Sunday, April 08, 2018

Perfect (cough *GF* cough) Banana Bread


Where does the time go? Honestly. Forgive me. Because I know there is nowhere else on the internet you can go for recipes! [crying-laughing emoji] Life sure gets busy, no? We’ve been marching for gun control and packing lunches. Despairing over injustice and reading excellent books. I have been awake more than usual in the night and also going religiously to zumba. I have been an asshole and a good friend, mortified and happy and compassionate and irate in equal measure.


We’ve been watching America’s Funniest Home Videos before bed, in the hope that it will help us all sleep, and we laugh, because the people and animals are so wonderfully crazy, everybody getting hit in the crotch because of  piñatas, and also some of it is so depressingly sad and weird, and people actually get hurt, and I never know what to think anymore. Or sometimes, maybe, I still do.


Anyways, as many of you know if you’re been following along, we are dealing with an Extreme Gluten-Free Situation in our household, and I am doing more baking than ever, trying to nail certain favorite things and create certain other new favorite things. This banana bread is the former, and it’s absolutely perfect: tender-crumbed and moist without being gummy; deeply browned and crunchy-edged without being gritty. 


Only other GF bakers will understand why I need to praise this bread in reverse, by listing its un-negative qualities. There are just so many pitfalls! Like the thing where a loaf or cake comes gloriously out of the oven looking glorious? Only then what it really is is a gorgeous shell filled with a kind of treasure trove of inglorious raw batter.


If you are not catering to the non-glutens, then use whatever mix of flour you like, and it will be delicious! Still totally worth making, because it is actual good banana bread, I promise, not some weird diet loaf. Unless you’re on a weird diet! And then make it with apple water and aloe dust, or whatever you need to do. I am with you 100%. Believe me.

That is an insanely delicious product called "vanilla creme fraiche" that arrives in vast donated cases at the soup kitchen where I volunteer. Soup and vanilla creme fraiche for all! It is crazily good, but cream cheese would be a fine thing to spread on your already-moist banana bread, if you found it just needed a certain something.
Perfect Banana Bread (that is gluten-free—or not)
I think I already said everything I wanted to say up top. xo

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar (I use ½ white sugar and ½ coconut sugar, but you could use a mix of white and brown sugars, or whatever you like. It doesn’t really matter.)
2 ripe bananas (you could use a 3rd banana and skip the sour cream, but I wouldn't)
Sour cream (around ½ cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour (see note below)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ cup small gluten-free oats—the instant kind—or regular gluten-free oats buzzed briefly in a blender

Heat the oven to 350 and grease and flour a loaf pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, and leave it creaming while you mash the bananas. Measure the bananas and add enough sour cream to make 1 ½ cups. Stir in the vanilla.

While the butter and sugar is STILL creaming, sift or whisk together the flour(s), baking soda, and salt. Stir in the oats.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, to the creamed butter, beating each one in well. Add the banana mixture and beat well again, then add the dry ingredients and beat just until mixed. (I’m never sure, if you’re using gf flour, if it even matters if you overbeat something! I mean, there’s no gluten to develop, so who really gives a fuck? But still I err on the side of caution because #goodgirl.)

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until the loaf looks done and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it. Cool briefly in the pan—3 minutes?—then tip onto a cooling rack and really, really try to cool it completely, or for at least ½ hour, before slicing.

Note about the flour: I use 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (from Trader Joe’s), 1/3 cup coconut flour, and 1/3 cup of this crazy and delicious whole-grain flour I mix up to make the beautiful breads from this book. That blend is equal parts brown-rice flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, and (gf) oat flour. I know. I might as well add bone meal and pine starch, but what can I tell you. It’s a blend I love. And it has xanthan gum in it—around 1 teaspoon per cup of flour, I think, is how it works out. What I recommend is using either ½ cup of a flour with xanthan gum in it, or adding 1/2 teaspoon to the recipe if none of your flours have xanthan gum. Does that make sense? (I just drank a beer really quickly.)


You could just use 1 ½ cups of your favorite GF flour, or try a mix of almond, oat, rice, whatever you think would be good. Please report back!

