Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Has Sprung: Risotto with Mint, Peas, and Chevre

After a literal and metaphorical winter, it's good to feel the earth stirring again. The trees are timidly revealing new leaves, and our oaks have begun their annual blizzard of yellow pollen. We've been sleeping with the windows open, roused each morning by the clamor of songbirds. Back home, the tulip fields are in full regalia, though it's too warm for bulbs here.

I can't help but feel a sort of awakening, too--call it hope, or cautious enthusiasm, or a renewing of the will. Whatever its name, it's welcome to stay as long as it likes. I'm done hibernating.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Amaranth Porridge

Thinking through what I want to post here for breakfast, I've come to realize that breakfast is a meal of approximations. Maybe that's intentional--when you're half-awake, who wants to fuss with exacting measurements and complicated recipes? The best breakfast foods come together with minimal fuss and in no more than half an hour. After all, we've got things to do.

During the winter months, we get excited about hot cereal, or porridges. Most whole grains make a nice porridge, and you can throw together some unique and nourishing blends by whizzing grains in your coffee grinder for a minute. We've done a nice interpretation of the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free hot cereal with a blend of polenta, ground rice, quinoa, and millet. Unusual grains like buckwheat and teff are also fun additions if you have them available.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

{Gluten-Free} Corn Muffins with Blackberries & Orange Zest

I don't know what sort of assumptions you harbor about food bloggers. Hopefully good ones. Curiously finding myself in the "food blogger" category, I was thinking about assumptions today.

According to my own standards, I should probably be...

- Shopping at specialty grocers for uniquely delicious fair-trade happy items
- Always eating something delectable, in-season, and beautifully plated
- Using a carefully selected collection of linens, bowls, and knickknacks for staging
- A CSS wizard, and
- The owner of a huge cookbook library

Realizing that I do none of these things is a little sad. (Cue impostor syndrome...)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Weekend-Style: Fried Polenta and Poached Eggs

Rise and shine? Yeah, right.

Around here, "creep and grumble" is more realistic.

Anyone who greets the morning with open arms, brimming with energy and cheerfully anticipating another beautiful day is a little crazy, in my book. Sleep is the best, and anything that forces you out of it is the worst. Thus, chirpiness before 10am will only get you skeptical, groggy stares and inarticulate mumbling in this house.

Caffeine, please. We are not real yet.  

And please, do not tell me that if I only ate better or exercised more or got into yoga...that I'd somehow see the light and start running 10ks before sunrise and eating hearty, protein-intensive breakfasts. Ain't gonna happen. Two in the morning is always going to feel like a more appropriate time to go jogging or eat eggs.

What I'm getting at is that breakfast and I don't really jive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Perfect Brownies

Every so often it occurs to me that cooking isn't exactly intuitive to a lot of people. Especially baking. There are moments where I need to step back and imagine that "other" for whom sugar and eggs and leavenings aren't second nature.

Take brownies, for example. I have been making brownies from scratch (is there any other way?) since the second grade. Our recipe of choice came from the Klutz Kids Cooking book ("A Very Slightly Messy Manual"). They were cakey and dusted with powdered sugar, and my sister and I got to lick the bowl while they baked. Heaven.

Over time, these brownies became my calling card, and I started selling them at bake sales, lemonade stands, yard sales, swim meets, you name it.  My first economics lesson was in brownies: A double recipe cost us $13 to make; we could then cut the resulting 10" x 15" pan into 35 brownies and sell them for $0.50 apiece. It was made clear to me early on that no one gets rich through baking.

So forgive me for not posting my brownie recipe sooner. I've been running on the assumption that everyone already has a flour-dusted, chocolate-smeared recipe on hand, but that may not be the case.

Now admittedly, I had to switch brownie recipes when I went gluten-free. My original recipe used cocoa instead of melted chocolate, which didn't pair well with the dryness we gluten-free bakers are always trying to overcome. The old recipe also made a 9" x 13" pan, which is not ideal if you'll probably eat the whole pan yourself. (Let the record state that it usually takes me three or four days.)

Fortunately, finding a new recipe wasn't too hard, even in the very early days of my gluten-free endeavors. Gluten-free brownies rely on an equilibrium of eggs, sugar, and fat for their structure, with only a tiny bit of flour, and therefore don't need gums to bind. I knew that buckwheat flour was divine paired with chocolate, especially a fruity, high-quality 70% dark chocolate, and opted for that over rice flour.

Within two attempts, I'd cracked the code. These are a bit fudgier than the brownies of my youth, but I prefer smaller, richer brownies these days anyways. The internet is full of similar recipes, but I keep coming back to this one. If you haven't found "your" brownie recipe yet, this is it.

Perfect Brownies


Usually I'm all for substituting to your heart's content, but seriously, don't mess with this recipe. I've saved you the trouble; it doesn't work. You have to use real eggs, real butter, good chocolate, and white sugar.

Egg replacer will yield a gluey mess that never sets. Coconut oil makes them greasy and flavorless. I've never even bothered trying to use stevia or date paste in place of sugar--these are brownies, after all, not health food. 

4 oz. (1/2 c.) butter
4 oz. 70% dark chocolate
6 oz. (3/4 c.) sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1.5 oz. (1/3 c.) tapioca starch
2 oz. (1/3 c.) buckwheat flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8" x 8" tin with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Melt butter and chocolate over low heat on the stove, or in the microwave on 50% power, stirring frequently. (I prefer the latter option.) Once it's melted, set aside for a minute while you put the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.

3. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top with a spatula, and bake 25 minutes until they feel firm in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack before cutting.

Yield: 16 brownies.