Monday, December 29, 2014

Eggplant and Zucchini Oven Fries - Gluten Free

I had some amazing Eggplant Fries in San Diego a few months ago and I really loved them. I've been thinking about making some ever since, but I wanted to make them Gluten Free. There has been a package of Glutino Bread Crumbs languishing in the pantry waiting to be used and I have various Gluten Free Flours, so I ended up using the King Arthur brand of flour to coat the cut up slices of Eggplant and Zucchini, then dipping them in egg and then coating them in Glutino Bread Crumbs mixed with Parmesan Cheese. Of course you could use All Purpose Flour and regular bread crumbs instead. Once coated, I put them in an oiled baking pan and drizzled olive oil on top. I popped them into a hot oven and in 10 minutes they were browned on one side and I turned them over and they only took another 5 minutes to crisp up. They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and simply delicious!  I heated up some Ariabiata Sauce from Trader Joe's to use as the dipping sauce and was happy with my healthy vegetable fries. My son used Ranch Dressing as his dip and my husband made some Pesto Mayo - mostly Pesto - for his. They were so good that you might want to try making them too.

Eggplant and Zucchini Oven Fries

1 large Eggplant, stem end removed

2 large Zucchini or 4 small Zucchini, stem ends removed
1 1/2 cups Bread Crumbs (I used Glutino)
1 teaspoon each Seasoned Salt and Garlic Powder 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 - 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Flour (I used King Arthur Gluten Free)
1 teaspoon Finishing Salt (like Maldon's or Fleur de Sel)

Cut eggplant lengthwise into 3/4 inch slices and then into 1/2 slices - then cut in half.  Cut zucchini into quarters.  Slice off a small portion of the seeds and then cut each piece in half or thirds (like thick-cut french fries). 

Set oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large baking pan with 2 - 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil.

Mix together the Bread Crumbs, Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder and Parmesan Cheese in a wide bowl or plate with sides.  Put flour on another plate and eggs in a  wide bowl.

Then dredge eggplant and zucchini in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and place on the baking sheet until all are done.  Place in the oven and cook for for 10 minutes.  Take pan out of the oven and turn the fries with a spatula.  Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with dipping sauces.

Suggested Dipping Sauces:  Marinara Sauce, Ranch Dressing, Flavored Mayonnaise - Pesto, Sriracha or Garlic added.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant is a Water Food and so are the eggs so that element is covered. The Zucchini is an Earth Food.  The Glutino Bread Crumbs were made of Corn, another Earth Food and the Gluten Free Flour, made primarily of rice makes it a Metal Food. If you are using regular flour and breadcrumbs, you are using foods from the Wood Element. The Marinara Sauce adds the Fire Element, the Ranch Dressing adds the Metal Element from the milk and spices and the Pesto adds the Metal and Wood Elements. So these fries, with all the sauces end up becoming a rather balanced snack!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Persian Rice with Tahdig

I have been trying to make perfect Persian Rice for a long time and I just couldn't seem to get it quite the way that I wanted it. For those of you who are not familiar with this way of cooking rice, you end up with a wonderful buttery golden crust called Tahdig, which is crisp, crunchy and wonderful!  I decided to stop trying so many different recipes and go and ask my Persian friend. She told me how to do it step-by-step. And last night, I finally got it right.

So here's the secrets to making Persian Rice: it's important to use Basmati Rice and you treat it like pasta, cooking it al dente and then steaming it long and slow with butter so that wonderful golden crust develops. You also add Saffron as it perfumes the rice with it's special fragrance and taste.  It's actually quite simple to make this rice and I realized the trick is in what kind of pot to use to make that wonderful crust.  I used a cast iron pot and made a lid out of a cast iron frying pan sealed with a kitchen towel. It is important to both soak and boil the rice so the grains stay separate and fluffy. 

It's a wonderful side dish to so many other Middle Eastern dishes and everyone will be fighting over the Tahdig so make a lot. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Persian Rice

2 cups Basmati Rice
Water for soaking
9 cups Water
2 Tablespoons Salt
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter Divided
Pinch of Saffron
1/4 cup boiling water

Soak Basmati Rice in a Bowl with water to cover for 1 hour or longer (the longer you soak it, the less time it takes to cook). Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse lightly. Then bring the cooking water and salt to a boil in a pot on high heat. Add the rice and return to a boil. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until the rice is al dente. There should be just a little firmness at the center.  Drain the rice.

