Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Organic Gluten Free Low GI Double Down Insanity

Unless you are very lucky or have been living under a rock you may have heard of the new sandwich Kentucky Fried Chicken recently released called the Double Down.  It is two breaded chicken patties (or you can get the grilled version if you're watching your girlish figure), bacon, cheese, and the frightening sounding Colonel's sauce which is basically spicy mayo.  No bun, no bread, instead it gets wrapped up in a baggy so the copious amounts of grease don't roll down your sleeve.  Sounds great, right?

It has been impossible to ignore especially as a serious foodie.  At least once a day someone is talking (okay usually rending their hair at the creation's ick factor) about this sandwich.  The Jamie Olivers of the world are declaring it the food equivalent of the apocalypse and basically acting like it will be the down fall of civilization.  While the Anthony Bourdains shrug at its impressive caloric content while admitting that it kind of looks like it would be fun to try just once.

I fall somewhere in the middle.  It is a rather unnecessary calorie bomb and the world doesn't really need another bit of junk food.  On the other hand people already eat crap and this actually isn't near to the worst thing you can get in the world of fast food.  Its kind of impressive actually how much press this silly breadless sandwich has gotten and though they are a bit late to the trend it was nice to see a low carb option being marketed.

But mostly I'm just sick of hearing about it.  So after an acquaintance of mine ate one and lived to write about it I decided I would make a Double Down that I could eat.  It would be my protest against fast food to try to make a less coronary inducing version of this monstrosity.  The joke was on me however.  By trying the old low carb meat dredging trick of substituting ground nuts for breading  I may have actually made a sandwich even worse for you than the original.  Now that is impressive!

I did however make it will all organic and gluten free ingredients which is not something you are ever going to find in a fast food restaurant any time soon.  So with that small victory I will admit the most embarrassing part of this whole qualifier heavy post is this... 

This was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!

There I admitted it and as an proponent of healthy eating I shall now hang my head in shame.  The thing is though, Michael Pollan is right, if you are going to eat something this bad for you then you should make it for yourself for two reasons.  One is you can control the quality of the ingredients, limit the calories where possible and if you have to take the time to prepare it you can't impulse eat it.  And secondly after you learn what goes into certain things and how gross and greasy they are you will never ever want to put them in your mouth again.

For example I decided to make homemade mayonnaise for this recipe because I never had before and didn't want to buy a tub of it at the store.  Like so many things Julie Child makes it sound so freaking easy.  This woman had to have the arms of an ox because halfway through the process the fella and I were all out of arm strength in all of our combined appendages.  And after whipping a cup and a half of oil into two egg yolks I realized how sickening mayonnaise is, now that I really truly know what goes into it I have no desire to ever consume it again. 

Which is how I ended up feeling about this entire experiment; it was a fun adventure but I will never do it again.  In fact if I had to suggest to someone how to make a less evil Double Down I would say add some cayenne to the breading, skip the bacon and go light on the cheese.  The mayo and the bacon added nothing to the sandwich.  I know, its blasphemy to speak poorly of bacon but hear me out. 

The fake KFC seasoning mixed in with the ground pecans were what really made this a treat.  That was the truly delicious part and the copy cat blend of spices did taste amazingly like how I remember the real Kentucky Fried Chicken tasting.  So I would perhaps bread chicken that way again in the future.  The other crazy piles of stuff on this sandwich and the extra chicken breast are really just for show.  And it succeeded, we now how far KFC is willing to go to get press.  It worked, we're talking about them, even I gave in to the trend.  Darn it.

Organic Gluten Free Low GI Double Down Insanity

1 cup finely ground pecans
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon dried powdered rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried powdered thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 egg 
1/4 cup rice flour
2 large chicken breasts
4 tablespoons oil

4 pieces of cooked bacon
4 slices of cheese (I used organic goat "cheddar")
2 tablespoons of spicy mayo (recipe to follow)

Using a spice or coffee grinder, finely chop the pecans.  They will turn wet and sticky very quickly while being ground so make sure to watch their consistency so that you don't end up with pecan butter.  Also use the grinder to powder any of the spices that aren't already ground.  Mix the spices and the ground pecans in a shallow bowl.

Whisk the egg in another shallow bow and set aside.  Place the rice flour in yet another shallow bowl.

Using a mallet pound the chicken breasts until they are an even thickness, about 1/4 inch.  You should have two very large mostly flat chicken breasts.  Cut each into 2 equal sized pieces so that you now have four pieces of thin chicken breast.

