Friday, September 17, 2010

Cornbread

We have been having lots of family dinners lately, gathering to remember one of Elspeth's great-grandmas who died this week. I lost my grandparents years ago, before I ever met Evan. It's been a blessing that Elspeth has spent so much time with Evan's grandmothers, Nana Ellen (92) and Grandma Julie (94). I know that Elspeth has given them much joy, as well. Grandma Julie was quite a character and we will miss her greatly.

Family dinner means offering gluten-free options. The family member with celiac never expects the rest of us to bend over backwards for him, but I love being able to serve something tasty and then add, 'Oh, and it's gluten-free'.

Tonight, Evan's mom is making chili, so I thought I'd do a gluten-free cornbread. I had referenced cornbread in my Southwest Shepherd's pie recipe, but never did a stand-alone recipe for it. I am pretty sure that I can just swap out the wheat flour for the GF flour mix (2 c. brown rice flour; 2/3 c. potato starch; 1/3 c. tapioca flour) and add some xanthan gum.

This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's basic cornbread recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

INGREDIENTS
A knob butter for the pan
3/4 c. corn flour (not cornstarch)
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour or GF flour mix
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
1 c. milk
2 eggs
3 TBSP agave nectar (or honey or sugar)
1/4 c. butter, melted and slightly cooled

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Put a knob of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or an 8x8 square pan. You could also just use a bit of nonstick cooking spray--there's plenty of butter in this cornbread. You may also make this into muffins. If doing muffins, use nonstick cooking spray if needed
  3. Let the butter melt in the oven and swirl around in the pan to coat. Do not leave the butter in the oven too long or it will burn
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl
  5. In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and agave nectar/honey together
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just moistened
  7. Stir in the melted butter. Try not to overmix
  8. Pour into prepared pan or muffin cups and bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bee-Bim Bop

Elspeth gets to choose her own books at the library, and we came home with Linda Sue Park's Bee-Bim Bop. It's a fun read, made even more fun when you use the recipe included in the book.

My version of the recipe is not meant to replace Linda Sue Park's. She does a great job of providing instructions for the child and the adult. I'm not going to bother doing that. However, I want a record of the recipe here, as I know we will turn to it again and again.

The first time we made it, we followed the recipe completely. The second time, we just added whatever vegetables we felt like. We never have green onions or bean sprouts on hand, and I would hate for that to stop us from making the dish. This last time, we sauteed up some onion, mushroom and red pepper and included that in our toppings. The recipe is versatile enough to allow you to throw in whatever you've got in the fridge.

The marinade for the beef is delicious. I'd be interested to try it with chicken or even tofu.

I find that the greens work best when ground finely in the food processor, steamed, and then mixed in with the rice. Elspeth still doesn't like to eat big pieces of cooked greens--I don't think I was fond of that texture myself until my mid- to late- 20s!

Try this recipe and you'll find yourself "hungry, hungry, hungry for some bee-bim bop". Don't forget to "mix like crazy"--that's Elspeth's favorite part!

INGREDIENTS
1 c. rice (we like to use brown, often short-grain)
2 c. water
1 bunch greens, cleaned, steamed and finely chopped or processed

1 lb beef (she recommends sirloin tip. We used chuck steak last time. Any somewhat tender cut should work)

MARINADE
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions or 1/4 of an onion
5 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP sugar (I bet you could use honey, as well)
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 TBSP sesame oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

TOPPINGS
2-3 eggs
2 carrots, shredded or cut into the shape you like best
Assortment of other cooked vegetables such as peas, peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, blanched bean sprouts, etc all in separate bowls for letting people choose their own toppings
Kim-chee or other spicy sauce/condiment as desired

DIRECTIONS
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl
  2. Cut the beef into thin strips and add to marinade bowl. Smoosh the beef around in the marinade really well and let sit for half an hour while the rice cooks
  3. Rinse the rice well. Put in a medium pot with the water and a pinch of salt if desired. Bring water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook white rice for 20 minutes, brown rice for 40 minutes or until water has been absorbed and rice tastes cooked
  4. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Add a touch of soy sauce or sesame oil, if desired
  5. Using a preheated, small saute pan or skillet coated lightly in oil, spread about half the egg in the thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat until the egg is set and then flip over (in one piece if possible) and cook the other side for a moment. Take out of pan and repeat with remaining eggs. When cool enough to handle, stack the egg pancakes one top of one another and roll them into a cigar. Cut crosswise into strips. Put in a small bowl to offer for toppings
  6. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the marinade and beef into the pan all at once. Stir the meat to cook evenly. Cook for a few minutes or until the meat is no longer raw. Put the meat with all of its delicious juices into a bowl for serving
  7. Mix the greens into the cooked rice and put in a serving bowl
  8. When all of the parts of the meal are ready, bring everyone to the table. Everyone should take some rice, meat and gravy and then add the other toppings as they wish
  9. Mix it, mix like crazy and enjoy the bee-bim bop

Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake


Every year we do a peach and nectarine CSA share with RAMA farm (named after the farmers, Rick and Marilyn). These are the best examples of these kinds of fruits we've ever had, plus Marilyn and Rick are really nice people.

