Saturday, March 29, 2014

Crock Pot to the Rescue - Again

There are days I am just unprepared. No ideas in mind for dinner at all. It's already after 10:30 AM and I have nothing thawed. What to do?

I went to the freezer and mulled a bit. We have a freezer full of a half a cow, so it isn't that there aren't options. Still. It's been such a long winter. Far too cold except very recently to even consider grilling. I have made my One Skillet Hamburger Meal about 15 times in the last few months. At least it seems that way. I've made stews over and over. A couple of roasts, either in the crock pot or oven. The trouble is that most of the meat is either hamburger or roasts. Some of them are cut strangely and look far different than what you see in the supermarket. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I got out a chuck roast.
Crock Pot BBQ Chuck served on Root Vegetable Flatbread

The roast was probably about 2½ or 3 pounds, though I forgot to weigh it to see. It was very thick, but small enough around to set into my crock pot. To speed things up just a bit, I put the roast into the microwave to defrost just a little. I never thaw something completely in the microwave. I hate to even use the microwave at all, frankly. With that in mind, I set it to defrost something that weighed 1 pound. I turned it over twice during that short period. It was still hard as a rock when I was done, but I know it had to have some effect. 

Next I wondered what to do for flavor. My husband has always loved roast beef, but since he had some bad teeth, then had to have one extracted, and it didn't heal as well as it might have, due to constantly chomping down on things, he has been rather resistant to the idea of a roast. The pieces are larger, and it's too much bother to cut them smaller for eating. So I have made a couple of roasts, but he doesn't come back for leftovers. Not good, because that usually means I need to make something else. And who gets to eat the leftovers? 

I recently had made a new batch of my:

Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce

Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce
Makes 5 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil (or other cooking oil of choice)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeds & membranes removed, finely minced
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons Barbecue Spice Mix (below)
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon celery seed
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
½ cup honey
3 cups ketchup
1 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes

Mince the garlic and the jalapeno together and set aside. Heat a large saucepan. Chop the onion finely. Put the oil into the hot pan and add the onion, along with the salt and sauté at medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the onion is deep golden brown. Add in the reserved garlic and jalapeno and sauté for 5 minutes more. Add in the juices and stir to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the Barbecue Spice Mix, black pepper, ground ginger and celery seed and stir to combine. Add in the mustard and tamarind paste and stir to dissolve the tamarind. Add in the honey and ketchup, with the liquid smoke if using. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, being very careful it does not splatter on you. Cover the pan, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid and add in 2 little cubes of the cold butter at a time, stirring to dissolve before adding more.

Allow the sauce to cool before storing in the refrigerator. If desired, it may be frozen until needed. 

Barbecue Spice Mix

Barbecue Spices
Barbecue Spices

Makes ½ cup

4 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cassia cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground thyme
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon ground dried ginger
¼ teaspoon dried chipotle powder

Directions: Combine all herbs and spices together and store in a glass jar with tight fitting lid.

NOTES: If using as a spice rub for a meat, mix into the entire amount: ¼ cup each of Kosher Salt and light brown sugar. Mix well and rub all over one whole chicken, cut up and allow to rest overnight, refrigerated, before grilling.

I was thinking BBQ, though I had never really done this with beef. I decided to chop a half onion left in the fridge and threw that into the bottom of the crock pot. I set the roast on top of the onions, to allow some juices to get underneath the meat while cooking. I poured on 1 cup of the BBQ Sauce. I happened to have a bottle of Fonseca Bin 27 Port setting on the counter (we hadn't gotten around to finishing the bottle), so I poured in 1/2 cup of the port. I added 3 cloves of garlic, sliced very thinly, 2 little bay leaves and a teaspoon of salt. Put the lid on, turned it to the higher temperature and hoped for the best.

After 6 hours, the meat was tender and there was plenty of sauce in the pot, though it was thinner than my husband likes. It did have a lot of fat floating on top, so I took some paper towels and did a quick slide over the surface to pick up fat. It took quite a few of those half-sheets sized paper towels to get most of the extra fat off there. I took the roast out and mixed up about 3/4 cup of water with a half cup of flour and whisked that into the pot. Still on high, it came back to a simmer quickly, so I covered it and let it go. Meanwhile, I started pulling the meat off the bones and other thick things in there - I tell you, this "chuck" looks nothing like chuck in the grocery. All in all, there wasn't that much meat, considering the size of the original roast. It was still plenty though, so once I had it off bones, and took off any fat, I shredded the meat and added it back to the pot. It tasted really great. I am sure the port was not 100% necessary, but it would add just that little sweetness, so it's up to you.

