Friday, January 29, 2010

Flourless Oatmeal Cookies

These oatmeal-raisin cookies are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and gluten-free without a special flour mix if you use GF oats.* They have 5 key ingredients, and three of them are endlessly adaptable.[For the record, I'm not on the gluten-intolerance bandwagon. I know there are some genuine diseases and allergies -- and I'm concerned that the genetic modifications that make our grain crops withstand bad weather and long storage may also make it more difficult for our guts to break down and digest -- but I also think people eat too many rich bakery goods and put a lot of junk bewteen the halves of their fluffy white, low-protein/gluten sandwich rolls and then blame their indigestion on the bread.
I think going the other way and embracing whole grains and hearty breads is a better way to go but, that said, I have a limited audience and an significant minority have expressed a desire to cut gluten... and I like a baking challenge.]
The inspiration for this cookie came from a tuile/macaroon hybrid in Ginette Mathiot's I Know How to Cook [Je Sais Cuisiner] that used only nuts, chocolate, egg, and sugar. While I love exotic cookies, I also like reengineering classics. The thought that someone with Celiac's disease simply cannot have an oatmeal cookie is unacceptable to me.

Herewith, the Recipe: Flourless Oatmeal Cookies
You can substitute up to a cup of the oats with nuts and use any dried fruit you like... or chocolate chunks. I buzzed everything in my food processor because smaller bits hold together better, but you could use quick cooking oats and roughly chopped raisins and squeeze everything together by hand. Salt, cinnamon, and vanilla are optional flavorings.

Makes ~3 dozen 2-inch cookies

3 cups rolled oats [gluten free, if desired]*
1 1/4 cup sugar [I used 3/4 white, 1/2 cup brown, you could also replace 2 Tbs with honey or sorghum]
1 tsp kosher or sea salt [ or 1/2 tsp table salt]
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Water for flattening [or booze, but it'd be wasteful]

Preheat oven to 375F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse ~5 times to crush the oats. [See header for by-hand instructions.] Add raisins, egg, and vanilla and pulse until mixture clumps together.

Use a tablespoon or #60 scoop to make walnut-sized balls and space them evenly across the 2 sheets. [You should be able to fit 20 on one large cookie sheet; they won't spread much.] Dip a flat-bottomed glass in a shallow bowl of water and flatten cookies until they are ~1/8-inch thick and 2 inches across, rewetting the glass before each cookie. [Twisting the glass as you pull up helps it release from the cookie.]

Bake ~14 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Slide parchment onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once cool, cookies should peel cleanly from the parchment. Store in an airtight container.

*As I understand it, the little gluten that exists in oats is not actually a problem for those with gluten sensitivities; it's just that oats are usually milled in the same place as wheat flour and pick up a lot of cross-contamination. The separate-mill requirement is also what makes GF oats more expensive.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another First

I just made the most amazing discovery: We had a brief warm spell where the rain melted away the snow and THE GRASS IS GREEN UNDERNEATH!
Are you surprised that I'm surprised? Well, let me tell you something that Texans discuss freely amongst themselves but are a little shy to share with Yankees: We don't have grass. Turf grass like bluegrass or fescue, with the deep green color and the skinny-skinny blades, does not grow in Texas. We selectively grow semi-native coastal grass plants that people not from the area have called "weeds" that spread via runners over the top of the soil. If you can get your St. Augustine or Bermuda grass to grow densely enough, you get a lawn... but that lawn will go mostly brown and dormant during the winter. [I've overseeded my lawn with ryegrass in the winter, but it's a somewhat controversial practice.]

I just assumed all the grass up here went dormant once it froze and was covered with snow, but the snow's gone [for now] and those skinny little blades are just as happy as can be. It's amazing.... to me, anyway.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Candy Fennel Seeds

I'm addicted to these things. I found them at the South Asian grocery store at the end of my street. They're sweet and spicy-- kind of like the minty Tic-Tacs, but with crunchy centers that won't dissolve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cerveza Preparada: The Bloody Mary of Beers

