Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Aqua Fabulous


So while perusing my favorite website Amazon.com, I came across a slew of new aquafaba cookbooks. This re-peaked my interest in the canned garbanzo bean juice cum egg substitute. 

When aquafaba first became a "thing" I decided to give it a try, as I will pretty much try all egg substitutes that come down the pike. I made a vanilla cake with the aquafaba and I was sorely disappointed. The cake was heavier than my normal results with vegan cake, and I didn't find the aquafaba added anything that made me change my practice of rinsing the excess liquid from a can of beans down the drain.

Then I came across Alton Brown's Magical Mystery Meringue Cookies, and I changed my tune. I knew I could trust Alton to have tested his recipe to the nth degree. Since baking in general is a science, but vegan baking is like astrophysics--I really needed a recipe I could trust. And it worked! Easily and beautifully, just as Alton said it would.

I made a human error and paid for the result. I used two baking trays and forgot to switch them (move one on top to lower rack and vice versa) halfway through baking time. As a result, the lower rack's tray was too soft IMHO when the buzzer dinged. So I decided to employ another meringue technique I knew and left them in the oven with the heat off (there's a recipe called "Forgotten Cookies" where you leave meringues overnight in oven) while I did the carpool run.  When I returned I found my meringues had gone from a pristine snowy white to more of a NYC snow light brown.  But they still tasted good! And a valuable lesson was learned...even better.

Alton lists a number of variations, I chose to sub almond extract for the vanilla in the recipe. My kids told me they would have preferred vanilla (:(   For a festive twist you can add 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy sticks or 1/2 cup chopped chocolate. Fold these in gently after the meringue is fully whipped.  When meringues are cooled you can drizzle melted chocolate over the top with a fork for a lovely presentation, or dip one half in cooled melted chocolate, then in sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy.  To easily melt chocolate put 1 bag (10-12 ounces) chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tablespoon solid shortening (like Crisco or coconut oil...do not use margarine, it contains water which will make chocolate seize up) or 2 teaspoons oil.  Microwave on high 1-2 minutes, stir until smooth.

What I love most about these cookies is their versatility. They are good for those egg and dairy allergic, vegan and gluten free.  They can easily be made in advance and keep well for a week in an airtight container and make a great cheap and easy gift when put in a nice container.

I made somewhat larger meringues, about the size of a half a hardboiled egg, and it yielded about 4 dozen cookies. Alton recommends using low or no sodium beans, I used the regular variety and it

Magical Mystery Meringues

3/4 cup "aquafaba" – the liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas* at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the aquafaba and cream of tartar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until foamy – about 2 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar followed by the vanilla extract then increase the speed to high beat to stiff peaks, another 2-3 minutes.
  • Scoop the meringue into a gallon sized zip-top bag (or piping bag) and pipe into quarter-sized rounds. Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. The meringues may feel soft in the oven but will continue to dry as they cool.
  • Add 2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals and 6 drops of chocolate bitters to the batter before baking
  • Dip into tempered chocolate and cool
  • *Low-sodium or no-salt added recommended
  • YIELDS: Makes approximately 400 quarter-sized cookies

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Make and Take


Starting from before Thanksgiving and continuing until the end of December, I hear things like this in my house:
"I have a pot luck at work, can you make something?"
"What can you bring for Thanksgiving that will be "safe" for your kids?"
"We're having a holiday party, I don't know if there will be anything I can eat, can you make something?"
"Gahhh...so busy....so much to do!" (o.k. the last one is me, and it's only in my head).

When you need to bring something to a festive meal, potluck, or even put something on your own table that is "safe" for those who have allergens/Celiac/food sensitivities, it can seem like a daunting task.  You have so much else to plan, shop and do this time of year, that a specialized dish seems onerous.  But I've come up with a super easy rice noodle salad that you only need one serving bowl or 9x13 inch pan to prep, cook and serve all in one!

My main caveat is to make sure the ingredients you are using are gluten free. With food items produced overseas, like most Asian rice noodles, you need to make sure there are no glutenny ingredients, and they are using pure rice flour. I found a great brand with US labeling standards called Gefen, and it's available at my regular supermarket.

There is a lot of leeway in this dish. If you don't want to use the dressing in the recipe, you can substitute one of the great gluten free Asian style sauces from San-J, or even do with a splash of GF soy sauce.  As well, you can mix and match whatever veggies or proteins you like in the dish. Throw in some protein if you want: leftover tofu, a handful of  chick peas, or some diced chicken.

So try to relax and enjoy your company and visiting and rest assured that your special guests will have something "safe" and delicious to eat.

