Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weekend Menu Planning

Weekend Menu – January 9th, 2010.
This post was delayed or rather, it was lost and it took me a few depressed days before I had the time to recreate it. But here it is, useful for you perhaps for this weekend.

Friday Night - Dramatis Personae:
Just the family. It had been a busy week. As usual, we contemplated purchasing food but opted for vegetables. Gabe commented after the meal - that it was perfect, just what he liked.

Starter: Kept it simple with fresh sourdough rye and whole wheat breads and the usual spreads - humus, Turkish salad, olives and pickles. Will have to blog on our bread baking but essentially with use of the bread machine have demystified bread baking for every member of the family. Our breads are natural sourdough - thank you Iris Katzner for the starter - and we use 100% whole wheat flour in almost all of our breads. The dough is done in the machine, aged overnight in the fridge (it sweetens and develops the taste of the bread) and baked the following day after a short knead, warm up on the counter and quick rise. Each dough is divided so that we end up with 4 smallish loaves which are perfect for almost every meal of about 10-12 eaters. This week, the whole wheat bread was crusted with a grainy, fleur de sel sea salt for a nice, briny taste with every bite.

Main Course: Given that I'm not a bread eater, I was champing at the bit. The meal was simple and satisfying. Broccoli sauteed with ginger and garlic - ample amounts - and served atop of a bed of rice noodles with  peanut sauce. We like Jack Bishop's Black Sesame Noodles from his A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. The recipe is easily tinkered with - different vegetables can be added - and it has the requisite peanutty taste with the necessary acid punch of vinegar and soy sauce.  Sauteed zucchini on the side - cubed and combined with sliced, rounds of hot pepper and lots of garlic and tempered with a splash of coconut milk. Make sure to saute the zucchini until lightly browned before adding the milk.

Dessert: Chocolate sorbet made by Natan. He's working his way through David Liebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, which in his mind is the perfect guide to the making of frozen desserts. The combination of cocoa and melted chocolate and just the right amount of sweetener makes for a great sorbet. Almond-flour based ginger cookies, adapted from Elana's Pantry. My changes? Add a nice hearty teaspoon or so of freshly, grated ginger and cut the oil to 1/4 cup and the sweeteners (I used only honey) to about 1/3 of a cup or more to taste. The cookies were firmer and crunchier this time, although they burned easily - the honey, I think - so make sure to rotate the sheets in the oven and take them out as they begin to brown around the edges. Don't wait for them to crackle - they won't, or at least mine didn't.

Saturday Lunch - Dramatis Personae:
Family.  Henoch's - 4 (the kids really don't eat). Gabe's friend's, Zach and Steven. Natan's friend, Avital.

Starter: Bread and spreads. In this country, bread reigns supreme mostly likely from the days where it was about all anyone had to eat. Had a nice wedge of semi-soft, creamy cheese not well-ripened to go along with the bread. Nobody seemed to mind that it was too cold and not soft enough except for me. Had a nice, green salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes and pomelit - a sweeter and juicier cousin of the Pomelo. The dressing was sharp and tangy - balsamic vinegar based, according to Natan's taste buds. The rye bread, complete with a sprinkling of caraway seeds was a hit, although the kids tended to gravitate to the plain whole wheat bread.

Main: A mix. Mona made 2 zucchini/onion quiches - straightforward and dairy filled with a nicely browned crust, they were enjoyed by all. I made a kale and pumpkin tart with an almond crust that was really successful. We've had a real yen for Indian food recently - probably because we went for Indian food in Ramle and it was truly ho hum, even the Alu Gobi, and how do you ruin that? We've been using Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, for a nice array of Indian recipes from all over India, in addition to other places where spicy foods abound. Made a pumpkin/cauliflower dish that was good and great curried mushrooms spiced with cumin, turmeric and coriander and thickened with grated tomatoes. Served over brown rice, it's simple, good stuff.

Almond-crusted Vegetable Pie: 
(Note: My nice pics of the pie won't load. Sorry, I'll get better at this)
1.5-2 lbs pumpkin, peeled and cubed.
1-2 bunches of kale, sliced thinly, stems reserved.
Onion - halved and sliced.
Garlie - 4-5 cloves, peeled and chopped.
White wine for splashing in the pan. Apple juice or water and lemon can be used in lieu of the wine.
Salt & Pepper
Thyme - fresh or dried

Custard: 2 eggs and one white, lightly mixed. Add some S&P and a scraping of nutmeg.
1 cup of soft-white cheese, or Greek yogurt (you choose the fat level) or quark style cheese, whisked in to the eggs until reasonably lump free.  (If you don’t eat dairy, substitute in rice or soy milk for a nice milky quality, about 1/3 of a cup).
2-4 tbsp of Dijon style mustard for the crust (before adding the filling)
½ cup of grated, dry hard cheese – Asiago or Parmesan or Manchego would all be nice options.  (You could leave out the dairy if you prefer.)

