Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crumble

by Jack 9. April 2013 10:03

Rhubarb crumble is one of the very first desserts of spring using fresh ingredients. It is so delicious that I think everyone should eat this dessert at the beginning of April. Unfortunately for many, making a crumble is off limits. Gluten is often included in recipes to create the tasty browned flakes. Additionally, butter and eggs are also frequently used to bind everything together and help the browning and crisping of the crumble. But is it really necessary to include gluten and use eggs or dairy products in this recipe?

I set out to create a crumble which has no gluten and is otherwise completely free of eggs and dairy products. The end result is quite satisfying…and I don’t think I will ever attempt to make another crumble with dairy or gluten.

As a variation, add sliced strawberries to this recipe…preferably waiting until the local strawberries appear. I also think I will try apricots, blackberries and apples as the season changes.

 

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crumble
makes enough for about 6-8 servings

40 gr. brown sugar
1 large tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt
1 tsp. ground vanilla bean
600 gr. rhubarb, sliced about 2-cm thick

75 gr. granulated sugar
50 gr. almond flour
20 gr. buckwheat flour
10 gr. soy flour (use a full fat version)
25 gr. rice flour
7 gr. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. sea salt

20 gr. egg replacer
80 gr. water

1 Tbl. chestnut flakes
6 Tbl. buckwheat flakes
10 Tbl. gluten-free oat flakes
25 gr. olive oil

Begin by mixing together the brown sugar, cornstarch, a pinch of salt and the ground vanilla bean. Put this mixture through a strainer to remove all of the clumps. Next, slice the rhubarb and make sure to keep the sizes relatively big. If they are too small, the baking process will turn your fruit into a compote and I like having chunky bits of fruit. Mix the fruit into the sugar mixture making sure all of the fruit is well-coated. Lightly oil a baking dish or oven proof frying pan and place all of the fruit and sugar mixture into the pan. Begin making your crumble mixture by combining the granulated sugar, flours, baking powder, spices and salt. Mix the ingredients well. In a separate small bowl, mix the egg replacer and water together then add this to the flour mixture. Mix well then fold in all of the flakes and the olive oil. Mix well. Add clumps of the crumble mixture to the top of the fruit and level out to cover everything. Place in a 190° C oven and bake for about 35 minutes…or until the crumble top is golden.

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Beans and Wilted Spring Greens

by Jack 8. April 2013 15:37

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I really enjoy the flavors of spring…especially when the young greens emerge from the soil. My favorites are the wild garlic greens of Switzerland called bärlauch, young dandelion greens, wild sorrel or young blood sorrel. All of these greens have tremendous nutritional value, especially in the amount of antioxidants, which are very good to ward off any winter crud lingering in your blood stream.

I always use this type of mixture to create a nice spring salad, but lately I have decided to quickly sauté the greens in a bit of water and coat with oil after they are wilted. This method really enhances their flavor characteristics while minimizing the amount of fat you are consuming.

As for the beans… Well actually you can use any type of starch. I have used roasted potatoes as well as creamy polenta to mix with the wilted greens. I think beans are very nice if you are looking for something completely different. I prefer using fresh beans when they are available. Otherwise, just cook your beans in a pressure cooker as follows.

To cook your beans very easily, begin by soaking the dried beans in cold water with a dash of baking soda for about one hour. The beans will get a bit wrinkly after this treatment, but don’t worry, they will still cook just fine. Place your beans in a pressure cooker and cover with about 4-cm of water. Add a bay leaf to the water, then close the pressure cooker very well. Place the pressure cooker on a burner with high heat. When the pressure hits 2 bars, reduce your temperature to low and maintain pressure for 65 minutes (I find this time works best for most beans). Release the pressure by running cold water over the top of the pressure cooker. Check the consistency of the beans. If you are happy, season them well with salt and remove them from the pressure cooker to cool. If they are underdone, return the pressure cooker to the stove, cover well and bring the pressure back up to 2 bars like before. Maintain this pressure for 10 minutes and then release the pressure again. The beans should now be just about right!

 

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Beans with Wilted Spring Greens
makes about 6-8 portions

500 gr. cooked beans (use red, dried broad beans or white cannellini beans)
250 gr. washed mixed spring greens
sea salt and ground black pepper
3-4 Tbl. olive oil

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a large frying pan. Add the greens and cook until just wilted. Add the beans and toss well, then add the olive oil and adjust the seasoning. Serve right away.