Put 2 Tablespoons of Butter in the bottom of a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan. Put the skillet on medium low heat.  Spoon the rice over the bottom of the pan and around until all the rice is piled in. Form into a mounded shape and open a hole in the center almost all the way to the bottom. Pour the Saffron water around and into the hole. Then take the remaining melted butter and drizzle over the rice. Place a clean kitchen towel across the top of the pot and put the lid on.  Pull the ends of the towel up over the pot.  Steam for 30 - 35 minutes.  Smell the rice for the last 5 minutes to make sure the rice doesn't start burning. 

To serve, use a spatula to separate the crispy rice from the pot. Then, put a plate over the rice and turn over carefully (using Oven mitts). Or, you can remove the top part of the rice to a plate and then remove the Tahdig and place on top.  

Five Element Analysis

Rice belongs to the Metal Element and so does Butter and Saffron, so this is a very Metallic side dish.  Saffron also has some wonderful medicinal properties according to Chinese Medicine.  It invigorates the blood and releases toxins and heat. Because the rice is boiled and steamed, it has been cooked in a Water Way and the salt increases the Water.  And, the crispy crust gives it a bit of a Fiery component.  It is a very good side for dishes with sauce and I like to serve it with other Middle Eastern foods containing Lamb - a Fire food or Chicken - a Wood Food, Eggplant  - a Water Food, Tomatoes - a Fire Food and Cucumbers, an Earth Food.    

Friday, December 26, 2014

Umami Brussels Sprouts

For our Christmas dinner, my son requested Brussels Sprouts. Now I usually make Brussel Sprouts into a salad, but this time I roasted them. This is not a new technique of course, but what makes these different is in the seasoning. I recently went to Cafe Juanita - a wonderful restaurant in Kirkland, Washington - and had their Brussels Sprouts. They were caramelized, salty and brightly sour with lemon. I wanted to recreate them at home immediately and this was my first chance. Their magic ingredient (I think) was anchovies as that was what was listed on the menu. Anchovies give a wonderful salty, Umami taste to food and if you don't use too much, the dish won't even taste fishy. They just give dishes a savory, salty lift. I couldn't find Anchovies in my cupboard as I think I used them up in another dish recently.  But, I did have Fish Sauce in the Italian form - a little bottle of Colatura di Alici - and also the Thai and Vietnamese kinds. All are both made from salted anchovies and give that Umami kick.  So, I seasoned the roasted Brussels Sprouts with the Italian one and some Lemon Juice and it was so delicious and easy that my son asked me to post it so he would be able to make it. That was high praise indeed!

Umami Brussel Sprouts

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, washed, stem-end trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Flaky Sea Salt, like Maldons or Fleur de Sell
1teaspoon Fish Sauce
Juice of half a large lemon

Turn oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels Sprouts, Olive Oil and Salt.  Put onto a baking sheet with the cut side down and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and turn the Brussel Sprouts over with a fork. Return to the oven and continue to roast for another 15 minutes.

Remove and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with the Fish Sauce and Lemon Juice and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Brussels Sprouts, being from the Brassica family are part of the Earth Element and like all Brassica are an anti-cancer vegetable and full of nutrients. In Chinese Medicine, they help move Liver Qi Stagnation so they are perfect for a celebratory meal when you drink too much alcohol and eat too much fat!  This is because they also have some of the Wood element since they grow on stalks and are buds. The Olive Oil and Lemon Juice add even more of the Wood Element. The Fish Sauce and salt contribute the Water Element, which supper the liver. The Metal Element is present because Umami is the Metal Flavor, but could use some support in the meal and the Fire Element is not present. So be sure to serve this in a meal that includes some Fire and Metal foods.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Daikon Radish Kimchi

I grew up eating Kimchi and I really love it.  But, I've been having trouble finding any without dried shrimp in it. I have a terrible allergy to shrimp, crab and lobster and it's been preventing me from enjoying something that I crave frequently.  So I have to make my own!  I'm particularly fond of Radish Kimchi as it is so crunchy.  I enjoy eating it as a side to rice and mixed into Korean Mung Bean pancakes too.

Kimchi was one of the ways that Korean people preserved their vegetables over the cold winter months. It is an amazing fermented food, like Sauerkraut, that's so good for you.  It's full of probiotics and has been show to kill the SARS virus and possibly other viruses too so it's something we should all be eating during the winter months. It's also got a high vitamin content and because it is made from vegetables in the Brassica family, is also considered an anti-cancer food.   

It's really quite easy to make and the only equipment you will need is a big glass jar. It can eventually smell and taste quite strongly of garlic as it ferments so glass is definitely the best way to go. I make mine not-too-hot and I add some Asian Pear to sweeten it a little bit naturally.  I also use Fish Sauce and throw in some other vegetables too, like a little bit of Napa Cabbage and Carrots to make the flavor more complex.  think it is good to eat after only one day.  If you haven't made it before, try this version. It's pretty mild as Kimchi goes and it is really delicious!

