Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pop on In


Keeping cool in the summer is not just about air-conditioning and swimming pools. It is as much about sitting back in the lawn chair with a cherry popsicle dripping down your hand faster than you can eat it, and frosty drinks in tall glasses sipped slowly through straws. For my kids it's about running through the sprinkler with the promise of a freeze-pop afterward. For me it's about getting a tall iced coffee after I drop my kids off at camp.

Besides being a classic summer treat, popsicles are the new "in" dessert, according to some. As the popsicle usurps cupcakes and macarons, an all-popsicle restaurant opened up in Manhattan called Popbar. And (dramatic pause), it is even gluten-free and kosher, according to their website!

There is even a machine called the Zoku Quick Pop Maker, which can freeze popsicles in about 10 minutes. My preferred method is using the plastic molds from the dollar store. I'm ok with planning ahead for my popsicles, and waiting the few hours for them to freeze. As for what flavors to make, today popsicles have been "upgraded" and recipes often include fresh herbs and exotic juice combinations. A book called Paletas by Fany Gerson, gives recipes for pops ranging from the exotic, like mango-chile to the more traditional berry-yogurt. She also includes recipes for aquas frescas, or refreshing drinks in Spanish. Speaking of which, I recently discovered a cold Mexican milk-based beverage called the Horchata. This ain't yo' mama's milkshake. The Horchata is rice-thickened milk seasoned with spices and sugar. I took from my garden's bounty and paired the Horchata with basil for a surprisingly interesting flavor treat.

Whether you like your summer refreshement in solid or liquid form, enjoy the following recipes in the waning days of the season!

Instead of the tradiitonal way of making the horchata with ground rice, I used rice flour, something gluten-free bakers always have on hand!

Basil-Lemon Horchata

1 cup whole milk

2 cups water

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil (if you have lemon-basil even better)

zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons sweet rice flour

lemon peel curl for garnish, if desired

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium simmer for 10 minutes. Add the water, basil and lemon zest. Continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

In a medium sized lidded-contianer, whisk together the sugar and rice flour. Place a small strainer over the container, slowly pour the hot milk mixture through the strainer. Stir to combine. Allow to cool for 10-20 minutes, cover and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours to overnight.

To serve: Fill a glass with ice. Pour horchata over ice. Garnish with lemon curl, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2-3 servings

If you don't have pop molds, you can place aluminum foil tightly over a plastic cup filled 3/4 full with popsicle mixture, and pierce center with wooden popsicle sticks, also known as craft sticks. Freeze as directed.

Strawberry-Watermelon Popsicles

from Sweet & Skinny by Marisa Churchill, p. 124

2 cups strawberries, hulled

2 cups cubed watermelon

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon agave nectar

Blend the strawberries, watermelon, and agave nectar in a blender or food processor until the mixture is completely smooth.

Pour the mixture into eight popsicle molds, snap on the tops, and freeze until the popsicles are frozen sold, about 6 hours.

Unmold and serve. If the popsicle will not release from mold, briefly submerge mold in warm water.

Yield: 8 popsicles

Lassis (not Timmy's pet) are cooling yogurt drinks that are popular in India.

Mango Lassi

1-8-ounce container plain or vanilla flavored yogurt

1 ripe mango, cubed

honey to taste

milk or water to thin

ice cubes, as desired

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled.

Yield: 2 servings

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Artisanally Appealing


I had seen the picture of the luscious veggie packed lasagna on the cover of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski staring back at me on Amazon.com for some time. Whenever I searched gluten free cookbooks, there it was. But I had passed on it for awhile as I am a busy mommy and I assumed artisanal food would be time consuming, and require me to use organic heirloom tomatoes harvested from my own garden, or at the very least from the farmer's market.

But, when their publisher, The Experiment Publishing, very generously sent me their second book to review and GIVEAWAY (see below), Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes, I decided I should take a look at the first book as well. I was extremely pleasantly surprised to see that Kelli and Peter Bronski have got a grip. They understand the busy mommy thing, and although they value greatly the freshest organic ingredients, they know everyone does not have the wherewithal to stock their kitchen with sustainable, free trade ingredients from Whole Foods. Nor, can everyone make their own pasta at 5:30 for dinner at 6:00 with a two year old wrapped around ones leg. There were no requests for kefir lime leaves or date palm sugar. Just things I happened to have in my pantry (o.k. I happen to have coconut milk and a 4 types of paprika in my pantry, but still). And, best of all, I don't feel compelled to make my own chicken broth from free range chickens and vegetables grown within 10 miles from my house, the type that comes in the box is o.k. too.

Although the Bronskis don't seem to actually define the word "artisanal" (pertaining to or noting high-quality, distinctive products made in small quantities according to dictionary.com), their attitude seems to be take care in sourcing and preparing your food to the best of your ability and means. They even go as far to offer tips for shortcuts and pre-made ingredients (such as a bag of coleslaw instead of cabbage and carrots in one recipe I tried). This I appreciate greatly, as I feel they are offering the best of the two worlds I live in and try to bridge-- gourmet food and busy mommydom. I also greatly appreciated their professionalism, which comes through in the book. Peter Bronski is a travel writer with several books to his credit, and Kelli Bronski has a degree from the prestigious hotel and restaurant school at Cornell University. So, not only do the recipes work well, they are well written. I did notice one imperfection though, the Creme Brulee recipe was missing an oven temperature for baking! Yikes! But after making Creme Brulee for the first time ever with the Bronskis very simple instructions (and Joy of Cooking oven temp.--325F), I actually got why this seemingly simple custard it is such a big deal in the dessert world.

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking encompasses contemporary flavors such as Thai and Caribbean food, as well as homey old favorites like German Potato Salad and Apple Pie with Streusel Topping. I think this is a very good all around cookbook, which offers sophisticated recipes for entertaining such as Dessert Crepes with a Trio of Sauces, as well as Chicken Noodle Soup, for a cozy family supper. As I mentioned above, the recipes are very clear and well written with introductions that draw you into the Bronski kitchen as if you were family.

I tried two dishes which were instant favorites with my family, Caribbean Rice and Costa Rican Slaw. Both had fresh, bright flavors and were easy to throw together in a short amount of time. Lillie's comment on the rice says it all, "Mmmmm. Good. Very Good."

Look for a review of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes in an upcoming blog. In the meantime try for an exciting, free giveaway. Just leave a comment about this post with your e-mail address in the comments section below, and you will be entered to win a copy of the Bronskis' newly released and fabulous book, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes (provided by the publisher who did not influence this review in any way). The winner will be randomly chosen from all eligible blog entries. The contest will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on September 15th, 2011.

Although this recipe calls for adding the mango to the dish while it is cooking, we liked it better served on top of the cooked rice as a garnish.

Caribbean Rice

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, p. 87

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup long-grain rice

1 cup Gluten Free chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent.

2. Add the rice, broth, and coconut milk. Stir in the thyme, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

3. Add the beans and mango and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Yield: 4 servings

I took the quick shortcut the Bronskis suggest for this recipe, using bagged cole slaw mix instead of the cabbages and carrots called for in the ingredient list. I also took it upon myself to sub canned sliced beets, which I julienned, instead of the raw beet. The texture wasn't as crisp as a raw beet, but it was quick!

Costa Rican Slaw

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, p. 100

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped

1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

1 raw beet, peeled and grated

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

1. Combine the green and red cabbage, the carrot, beet, and cilantro in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss and serve.

Yield: 10 servings