January 25, 2011

For the gluten-free and gluten-loving alike: Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)

Farinata is the answer to a snack attack for something warm and soft.

And it is gluten free! 
These little chickpea flatbreads are amazingly comforting, 
authentic, and ridiculously easy to make. 

They're much softer than a cracker, and more moist than bread. 
Every slice is reminiscent of rich, buttery, thin slices of cornbread. 
Except that it's not cornbread, and there's no butter.

Trust me, you'll want to make these just so that you can top them
any way you like. Mine have sage, garlic powder, and pepper. 

Then I served them with a choice of pesto or walnut feta spread. Yum.

2 cups chickpea flour
1.5 cups cold water
2 t. salt
1/3 cup quality olive oil
Toppings of choice: 
think dried or fresh herbs, pepper, spices, 
even crumbled or shredded cheese

In a large bowl, slowly whisk the chickpea flour into the water.
Whisk in the salt and oil. 
Cover with plastic wrap.
Allow to sit at least 1 hour, and (chilled) up to a day.
Preheat broiler and stir batter once more. 
Coat a 9x13 inch pan with olive oil 
and pour in the batter, 
then evenly sprinkle on your toppings.
Broil 5 minutes, then turn on oven to 450
and bake for another 5 minutes more, 
until the edges pull away from the pan. 
Slice, and serve
steaming hot!

January 23, 2011

Soft Chicken Tacos with Spicy Mayo

Take me straight to South Philly in a matter of minutes.

There are a number of incredible taquerias in South Philadelphia,. The instant you sit down you are presented with piles of double-thick tortilla chips straight from the fryer. It's crispy, crunchy heaven, and if you're not careful (and if you are a tortilla chip addict like me) you risk ruining your appetite for the main event: a plate of piping hot, fragrant tacos. 

M and I regularly get hit hard with cravings for that succulent pork, chicken, and beef enveloped in fresh, soft corn tortillas. Unfortunately, the authentic Mexican dives of Washington Street just feel a tad too far away for a really quick weekday visit. We have friends who will do drive-by's of their favorite taquerias at least once a week to fulfill the cravings, but alas, the only wheels M and I have these days are our bikes. This poses a slight challenge.

So I was overjoyed when I saw a recipe for chicken tacos in last month's Cooking Light magazine. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner... After a little experimenting with chicken breast and my food processor, I now feel like I know the secret to those wonderful, juicy bits of meat they pile on our soft tacos.  True to South Philly's favorites, these are the kind of tacos you won't put back down on your plate once you pick them up for a bite.

Ingredients: serves 2, with 3 soft tacos each
1 large boneless-skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup sweet red peppers, chopped
1 t. chili powder
3 T. hot sauce
1 T. cooking oil
salt and pepper
6 soft corn tortillas, warmed in the microwave
1 lime, quartered

Spicy Mayo: 4 T. light mayo, 1 T. hot sauce, 1/2 t. chili powder. Stir together well, adjust spices to taste.

Directions: Place the first six ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth. Preheat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the chicken mixture. Cook until crumbly and browned. Divide evenly among the six warmed soft tortillas, spread the spicy mayo evenly atop each one. Place 3 tacos on each plate and serve alongside two lime quarters each (the lime is an important last step to flavor, so don't skip this).

January 21, 2011

Creamy White Bean Hummus

Brightly flavored, hearty, and healthy:

I love the silky, yet thick, texture of this white bean hummus. It is wonderfully versatile and quick to make. Whether served as an appetizer with crunchy red pepper strips and crackers, or smothered on a lunch sandwich, it's one recipe that should be kept close by!

1 15oz. can cannelini beans, drained
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1.5 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3/4 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried parsley
1 T. fresh chopped basil
1 t. grated lemon peel
1/2 t. hot pepper flakes

Directions: Add all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

January 19, 2011

"Come, Sit, Stay"

Good Dog.

Good Dog is a has long been one of my favorite places in Philadelphia. It's a crowded, dimly lit and loud bar and restaurant that, if you look behind its 'dive bar' persona (and those who know it do, in large numbers), offers the best in food and drink... Plus the walls are completely covered with black and white photos of a million adorable dogs. If I could go to Good Dog every week, I would. So instead I just try to go as often as possible.

That said, the first thing that attracted me regularly to Good Dog was its "Good Dog Burger," a juicy patty stuffed with stinky, melted Roquefort cheese and piled high with with caramelized onions. Upon first bite, the Roquefort starts pouring everywhere. If that weren't enough to make me swoon, they serve it with a heaping side of mixed sweet and white potato fries with a special aoili dipping sauce. Heaven.

