Category Archives: gluten-free

Fuyu! (and baked potato crisps)

I’m really, really bad at procrastinating.

Actually, that’s not true– I’m really good at it.  I’ll find that right when I’m about to sit down to work on a paper, I’ll have to clean, or catch up on emails I’ve been neglecting, or make a cup of tea, or my ultimate time-killer, putter around in the kitchen.  This “skill” is at its worst when I’m stressed out, like right now.  I have an entire book I’m supposed to read for tomorrow, a 25 page group paper on Sino-African development due in about a week, and a 25 pager on education projects in Tanzania due in two weeks.  So of course, I’m sitting here writing about cooking, cooking that I did when I really should have been papering.  In my defense, though, I did have all of these gorgeous fuyu persimmons and a ton of potatoes that I had to use before I head back up to New England for Thanksgiving.  If I hadn’t made this, they would have gone to waste (did I mention I can also rationalize anything under the sun?)!  You’re getting two super easy recipes today, and lots of pretty pictures because the lighting on Sunday morning was really exceptional.

golden brown and delicious.

Recipe #1:  Baked Potato Crisps

Ingredients:

potatoes

Maldon Sea Salt

olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 325F.  Thinly slice your potatoes– aim for nothing larger than the edge of a dime.  Any kind and size are fine, as long as the size of your slices is relatively even.  Dump slices into a bowl, toss lightly with olive oil and Maldon sea salt.  Lay out individually on a baking sheet (I covered mine with tin foil for easier cleanup).  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Recipe #2: Fuyus with Cinnamon

fuyu

Ingredients:

ripe fuyu persimmons

cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Thinly slice your fuyu.

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My knife was terrible so mine ended up being about two dimes thick, but you can go thinner if you’d like a crispier texture (almost like a fuyu crisp).  Mine were gummy but had a good caramel taste from being in the oven.  Note that you’ll need to keep an eye on them to adjust for cooking time.  Arrange on a baking sheet covered with tinfoil and sprinkle with cinnamon (you could also add some extra brown sugar on the top if you wish).

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Bake until the edges start to curl up.  Enjoy served warm by themselves or with vanilla ice cream, or slice into a bowl of oats with brown sugar, crushed almonds and a dash of cream.  These would also be fantastic sliced into a spinach salad with walnuts, goat cheese, slivered red onion and a mildly fruity vinaigrette (like raspberry).

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Rainbow Curry

 

from top center, clockwise: yellow mustard, red pepper, cardamom, brown mustard, turmeric, whole cumin

 

I’ve always liked Indian food but it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I got truly addicted.  I spent six weeks in Bangalore, India for school (with a week or so spent on some farms and in Mysore) and ate Indian food for every single meal of the day.  Some people, when they travel, get sick and tired of local food and suddenly crave things like toast or a Big Mac—anything that reminds them of home.  That would not be me (though I will make an exception for coffee anywhere except for India, where I’ll take a hot cup of chai any day).  My host mother in India was a phenomenal cook and introduced me to the delicious flavors of Southern Indian cooking, which is very different from the Northern style that we mostly get in the US.  Southern cooking, to me anyway, is a lot lighter than Northern cooking—it still sticks to your ribs but doesn’t leave you feeling as though you just ate a lot of (very tasty) cement.  There is a lot of coconut used in the South, and it tends to be predominantly vegetarian as the south is majority Hindu.  This recipe is loosely based on curries that Chaya, my host mom, made while in India (note: you could easily swap out the ghee/butter for sunflower or canola oil to make this vegan).  I crave curry as soon as the weather gets colder and make it in huge batches to freeze for quick dinners when I’m tired and/or lazy.  It tastes just as good as the day after I made it—curries are always better once the flavors have a chance to mingle.  See the instructions below for the scoop on “resting” time and freezing.

Note:  The recipe below is pretty spicy, so if you prefer yours less so, cut down on the chilies and pepper flakes. Alternately, serve with fresh plain yogurt or raitha to cut the heat.

 

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Rainbow Curry

Serves 4-5

4 tbsp ghee/butter

1 tbsp mustard seeds (I split this between yellow and brown but either are fine)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to spiciness preference)

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp whole cumin

5 whole dried chilies (again, adjust to spiciness preference)

3 thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger, cut in 3 pieces

5 whole cardamom pods

4 bay leaves (dried)

4 tbsp minced shallots

1 tbsp fresh minced garlic

2 pints tomatoes, halved (canned are also okay – about 16 oz should be fine. I used multi-colored fresh for the “rainbow” effect but you don’t have to)

1-2 fresh peppers, cubed (not green)

2 tsp salt

1 cup canned coconut milk (I used low fat)

3 pounds potatoes, cubed, skin-on (again, used multi colored for the rainbow effect but any kind and color are fine)

2 cups frozen peas

 

red, orange, yellow and green baby heirlooms.

