Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scones vs. Biscuits...

As many wonderful, splendidly natural foods as there are across this giving planet, sometimes you (or at least I) really do crave the comfort of something warm and baked from the oven. There's no denying it, nor any combination of flax or almond that can substitute! For the sugar sensitive and those who can't do wheat or gluten, it can be an elusive task coming up with something tasty, moist to bite into - the food of your childhood - and yet healthy. I'm not saying I've done it, but I was pretty pleased to have come close enough ;) Inspired by a muffin recipe using veggies, I decided to make a gluten-free scone with carrots, plenty of seeds, and toasted apples.

Apple-Carrot Quinoa Scones

1 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 T baking powder (I use Hain's GF)
2 t xanthan gum
1/4 t salt
6 packets of Stevia (eq. 1/4 cup of sugar)
1 t cinnamon, nutmeg, & ground cloves
1/2 cup dried apples
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup seeds/nuts (I used sunflower +pumpkin)
few sprigs of fresh basil (optional)

3 eggs, 1 egg white
1 t vanilla
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1-3 t of flaxseeds
Water as needed (about 1/4 cup)

  • Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit/160 Celsius.

  • Combine oil (feel free to use more sunflower oil for lighter texture), eggs, vanilla, and sweetener in medium bowl. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl mix quinoa, chickpea, and coconut flours with the baking powder and spices.

  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix very well!

  • Add apples, carrots, seeds and basil and continue to mix as the dough firms.

  • If the dough gets too tough, add flaxseeds and water in proportion to 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of water (a common egg substitute, this will help achieve the right consistency). I used 3 total because I used coconut flour, which absorbs a lot of moisture.

  • With a tablespoon or simply your hands, scoop the dough into balls and drop them on a pan as you would a drop biscuit, or pack into a muffin tin.

  • Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until nicely browned on the outside.
I was able to make 17 nice-sized scones from this recipe, and each is only 198 calories and 9.5 g net carbs. They lasted ages, I froze about half and enjoyed them through the following week. Because they are savoury, I had them with butter or soft cheese as a complement to soup or salad.

As I thought about what to call them, the texture reminded me at once of both a biscuit... and a scone. What's the difference, if any? I decided they were more of a scone because they are denser (less buttery) than biscuits, but still have that nice crispy firmness you can bite into. Can't wait to make these again and experiment with other fruit and vegetable combinations! I look forward to trying spinach (all I had was basil at the time), and fresh apples....mmm, OK now I've made myself hungry and wish I still had some left for breakfast!! ~cheers, c*x

Friday, July 17, 2009

Too Good to be Salad?

OK, so some of you may say salad can always be good, and I agree! It's just that I often still associate salads with iceberg lettuce and a couple of limp tomatoes. Possibly because the typical U.S. (and of course many other) restaurants will offer something green in the form of a) a thin sheath of lettuce under a bun, bread and a 1/2 lb. of meat or b) as a small accompaniment to some other protein and potatoes. In any case, I recall that I used to eat the latter covered with something called French dressing (read: mayo).

Of course I've caught up with hopefully the rest of the universe in understanding that anything can be incorporated into a great salad! It doesn't even have to be cold; my favorite whole grain dish to make, passed to me by two good friends, is the Red Rice Salad from Heather's 101 Cookbooks. Since I've been in Switzerland, I've really been using vegetables that were fairly obscure to me half a year ago such as fennel and different species of cabbage :) Tonight I made a really f-in awesome borlotti bean salad and had to share that as well!

Zucchini Bean Salad with Basil-Avocado Dressing

1/2 cup dried white beans (I used borlotti)
1 small shallot
1 T olive oil
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 zucchini/cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup of shredded carrots

1/2 avocado
1-2 T fresh basil
1 small garlic clove
1 T lemon juice
1 T tahini
1 t apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup of water

  • Soak the beans in water at least 4 hours or overnight. Rinse and then place in a saucepan with the olive oil, shallot (chopped), sugar, salt and enough water to cover and cook until water is nearly evaporated, about 45 minutes to an hour. Don't overcook as you want the beans to remain firm! Chill in the refrigerator.

  • Chop the zucchini/cucumber (I julienned mine but whatever you prefer) and shred carrots - or use pre-shredded - and chill with the beans.

  • Peel the avocado and cut into slices (if not ripe) before adding to a food processor or blender.

  • Add remaining ingredients - the basil, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, apple cider vinegar, salt and water and blend until you have the consistency of dressing. Add more water if needed.

  • In a large bowl combine the beans, zucchini, and carrots with the basil-avocado dressing and toss to coat. Add more veggies if you end up with more dressing.

  • Try to stop eating from this bowl. I seriously had to put half of it away immediately, it was SO good.

