Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Quin" ya dig it?


I was recently at the Specialty Food Show in New York City's Javitz Center, which featured literally miles of aisles of delectable delights from around the globe. I was struck and heartened, by how many companies are responding to the allergy/food sensitive needs of the consumer. I sampled many, many sweets and treats including gluten free shortbread (Walker's....yes!), Mochi, Buffalo Wings flavored popcorn, allergy-free candy and maple water (new favorite). But the trends that stood out to me, I'll call "quinoa, kale and  corn (as in mini, as in mini popped corn--I don't understand it, but it's big right now, and gluten free)".  These three things were featured in abundance at the show in various forms, whether it was kale juice, kale chips, quinoa nutrition shakes, or quinoa flour---these items were hot, hot hot! A fourth "kah" deserves honorable mention--coconut. Whether it's coconut water (plain or flavored), coconut chips for snacking or baking, or coconut oil in everything from beauty products to brownies.

Personally, I am always on the lookout for the Holy Grail of gluten free flour, that blend which will yield an as-close-to-wheat texture and taste as I like. But, new flours keep appearing on the market just to mix things up, everything from flour made from wine dregs to hemp flour.  But when I noticed quinoa flour at several booths, I decided we have a trend for the year here. I was very excited that my most favorite spice company, Pereg, had put out their own quinoa flour in a 1 lb. bag.  Pereg is an Israeli spice company that has made inroads in the United States in the past decade with not only very high quality spices, but also, rice and quinoa pilaf mixes, legumes, and some interesting new quinoa products--namely, Quinoa Pops Cereal and Quinoa Pasta. Although quinoa looks like a grain and acts like a grain, and is often treated like a grain in the culinary realm, it's not a grain, and is closely related to the beetroot and spinach family. It's known to be high in protein, and is very popular in gluten free cooking as an alternative to couscous or bulgar (as in tabouli salad), or as a hot porridge.

The Pereg Quinoa Multi-Purpose Flour is great because it's kosher (O-U) for Passover as well as year round.  Back in the day you basically had potato starch as a gluten free option for passover baked goods, not really much to offer nutritionally, but the quinoa flour has 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup and a whopping 3 grams of fiber! So, not only does it add nutrition, it also will help with the texture of such items as cookies and breads.  Cost wise the 1 lb. bag is $4.50 on the Pereg website, which is reasonable for gluten free flour. So if you're store doesn't yet carry the Pereg line, let them know. It's really worth looking into!

For some great recipes using quinoa and quinoa flour try the recent book Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy from Michelle Babb, a Seattle based nutritionist, that presents very simple and doable guidelines to feed your family meals which help with joint pain, digestive issues and other conditions caused by inflammation in the body.

Using grains, legumes, vegetables and responsibly raised animal proteins, while avoiding the foods such as eggs, certain oils and dairy that have been shown to cause inflammation, Ms. Babb has come up with creative and delicious recipes that are good for those that are gluten free as well as egg/dairy allergy free. So for my family they worked out perfectly!

These crepes recipe is lovely filled with seasonal fresh berries (anti-oxidant powerhouses) and coconut milk yogurt, or as a savory option with sauteed veggies.  If you are allergic to cashews, substitute an equal amount of Sunbutter,  and proceed with recipe as it is written.

Sweet or Savory Quinoa Crepes
from Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy by Michelle Babb, p.50

2 cups quinoa flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

Sweet Filling Options:
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries (thawed if frozen)
2 1/2 cups stewed apples or pears with cinnamon
2 cups cashew cream (1 1/2 cups raw cashews blended with 1/2 cup water)
2 1/2 cups mangoes blended with coconut milk

Savory Filling Options:
2 1/2 cups sauteed onions, mushrooms, and spinach
2 cups hummus and 1 sliced avocado
2 ounces lox and 1 Tbsp. capers

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. In a food processor or blender, grind the cashews and chia seeds until finely ground.  Add the water, almond milk, oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup and blend for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until well blended.  The batter should be the consistency of olive oil.  Add more water to thin if necessary. 

Spray a medium nonstick pan, cast-iron skillet , or crepe pan with oil.  Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of the crepe batter in the pan and swirl around until there is a thin layer across the bottom.  Cook each crepe for 1 minute per side.  Fill with the desired filling.

Yield:  6 servings

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