Crock Pot BBQ Chuck

Crock Pot BBQ Chuck

Serves about 6

1 chuck roast 2½ to 3 pounds
1 cup Sweet Tangy BBQ Sauce, or your favorite brand
½ cup port, or other liquid
1 small onion, diced
2 - 3 gloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt

To Thicken:
½ to ¾ cup water
½ cup flour

Place the onion in the bottom of the crock pot and set the roast on top. Pour the BBQ sauce and port over the roast and add in the garlic, bay leaves and salt. Cover and cook about 6 hours on high if the roast is frozen or mostly frozen, or on low if the meat is thawed. Turn the meat over once during this period so both sides are flavored well. 

Once cooked through, remove the roast from the pot and set on a plate until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, whisk together briskly the water and flour. If it is too lumpy, pour it through a strainer into the crock pot to thicken the sauce, whisking at first to blend well. Cover the pot while working with the meat, allowing the sauce to thicken and the starchy taste to cook out.

Remove any bones or large chunks of fat from the meat. Shred the meat as desired, then add it back to the pot to reheat through. This is good on a bun, or on my Root Vegetable Flatbreads.

I had made another recipe sort of on the fly the night before. It was a Root Vegetable Flatbread of a sort. It turned out almost like one big hash brown with cheese on top. I used grated potato, carrot, parsnip, scallion, sundried tomatoes, egg, flour, baking powder and salt. It was topped with some cheese at the end of baking. The cheese is up to your taste, or what is handy. I used a combination of shredded cheddar and some leftover 3-cheese Italian blend. Shredded Pepperjack would be great, or cheddar and jack cheese. It tasted good, but it was not "wow" good. I made myself some eggs and used the flatbread to stack with the eggs. It was a very good use. I want to play with that recipe a bit more, though there was nothing specifically wrong with it as it stands. When I finished with the Chuck Roast with BBQ I though that might taste good on that flatbread, and it did. It was really tasty!

Root Vegetable Flatbread

Makes about 12 or 16 thin, square or rectangle slices

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, shredded
1 carrot peeled, shredded
1 parsnip, peeled, shredded
4 large scallions, minced
3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
1½ teaspoons salt
pepper, to taste
4 sundried tomato halves, minced
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups grated cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 if on Convection). Place the first 8 ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and olive oil and mix to combine. Stir together the flour with the baking powder, then mix in to combine. Grease or spray a medium baking sheet with sides. Spread the mixture evenly over the surface. Bake the pan in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and strew the cheese over top evenly. Bake for 5 minutes longer, until cheese is melted.

This is what I did with the flatbread the previous night for my dinner.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just a Little Something Sweet

You know how sometimes you just have to have a little something sweet? Like you just can't go on if you don't have something - soon! Well, last evening I got that craving. Having been working frantically to get all the appetizer components made that can be made in advance, the last thing I felt like doing was making a dessert.

Some years ago, when I went on a completely RAW diet, where nothing at all is cooked or baked, I got very familiar with little dessert treats that can be whipped up in no time and really satisfy that craving. Once eating RAW, my cravings were satisfied far more easily. There are some very lovely dessert presentations to be found  on the internet these days for RAW desserts. Ice creams are easily made using nut or seed milks as a base. But what I loved most are these sweet little balls that can be made and kept refrigerated for when that craving hits. One of the first was Brownie Bites. Oh my! Whether on a RAW diet or not, those were just plain good. 

RAW Brownie Bites

RAW Brownie Bites
Makes 25 balls, about 48 calories apiece

1 cup pecans, finely ground
1 cup dates, packed tightly
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons agave nectar
3 packets sweet leaf stevia (or approximate)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, for dredging
2 packets sweet leaf stevia, for dredging

Combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and balled-up. Form into about 25 small balls about 1-inch in diameter, and then roll these into a mixture of the 3 tablespoons cocoa powder mixed with the 2 extra packets of stevia. Keep refrigerated.