 

 

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Melt butter in a large saucepan or stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add pepper flakes, garlic and shallots and sautee until aromatic.  Add cumin and mustard seeds and sautee quickly until mustard seeds start to ‘pop’ (about 20 seconds).  Add tomatoes, salt, ginger, turmeric, bay leaves, cardamom and ginger.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes; for fresh tomatoes, cook until skins start to pucker.  Add coconut milk, peppers and potatoes and cover.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through/nearly cooked through.  Stir periodically (you can add water if it looks like things are drying out a lot, though the potatoes will release a decent amount of water as they cook).  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary during this time.  Add in peas and cook for about 2 more minutes, until peas are heated through but still retain their bright green color.  Grey peas are gross!  Remove from heat.

Curry always tastes best if it is let to sit for a bit.  Ideally I’ll make my curry in the morning and let it sit out on the stove, covered, until that night.  I’ll quickly reheat and serve over basmati rice (removing cardamom, bay leaves and whole chilies first).  Life being what it is, however, the ideal thing never happens and I usually make it the night before.  It’s fine to sit out overnight and during the day as long as you keep it covered (rules change slightly if it has meat in it).  Reheat in your microwave or on the stove.  To serve, top off with fresh coriander/cilantro.

You can also add in any number of veggies to this dish.  Mushrooms, carrots, eggplant, cauliflower … it can all go in.  If you’re using delicate veg like mushrooms, though, don’t abuse them by adding them at the beginning of the cooking process—toss them in about halfway through the 20-30 minute simmer session.  Carrots, on the other hand, take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to cook so you can add them in with the potatoes.

Peashew Chicken

A long-running joke between some of my closest friends is that I’m secretly Asian.  This could have something to do with the whole dark hair/dark eyes/fair skin combination, or the fact that out of the four people that make this joke, three are Chinese and one is Japanese.  More likely, though, this has to do with my undying obsession with Asian cuisine.  When people ask me what my ultimate comfort food is, my immediate response is ‘miso soup with brown rice.’  I have a mild addiction to shrimp crackers, I brought hondashi, matcha and an economy-sized bottle of Sriracha with me to South Africa because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find it in Cape Town, and I would definitely run back into a burning building to rescue my Zojirushi rice cooker.

I’ve already featured some Asian recipes here; krayasaat, the warm soba salad, and sesame matcha macaroons.  This time, though, I’m skipping authentic snacks and all things Asian-inspired in favor of a super easy, super delicious Chinese recipe.  Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, since everything will be available at a regular grocery store.  It’s a well-rounded, healthy meal in a bowl with notes of salty, sweet, and umami, and of course, is served over perfectly cooked white rice.  I swear it tastes better when you eat it with chopsticks (if you don’t know how to use them, learn!  Once you can pick up oiled peanuts, you’re an expert.  At least according to my a-yi 阿姨).  This meal is also great reheated, so don’t feel like you have to share.

Oh, and since you’re probably wondering what’s up with the name; either peanuts or cashews work well with this recipe.  I’ve made it both ways and love them equally, and in the interest of avoiding nut discrimination decided to be inclusive when titling the post.

the chicken in its cashew incarnation.

Peashew Chicken
Serves 4, or just you for 4 meals, because this is so good you won’t want to share
based on a recipe from Appetite for China

Ingredients:

1 pound skinless chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce (low sodium variety is best, you can also use Tamari to make this gluten-free)
¼ cup water
1 tablesoon white rice wine or mirin
2 teaspoons chili sauce (I used sriracha because I was cooking for others, though la jiao is excellent if you can really handle the heat)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 scallion stalks, chopped
2 large handfuls mung bean sprouts
1 head bok choy (about 6-7’’ long), chopped, though feel free to add more
1 handful unsalted peanuts or cashews, crushed (either roasted or unroasted are fine)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

A bit on rice:

I like to use Nishiki medium-grain white rice, but any plain white rice will be fine, with the exception of that microwaveable Uncle Ben’s crap.  Buy your rice in a bag and cook it properly, it’s worth it.  Make sure not to use Jasmine or Basmati; even though they’re delicious, they will make this dish less so.  You could also use brown, if you want to be uber-healthy.  I use about two scoops using my rice cooker measuring cup, but if you’re cooking rice in the pot follow the instructions at the bottom of the post.