Daikon Radish Kimchi

3 cups peeled Daikon Radish cut into chunks (about 2 large Radishes)
1 cup Napa Cabbage stalks , cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/3 cup Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Tamari
¼ cup Korean Chili Powder (more if you like it hotter)
2” piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced
8 cloves Garlic, sliced
¼ cup Green Onions chopped
¼ cup chopped Yellow Onion
¼ cup chopped Carrot
1 Asian Pear, peeled, cored and grated
1/4 cup water + more to cover Kimchi if desired

Put the Daikon Radish and Napa Cabbage into a bowl and add salt, mix to combine and let sit for 3 hours.  Then Mix together the Sugar, Korean Chili Powder, Fish Sauce and Tamari with the water and make into a paste.  Add in the Ginger, Garlic, Green Onions, Yellow Onion, Carrot and Asian Pear. Then add the Radish and Cabbage to the vegetable mixture and stir to coat.  Pack into a half gallon glass jar or several smaller jars and pack down.  Add a small amount of water to make a thinner sauce that nearly reaches the top of the vegetables and refrigerate.  Keep pushing down each day so that the vegetables eventually get slightly covered with juice.  Kimchi will get fermented over time and will smell and taste stronger. It can be kept for months if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Daikon Radish is one of the few Metal Element vegetables and the onions and garlic add even more so that element is covered. The Napa Cabbage, Carrot and Asian Pear bring in the Earth Element. The Korean Chili Powder brings in lots of the Fire Element. The Water Element is represented by the Salt, Fish Sauce and Tamari. And, the fermentation that occurs contributes the Wood Element. This then is a perfectly balanced food!  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Coconut Macaroons - Gluten and Lactose Free

Christmas is a hard time if you are Gluten and Lactose Intolerant.  I still make lots of cookies for friends and family the usual way, but I've branched out this year to start making Gluten and Lactose Free cookies so I can enjoy them too!  One of the easiest cookies to make is Macaroons. This recipe is so simple that I hesitated in even posting it, but then I realized that a lot of you might enjoy making them, so here it is. I used unsweetened Coconut Flakes or Chips and then a little bit of sugar. You can also use the sweetened Coconut that you buy at the grocery store, but then eliminate the sugar in the recipe.  I think these are absolutely delicious - I hope you will too!

Coconut Macaroons

4 cups unsweetened Coconut Flakes
2  large Egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the egg whites and sugar together until frothy.  Add salt and Vanilla Extract and stir to combine. Add in the Coconut Flakes and stir to coat fully.  

Drop heaping Tablespoons of the Coconut Mix onto Parchment or Silpat lined baking sheets (very important!)  Use your fingers to press the mixture into a rounded shape.  Bake for 10 minutes and turn pans around. Bake about 10 more minutes or until the Coconut is Golden Brown on the edges and top.  Cool and remove from pan.  Store airtight in a can.

Five Element Analysis

Coconuts are a tropical fruit and are naturally sweet so they are considered an Earth food.  They are known in Chinese Medicine to have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties and are used for treating parasites. It is also considered one of the best remedies for diarrhea. The fat of the Coconut is good for the Gallbladder and for Arteriosclerosis and the arteries. The egg whites and hint of salt contribute some of the Water Element and the Vanilla Extract adds a hint of the Metal Element. Even still, this is primarily an Earth treat and a very healthy one too!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lemony Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The wind was howling outside last night and even though I had the heat turned up so the  house would be nice and warm if the power went off for a while (and it did), I was feeling cold so I made a big pot of soup. I was kind of in the mood for Avgolemono but didn't feel like adding the eggs to make it creamy. I wanted broth. So, I used lemon and oregano to bring in the Greek flavors to some chicken broth and added a lot of vegetables and swapped out the rice for some Gluten Free Orzo and it was wonderful!  I used the breast meat off a Rotisserie Chicken and made the broth from the bones of that chicken along with some cans of chicken broth. I add the skin in too as I think a little chicken fat is good for you and chicken soup should always have that slight sheen of chicken fat skimming the top.  Anyway, it came together in about 1 1/2 hours, but if you want to make it even faster, you can skip that step and use all canned chicken broth. I added in the Oregano and lemon at the last minute to keep the flavors fresh. I loved this soup! The lemon juice just brightened up the flavors so much. Now, this is going to become a staple in my list of go-to soups.