A note about oats: Oats are only gluten-free if they say they're gluten-free, and this is for one of two reasons: some oats are grown in fields where wheat seeds blow in and grow companionably alongside, everyone harvested all together to the bellyache of unsuspecting celiac folks; other oats grow unaccompanied by wheat, but are processed in gluten-contaminated facilities. Gluten-free oats are safely unmolested by other sneaky grains.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs

I got the idea of making a raw collard salad, like the kindof kale we all know and love, from the “Shaved Collard Greens with Cashews and Pickled Peppers” recipe in the the exciting, inspiring book Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, which I have now had to return to the library (sigh). 
I am also reading this book, and it is so, so deliciously good.
The collards are a little smoother than kale, a little silkier and stronger tasting, both sweeter and more bitter both, if that makes sense. The pepperoncini is in his recipe; the brown butter is all me. And boy is this a delicious late-winter dish: spicy and zippy, but rich; green tasting, but also deeply brown tasting; leafy and crunchy and well-loved by everyone. You could, of course, make it with kale if you prefer. I haven’t, but I am completely confident it would be great.
Is this a good place to tell you I have a new column up over at Motherwell?
Slivered Collards with Brown-Butter Pepperoncini Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumbs
I have made this salad a number of times, and sometimes I have put grated parmesan in it. You can do that, but I actually think that the flavors are cleaner without the funk of cheese. Although maybe something is wrong with me, since I have never thought that anything ever would be better without cheese, and I am suffering from dementia, and you should ignore my advice. I am mentioning that the collards would ideally be room-temperature because the dressing is butter-based, and it will have a slight inclination to congeal on cold greens in a cold bowl. Starting with everything a little warmer than cold is ideal. (What if you put raisins in the dressing? Mightn’t that be good, in an agrodolce kind of way? I am just thinking out loud here.)

1 bunch clean, room-temperature collard greens (or kale)

For the crumbs:
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the dressing:
½ stick salted butter
½ cup pepperoncini rings
¼ cup liquid from the pepperoncini jar

Prepare the collards: Strip the leaves from their stems by holding the stem in one hand and hand-jobbing the leaf off with your other hand, if you know what I’m saying. Save the stems to make this. Chiffonade the leaves: stack them, roll them up tight, and sliver them across into fine ribbons. You should have around 5 cups of slivered collards—more or less is fine, just adjust the dressing accordingly—and you should put them in a large salad bowl.

Toast the crumbs: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat, then add the crumbs and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crisp and golden, around 5 minutes. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl so they can cool without burning.

Make the dressing: Melt the butter in the crumb pan over medium heat, then continue cooking it, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter gets golden-brown and smells nutty and insane, another 3 or 4 minutes. It will foam up at some point, and then the foaming will subside, which is around the time you will notice that it’s just about done. Immediately dump in the pepperoncini and their liquid, and cook for a minute or two, swirling the pan, until the liquid is a little bit reduced.

Pour the hot dressing over the collards and toss well. If you like, you can use your hands to massage the kale, which will soften and excite it, but you’ve already given it the hand-job treatment, so this added sexual favor is totally up to you. Taste for salt (it may not need any), then top with bread crumbs, and serve immediately. 





The prize for reading to the end! This newly minted fifteen-year-old. What the?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cooked Stems (I mean, Happy Valentine's Day!)


What? Cooked stems don't give you that loving feeling? Whoa-oah, that loving feeling? I understand, but really they should. You think you're all about the Chile Tortilla Egg Bake or the Fall-to-Pieces Ribs, but this. This is the recipe of recipes, I swear to god.


But first, allow me to acknowledge tomorrow, a day you maybe love or maybe hate or maybe have mixed feelings about. Me, I typically love it, what with the near-comical lack of pressure I put on myself. For example, here's the card I'm giving Michael.



It comes from a long and prestigious lineage of such cards. 



I made the first one when I was leading a Valentine-making workshop in Ben's fourth-grade class and we were cutting up an old catalogue of natural history prints. It has proved, as evidenced here, incredible versatile. My other easy-but-good offering this year is this: shirt from Target, embellished with a sewn-on heart, cut from a felted old wool sweater. Birdy's on the hem, Ben's on the sleeve. 



But I have other ideas! Because maybe you are aiming a little higher with your sweeties and children than NEAR INSTANTANEOUS. I understand. I've been there myself.


Valentine's Day Ideas
Heart Beet Valentines
PBJ Valentine Cookies
More Valentine's Day Ideas
Last-Minute Valentines, including Almost-Instant Heart-Shaped PizzaValentine's Day Ideas
Heart Beet Valentines
PBJ Valentine Cookies
More Valentine's Day Ideas
Last-Minute Valentines, including Almost-Instant Heart-Shaped Pizza
Anatomical Heart Freezer Paper Stencil


But enough about love, blah blah, romance, etc., because I am only in it for THE STEMS. If, like me, you make a lot of kale salad or collard rolls or other raw-greens dishes that require you to strip the tender leaves from their vigorous stems, this is your recipe. Also, weirdly, this is my introduction to the Instant Pot, which my brother got me for my birthday in October, and which I am only mentioning here now, for the first time. I know you're wanting a magic recipe where you're at work, thinking about stew, and the ingredients assemble Fantasia-like and cook themselves in your absence, but for now I've just got this. The stems. Because I know you hate throwing them away as much as I do. And, cooked like this, they are a near-perfect food: yielding and mellow, but briny, and with a bit of bite from the vinegar and pepper flakes. Plus, how fun would it be to bring this to, like, a robotics potluck or an algebra party or some other STEM event! Do you feel me?

Cooked Green Stems
These are good hot, room-temperature, and cold. And a container of cooked stems in the fridge is like money in the bank. A really terrible bank, I guess, but still. I love them so. Oh, also, if you don't feel like cooking the stems at the moment you're using their leaves, just stick them back in the fridge until you are. 

1 generous glug of olive oil (a tablespoon or two)
1 or 2 or 3 sliced or chopped cloves or garlic
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon of something spicier)
The stripped stems from a large bunch of collards, kale, or chard, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/2 cup water
1 generous splash of white vinegar (maybe 2 tablespoons)

If you're doing this in an Instant Pot, then use the sauté function and cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, until it is just fragrant. Add the pepper flakes and stems and stir for a few seconds, then add the salt, water, and vinegar. Cancel the sauté function, put the lid on with the venting turned off, and set the pot to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow to release naturally for at least 15 minutes before eating. Yum, yum, yum.

You can follow these exact instructions for a regular pressure cooker (which is what I still mostly use), or you can do this in a small  covered pot over low heat, cooking the stems for about an hour and checking the water level occasionally. You could probably slow cook them too! I just never have.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

(They say I'm too young to) Socca

I feel like you don't see a lot of *empty plates* on food blogs, and now I can really understand why. Also, what happened to the tip of that knife? (I actually know.)
The recipes! They are so hard to post in the winter, because I make food at dinnertime, when it’s already dark, and then the photographs come out so bad, like this, all yellowy and glare-glossed, like a 1970’s Bonne Belle Piece-of-Cake Lip Smacker ad. I’m sorry.

This is not exactly the right place to mention this fact, but I have a piece in the current issue of O magazine! The one with Oprah in a gold outfit on it. Edited to add: It's actually online here now.
I’ve been wanting to post this one for ages, though: socca (if you’re French), or farinata (if you’re Italian). I myself call it socca, because I like to sing this song while I’m making it, which my friend Ali put on a mix-tape for me in 1987.


But whatever you call it, it’s a crisp-topped and tender, super-savory pancake, fragrant with rosemary and onions—but even fragrant without, if you make it plain. It’s mostly just water, olive oil, and chickpea flour, which is an ingredient that I love (try these crackers if you haven’t yet), and that I use all the time, especially now with my family’s strict gluten-free situation.

Gratuitous kitten-in-a-nightie-hammock shot.
Love to you, my people. xo

Still.


