Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Burden of Science

      I once had a remarkable teacher who, in recounting the steps of the scientific method, stated that "the burden of science is that nothing is provable". "No theory," she continued, "is future-proof," and gave us the example of the "all swans are white" theory. In colloquial language, if someone has a theory, it means she has an intuitive hunch. In scientific language, if a theory has been established, it means that it has undergone experiments and tests in a controlled setting with both dependent and independent variables that lead scientists to widely accept that the evidence offers no better alternative than the stated hypothesis. 
      It sounds political, I know, which is why she called it a burden.

      My theory is that it will be fifty years or more before scientists will agree that most gluten free foods available on the shelves interfere dramatically with your blood sugar. Many non-Celiacs (an autoimmune disease in which there is an inflammatory response to the presence of gluten, sometimes so severe that it depletes the cilia in the small intestine) are gravitating towards gluten free foods because they believe it will aid in weight loss or help with bloating. By reading the ingredients on a loaf of gluten free bread, you'll see that it is just as energy (calorically) rich as a regular loaf of bread and, with a little math, that it has a very high glycemic index. The main ingredient in most of these products is sugar; potato starch and rice starch, processed forms of their more complex carbohydrates (sugar) starting points, are absorbed almost immediately into the blood stream, making the blood sugar content skyrocket (like with alcohol). Overtime, this can lead to any number of health issues, though best discussed away from a recipe blog.

      Indeed, you may be sensitive to gluten without having a diagnosed allergy to it but there are alternatives! Rice! Buckwheat! Millet! Sometimes though, a sandwich is necessary.

Flax Flatbread

      This was given to me by a customer at the Syracuse Real Food Coop, where I moonlight twice a week. He doesn't know where it came from, only that it's delicious and that it makes him feel good. I was sold immediately, especially after realizing the fatty acid content and the 7 grams of protein per slice.


1 cup flax meal
3/4 c chicpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1/4 c tapioca starch
1 T baking powder
1/2 T xanthan gum
2 t anise or dill seed (optional)
1 T dried minced onion (optional)
1 t sea salt
1 T olive oil
1 t molasses
3/4 c water
2 large eggs (or egg replacement equivalent)
2 T sesame seeds 


      Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

      Combine the flax meal, chicpea flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, dried onion and dill or anise seeds (if using) in a large bowl.

      In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, molasses, water and eggs. Add to the flour mixture and beat hard with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds to activate the xanthan gum (this will act as a thickener). The dough will be sticky.

      Spoon two equal mounts onto the prepared baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula dipped in water, pat the mounds into two 6-inch diameter disks about 1 inch high. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake until lightly browned and firm, about 22 minutes.

      Let cool on a wire baking rack.

Yield: two flat breads, enough for 8 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 22 minutes

Writing by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Austere But Impressionable

      There's a civility to cauliflower that I've only begun to appreciate. It stands proud and stout in a garden and precious in its austere but impressionable pale ivory. Like the tight layers of its relative cabbage, the florets of cauliflower seem steadfastly bound to each other, which is the certain sign that the head is a healthy and young one (older ones crumble easily and have a grainy quality once in the mouth). Its smooth flavor beckons a sharp cheddar or vibrant Indian spices like curry and garam masala in a buttermilk sauce with currants. Some even chop up raw cauliflower and call it "rice", which I find difficult to swallow as a concept but respect the attempt.

      But as a centerpiece? Oh, yes! I implore you. Boiled whole in a wine broth spiked with chili flakes and then roasted in a hot oven until crackly and charred, this dish will take you to a new place and surely impress any dinner guest.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Spiced Goat Cheese
 by and adapted from Alon Shaya

      I have also broken the florets into uniformed large, bite sized pieces which makes for a less visually impressive dish but an easier one to handle -- the cooking time will lessen, so just keep an alert eye out.


