Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Simplest Beef Paprikash



The last gasp of winter means the last gasp of winter comfort food! I can't claim any Hungarian heritage, and I haven't yet visited the country. But when I was a kid, my mother made Hungarian Goulash fairly often, out of a midcentury edition of The Joy of Cooking.  It was a simple recipe, eaten with hot buttered noodles or sticky white rice. It was one of my favorite childhood dinners, and very easy to make. My version is kid-friendly, allergen-free, and highly adaptable to your individual tastes.

For 4-6 servings, you will need:

1 3/4 - 2 lbs stew beef (chuck roast is a good choice) cut into 1" cubes
2 tablespoons oil (olive and veggie are fine. I used bacon fat for extra oomph)
5 cups sliced yellow onions, cut 1/3 inch thick (About 1 1/2 lbs whole, unpeeled onions)
3 tablespoons sweet paprika (If you want heat, you can replace some of the sweet paprika for hot paprika, to your taste.)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme (Or oregano or marjoram. Or caraway seeds, as some traditional recipes call for. It's up to you!)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Pepper, to taste
Parsley and Sour Cream/Plain Yogurt, optional, as garnish

Directions:

In a heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, fry beef over high heat in 1 tablespoon of oil until well browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the second tablespoon of oil, the paprika, the onions, the herbs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes. Then, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. (The onions will become soft and translucent, and their moisture will have softened the fond of caramelized meat, oil, and paprika at the bottom of the pot.)

Add 2 cups water and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, checking every 1/2 hour or so to scrape the bottom of the pot and make sure enough liquid remains, as it will evaporate and thicken. Add water as needed, a 1/2 cup at a time. There should be enough liquid to cover the meat about halfway, and it should be the viscosity of heavy cream. (You could also place the pot, covered, in a 275 degree oven for 2-3 hours.)

The stew is cooked when the meat is fork tender. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Serve with buttered noodles, boiled potatoes, or rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, if you wish.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Whole Grain Country Bread: Version 1


Every time I post a g-free bread recipe,  I wax poetic about good wheat bread and how much I miss it.  My absolute favorite breads are Russian and Polish country ryes, some lighter ("Grandma's Bread") some darker ("Farmer's Bread") and made with a mix of whole wheat and rye flours, sourdough starter, salt, and water. They're more dense than a Western European bread, but with a moist, tender texture that makes them light enough for a sandwich and perfect for morning toast. But my favorite thing about them is how they taste: They are sour and earthy, not simply flavorless, cardboard vehicles for meats and cheeses, but really unique flavors all their own. 

All this is well and good, and strictly off limits for me, and presumably you, too, if you're reading this blog. Most passable commercial g-free breads that I've found are more in the vein of a white sandwich bread.  Udi's has done a great job with texture, and the flavor is light and kid-friendly. But what if we want a more grown-up tasting bread?

This is my first pass at a g-free, dairy-free, whole grain yeast bread that's packed with protein and nutrition and full of flavor. It's moist, and it holds together better than most g-free breads. The crust is thick, crunchy, and delicious. It's also quite easy to make. (I used King Arthur's Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Bread recipe as a proportional jumping off point, but as you'll see, I made so many changes that my version is quite different.)  I'm really happy with this bread, and I'll share variations in future posts. I also welcome your feedback and would LOVE to hear about your adventures in g-free bread making in the comments!

Note: I strongly recommend using a digital scale for bread making. It's more accurate and less messy than measuring cups.  I use grams rather than ounces because the measurements are smaller, so more accurate and easier to calculate. (Also a habit from reading French cookbooks!) Most digital scales will switch back and forth between grams and ounces. 

Another note: Yes, there are a lot of eggs in this recipe. Eggs = structure, rise, tenderness, flavor, and nutrition. I'll post an egg-free version later for those egg-free folks out there. 

Last note: You'll notice that, unlike wheat bread recipes, there's only one rise here. With wheat bread,   the gases produced by the yeast strain against the elastic bands of gluten, which produces the fabulous, complex texture we love about wheat bread. Here, we're relying on eggs and starches and xantham gum for structure, but they're not nearly as strong as stretchy as gluten, and so we don't need a second rise to develop texture. We want to get as much lift as we can out of the first rise, and get than sucker in the oven!

For one loaf, you will need: 

2 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend (332g)
1/2 cup millet flour (64g)
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (32g)
1/4 cup teff flour (42g)
1/4 cup raw milled flax seed (21g) You can buy it already ground, but it's cheaper and fresher to buy the seeds whole and grind them yourself in a good blender or spice/coffee grinder. 
2 teaspoons instant yeast (One 1/4 ounce envelope of "Rapid Rise" Yeast.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons xantham gum
1 cup water
3 large egg whites
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil with excellent results.)
2 tablespoons honey (Tip: Measure the honey after the vegetable oil, using the same spoon. The honey will slip out with no mess or sticky fingers.)