Later I discovered how easy it was to make varied dessert balls, or "RAW Cookie Dough" recipes. No eggs are involved in these, so no problem with bacteria. Just use nuts (often cashews or almonds, with their milder flavor as a base) and the addition of other things as desired. Dried fruits are great, either as an addition or as in the case of my own recipe for Fruit and Nut Balls, just a lot of wonderfully sweet dried fruits and nuts mixed together. 

Fruit and Nut Balls
Fruit and Nut Balls

RAW Fruit and Nut Balls

Makes about 30 balls @ 68 calories each

¼ cup dried apricots, finely minced
¼ cup dates, finely minced
¼ cup craisins, finely chopped
¼ cup dried blueberries, finely chopped
½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup almonds, finely chopped
¼ cup agave nectar
1 tsp dried orange peel
¼ cup ground flax seed
2 packets Stevia
¼ cup almond butter

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. With hands, scoop up enough to pack together and roll into approximately 1-inch balls, then roll balls in either ground nuts, or coconut. Store in the refrigerator.

RAW Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Remaining RAW Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Anyway, back to last night. Raw cashews make a wonderful "cookie dough" base. However, I had no more raw cashews, having used up the last of them in a curry recently; drat... So, improvising, I had a craving for oatmeal cookies (I love oatmeal cookie dough - the real cookie dough, meant to be baked) and thought I'd use raw rolled oats. I am not totally sure if oats are heated when they are rolled, but I did not cook them, so I started out with almond meal/flour, added flax, some unsweetened coconut, and the oatmeal and tossed those things into the food processor. I should have stopped to grind the flax seeds first, as not many of them were ground in the processor. I was just in too much of a hurry to make my dessert to stop and take the time ;-)

I used agave syrup as the binder. I wanted chocolate chips and happened to have a partial bag of mini chips, so I mixed some of those in too. Chocolate chips are not RAW, so if you are being very strictly RAW, use Cocoa Nibs instead. Didn't have any of those on hand last night either.  If you do not want to use the oatmeal, or if making these Gluten-Free, add more almond meal, coconut or flax. The amount of agave syrup needed will depend on how much of the other ingredients are used. My "recipe" was written down after the fact, so the amounts are approximate. Watch when adding the syrup to see how the mixture comes together. If it is too dry, add more syrup. If it got too wet, add more of the dry ingredient(s) of preference. For now, this is more or less what I did for my craving last night. I ate about 3 of these little balls before they ever got to be balls, but by that time I was completely satisfied, so the rest are waiting for me in the fridge for whenever that desire strikes.

RAW Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Size of my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Size of my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 24 one-inch balls

⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup flax, ground
½ cup almond meal
½ cup unsweetened coconut
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup agave syrup
more oats, if needed
¼ cup mini chocolate chips or cocoa nibs

Place the first 5 ingredients into a food processor and process until broken. Add the vanilla and with the processor running, add the syrup in a stream until the mixture starts to come together in a ball. Stop the processor as soon as this starts. If more syrup is needed, add more by hand. If the mixture is too wet, add more oatmeal. Fold in the chocolate chips and form into tiny, one-inch balls. If any are left, store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Conundrum with Samosas

Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Butter
Sorry, I couldn't resist the title. Continuing my work on pairing foods with the wines I will serve for the Winefest Renaissance wine tasting event for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club, I decided on Samosas to pair with a Conundrum white wine.  I have made Samosas before, more traditionally. Samosas are a snack type food, usually fried, though mine are baked. The filling I have most often seen for these delicious pockets is potatoes and peas. Last year at this function I noted that the foods that contained no meat had very little interest generated. The ones that caused the most interest were the little Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Butter. The meat was plainly visible!

Chicken & Raisin Samosas
Chicken & Raisin Samosas
This year I am using some sort of meat in all the appetizers I am making, from smoked salmon, to chicken to sirloin and flank steak. It becomes more interesting to pair food with a wine that has more than one grape variety. The Conundrum white blend contains Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli, but not necessarily in that order. In my lists of foods to pair with the various varietals, potatoes and peas are listed in the Chardonnay column, chicken is in the columns for most white wines, and Indian or spicy foods are listed in some websites specifically for Conundrum. Fruity sauces or salsas pair well with Viognier, so I added Sultanas (white raisins) to the mix. I set about creating a samosa mixture that would cover those things and came up with Chicken & Raisin Samosas. I planned to serve them with a little dab of Mango Chutney, but am rethinking that idea. The sweet chutney may throw off the whole mix if the wine will not support that sweetness. 