For the cauliflower and broth
1 whole cauliflower, leaves and stem trimmed and discarded

3 c dry white wine
6 c water
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c salt
1 T sugar/maple syrup/honey
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T butter (or vegan alternative)
1 T dried chili flakes
1 bay leaf

For the goat cheese

4 oz soft goat cheese/chevre (or toasted, chopped walnuts)
a couple tablespoons of yogurt or buttermilk to thin the sauce
one clove of garlic, crushed and minced
a few pinches chili flakes
1/4 t sea salt
generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper

fresh basil, dill, cilantro, parsley or sorrel, chopped for garnish (optional) 


      Preheat the oven to 475F.

      Mix the chevre, yogurt/buttermilk, garlic, chili flakes, 1/4 sea salt and black pepper in a bowl and let sit.

      Bring the wine, water, olive oil, salt, sweetener, lemon juice, butter, chili flakes and bay leaf to a hearty boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and carefully, with two slotted spoons, lower the cauliflower into the broth. Let simmer until the cauliflower is slightly tender to an inserted knife but not at all falling apart -- about 10 to 15 minutes.
      Carefully pour the broth through a mesh strainer and place the cauliflower in a roasting pan or skillet. Roast in the oven until the outside of the cauliflower has begun to brown and blacken -- 30 to 40 minutes.

      Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt, top with goat cheese and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with a sharp knife and pie server.

Yields: a main or side dish for 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

Writing by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Such A Devoted Manner

      Is there anything more courageous than a beet? Early spring lettuce competes for the title with its delicate leaves despite the threat of freak frosts, but with its bitterness, I think it's more audacious than heroic. A beet gets to the heart of things; its mellow sweetness never surprises with hidden tastes like the pang of a turnip or rutabaga or the sometimes cloying caramel lumps that squash can become as it roasts. Beets keep feet on the ground, never allowing one to forget the place from which they came. Though the earthiness of them deters some (along with the inescapable ruby stain of the red variety), beets have as much potential as a pot of boiling water. Horseradish cream atop thinly sliced roasted beets is a revelation. Grated raw beets with ginger, sesame oil and rice vinegar are a cheerful yet soothing reminder that all is not lost. And pickled beets with allspice make me feel like I have wings.

      Though I sing their praises in such a devoted manner, please believe my sincere surprise when I came across this remarkable chocolate cake recipe that calls for these small but mighty heroes.

Chocolate Beet Cake
 by Nigel Slater

      I take zero credit for this recipe. Though I've read Slater's column in the The Guardian for years, I was turned onto a special one of his cookbooks by RB and have sat for hours thumbing through the pages, utterly captivated by the attention-turned-devotion to his vegetable patch. This recipe, though requiring both time and care, is not to be overlooked.


A digital scale is helpful but not essential. Re-read the recipe a few times to get comfortable.
8oz red beets (about three to six small beets or one cup worth, once processed) (250g)

7oz 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces (200g)
3/4 c + 2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or grated (200g)
4 T hot espresso (or strong, strong coffee)

1 c + 2 T all-purpose flour (135g)
1 heaping t baking powder
3 T cocoa powder

6 eggs, separated
1 c sugar (190g)


      Roast the beets with a bit of water in a covered dish until tender, about an hour. Let cool until touchable (or run under cold water) and then peel.  Place what you approximate to yield one cup worth and process in a food processor to a coarse puree. Save any remaining beets for later use.

      Lightly butter an 8" springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round cut piece of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350F.

      Bring a pot with plenty of water to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Place a large bowl with the broken pieces of chocolate atop the pot (this is the double boiler method). Do not stir.

      Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs. Make the espresso.

      When the chocolate looks melted, pour the espresso over it and stir once. Add the butter and let it melt.

      Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold in the sugar.

      Mix the egg yolks together.

     Remove the chocolate and butter from the double boiler and stir to combine. Let rest a few minutes to cool a bit.

      Moving efficiently but gently, add the yolks to the chocolate mixture, and mix firmly. Fold in the beets along with the egg whites with sugar. "A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care to not overmix."

      Finally, fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

     Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and put in the oven. Immediately reduce heat to 325F. Bake for 40 minutes.

      The edges of the cake will be set but the inner part should be wobbly and molten-like.

     Let cool for 30 minutes before loosening the edges and let cool completely before eating. The center will sink a bit.

     Nigel suggests serving it with creme fraiche and poppyseeds. And I promise that this cake gets better with time, so if you're having company, bake it the evening before.

Yields: eight servings
Prep time: an hour +
Bake time: 40 minutes

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Recognize Your Luck

      Some people are die-hard meat dripping fanatics when it comes to their holiday gravy but here's something sophisticated for the more mild-mannered palates; the earthiness from the shiitakes with the sweet boozy acorn lift from the Madeira makes it nearly into a side dish of its own. In whatever nook of the world you're in, whether you like gravy or not, happy holidays -- may you all eat well and recognize your luck.

Shiitake Gravy with Madeira (or Sherry)
inspired by Amy Pennington

      I've been known to toss in some minced caramelized onions, garlic and bruised rosemary from time to time. Play!


3 c vegetable or chicken stock *
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated **

3 T butter or olive oil
1/2 c chic pea flour

1/4 c Madeira (a Portuguese fortified wine similar to Sherry, which works well, too)

sea salt and black pepper to taste


      * ** To both make a quick stock and to rehydrate the dried shiitakes, bring to a active and hearty simmer 6 cups of water, half of a chopped onion, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 4 prunes and the shiitakes with 3/4 t of sea salt. Simmer for 25 minutes or longer (but don't let it reduce by more than half). Strain the ingredients and discard everything but the shiitakes.

      Trim the stems of the soaked shiitakes and discard them (they are often too chewy to be enjoyable). Dice the mushrooms and set aside for later. Measure out all other ingredients and have them close at hand for the next step.

      In a heavy bottomed skillet or pot, melt the butter over a medium flame. Add the chic pea flour and stir constantly until the flour has a toasty aroma and is gently darkening in color -- not more than 2 minutes. Do not leave unattended.

      Slowly whisk in the stock and let it come to a simmer, gently stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to low and add the Madeira and shiitakes. Let the gravy simmer and thicken for about 5 minutes. If at any point it is looking too thick, add a bit more stock.

      Add a few generous pinches of sea salt to taste and a couple cranks from the pepper mill (and another splash of Madeira if you like a boozy taste). Keep warm until serving.

      Double or triple the recipe depending on the number of mouths gathered. This is wonderful on buttermilk mashed potatoes and roasted poultry.

Prep time: 25 minutes, including stock
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yields: gravy for 6

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Warming Promise


      Few things I've encountered ignite in me a feeling of belonging such as the warming promise of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and sweet pumpkin as a pie bakes in the oven. Happy holidays, far flung friends.

Roasted and Spiced Pumpkin Pie with Gluten Free Crust
crust adapted from Megan over at Allergy Free Alaska

      This surprised me in a big way. It's not the easiest time I've had with getting the crust into the pie plate, but once it's in there, it stays! It's flaky with a chew -- a major feat for anything gluten free that's as fuss free as this.


For the crust

1/3 c sorghum flour
1/3 c millet flour
1/3 c arrowroot or kuzu powder
1/4 c brown rice flour
3/4 t xanthan gum 
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 c cold unsalted butter (or vegan alternative)

1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
5 T ice cold water
1 T brown sugar/maple sugar/cane sugar

 For the filling

  * To make the roasted puree, halve the squash(es) with a sharp knife, scoop out the seeds, rub with a bit of oil and place on a baking sheet covered tightly with foil. Bake at 350F until tender (about an hour). Let cool and then scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender, adding the coconut milk or heavy cream if it's too dry. You can do this a few days in advance.

