Sunday, May 21, 2017

Strawberry Ice Cream Shortcakes with Cornmeal Drop Biscuits

During strawberry season, I always think of shortcakes. And while I had some of the very freshest, best milk and cream on hand, strawberry shortcakes with vanilla ice cream quickly became a fantastic idea. I volunteer with Slow Food Austin, and we recently hosted a tour at Richardson Farms where they’re operating a newly-opened dairy. This is a small, family-run farm that sits about an hour’s drive outside of Austin. To give you a sense of the scale of this dairy, the milking operation is set up for four cows at a time. 

We visited the pretty bovine gals as they waited their turn outside, and then we watched as they came in and the milking began. Richardson’s guarantees that all their cows are of the A2 genetic variety, and as they breed the next generation, they are also guaranteed to be A2. That designation refers to a type of beta-casein protein, and cows in the US can be A1 or A2. Larger farms could have some cows of both types and don’t typically check which is which. The A2 beta-casein is thought to be more easily-digestible and to lead to fewer adverse health issues than A1. It was fascinating to learn that the farm has taken the steps to ensure that all their milk is A2. During the tour, we also visited the hungry, little calves and fed them from bottles before touring the milk tank room and seeing the pasteurizing machine. Here in Texas, raw milk can only be purchased at a farm. It can’t be sold at farmers’ markets or in stores. So, while Richardson’s offers raw milk to customers who visit the farm, everything they sell elsewhere is low-heat pasteurized. While there, I was able to purchase raw milk that had just entered the tank from the cows I saw being milked, and I also brought home some raw cream. I couldn’t wait to put it to good use. 

I should mention, the farm also produces meat including beef, pork, and chicken. They sell eggs, and they mill their own whole wheat flour and cornmeal from non-GMO plants. When I read A New Way to Bake, the Cornmeal Drop Biscuits caught my eye, and I knew they’d be great platforms for strawberry shortcake. I made them with whole wheat pastry flour, Richardson’s cornmeal and raw milk, and some grass-fed butter. The batter was scooped onto baking sheets, and they baked until golden. For the ice cream, as usual I followed the recipe for Vanilla Gelato from Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts . I used more of that fabulous milk that was heated gently and added to egg yolks. The custard was then poured through a sieve into a measuring pitcher, and the beautiful raw cream was added with some salt. I chilled the base overnight before churning the ice cream. For the strawberries, I just stemmed and halved them, tossed them with a little sugar, and waited for the juices to run. 

After visiting the farm, seeing what they’re doing, and hearing the trouble they’ve gone to to make the best product they can, I wanted to tell everyone I know to go buy their milk. I hope they’re able to sell raw milk as an option at our farmers’ markets soon. And, I hope more people take an interest in this incredible milk made right here in central Texas. I can report the milk and cream were sublime in all the ways I used them: in a spring chowder, splashed into some cold-brew coffee, and in these biscuits and ice cream for strawberry shortcakes. 

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

Have you ever thought much about how you really cook? I mean when you’re cooking regular, daily meals not when you’re following a specific recipe to try something new or when you’re making something for a special occasion. For day-to-day cooking, do you always make your favorite meals the exact same way every time? Probably not. The new book from Deborah Madison, In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes, is a look at how she really cooks. These are recipes that may have appeared in a slightly different version in previous books, and they are ones that she turns to often. Here, she explains why they have stood the test of time for her and how she has modified them since they were first written or routinely changes them up depending on what’s in season. There’s a nice introduction to how her cooking has changed now that so many well-made food products can be easily found in markets. She also writes about her garden and the delight of planting and growing new and different things to use in your cooking. What I really enjoyed about this book was that in the head notes for the recipes there are several suggestions for ways to vary ingredients or technique along with ideas for what to serve with the dish. Those notes give you a real sense of her regular cooking and inspire you to experiment as well. For several recipes, you’ll see that she has simplified the process from the original version. The Warm Cabbage Salad with Togarashi Tofu Crisps is a more streamlined approach to a similar dish from her book This Can’t Be Tofu in which the crisp tofu cubes are treated like croutons. The Eggplant Gratin with a Golden Dome of Saffton-Ricotta Custard is lightened up compared to the original now that the layer of cheese has been removed. And, the Masa Crepes with Chard, Black Beans, Avocado, and Pickled Onions began as a rich, layered Mexican casserole. I can’t wait to play around with the recipe for Yellow Coconut Rice with Scallions and Black Sesame Seeds. It’s intended to be pressed into a pan, chilled, and then cut into diamonds and browned. It could also be served warm from the stovetop after initially cooking, and there are some great suggestions for what to serve with it. The first dish I tried from the book was the Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon. 

I had some pretty, bright carrots from my CSA and some locally made preserved Meyer lemons that were perfect for this recipe. And, I learned something new. Every time I had ever used bulgur in the past, I poured boiling water over it to soak before using. Until reading this recipe, I didn’t realize you could just pour cool water over it and wait about 30 minutes. It becomes tender, and you can drain away any excess water. I actually had some cooked green lentils in the freezer and got to skip that cooking step in the process. The dressing was a quick mix of minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, sliced scallions, and salt. The preserved lemon was chopped as were the carrots, celery, and herbs. Fortunately, I had some parsley in my herb garden, and I used my Mexican mint marigold rather than tarragon. Rinsed and drained chickpeas were combined with the vegetables, herbs, bulgur, and lentils, and the dressing was added to finish the dish. 