Rub fat into flour leaving large, flat flakes in the bowl
Meanwhile, I made a dough for the samosas, which requires a good 8 to 10 minutes of kneading time to build the gluten. Though it is not a yeast dough, the gluten gives the dough its stretchiness, making the forming of the little pockets much simpler, with little tearing. I read long ago that the best way to make the dough is to first "rub" the fat into the flour. In this case, using melted ghee, you just lift up two hands full of the flour/ghee and rub the two hands in one long sweeping motion. Continue this process until there are large "flakes" of dough. Then add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and knead until the dough is nice and stretchy. The dough needs to rest for a time, so if you will be busy in the next couple of hours, just cover the dough and place in the fridge until needed. 

Ajwain or Carom
Ajwain or Carom

Samosa Dough

Enough for about 64 small samosas

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white rice flour
1 teaspoon ajwain seeds, crushed, optional (see below)
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons melted ghee or clarified butter
½ cup water

In a large bowl mix together the flours, ajwain (also known as Carom seed, or spelled as Ajowain or Ajwan) seed and salt. Pour in the melted ghee and begin lifting and rubbing the mixture together in long motions between the palms. Continue lifting and rubbing together until the ghee is completely incorporated and there are large, flat "flakes" of dough in the bowl. Add in the water and mix to combine, then turn out onto a counter or board to knead. You will not need more flour on the surface. Knead by pressing, folding, pressing and folding over and over for about 8 or 10 minutes. The dough is very stiff. I do not believe it could be kneaded in a heavy duty mixer, as it would just spin around the dough hook. Once kneaded, set aside to rest for at least an hour. If you cannot work with the dough at that time, cover it and place in the refrigerator until needed.

About Ajwain or Carom Seeds - Trachyspermum ammi

Also known by Ajowain, Ajowan, Ajwan and many other spellings. Ajwain is a tiny seed in the Umbelliferae family (like cumin, celery, anise, etc). The seeds have a flavor similar
to a mix of anise and oregano, but more aromatic and bitter. They smell much like thyme, because they contain thymol. The seeds have a tiny stalk attached, much like anise seeds and look similar and are related to celery seed. Carom is popular in Indian dhals or potatoes and is almost always used cooked in a dish as its flavor can be overwhelming when raw. It is good for digestion and is often used in lentil dishes for its anti flatulent effect.

Chicken & Raisin Samosas
Chicken & Raisin Samosas
When I created the recipe for the filling, I was completely unsure of the quantity I would need. I ended up with enough for double the amount of dough I made, so I had to make another batch of the dough. The filling was a sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe, so feel free to change quantities. If you prefer to make half the filling, just halve the quantities as needed. I added in potatoes, though it was not my original intention, as I was concerned it would not be enough. Leaving out the potatoes would work fine, or if you prefer vegetarian, leave out the chicken and keep the potatoes.

Indian recipes very often have a "whole spice masala" as part of the ingredients. I understand the concept, but it can be very difficult to fish out little whole cloves or cardamom seeds, or worse, chomping down on one when eating. I left the bay leaves whole, but crushed finely the cinnamon (use true cinnamon - not cassia), cloves and cardamom seeds. I will list these ingredients as "whole spice masala", and you can do as you choose.

Chicken and Raisin Samosa Filling

Enough for about 64 small samosas

Toast the whole spices in a dry pan, cool, grind

1 tej patta leaf
2 whole cloves
1-inches true cinnamon quill
2 cardamom pods (or about ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds)
----- 1 pound ground chicken 
1½ teaspoons salt
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoons whole coriander seed, crushed
¼ teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
½ teaspoon Garam Masala powder, right
¼ cup golden raisins (or regular raisins or currants)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely minced, use more or less as desired

½cup peas
¾ pounds potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled

In a large skillet, heat the oil or ghee. Add the whole masala spices (or grind/crush first) and cook until they are fragrant. Add the onion and saute until golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic and toss until fragrant. Add the chicken and salt; cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add the coriander, cumin and Garam Masala with the raisins, cilantro and jalapeno, if using. cook for 5 minutes more. Add in the baked, peeled potatoes and use a spatula to break them into small chunks while combining with the chicken mixture. Mix in the peas. Cool the mixture completely before using to fill the samosas.
The dough ball; 1 little piece rolled, then cut in 2
The dough ball; 1 little piece rolled, then cut in 2

To make the samosas, once the dough has rested and the chicken mixture has cooled, cut the dough into half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter in two, and then further divide each eighth into 4 more pieces, making 32 little bits of dough. Roll one of these little bits into a ball, then roll out on a surface (no flour needed) to about a 6 inch circle. Do not worry if the circle is not completely round - it makes no difference. With a large knife, cut the circle into 2. This will be repeated with each little piece of dough.

Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Lift one half of the dough circle and moisten half of the straight edge with water (Step 1). Bring the rest of that straight edge up to form a little cone shape (Step 2). Press the pointed end closed, then firmly press the edges of the cone so they stay together. Hold the little cone in your hand and place about a rounded tablespoon or so of the cooled filling mixture into the cone (Step 3). Moisten half the cone edge with water (Step 4), then begin pressing the two sides together firmly to seal completely (Step 5). I took this one step further, just to make them cute for the presentation, and pinched that top edge together into little pleats, but this is not necessary. 

The samosas can be frozen as soon as they are done, if needed for a future date. Set them onto baking sheets and in the freezer until hard, then place them in freezer zip top bags. Keep frozen for up to 2 months. When needed, set the frozen samosas onto baking sheets, brush with oil or ghee and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until the outsides are golden. (The insides are already cooked, and only need to be heated through). If desired, the samosas can be deep fried until golden. Another option is to bake them and then briefly turn them in a lesser amount of hot fat to give them the crisp, fried look and taste. Serve them with chutney of choice.

These are great to make ahead for a party. They can be baked when needed and served at room temperature.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, March 21, 2014

An Appetizer to Pair with Prosecco

That little dark green spot - Prosecco area
That little dark green spot - Prosecco area
One of the wines I chose to use in the upcoming Winefest Renaissance wine tasting event (for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen) is Mionetto Il Prosecco. I had the very great pleasure some years back to actually meet Mr. and Mrs. Sergio Mionetto at a Mionetto luncheon wine tasting. Three Mionetto Proseccos and a Moscato were served with small portions of foods created to set off the flavors of each wine. It was an amazing experience, though I am not truly fond of any sparkling wine. "What!?" you might say? "You don't like sparkling wines?" Nope. It's the fizz I object to, which is the whole point of a sparkling wine, I realize. I cannot deal with the fizz in any beverage, so I completely left off drinking any soft drinks a very long, long time ago. 

Still. I know that sparkling wines are high on most peoples' lists, and so I am pleased to serve a Prosecco in my part of the wine and food pairing. Prosecco is a grape grown in  the hills north of Venice and Treviso, where the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene mark the limits of the Prosecco area. The "Il Prosecco" line covers the lower end wines of Mionetto, though they are still a pleasure with their fresh, crisp, fruity flavors, and easy to open little bottle caps. At the Mionetto Prosecco tasting luncheon, each Prosecco was served with seafood; shellfish in particular. I love seafood, and shellfish in particular, though I have a slight allergy. If I am willing to swell up for a few days, I can eat it. My husband, however, dislikes any seafood, and shellfish in particular. If a very white fish has enough breading and is smothered with enough tartar sauce and ketchup, he will usually tolerate it. Shellfish however, he will not even try. Needless to say, we left that luncheon and he got a burger. I ate everything on my plates and some of his! 
Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse
Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse

Anyway, back to the wine event. I am planning to pair the Il Prosecco with Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse. I have not tasted them paired with the wine myself, but I must say, the little appetizers are amazingly good. The crispness and fruitiness of the wine should pair well the Green Pea Pancakes, as well as the Mousse. I had originally planned to make little cheese wafers to hold the mousse, but then saw a recipe in the latest Food and Wine Magazine for Green Pea Pancakes (page 52) and got an idea. The recipe in the magazine is a thinner batter, meant to be made as small pancakes in a pan. I wanted the pancakes to be a little thicker, easier to pick up, and more uniform. 