I'm not a rabid football fan, but I enjoy a solid afternoon of NFL games from time to time. On such occasions, I've noticed that it's very easy to consume vast quantities of light beer without really noticing. While I've done it many times, I'm getting old [and wise?] enough to prefer a drink that was tasty enough to remember drinking. There is a way, however, to turn light beer into a special occasion cocktail: the cerveza preparada [or Michelada, for reasons I haven't uncovered], and it'll be a hit at your next playoff party.I used to think of them as a low-octane margarita alternative for tacos and fajitas -- more of a summer thing -- but last weekend I had an epiphany: It's The Bloody Mary of Beers and perfect for when you're starting your beer consumption early. Recipes for micheladas are always written in "dashes" of this and that, but JG and I have been tinkering around with them and have finally come up with a reliable, measurable recipe. They're just salty and spicy enough to to sip at a more moderate pace without overloading your salty tastebuds... 'cause you'll need those for the snacks, right? All in all, the cerveza preparada is the perfect way to kick off a big game... Try 'em!*

Recipe: Cerveza Preparada
You can do these with any beer you like, but I prefer them with something light. It's best to serve these setups with the beer on the side and invite each person to pour their own. Amounts for a larger batch are below the first recipe.

2 Tbs kosher salt [optional for rims]

Per Glass:
1 lime
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
2-4 dashes of hot sauce to taste [I prefer Cholula]
cracked black pepper

Additional lime slices to garnish, if desired.

Salt rims of pint glasses [if desired] by wetting rim with water and swirling in a plate of kosher salt.

Fill glass 2/3 full of ice, juice lime and pour sauces over ice. Crack a little black pepper over it all, garnish with a slice of lime, and serve with the opened bottle.

Premixed setups:
per 4 beers

1/2 cup lime juice
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp worcestershire
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp hot sauce to taste [I prefer Cholula]

Put ice and cracked black pepper to 4 glasses. Pour in a scant shot or 3 scant tablespoons into each.

*In the interest of beer science, I have tried and do not recommend drinking the Budweiser "Cheledas." If you do try one, you will wonder how this ever caught on. [Sorry, Mike.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whole-Grain Overnight Waffles

My newest kitchen toy is a Belgian waffle maker, courtesy of JG's mom. It makes me quite happy... and meant I needed to create a new recipe for whole-grain waffles. I had a pancake recipe I liked from Cook's Illustrated, but their solution for fluffy multi-graininess was to grind muesli into a coarse flour, which tasted good but I'm opposed to heroic efforts before 9am... especially when I doubt their necessity.
Using yeast and an overnight batter method means I dump things together the night before and have a richly flavored batter the next morning. Using equal parts oat to whole-wheat flour means there's plenty of insoluble fiber without an excess of chewy gluten from the long sit. Nuts, milk (you could use soy or rice milk), and eggs round it all out on the protein front. Voila! Nutritious and delicious!

Recipe: Whole-Grain Overnight Waffles
You could swap baking soda for the yeast and make them right away, but they won't be quite as good. If you have a sourdough starter, add 1/2 cup unrefreshed to the batter and reduce the instant yeast to 1/2 tsp.

This makes 6 large belgian-style waffles... I usually do a 1/2 recipe for JG and myself.

2 cups warm milk (or soy milk)
2 eggs (separation optional)
2 tablespoons maple,
honey, or sorghum
2 tablespoons canola oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1/2 cup pecan meal (or other nut meal)
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

If separating, collect egg whites into a small airtight container and refrigerate, then whisk together the wet ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Combine dry ingredients, then stir in to wet until no big clumps remain. [The low-gluten oat flour means you don't have to worry about over mixing] Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
When ready to bake, pull batter (and whites) from the fridge and prepare waffle iron. It should have a foamy, bubbly appearance. Give it a quick stir to recombine or, if whites are separated, whisk the whites until foamy and fold into batter. Cook according to waffle iron instructions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brussels Sprouts

Do you pronounce all of the "s"s in Brussels sprouts? I realized as I typed the title that I never do. It's actually kind of tricky to say...
As a kid, I once at a Brussels sprout with half of a gray-green worm in the middle [it was probably a caterpillar, really] and refused to eat them for about 10 years. I've since reversed that opinion and loved them shaved raw in the spring or roasted in the winter. Whatever you do, don't boil them; they're easy to overboil and release a horrible sulfur smell when they do.

Roasted, they're an easy side dish that goes great with meats or pasta. They're also super simple, just halve them, spray with oil and sprinkle with salt, and dump them on a foil-lined a baking sheet at ~425F for 20-25 minutes or until they're spotty brown and soft. [You could do them with kabocha on the same pan.]