Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Hurricane Playlist

I've left my half-evacuated neighborhood in NYC (especially since the subways are down and the bridges will close. I'll be super-stranded) to ride out the storm in coastal Rhode Island. Will it be better? Not sure as we're expecting a big storm surge. But at least I'll have a generator so there will be good tunes.

Here's what I'll be listening to. What's on your playlist?

I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
Waiting Under the Waves - Kris Delhorst 
Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Rock You Like a Hurricane - Bob Dylan
Storm Warning - Bonnie Raitt
Goodnight, Irene - Lead Belly
No Rain - Blind Melon
Shelter From The Storm - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspiration for the Week

One of my favorite Brooklyn designers, whose flowers I love (and front step, near me, I admire)

It's just the thing you should be making (aside from raspberry jam) this time of year.

This reminds me of my grandmother and is just what I want to set the table with when I celebrate my upcoming birthday under a giant oak in my family's field, seaside. (Well, the whole set. Each different piece takes you to a different part of the landscape, like a landscape plan come to life.)

And I'll need these to set the table, along with my favorite raffia placemats. Well, maybe just the weathered teak, for a more rustic look (what do you think).

And no proper powder room is complete without one of these, in Tuberose. Believe me!

What's inspiring you this week? Check out more of what inspires me here

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Almond Pancake (Gluten- and Dairy-Free)

Ever since I’ve gone off gluten, dairy, and corn, I’ve been pretty happy with my brown rice, rice cakes, lots of meat and chicken sausages – and of course, plenty of fruits and vegetables. But this morning, maybe because of the dreary weather outside, I had a serious craving for pancakes. Which for me, is pretty rare. A hot pancake, scented with almonds, vanilla, cardamom, and cinnamon. And a topping of warmed strawberries, sliced plums. Yum. And easy for the average Joe. But minus wheat, corn, and dairy for me meant off to the kitchen for some experimenting!

I’ve got a stash of amaranth and almond flours in my fridge. Amaranth is very dry - unlike moist almond flour which is essentially ground almonds - so I knew the two would need to be used together. Plus, the sweetness of the almond flour would be a nice balance to the super-nutty taste of amaranth. At first, I didn’t like the flavor of the batter (it’s not mild like white flour), and realizing I hadn’t put any sugar in it yet, I added some spices, vanilla sugar, and a dash of almond and vanilla extracts. Oh, and the last tablespoon of my flaked coconut that has been sitting in my pantry for a while (I’m not supposed to really have it – but once in a while I’ll indulge. It’s SO good). As I had about a cup of batter – fine for one – I considered making one large pancake, and then a mixture of fruits, syrup, and strawberry spread to go on top. Even if it didn’t turn out as I was hoping it would, it’d taste great. Lucky for me it also ended up being beautiful, too.

For the pancakes:
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
1 teaspoon (plus more if desired) sugar
Cinnamon, to taste
Cardamom, to taste
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1 egg, whisked well
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
A splash each of almond and vanilla extracts
1/4 cup plus more as needed rice milk

In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork. Add the egg, 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, extracts, and blend. Add the milk a bit at a time, constantly stirring to create a batter that is liquid enough to pour. Set the batter aside.

Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Once the pan is hot, stir the batter and pour it in, shaking the pan so it distributes evenly. Turn the heat to medium and let it cook until bubbles begin to form around the sides and it lifts away from the pan when shaken, about 5 minutes. Flip and turn to low.

For the fruit topping:
6 strawberries, frozen
1/4 cup water
3 teaspoons strawberry spread
1/4 cup maple syrup
Handful roasted almonds or almond butter
1 plum, sliced

In a small saucepan, combine the berries and water. Bring to a boil, slice the berries in half once defrosted and bring back to a boil. Add the spread and syrup, mix well, bring to a boil, and reduce to low while the pancake cooks.

To serve, place pancake on a plate. Top with almond butter, if using. Add plum slices and almonds, if using. Ladle out strawberries and place on top. Drizzle strawberry syrup on top and enjoy immediately.

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Fried Squash Blossoms

Yeah, you heard me. Gluten-free. That's my new thing (OK, well I can have kamut, which most GF peeps can't usually have. But then again I can't have oats, even GF ones. Thank goodness I LOOVE brown rice). Oh, and they're dairy-free. And corn-free.

So what to do when Mother Nature graces us all with an abundance of blossoming in the garden in late July (with pumpkins, zucchini, and cucumbers blooming)? Fry squash blossoms, just like I had in Italy!

The Italy trip two summers ago was the one that changed my life. Not in a major way, but there was a spark that was lit -- not to mention the power that Italian culture (pace of life; love of good, simple food; the sheer joy in sharing a meal with friends or family) had on my mindset -- that has changed me for the better. Seize what you have and make the most of every moment. Sounds simple, yet there it's more challenging than you might think. And no food more so than delicate squash blossoms, dipped in a light batter and fried crisp, more swiftly takes me back to that hilltop home in the middle of the Val D'Orcia.

