Saturday, February 28, 2009

Food Processor Sorbet

So now that everything sweet or sugary is out of the question what's for dessert?

Montignac suggests yogurt, the very French post-meal cheese course, or an illusive thing known as sugarless chocolate. I say illusive because after checking everywhere but the co-ops I have not been able to find such a thing. The closest I got was a a dark chocolate that had beet sweetener in it. As intriguing as that sounds fructose is the only sweetener substitute that's allowed on the diet as it is the only one with a very low GI. This makes honey and Splenda both equally taboo and chocolate without sugar impossible to find.

I'm a little peeved, half of the reason I went on this diet was the promise of wine, chocolate and cheese (the other more important bit was the desire to keep my boyfriends feet from falling off) but after this city wide chocolate hunt I feel a bit lied to. Chocolate must be much different in Europe where the fixation on sugar is not as great because surely he doesn't mean for me to be eating bland chalky baking chocolate.

Having already given up sugar and most of my coffee I will keep hunting, I'm not willing to let chocolate go. If you can point me to a sugar and sweetener free chocolate you will be my new best friend.

Since I was made clear to me how hard finding chocolate would be I needed surrogate dessert fast to fill the gapping hole that was my obsession with after dinner treats. Thank goodness for the woman over at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs. Not only does she cook really delicious things with mostly natural unprocessed ingredients, gluten and meat free but she is also obsessed with her dogs. This is a person I would get along with. I found her blog at just the right time and I've been keeping a supply of her food processor sorbet in the freezer for my plentiful sweet tooth cravings ever since.

It is so easy it made me wonder why I had been buying $5 pints of sorbet in the grocery store. All it takes in a food processor and a handful of frozen fruit.

In honor of the Diet, Dessert and Dogs blog a gratuitous picture of my furry puppy.

Food Processor Sorbet

about 1/2 cup frozen berries (I've been using black and blue berries)
about 1/2 cup chopped frozen mango or pear (adds creaminess)
up to 1/4 cup plain soy milk or coconut milk
(the original recipe calls for 1/2 of a frozen banana as well which helps bind it together but has too high a GI for my purposes)

Chop everything into small chunks and throw it in the food processor until it looks like ice cream. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the machine a couple times to get it to combine.

I make it while waiting for dinner to finish and put in the freezer while eating. That seems to be the perfect amount of time to solidify but not too much.

Original recipe from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mexican Dry Rub

Another night more celery to peel.

The fella dubbed this meal “eating at the American embassy” seeing as we ended up making a Mexican dry rub to go with the French braised vegetables and Californian wine. So it wasn't a well thought out plan, but it was delicious.

See, we bought crazy random veggies like turnips and celery root for a recipe we found interesting and in the whirlwind that was trying to find food we could eat during the grocery trip earlier in the week we forgot to consider the GI of certain vegetables. Whoops. It's like eating dessert at a friend's house, right, root vegetables you have never tasted before have no fat? Unfortunately no, in the real world that meant I had to cook this meal as French cooking practice when in fact it doesn't comply with any of Montignac's eating rules.

Funny thing is even without going all out French diet yet, eating butter and heavy cream but avoiding sugar and most carbs, I've already lost 7 pounds. I haven't even been exercising. How can this be! I didn't think it was actually going to work but I guess just giving up sugar is a huge step so I shouldn't be that surprised. I didn't really think I was doing anything revolutionary until I stepped on the scale and then later in the day watched a friend of a friend put five raw sugar packets in one small cup of tea while ravaging a brioche that I realized that Americans have a serious problem with sugar. I've only been five days clean of sweeteners and I still had to hold back the tidal wave of holier than thou-ness I felt bubbling inside while watching the tea sweetening incident happening in the same breath as a clueless conversation about diabetes. Oy vey.

Getting back to dinner; to even out the butter in the vegetables for the original recipe (another one from the Boulud cookbook) I decided to switch out the steaks it called for and use chicken breasts instead and save some calories. Problem was I really was not feeling the need to search out the 5 different whole pepper corn varieties the recipe called for so I ended up making making a dry marinate that is a staple in our kitchen instead. We usually do it on very thin steaks but as I found out last night on pounded thin chicken it is just as good and insanely easy for the delicious meat you end up with.

