Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sour Blueberry Ice Cream

From looking at the final product you would think this was just any other bowl of delicious and totally innocent ice cream. Don't believe what you see. It is delicious and refreshing. However it wasn't so benign when it had splattered everywhere in the kitchen. Top and bottom cupboards, puddles on the counter, dripping down the front of my pants, staining the kitchen rug, the dog trying to lick at the heap of blueberry syrup on the floor. There was a lot of very creative swearing.

See I pictured this whole thing happening in my head as I was dumping the blueberry mixture into the blender and cringing, waiting for the worst possible thing to happen. Then it did. While I was tightening the blender pieces and making sure everything was put together properly to avoid disaster, it never occurred to me that the rubber disk that creates a seal in the bottom of the bowl could slip to the side and create a gap for evil purple liquid to escape from.

As soon as I poured the blueberries in the blender the chaos started. In the crevice where the glass bit of the blender meets the plastic base the liquid started spurting out. Not just drizzling or trickling. It was shooting out on the underside of the cupboard and on my arms. About a third of my precious blueberry mixture ended up on the counter. I tried to tighten the pieces hoping for the best. Crossing my fingers the whole time I blended and made a beautiful purple liquid with no other major issues.

I wrapped the blender in dish towels and added the heavy and sour cream prayed for no more spurting. And all was well until I went to pour the mixture into a bowl at which point the precarious rule of physics that was keeping the liquid from seeping everywhere left me. Half of the ice cream mixture ended up in the bowl, the other half on the floor. That any of it made it in the bowl was more than I had expected. Things were already a mess so I continued with this highly mistaken course of action, emptying the blender, putting what made it into the bowl into the refrigerator, out of my sight to cool off and began the laborious task of de-purpling the kitchen.

It didn't put up nearly as big a fight going into the ice cream maker but the whole time it was churning I was thinking “boy this better be good.” This was going to have to be awfully good ice cream to make up for the disaster.

In the end all I can say for it however is that it's interesting. Blueberries work really well with the tartness of the sour cream and it creates a nice rich velvety texture. Amidst all the drama I did manage to put in too much lemon juice (which I had to substitute since I had no lime) and most of my precious berries were in a puddle on the counter so it wasn't as delicious and sweet as it probably should have been. It's quite sour which isn't a bad thing it just isn't very dessert like.

I'd only recommend making this if you have much better luck than I do with blenderfuls of malevolent purple liquid. I've learned my lesson and will be keeping my blueberry obsession to very simple recipes from now on. Which mostly means if you need me I'll be standing in front of the refrigerator gorging myself on berries straight from the container. It's safer that way.

Sour Blueberry Ice Cream

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen, if frozen, thaw and drain)
1/3 cup agave nectar
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of one lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime, or more juice to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream

In a medium saucepan cook blueberries, sugar, salt, lime zest and juice over medium heat, stirring, until mixture boils and the berries pop and soften, about 4 minutes.

Pour the berry mixture into a blender and whirl until pureed, the mixture will not be completely smooth. Add the heavy cream and sour cream and pulse to blend. Taste and add a bit more lime juice or agave nectar if you choose.

Pour the blend into a bowl and refrigerate until it is chilled before churning into ice cream.

Original recipe from Noble Pig Blog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Can I Eat On This Diet Anyway?

At the moment my kitchen is covered in what very well could be alien baby vomit. Or you would be forgiven for believing so. It's actually the makings of blueberry ice cream that went wildly wrong, my largest most colorful cooking disaster to date.

It's in the refrigerator thinking about what it's done for now. If I put it in the ice cream maker and it turns out delicious I will forgive Dorie Greenspan and this evil recipe and tell you all about it later. If it doesn't turn out I may not be speaking to my purple stained kitchen for a bit we both may need a couple days to think about what we want out of our relationship after this argument.

So rather than typing up a recipe and instructions and boring you with another salad, I'm going to instead keep it basic. Lets talk about the two hardest things to get used to when eating the Montignac way: sugar and carb substitutes. A little primer of what you should and shouldn't eat and how to substitute in things like almond flour or agave nectar in your favorite recipes that call for plain old flour and sugar. This will also be something you can point your friends and family towards when they ask for the millionth time “well, what can you eat?” if they are kind enough to try to want to cook for you while you're on this adventure.

Sweet stuff first. What sugar substitutes can I eat on the Montignac Method?