Asian Rice Noodle Salad (vegan)

1 Pkg. gluten free thin, Asian style rice noodles (11 ounce pkg.)
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped scallions
 boiling water

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

In a large mixing bowl or 9x13 ceramic or Pyrex baking pan, place rice noodles. Note: The noodles usually come in several blocks to a package, so lay them down in single layer, if possible.  Cover noodles with a generous amount of boiling water. Cover tightly with foil. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.  Drain into colander and set noodles aside.

In the same mixing bowl, whisk together dressing.  Add noodles and remaining ingredients.  Toss well to coat noodles and vegetables well.

This may be served warm, but I suggest chilling for 2 hours before serving.

Serves: 12

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fresh and Festive


Many people have an antiquated view of traditional, Ashkenazi cuisine, or in the United States, simply "Jewish Food". The term evokes visions of  gefilte fish, chopped liver, brisket laden in a heavy sauce and of course kugel. But in preserving the old, you can also lighten up your meal with some new favorites to present your guests with a revised view of Jewish Food.

For Rosh Hashana, it's traditional to eat certain foods (simanim) that are thought to represent good fortune in the New Year. Included are fish, dates, pomegranate, fenugreek and of course apples and honey for a sweet new year! This year I was inspired to create a fish appetizer (it could be a main course too) with the assorted simanim. I obtained fresh fenugreek leaves at a local Indian food store, where it is called methi.The result was a really fresh tasting appetizer that kicked gefilte fish back to Eastern Europe. The interplay between the tartness of the pomegranate, bitterness of fenugreek and sweetness of honey balanced really well, without any of the flavors overpowering the beauty of the fish. If you prefer an even sweeter taste (missing that gefilte fish already are we?), you can finely dice about 1/4 cup of pitted dates and add them to the mixture.

For some more fresh flavors this holiday season and beyond, check out the contemporary kosher cookbook, The Silver Platter by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz. The authors bring contemporary tastes within the bounds of kosher cooking to deliver updated and enlivened recipes for your special occasion or everyday. It's beautifully photographed and the recipes are clear. I recommend the Red Cabbage and Kale Salad as a great accompaniment to this dish (cabbage is a siman too!)

I used salmon fillets, but you really can use any thick or thin white fish as well. You should reduce cooking time to 20 minutes if you use a thin fish like Tilapia.

Pomegranate-Fenugreek Salmon 

4 salmon fillet pieces or steaks
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup fresh fenugreek, washed, inspected and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup honey (more to taste)
Juice of 1 small orange (may substitute a mandarin or tangerine)

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.  

Spray a rectangular baking pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Check salmon for small bones, and remove. Rinse and pat dry. Place side by side in prepared pan.  

Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour over salmon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pinkness in center just disappears. 

This dish may be served hot or cold.

For appetizer sized portions divide each piece of fish in half.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Almond Joy


I've been trying to incorporate almond flour into more of my baking because of the fiber and protein content as opposed to the "white" gluten free flours.  As well, I recently used olive oil in a chocolate cake as a sub for canola oil, and it was totally fine in regard to taste and texture in the finished product.  I've done a lot of research on the best types of fat and I always seem to come back to olive oil, so I was thrilled that this cake worked out well!

If you're not a fan of orange flavor, omit the orange zest in the cake and zest and juice in the glaze. Substitute non-dairy milk or water for the liquid in the glaze. For a mocha flavored variation, omit orange as just mentioned, and add 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules to the almond milk mixture.

Almond-Orange Vegan Bundt Cake

2 cups almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum (such as Better Batter brand)
1cup almond flour
2 cups granulated sugar (or Florida Crystals)
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or regular table salt)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup olive oil
zest of half a medium orange

Orange Glaze
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
zest of half an orange

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.

Spray a standard sized bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix together the vinegar and milk and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl (may be done in an electric mixer) whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Slowly add the milk, vanilla and oil. Stir well to combine (if using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until silky), until batter is smooth and silky in appearance.  Stir in orange zest until combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan, smoothing top with a spatula.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife around edge of cake. Place serving plate on top of bundt pan and slowly flip over.

Drizzle with glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar (or do nothing...no big whoop)!

Orange Glaze:

In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice. If the mixture is too thick, add the second tablespoon of juice. Stir in orange zest. Drizzle over cooled bundt cake.

Yield: 12 servings

Friday, March 18, 2016

Feeling dumpy


At the end of this there's a really easy recipe for Vegan-GF Chocolate Chip Cake...I promise. But you'll have to put up with one of my poems first...

Now that the days are longer, time seems shorter.
So much to do, gardening, biking, Pesach prep,
obligations yet unmet.
I needed a dessert in haste,
I had no time to waste.
A dump cake I wondered,
not many have blundered,
with this ingenious dish,
would it fulfill my wish?