The vegetables were not quite so low maintenance. Aside from unnecessary celery peeling, Boulud also insisted on cutting all the vegetables in precise eighths. What could that possibly have to do with the outcome of the dish? Obviously Boulud has some obsessive compulsive control freak issues to deal with, however the two times I've followed his instructions to the nth degree the fella and I have ended up with meal so good we were speechless after the first bite. All we could do was chew and making yummy noises while staring at each other and nodding joyfully. So I cut everything in eights and threw it in the pot and hoped for the best.

Obviously I'm going to have to come up with a reconsidered version of these braised vegetables that have a low GI because they were fabulous. Celery root is way better than any potato just in case you were wondering, it's a crime they sit rotting in the “ethnic” part of produce section being ignored. I would stop cheating and actually peel the celery to eat that again.

Until then here is the Mexican dry rub. It originally came from a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal but don't hold that against it, we'd tweaked it so much I think it's safe it call it ours at this point.

Mexican Dry Rub

2 tablespoons grill seasoning
2 limes, zested
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

4 (1 inch thick) strip steaks or butterflied and pounded thin chicken breasts

In a small bowl, combine the spices and lime zest. Work dry rub into meat. Set aside on a plate to marinade for about 15 minutes. Pan fry in a small amount of oil until cooked through.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Angel Hair Pasta and Vegetable Ribbons

If there is one thing I've learned in cooking very esoteric French recipes the last two days is that the French have a weird thing about celery.
Last night I made a delicious vegetable and pasta dish from Daniel Boulud and Dorie Greenspan's Cafe Boulud Cookbook that had some of the most random mind boggling preparation instructions I have ever seen. The first of which instructed me to peel four stalks of celery. Celery needs peeling? How does one even go about doing that? I refuse to believe that I'm the only person who has never heard of such a thing. Figuring the French must have very different celery and not seeing a celery peel in sight I moved on to the next step.
“Using a vegetable peeler, cut long ribbons from the celery by running peeler down the length of the vegetables. Don't worry if they're not all the same size—just try to keep the ribbons long and thin.” The thing that worried me was that when I held the celery over the bowl of water it was supposed to be shredding into the celery stalks kept breaking. All I was ribboning was my fingers. I made it through three of the stalks making very sad uneven stalks when the fella came home.
“Don't look I'm doing something very embarrassing,” I yelled running to the door with a vegetable peeler and slightly bruised fingers. One of the many reasons I keep him around is that he barely flinches at these almost daily declarations of near insanity that meet him at the door. He just gave me a kiss and probably let his imagine wander through the possibilities before he wandered into the kitchen a few minutes later.
He stopped in the doorway and raised and eye brow. I could tell he was trying to convince himself to just do dishes and not get pulled into my craziness. “Okay I gotta ask. What are you doing?”
“Making ribbons. I dunno it's French. This recipe is overwhelming me already. I don't know if I can do this.” I threw the remaining celery stalk on the cutting board and tried to avoid a mini cooking tantrum of frustration, the kind that tends to pepper my meal preparation when I'm making something new. This ribbon making thing seemed really unnecessary and was starting to get to me. I decided to take it out on the celery, I pinned it down to the cutting board and frantically took the peeler to it. To my great surprise beautiful even ribbons of celery started piling up. I guess amongst all the other steps Boulud didn't have time to add this helpful bit of ribbon making instructions.
Next I was to bruise lemongrass and bind it to cilantro. This was starting to get a tad kinky for pasta preparation but I followed all the seemingly random instructions none the less. I still don't know why the scallions needed to be cut on the bias or the shallots patted dry several times but I'm not a famous French chef so just barely kept myself from ripping out my hair as I did every little picky thing he asked. There was a fair amount of huffing and puffing and sighing during the ritual however.
The recipe instructions are semi out of order for a kitchen without a sous chef and for all the importance he places on exactly how to chop vegetables, once the food is in the pot he doesn't have a lot of advice about what is going on. Somehow I got the broth made, the pasta boiled, sesame seeds toasted, and shallots fried while everything was still hot even though Boulud's instructions were backwards as all hell. For example he didn't mentioned the sesame seeds needed to be toasted until the end of the recipe when I was supposed to be garnishing and all the dishes were already dirty.
Lucky for you I translated the recipe into something that makes a little more sense. There are a lot of ingredients that need a fair bit of attention and a lot of steps to get right or you end up with cold broth and pasta stuck together waiting for the shallots to finish browning. The important part is getting all the vegetables taken care of before beginning to cook anything, that takes away a lot of the frustration. And I hope I separated the steps out so that it makes easier to understand what needs to happen when. It seems a bit much but Boulud must have a reason for all of it because this is one of the best things I've taken the time to cook. It was filling, had complex textures, and was really flavorful.
This time I even think I got the wine right. Seven Daughters is a blend of seven white varietals from California. For a kitschy wine that's marketed towards being “the perfect girl's night out wine” according to their overly flashy wine site it had a rather intricate flavor.
It started out with a buttery chardonnay flavor with hints of honey and Riesling on the front of the tongue. Towards the back of the mouth the Sauvignon Blanc became out more and there was a bit of a pleasant green summer vegetable flavor that really brought out the leek in the pasta. All in all a decent white blend in the $10 to $15 price range though it wasn't my favorite, after one glass it all the competing varietals became cloyingly sweet. After all that aggravating recipe translation you better bet I earned that second glass and a goofy movie curled up with my fella and our pup.