Green Pea Pancakes
Green Pea Pancakes
I racked my brain overnight and came up with the idea to make them in the bottom of muffin tins! I added to the batter such things as capers and fresh dill and more flour than called for and spooned the batter into buttered muffin cups. They came out so pretty. Perfectly round and a bright, beautiful green. The lovely soft pink of the Smoked Salmon Mousse makes a great combination of colors that are very eye-catching. They are very easy to make too, which is always a plus. The pancakes can be made in advance and frozen, which is what I am doing. I made a first batch and we ate over half of them in taste testing! I made a second batch yesterday and those are all neatly frozen. They will remain frozen until the day of the event, and then brought to room temperature.

The Smoked Salmon Mousse is a simple enough recipe. It should not be made more than a couple of days in advance as the fishiness factor rises with time. Here are my recipes:

Green Pea Pancakes

Makes 24 to 34, depending on the measure
Green Pea Pancakes
Showing the size

1½ cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons capers
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup loosely packed fresh dill
½ cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Butter the lower half of the muffin tin cups, or use a cooking spray. Set aside. 

Set the frozen peas in a colander and run hot water over for a few seconds to soften. Place the drained peas in a food processor. Add the salt, capers, egg and yolk, lemon zest, dill and cream and process until fine. Add the flour and pulse to combine. I find it easier to pour the batter out into a measuring cup before dropping by tablespoon into the muffin cups. Use a tablespoon measure or a small cookie scoop measuring approximately 1 tablespoon. Depending on your measuring, you may get up to 35 pancakes, or as little as 24. 

Bake the pancakes for about 8 minutes, or until set and dry, but not browned. Allow the pancakes to cool for about a minute before gently running a small spatula or table knife around the edges to loosen. Turn out onto waxed paper, top sides down, to allow them to cool and dry enough not to stick to each other. 

Make Ahead: Set them in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet and freeze solid before stacking them in a well sealed container or freezer zip-top baggies for up to a month. 

Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse
Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Ateco extra-large open star tip #829
Makes enough to top about 24 Green Pea Pancakes

1 (4.5 ounce) chunk smoked salmon
8 ounces cream cheese
4 scallions
2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Remove any skin from the salmon, break the fish into chunks and place in a food processor with the cream cheese, scallion (white and light green parts, roughly chopped; reserve the dark green tops to garnish), lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the juice. Process until very fine. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed. Use a small spoon to place portions of the mouse onto the little green pea pancakes, or if you are adept with an icing bag and tip, use those for a lovely presentation. Garnish the appetizers with thinly sliced dark green scallion tops.

I find that using a piping bag with a large open star tip makes for a beautiful presentation. I love Ateco extra-large open star tip # 829 for this purpose, as well as many other beautiful applications like one giant shell shape of icing atop a cake slice. If you do not have a large icing tip, or know how to use an icing bag, just use a spoon to place a small amount of the mousse on the little green pea pancakes.  

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sometimes it Works, Sometimes it Doesn't

I have been busy experimenting with recipes for the upcoming April 12th Wine Tasting Event for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen. I have 6 wines I will be pairing with appetizers created especially for that particular wine. Learning to rate a wine will be a part of this process of finding out what one likes about a wine, or dislikes. Finding if the wine is great all on its own, or better/worse with a food. 

I go about the pairing of food to a wine by using a list of appropriate foods that are best with a particular varietal or style of wine and selecting items that would pair well to create an appetizer. I wrote a few days back about the empanadas I created. Aside from the mess I made of the edges before getting the crimping and folding right, the flavors were excellent. While I have not tasted the wine that these will pair with, I have tasted this brand of wine in the past and I believe the flavors will be excellent. 

Normally, I create a recipe and the execution is relatively flawless. Last evening I was making an idea of an appetizer to pair with some very high end Italian wines, and the flavors were just perfect. The way it was put together, however, was most definitely not. The Porcini & Coffee Rub made the flank steak just scrumptious. The Garlic Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes were delicious. But... I used Yukon Gold potatoes and they just came out too soft to work with. I am going to experiment tonight with Russets and see if they work better. Nothing wrong with the flavors though! If you are having a nice strong red wine, such as a Cabernet or a strong Italian wine, these potatoes are the ticket!

Roasted Garlic & Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Serves 3 - 4, for a meal

3 - 6 cloves roasted garlic
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced, cooked in salted water
4 ounces Gorgonzola or Blue Crumbles (1 cup)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the potatoes through a ricer or whip with a mixer, adding the rest of the ingredients to blend well.