Lemony Chicken and Vegetable Soup

2 cups of cut up Cooked Chicken (from a Rotisserie Chicken)
Bones and Skin of the Rotisserie Chicken
3 14.5 oz cans of Chicken Broth (I used Swanson's Natural Goodness)
5 cups water
1 medium Yellow Onion, trimmed, peeled and diced
1 large Carrot, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 stalks of Celery, washed, trimmed and diced
1 cup of diced green beans
2 Roma Tomatoes, stem removed and diced
3/4 cup Orzo Pasta (I used DeLallo's Gluten Free) or raw Long Grain Rice
1 teaspoon Greek Oregano
Fresh ground Pepper
Juice of 1 large or 2 - 3 small lemons

Put the bones of the Rotisserie Chicken in a soup pot with the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for one hour.  Remove the bones and strains the broth.  Return to the pot and add in the Onion, Green Beans, Carrots, Celery and Tomato.  Cook for 15 minute and add in the Orzo (or rice). Cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the Greek Oregano and add in lemon juice and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Soup by it's very nature is a Water food, so that element is covered. The chicken and chicken broth contribute the Wood Element and the celery and lemon juice adds even more. The onion and Oregano and rice in the pasta bring in the Metal Element and the Carrot, Green Beans and Corn in the pasta add the Earth Element and the Tomatoes and Pepper represent the Fire Element. Rice would add more Metal.  This soup is very balanced!

Singapore Style Rice Noodles

I love noodles and since I've started eating Gluten Free, I've been using Asian rice noodles a lot more. One of the dishes I've resurrected from my childhood and was a favorite of my kids as well is Singapore Style Rice Noodles, which is basically rice vermicelli sautéed with vegetables and meat in a dry curry sauce.  Usually it includes Chinese barbecue pork (Char Siu) and shrimp, which is something I can't eat so I tend to make it with chicken and barbecue pork when I have it.  You can add any number of vegetables too. It's a quick and light meal that brightens up your tastebuds. I always use a mild curry - usually Madras, but I am quite partial to the McCormick and Schmick's brand too.  Some people like to use the hot version, but since I used to serve this to my kids, I've always used the mild flavor. The good news is that curry powder gets it's lovely yellow color from Turmeric, which is a potent anti-inflammatory so we should all start eating more of it.  So, here's another good chance to add it to your diet in a delicious way!

Singapore Style Rice Noodles

1 pound chicken breasts, sliced into small pieces for stir frying (or use 1/2 pound Char Siu and 1/2 pound peeled raw shrimp marinated in Rice Wine).
1/4 cup Chinese Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Tamari
5 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 medium onion, peeled, trimmed and cut in half and into thin pieces
1/2 large red pepper, stem and seeds removed and sliced into think pieces
1 small carrot, stem removed, peeled and cut into thin julienne pieces
4 - 5 green onions, root removed and sliced into 1 1/2' long pieces and then sliced in half
1 cup of green beans, stem removed, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
1 handful of washed bean sprouts
8 ounces Rice Vermicelli (also called Mee Krob or Angel Hair Rice Noodles)
2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons Tamari
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1/2 + 1/4 cup of chicken broth

Put chicken slices in a bowl and cover with the Rice Wine and Tamari. Mix to coat and marinate.  Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add green beans and cook for 5 minutes.   Remove the beans and put the Rice Vermicelli into the hot water with the heat off. Let sit for 5 minutes and drain in a colander.  

Add 2 Tablespoons to the wok or large frying pan.  Heat and add chicken breast and cook until the meat is opaque. Remove and add 2 additional Tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add in onion, red pepper and carrots.  Stir fry until the onion is translucent and the carrot is softened. Add another Tablespoon of oil and put in the green beans and the rice noodles and toss until the noodles are hot.  Put in the Curry Powder, sugar, Tamari and 1/2 cup of the Chicken Broth and stir to coat. Cook until the liquid evaporates.  Add the chicken back in with the Bean Sprouts, the Green Onions and the 1/4 cup of Chicken Broth and cook until the bean sprouts and green onions just begin to wilt and the remainder of the broth is mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with the Sesame Oil, toss and serve hot.

Five Element Analysis

This is a very colorful dish, so already you know that the Five Elements of food will be well represented. The chicken, chicken broth, green beans and bean sprouts bring in the Wood Element, the rice noodles contribute the Metal Element along with the green onions and the Curry Powder. The Chinese Rice Wine and the red pepper bring in the Fire Element and the Tamari, Sesame Oil and the shrimp or BBQ Pork (if using) add the Water Element.  The Earth Element is represented by the carrots so that is the only element that is a bit deficient.    So be sure to serve this dish with a sweet fruit dessert to create a Five Element balance.