I’ve read and used several Deborah Madison books, and it was fun to see some recipes I recognized from earlier works here. It was her books that got me interested in using sorrel, and now I love finding it at local farm stands in the spring. I had just bought a bunch of sorrel the day I made this and decided to chiffonade a few leaves for a garnish on top of the salad. The lemony ribbons were great with the bright dressing and bits of preserved lemon throughout. This is the kind of book I want to keep flipping back through to remind myself of all the great tips. And, I want to keep cooking these dishes. 

Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes

1/2 cup green French or black Beluga lentils 
1 bay leaf 
1 deep orange carrot, diced into small pieces 
1/2 cup fine or medium bulgur 
1 plump garlic clove, finely minced or pounded in a mortar with a pinch of salt 
3 tablespoons lemon juice 
1/3 cup best olive oil 
1 1/2 cups home-cooked or canned chickpeas, well rinsed and drained 
8 scallions, thinly sliced, including some of the greens 
1 preserved lemon, skin only, finely diced 
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley 
1 rounded tablespoon chopped tarragon 
2 celery stalks, diced, plus their pale leaves, finely chopped 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

If you have time, soak the lentils in water to cover for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain the lentils, then put them in a small saucepan and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Add the bay leaf, carrot, and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tender-firm, 25 minutes or longer. 

Meanwhile, put the bulgur in a small bowl, add 2 cups of water, and let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender, about 30 minutes. When a grain tastes done, drain the bulgur and press out any excess water. 

Whisk the garlic, lemon juice, oil, scallions, and  1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. When the lentils are done, drain them and add them to the bowl along with the bulgur and chickpeas, preserved lemon, parsley, tarragon, and celery stalks and leaves. Turn gently and thoroughly. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Mound the finished salad into a handsome serving dish. Serve immediately or cover and set aside to serve later. 

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Granola Cookies

Baking with a mix of flours and various types of natural sweeteners has become my new standard. I love trying different types of grains and nuts in flour form for breads, pancakes, and cookies, and all kinds of treats. So, it was a delight to see the newest book from the Kitchens of Martha Stewart, A New Way to Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry, that focuses on just that kind of baking. I recently received a review copy. Not all of the recipes are gluten free, but some are. And, not all of the sweet recipes are free of refined sugar, but less-refined organic sugar is recommended when granulated sugar is used. It’s a collection of mostly traditional, comforting recipes that have been amped up a bit in the nutrition department with a reduced use of white flour. The accompanying photo with every recipe will make you want to taste each one. At the very beginning of the book, I couldn’t wait to try the Gluten-Free Quinoa Pancakes sweetened only with maple syrup and the Vegan Banana-Oat Pancakes made with shredded coconut and orange juice. Still in the Breakfast chapter, I want to try the Double-Chocolate Rye Muffins, the Pumpkin Spelt Scones with Maple Glaze, and the Seeded Breakfast Rolls. Beyond breakfast, there are also cookies, brownies, pies, tarts, cobblers, cakes, breads, and more. I’ve marked many, many pages including the dairy-free Chocolate-Coconut Pie made with coconut oil and coconut milk, the Molasses-Oat Bread, and the Seeded English Muffins. So far, I’ve made two recipes from the book. I’ll be writing about the Cornmeal Drop Biscuits soon, and today I want to tell you about the Granola Cookies. They’re actually not made with granola. Instead, they’re made from a lot of the same things that go into granola. 

These are dairy-free cookies since no butter is used. Coconut oil was combined with brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. I used less-refined muscovado sugar rather than regular brown sugar since I had some on hand. Eggs and vanilla were added next followed by flour and I used whole wheat pastry flour. Baking soda and salt were also added. Last, oats, flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, large unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped dark chocolate, and unsweetened dried cherries were folded into the dough. Once mixed, the dough was refrigerated to firm up, and then it was scooped onto baking sheets and baked for about 14 minutes.

This cookie checks every item on the desirability list: chewy, nutty, fruity, chocolaty, and delicious. And, there’s lots of room for personalization since you can use a different type of nut or seed, choose your favorite kind of chocolate, and pick a different dried fruit if you like. In fact, at the beginning of the book, there’s a suggestion to experiment with all of the recipes by trying different combinations of flours, milks, sweeteners, or fats. There’s even a handy chart and more ingredient info at the back of the book to help with making substitutions. Tinkering with and tasting all of these recipes is going to be fun.  

Granola Cookies 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from A New Way to Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry.
 
Coconut oil takes the place of butter in this brown-sugar–based dough. Wholesome granola mix-ins—coconut flakes, dried cherries, pepitas—are added alongside bittersweet chocolate chunks for an irresistible old-fashioned drop cookie that’s a great energy-boosting snack. 

MAKES ABOUT 40 
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil 
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon coarse salt 
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds) 
1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 
3/4 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes 
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup) 
1 cup unsweetened dried cherries or cranberries, chopped 

In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat oil and brown sugar on medium until well combined, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt, and beat until combined. Stir in oats, flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, coconut, chocolate, and cherries until well combined. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough, 2 inches apart, onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden, 13 to 14 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. 

(Cookies can be kept in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.) To make the cookie whole grain, swap in spelt flour for the all-purpose. To make gluten-free, substitute 1 cup of Wholesome Flour from Cup 4 Cup (available at cup4cup.com) for the all-purpose, and use gluten-free oats.

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