Angel Hair Pasta and Vegetable Ribbons

4 stalks celery, trimmed
1 medium leek, white part only, quartered lengthwise and washed

1 one inch length of lemongrass, bruised
3 sprigs cilantro
small length of cooking twine

4 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
7 ounces of mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (original recipe calls for enoki, I used white button mushrooms)
(original recipe also called for 16 shiitake mushrooms which I could not find in time to cook this meal)
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut on the bias in 1 inch lengths
1 tablespoon finely slivered ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ pound angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 medium shallots sliced very thinly with mandolin or sharp knife
2 tablespoons flavorless oil

1 lime
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves for garnish

Find a skillet, pot to boil pasta in, a small bowl, a large mixing bowl, and a soup pot. (The timing of the recipe gets thrown if you don't have everything out and ready to use as you need it.)
Using a vegetable peeler, cut long ribbons from the celery. (I found this was easiest by putting celery round side down on cutting board and peeling ribbons from the top edge. When I held the celery I ended up mostly peeling myself.) Put the celery ribbons and quartered leek pieces in large bowl and pour enough water in to just cover vegetables. Set aside for now as you cut up the rest of the vegetables.
Tie lemongrass and cilantro together using kitchen twine. Place in soup pot and pour in the 4 cups of water, soy sauce, mushrooms, scallions, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Drain water from celery and leeks and place it in the pot you are going to boil pasta in. Add celery and leeks to broth along with sesame oil and red pepper flakes then simmer another 5 minutes. Start water boiling for pasta.
In skillet, put sesame seeds on medium heat to toast them. Agitate them regularly so that they don't burn. When toasted set aside.
While waiting for sesame seeds to toast and pasta water to boil, slice the shallot and place pieces in small bowl of cold water. When sesame seeds are finished wipe out the skillet. Put oil in skillet to heat up in order to cook shallots. About this time the pasta water should be ready so put pasta in to cook until just al dente. When oil is hot remove shallots from water and pat off with paper towels. Carefully toast shallots in oil until brown and caramelized. Remove from oil, pat off and set aside.
When pasta is al dente, drain it and divide it into 4 shallow bowls (or 2 bowls and save the other 2 portions for next day's lunch.) Squeeze lime into broth and stir briefly before ladling broth and vegetables over over the pasta. Top with fried shallots, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.
Original recipe by Daniel Boulud

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not So Single Girl Salmon

Today was supposed to be the first official day of going Montignac Method but given how hard my head is taking the news about no sugar I asked the fella if we could spend the rest of the week easing into it. We also have a handful of food in the house that is sugar free but too high on on the GI to fit the diet but that I'm too thrifty to let go to waste.

