Guava Muffins with the Homemade Gluten-free Flour Mix

An absolute move over to the gluten-free camp has yet to be achieved.  However, a baby step or two has been taken.  I've been buying Quinoa, corn or rice pastas, and have now made up my own AP flour mix, the one recommended by Shauna, the Gluten-Free Girl, with a 70% whole grain flour to a 30% starch ratio.  My present one being composed of corn flour, brown rice flour, sorghum and teff, with the starch end made up of potato, tapioca and white rice.

I would like to say that these muffins are an unqualified success, but.... not completely happy.  They are good, with a fine light texture, and needing only a tad more definition.  Some graininess.  Oat bran might do it. Does that make sense?  It might be I need to try another mix.  One with fewer components.  Maybe only whole wheat spelt (which has a small amount of gluten) sorghum and quinoa for the flour side and just the tapioca or white rice on the starch side. Of course, then I wouldn't be able to call them gluten-free.  But, it's not like I'm allergic, just that using less gluten is helping joint and arthritis symptoms.  And, experimenting is enjoyable.  Just call me a food scientist.

But the crepes I made with the mix on Sunday morning were great.  It totally worked, giving them a nice nutty character. You don't necessarily want the texture of grain in your crepes.  More on these later.

These fruity muffins use the same clever principle as those Blue Blueberry Muffins I posted about a few years back.  The ones from Joanne Fluke's tasty escapade, the Blueberry Muffin Murder.  Nothing like a good murder mystery with recipes included. What a fun series of books she's written. So, the concept is to add some compote or pie filling in addition to your fresh or frozen fruit, for an extra zap of the flavor.  However, that is where the muffin connection ends.  Shauna's are gluten-free, of course, it goes without saying.  And not so sweet as the Blueberry ones.


Dal Maharani Becomes the Queen of Curried Lentil Soup

I am sure that to many people I look like a picky eater.  My daughter was laughingly discussing this, with regard to a friend of hers.  All the things she wouldn't eat and worried about.  And, I found myself totally identifying with that woman. If we go to a restaurant it begins before even getting there.  The number of places I won't consider, don't want to go to.  Would much rather just eat at home, have some crackers and cheese.  And then the business of trying to use and consume less gluten; only animals produced naturally, sustainably, without additives; vegetables raised organically, etc.  It limits what can go on our plates.  Actually I'm thankful choices are out there for the most part, since with age, this has all become more of an issue. We notice the effects more immediately in our bodies.  One of my goals being not to darken a doctor's door.

Since one healthier choice is to have less meat, and in this economy, it's a decidedly frugal one as well, I've been featuring more legumes, tofu, cheese, and fish protein alternatives during the week for our dinners.

That said, this creamy, spicy and delicious lentil soup is truly without peer.  In the lentil world.  I found her lolling about in the December issue of Bon Appetit, in Molly Wizenberg's column. I made a few changes to the recipe, which she in turn got from Chef Anson Klock of Picnic in Seattle.  It is a sort of French Indian merger, with le puy lentils and toned down spicing.  However I did tone things back up a wee notch.  Instead of using curry powder, (I always wonder what spices exactly are in there, and how fresh?)  I used a combination of separate elements.   

Beans and lentils aren't all that exciting by themselves, but in conjunction with some exotic and flavorful little helpers, their earthy, robust strength comes into a new realm.  Traditional Dal Maharani uses a combination of beans and lentils with some cream added at the end to give it, yes creaminess. Chef Klock experimented with achieving that traditional creamy, unctuousness in his soup without using cream, and ended up pureeing chickpeas.  I decided to use besan, a flour made from chickpeas instead, which had the desired effect, without opening a can.


Entangled in Chopsticks for Cook the Books Club

 For this edition of Cook the Books Club, we are reading, reviewing and getting inspired to cook, by Victoria Abbott Riccardi's Untangling My Chopsticks.  The book is a Memoir of her adventures in Kyoto learning the art of Tea Kaiseki, the culinary component of Tea Ceremony - a formal, ritualized specialty form of food preparation and presentation.  But her book is much more than that, encompassing history of the art of Tea Ceremony, as well as her careful and very beautifully evocative, personal observations of modern Japanese culture and life, as encountered during two stays there.  I especially enjoyed this read, as it brought back many wonderful memories of my trips to that country.