The answer is yes...it worked! And it's gluten-free and vegan. I subbed a container of non-dairy yogurt (Trader Joe's coconut yogurt) for the eggs, and somehow it gave the chocolate chip cookie dough mix I used an added lift, and it came out cake-like instead of like cookie bars.  All the mixing can be done in the pan, and there's no measuring...so it's super easy!  So you can have your spring fun and eat your cake too.

 I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie mix for his recipe. You can try other brands, just add the ingredients they direct you to on the box,  and sub the 1 yogurt (6-8 oz) for eggs called for in the instructions.

Vegan-Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Dump Cake

1 box (19 oz.) Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine (I use Earth Balance), melted*
1 capful vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
2 shakes cinnamon (approx. 1/2 teaspoon)
1 container (6-8 ounces) non-dairy vanilla or plain yogurt (coconut, soy, almond, etc.)
Optional Toppings: chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit

Note: I used a Pyrex baking dish, so I was able to melt the margarine in the microwave directly in the dish. If you use a metal baking dish, melt the margarine in a small, microwave safe bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.

Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Dump all the ingredients, except the topping, into the baking dish and stir until well combined. Spread out evenly in baking dish. Sprinkle with toppings, if desired.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in pre-heated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with few or no crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 servings

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sushi Sensei


With one major storm behind and another predicted for next week, the activities for snow days can wear thin. A popular thing to do is bake and decorate cookies with your kids, but after awhile that activity can become tedious. I've found my kids really enjoy making homemade sushi rolls. Truth be told, it might not technically be sushi, as I'm reluctant to actually use raw fish at home as fish for sushi should be a very premium quality and ultra fresh...something I'm not able to source easily where I live. However, I use a variety of vegetables, fake crab sticks, homemade lox or any type of cooked fish I have on hand. I have even on occasion made "gefilte sushi"! 

The act of preparing all the veggies and rice, as well as making sure your mix-en-place (when you lay out all your ingredients and equipment before you start cooking) is an activity in itself. The only special equipment you will need is a bamboo sushi mat. But you can also substitute a flexible silicone cutting board, or even parchment paper if you don't have a sushi mat. I've seen the bamboo mats sold in the Asian food section of my local chain supermarket. All the ingredients are generally readily available at your local supermarket, kosher specialty store, or health food store, and you will find the cost of making your own is majorly cheaper than buying prepared sushi.

Since learning to make sushi rolls is a very visual experience, I prepared a video with Rosie to show you how easy it is to make sushi rolls. Sensei is a Japanese word for teacher, I hope I can be your sensei in your sushi making experience. The biggest tip I can give you is to not overfill the rolls, and to roll them tightly. Once you get the hang of it you'll never want to buy that stale looking supermarket sushi again!

Check out my videos for preparing sushi rice with ease, and prepping your nori.

California or Veggie Sushi Rolls

6 sheets Nori (dried seaweed wrappers ...you'd be surprised but many supermarkets carry them in the Asian foods section)
2 cups prepared sushi rice (prepare according to package directions)
2 medium avocados, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large cucumber (I prefer English for this), peeled and cut into 2-inch long thin strips
12 pieces of imitation crab sticks (I like Dyna-Sea brand--make sure it is gluten free and allergen free as needed)
Optional veggies:
scallions, cut in thin strips
lightly steamed carrots, cut in matchstick size strips
Daikon radish, cut in matchstick size strips

For serving:
gluten free soy sauce
prepared wasabi (optional)
pickled ginger (optional)

First lay out all the ingredients and tools. Place a piece of plastic wrap over your sushi mat. Put out a small bowl of warm water nearby in case your fingers get sticky from handling the rice.  Line up all the cut sushi ingredients in front of your mat. Have a tray or plate ready for your completed rolls.

If you have a gas burner, turn it to medium, and wave the nori a few inches from the flame for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, set aside.

Place nori sheet flat on the plastic covered bamboo sushi mat. Spread about 1/3 cup rice over the nori, leaving a 1-inch margin at either end.  

At the end closest to you, layer your fish and vegetables in a single layer no wider than 2-inches.  Spread with a thin layer of wasabi, if desired, for a hotter taste.

Slowly flip the end of the mat closest to you up and slowly roll the filling inside the nori.  You are using the mat to nudge the roll along, the mat will not roll up in a cylinder (refer to video). When the roll is complete, cover it with the end of the mat you used to roll it up, and press along the length of the mat with your hands in a "c" shape, in order to firm up the roll.  

If I'm rolling the sushi in advance, I like to wrap it in the plastic wrap that covered the mat, and use a new sheet of plastic wrap for each roll. Otherwise, using a sharp knife, slice sushi roll into 1-inch thick pieces and lay on a plate.

To serve: place soy sauce in small individual bowls for each person. Arrange sushi on a plate or tray, garnished with wasabi and pickled ginger, if desired.

Serves: 6 for a main course; 12 for an appetizer