4 c roasted squash/pumpkin puree* or something from a can (I used a small butternut and acorn squash)
1 cup coconut milk/heavy cream
1 T ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 c brown sugar/maple sugar/cane sugar

1 egg, beaten (or egg substitute)


      For the crust

      Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the apple cider vinegar, water and 1 T of sweetener and set aside. With a grater, grate the cold butter (or butter substitute) into the sifted dry ingredients and cut until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (do this with two forks or a pastry cutter).

      Mix the wet ingredients in with a wooden spoon and quickly (so not to melt the butter) shape into a ball and put in a plastic bag. Press down so the ball of dough shapes itself into a disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

      Roll out the dough either on a sorghum flour dusted surface or between two layers of sorghum flour dusted parchment paper. Once it's ready to be placed in the 9" pie plate, gently fold the dough in half twice so that when you make the transfer from counter to baking dish, less tears happen. Unfold the dough and cinch together the edges to form a crust. If any rips occur, fear not -- it patches together easily once it's settled in the pan.

      Cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate until the filling is ready to bake.

      For the filling

     Preheat the oven to 375F.

     Mix together the pureed squash/pumpkin, coconut milk, sweetener and spices. Taste and add more sweetener or spice if you'd like. Add the egg, mix until smooth and pour into the pre-formed crust. If any filling remains, pour it into little ramekins and bake separately until set.

      Bake until the filling sets -- about an hour. The crust should be golden. Let cool for 3 hours before slicing.

      Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or sweetened yogurt.

Yields: one 9" pie
Prep time: an hour or so
Bake time: an hour or so

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington

Friday, October 31, 2014

Nearly Forgotten

       When we make quinoa, invariably there always ends up being far more than we anticipated. The other day, knowing that a bowl of squash and leek bisque would be dinner, I whipped these up from a bowl of nearly forgotten toasted red quinoa on the bottom shelf in the fridge. Nutty from being toasted and crunchy from being pan fried in olive oil,  they made perfect soup accoutrements and helped us soldier onward down the experimental (for allergy’s sake) gluten-free path.
Toasted Red Quinoa Fritters with Dijon Yogurt Cream (GF)

            * Contrary to what some say, it really is aesthetically important to rinse the quinoa -- it’s coated with a natural pesticide called saponins that quite bitterly interferes with its mild flavor profile. Fill a pot with 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and cover it with enough water to submerge it. In a clockwise manner, swirl your hand around the pot at least 20 times and then drain through a fine mesh strainer. Dry toast the rinsed quinoa in a pot over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of fresh water, ½ teaspoon of salt, bring to a simmer and put a lid on it. Reduce the heat to very low. Let the quinoa cook for 25 undisturbed minutes and then remove from heat. Let cool. You can do this a day or two in advance. And if you already have leftover quinoa, you're all set!


3 cups cooked red quinoa (or white) *
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup millet flour
½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup manchego cheese, grated
vegetable or olive oil, for frying 

½ cup yogurt (mayonnaise/aioli or Veganaise are great substitutions, too)
½ clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ t of freshly cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
chopped capers, fresh basil or dill (optional)

      Mix together the cooled, cooked quinoa, millet flour and ¾ teaspoon of sea salt. Combine the sundried tomatoes, minced garlic, egg, and cheese and fold it into the mixture. Let it rest for twenty minutes.

      Meanwhile, mix together the yogurt, ½ clove of minced garlic, Dijon, maple syrup, salt and pepper and any herbs and taste for balance.

      In a large skillet, heat a generous amount of oil over medium-high heat. Add a drop of the batter to the oil – it should sizzle immediately and heartily.

      Moving quickly with a large spoon, gently drop 2 T worth of batter per fritter onto the skillet and lightly press down so that they are no more than half an inch tall. Fry on each side for about 2 minutes, flipping once. Do this in batches until the batter is gone.

      The fritters can be eaten hot or at room temperature, alongside a salad or on their own.

Yields: a dozen fritters
Prep time: 45 minutes (includes quinoa and sauce)
Cook time: 15 minutes (for frying)

Writing/Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington