The house smelled of pop-overs as it baked.

"Do you have a recipe for gf brioche?" Danielle asked me last week.

I responded that I did not, but that made me want it IMMEDIATELY. Here is my "whoops, I don't have enough of most of these ingredients" version of Zoe's recipe posted on Cannelle et Vanille.

Gluten Free Brioche
1 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup millet flour
1 1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp xathan gum
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup honey
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
cooking spray
egg wash

1. Mix the dry ingredients together.

2. Whisk the wet ingredients together.

3. In a mixer with a paddle attachment (sorry no dough hook kids), slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry.
4. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip it good.

5. Stop, scrape down the bowl well, return to high and whip for another 2-3 minutes or until there are NO LUMPS.

**Here is where the original recipe says to let the dough rest for 2 hours. I don't think it needs it. There is no gluten being developed, I don't think a double rise is warranted.
6. Grease a loaf pan.
7. Spoon/spatula in 2lbs of the mix into a loaf pan. (I had a TON left over).

8. With a spatula or oil fingers, smooth out the top of the dough.

9. Let proof in a warm place. (If you have a draft apartment, you can turn your oven into a proofer by putting a dish of water on the floor, turning the temp up to 200F, then shutting the oven off. Open the door and allow excess heat to escape - you do not want to cook the bread yet, just get the yeasties going. If you are worried its too hot and burn your hand on the wire rack... let the bread chill on the counter for a bit till the oven is warm but not hot)

Contain the excess dough:

How long should it proof?!
You want it to at least double. Unlike glutened bread, this is the main source of all of the air bubbles and lift your bread will ever see. Don't rush it. Think I am joking? Do you recall the hockey puck skillet bread?

Yeah, patience. Go make some dinner. Go wrap some holiday-neutral presents.

Maybe you find a display tree at the dollar store and find your festive (tacky) holiday spirit?

Preheat the oven to 350F (if you are using the oven as your proofer, take the bread out first!)

10. 3 hours later determine that its time to egg wash the loaf and put it in the oven.
11. 350F for 30-40 minutes. (the house smelled like popovers!)

12. Pull it out of the oven, photograph it before you know its going to fall.
13. 5 minutes later, de-pan and laugh as it starts to deflate.

14. Eat it. (There is no butter in the recipe, which is weird for brioche, so its only fitting to slather the bread with extra butter to make up for this omission)

So I have another 2lbs of this sitting in my fridge. I am thinking brioche cinnamon rolls for xmas morning... yes, I think I like this thinking!