Archive for the ‘grains’ Category

Lemony Barley Salad with Kale Pesto, Tomaisins and Israeli Innovation

July 30, 2014

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This recipe proves how important one ingredient can be, especially if it is a intensely flavored condiment. I spotted this recipe in the August issue of Food and Wine Magazine and it sounded so good: nubbly barley tossed in a lemony kale pesto dressing.

The recipe said that the addition of chopped preserved lemon was “optional,”  so I left that ingredient out and added in lots of fresh lemon juice. Even with using a whole lemon instead of the measly 1 Tbl. of juice the recipe called for, the salad tasted bland, very, very bland. Mostly, the salad had a strong herbal taste from the kale.

I went down to Sarah’s Tent in Deal, New Jersey to rectify the situation. I came home with a pint of preserved lemon slices, floating in spicy oil. I went straight to the kitchen and pulled out the leftover salad and tried to fix it by adding in the lemon and also some craisins.

The recipe called for currants, but I felt the recipe needed a more acidic dried fruit. Ideally, I would have added in these dried grape tomatoes that my sister-in-law brought back from Israel. They look like giant craisins, but taste like really, really sweet tomatoes. Those would have been perfect in this salad.

Not to digress too much, but these Israeli dried tomatoes are astonishing. My sister-in-law told me that they have no added sugar. They were so super candy sweet that I just didn’t believe her.

I’m still not sure that I believe it, but I looked online and found out that there is something called the Tomaccio, the “sweet raisin tomato.” Bred in Israel from wild Peruvian tomatoes, the Tomaccio is super sweet, so sweet that it turns into something like a raisin when it is dried.  It took Israeli nursery Hishtil twelve years to breed this variety of tomato. Another Israeli company, 2Macho (pronounced the same as Tomaccio?) created another kind of cherry tomato raisin.  And yet another Israeli company, Tomaisin, bred a cherry tomato that dries on the vine and has twice the sweetness of regular tomatoes (see also this).

On top of being really sweet and having a pleasant raisin texture, these tomaisins are supposed to have much more lycopene than regular tomatoes. Yummy and healthy–my favorite combination.

So, anyway, back to the barley salad. I added in the chopped preserved lemon and, WOW! The flavor of the salad went from blah to something that exploded with spicy lemony flavor. This is a salad to serve at a fancy simcha because the colors are beautiful, the texture is very appealing and the flavor is intense.

The recipe for this salad was contributed to Food and Wine by up and coming chef Jessica Koslow, of Sqirl. The key to its success is aggressive seasoning.

Bonus: Someone else found this salad a bit bland without the preserved lemon (“somehow kale plus olive oil and a bit of salt and lemon was just sort of meh.”). Here is how Lynne Ireland jazzed it up.

Another bonus: the preserved lemons I bought were in slices, seasoned with paprika, hot pepper (other spices?) and oil. Here is a similar sounding recipe from chef Shaya Klechevsky.

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(Almost) Just Like the Boxed Mix Rice Pilaf

February 12, 2014

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My kids love the boxed rice pilaf that is a mix of yellow rice and toasted orzo. For a long time, I tried to replicate it with a “from scratch” recipe and it just wasn’t quite the same.

What is in the rice mix that makes it so appealing, I wondered–is there the food equivalent of crack in there? I looked closely at the ingredients and noted that there is something called autolyzed yeast extract. That is the main ingredient in Marmite and Vegemite. It is high in glutamic acids and is analogous to MSG. Autolyzed yeast extract, then, is an umami flavor-enhancer. This is the ingredient that amps up the savory taste of the rice pilaf.

I don’t have any autolyzed yeast extract in my spice cabinet, but I can produce the remaining ingredients: parboiled rice, toasted orzo, dried onion, dried onion, salt and turmeric. Using parboiled rice is key to reproducing the distinctive texture of the pilaf, but, if you don’t care about that, you can use regular long grain rice. I found that Hawaij spice mix, which contains turmeric and other spices (black pepper, coriander, cardamon and cumin), is better than plain turmeric for this rice pilaf.