Beautiful presentation, but impractical
Beautiful presentation, but impractical
My original idea was to see if I could roll the slices of flank steak into a cone shape, pinning the edges with a cocktail toothpick, and then piping the mashed potatoes into the cone. That idea was a complete, total no-go. There was no way to secure the cone so it wouldn't fall open. Instead, I tried rolling the meat slice into a tube and piping the mashed potatoes into the tube, but the mashed potatoes, while delicious, were far too soft. Strike two. I had some fancy cocktail bread in the freezer so I got that out and sliced it very thinly. The bread was about 3-inches in diameter. I brushed the bread with olive oil and toasted both sides under the broiler for a minute to crisp. I cut a piece of the thinly sliced flank steak about 3 x 3-inches, set it on the bread, then topped with a piped rosette of mashed potatoes. This was a beautiful presentation, so I went with that. I invited my sister-in-law, Sherri over and along with my husband, we all ate these appetizers for dinner, discussing flavors, presentation and practicality. 

We all agreed the flavors were perfect. The presentation was lovely. However, the actual eating was a really big problem. Flank steak is a nice cut of meat, if you slice against the grain. Once a piece is as large as the 3 x 3-inch square I set on the toasted bread, there is far too much of the long grain of the meat. It was hard to take a bite. The whole piece of meat wanted to drag along, and with the mashed potatoes so very soft, they tended to want to slide off and make a mess. Not good when one is walking around with a glass of wine in one hand at a party or event.

So, we spent quite a while discussing how to remedy this problem. For one, the slice of
New idea: Flank roll atop potatoes
New idea: Flank roll atop potatoes
toast was too big. Setting any meat on a toast that size means 2 to 4 bites - large for my purpose. I will make small diameter baguettes to fit my need. (In fact I made a starter batter already to that end.) I will make the baguettes, hopefully, about 1½-inch in diameter, making a tiny bite when sliced. Instead of a flat slice of flank steak, I am planning to use sirloin, cut into cubes. I will pipe the rosette of potatoes onto the bread, and set the cube of meat on top of the potatoes. Hopefully this will make small enough bites to make them easier to eat. 

If you can find dried porcini mushrooms, I would truly recommend making the Porcini & Coffee Rub for Beef (Flank Steak, thick sliced Strip Steak, to coat a Rib Eye Roast, etc). The flavors were stupendous, though I could not truly taste the coffee. I may try this using espresso powder when making again.

Porcini & Coffee Rub for Beef 

Makes enough for 2 flank steaks

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 - 2 Starbuck's "VIA" instant coffee, French Roast or Bold
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 tablespoon alder-smoked sea salt, or other salt of choice
1 tablespoon black peppercorns 
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (more if desired)

Grind the mushrooms in a coffee grinder used only for spices. Remove to a clean jar. Place the alder smoked salt (usually in larger crystals), the peppercorns and the onion flakes in the spice grinder until fine. Add these to the porcini powder along with the coffee powder, sugar, garlic powder and ancho powder. Cover the jar and shake to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle onto each side of the steak and press in well. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight before proceeding with your recipe.

For flank steak, I set a rack under the broiler so the meat will be about 4-inches from the element and broil for 6 minutes per side. Tent with foil for 15 minutes before slicing thinly, at a strong diagonal, across the grain of the meat.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake for St. Paddy's

I have been saving up egg whites, having used the yolks for one thing or another, for the past couple of weeks. Often, I make little meringue cookies, which are wonderful, but I had so many whites I thought maybe an angel food cake would be a nice change. 
Gluten Free Angel Food Cake with Pistachio Green Tea Swirl
Gluten Free Angel Food Cake with Pistachio Green Tea Swirl

Steps 1 & 2: Beat yolks till thick - add water & sugar
Recipes for angel food cakes are very similar. I guess there are only so many possible things to do with the ingredients. Sugar varies little, whites are almost a resounding 12 whites or 1½ cups. Flour might be all-purpose or cake flour or a combo. But one thing I had never done is make a gluten free angel food cake. I didn't know if it was possible or not. I am not gluten intolerant, so it isn't something I check into unless I want to see if something works. I read a few recipes for a GF angel food, and again, the ingredients were all remarkably similar. One thing I saw was the King Arthur Flour site, which had a little variation: to use 5 yolks and make a bit of a different color to swirl into the angel food batter. Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I thought to try something in the green line. I  had some ground pistachios in a jar, and I have a new packet of Matcha Green Tea. I proceeded much as the KAF recipe stated, though I used less sugar, in all, and added some pistachio flavoring to the green part of the batter. 
Steps 3 & 4: folding in the tea & pistachios

Starting with the yolks first, beating them till thick, I then added hot water and the sugar to the mixer and beat till thick and relatively fluffy. When folding in the nuts and green tea powder, I added 3 drops of pistachio flavoring. I wanted a flavor, but not so overwhelming.