Every visit, I ordered the same thing: "Good Dog Burger, medium rare, please".
Fast forward a couple of years, on one fortuitous day when my eyes actually revisited the menu. I stumbled into their Grilled Veggie Burger. On impulse, I deviated from my usual. Moments later as I sank my teeth into a giant, softly grilled bean and veggie patty, I realized what I had been missing. This burger, with its deep notes of Middle Eastern flavor and generously smothered curried mayo, was positively perfect. I had fallen in love again.

Although each visit to Good Dog is met with a war between choosing one of these miraculous burgers, I was astounded the other night when I made a veggie burger that took me straight to Good Dog without walking the mile in the rain...

This Middle Eastern Chickpea burger, smothered with curried mayo and served on a soft, toasty wheat bun:

So, do as Good Dog bids and "come, sit, stay." This burger is ready in minutes, so there is plenty of time to relax over the table. Pile on a side of sweet potato fries, think about cute dogs, and you'll be in Philadelphia in no time.

Ingredients: makes 2 large burger patties
1/2 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
3 T. reduced fat mayo
1 t. minced garlic
1 15.5oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained with 3 T. set aside
1 t. chopped fresh parsely or 1/2 t. dried
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. grated lemon rind
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. turmeric
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 whole wheat hamburger or brioche buns
Curry Mayo: 3 T. reduced fat or lite mayo, combined well with 1 T. curry powder.

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients, except 3 T. chickpeas, in a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth but a few chunks may remain. Heat 1 T. olive oil over a pan on medium heat. Transfer the chickpea mixture to a bowl, stir in the remaining 3 T. of chickpeas, and form into two evenly shaped patties. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 5 minutes to a side, until toasty and lightly brown on each side (be careful when flipping, as the patties are soft). While the burgers are cooking, toast the buns and mix the curry mayo. Serve the burgers with lettuce and tomato if desired, with the mayo smothered on the buns.

January 17, 2011

Refried Bean Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

These are no neat, pretty enchiladas. No, they are a lovely, delicious, rolled up pile of cheesy, saucy goodness. And when one enchilada is scooped from where it was nestled with the others in the pan, it produces this rather messy picture:

And this was the best picture I could get! Since they aren't quite pretty as a picture on the plate, but they taste incredible, I keep them as a recipe for M and myself... and maybe a privileged friend who is close enough that they don't care whether the food looks nice.

Either way, I love this meal because it is hearty and healthy. Fat-free refried beans are filling, with a soft, silky texture I just love. Minimal use of cheese helps keep fat content lower than other cheese-loaded enchiladas, but as you can see there are still those lovely strings of melted cheese that form and connect from your fork to your plate... And last but not least, the mole sauce has an deep flavor of spice and chocolate that makes every bite feel like a treat. So get ready for a fast and simple meal that has all the smothery goodness of a night out for Mexican, and remember that food doesn't always have to look perfect to be perfect!

(As a note, these enchiladas can be a beautiful, presentable dish. Simply use mini-individual baking dishes and serve each person their own portion)

Ingredients: serves 2
4 corn tortillas, warmed in the microwave
1 can Fat Free Refried Beans
Hot sauce
1/2 cup frozen mixed sweet peppers, thawed
4 oz. Monterrey Jack or other Mexican cheese
1 cup or more Mole sauce, in a bowl

Spray a small baking dish with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350.
Dip a corn tortilla in the mole sauce on both sides and let the excess drip off. Working on a plate, scoop a small portion (about 3 T.) refried beans into one edge of the tortilla and spread, then top with 1/4 of the peppers, and a little hot sauce. Roll tightly, starting from the filled end, then place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with all four tortillas.
Top tortillas with the cheese, then pour the remaining mole sauce evenly over it. Bake for about 25 minutes and serve.

January 11, 2011

Everyone Needs a Little Spice in Life...

Spicy, chewy, and with just the right amount of sweetness, these hermit cookies are perfect for a cold evening with a cup of tea. The hermits were the second cookie that my Grandma, sister, and I baked together, in addition to the peanut butter blondies.  They were a new recipe for us, and everyone loved the way that they turned out. They disappeared almost as fast as we could cut them!