Instructions:

Place the chicken pieces in large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the soy, water, mirin, chili sauce, and sesame oil. Reserve half and set aside. Pour the remaining half over the chicken and stir to coat. Let marinate for a minimum of 20 minutes, though 2-3 hours is way better.

Once the chicken has absorbed all of those delicious flavors, heat the peanut oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Your ingredients should be aromatic, but not browned.

Add the meat and cook, stirring constantly or about 3 minutes, until meat is lightly browned/not pink on the outside.

Add the rest of the sauce and let it simmer until it thickens.  The first time I made this was on a hardcore Viking range and it took about 4 minutes, but then when I’ve subsequently made it on my lil old electric stove it has taken at least 10 (this could also be because I tweaked the recipe to cut down on the saltiness factor, which I found a little too intense even with low-sodium soy). Add in the bok choy and bean sprouts, stirring to coat.  Throw in the scallions and nuts. Cover and cook on medium low for another 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over rice, topping off with fresh cilantro and a few extra nuts if desired.

Rice is nice:

If you’re using a rice cooker, follow the rice cooker instructions.  And make sure you rinse/soak your rice first (for white and brown rice, respectively).  Otherwise, try this foolproof method.

Brown rice should be soaked for at least an hour before cooking.  You don’t need to soak white rice.  No matter the type, rinse in a mesh strainer until the water runs clear.  Drain excess water, and put into a small saucepan and spread it evenly over the bottom.  Now, place your index finger in the center of the pot until the tip of it just touches the rice.  Carefully pour water into the pot, ensuring that you don’t agitate the rice overmuch and ruin your nice level surface.  Keep pouring until the water comes up to the first joint on your finger, the one closest to your fingernail.  Cover and cook on medium until the water is nearly all evaporated.  Remove from heat, stir and let sit covered until you’re ready to eat.

A Conspiracy of Lemon

Things have been busy around here.  In addition to “Math Camp” starting (my roommate’s nickname for the stats and micro review sessions I signed up for before the official start of school), I got a job at baked & wired, an amazing coffee shop and bakery near my apartment in Georgetown.  It’s really, really fun but means I’m pretty beat by the time I bike home at 10 pm (beat, and stuffed with cupcakes, but more on that later).  I had today off though, so I had planned on finishing up on my lemon teaser post today.

Enter an unfortunate incident with a pair of scissors (um, I snipped my finger. And yes, it was pretty much as bad as it sounds).  So anyway it took awhile for the bleeding to stop, and then at that point I had to pack up my stuff and bike over to school.  With one hand.  Believe me, I’m as surprised as anyone that that didn’t lead to further injury.

But I survived, and better late than never, right?  I chose this particular recipe from Nigella Lawson because it’s a) lemony b) delectable and c) I have a serious girl crush on Nigella.  Have you ever watched her show?  Everything sounds slightly wicked and totally delicious—like each ingredient added is a secret to be shared between Nigella and all of us salivating in front of the television.  Because the elegance of this recipe is in its overall simplicity, I didn’t change much; just added in some vanilla I brought back with me from South Africa and  swapped out regular lemons for Meyer.  The result is a silken, lightly tangy, luscious pot of lemon cream.  There’s a substantial (read: 2 day) wait time between the initial prep and actual enjoyment of the dessert, but it’s worth it—and patience makes it all so much sweeter in the end, no?

Lemon Cream Pots
adapted from Nigella Lawson
makes 8 little pots or 6 greedy-sized pots

3 Meyer lemons

275g caster/superfine sugar

6 fresh eggs (off the farm fresh is best)

250g mascarpone

scrapings of one vanilla bean

Zest and juice all three lemons into a bowl.  Add the sugar and eggs and whisk together.  Stir in the mascarpone, stirring until it is combined.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for two days. Not one, but two.

Two days on, preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  Put your ramekins into a roasting dish and fill dish with very, VERY hot water until it comes about halfway up the sides of each ramekin.  Divide the lemon mixture evenly between all the pots.

the pots, before baking.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  The cream will look a little runny still, but that’s okay because they’ll set as they cool.  Since you’ve already waited two days, you can wait another 15 minutes before diving in and enjoying.  However if you’d prefer to draw out the wait a bit more, they’ll be fine sitting out for a few hours … or even in the fridge overnight (but let them warm up a bit before indulging so they’re not too chilled).

