Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Featured Ingredient: Beer
Gone are the days when beer was considered too pedestrian compared to wine for use as a cooking liquid. With the craft beer boom and mounting experimentation in the kitchens of tony gastropubs and up-market eateries, not to mention TV mega-food stars, the humble brew is finally getting a chance to show its culinary wings. Check out the Iron Chef beer battle. So take one down and pass it around to tap into beer’s huge flavor-enhancing potential.
From a culinary perspective, cooking with beer offers several benefits. The hops provide pleasant bitterness with the malt giving dishes a subtle sweetness. Stout beer makes chocolate baked goods even more chocolaty and lets you cut back on the oil or butter needed. Plus, the carbonation of beer contributes to the leavening (i.e. rising) of bread such as the recipe below with the malt producing a nice curst.
A few rules to abide by:
Just like wine, never cook with a beer that you wouldn’t want to imbibe.
Beer can merely be substituted for part or all of the liquid – water, stock, or wine – in recipes. In general, use a darker beer as a stand in for red wine and a lighter brew for white.
Sure, you’ll trim a few calories, but calorie-reduced light beers often don’t have enough flavor to stand up to cooking.
As beer cooks and reduces, it’s sweetness tends to cook off with the water, pushing it’s bitter aspects to the forefront. So use heavily hopped, bitter beers such as IPA in deeply flavored dishes or add them towards the end of cooking. A beer style that is very lightly hopped is perfect for reduction sauces and baking.
Full-flavored beers such as stouts and porters will have more impact on your dish, so a little goes a long way. Lighter lagers and pilsners can be used in greater quantities.
Ready to pour? Here’s a simple recipe to get you started in the wonderful world of cooking with beer. These mini breads are perfect served warm with a whisper of butter.
Roasted Garlic Rosemary Beer Bread
1 whole garlic bulb
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup lager or pilsner beer, preferably room temperature
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the excess papery covering on the garlic and slice off the top of the head so most of the cloves are exposed. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until garlic is very soft.
In a large bowl, squeeze out the soft garlic pulp and mix with flour, sugar, olive oil, baking powder, rosemary and salt. Add beer and stir until just combined (don’t overmix). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and an inserted tester comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Featured Ingredient: Hemp seeds
Haven’t joined the growing legion of hemp devotees yet? Why the heck not?
Unquestionably, hemp seed is one of Mother Nature’s most nutritious offerings to us. With an alluring nutty, earthy flavor that telegraphs its nutritional prowess, hemp seed provides more protein - about 11 grams per ounce - than most other seeds making it a great protein source for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Other nutritional highlights include heart-healthy omega fatty acids, magnesium, fiber and plant sterols, which have been credited with helping reduce cholesterol numbers assuring hemp is a champion for heart health.
When I came across this hemp tart recipe over at Cupcake Project, I instantly knew it was something I had to try. Hemp crust and hemp custard – what could be better? My recipe adaptation below is really tasty, but I think Cupcake Project would when a Top Chef battle here. My crust was a little thick and the custard seemed to absorb into it. I also used palm sugar for the custard which has a brown tinge. I think for presentation, a white sugar would be best. I added a white chocolate sauce which definitely adds a layer of goodness. If you don’t have vanilla hemp milk, you can use regular milk for the custard with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
For the recipe, I used the hemp seeds from Manitoba Harvest which are now widely available.
Hemp Tarts with Blueberry Custard and White Chocolate Sauce
1 1/4 cups hempseeds
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup palm or other sugar of choice
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, mix together hempseeds, flour, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla extract with an electric mixture until well combined and flour looks moist. The mixture will resemble a bunch of small pebbles. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Divide the mixture among 12 paper lined muffin cups. Press the crust down and up the sides of the liners nearly all the way to the top. (This is the most time consuming part of the recipe).
1 large egg
1/4 cup palm or other sugar of choice
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup vanilla hemp milk, scalded (just before boiling)
1/2 cup blueberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, beat egg well. Stir in sugar, lemon zest, cardamom and salt. Mix in heated hemp milk a little bit at a time. Stir in blueberries. Spoon custard into prepared crusts. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding.
1 cup table cream
100 grams white chocolate, finely chopped
In a small saucepan, bring cream to a very slight tremble. Stir in chocolate until melted. Serve custard tarts topped with white chocolate sauce.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Featured Ingredient: Extracts
Intensely flavored extracts can add oomph to cakes, muffins, yogurt, and smoothies. While most people are familiar with ubiquitous vanilla extract, less common versions such as coffee, lemon and almond can really add a little some extra to certain dishes. Try coffee extract in a chocolate cake and it will instantly heighten the chocolate flavor. But good quality extracts which are not fungible with cheap, industrial stuff can be pricey and, depending on the type, hard to come by.
That’s why I’ve decided to try and make my own. At the moment, I have vanilla, chocolate, coffee, lemon, and almond extract on the go. It’s a basic mixture of a solid such as cocoa nibs, vodka and a bit of water. Now all that this is required is patience as I believe it will take 8 weeks for these to be ready for recipes. I won’t provide any recipes for them yet as I want to make sure they work out first. So stay tuned!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
With grilling season in full swing, I thought I would pass along an article I wrote for Women's Health with six tasty burger recipes such as chicken burgers with strawberry salsa and turkey gorgonzola burgers. Probably my favorite were these stuffed portobello burgers with caramelized onions.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Featured Ingredient: Oatmeal
Most mornings Tabi and I have a pretty supercharged bowl of oatmeal. As the old saw goes “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” so why not start it with a power grain. Among the many nutritional highlights of oats is beta-glucan, a soluble fiber shown to slash cholesterol levels. But oats on their own are as exciting as a lawn bowling match, which is why we take oatmeal and gussy it up with cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, chopped apple, wild blueberries and a dollop of natural peanut butter. This ends up being a delicious bowl of goodness with a healthy balance of complex carbs, protein and fat.
Recently, I started to wonder what would happen if I baked together the ingredients of our bowl of oatmeal. So one recent morning I decided to give it a try. The results were a resounding success. These are pleasantly moist and you can really taste the peanut butter and that’s never a bad thing. I had some ground flaxseed on hand so I decided to toss that in for a boost of omega fats.
If you’re a morning oat kind of person, you’ll probably really enjoy these. If you do, let me know.
Possible recipe variations:
Try almond butter instead of peanut butter.
You can use regular milk instead of vanilla hemp milk and just add some vanilla extract.
Use dried cherries instead of raisins.
Toss in a handful of walnuts.
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 cups vanilla hemp milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 medium apple, finely diced
2/3 cup wild blueberries
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, mix together oats, flax, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and mix with milk and peanut butter. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold in apples. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before umolding. Serve topped with blueberries and maple syrup.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I believe this is the first time that I’ve blogged about the same ingredient back to back, but this rhubarb sauce was just too good not to share. My last recipe feature rhubarb in its more customary sweet application, so here is an excellent savory way to use this quintessential spring delight.