2 cups flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 cup raisins
2 T. chopped crystallized ginger
1 stick unsalted butter
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (we used blackstrap by mistake, but the flavor was not sacrificed, so use either)
2 large eggs

For icing:
1.5 T. juice from an orange
3/4 cup confectioner sugar

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Process the raisins and ginger until it is in tiny bits. Transfer to a large bowl. Heat the butter over medium heat for 10 minutes until it becomes a nutty brown color, then add the spices and cook for 15 seconds until fragrant. Add to the raisin mixture, mix well, and allow to cool. Add brown sugar, molasses, and eggs, and stir until incorporated. Fold in the flour mixture and refrigerate for 1.5  hours until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in quarters, then, on a floured surface, roll each quarter into a 10" log. Square off the ends using a knife or ruler. Transfer to the pans and bake for 10-15 minutes until the sides are set but center is still soft. Cool for 15 minutes on the pan, then remove on the parchment and allow to cool completely. Combine the orange juice and confectioner sugar in a small bowl, then drizzle over cookie logs. Cut into 2" slices.

January 7, 2011

Dense and Chewy Peanut Butter Blondies

Every year since I was old enough to stir a bowl of batter, my grandmother and I have baked Christmas cookies on a special day that was just ours. My sister had a separate day that was just hers, too, but on my day it was just Grandma and me. My mom would come, too, of course, until I was old enough to drive myself. She'd pass the day in the living room flipping through endless piles of Good Housekeeping magazines as Grandma and I sifted, measured, and stirred. 

Later, as dozens of cookies cooled, my dad and sister would join us for dinner. We'd sit around my dad's childhood table long afterward, sipping tea and indulging in those fresh, soft fresh-baked goodies. Usually we'd have a game of Scrabble (Grandma always won). Then we'd repeat the process all over again when it was time for my sister's special day.

My chosen Christmas cookie was always a peanut butter cookie. I know that peanut butter cookies aren't traditionally festive, but all that mattered to me growing up was that they contained my favorite ingredient in the entire world. Year after year, as my sister always chose a new recipe to try, I stuck to my tradition. This year, about twenty years since our tradition began, I decided to mix it up with a Peanut Butter Blondie instead of a peanut butter cookie.

The results were fantastic; a dense, chewy treat loaded with peanut butter chips. The entire house smelled like creamy, nutty, peanut butter heaven. This year, tradition changed in more ways than one: my sister and I shared our special baking days for the first time. She was married in June, and would be spending Christmas with her new family, so this was our way of spending an early holiday together with our Grandma. This year one thing was for certain -- change has never been so sweet.

Peanut Butter Blondies: adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cookies
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick salted butter, melted and cooked
1.5 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temp.
4 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (not natural) at room temp.
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9" square pan with greased foil, letting the foil hang over the sides. Combine flour, powder and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk well. Whisk in the peanut butter well. Add the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated, then add the peanut butter chips and peanuts. Mix until evenly distributed. Pour into the pan and smooth out the top. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs stuck to it. Cool in the pan for two hours, then remove using the foil and cut into squares.

January 4, 2011

Succulent Slow-Cooked Beef Ribs

I never thought I would thank my slow cooker for existing as much as I did the moment I sank my teeth into the first bite of these juicy, fall-off-the-bone beef ribs.

M said, "Whatever my favorite meal was before, scratch that. This is my favorite meal you've ever made." I smiled. This "favorite meal" had taken barely ten minutes of effort. The results tasted like days worth of love and labor. 

The beef ribs were unwrapped from the lovely orange paper the butcher had swaddled them in, and I generously coated each side with salt and pepper. 

Then, they were placed in piping hot pan to brown for a few minutes. As they developed a lovely crust, I whisked together the sauce.

Everything was poured into the slow cooker, set to high, and for four hours our apartment was filled with the smells of succulent meat tenderizing in a hot bath of bubbling gravy. While they were cooking I even went to the gym and did some shopping. Imagine that! At the end of the day, the beauty is that this recipe is perfect for both the seasoned and beginner cook. If you don't have a slow cooker, simply braise them for a few hours over low heat in a dutch oven instead. I promise you the results are bound to be incredible. In fact, someone might even be moved to declare it their favorite meal ever.

Slow-Cooked Beef Ribs serves 2
4 beef short ribs (about 1.5-2 lbs of meat total)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
1/8 cup water (use a little to deglaze the pan after browning your ribs, and you'll catch all the delicious bits)
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 t. paprika
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. salt

Set a pan (not non-stick) over medium heat and coat with a little bit of oil. Salt and pepper each side of the ribs, then place them in the pan and allow to brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Place the ribs in the slow cooker, then pour the sauce over it. Cover and set to high for at least 4 hours, or on low for 6-8. Serve two ribs each, over mashed potatoes, with gravy poured on top.


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