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Almost Traditional Irish Soda Bread

by Jack 17. March 2013 17:33

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Traditional soda bread recipes should only contain flour, baking soda, salt and sour milk – that’s it! I have seen many recipes that a fat or raisins in the ingredients, but this is actually considered an entirely different recipe called ‘spotted dog’.

Soda bread will often turn out rather heavy, with a gummy texture when using the simple ingredients.  I find the interior of the bread becomes more flaky and the crust a bit harder when adding about 20 gr. of olive oil.  The added fat will shorten the gluten a bit, which can also be achieved using butter. But, olive oil also hardens the crust during the baking process and butter just creates the flakiness inside.

You can also make this recipe lactose-free by replacing the buttermilk with a mixture of: 180 gr. soy yogurt, 220 gr. rice milk, 5 gr. cream of tartar and 1 Tbl. lemon juice oil).

This recipe makes one large round loaf.

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Irish Soda Bread

480 gr. all-purpose flour
8 gr. baking soda
8 gr. salt
420 gr. buttermilk
20 gr. olive oil

Lightly grease and flour a deep cake pan or oven-safe pot (I like using my le crusset pot for making this bread). Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and sift into a large mixing bowl. Mix together the olive oil and buttermilk, then add this mixture to the flour to form a sticky dough. Place the dough on a floured surface and lightly knead – be careful to resist overworking the dough as too much kneading will cause the gasses to escape. Shape the dough into a round flat shape and cut a cross in the top of the dough. Cover the pan with another pan or the top of your baking pot. Bake in a 220°C oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 10 minutes. The bottom of the bread should have a hollow sound when tapped. Cover the bread with a towel and lightly sprinkle water on the towel to help keep the bread moist.

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Caramelized Carrot & Ginger Soup

by Jack 12. March 2013 21:50

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I always seem to get an urge to make something with carrots whenever the first hint of spring emerges from the cold winter soil. This year, carrot soup filled my mind. But, I wanted to make a carrot soup which really represented the taste of carrots stuck firmly in my memory – a distant recollection of pulling carrots out of the ground in the garden I planted.

The idea of caramelizing the carrots seemed like a good place to start, but I didn’t want the roasted notes to overpower the flavor of the carrots. Plus, roasting the carrots in the oven adds to the overall sweetness – something I wanted to avoid. So I settled on a different technique of caramelizing the carrots, which I found in the wonderful book, “The Modernist Cuisine” (also great stuff on the web). After reading the recipe, I was convinced that using the pressure cooker would achieve something different – caramelized carrots without drying them out. But, I wasn’t too thrilled with their recipe because I felt it was more complicated than necessary. I wanted simplicity…and elegance.

I decided to add the ginger to the recipe, which I felt would balance the overall sweetness of the carrots…and after tasting the results, I was pleased with the slight tickling in the throat from the ginger…but the soup still lacked acidity. My response was simple. I felt inspired from a favorite Moroccan style salad of carrots and oranges, so I added the orange juice to just give the soup enough acidity to create a nice balance in the mouth.

I also replaced the butter with olive oil and added a splash of sherry wine (I used an Oloroso). And that was it…the total time in making the soup was about 45 minutes and the results…well, I think this is one of the best soups I have made…or even tasted.

 

Caramelized Carrot & Ginger Soup
makes about 2 liters

600 grams carrots
50 gr. fresh ginger
65 gr. olive oil
30 gr. sherry
5 gr. salt
7,5 gr. ground ginger
2,5 gr. baking soda
750 gr. carrot juice
100 gr. orange juice

Begin by preparing the carrots. Wash and peel all of the carrots, then slice them into 5-cm long pieces. Now, go ahead and peel the ginger and slice them into slivers. Once you have prepared the vegetables, add the olive oil to the base of the pressure cooker. Stir in the carrots and ginger, then add the sherry, salt, ground ginger and baking soda (the baking soda is quite important because it creates an alkaline environment that will help caramelize the carrots and create that lovely roasted flavor…something not normally achieved in a wet pressure cooker atmosphere). Once everything is set with the pressure cooker, go ahead and seal it, then over high heat bring the pressure gauge to 1 bar (15 psi). Reduce the heat to maintain the same pressure and set your timer for 20 minutes. When you hear the beeper sound, depressurize the cooker quickly by running water over the rim. With a hand immersion blender, puree the carrots and ginger until quite smooth. Add the carrot and orange juice and continue to blend. When the soup is completely blended, strain it into a clean pot. Check the seasoning of the soup when it is warmed. Serve hot or cold…and keep the garnishes very simple to preserve the fresh carrot and ginger flavors.