 On my first trip to Japan, the idea was to study with a Japanese potter.  I had been working at the University of Hawaii on a Fine Arts degree, with a major in ceramics.  Another area of commonality with the author, we (Bob and I) also taught English in Kyoto, living upstairs in a small apartment at the English school (a part of the owners' home), where we crazy Americans used the little electric heater too much.  Well, hey those windows are paper.  Thin .... and it was cold.  Bob also left the furo go to boiling our first night, and very nearly cooked himself.  Okay, if he'd gotten in. We were also able to get Japanese language lessons from the proprietor. I especially enjoyed my class of little kindergartners.  So delightful and cute.
Years later, during a second trip to Japan, with my friend, and both our daughters, we stopped briefly at this tea pavilion, where we were able to participate in a demonstration of the traditional Ceremony.  You see where I left my high tops, outside the raised tatami area.  Socks only allowed up there or indoor slippers (as in Japanese homes). I can't say that I was particularly impressed with the intense tea itself, but the ritual was intriguing, with an appealing spiritual, meditative component.

As soon as I saw the word Okonomiyaki in Riccardi's book, I knew that was what I wanted to make, due to our fun experience of it in Osaka, and wanting a repeat.  For years.  I really don't know what has stopped me.  On that first trip,  Bob and I went to an Okonomiyakiya, (say that three times, quickly) a specialty restaurant, with a long grill, sort of  like a bar, with shortish stools pulled up to it. There we had this uniquely Japanese dish, a cross between an omelet and a pancake, prepared in front of us.


Best Banana (or Breadfruit) Waffles

Yes, you heard me right.  I have discovered that a ripe breadfruit can be used interchangeably with ripe mashed bananas.  So, for muffins, pancakes, waffles and even aebleskivers.  Those of you with access to breadfruit, who may not have used the really ripe ones before for anything other than Papaiaee, that South Pacific pudding, there are more options.  Actually, you could give me a few more ideas for them as well.

The fruit must be allowed to start turning brown and a bit crusty, just like bananas you're going to mash for a recipe.  The flesh even looks like ripe banana inside.  A client gave this one to Bob, and he brought it home for me to do something with.

Cut in half, then scoop out the soft fruit, away from the core and skin.  This was a medium to small ulu, and yielded about 2 cups.  Mash it up a bit.  The recipe is one I've had for years.  Used many times, tried, true and excellent.  Exactly as good this time around, with the breadfruit flavor just coming through.  For this South Pacific take, I used coconut oil in place of the butter,  palm sugar, soy milk and a little nutmeg. 

Breadfruit (or Banana) Waffles

1 cup flour
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, separated (I rarely bother, but if you're using gluten free flours it might be a good idea)
1/3 cup melted butter (or coconut oil)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup mashed breadfruit (or banana)

Mix the dry ingredients together on a piece of waxed paper and set aside.  Combine egg yolk, milk, bananas and butter or oil in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Beat the egg white til stiff and fold into batter.  Bake in waffle iron at medium heat.  Sprinkle one side with macadamia nuts if desired before closing the lid.

We had ours with some passion fruit syrup.  Coconut syrup would be nice.  Or maple syrup.  Now, since I've only used 1 cup of that breadfruit, I'm on to try aebleskivers with it, which will make the 5th in my series if they turn out.  I'll let you know.  Sharing with Hearth 'N Soul Blog Hop, co-hosted by Alex of A Moderate Life.


The Cassoulet Reigns

The cassoulet is indisputably native to Castelnaudary. A certain Bringuier perfected the recipe, under rather indefinite circumstances. It is made with fresh pork, ham or pork knuckle, some sausage meat and fresh bacon rind. In Carcassonne, they add a shortened leg of mutton and, in the hunting season, a partridge. In Toulouse, in addition to these basic ingredients, they add some breast of pork, country sausage, mutton and especially preserved goose or duck (confit d’oie ou de canard). As for beans, they consider beans from Cazères and from Pamiers the best, not to mention the white beans from Alsace.”  Christian Guy, An Illustrated History of French Cuisine. New York: The Orion Press, 1962, 208.
I'm just wondering what the "indefinite circumstances" were in the above reference.  Someone looked in their larder (they had those then - no fridges) and there were some bits of pork, a confit nestled nicely in a little crock, sausages hanging from the ceiling, dried beans - lots of them, and said to themselves, voila?  Let's throw it all together. Probably a bunch of people were expected for dinner.  Reported by some to have been a communal meal in 14th century  Languedoc, France, where the townspeople prepared a big stew for soldiers on their way to war.

With that in mind, for Daring Cooks out there, our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I have made duck confit several times and it ranks as one of my all time favorite foods, something I would like in my personal larder at all times. And a really authentic Cassoulet was on the list of dishes I've wanted to make, but just never found the right recipe, got around to it, looked for one, was lazy. Take your pick.  So, this was a welcome opportunity as well as a delicious challenge.