The only two sugar substitutes that won't spike your blood sugar and freak out your pancreas into storing fat are fructose and agave nectar. Montignac insists on fructose only but he's an old French fuddy duddy that doesn't believe in dessert so we're going to mostly ignore him on this issue and concentrate on what actually works.

Fructose is what happens when you split a sugar molecule in half and isn't to be confused with high fructose corn syrup which is bad, bad, bad. It's a good substitute for when you're baking things like quick bread or cookies where you don't want to mess with the ratio of liquids or when you just need a pinch of sweetness in savory dish or sauce. One warning though, it doesn't act like sugar so it won't make yeast bread or soufflé and torte type things rise.

Agave nectar comes from the same plant that tequila does so it has some of the same tart fruitiness of a good tequila that adds richness to your cooking. There is some research that points towards it negatively affecting triglyceride levels however so if you're dealing with cholesterol issues you will want to take it easy with the agave nectar. It's best to use as a honey, brown sugar, or molasses substitute and will work in pretty well in anything else if you make sure to lessen some of the other liquids in the recipe.

Brown rice syrup also technically works in a pinch. I've never cooked with it personally as the price makes it not something I'm likely to experiment with. However it is relatively kind on the blood sugar so when it shows up in pre-made sweets or a sweetener in organic type cough drops and such it is alright on occasion.

How do you use these in recipes?

1 cup of sugar = 1/3 cup fructose
1 cup honey or molasses = 1 scant cup agave nectar
1 cup brown or raw sugar = 1 scant cup agave nectar and a couple tablespoons extra dry ingredients

Carbs get a little more complicated.

Except for the very high fiber whole grain bread you have for breakfast there is absolutely wheat or gluten free substitute flour (sorghum, teff, rice, tapioca) allowed. There is also no corn meal allowed. Nut and bean flours are your only options. This involves researching a lot of flourless recipes to find substitutes as there is no easy way to just swap out almond flour for white flour in a recipe and end up with anything you want to eat.

Gluten free, raw food, vegan, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and Anti-Candida recipes are your friend. These are all people that are often in the same boat carb and sweetener wise and have worked out clever substitutes for your favorite foods. When you're missing something like naan or pancakes use your google-fu to find someone else who missed enough to make up a flourless or low carb recipe. There''s usually a way to make it work so that the urge to eat something you miss doesn't make you tempted to break the diet.

Straight to Bed, Diet Desserts and Dogs and 101 Cookbooks are all good blogs to start your search for carb friendly goodies in. To make life even easier on you here is a list of recipes I've written about that are healthy substitutes for something not allowed on the diet.

Put simply what is allowed? What carbs or carb substitutes can I eat on the Montignac Method?

Almond and most other nut flours (naan, pancakes, pizza crust, fruit crumble)
Ground flax seed (peanut butter cookies)
Bean flours (savory appetizer base)
Canned beans (black bean brownies, chick pea brownies)
Brown and wild rice (vegetable burgers to be eaten only in low fat/high carb recipes)
Xanthan gum and arrowroot (lower GI thickeners to use only if absolutely necessary)
Baking soda and cream of tarter (alternative to baking powder)
Cauliflower (faux potatoes)
Pistachios or hazelnuts (use to encrust meats instead of flour)
Shredded squash (flourless breads, pancakes, or faux pasta)
Raw squash (a base for things like bruschetta you would usually put on baguettes)
Raw Vegetables (for dipping in tapenades and dips instead of bread and chips)
Whole wheat pasta (only in very low fat/high carb recipes)
Dried beans and lentils
Quinoa (oatmeal alternative, couscous substitute)
Soy Vermicelli (only in low fat/high carb recipes)
Sugarfree chocolate (cocoa powder or baking chocolate in cakes and other flourless desserts)
Whole Grain or Rye Bread (for breakfast only)

That should give you a good idea at least. If there is something you're desperate for leave me a comment and I'll try to point you towards a substitute you can eat.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cherry Tomato Salad

I am a raw tomato addict. It runs in the family.

The story goes that all my mother ate when she was pregnant with me was raw tomatoes so the lust for them must have been transferred to me while still in the womb. And for as long as I can remember the ushering in of summer in my childhood home involved finding massive amounts of tomatoes, taking them home, slicing them, and standing around in the kitchen eating them. All of us looming around a puddled cutting board of juicy red tomatoes, the liquid running down our arms while we devour these succulent bits of red tomato flesh.