Directions: 

Whisk all the dry ingredients in large bowl until well-integrated. Beat all the wet ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix with a hand or stand mixer for about 3 minutes on high. (Start on low power to incorporate, then increase speed.) 

Scrape the dough (yes, it's quite wet, more like a quick bread batter than a wheat bread dough) into a well-greased 5x9 inch glass loaf pan. (Glass is an even, gentle heat conductor, and you won't risk hot spots and burning like you might with a metal pan.)  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit in warm place for approximately 1 hour, until the dough rises about an inch above the top of the pan. It may start to spill over; if so, just gently scoop the dough back into the center of the pan. 

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until the crust is crispy and brown, the internal temperature reaches about 202 degrees, and a knife put through the center of the loaf comes out almost clean, just barely sticky. (If you want to mix the dough ahead and bake a few hours later, you need to slow down the rise. Put the covered loaf pan in the fridge until a couple of hours before you're ready to bake it. Then, let it sit in a warm place on the counter to finish its rise. 

Once the bread is baked, immediately turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool for a good 30 minutes before cutting. (It will continue to set up as a cools - it you cut into it while it's steamy and warm, you'll be greeted with a gummy loaf.)

Once it's cool, cut it into 1/2 inch slices and and store it, well-wrapped, in the freezer until you're ready to eat it. I recommend microwaving it for 15-20 seconds a slice for warm, soft, just-baked-tasting bread. If you like it toasted, microwave first for best results.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brazilian Cheese Buns - Pao de Queijo


Standing in line at the grocery store right before Thanksgiving, what do you see on the covers of all the food magazines? Turkey. What's gluten-free? Turkey!

Thanksgiving can be pretty easy on a gluten-free diet, since most of the classic dishes are naturally g-free or can be made so with a small adjustment or two. Green beans? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Mashed potatoes? Check. Sweet potatoes with pecans and maple syrup? Yum, check. Gravy? Substitute a gluten-free blend for the regular flour. Pie? Try my Almond Crust.

Even the stuffing/dressing is possible. Instead of regular bread or croutons, just get a loaf of good gluten-free white bread (for this, I like Whole Foods' Gluten Free Bakehouse Light White Sandwich Bread from their freezer case. It's dairy-free. Their Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread has milk.) Cut the bread slices into small cubes, spread them out on a cookie sheet, give them an hour in the oven at 275 degrees until they're hard and dry. Then do your usual recipe. Mine is celery, onion, sage, thyme, and rosemary, lots of salt and pepper, broth, olive oil or butter. Use that as your base, then add dried fruit, sausage, etc. etc. at will. Bake it in a greased dish for an hour or so until it's crispy and brown on top. Or stuff some crimini mushroom caps, drizzle with olive oil, and bake those for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. A really great side.

So, all that to get to the part of a wheaty Thanksgiving that I do miss: ROLLS! I love soft, fluffy white rolls with my turkey dinner. I love them the next day with leftovers. I can't eat them anymore, and frankly, I hadn't found a gluten-free version that I loved.  And then I remembered Brazil's cheesy, moist, delicious pão de queijo cheese rolls. They're made with tapioca starch, which lends them a sticky, toothsome texture. They're savory and salty and decadent, worthy of a holiday table. 

I make mine in mini muffin tins with a loose batter, which lends a super moist and pretty result. (Traditionally, the batter is drier and formed into balls.) The texture and shape is very similar to popovers, and who doesn't love a cheese popover? Plan on at least 3 per person, more for kids and bread fiends like me. They will disappear. (And, yes, you can make them dairy-free with Daiya!)


For about 20 mini muffins, you will need:

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup milk, either dairy or a non-dairy alternative. For non-dairy cooking, I almost exclusively use So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage  for its neutral flavor, good texture, and lack of sweetness. 
1 cup lightly packed, finely grated, flavorful, good quality hard cheese. I use Percorino Romano. Parmesan or the like is also great. You'll want cheese that is grated in a food processor rather than on a box grater, because it will integrate better into the batter. OR, if you're doing dairy-free, you can use Daiya Shreds. I suggest putting the batter in a blender to integrate the Daiya. 
Black pepper, to taste, optional
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch/flour

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a non-stick mini muffin pan with a touch of olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together everything but the tapioca starch. (If you're using dairy-free cheese, now's the time to blend the batter.) Now whisk in the tapioca until it's completely integrated into the liquid with no lumps. Pour the batter into the mini muffin pan. One full tablespoon should fill each cup almost to the top. You should get 20-21 muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. They should be pale blond on top, light golden brown on the bottom.

Flip them out of the pans right away to cool - they should fall right out. They are infinitely better if served IMMEDIATELY!

(However, you can make them a day ahead, store them in an airtight container, and reheat them on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for a few minutes right before serving. Please, don't serve them cold, and don't microwave them! They just won't be as delectable.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Italian White Bean and Tuna Salad


For some reason, there's nothing I love more than putting together a nice lunch or supper from my pantry. Maybe it's a strong foraging instinct, rooting around for what's available nearby, and creating something delicious within those limitations. 

This is a classic Italian dish that's super quick, easy, and tasty. Because it's so simple, the individual flavors really shine, so the quality of the ingredients is really important. I recommend a good quality olive oil, one that is sweet and a little peppery. If you're using tuna, an Italian or Spanish olive oil packed tuna is preferable to an American brand. (The difference in flavor and texture is pretty stark.)  If you can't get your hands on Italian tuna, try wild salmon broiled with olive oil and lots of salt. Equally tender and flakey, and great if you're avoiding tuna (mercury) or trying to eat more salmon (omega fatty acids).

Ideally I prefer cooked dried white beans (cannellini, navy) to canned: I have much more control over the texture, and I like my beans to be a little bit on the firmer side. However, dried beans need an overnight soak and planning, and I think canned are a great convenience. Since all brands have a slightly difference texture, just choose one that has a texture that you like and keep it on hand.

Proportions are really your preference, and since this recipe is about using what you have on hand, I'll just list the ingredients.

You will need:

Canned or Jarred Tuna Fish, Italian or Spanish, packed in olive oil (or fresh wild salmon, broiled with salt and olive oil)
Canned White Beans (cannellini, navy)
Red Onion, finely chopped
Greens of Your Choice: Parsley, arugula, shredded radicchio or endive, chopped romaine, fresh, spinach, etc. etc. Use individually or mix to your preferences.
Herbs: Chopped fresh thyme is good here. So are dill and torn basil leaves. Use what you like and what you have in the fridge.
Acid: Lemon juice, red wine or white wine or rice vinegar
Really Good Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Gently flake the fish, making sure not the mash it. (You want tender bite-sized pieces of recognizable fish throughout your salad.) Toss with the beans and red onion and greens and herbs. Dress with the acid, the oil, and lots of salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi


This recipe is inspired by Alanna Taylor-Tobin's gorgeous blog The Bojon Gourmet. Her recipes are health conscious and modern and her photos are stunning. It was her recipe for Gluten-Free Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi that caught my eye. I realized I really needed a recipe for a basic gluten-free, dairy-free potato gnocchi! Gnocchi are surprisingly easy to make. Usually they contain just potatoes, wheat flour, eggs, and salt. For my gluten-free version, I tried nutrient dense flours like millet, but the texture was a bit gritty and the strong grain flavors competed with the lovely, light flavor of potato that makes gnocchi so comforting and such a great vehicle for sauces.

So,  I kept things simple and used sticky glutinous rice flour and egg to hold everything together. The result is light, tender, and versatile, and would fool a gluten-loving dinner guest. You can serve them boiled with a sauce (basil pesto and Bolognese are yummy) or pan-fried with sauteed mushrooms and grated cheese. The fried version would also be great as a potato side for a really good steak. 


As a main course for 2 or appetizer or side for 4, you will need:

2 large russet potatoes, skipricked with a fork and microwaved until cooked through. (The microwave is my g-free secret to getting the excess water out of the potatoes and creating an ideal texture that is light but sticky. I also microwave the potatoes in my latke recipeAnd it's much faster than the oven. Start with 6 minutes on high for 1 potato, 8 minutes for two. If a knife goes through the potato easily, it's cooked.) Allow to cool completely. 
1/4 cup glutinous rice flour, also called "sweet" rice flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown rice flour or millet flour for dusting

Peel the cooled potatoes and pass them through a sieve or potato ricer. From two large potatoes, you should get just under 3 cups of light, fluffy riced potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the egg, salt, and rice flour. Mix with your hands until you have a smooth dough. Do not over mix, or the starches will become too gluey and dense. 

Generously dust a clean counter or cutting board with a slightly courser g-free flour such as Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. (To absorb excess liquid and prevent sticking.) Take small handfuls of dough and roll into logs that are about 3/4" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 1/2" long. Using a fork dipped in rice flour, lightly squish each gnocchi until you see the pattern of the fork tines. Then rotate 90 degrees and squish agaiuntil each gnocchi forma a 1" rectangle. These fork marks allow a sauce to cling to the gnocchi, and they make them more attractive, too. 

You can cook them immediately, but I recommend leaving them on the counter for a couple of hours to air dry. They'll hold up better during cooking this way. Sadly, they don't freeze well, so you'll want to cook and eat them the day you make them. 

You can cook them several different ways:

Boiled: Drop into a large pot of salted, boiling water. When they float (after about 1 minute), give them 30 more seconds. Do not overcook, or they will disintegrate. Drain, sauce, and serve immediately.

Boiled and Fried: Drop into a large pot of salted, boiling water. When they float (after about 1 minute), drain them, then pan fry them in butter or olive oil until lightly golden on one or more sides.

Steam Fried: Place a few tablespoons of water and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a large nonstick skillet with a lid. Bring to a simmer, add the gnocchi in a single a layer, and cover. After a couple of minutes, when all the water has evaporated, remove the lid and fry the gnocchi until golden on all sides. These will be very crispy and a little firmer than the boiled version. They would be great with meats.