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Sesame Matcha Dipped Macaroons

What’s a girl to do with some extra sweetened condensed milk, matcha and dessicated coconut? Why, make macaroons, of course.  The macaroon (not to be confused with the French macaron, for the love of Pete. Or Pierre, as the case may be) is one of the most foolproof baking recipes there is.  As long as you get your ingredients in there in one quantity or another and the dough is the right consistency, you’re golden (-brown, har har for the baking jokes).  This means that you can experiment pretty readily with whatever coconut-complimenting ingredients you have around.  I made these right before I moved from Cape Town to the US, when I had to finish up the matcha that I had absolutely 0 room to bring back with me.  Although the dip turns out to be a bit mad-science green, they’re lekker (Afrikaans for ‘the best’ or ‘cool’) and above all, so easy to make.

Sesame Matcha Dipped Macaroons
makes about 24 macaroons
adapted from Joy of Cooking

For the macaroon:

2/3 +/- cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg white
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt (optional)
3 ½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sesame seeds, white

For the dip:

1 bar or 220g white chocolate (I used Cadbury Dream, but any decent white chocolate is fine)
2 tbsp matcha (buy here, and add more if you like yours extra matcha-y)
black sesame seeds, to garnish

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease or line two cookies sheets.  Mix all macaroon ingredients together until they are uniformly combined.   At this point, the dough should be nice and sticky, clumping together in the bowl.  If it isn’t, add more sweetened condensed milk (I’ve found that the amount I need varies depending on the type of coconut I buy; finer shreds seem to need less).  Make golf-ball-sized pieces of dough by squeezing together in your hands and place about 2’’ apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the tops are golden brown, 20-24 minutes.  Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

Once the macaroons are cool, heat white chocolate in a double boiler.  Feel free to jerry-rig one out of any heat proof bowl and a saucepan; just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, even when boiling.  While chocolate is melting, cover a plate with waxed paper or parchment paper.  Once chocolate is melted, add in matcha and stir until evenly combined.  Dip in macaroons about halfway; immediately garnish with a pinch of black sesame seeds.  Set dipped macaroons on waxed paper.  Wait until chocolate has solidified, then enjoy.

Note: Macaroons keep for about a week, though I’ve never been able to make mine last for that long.  If at first they seem too crispy or dry, leave out overnight and the coconut will absorb a bit of moisture.  After that, store in an airtight container.

Kraya-what?

If you’re anything like me, a craving for something sweet, once sated, is soon followed by a craving for something salty, which is followed by a craving for something sweet, ad nauseum (sometimes all too literally).  This pattern could possibly explain why I’m obsessed with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which seem to satisfy that sweet/salty cycle like no other treat can.  Until I tried krayasaat.

Krayasaat is a Thai snack, made of palm sugar, sesame seeds, coconut oil, popped rice, peanuts and salt.  I wish I could say that I reverse-engineered this recipe from my all-to-brief stay in Thailand back in 2005, but I can’t.  Instead, I found the first description of it from the blog EatingAsia, a gorgeous food-travel-photography blog featuring predominantly Asian locales.  The “recipe” was provided by a woman named Wan, the longtime housekeeper and friend of the bloggers, who framed it in the highly adaptive terms of traditional Thai cooking (and, come to think of it, some of my recipes too).

A brick of palm sugar.

Though the description and ingredients had my mouth watering, it took me awhile to track everything down.  I was living in Cape Town at the time, which has a relatively low Asian population compared to some of the other places I’ve lived (New York City, Hartford, and, um, Beijing), so the few Asian markets weren’t as well-stocked as what I was used to.  Palm sugar was surprisingly easy to find, and the sesame, peanuts, coconut oil and salt definitely weren’t a problem.  But for the life of me, I couldn’t find popped rice.  I dragged myself by taxi (the slightly dangerous but inexpensive mini-buses that zoom around South Africa’s cities) from the Thai and Korean markets in Sea Point all the way over to the Mainland China market in Claremont, all to no avail.  I had almost given up when I found a big packet of puffed brown rice snuggled away in the corner of the health shop in Gardens.  It wasn’t popped rice, but it would have to do.  After all my hunting, I probably would have offered a kidney, but luckily only had to shell out R25 (about $3 US).

Palm sugar in pieces, after I attacked it with a meat cleaver.