Normally, I'd use white or cake flour and beer when making my fritter batter. Yet my new lifestyle has me turning to gluten-free alternatives: Brown rice flour and water (with a smattering of herbs). While I wish I had a thermometer when frying, and a bit more seasoning IN my batter, the end result was surprisingly delicious, light, and crisp -- just the thing I wanted at the end of a hot summer night (complete with burgers and salad, enjoyed with a glass of wine). 

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Fried Squash Blossoms

Vegetable oil, such as grapeseed, safflower, or canola, preferably organic, for frying
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 hearty pinch salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cups finely chopped basil
20 squash blossoms

Mix all ingredients except blossoms in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 inch of oil until 350 degrees (I didn't have a thermometer so I checked to see how hot it was by dropping in bits of batter and looking to see how fast they cooked; you want them to color a bit within a couple of seconds).

Dip blossoms into batter, making sure to really coat the blossoms. Remove blossom and carefully plunge into oil. Cook until bottom is golden, about 30 minutes. Flip and cook until golden. Remove, drain, and season well with salt. Continue until all blossoms are fried. Enjoy immediately.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What to Do with Summer Zucchini: Make a Salad

When the zucchini first appears in the farmers' markets, it need not be cooked for best flavor. Thinly sliced with a mandoline, or a vegetable peeler in a pinch, the slightly crunchy, lightly sweet, raw ribbons of flesh are the perfect vehicle for high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt, sweet and juicy raisins, and creamy almonds. I never thought I'd fall in love with one of my favorite vegetables all over again in its raw state, but this is the salad that precipitated that (and it's great to serve on a steaming hot summer day).

I’ve prepared this a couple ways over the past couple of weeks. Initially I used toasted walnuts and creamy Gruyere shavings for flavor. Then I had a surplus of Parmigiano, which I found to be the perfect pairing for lightly salted roasted nuts (pine nuts, pistachios, etc) and raisins. And now that I can’t have cheese (or pistachios or raisins – but I’ve broken that rule with the bag of amazing French raisins at home) I’ll use a sprinkling of oil and shavings of basil along with dried sour cherries and raw almonds. So simple, yet so good – the secret is in the quality of the zucchini!

Raw Zucchini Salad with Roasted Almonds (or Walnuts) and Raisins

2 green zucchini, washed, trimmed, and sliced into thin ribbons
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, such as Planeta
Maldon salt, to taste
1/2 cup roasted almonds (unsalted) or toasted walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
3 ounces thinly sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Gruyere)

In a bowl, combine the zucchini with olive oil and salt. Toss to coat.
Add in the nuts, raisins, and Parmigiano. Toss again and serve immediately at room temperature.

Serves 2
Here's the salad with gruyere and toasted walnuts:
And if you're in the mood for Parmigiano and almonds? Voila! 

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Bonbons

I think this is what got me through the first half of my week. Yup, so simple, SO good. Oh, and did I mention they're gluten-free (wheat and corn-free), and dairy-free?

When I was a child, my mom would seldom let desserts enter the house. Sure, pints of vanilla and coffee heath bar would appear around the holidays, birthdays, and over vacations. But she’d rather have us snack on fresh fruit, baked apples, or make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. The one exception? Little chocolate-dipped bonbons that never seemed to last more than a day or two.

So what to do now that I’m dairy-free? Substitute in creamy banana chunks for the ice cream!  Who doesn’t love the combination of bananas and chocolate? These little one-bite desserts are easy to make, take only an hour or so to set, and even better to eat. Keep them stored in the freezer so the chocolate doesn’t melt (and to ensure they last more than a day or two). And if you want, try rolling them after they’re dipped in coconut or ground almonds or something a bit jazzier.

Chocolate-Covered Banana Bonbons

8 bananas, sliced into 3/4-1-inch pieces
Angel flake coconut, for rolling (optional)
Ground toasted almonds, for rolling (optional)
1 pound dark chocolate, melted in a double boiler

Arrange bananas, cut side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Arrange coconut and almonds in small bowls for rolling.

Once the bananas are solid, dip each one into the melted chocolate (keep it over barely simmering water so the frozen bananas don’t cause the chocolate to seize) and then roll into the toppings, if desired, or simply place back on the parchment sheet. Repeat until all slices are covered or you run out of chocolate.

Freeze the bonbons until hardened. Bonbons can be kept in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks in the freezer.

Makes 56 bonbons, perfect for a party of 8
Total time (including freezing): 2 1/2 hours

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chocolate Bonbons of Goodness

The perfect remedy to a busy, stressful day - and just what I needed to ease back into the work week after yet another magical weekend in my little slice of heaven.

Want the recipe? Well, check back later this week. I promise it's oh-so-easy and quite delicious.