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Artichokes and Broad Beans

by Jack 27. February 2013 08:23

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I really enjoy shopping at the market just after winter and before the explosion of fresh ingredients arrive in the heat of spring. I think this period is quite interesting – especially in Switzerland where it is very simple to find products coming from the southern part of Italy. And when I shop…I get inspired to come up with something very fresh and very quick!

During my latest trip to the market, I was inspired by the selection of Italian artichokes, which were both large and small. They are especially good right now and perfect to prepare in so many ways. I elected to use the carciofini (the small ones, which are fully mature, just smaller because they grow on the bottom part of the plant), because they are really tender at the moment. It may seem like you are removing too much of the small artichoke, but in reality, the entire flower is edible. I just remove the outer 1-2 layers and any green bits that remain…as well as those nasty little stickers. I also ran across some delightfully large artichokes with very long stems still attached – a gold mine for those in the know! I really enjoy eating the artichoke marrow which is easily revealed by trimming away the outer part of the stem. The flavor is very similar to the heart and a part of the artichoke which is usually discarded…at least outside of Italy (Italians are always clever in finding the tastiest bits of food).

Fresh broad beans, or otherwise referred to as fava beans, always seem to make their first appearance toward the latter part of February. They are a must-use ingredient to Italians around Easter, which is why they are so prevalent. The early season beans are so tender, they actually do not require any cooking, but I find them too bitter if eaten raw so I give them a 3-4 minute bath in boiling water to soften their skins. Of course, I do remove the outer skin again, which makes a 1 kg. pile of broad beans turn into a small bowl of actual product. Still, I love the fresh spring flavor and I like to include them in quick sautéed dishes.

Finally, Italian tomatoes are an absolute must beginning now and lasting for the next couple of months. Sicilian tomatoes ripen early and are at their peak during the months of March and April. It is simply too hot during the summer months, so these tomatoes vanish quickly. Pay special attention to anything coming from the Sicilian region called Pachino. These are the real gems and you will discover (perhaps re-discover) what a tomato should taste like!

Once my shopping was complete, I just went to work preparing the various items and allowed my inspired spirit to take over…a spirit which is happily living in sunny Italy during the cold and dreary times of late winter in Switzerland.

Enjoy…


Roasted Carciofini, artichoke marrow, broad beans and wilted tomatoes

makes enough for 4-6 servings

500 gr. carciofini (small artichokes)
4 large artichoke stems
1 lemon, cut in half
1 kg. fresh broad beans
about 12 small tomatoes
sea salt
olive oil

Begin by preparing the small artichokes. Remove the outer layers of the small artichokes until the leaf color changes to a more purple color – this is usually 1-2 layers. Remove the top and bottom of the artichoke, making sure to keep as much of the stem intact as possible. Trim off any green parts of the artichoke, then cut in half lengthwise. Coat with lemon. Add all of the prepared carciofini to a pot, cover with water and add a good squeeze of lemon. Cover and bring to a boil, then season with salt. Keep covered for 4 minutes while the artichokes cook. Remove from the heat and strain well. Once the artichokes are cooled, coat them well with olive oil and roast in a 230° C oven for about 15 minutes – the edges should just be turning black. Remove and reserve. Next, prepare the artichoke stems by cutting into 6-cm pieces, then trimming away the outer part of the stem to reveal the artichoke marrow. Cook the marrow in salted water with lemon juice (use the same water you used to prepare the small artichokes), making sure the pot is covered. The marrow will be cooked in about 20 minutes or so…they should be soft enough for a knife to easily penetrate them. Remove and reserve. Now…work on the broad beans. Remove all of the beans from their shells. Cook in salted water for 3 minutes, then remove to cold water. Each bean has another shell or outer coating which should also be removed. Pinch off one end and simply squeeze out the green bean inside – they may split into two, but that’s not a problem. Ok, put the final dish together. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the artichoke marrow and about 1 Tbl. of olive oil, then cook them for a few minutes until they begin to color. Add the prepared carciofini and broad beans, season with salt and add the tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes until the tomatoes just begin to wilt. Remove and enjoy!

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Spicy Eggplant and Almond Rice Bisteeya

by Jack 25. February 2013 18:18

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If you are a fan of Moroccan cuisine like I am, then you have no doubt come across the iconic version of bisteeya, which is traditionally made with chicken or pigeon. The dish is customarily served as a first course offering. It is always eaten with your hands…which is already appealing to me. It is also always consumed hot – just hot enough to slightly irritate your fingertips. Paula Wolfert, in her classic book Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, described the eating experience like this: “To enjoy [bisteeya] Moroccan style, plunge into the burning pastry with the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand and tear out a piece as large or as small as you want. You will burn your fingers, of course, but you will have a lot of fun and the pain will be justified by the taste!”

Now that’s a piece of descriptive food writing which makes you want to jump in and try a bisteeya!

But what about a vegetarian version of bisteeya. I again referred to Paula Wolfert and discovered she didn’t really offer a meatless version…except the breakfast version of almond rice. I also searched around the internet and found several versions which were floating around, but they drifted so far away from traditional Moroccan cuisine and style and I quickly became bored. So, I came up with this idea to try and replicate the experience one would have if eating a version with chicken or pigeon. I settled on eggplant to give the recipe it’s main flavor…and I wasn’t shy about spicing things up as I knew the phyllo pastry would deaden the final flavors. I then thought about the body of the dish, which needed to be substantial. I liked the idea Wolfert presented in using the almond rice, so I adapted her recipe and made it a little less sweet. The rice worked to provide just enough body to keep the mixture intact while baking and didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the eggplant. So voila…my meatless version of Moroccan bisteeya.

I hope you will give the recipe a try as it is a special treat. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients – most of them are just spices. And don’t be afraid of working with phyllo dough; it is a wonderful pastry to use and learning how to use it will expand your cooking skills.


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Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies

by Jack 20. February 2013 12:38

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I will freely admit having a real weakness for a good cookie…and a well-executed chocolate chip cookie rises to the top of my list of foods I crave but wish I didn’t.

I was eventually faced with an important decision after giving up consumption of all dairy products more than three years ago…either give up chocolate chip cookies or figure out how to make them without dairy. My ultimate decision is the following recipe for Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies.

This dairy-free version of chocolate chip cookies comes very close to everyone’s favorite original tollhouse recipe. They should end up chewy and oozing with chocolate…an ultimate treat for all cookie aficionados! After some experimentation, I finalized the ingredient list which included a few surprises. I decided to use both baking powder and baking soda in the recipe to create a nice rise in the batter as the cookies baked. This was ultimately important because I eliminated the use of whole eggs. Originally, I wanted to make a completely vegan version…which I did accomplish. I just felt the addition of a slightly whisked egg white added a tremendous amount of structure to the final product…and without adding any additional fat (the completely vegan version eliminates the use of the egg white and adds 30 gr. of egg replacer, which is essentially guar gum, starch and a binder).

So, back to the recipe and the use of olive oil. I really enjoy baking with olive oil as I believe the final product is much cleaner in taste…allowing one to enjoy all of the ingredients rather than having their flavors muted by the overwhelming flavor of butter. I like that. But, using olive oil in recipes which call for creaming flour and fat became an issue because the mix always leaked fat and never really became homogeneous. I finally added a bit of arrowroot to help bind the mix in the final product…but more importantly, I simply changed the method. Instead of creaming the fat and flour together, I just treated the fat (olive oil) as a liquid ingredient and mixed it together like one would do in making muffins. I worked fine for me…

Finally, I used the half banana as part of my egg replacer. I was worried about this ingredient at first because I thought the flavor would become too prevalent in the cookie, but in the end, the marriage of flavors actually worked to an advantage and I was thrilled with the result.


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Salsify with Brown Lentils and Hazelnuts

by Jack 17. February 2013 20:49

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I’m not one to generally use recipes I see out of cookbooks. I prefer instead to scan through my books looking for inspiration and flavor matching ideas instead of recipes. But, when I was thumbing through Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, I knew right away I needed to try making his Celeriac and lentils with hazelnut and mint recipe. The combination sounds simply irresistible!

But alas, I gave into my instincts as a cook and decided to make some changes…changes which I believe are better-suited for Switzerland in February.

The first change was replacing the celeriac with salsify…which seemed like such a natural decision for me. Celeriac may be popular in North America or the UK, but I think in mainland Europe it is a bit…well…pedestrian. Salsify on the other hand, is relatively underappreciated. It’s flavor is somewhat akin to asparagus and it is incredibly healthy. Next, I decided to switch from Puy lentils to brown lentils because I think the nuttiness of brown lentils matches better with the hazelnuts in the recipe. Finally, I decided to go for tarragon to dress up the final version of the dish instead of mint. I don’t have anything against mint, but I really don’t think it is appropriate in mid-February.