Warm the oil over medium high heat in a non-stick pan while you batter the chicken.  First dust the chicken breast with the rice flour.  Next coat the chicken in the egg.  Lastly dredge the chicken in the pecan and spice mixture until well coated.  When the oil is warm pan fry each piece of chicken, trying to avoid burning the pecan coating by flipping the chicken often and keeping the temperature low.  Cook until the inside of the breasts are cooked through then set aside.

Place two chicken breasts on a plate to beginning assembling the sandwich. Place two slices of bacon and  2 pieces of cheese on one of the chicken breasts and 1 tablespoon of the mustard on the other breast.  Fit the two prepared chicken breasts together like a sandwich.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second sandwich.

Copycat KFC seasonings from this website.

Spicy Mayo

1/4 mayo (make your own or from a jar if you like)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika 

In a small bowl mix everything together well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Coconut Flour Bread

This is literally the easiest bread recipe in existence.  The hardest part about it is finding the coconut flour to cook it with.  Coconut flour I must warn you is not cheap.  I think a pound was $12 at my local grocery store.  But it is worth it for the experience and to try a totally new flour.  Coconut flour is ridiculously high in fiber and about a 45 on the glycemic index so it is perfect for this diet.  I really enjoyed having a bread that was different than anything else I've ever baked, it's naturally sweet and has a crisp outside and tender chewy middle that makes it have the mouth feel of toast without actually requiring a toaster.

Actually a word of warning on that issue, unless you have a very narrow toaster, because this makes such a tiny loaf the bread, it will just fall in the toaster never to be heard from again.   So if you want it warm just stick it in a warm frying pan for a minute or so to get warm.  Another thing, grinding up unsweetened coconut you already have at home will not make coconut flour no matter how finely you grind it.  Believe me I've tried and I haven't figured out how to fake it with out lumpy horrible results so this is one case where I'm going to have to advise you to suck it up an pay full price at the store for it.  You won't be sorry you did. 

Coconut Flour Bread

6 eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil 
1 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup coconut flour 

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a small buttered loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Swordfish and Olive Pasta

The fella and I were both extremely wary of this meal as we were cooking it.  Fish plus pasta seemed curious and had a likelihood to not be as tasty together as the two delicious bits are separate.  In this case the genius of the recipe won out over our doubts.  Not only is it a very yummy recipe it is also very easy.  The meaty texture of the broiled fish contrasted nicely with the pasta which then covered with the salty bits of caper and olive made a nicely balanced meal.  This recipe is going into our rotation of quick filling things to make when I don't feel like cooking.

Swordfish and Olive Pasta

6 ounces of swordfish
2/3 cup black olives, finely chopped
salt and pepper
6 ounces curly pasta (gluten free rice rice pasta works well)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
4 tablespoons capers
1/ 2 starchy water reserved from boiling pasta
fresh parsley

Line broiler rack with aluminum wrap, rub on a little oil, set fish on top and broil 4 minutes on one side.  Turn the fish, top with olives and broil 2 or 3 minutes longer.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the pasta.  While it cooked, saute shallot and garlic in the olive oil over low heat until they are soft, don't let them brown.  Add the herb de Provence and capers.  Slice the swordfish in thin strips and spoon the olives into the shallot mixture.

When the
pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving 1/ 2 cup of the cooking water and mix the pasta in with the swordfish,adding pasta water a little bit at a time as needed to moisten the pasta in order to make a few tablespoons of sauce to cover the pasta.

Salt and pepper the dish.  Toss one last time and top with parsley to serve.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Double Chocolate Flourless Torte

It has been a hell of a day over here in my world so I'm going to just let this fabulous chocolate treat speak for itself.  Long story short; it's amazing and easy and I wish I had not already eaten it all so I could have some right now in my time of need.  Also please feel free to oo and aw over my new dessert plates.  That's all.

Double Chocolate Flourless Torte

1 cup dark chocolate (4 one-ounce squares)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Break up the squares of dark chocolate a little bit (I used unsweetened baking chocolate and still thought the recipe was too sweet) then place in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.  Remove 1/2 of the ground chocolate for later. 

Add in almond flour, cocoa powder, and salt and combine for a couple more seconds in food processor.  Add eggs to food processor and pulse again, then add in agave, oil and orange zest.  Combine until smooth.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate pieces back to the mixture and stir briefly.

Transfer batter into a well greased 10 to 12 inch round pan.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until it passes the tooth pick test.