Slight digression: If you want to make your own Hawaijj, or just want to read an interesting article about Yemenite Jewish cuisine, take a look at this article from Gourmet Magazine. The article is from the website of food writer Adeena Sussman, which has other interesting articles and recipes.

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Multi-Grain Spinach Balls

January 20, 2014

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Everyone loves spinach balls. I thought this classic appetizer could use a little makeover to be a little more healthful, though. The usual spinach ball recipe calls for spinach to be bound together with butter, cheese, eggs and either stuffing mix or seasoned bread crumbs.

Here are my substitutions:
1/4 cup olive oil instead of lots of butter;
quinoa and brown rice instead of stuffing mix/seasoned bread crumbs;
ground flax instead of eggs; and
ground seeds or nuts and nutritional yeast instead of cheese.

Ground flax seeds combine with the excess moisture in drained spinach to make an egg substitute. As you mix the flax seeds and spinach, you can see the moisture around the spinach turn slightly viscous, as if the spinach were bound together with egg whites. When the spinach/flax mixture is combined with cooked whole grains, the mixture becomes firm enough to shape into balls. Lots of well cooked onion and garlic, plus generous seasoning give the spinach balls the flavor boost that they need in the absence of lots of butter and cheese.

With all the changes, the spinach balls are also gluten-free and dairy-free.

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Chanukah Hush Puppies

November 18, 2013

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A popular theme for Chanukah this year is “Food that is Thanksgiving-ish or Autumnal but still recognizable as Chanukah fare.” Put another way, the question is: What Thanksgiving food can be fried as latkes or sufganiyot?

I offer you hush puppies. It is fried–perfect for Chanukah. It is a traditional recipe from the American South that is a twist on cornbread, a Thanksgiving classic. Basically, hush puppies are mini latkes made from cornbread batter. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that hush puppies are to cornbread what latkes are to kugel.

Why hush puppies are not more popular (outside the South) I will never understand. They are, according to one journalist, “the best fried food in existence.” Hush puppies may be ready to have their moment, though. The New York Times just featured an article about quinoa hush puppies, as served at Market Table. I wouldn’t be shocked if the NYT quinoa hush puppies recipe makes the rounds for Chanukah.

There are a lot of stories about how Hush Puppies got their name. A popular story is that hush puppies were made from cornmeal leftover from frying fish and thrown to the dogs to quiet them.

My husband was reminiscing recently how his mother would make little latkes from matzoh meal/breadcrumbs and egg that was leftover from breading something for frying. I’ve done that, too. You don’t want to throw away the extra egg and breading, right?

That is kind of what hush puppies taste like, those little breading latkes, but there are also little bits of onion, like with potato latkes. Actually, they also kind of remind me of falafel, but cornbread flavored, of course.

Traditionally, hush puppies are served with fried fish and tartar sauce, but I am not such a fan of dipping deep-fried food into a fat-based sauce. I think the hush puppies taste nice by themselves or served with cranberry applesauce.

But serving hush puppies with a rich sauce is apparently the norm. Curious whether anyone else is serving hush puppies for Chanukah, I came across an article about Amanda Cohen chef/owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. Apparently, Dirt Candy has a super popular appetizer consisting of hush puppies with a side of maple Dijon butter. Market Table offers a spicy aioli to go with the quinoa hush puppies, which is a mayo-based sauce. If that appeals to you, follow the links to get the Maple Dijon Butter and Chili Aioli sauce recipes.

There are lots of recipes for hush puppies, but I offer you the recipe I have been making for many years, which comes right off the side of a bag of Indian Head cornmeal.

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Soft Baked Almond Bars

July 3, 2013

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This is another version of the Kashi-style bars (see here for the chocolate version). The texture is moist and dense, with a nice honey almond flavor. There is a decent amount of protein and fiber per serving, making this a healthier snack. If you use agave syrup instead of honey, the recipe is vegan.

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Mayan Harvest Bake

June 30, 2013

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I came across some copycat recipes for Kashi’s Mayan Harvest Bake frozen dinners. I have never had the original dinner, but it sounded good: roast sweet potatoes, steamed kale and a tomato black bean sauce over a creamy pilaf. I changed things around a bit, using butternut squash instead of sweet potato and whole wheat couscous instead of quinoa pilaf. You can change things back, if you like, it will be good either way.

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Reverse Engineered Soft Baked Chocolate Squares

June 27, 2013

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This is the result of my attempt to reverse engineer Kashi’s Soft Baked Chocolate Squares. The texture is very similar to the Kashi squares: cakey but dense, much drier than brownies and more compact than cake. I like them this way, but if you prefer a moister, fudgier bar, I have a variation that creates that texture, too.

I tweaked my recipe to mostly match the Kashi ingredient list and to even more closely hew to the nutritional data. They are vegan, with about 4 g. of fiber and 4 g. of protein per 160 calorie serving from black beans, sweet potato, ground nuts, flax seed meal, whole grain wheat, spelt and oats.

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Spinach Quinoa Tabbouleh

June 9, 2013

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Did you know that you can sometimes substitute spinach, kale or Swiss chard for parsley? Well, apparently, you can.

I tried making kale pesto a while back and loved it (though I have yet to post about it). This week’s Shabbos salad was a tabbouleh-like mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, quinoa and finely minced baby spinach. Right before serving, I tossed in some diced avocado.

The original recipe was a cilantro chickpea salad from Heather’s Dish that was spotted on Oh She Glows by Arielle of The Diva Dish who added in quinoa, avocado, lemon juice and cherry tomatoes to make Lemon Quinoa Cilantro Chickpea Salad. I went back to lime juice, added in cucumbers, and removed the cilantro to make a kind of tabbouleh.

Last week, my husband said the farro salad was the best salad ever, and now his vote is for the tabbouleh. So light, so refreshing, so perfect for summer.

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Five Grain Three Seed Gluten-Free Sesame Sticks

June 9, 2013

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These sesame sticks started out as a copycat version of Mary’s Gone Crackers. I found the cracker shaping process tedious, so I took Hindy’s lead and made pretzel sticks instead. Much, much easier.

I looked at quite a few copycat recipes and and decided to  simplify the ingredient list and cooking method. Most recipes call for cooking quinoa and brown rice in separate pots. I cooked the grains in one pot. Instead of adding lots of different seeds, I used just poppy seeds and sesame seeds (two seeds I almost always have on hand for challah baking).

I added in a little twist that has nothing to do with the original cracker. My grandmother, A”H, used to make onion poppy seeds crackers. I added in some minced shallot because I love the flavor combination of onion or shallot with poppy seeds.

The flavor of these pretzels remind me of the sesame sticks that come in some bags of mixed nuts. Of course, these are more nutritious.

Wholesome, tasty and easy to make–these addictive sesame sticks have got it all.

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Farro Salad with Mushrooms and Green Beans

June 2, 2013

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I have been wanting to experiment with farro for quite some time. Of course, when I finally found some farro in the supermarket, I couldn’t remember where I had seen interesting recipes using it.

I wanted a cold farro salad for Shabbos, preferably using the green beans and cremini mushrooms I already had on hand.  A little googling yielded not one, but two Green Bean and Mushroom Farro salad recipes (Closet Cooking and Melissa Kelley in Food and Wine). I went with the recipe that called for roasting the green beans and mushrooms and made a few changes (doubling the amount of mushrooms and roasting the vegetable with balsamic vinaigrette instead of just oil, salt and pepper).

The final salad was intensely savory, with a satisfyingly hearty chewiness from the farro, string beans and mushrooms. The bitterness and crunch of walnuts added a nice counterpoint, but the salad works without the nuts, too.

This is meant to be served cold, but it would also be lovely as a warm pilaf. If you don’t have farro, I think that barley would make a decent substitute, as it has a similar texture. This is something I would definitely consider making for Thanksgiving, as the flavor combination makes me think of the classic green bean casserole.

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