Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Merguez, Kale, and Sweet Potato Frittata

Whether you're entertaining two or 10 around the holidays, it's hard to beat a frittata when it comes to serving up a hearty and healthy breakfast.

Akin to a large, flat (i.e. unrolled) omelette, frittatas are the perfect brunch item, in my book. It's a vehicle for all sorts of toppings, here salty and spicy merguez sausage, rich green winter kale, chunks of roasted sweet potato, and delicate caramelized onions. All of the ingredients can be prepped in advance, so all you need to do is mix the eggs and add the ingredients about 20 minutes before you want to eat.

This recipe serves two, but it can be easily doubled or tripled to feed your group. Just use a larger sauté pan and be sure to cook the frittata until the center is just set — it will certainly take longer in the oven. Serve with toasted slices of hearty farm bread (I liked Zingerman's and Wave Hill pre-no-gluten), fresh butter, and jam.

Merguez, Kale, and Sweet Potato Frittata

1 Sweet potato, chopped into 1/4-by-1/2-inch chunks
Olive oil, for roasting
Salt, to taste
2 links Merguez sausage, casings removed
6 ounces baby kale, washed and torn into 3-inch pieces
4 eggs
2 ounces grated cheese, preferably fontina or Gruyère, if desired
2 yellow onions, finely sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 8-by-8-inch baking pan, combine the sweet potato with just enough oil to coat and a sprinkling of salt. Toss well. Roast in oven for about 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the largest chunks are fork tender. Set aside.

While potatoes cook, heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil and then the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions release their moisture, then turn heat down to medium-high. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and are lightly caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, add the sausage and cook over high heat. Break the meat into small chunks and cook until brown, about 3-5 minutes. Set the meat aside, making sure to reserve the juices in the pan.

In the same, still-hot pan, add the kale and cover with a lid. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then stir. If there isn't a lot of moisture at the bottom of the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water to help wilt the greens. Set the kale aside, uncovered, once tender, about 3 minutes more.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs well and lightly season. Heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons oil and turn heat to medium-high. Add in the sweet potato, onions, sausage, and kale. Stir well and immediately pour into pan. Cook about 5 minutes on the stovetop, or until the sides begin to set, then transfer to the oven for about 5-10 minutes longer, or until the center of the frittata is just set. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve.

Recipe Details:

Can be made in advance and gently reheated in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until warm.

Servings: 2
Total time: 1 hour

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Easy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

My friend MEC took a picture recently of some cookies she'd made. I initially thought they were regular -- only to my delight did I see her note that they were gluten-free. 'They look like that and they're gluten-free?!' I thought... I HAD to try the recipe.

I've had a hankering for cookies, ever since being back at school. Blame it on the stress of 16-18 hour days. And no Italian Hot Chocolate from Watson's Shelter to keep it in check. I whipped these up late at night over MLK weekend after driving (suffering?) through Boston-area traffic from NH. Warning, be sure to have a full-tummy when making them. Or, you'll definitely be nibbling on the dough before the cookies emerge from the oven. Best yet? Serve sandwiching some vanilla ice cream, perhaps swirled with some salted burnt caramel sauce...

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Recipe derived from Bob’s Red Mill

1-1/3 cups King Arthur GF flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/3 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a large cookie sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside.
Stir together the GF flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt; set aside. 

In a large mixer bowl, cream together butter (room temperature, not melted), granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and egg; scrape sides of bowl frequently. Stir in flour mixture on low speed, mixing thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips

Shape dough into flat disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2” apart on baking sheet, or roll into balls if dough is hard to work with. Bake 1 minutes on center rack of oven or until lightly browned. Cool 2-3 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 16 cookies.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Easy Pinto Bean Hummus

No game day celebration, cocktail party, or even casual gathering with friends is complete without a snack, and I have to say, cheese and crackers aside, nothing quite beats hummus. It's perfect for us gluten-free folk, and equally as fabulous for vegetarians and vegans.

When I discovered a myriad of food sensitivities nearly two years ago, some made sense (Gluten. Oats. Dairy. Shrimp. CORN!). Others didn't, but after eating them again (Lentils. Chickpeas. Quinoa), I realized I couldn't fool my body.