Adapted from a recipe on Elana's Pantry.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spicy Goat Cheese Dip

Since I'm fessing up to my astronomical failures as a cook allow me to confess to another ridiculous thing I cannot manage to succeed at.  Nachos.  You heard me correctly.  Melted cheese and tasty fixings over chips.  Couldn't be simpler, right?  Anyone can do that.  Yeah anyone except me it would seem.  Having never attempted to make them before I thought the broiler would be the way to go.  30 seconds later I was waving out the fire on my organic blue corn chips.  Another dinner ruined.

In my defense nachos were never something we ate in my house growing up.   And the horrible alien cheese sauce drenched corn chips at the fair or the mall aren't nachos those are just wrong.  So I don't have a food memory of this dish to lead me to create a long forgotten favorite recipe.  All I had was a strange craving for cheesy corn chips after eating a quick meal at the Great Dane (a locally famous brew pub with good beer and a gluten free menu) and being mocked by the monster nacho plate being eating by people at a neighboring table.

Giving up cheese in Wisconsin is like giving up on snow in the Arctic, it just isn't possible.  It is everywhere and it knows where to find you when you least expect it.  Once you stop eating it you suddenly notice how prevalent cheese is.  Where as you once thought phrases like "cheesehead" or "the cheese state" are just cute metaphorical terms of endearment we use to talk about the area, you know now that the place literally is made of dairy and you can't escape seeing it.

I've gotten pretty good at ignoring all the amazing cheese this town has to offer and hardly mind that everyone around me makes yummy noises while nibbling on their latest gourmet cheese discovery at parties.  But everyone once in a while as I happily eat my bunless burger and salad a little rodent somewhere in my head will start screaming "Cheese!"  I try to ignore it but it gets more specific, "Ooey gooey sinful cheese drenched macaroni and cheese hot and fresh out of the oven!"  Then things go down hill into something along the lines of "Nachos! Nachos! Nachos! Nachos! Nachos!"  Until the part of my brain that hasn't been taken over by gerbils riffles my brain to find a solution that will make the cheese obsessed brain animals happy and not make me sick.  Anyone who read my vegan mac and cheese post knows that it is no small order to fill.

Thankfully I have a very understanding fella who is no longer surprised that the woman he lives with occasionally (okay on a very regular basis, shut up) goes crazy and insists that directly after lunch we must go to Whole Foods so I can look into making nachos immediately.  It probably helps that he usually benefits from my moments of madness by being rewarded with delicious food for the low low price of doing my endless dishes.

So the only way I could see this nacho thing going down was to indulge in goat cheese which I allow myself every couple of weeks because it doesn't seem to negatively effect me too much and lets face it I need some sort of cheese or I really will snap in the face of all this temptation.  However the goat cheese dribbled chips burst into flame because nachos under the broiler probably wasn't my greatest idea ever.  The cheese sauce I salvaged off of the wreckage on the other hand was amazing!  So whereas I cannot suggest asking me to ever making you something as simple as nacho I can tell you that this accidental goat cheese creation is a great dip.

Now world please do tell me how in the hell does one make nachos?

Spicy Goat Cheese Dip

1 5-ounce log goat cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
1-2 chipotle peppers, chopped
1-2 teaspoons adobe sauce from chipotle peppers
1 jalapeno, finely chopped

Place goat cheese in a oven safe bowl.  Heat for 20 seconds or so until it becomes soft and easily mixable.  Add heavy cream or coconut milk until the cheese is the constancy you like, you might not need all the liquid depending on the goat cheese you're using.  Stir in the chipotle, adobe sauce and jalapeno until well combined.  Place in oven at about 375 degrees until cheese begins to brown on top.  Serve warm with good quality corn chips.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cumin Crusted Lamb and Cashew Cauliflower

I have this habit of refusing to remember that the concept of marination is involved in cooking.  I read recipes ahead of time, comprehend the words "marinate over night" then selectively erase that phrase from my memory.  Then when the night comes that I want to make that recipe it's as if evil elves have come in and rearranged the world since the last time I looked at the recipe and malevolently invented the word "marinate" just to torture me.  Well at least that's how it feels when I'm looking forward to something for dinner and see that horrible world and realize that not only do I have to make new plans for dinner I also have to prep a part of tomorrow's dinner.  And darn it at that point I just want to eat.

I mean I'll follow some pretty crazy cooking instructions with no problem but marinating things just irks me every time, I never learn.  Twice last week this happened to me as if I was trying to subliminally teach myself a lesson by planning to eat two recipes with one of my least favorite words in it.  This recipe for cumin crusted lamb was totally worth eating dinner late while waiting for the meat to get all sticky and soft in the egg white and saki.  The meal was amazing and the chemistry of the marinade really did something wonderful to the texture of the lamb so that I would be more than happy to eat this again.  The slightly spicy cashew cauliflower only made the meal better.

However the spicy chicken thighs I had planned for tricked me two nights in a row.  So I added "marinating" to the list of things I'm leaving to the fella from now on since I'm apparently unable to grasp the concept.  He was more than happy to prep the chicken and really loved the end result.  I don't know if it was because I was still holding a grudge against that recipe for making me have to re-plan dinner or if the recipe wasn't just for me but I wasn't a fan.

So there you have it of all of the things I can do I'm stymied by the idea of putting meat in tasty liquid over night to make it even more tasty.  How sad is that?  I maintain that all recipes that have a marination step should start out with "warning marination ahead" in big bold letter before the ingredient list just to prevent these sort of cooking failures from happening.  Who is with  me?

Cumin Crusted Lamb

1 egg white
1 tablespoon rice wine or saki
2 teaspoons rice flour
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound boneless leg of lamb or lamb shoulder, cut into strips about 1/2 inch by 2 inches

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, lightly cracked in a mortar or grinder
2 tablespoons whole dried red chili peppers
4 scallions, white and green parts only, cut on diagonal into 1-inch lengths
Sesame oil, for seasoning.

In a deep medium sized bowl combine egg white, wine, rice flour, salt and pepper. Add lamb and set aside to MARINATE 1 HOUR. 

Heat a large skillet (non stick works best) over high heat until a drop of water sizzle on contact. Swirl half the oil into pan and carefully add lamb, spreading it in a single layer. Let sear a moment, then stir-fry briskly just until lamb is no longer pink on the outside. Transfer to a plate. 

Swirl remaining oil into empty pan, add cumin seeds and chilies and stir-fry a few seconds until cumin seeds start to pop. 

Add scallions and stir-fry 1 minute. Then return lamb to pan and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes more until lamb is cooked through. Turn off heat, sprinkle with salt and drops of sesame oil, and serve immediately.

Cashew Cauliflower

2 tablespoons oil
1 shallot, diced
1 medium head cauliflower, cut in florets
1 star anise
2 dried red chilies
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup cashews

Place oil in large frying pan over medium low heat.  Cook shallot in oil until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add cauliflower and raise heat to medium high to brown the cauliflower.  When the cauliflower has some color to it and is just starting to get tender, add the star anise, chilies, and salt and pepper.  Stir fry ingredients for another minute.  

Add water to the pan, turn heat back to medium low and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Remove cover from cauliflower and add cashews to pan until they're toasted, raising heat if necessary.  Remove star anise and chilies to serve.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunchoke Fries and Zataar Chicken

Sunchokes also know as Jerusalem artichokes are an interesting little root vegetable.  In their raw form they look like the evil cousin of ginger root, there is no chance they will win a prettiest food contest that's for sure.  And they taste like an artichoke heart had a love child with a particularly waxy potato.  In other words oddly delicious.  It's a fun way to get your artichoke fix without the bother of steaming and dissecting an artichoke.  They also have a GI of about 50 so they aren't a great option for the diet but they're a better option than the evil carby potato and are a great treat for when you're on the weight maintenance phase and miss making homemade steak fries.

Until the other night I've only ever had them in delicious root vegetable mashes in fancy restaurants which I love but have never tried to recreate.  When it came time to prepare the sunchokes however I was not in the mood to experiment, I just wanted something fairly quick and tasty to eat.  So I turned on the oven, cut up the sunchokes, seasoned them and hoped for the best thinking they would probably do well baked like any other vegetable to make a sort of french fry.  And they came out great.  I also threw together my favorite no effort chicken and had a great meal that was easy but also very extraordinary. 

So if you ever see sunchokes in the store or more likely at the farmers market give them a try.  Especially if you're a lover of artichokes, these are the next best thing.

Zataar Chicken

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons zataar seasoning 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a square glass baking dish coat the chicken with the oil then toss the spices on the chicken until somewhat evenly coated.  Bake in oven about 30 minutes or until the chicken is done all the way through.

Zataar is a blend of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds.  It's fairly easy to find and worth looking for because it's very flavorful and a nice seasoning for Mediterranean dishes.

Sunchoke Fries

handful of sunchokes, well scrubbed and cut into thin slices
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 or 2 tablespoons rosemary

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spread sunchokes out on cookie sheet large enough to accommodate them all in a single layer.  Drizzle the sunchokes with enough oil to keep them from sticking to the pan, tossing them in the oil to coat.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and rosemary on the sunchokes to your taste.  Toss them again so the spices are evenly distributed and the sunchokes are spread out enough to not overlap much.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender in the middle and crispy on the edges.