Egg Free/Sugar Free/SavoryCrust: (Adapted from the SCD Site)
Ingredients - this made enough to generously line a 10" round pan.
2 1/2 cups almond flour
3 -4 tablespoons butter*, cold and cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tsp dried thyme
*you may substitute coconut oil for butter or use a bit of both for a bit of butter taste with the good health benefits of the coconut oil.

1. Mix ingredients, and flatten the dough into a round disk between two pieces of plastic wrap. Gently roll out the dough to an 11 inch round. 2. Put the dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate till firm.  This really helps strengthen the dough for maneuvering it into the pan. 3. Invert it onto a pie pan and press in place. It may crack a bit, just pat it and patch it and don’t worry, it’ll taste just fine. 4. Bake for 10 minutes at 300 degrees F. (this might need adjusting if using coconut) until light brown in color. 5. Cool, then fill.

Smear Dijon mustard on the base of the crust. Let it cool for a minute before you do this as the hot crust will still be soft and won’t stay in place. Spoon the filling in with a slotted spoon so that it’s not too wet. Pour the custard on top, making sure to make it into the nooks and crannies. It’s not a lot of custard, it won’t fill everything. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until lightly browned. 

Dessert: A lovely, raw Orange ‘Cheesecake’ with a chocolate crust and Natan’s piece de resistance, Roquefort Honey Ice cream from David Liebovitz’s aforementioned book. Quite the show stopper and really very tasty, especially with a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar syrup – boil a cup down slowly and carefully to about 1/3 of cup.  It keeps forever, make a few cups and use a pedestrian vinegar – not the fancy bottle.

As to the cake, my only comments are that the crust took about ½ cup or so of dates to get it to come together and that the filling needed a bit more punch – I added the juice of a lemon and sweetened with honey and used ½ cup of coconut oil which was enough in my book and make it in an 8” spring form pan which made the cake a tad more shallow then what’s pictured on the post but rich enough for all of us eaters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Food Discoveries

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my food blog. I’ve all that new energy that comes with a new year, or just a desire to share all my food adventures of late.

In brief, my biggest discovery for 2009 has been raw desserts – pies, cakes and other confections – that all share one major component they are not baked. I know this may sound more than just odd to many but it has been a boon for me and surprisingly enough, the whole family as well as various outsiders who’ve tasted some of our treats.

Raw desserts do what they need to do – they’re sweet, tasty and provide that punch of ‘fat’ and ‘sugar’ that make dessert eating so dear to many.  I have found that eating raw treats has helped me tame my considerable sweet tooth and that I don’t desire the more typical sweets that are served to me – that I generally can’t eat anyway because of the gluten or various other ingredients that don’t suit me well.

Ah, you say, she’s one of those ‘I don’t eat this and that.’ Yes, it’s true; I am one of those and have been in one way or another for many years. The good news is that I’m at peace with it.  I went predominantly raw after last Passover for about 4 months. I stuck with fruits, salads and a bit of cooked vegetable dishes. I tried not to go to wild with nuts and dried fruits – they don’t always agree with me. I felt okay but not great. In July, I started an unusual diet that should be better known for my gut – always my Achilles heel. Called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or the SCD diet for those in the know, it essentially rules out all complex carbohydrates – like grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, milk (although fermented products like homemade yogurts or Kefir are allowed as well as some hard cheeses), and all sweeteners except for honey which rates as a simple carbohydrate.  The diet, which has lots of interesting science behind it, is considered quite effective for people with Crohn’s, Colitis, Celiac and gluten issues as well as all sorts of IBD problems. Of course, it tends not to be recommended by mainstream doctors – big surprise – and yet, you read positive story after story on the website, including fairly impressive ones from families with kids with Autism who adopted the diet and found their children’s issues greatly reduced and their overall health greatly improved.

It sounds horrible, right? No grains, no bread, no nothing. But there’s a lot left to eat once you settle in to the regimen; veggies, proteins (no tofu, sorry), fruits and nuts. I became very skilled at a host of nut breads and muffins (check out this blog for excellent recipes). My stomach calmed down – almost completely. Certain things still gave me pause – too many nuts (I cut back on the baked nut treats), too much raw stuff at times. I had to find balance.

And making raw treat after raw treat made me happy and reduced any real feelings of unhappiness. As long as I had something sweet to eat during the day – and I’ve found that I prefer my dessert these days earlier in the day during that mid afternoon energy lull, that I’m content. I’ve cut back and late night snacks – can’t digest ‘em and I suspect that many of us feel that way and anyway, I eat dinner too late to really have time to snack as well. I’ve kept dinners really simple since we eat late. The end result? I feel so much better. And that is truly something.

I’ll post some recipes over the next few weeks.