The first step was breaking down the duck, rendering its fat and making confit with the legs.  Actually, the first step is making a confit, but due to the fact that we cannot buy duck legs here, only whole ducks, the one step evolved into several.  That's  a good thing though.  The "extras" made a lovely dinner of Seared Duck breasts with Orange Olive Vinaigrette, some duck stock, which morphed further into a seriously good soup, more beautiful duck fat, and yet to come, Rillettes of confit and duck liver.  Ha, and so there.

The legs are curing in salt, pepper, fresh marjoram and garlic for 24 or so hours before the slow cooking confit process.  I made a half recipe as #1 - I did not want to deal with 2 ducks, and #2 - Several folks mentioned the recipe made a large amount anyway.

Here they are, covered with lovely duck fat.  Most of that was rendered from the last duck I did.  For some reason, this baby was not a really fatty duck.  It is ready to go into the oven at about 190F for 8 to 10 hours. I go by the old school, low temperature, long cook method.  I checked it with my digital temp. ray gun from time to time, with the oven set at just above "warm."

To me this is actually easier than some of the "easy" (merely faster) recipes I've read where you pierce the skin all over and cook it with foil, take it out turn it over, take off the foil, cook some more, etc.  Or, the like.  What could be simpler than sticking your duck in a pot, cover it with duck fat and let it cook slowly at a low temperature until nicely done, falling off the bone succulent?  8 to 10 hours later.  Just forget about it in there and do other stuff.  Just my opinion.  Admittedly you need to plan ahead on this recipe.  Now it rests in the fridge for however long you need it to.  If you're clever, you'll make lots and have it for other things all winter.  That is if you can buy just the legs or want to break down 4 or 5 ducks.

The next step, ( which can be up to several months later, or on the same night you do your duck cure in salt) is to soak your white beans (Broad, Great Northern, etc.) overnight.  The beans are supposed to be white.  I was unable to get the dried ones, so used what I had, plus some black beans, which kind of gray up the works.  But, what can you do?  The following day you cook the beans, fry up the pork bits (aside from sausages I just used bacon) assemble the Cassoulet components together, bake for 2 hours, then let it cool and rest until the finishing day, at which time you do a final bake, topped with breadcrumbs.  It is not all that difficult unless you attempt to do everything in an hour or two right before dinner.  I don't recommend that technique.  You would have to buy some canned duck confit, canned beans, a container of duck fat and skip the overnight mellowing of flavors.  The recipe and adaptations for...


Corn-crusted Panfried Shrimp with Sweet and Hot Caramelized Onions

I like my shrimp crusty crispy on the outside, just tender inside, and when served with a hot sweet-sour sauce incorporating caramelized onions, well does it get any better?  This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook which I like a lot, mostly because it gets into all those hot, wild flavors of the tropics, the spice zone.  So I relate to that.  And, the title is reflective, Big Flavors of the Hot Sun, by John Schlesinger and John Willoughby. 

I served them originally with roasted buttrerball pumpkin, then decided they could use the intervention of noodles to wrap themselves and all that flavor around.  The pumpkin still makes a good side though.  And, since pineapples are not in season right now, but oranges and lemons are, I substituted.  Anyway, here's the recipe...


Breadfruit with cheese and pickles

I don't know if this is really worthy of a post, but somehow being surprised by something good, might be reason enough. More ways to use a really useful fruit/vegetable, what have you.  It's alternatively called ulu around here, and a good sized one generally supplies more than enough for several meals.  I have posted  a few recipes before, this is just a left-over snack.

I boiled up a whole one, cut in fourths, and used some for Breadfruit/potato salad.  Which other than the ulu, was pretty much your standard potato salad and very yummy.  I added in radishes, green onions and olives to the usual.  Then last night as a side with some duck breasts, I roasted slices coated with olive oil and spices - paprika, salt, pepper and ginger, just enough to get them a bit crispy and hot, since they were already cooked enough.

This little container was left.  And, not being in the mood for sandwiches, doing my usual scrounge in the fridge for left-overs, I tried a few cold.  Surprising, I don't know why that should be.  Added some aged cheddar and then there's my latest  pickles - Kim Chee style this time made of turnip, red cabbage and onion.  And, don't you just love how that red cabbage made my pickles all pink?  What a satisfying and tasty lunch.  Perfect for Chaya's Lets Do Lunch, Breakfast and Brunch, where you can catch some good ideas for those meals.