There were also a lot of tomato, Miracle Whip and white bread toast sandwiches involved. Which has consistently been one of my favorite things to eat. I could have one everyday for weeks and never get sick of them. When I read Tom Robbin's essay about tomato, mayonnaise and white bread sandwiches being the best food on earth I fell a little in love with him. It's called Til Lunch Do Us Part and you can read part of it in the book preview on Amazon if you want to thoroughly understand the term “food porn.” Then you should read Skinny Legs and All or one his other novels because he's a genius.

Tom Robbins was the first person outside of my family I'd ever heard talk about the joy of raw tomatoes, almost everyone else I've encountered finds eating them as if they were candy an unusual thing. It's something the fella and I tease one another about on a regular basis. He hates them, I love them, how can we possibly stay together with such opposed views on such an important issue. Somehow we soldier on, obviously we just stay together for the dog.

Sadly bread, white or otherwise is not part of this French diet so I've been feeling the lack of my favorite sandwich for some time now. I do still have tomatoes however which our CSA share has been providing us in great abundance. There are pounds of them in the kitchen at the moment and more keep coming every week. I finally hit the too many tomatoes point this week, when I started dreading just eating them raw and had to start finding things to put them in.

Luckily Mark Bittman has a very handy recipe for easily taking care of large amounts cherry tomatoes in a yummy way. It seems too easy to be that good but it really is. And yes I will eventually start posting something other than salads soon. I've just been short on free time and not feeling up to turning on the stove now that summer here in Wisconsin has finally decided to start. So for now here is another salad sans lettuce.

Cherry Tomato Salad

2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large dash dark sesame oil
1 sprig cilantro

Cut tomatoes in half. Place in bowl.

Whisk together soy sauce and sesame oil. Pour over tomatoes and toss thoroughly.

Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro.

This is even better the second day after it has sat chilling out in the fridge over night marinating until the tomatoes are little salty tart bombs that explode on your tongue.

Recipe from Mark Bittman in The New York Times.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fennel and Apple Salad

Salads don't get any easier than this. Even better it has no pesky lettuce in it so it will even please you lettuce haters out there. This has become my new go to recipe for using fennel, which I usually don't love raw. But between the sour apple and the mustard the fennel becomes much less intense and works to bring together all the flavors nicely.

My other recent discovery was this Shiraz and Mourvedre blend from Penfolds. It manages to be rich, dry, and just fruity enough all at once. And for $11-ish a bottle it drinks like a much pricier wine. I've had to resist the urge to open a bottle of it every night this week.

Fennel and Apple Salad

1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
1-2 tart green apples (depending on how big your fennel bulb is), sliced thin

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon mustard


Slice very thin equal portions of fennel and tart apple and toss in a bowl.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, and mustard then toss over salad.

Top with parsley.

Recipe from Mark Bittman in The New York Times.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Braised Cucumbers

Today a movie changed my life.

It's terrible and clichĂ© but true just this once. But it gets worse. It was a Nora Ephron movie. And I cried at it. A lot. Like a shameful I shouldn't even be telling you this amount. Who is this person I have become that gives into trends and likes things that “everyone” else is talking about? Oh who cares.

Yes I went to see Julie and Julia and it was freaking fantastic. Not just because all the actors are amazing and perfectly cast. Not because it's about food and writers and being lost and finding your passion and the person that fits you best in the world. And not even because it's about a couple living through a crazy cooking project that felt exactly like my life. Though the movie is great for all those reasons. You should probably sit down before I tell you the best thing about the movie. Ready?

Braised cucumber.

No that isn't code for something. Cucumbers cooked in butter are orgasmic. I'm a convert. Never will I relegate cucumbers to salads and sushi, as nothing but an interesting texture. I may have found my new favorite vegetable. Hear that artichoke? You better shape up or you'll be replaced.

I've read about this recipe about a million times. First in the Julie and Julia Project that inspired the movie and I was quite skeptical. Then it kept coming up and I still didn't believe it even after many of my favorite food writers talked about cooked cucumbers. Meryl Streep however I couldn't ignore, I was too curious. So being the crazy foodie I am I came home from the movie, let the dog out, took the gianormous cucumber out of the fridge and braised that sucker.

Oh my good god! Ten minutes later I was wandering around in circles in the kitchen muttering to myself. It's really really good.

Obviously butter makes everything amazing but it was more than that. Somehow the heat completely changed the flavor profile of the crunchy tangy cucumber into a buttery slightly soft salty creation. It reminded me of one of those rare buttery chewy mouth filling Russian River Valley Chardonnays that you would gladly pay $30 a bottle for. And I say this as someone who usually abhors Chardonnay and only buys $10 wine. Braising cucumbers transforms something tolerable into something delicious. It doesn't seem possible.