Steps 5 & 6: Beat whites, add sugar
Once that was done, I set that aside and washed the whisk attachment thoroughly, then started with the egg whites, beating with cream of tartar and salt till fluffy. The sugar was added bit by bit and then the vanilla. The dry mixture (¼ cup each of white rice flour, cornstarch, potato starch and tapioca starch) was folded in gently. I added half the egg white mixture to the yolk mixture to make a nice batter. The one and only thing I would do differently is sort of checkerboard the two mixtures in the pan. This would allow for a better swirl throughout. As it was, I layered white in the bottom, then a layer of the green, then the white. I swirled through with a spatula, but the main bulk of the green mixture was in the middle. It is lovely, but not as swirled as I would have preferred.

I do not believe anyone would know this cake was gluten free. It tastes like angel food, is light like angel food, and delicate like angel food. What more can one ask? I am more than pleased with the result. If you do not have GF flours on hand, use cake flour. The result should be extremely similar.

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake with Pistachio Green Tea Swirl

Makes one 10-inch tube/angel food pan

Steps 7 & 8: Folding white into yolks
1½ cups sugar, divided
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup white rice flour
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca starch
1½ cups egg whites, room temperature (about 12)
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons boiling water
3 - 4 drops pistachio flavoring or almond extract
2 tablespoons Matcha Green Tea powder
⅓ cup finely ground pistachios 

Steps 9 & 10: Batter in pan, then baked
First, place all the sugar into a food processor and whirl until the sugar is very fine, about 5 minutes. Divide the sugar into three separate parts: ¼ cup for the yolks, ¾ cup to combine with the flours, and ½ cup to mix with the egg whites. Set these three portions aside.

Sift together the cornstarch, white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and the ¾ cup of the fine sugar. Repeat the sifting at least 5 times to thoroughly combine and lighten the mixture. Set aside.

Sift together the ground pistachios and the green tea powder and set aside.

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake with Pistachio Green Tea Swirl
Gluten Free Angel Food Cake with Pistachio Green Tea Swirl
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if Convection). Place the 5 yolks into a mixer bowl and whip until they become thick and light lemon colored. Add in the ¼ cup of sugar gradually, beating until incorporated, then drizzle in the boiling water and the flavoring of choice; beat until the volume of the yolks increases (Steps 1 & 2). Remove bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the reserved pistachio and green tea mixture (Steps 3 & 4). Set this aside.

In a clean mixer bowl, with a scrupulously cleaned whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until light and frothy. Begin adding the ½ cup of reserved sugar, about 1 - 2 tablespoons at a time, allowing the beating to combine well before adding more. When the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla (Steps 5 & 6).  Remove bowl from mixer and begin sifting the flour mixture, in 4 separate additions, to the egg whites, very gently folding in to avoid deflating the whites. Once the mixture is totally incorporated, scoop about half the whites into the yolk mixture and fold that together (Steps 7 & 8).

Using an ungreased 10-inch angel food pan with removable bottom, begin adding spoons full of batter to the pan, alternating between the green mixture and the white mixture. Gently rap the pan on a countertop to remove any large air bubbles. Using a spatula or long knife, swirl the implement through the batter to gently mix the two colors (Step 9). Bake the cake for about 40 to 45 minutes, trying not to open the oven door at all before at least 35 minutes have gone by. Once cake tests done, remove from oven and invert pan for at least 1 hour, until barely warm. If your pan does not have the little tabs to keep it high enough so the cake is not being smashed, set the center ring over the neck of a bottle to cool.

Once cooled, run a knife around the outer edge of the pan, and around the center tube. Lift the center of the pan out of the sides and run the knife under the bottom of the cake. Invert the cake onto a cake plate and dust with confectioners' sugar (Step 10). To cut the cake use a serrated knife with a very gently back and forth sawing motion, with no downward pressure.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest