Friday, July 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Fruity Buttermilk Cake

Family birthday time again and I was taking ideas from the birthday boy. His one request was to have something accompanied by vanilla ice cream. The ice cream is a snap--I'll just make this recipe. As for the other part, I wanted something that makes the most of the summer fruits we can get at the farmers' market and that also does not overwhelm the vanilla ice cream. In addition, I've been craving cake. Thus began my search for a raspberry cake recipe that I could transform using my usual trick to a gluten-free version. I came up with the raspberry buttermilk cake from Epicurious. I did a test cake last weekend to rave reviews from everyone, so this week I will double the recipe to fit into a 9x13 inch glass baking dish (and I'll more than double the raspberries). Interestingly, my friend Stacey made a blueberry cake the same day using an old Fanny Farmer recipe that she said was nearly identical. Just goes to show that there are very few completely new innovations in cooking.

This cake can be made with nearly any kind of fruit and the flavoring options are endless. You could add lots of lemon zest and use a milk soured with lemon juice instead of buttermilk. I'm sure that any berry or berry combination would be great. It may even work with stone fruits like peaches or nectarines (though the texture might be affected if they're really juicy). You could top it with cinnamon-sugar or oat-nut crumble. I love having an easy cake like this in my repertoire and suspect it will be in the rotation frequently, not least because it's as delicious for breakfast or tea time as it is for dessert.

My regular gluten-free flour substitution worked perfectly (and I forgot to add any xanthan gum, as per usual). I did some testing and now have weight equivalents for the flour mix and I also verified that one could use the GF mix gram for gram compared to wheat flour--no need to adjust the amount. I knew it worked from a volume perspective but was glad to see it would work going by weight, as well.

RICE FLOUR MIX (makes more than you will need for this recipe): 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca starch OR 282 g. brown rice flour, 98 g. potato starch, 36 g. tapioca starch

INGREDIENTS
2 c. gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 oz, 1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 c. evaporated cane juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
3-4 c. fresh or thawed raspberries (or other berry or fruit)
2-3 TBSP coarse sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, a cinnamon-sugar mix or 1 c. crumble topping

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; make sure the rack is in the middle
  2. Butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan
  3. Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (you could use a mixer or food processor). Do not undermix--some Epicurious readers felt that the fruit was more likely to sink if the butter and sugar were not creamed well enough
  5. Add vanilla and then the eggs, pulsing to mix after each one
  6. Add the flour and the buttermilk in 3 stages, starting and ending with the flour. Mix well between each addition
  7. Spread batter in prepared baking pan and scatter fruit on top--the entire top of the cake should be well-covered for maximum tastiness
  8. Sprinkle with sugar or crumble mixture
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  10. Let cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired

Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Candied Walnuts

As much as I love kale (and I do love kale--we served it as the vegetable at our wedding, in fact), I had never really considered eating it raw until a recent trip to Victoria, BC. Our friend Becca was telling us how raw kale salad was the rage in Portland and she ordered one in Victoria for dinner. It had dried cranberries and I think some kind of nut in it, but I can't remember what. One taste and I was hooked. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was pregnant with our second daughter, but I could not get enough of this salad. I made up my own version immediately upon our return from BC and made it regularly until my daughter was born. I don't think that my love for the salad has diminished so much as my ability to prepare the kale and the walnuts has faltered with the sleep deprivation and newborn care.

I adapted the walnut recipe from the Natural Health Cookbook, a favorite of mine as regular EATS! readers will know. It's not difficult at all, but what struck me is the wisdom of toasting the nuts undressed and then adding the hot nuts to the syrup separately. This ensures that the whole concoction doesn't burn and make a huge mess.

Candied Walnuts (makes enough for many servings)

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 c. raw walnuts (halves or pieces)
1 1/2 TBSP rice syrup, agave nectar or honey
1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F 
  2. Whisk sweetener and salt in a bowl large enough to accomodate the walnuts later 
  3. Cover a baking tray with a layer of parchment or waxed paper and set aside 
  4. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a second baking tray 
  5. Toast walnuts until golden and fragrant, 8-10 minutes 
  6. Remove walnuts from the oven and add immediately to syrup bowl; stir to coat walnuts thoroughly 
  7. Spread mixture on the covered baking tray and set aside to cool; store in an airtight container
Kale Salad

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch kale, washed, dried and shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/4 c. candied walnuts
1/4 c. dried tart cherries, cut into smaller pieces if you like more bits per bite

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large salad bowl, whisk salt and vinegar (if using) to dissolve salt then whisk in olive oil
  2. Add kale, walnuts and dried cherries and toss with dressing

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Easier Orange Tofu

Back in 2009, I posted my take on Heidi Swanson's orange tofu. However, this never became a regular in our dinner rotation. I couldn't get an intense enough orange flavor without making way too much sauce. Recently, the PCC newsletter posted a link to "Steph's Tofu" and I immediately saw the brilliance of it. To get the proper orange flavor without making too watery a sauce, the key is to use frozen orange juice concentrate!

The only issue I had with the recipe as written is that it was too salty. Turns out, the "hippie" mirin that we use (Eden organic) is missing the high fructose corn syrup that many cooking mirins contain, but does contain salt. I resolved the issue by reducing the mirin and replacing with some chicken stock. Of course, vegetable stock would work just as well for a vegetarian version, I just happen to have small cubes of homemade chicken stock on hand.