This year, instead of sharing a box with Evan's parents, we decided to go for it and get a whole box per week of our own (18-24 peaches or nectarines). Three weeks of peaches, two of nectarines. Well, even with our impressive stone-fruit-eating abilities, we've had some left over. Some of it I've turned into freezer jam. I've got 9 jars of peach already (at a ratio of 6 c. fruit to 2 c. sugar) and figure I'll have enough nectarines for a few jars, as well.

Evan and I got to have our first trip away from Elspeth this August and I wanted to leave a little something nice for her and my in-laws. I made the peach upside down cake shown.

Evan loved it so much that he requested it for his birthday cake. I made a gluten-free version which was slightly tougher than the one with wheat, but was still devoured by everyone. As a reminder, the gluten-free flour mix I use is 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca (not the pearls).

The only part of this recipe that confuses me is the part about melting the butter and brown sugar in the skillet. The butter melts just fine, but Madison says that the sugar should be 'melted and smooth'. The problem is, the brown sugar doesn't have time to melt all the way before the butter starts to burn. I had expected that the mixture would look like caramel, but it didn't either time I made it. Instead, I left it as long as I could and when I smelled the butter starting to burn, I just turned off the heat and spread the brown sugar-butter slurry as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. The good thing is, the end result is still delicious. The juice from the fruit mixes with the sugar and butter and makes a loose caramel. The edges of the cake are especially yummy, much like a pecan caramel sticky bun.

INGREDIENTS
5 ripe peaches or nectarines
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 TBSP butter
1/3 c. toasted chopped pecans or almonds

1/2 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 c. evaporated cane juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
2/3 c. almond meal
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour or GF flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. As noted above, you may not get a fully liquid caramel. Take the pan off the heat if you smell the butter start to burn
  3. While the butter and brown sugar are melting, quarter the peaches or nectarines, removing the pit and the skins if using peaches
  4. Set the fruit quarters decoratively in the skillet, making a concentric circle from the outside edges to the center
  5. Sprinkle the toasted nuts into the gaps between the fruit pieces. Set aside
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and evaporated cane juice until fluffy
  7. Add the almond and vanilla extract and beat in
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is smooth
  9. Stir in the almond meal and then the rest of the dry ingredients
  10. Spoon the cake batter over the nectarines and use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread evenly
  11. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden and has started to pull away from the sides of the skillet
  12. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes. Then loosen the cake edges with a butter knife along the sides of the pan
  13. Hold your breath and invert the skillet onto a large plate. If any fruit bits stay in the pan, just put them back on top of the cake. I've been pleased with how easily this cake has released from the pan. I haven't even lost any fruit!
  14. Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Homemade Pizza

This is less of a recipe and more of a general guideline and cooking instructions to follow up from my previous post.

We like to prep all the topping possibilities and then let each person make her own pizza. Alternatively, we cook our daughter's little pizza first and then combine the remaining two dough portions to make one large pizza so that the whole family can eat together at the same time. (By the time our pizza is cooked, our daughter's is cool enough to eat).

We tried to cook pizza on the grill this summer when we didn't want to heat the house. It was good, but because we just have a Weber Q rather than a full-sized gas grill, we don't have as much control over the temperature and method (direct/indirect) as we would really require for the optimum crust texture. By all means, use a grill in the hot months and then switch to the oven in the cooler time. Just know that your crust results may vary from method to method.

Patricia Wells has a great suggestion for any ingredients that might dry out in the oven such as mushrooms or prosciutto--coat them lightly with olive oil and let rest for a few minutes before using. She also notes that a marinade of olive oil, rosemary and hot pepper flakes used on thin slices of red onion at least an hour before using can help both the texture and flavor of onions used on pizza. We tried this and the onions definitely had less of a bite and were not too crispy.

INGREDIENTS
Individually-portioned pizza dough, thawed
Fresh or thawed pizza sauce
Desired toppings (such as cheese, chorizo, capers, olives, peppers, mushrooms, pine nuts, greens, onions, etc)
Flour or cornmeal as needed for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. If using the oven, preheat at 500 degrees for at least 40 minutes before you want to cook your pizzas. Ideally you'll have a pizza stone in there that also preheats. This will ensure the crispiest crust. If using a grill, you will want to preheat but we found we couldn't use such a high temperature. We cooked the pizza directly on the grill grates--you could also try preheating and using your pizza stone on the grill
  2. On a clean counter or board, sprinkle flour liberally and put one of the dough portions on it. Try to get the dough as thin as possible, slightly thicker around the edges. Depending on how sticky, firm, or relaxed your dough is, you might want to use a rolling pin or use your hands and gravity to get the dough spread out. You're aiming for the 'window pane' effect, where the dough is so thin you can almost see through it. Even if you don't get it this thin, it'll still be delicious
  3. Transfer the rolled out pizza crust to your pizza peel or whatever you're going to use to get the pizza into the oven. (I love my Super Peel which makes it a breeze to get the crust from the counter to the peel and the peel to the oven. You may wish to dust your peel with cornmeal to help sticking. If you don't have a peel, you could always just put the crust on a baking tray
  4. Use a light hand to apply the sauce and toppings. If you use too many toppings, the pizza may get weighed down and become soggy. Leave about 1/2 inch perimeter all around with no toppings so nothing leaks out onto the stone (and you get a lovely, puffy crust)
  5. Transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone (or put baking tray in the oven or on the grill)
  6. Set the timer for about 8 minutes as an initial guess. After the 8 minutes, check to see if the crust has risen and appears fully cooked. If using cheese, it should be melted and bubbly. Cook longer if necessary
  7. Remove from oven and serve immediately for best crust texture