Julia Child I can't believe I've ignored you this long. I'm getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking and going on an insane cooking binge. The fella wants to bone a duck and try an aspic. To which I say who is coming over to help me eat these insane creations? I'll make you braised cucumbers if you can talk me through a terrine.

Braised Cucumber

1 huge cucumber (or 2 regular sized)
1 tablespoon butter
1 dash salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch dried mint

Peel cucumber. Cut into quarters and remove seeds. Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Melt butter in a pan and add cucumber. Cover and cook about 5 minutes on medium heat.

Stir in salt, lemon, and mint. Cover and cook another 2 minutes.

Enjoy eating heaven on a plate.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Steak, Kale and Olive Salad

If this salad doesn't make you love or at least learn to tolerate kale there is no hope for you.

Kale and I aren't best friends but we visit on special occasions. Those special occasions being thick filling soups in the middle of winter. We get along pretty well as long as kale doesn't draw too much attention to itself which unfortunately it usually does. I totally understand why most people never invite it to their parties, kale is a bitter creature on a good day and an evening killer on bad ones.

This salad changed all that. The only reason I made it was kale came in the latest CSA box and there was steak in it so even if the kale was a failure there was still the yummy steak for dinner. I figured it was a win win type situation. But even as I wilted the big juicy organic kale leaves I was still hesitant about how much I was going to like this dinner. I was rushing to make it and take it in tupperware to my second job of the day, if I didn't like it I would be stuck at a coffee ship with nothing but scones to munch on.

Fortunately all the worry was for naught. Steak, vinegar, and salty olives turned the kale into a very delicious unassuming salad green. I wouldn't have even known it was a bitter green if I hadn't of chopped it up myself. This salad might not look like much but it's great and filling and not at all like any other kale dish I've ever dutifully forced myself to work my way through. The only way it would have been better is if I had decent sherry vinegar. Time to visit my friend at the fancy vinegar store on my next day off.

Steak, Kale and Olive Salad

1 pound steak, whatever cut floats your boat
1 bunch kale, thinly chopped
1 handful black olives, the saltier the better

equal portions olive oil and sherry vinegar

Season steak with salt and pepper then sear in in a nice sized pan to the level of doneness you prefer. Remove from pan to let cool a bit before slicing into bite sized pieces.

Put kale in pan with steak drippings and cook just until wilted. Remove pan from heat and toss in olives and sliced steak.

Whisk together oil and vinegar then pour over salad and toss.

Recipe from Mark Bittman in the New York Times.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chicken Thighs With Peaches and Basil

Just like everyone else who reads the New York Times I felt strangely compelled to make this dish. I had rock hard peaches and a seemingly endless cache of basil from our CSA so I guess it was only natural. And unlike so many over hyped foodie trends this one actually lived up to the build up. The friend I was cooking for took one bite and was speechless, which is always a good sign.

This is another super simple very yummy meal that is like eating summer. I'm planning on making it again tonight I loved it so much, this time doing it on the stove top to save us from the dreaded heat leaching from the oven into our already August humid kitchen. It's that good, especially with random CSA veggies as a side. What made it even more enjoyable was not having an open bottle of wine or any cooking sherry, I substituted in a wee bit of brandy which made for extremely decadent slightly boozy peaches. It was dinner and dessert in one bite.

I now know what will be happening to all the fruit in my kitchen that refuses to ripen. It will be meeting the same tasty tasty fate as these peaches. Oh, darn.

Chicken Thighs With Peaches and Basil

1/ 2 pound hard peaches (about 2 or 3 medium)
1 pound chicken thighs, cut in 1 inch thick strips
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch long piece ginger, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Halve peaches, remove pits, slice fruit 1/ 2 inch thick.

In a 9 by 13 inch pan toss all ingredients except 1 tablespoon of the basil. Roast until the meat is cooked through and peaches soft, about 20 minutes.

Garnish with remaining basil.

Original recipe from Melissa Clark in the New York Times.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quinoa Oatmeal

The first time I cooked with quinoa I was shocked that something so tiny, with the consistency of sand and the tendency to find its way into every nook and cranny of the kitchen could be so tasty. It's an interesting little grain well suited in both sweet and savory dishes. For people cutting back on carbs its also a great whole grain substitute for in recipes that call for things like white rice or couscous. And I'd be lying if I didn't mention that half the reason I've been so keen in it lately is that it's really fun to say.

Quinoa has also helped me solve one of my biggest complaints on this diet: boring breakfast. I can only do the whole grain cereal or whole grain bread with low fat yogurt and fruit so many times before I'm tempted to trade meals with the dog. Enter quinoa oatmeal. Fulling and versatile. I make a big batch at the beginning of the week and eat off it whenever I'm in the mood. It's good hot or cold. Sweetened with fruit and agave nectar or salty and crunchy with cashews.

Technically this recipe only works for the maintenance stage of the diet but it would be just as good without the dried fruit, perhaps adding in some other spices to give it a kick instead. I've also started making it with half milk and half water for the liquids as the full milk makes it a little too porridge like for me in the summer. You can do whatever you want to the quinoa to make it suit your tastes but you'll want a little sweetness and some flavor added in or it can be a bit too bitter.

Quinoa Oatmeal

1 cup quinoa
2 cups milk

1/3 cup dried fruit
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Place quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under cold water. Tip the quinoa into a saucepan and add the milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Add fruit and cinnamon then simmer for 8-10 or until all liquid is absorbed.

Stir in agave nectar. Serve topped with fruit or cashews and milk.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes

All the pictures I took of this lovely breakfast are horrible blurry because I was too busy making yummy noises and doing the happy I love my life dance to take a good picture. These pancakes were out of this world. The impromptu blueberry and agave nectar sauce only made things better. I don't think I stopped fawning over them the entire time I was gobbling them down. The fella is the best one ever for making these lovelies.

The rich crunchy almonds and flax seed contrast nicely with the citrus and they create a great texture. You would never know that they are grain free. Add in a blueberry syrup and this is the breakfast of champions. Even the dog loved her couple bites of them. You can see how stunned she is over getting to eat some of the best pancakes ever.

My only pointers to you are that if you decide to use dairy instead of soy milk that you add it towards the end as you probably won't need to use the full amount called for in the recipe as regular milk is much runnier than soy. We ended up with pancakes that had some structural integrity problems because of this. We also didn't have any bean flour and ended up grinding some oats as a substitute which probably didn't help the batter stay together. They were still outstanding and you can bet we will be making these again, next time I'll invest in some bean flour to see what a difference it makes.

Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes

1/2 cup natural almonds (raw or lightly toasted)
1/4 cup finely ground flax meal

2/3 cup plain or vanilla soymilk (if using regular milk you won't need as much liquid)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1-1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup chickpea flour (I used finely ground oats as it was the only comparable thing in my kitchen)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

In the bowl of a food processor, whir the almonds and flax until you have a very fine meal the texture of coarse cornmeal. There should be no large pieces of almond visible.

Add the milk, agave, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and whir again. Allow to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.

Heat a nonstick frypan over medium heat (I use cast iron). Add the remaining ingredients to the processor and whir just until blended.

Pour a small ice cream scoop or 2-3 tablespoons worth of batter onto hot pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until bubbles appear and then pop on the surface of the pancakes and the edges look dry. Gently flip and then cook another 2-3 minutes on other side. Keep cooked pancakes warm while you continue with the rest of the batter. Makes 8-10 small pancakes.

Original recipe from Diet Desserts and Dogs Blog.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Super Simple Blueberry Carrot Salad

To celebrate getting back into the habit of blogging after a whirlwind month that included moving, I am giving you a salad that is both super simple and very delicious. I dare you to not love this salad. It's a healthful easy to make salad for the lettuce phobic or just someone tired of the same old romaine routine. Technically it doesn't even need a recipe just a combination of six ingredients you probably have in your kitchen on a regular basis.

Aside from the amazing minimalism of it this is a beautiful salad. The contrast between the blueberries and carrot in color is reveled only by the juxtaposition of the crunchy and then sweet soft berries. It was outstanding with a lean steak and a microbrewed local beer. This was the perfect meal to christen my kitchen with and I fully plan on preparing many more of the salads from this article in the New York Times. My life needs more simple, light, no fuss dishes and the dwindling days of summer seems like the right time to work my way through 101 salads.

Blueberry and Carrot Salad

2 carrots, ribboned or grated
1 handful fresh blue berries
1/2 handful sunflower seeds
equal parts olive oil and lemon juice
lots of black pepper

Grate or ribbon carrots into a bowl. Toss on blueberries and sunflower seeds.

Whisk oil, lemon juice and pepper together. Pour over carrot mixture. Toss to coat.

From a recipe suggestion by Mark Bittman in the New York Times The Minimalist column.