Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gluten-Free Flavors of the Subcontinent

A client of mine has Celiac disease and can't tolerate any gluten or dairy in her diet. I'm catering her birthday party this weekend and came up with a wonderful menu of her favorite foods that are both gluten and dairy-free. As with all gluten-free items it's necessary to try the recipes to make sure the flavor is just as good as the original because sometimes the gluten-free flours have a weird flavor. So I tried everything and it all tastes great!

Most of these recipes are from a wonderful cookbook, Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Every recipe from this cookbook is incredible and they are always a hit. This book is a great coffee table book and the pictures are amazing. I made a few modifications to the recipes and ended up with very flavorful food.

The Lamb & Potato Samosas were encased in a fennel-flecked dough and served with a Cilantro Chutney. Garbanzo Bean Flour and Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour were combined with flour to make the Chapati. The Akki Rotti (recipe here) was brimming with spices and herbs. Karnata Chana (Chickpea Dal) had a good flavor.

The Lamb Slipper Kebabs were flavored with cilantro, ginger, chile's, tomato, onion, and garam masala. Incredible!

I know that she is going to enjoy everything and it makes me happy knowing I can prepare her favorite foods without worry of getting sick!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hearty Fall Minestrone

Last week I went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market and picked up some wonderful produce. I was in the mood for lots of vegetables, fall flavors and soup and it was the perfect place to get the ingredients for a wonderful Fall Minestrone.

The soup was loaded with vegetables: butternut squash, green beans, carrots, potatoes and kale. The potatoes made the soup thick and creamy, had a little bit of sweetness due to the butternut squash, and was very hearty and filling.

I made a large batch of the soup and froze individual portions for later. So now when I'm craving this soup I just have to take it out, heat and enjoy!

Chocolate Confections

I was in the mood to make chocolate confections and decided to try some recipes from a new cookbook by pastry chef Francois Payard. A few of the recipes just didn't work (chocolate marshmallows and chocolate popcorn) and I'm not sure why...so I tried a few others and was happy with the results.

Chocolate mendiants are both delicious and easy to make. Use your favorite, good quality chocolate for the best flavor. I had semisweet (Sharffenberger) on hand so that is what I used but you can use bittersweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate as well. You temper the chocolate, spoon it out onto prepared baking sheet and top with assorted items. Let set for an hour then savor the smooth, flavorful chocolate. The mendiants were topped with caramelized walnuts and almonds with fleur de sel. I love fleur de sel with chocolate, such a wonderful combination!

The chocolate popcorn was one of the items that didn't really turn out the way it was supposed to but I tried it anway and the flavor was really good. Cocoa powder and salt mixed into a hot honey syrup then tossed with the popcorn. The syrup didn't end up being a pouring consistency so it clumped on the popcorn instead of coating all the kernels....I will try it again and try to see what went wrong.

One of my favorite chocolate snacks from Trader Joe's are their cocoa almonds. I found a recipe that seemed easy enough so I tried it out. The almonds were coated in a sugar syrup, melted chocolate to coat and tossed with cocoa powder. The concept is good but these were a little too sweet for my palate. Next time I think I will reduce the amount of sugar syrup used and try again. If I can get it right these will be wonderful!

More chocolate confections to come!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pine Nuts, Pignoli, Pinon

"I used to be able to name every nut that there was. And it used to drive my mother crazy, because she used to say, "Harlan Pepper, if you don't stop naming nuts," and the joke was that we lived in Pine Nut, and I think that's what put it in my mind at that point. So she would hear me in the other room, and she'd just start yelling. I'd say, "Peanut. Hazelnut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut." That was the one that would send her into going crazy. She'd say, "Would you stop naming nuts!" And Hubert used to be able to make the sound, he couldn't talk, but he'd go "rrrawr rrawr" and that sounded like Macadamia nut. Pine nut, which is a nut, but it's also the name of a town. Pistachio nut. Red pistachio nut. Natural, all natural white pistachio nut." Harlan Pepper, Best in Show.

Best in Show is a great movie and that is a fitting quote for this post. My husband loves all types of nuts. Just the other night he told me, as we were eating pesto pasta with pine nuts and chicken, that pine nuts were his favorite. I had a bag of them so I decided to try a few dessert recipes.

I know that pine nuts are very popular in Italian dishes so I searched for an Italian cake and found a great one on Epicurious.com. The ingredients were simple and it was easy to make and smelled incredible! I'm not a fan of pine nuts but wanted to eat the entire cake after I took it out of the oven.

Another recipe was for pine nut tarts, flavored with honey, brown sugar and vanilla. I bought fresh wildflower honey from the farmers market and was excited to use that in these tarts. These were so fragrant and lovely. Tartelette posted the original recipe for these Pine Nut Tartelettes.

A few things about Pine Nuts:
  • Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines
  • Contain between 10-34% protein
  • Source of dietary fiber

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin

This past weekend was my mom's birthday and we had the family over for dinner. I decided to make a few pumpkin desserts since it finally feels like fall! The first dessert was a pumpkin pot de creme which was flavored with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, eggs and sugar. The custard was baked in a water bath and topped with fresh whipped cream.

I had some ladyfingers left from a party the night before so I thought pumpkin tiramisu would be great. I layered the ladyfingers, pumpkin mascarpone and brandy in shot glasses. Both these desserts were the perfect amount of pumpkin tasters!

I also tried to make pumpkin macaroons but those didn't turn out...the second time trying macaroons and I still can't get it right. Hopefully they will turn out one of these days!


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