Even though the official start of this insanity has been put on hold, the fella cooked our first French recipe last night for dinner. It's a dish that has been one of our favorite go to meals this winter. It is easy, filling, and delicious.

It comes from Amanda Hesser's Cooking For Mr. Latte which is really more of a diary with recipes than a cookbook and the fella mocked me when I was reading such a seemingly silly book. He changed his tune the first time I made this for him.

Hesser calls it Single Girl Salmon because it's the recipe she makes for herself as a special treat whenever her husband goes out of town. I've doubled her recipe so it will serve two, took out the sugar, and changed the name a bit.

My favorite part of this dish is the French lentils, something I had never heard about until this recipe. Hesser is good like that she also caused me to investigate crème fraiche which is now another of my favorite Ingredients. The picture doesn't do the lentils justice but they are the most incredible mottled deep blue and sea green color which is not a color we often find ourselves eating.

The first time we cooked this with regular brown lentils and it was still tasty but missing a little something special. The next time it came into rotation we made a trip to Whole Food's bulk bins and were pleasantly surprised to find the gorgeous blue lentils. I fell in love and fondled our tiny bag full of them the rest of the way through the store, not believing something this pretty could be a part of dinner. They cost a little more than regular lentils but they really make a difference. They have a slightly more solid bite to them so they hold up to the boiling and vinaigrette without going limp. Best of all they have a tangy flavor that compliments the lemon juice.

Try French lentils at least once as a treat, they're worth the effort it takes to find them.

Not So Single Girl Salmon

2/3 cup French lentils
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 shallots, diced

2 (7 ounce) salmon fillets

Rinse lentils. Pour into small sauce pan with garlic and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer until tender. When cooked to al dente, drain lentils and pour into bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in 2 tablespoons of the oil, the lemon juice, vinegar and mix. Keep warm until salmon is finished.

In skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and shallots. Stir until soft and glazed. Remove from pan to save for later.

Over medium high heat in same skillet place salmon skin side down. Cook 1 minute or until fat starts to escape from fish (this will make sure the skin releases from the fish when you go to flip it.) Use spatula to scrape up skin from off the fish and discard skin. Flip fish and cook until heated through and crisp on both sides.

Serve by placed lentils on plate, placing salmon on top and topping with shallots. Garnish with lemon slices if desired.

Original recipe by Amanda Hesser

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

“Hi my name is Emily and I'm a completely and utterly dependent on sugar.”

Today was my first day avoiding all sugar and from the headache I have one would think I was giving up heroin. I had no idea it was going to be this hard.

Working in the cubicle farm wasn't too bad but as soon as I got to my second job at the cafe/wine shop I wanted to go fetal and just sit on the floor all night. There was too much temptation, I barely had the will power to say no to cookies, tiramisu, and scones oh my. I only made it through by taking a couple sips of a latte and grazing on almonds while faining contentment. The rest of the night I battled the desire to lay on the counter and tell customers to go ring up their own bloody wine. Usually I'm the life of the party at the wine store, chatting people up and telling unreasonably long stories about wines I like. Not tonight it was all ring up wine, take cash, okay get out of my face. Not exactly the best customer service ever.

Hopefully this will get easier and the headache will die down as time goes by. Giving up smoking wasn't even this hard. But on the plus side I've felt better in general, not been as hungry, and have a better palate. The horrible Roogle Pink from the other night, without sugar marring my taste buds, is actually kind of pleasant. The overwhelming alcohol content still keeps it from being a great wine but now the floral flavors and candy in the nose are more prevalent. But that could just be me desperately projecting my wish to have a big sweet dessert on the wine.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Montignac Method: Grocery Shopping Made Nearly Impossible

You know what has sugar in it? Everything. And I'm barely exaggerating.