So commenced a hummus dry spell in my life. Quite sad and unfortunate. Until I started experimenting with the two kinds of beans that didn't leave me doubled over in pain and my tummy frozen for days: Pinto Beans and Black Beans.

There are a number of ways of dressing up this blend. I kept it simple, with lots of garlic and ample seasoning, along with some cumin and cayenne for a kick. PERFECT with carrots, and awfully tasty with potato chips (hey, I can't do pita chips anymore) -- and fabulous with melted cheese on rice tortillas or in burritos.

For those of us allergic to chickpeas and sensitive to tahini, now you won't be deprived!

Easy Homemade Pinto Bean Hummus

12 ounces cups dried organic pinto beans (I used Laurel Hill's Heirloom beans) *preferred over canned
3 cloves garlic
Salt, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Cayenne, to taste
Paprika, to taste

Soak beans overnight. Rinse twice, agitating with hands each time. Cover beans with 2x their depth of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender and beans can be smushed with a fork easily.

Blitz garlic and 1/2 cup of beans, and 1/4+ of cooking water, in Cuisinart (I had to do mine in batches as all I have is a mini-prep). Place in bowl. Repeat with more beans, water, and seasonings. Repeat until all beans have been blended. Check for seasonings, adding more cumin, salt, or cayenne as desired.

Serve warm with pita chips and/or carrots -- or save as a spread for lunches. The sky is the limit!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Healthy Fudgy Brownies (Perfect for a Birthday)

I remember my first bean brownie experience. It was in Westport, CT, at this little natural foods store called Food for Thought. Everything and anything in there was virtuous and healthy. And flavorless and dull, or so I thought. Until my mom brought these home. Super moist, chocolaty, and a bit fudgy, I figured there had to be tons of butter and sugar in them…

Not black beans. Yeah, THOSE black beans.

Now that I’m gluten-free, these are the perfect, easy, chocolaty fix I often crave. Plus, I don’t feel all too bad knowing they contain black beans, packed with protein, nutrients, and other goodness. It’s like a super food sweet.

I recently made these for a friend for her birthday. Topped with one of my favorite Talenti flavors, and homemade whipped cream. Later this week, they’ll likely be served for a late-night, study-break/schoolwork snack infused with some peanut butter, perhaps – ‘cause we killed the caramel last week…

Birthday Black Bean Brownies 
1 (15 ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed, and pureed until smooth
3 large eggs
1/3 cup melted butter, more for the baking dish
1/3 cup cocoa powder plus 2 tablespoons dark hot chocolate mix
1/8 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter an 8-inch baking pan. Place the black beans, eggs, melted butter, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, or with an immersion blender in a medium bowl, and blend until smooth. Remove the blade and gently stir in the chocolate chips. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Bake the brownies for 30 or so, or until just set in the center. Cool before cutting into squares.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Easy Carrot Top Pesto

I'm a huge fan of trying to use every little bit of a vegetable I have when cooking. I'll saute beet greens when I'm roasting beets for dinner. Celery leaves are a delicious salad ingredient, when accompanied by some herbs, a light vinaigrette, and some sweet dried fruit, salty roasted almonds, and perhaps some pungent blue cheese.

But I never quite figured out something tasty to make with carrot tops. And given that I try to purchase only fresh carrots, with their leafy tops intact, when at the market, I've tossed my fair share of carrot tops over the years.

Not anymore. When life gives you carrot tops, why not make pesto?

Really, part of me views this concoction as a vehicle for the tasty garlic-nut-cheese combination. I've been obsessed with roasting carrots for the past month of so, and this is a good accompaniment to serve along with steak (and those roasted carrots). Or in pasta. Or on toast, under a fried egg. Or alone. You really can't go wrong.

Carrot Top Pesto
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1 bunch of carrot tops, washed and trimmed
Freshly grated Parmigiano, to taste
Olive oil

In a Cuisinart, blend the garlic and almonds until a paste. Add the carrot greens and mix again. Add a bit of Parmigiano and salt, and a bit of oil. Blend. Continue adding oil until the pesto reaches a consistency you like. Check the seasoning and serve.