I’m happy with the outcome, which can be served either hot or cold…and cold is how I will be enjoying this dish as part of my Meatless Monday.

Find out what’s in season at markets throughout Switzerland – and get inspired to cook fresh!


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Embracing Meatless Monday

by Jack 10. February 2013 12:58

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Mention meatless diets in a crowd and you’re likely to get a drastic response in return. Personally, I have heard most of the arguments already from skeptics of plant-based diets: “It’s not very healthy…where are you getting your calcium, protein and vitamins from?” or “Vegetables don’t taste good” or “Tofu…are you kidding?”

And on and on go the justifications…

Of course, I don’t really pay much attention to all of these negative comments, because I know a meatless diet can be colorful, exciting, flavorsome, extremely nutritious…and very simple to prepare. I also know it will take a long time for the world to move away from a diet primarily based on meat and dairy despite the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the many health and environmental benefits associated with a plant-based diet. I really don’t expect people to drastically change their eating habits overnight, but one idea I can support is for people to change their diets once per week…and this is why I embrace the Meatless Monday movement.

The idea and name for this movement can be traced back to the early 1900’s during the first world war. It was an effort to remind Americans to ration difficult to obtain ingredients. Today, the movement has taken on an international flavor with an emphasis on reminding people to follow a healthy diet and make food choices favorable to the environment and to the world’s food resources.

It’s quite simple to get involved really…just make a commitment to exclude meat from your diet every Monday. There are no forms to sign and no one is going to control your efforts. It’s a personal decision monitored only by you!

Getting ideas and inspiration is very simple…especially today with all of the social media options available to everyone. One place to start is by checking out the Meatless Monday Facebook page, which is filled with links to recipes and articles to help you along. Of course, you can also check out the official Meatless Monday Twitter page if you’re searching for something more immediate. One additional resource would be our own Laughing Lemon website, which provides a lot of information on what’s in season.


Meatless Monday Recipe of the Week

Many of the dishes I like to prepare actually do not have a specific recipe. I rely heavily on my inspiration gained from shopping at the market…and I like to keep things simple and tasty. The recipe this week utilizes two green leafy vegetables: Kale and baby Swiss chard. Both vegetables were lightly wilted in a small amount of salted water – maybe a minute or so, then remove them from the pan. The potatoes we used this week were the intensely-colored Blue Linzer variety found at the market. They were steamed whole for about 20 minutes, then lightly dressed with Tuscan olive oil and a few sprinkles of sea salt. I also included a few slow-roasted Sicilian tomatoes, which I made earlier by slicing the tomatoes in half, seasoning with salt, pepper and dried oregano – then adding some olive oil and balsamic vinegar before slowly roasting them in a 140°C oven for about 2 hours. Finally, I added some tofu to the mix, which were lightly sautéed in olive oil with chopped garlic and seasoned with smoked paprika.

We would love to hear your ideas for recipes, which you can leave on our own Facebook page or by leaving a comment here.

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Pisciotta (olive oil cake)

by Jack 1. October 2012 10:46

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Baking a cake with olive oil? I know, this does sound strange at first to many who are used to baking with traditional fats (think butter), but the result with olive oil is a very light tasting product resembling a sponge cake. The absence of butter allows the other flavors to become more prevalent making this cake a truly delicious and fresh-tasting revelation.

Any fat acts as a shortening in baking, because it ‘shortens’ gluten strands and tenderizes the product. Most professional bakers use shortenings made from vegetable oils. The liquid fats are made solid during the manufacturing process and the fats become hydrogenated…and these types of fats are not very health-friendly. Hydrogenated fats are mostly used because of cost considerations. They are far less expensive than butter, and they will create products with a longer shelf life. Good for the manufacturer…bad for the consumer.

Most hydrogenated shortenings are intentionally flavorless and leave an unpleasant coating in the mouth. Fresh butter on the other hand has a highly desirable flavor and melts nicely in the mouth. Butter does cost more than hydrogenated fats and has less shelf life. But for the home baker, these factors seldom come into play.

So why change fats now? Well, my two reasons are really quite simple. I think olive oil is a healthier fat alternative and I like the way olive oil performs in baking vs. butter. Butter makes such a big impression in the final product; it simply selfishly takes over and will not allow the other flavors to be recognized.

When I came across a version of olive oil cake some years ago from Marcella Hazan’s classic book on Italian cooking, well I knew I needed to experiment and try out the cake. It was stunning and I was immediately convinced on the merits of baking with olive oil.

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