Pizza Dough

As much as I love the long-storage method for bread dough that is our winter staple, I find the dough too wet to make pizza crust easily. Instead, I turn to one of my favorite cookbook authors, Patricia Wells, for her recipe found in her Trattoria cookbook. I've been making this pizza dough for years, pairing it with her pizza sauce and a variety of toppings.

With parenthood, I haven't found as much time for pizza-making as I once did. However, I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to consider planning ahead to make a weekly pizza night for the family. It just took me a year to do anything about it.

Being the (over)conscientious parent that I am, I've been concerned about using canned goods in our family meals because most can linings have BPA in them. So, I've been trawling the farmers' market looking for tomato seconds and roasting them up to use in the pizza sauce recipe with good results. I buy as many tomatoes as I can each week and freeze the sauce we don't use in baby cubes (which are about the right portion size). I bought some shredded mozzarella and divided that into packets, as well. The goal is to be able to reach into the freezer and pull out exactly what we'll need for pizza night and expend minimal effort.

To that end, I made a triple batch of pizza dough, let it rise overnight, punched it down and divided it into individual pizza-sized lumps. I then wrapped up the lumps in waxed paper (since I'm trying to avoid as much throwaway plastic as possible-you could use plastic wrap) and froze them. Some Internet sources suggested doubling the yeast for frozen dough, but the dough I defrosted didn't need any more oomph. It turns out that our daughter doesn't need a full portion of dough to herself, so I just pull out two lumps of dough and steal a bit from each for her little pizza.

Though I normally like kneading dough by hand, because I was making such a big quantity, I pulled out the dough hook and the stand mixer. A double batch fit perfectly in the bowl--it would have been pushing it to do all three batches in one go.

My recipe only differs from Wells' in that I use a large proportion of whole wheat bread flour instead of only white bread flour. I find that I don't need to add extra gluten to achieve a nice texture as long as I don't go above about 2/3 whole wheat to 1/3 white.

The below recipe is for one batch, enough for four adult-sized individual pizzas.

INGREDIENTS
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 c (330 ml) lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 c. whole wheat bread flour
1- 1 3/4 white bread flour

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook). Stir or mix until dissolved. Let sit for 5 or so minutes until it gets foamy (if it doesn't, the yeast may not be at its best)
  2. Add the salt and the olive oil and stir or mix to combine
  3. Add the flour, one cup at a time, starting with the whole wheat. Do not add the next cup until the previous has been well absorbed. If using a mixer, the stir setting works well
  4. Continue adding flour until the dough forms a ball, at least 3 cups
  5. Either transfer the dough to a clean counter or board to knead for 4-5 minutes or turn the mixer to a higher setting and let it go for a similar amount of time. Add flour as needed if it gets to sticky (you may end up adding all of the remaining 3/4 c. flour)
  6. If using a mixer, turn the dough out at the end of the kneading cycle and knead a few times by hand to get a sense of the texture. The dough may be a little sticky, but if you have wet or oiled hands it should be quite easy to work with. If it's not, you might need a bit more flour
  7. Wells' suggests transferring dough to a clean bowl, but I tend to re-use the mixing bowl unless it's really icky
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid or a tea towel and let rise in the refrigerator 8-12 hours until it has doubled or tripled in volume
  9. The dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. If you wish to do that, just punch it down every 8-12 hours as it doubles or triples
  10. Use to make pizza or freeze as desired
FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Divide dough evenly into four pieces
  2. Wrap well in plastic wrap or waxed paper (I do a light coating of oil on the dough if using waxed paper), then put the bundles in a larger freezer bag or container
  3. Freeze well (we use our outside freezer for storage)
THAWING INSTRUCTIONS
  1. The night before you want to have the pizza, remove the appropriate number of dough bundles from the freezer and put in the refrigerator to thaw. If you don't have that much notice, just defrost the dough all at room temperature.
  2. The next morning or sometime the next day, bring the dough out and let rise again at room temperature. Punch down if it gets really fluffy
  3. Proceed with pizza recipe as normal