Chicken stock, sugar. Gourmet high cocoa content chocolate bars, sugar. Hot sauce, sugar. Rice noodles, sugar. Sausages, sugar. Soy milk, sugar.

I knew this was going to hard but I wasn't expecting this level of frustration before the project had officially begun. The fella and I spent seeming eternities in each aisle trying to find things that were free of sugar and all other sweeteners. Seems we are going to have to start making even more things from scratch than we already had been.

Adding to the frustration were the odd ingredients neither of us had ever used before and were having a hard time locating but were major flavors in the recipes we had found to cook this week. Celery root and endive weren't exactly sitting out in the open waiting to be snatched up. It was an adventure.

We've also stopped eating meat and dairy products with hormones and preservatives added to them which means a huge added cost and a trip to Whole Foods in addition to the regular locally owned warehouse grocery store. The dairy and meat alone cost almost as much as a full produce heavy grocery run. As the fella said as we looked at each other exhausted from nearly two hours of dread inducing shopping, “This is not going to be a cheap diet.” I had to keep reminding myself that keeping him alive for a long long time was worth all this cost and effort. Diabetes is a serious issue and taking care of it isn't going to be easy.

The finally eating restriction in the endless puzzle called “can I eat this?” was the fact I stopped eating any and all preservatives over a year ago in an effort to improve what seemed to be a food allergy. Eating whole unprocessed foods made me feel a thousand times better so I'm sticking to that. However it did add a final layer of impossibility to selecting food. If it was sugar free it seemed to have a lurking sulfate or nitrate and many of the preservative free foods we had come to know as safe over the last year had sugar hiding in them.

My mood was improved upon coming home and pulling it all on the counter; fruit, vegetables, and the free range meat. It was a beautiful site. I'm excited about cooking new foods with ingredients I've never tasted before, from a cuisine I know so little about. It feels good to be proactive with our health instead of waiting for it to become a problem. And in a time when so many others are struggling to pay the rent I felt very fortunate to have the means to buy such luxurious food and someone so special to me to go on this journey with.

A Farwell to Spuds

Today I ate the last potato I may eat for a very long time.

See, one of the big no-nos of the diet we're starting in just a few days is the very ordinary but apparently monstrously glycemic potato. Uncooked it has a very low glycemic index but is completely inedible. But cooked the GI goes soaring to 70 when boiled and 80 when mashed as more and more of the starches are released. The carrot is similar, uncooked it has a GI of 30 but steamed it jumps to an 85. Pasta's GI jumps the longer it cooks so it is only allowed in whole wheat form boiled al dente and then allowed to cool to give the cell structure of the wheat to contract and lower the GI.

There are a lot of rules and a lot of science to keep track of using the Montignac method.

With this in mind I was determined to make my final bite of potato count. So last night the fella made a delicious lamb and potato stew from Manisha Kanani's 50 Classic Curries (which unfortunately seems to be out of print). The recipes are clearly written and fairly simple for being as in depth as Indian food tends to be. I want to eat everything in book but we had a couple stray potatoes laying around that needed to be eaten before the French Diet begins in earnest so we settled on the lamb stew.

It was fabulous and well worth the 1 1/2 hour cooking time. This is another thing that is going to be a big change in the way we cook, planning ahead for long esoteric French recipes that take much longer to prepare than the 30 minute meals that are a staple of our dinners now. That and I'm going to have pay more attention to my wine and food paring skills for these meals since wine and water are our only beverage choices.

I picked up the Roogle Pink rose' because everyone at the wine store I work in was raving about this crazy pink wine (just look at that bottle) that was pleasantly fruity but packed a huge 15% alcohol. They were right about the pink part, this is the pinkest wine and craziest label I have ever seen but I found it kind of bland almost as if the high alcohol content overwhelmed the flavor. It was definitely too subtly flavored to hold up to the spicy curry but it was what I was in the mood for.

The curry was a winner though with the tender bits of lamb complimented by the slightly crisp and soon to be forbidden potatoes and the kick of the serrano pepper in the sauce. And the left overs I just had for lunch were just as delightful. I enjoyed every sinful bite and said farewell to my friend the potato.