From there, I went home, got into the kitchen and whipped together the ingredients into what seemed like the right proportions.  In about 15 minutes I was having my first taste of sweet, salty, toasted and crunchy krayasaat in all it’s coconutty glory.  I’ve since made it many times; these photographs are from my most recent batch.  I liked my puffed rice version just fine (though I’ve used white in the photos you see here, but brown is just as nice), but if you can find or make popped rice, by all means go ahead.  And a word to the wise: if possible, try to buy your ingredients at ethnic markets.  The brick of palm sugar you see above cost me a measly $1.50, and the sesame seeds not much more at $2.50 (for about 3 cups worth, mind you).  You’ll save boatloads of money and won’t sacrifice on quality in the least.

Krayasaat

Via EatingAsia

1 chunk palm sugar, about the size of two ping pong balls, broken into smaller pieces

½ cup coconut oil

4 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp coarse sea salt, like Maldon

1/3 cup roasted peanuts, crushed into smaller pieces (optional)

5 cups puffed rice

**In deference to Wan, these ingredients may be tweaked to your taste.  If you prefer sweet, leave out the salt.  If you’d like more peanut, add more.  However your final product shouldn’t be sticky or oily in your hand, so be careful when changing the amount of palm sugar and coconut oil.

Heat coconut oil over low, low heat in a small saucepan.  Add palm sugar and let it break down into the oil; unlike regular sugar, this will not dissolve and instead will make kind of a gloppy, soft paste.  You may need to use a little muscle and crush it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.  Meanwhile, measure out puffed rice and set aside in a large bowl.  When palm sugar is sufficiently soft, add in salt, peanuts (if using), and sesame seeds.  Mix.  Remove from heat and pour over puffed rice gradually, stirring as you go.  This will keep in an airtight container for a few days, though I seriously, seriously doubt if you’ll be able to keep it for that long …

Redefining Potato Salad

I love potato salad, but I rarely eat it.  Why?  Because to me, potato salad is a summertime food.  It’s served cold, and many a childhood barbecue in the steaming heat has meant that I can’t disassociate potato salad from outdoor meals while baking in the sun.  But eating mayonnaise during the summer, for me, ranks somewhere alongside eating popsicles outdoors in January. In a blizzard. With no gloves.  Other mayo-free potato salads that I’ve tried seem to be drowning in oil, so I’ve steered clear of the whole spectrum of potato salads. Until now.

When I saw this recipe, the winning combination of fennel, potatoes, lemon and a measly 3 tablespoons of oil won me over.  And favas! FAVAS!  To be clear, I’m part Italian (Sicilian, in fact). This means I love fava beans as much as I love tomatoes, pasta, gelato and the Azzurri (don’t even talk to me about the World Cup right now).  Sure, preparing favas isn’t the most fun thing in the world (unless you really like peeling and blanching beans in multiple rounds), but the flavor payoff is always worthwhile.  Fava prep aside, this salad is a breeze to make and the mild anisette flavor of the fennel is perfectly offset by the fresh acid of the lemon and the bite of pepper.  I ended up adding in capers to my version for an extra kick, but the salad is also delicious without them.  Best part is, you can easily adapt this salad for more people; I actually had to increase the recipe as I found out partway through that we were having guests for dinner.  When I finished cooking for the evening, I ate my potato salad outside in the slowly diminishing summer heat and relished every bite.

Potato Salad with Fava Beans and Fennel

Serves 4ish

Adapted from the Kitchn

1 pound cleaned new potatoes (I like red for the color)

1 pound fava bean pods– pick pods that aren’t overly lumpy as the beans might be bitter

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds

3 tablespoons chopped chives

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)

zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt (I like Maldon)

Freshly ground black pepper

Start off by removing your favas from their pods.  Boil a pot of water, and set up a bowl of very cold ice water and have a slotted spoon or dumpling skimmer handy.  Blanch favas quickly in the pot, about 40-50 seconds, and then remove beans to the ice bath using the spoon.  Let rest for a minute or two, them remove the thin, waxy coating surrounding each bean.  If they don’t slip right off, that’s okay.  The blanching process will have cause the bean to separate from the outer skin, so you should be able to gently tear it and pop your favas out that way.  Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, salted water by about an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.  Over-testing won’t hurt them; no one likes raw potatoes, but you don’t want your potatoes to be mushy either.  Drain and set aside until just cool enough to handle.

Halve or quarter the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest, pour over the potatoes, and toss. Add the favas, sliced fennel, fennel fronds, capers (if using) and chives to the bowl and toss. Season with pepper, and a bit of salt if you’re forgoing the capers.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Extras will keep for 2-3 days, covered, in the refrigerator.