I have now made this tofu dish four or five times and it's a hit with the whole family. We most often serve it with brown rice and a green vegetable. It's often accompanied by peanut sauce, as well.
The oven temperature is very flexible, I have found. The original recipe recommends 350 degrees F for one hour, but I prefer 425 degrees F for 30 minutes both to reduce cooking time and also to get a nice glaze on the tofu.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
2 TBSP unsalted stock
3 TBSP mirin
2 TBSP soy sauce (we use Nama unpasteurized)
1 1/2 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP rice vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 TBSP grated ginger
1 block tofu (15-16 ounces) cut into 16 cubes and blotted dry

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Whisk all ingredients except tofu in a small bowl
  3. Place tofu cubes in a dish large enough so that it can all be in a single layer (but not so deep that the marinade is too shallow)--an 8 inch square dish should work well
  4. Pour marinade over tofu and let sit 30 minutes if you can, turning once halfway through if you have time
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, if desired. As the tofu is already cooked through, doneness is more about the sauce reducing and caramelizing slightly than anything else, so remove from the oven when it looks good to you
  6. Serve with brown rice and vegetables. Would also be nice with noodles

Vegan Vietnamese Noodle Salad

I make no claims to authenticity with this recipe. I have freely adapted traditional elements to suit my personal preferences and what I am likely to have on hand at home. For example, I am not a huge fan of lettuce, but I am nuts about kale, so I swapped out the usual lettuce for raw, shredded Lacinato kale. So, canonical or not, since finding the right caramel tofu recipe and the best vegetarian nuoc mam, I have eaten this dish for every lunch this week and am sad that I have run out of ingredients before Friday.

The vegetarian nuoc mam recipe comes from (unsurprisingly) Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The first recipe I tried, from the New York Times had way too much lime and sugar. The balance was totally off. Madison's version suits my palate perfectly. I didn't have any chiles around, so I omitted them, and it was still delicious. Madison specifies mushroom soy sauce in her recipe, and I'm sure that would be great, but as mine had expired years ago, I opted for our usual Nama shoyu and it was just fine.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what veggies to use and what proportions. That's one of the nice things about making this kind of dish. Instead of giving amounts, instead I'll just list the things I like to put in my bowl. The vegetarian nuoc mam makes enough sauce for about four generous servings.

Vegetarian Nuoc Mam (enough for 4 servings)

INGREDIENTS
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 serrano chiles, minced (optional)
2 TBSP light brown sugar (I bet palm sugar would be great, too)
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce

DIRECTIONS
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Ideal to let sit for an hour or so before using to let the flavors blend.

INGREDIENTS
Noodle Salad (adapt portions to the number of persons served and preference)

Rice vermicelli, softened and drained according to package directions
Lettuce or kale, washed and shredded
Carrots in matchsticks or shredded (you could briefly cook carrots if desired)
Cucumber (peeled and seeded) in matchsticks or shredded
Fresh Thai or regular basil leaves, shredded
Fresh mint leaves, shredded
Roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
Vegetarian Nuoc Mam to taste
Caramel Tofu

DIRECTIONS
Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl, toss with vegetarian nuoc mam and top with a few squares of caramel tofu

Tofu with Savory Caramel Sauce

One of our favorite dishes at a local Vietnamese restaurant is the rice noodle salad topped with delicious pork skewers. Not entirely sure what is in the pork, but it's sweet and salty and caramelized. Sadly, the restaurant isn't in our neighborhood so we don't get to indulge in the dish as often as we'd like.

I was determined to find a recipe but I thought it would be more realistic (and somewhat healthier) to find a tofu version. I know I can always have tofu in the house; it's less certain that I'll find the cut of pork I'd need from our favorite vendor at the farmers' market.

The first recipe I tried (from the New York Times) was okay, but way too sweet. It was good enough that I knew the concept was worth pursuing. Further Internet searching led me to the Herbivoracious recipe. The fact that it is made in one pan and that it called for less sugar had me hopeful that this was the savory laquered tofu of my dreams--and so it turned out to be.

I love Michael Natkin's one-pan technique and I simplified the recipe even further by omitting the onions and scallions. I'm sure they'd be good, but I didn't have any around and I so strongly prefer garlic to any other allium that I knew I'd be satisfied even without them.

You know that even while eating your breakfast, you're counting the minutes til you can eat your lunch that you've found a winner. This and the Easier Orange Tofu will be the recipes I return to again and again.

If you do not require a vegetarian dish, you could consider adding a tablespoon or so of fish sauce to add umami.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. rice wine or dry sherry (I used Chinese Shaoxing rice wine but I'm sure you could use dry sake)
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 c. evaporated cane juice or white sugar
1 block (15-16 oz) extra firm tofu, cut into 12 pieces and blotted dry
2 TBSP vegetable oil
4-8 dried small chiles (optional--I didn't use)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Whisk the first 7 ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet, ideally cast iron, over high heat until the oil shimmers
  3. Add the tofu pieces in a single layer, driest side down (expect splutters)
  4. Fry on that side until nicely browned, about 4 minutes, then turn over
  5. Immediately add the sauce to the pan--it will likely spatter, so be careful
  6. Cook until the sauce has thickened, forming a syrupy glaze. It may help to gauge the consistency of the sauce to remove the tofu to a serving plate and then continue cooking the sauce if necessary
  7. Pour sauce over the tofu and then serve. Excellent atop Vegan Vietnamese Noodle Salad