Voilá! This salad as proportioned makes 2 generous side portions. The beans are yum and filling, and the dressing is creamy while maintaining the integrity of the avocado. Also no mayo or oil. The next day I had some with a slice of socca (chickpea crepe)....Enjoy!!! ~c*x

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And now for some spice...

I grew up on a mild American diet and never really enjoyed spicy food. For some reason, however, I've been fascinated by how to use red chilies in my cooking, particularly my vegetable dishes. I bought a pack of baby chilies (I have no idea if my English terms are accurate!) and was determined to use the whole thing. Nearly. After a few experiments I made something good...real good. And versatile...

Chili Romesco Paste

This sauce is actually a hybrid between chili paste, pesto, and romesco. It has no cheese (hence no pesto), but I've opted to add pine nuts for an amazing texture. Measurements below are estimates only, as I just threw it together to get the right balance.

3 T organic tomato paste
1 small red chili
1 garlic clove
1 T pine nuts
1 T olive oil
salt to taste (no more than 1/2 teaspoon)
pinch of cumin
fresh parsely
  • Remove stem and seeds from chili with a knife and chop into quarters

  • Chop garlic and roughly chop parsely
  • Add all ingredients to your food processor
  • To get the right texture, and add more water to thin

  • Adjust seasonings to taste - careful it's hot!

I was able to use this, with a little extra water to cook, to create this amazing sautée of eggplant and cauliflower. My five a day should be fine as long as I keep it interesting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My First Party!!

I am delighted to say that, after nearly 5 months living in Switzerland, I had my first house party. Technically it was an apéro that I invited a handful of guests to attend before heading to the annual jazz festival in my new hometown. Implicit in the invitation was that my new friends would a) make the 40 minute trip out of Zürich to my flat and b) that they'd drop an extra 40 francs to see the show. Despite the heavy rain that morning, most of the invitees did indeed make it out, plenty of wine in hand. In fact the sun came out and we were able to move the party to my patio where we talked and snacked for about 5 hours :))

Of course it was very fun to play hostess, and I made sure the hors d'oeuvres were worth the trip. I made four types of dip from scratch (feta yogurt with pine nuts, black bean, eggplant purée with sesame seeds, and spinach and quark). I also had the standard olives, which I mixed with fried halloumi cheese, nuts, gluten free crackers, and some brie and camembert. To finish, I made sme banana brownies and my dear Allyson brought olive bread. My other guests brought 8 bottles of wine! And last but not least, the two things that disappeared the quickest: for the dipping I made two types of almond crackers (recipe below) and my signature farinata, a savory chickpea flatbread gifted to the world from northern Italy (recipe below).

Almond Crackers

Discovered from a great paleo blog, these crackers are so incredibly quick, easy, and dangerously addictive. You were warned! (In the image below, mine are the two square crackers in the foreground.)

1 cup of almond flour
1 egg white
salt to taste
flax seeds (optional variation)
parmesan cheese (optional variation)
2 sheets of parchment paper & rolling pin

  • Preheat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit/160 Celsius

  • In a bowl, combine 1 cup of almond flour (ground almond meal, which is harder to find in the States but Whole Foods sells it). At this point, if you're using the flax seeds or cheese, reduce the amount of almond flour appropriately.

  • Crack in one egg white and mix quickly, coating the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the bowl

  • Press the mixture in a mound onto the parchment paper, cover with a second sheet and roll thin

  • Remove the top sheet and cut into squares as you like (I usually get about 24)

  • Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, watching very carefully especially if you incorporate the parmesan! You may want to remove the outer crackers as they cook first and keep the center in a little longer.

  • Cool, break the squares along the lines and EAT! These keep incredibly well btw.

Chickpea Farinata
This flatbread is best served straight from the oven. Plan ahead as the batter needs to rest for at least 4 hours..

1 cup of chickpea flour
1.25 cups of warm water
4 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (or 2 t fresh)

  • Whisk 1 cup of chickpea flour slowly into the water

  • Add half (2 T) of the olive oil mixture and let batter rest for >4 up to overnight

  • After rest, stir salt and rosemary into batter

  • Preheat oven to 500 Fahrenheit/260 Celsius and heat baking dish (at least an inch deep) for 10 minutes

  • When the dish is warm, add remaining 2 T of olive oil and carefully swirl to coat

  • Pour in batter and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and crisp, watching carefully

  • Cut into 12 slices and serve warm
You may want to make two bowls of batter, these go very quickly! You can also add other Italian herbs, onion, and olives. There is a similar dish in France, socca, with a more crépe-like consistency. I'll need a few more tries to execute that one correctly ;)

More posts from the party soon...~x