Socca
This is Mark Bittman’s recipe, more or less. I make this all the time—to go with soups and salads, or to eat on its own or with a glass of beer. It’s perfect for gluten-free folks, of course, but everybody likes it, and it even offers a hit of protein thanks to the chickpea flour. Also, to be honest, I sometimes make it without the onions and rosemary, which is even easier (I just heat the oil in the preheated pan before adding the batter). If you like, you can use it as the basis for a quick little pizza. Top it with cheese and sauce before broiling, instead of, or in addition to, the olive oil, and voila! Really good and easy.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 ½  to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup lukewarm water
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
½ large onion (or 1 small onion), thinly sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the oven to 450. Put a well-seasoned 12-inch cast-iron skillet in oven. (You can use a glass pie plate in a pinch.)

Put the chickpea flour in a bowl with the salt and pepper. Whisk in the water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover and let sit at room temperature while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours. The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream; thin it with a little water if it seems too thick.

Remove the pan from the oven, pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into it and swirl. Add the onions return the pan to the oven and cook, stirring once or twice, until they’re well browned, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the rosemary. Stir the onions and rosemary into the batter, then immediately pour the batter into the pan (or pour the batter on top of the onions, like you’re making an upside-down cake). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pancake is firm and the edges are set. It might look cracked on top, and this is fine!


Heat the broiler and drizzle the top of the pancake with another tablespoon or 2 of oil. Set the pancake a few inches away from the broiler, and cook just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm.

Unless you, also, buy it at the Scratch and Dent, your chickpea flour will likely cost more than this.
 




Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A New Year

An Instagram app summed up my 2017 pretty accurately. Cats, kids, rainbows, rage.
Why am I not here, enjoying your company? Because I can't tell you what else I'm doing, but I know that it's the strangest mix of franticness and inertia. 

Even now. I wrote those two sentences, and then sat here for a full three minutes. Ben is playing piano in the blue twilight that's bouncing off the snow, and there is a cat sleeping on the library's cookbook that I was reading (Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, which is stunning), and Birdy is making herself a snack downstairs, probably something involving rice cakes and almond butter. Peaceful.

Not shown: Ben applying to college.
But also I am drowning in desperately frantic, dull busywork (hello, college secretary job!), and I'm nine days into my January thing, and I wouldn't mind looking forward to a big, frosty glass of beer or a nice full jelly glass of dark wine. More closely forward than the end of the month, that is.

Fulfilling bookplate requests was one of the loveliest parts of my holiday! Thank you for asking for them. And for not complaining that they were just cheesily-printed labels with my crap signature on them.
And I'm terrible with the holidays being over (as my psychiatrist friend-running partner Lydia likes to say, "This is not new information.") Oh, but it was a magical time, full of puzzles and games and music and cheese and movies (Coco! Three Billboards!) and favorite houseguests and the kind of bonebiting cold that I love for some reason, that reason mostly being staying indoors all cozy with the leftover ham, binge-watching Stranger Things.

My handsome dad, exuberantly kicking someone's ass at Don't Tip the Waiter. We have totally hacked that game, partially by changing the rules, and mostly by combining it with Animal Stackers. Just email me for more on that. I will try not presume that everybody needs this information.
Big Blitz with the perfect nephews. 
Every Christmas, my parents give us a decadent, stunning puzzle from Liberty Puzzles, and I can hardly describe the multi-sensory beauty of them. If you like puzzles, just check out the website, but imagine that each puzzle piece smells deeply of wood and smoke and also that you will need to refinance your house. When I lend them, they're the only puzzles I ask to get back.
I don't have a new recipe today, and that's partly because the clean stuff I'm doing feels so weird and unapproachable. Cultured cheese made from cashews? A rice cake with almond butter and miso? (Run, don't walk!) But I will see if something shakes out soon that I can share. Something that the kids don't look at smirkingly before saying, "Wow, decadent snack, Mom! Two whole green olives in a little bowl!" Speaking of the kids, have I mentioned my Umpteen column at Motherwell? Please check it out. There's a new one up today.


What else I can offer, on the off-chance you're Whole 30ing or Cleansing or otherwise heinousing up your January, is this list of recipes from years past.
Clean and Delicious Soup for One
Clean Clean Blueberry Pie Smoothie
Clean Green Soup (with bonus ideas)
Crazy (Good) "Latte"
Raspberry-Cardamom Smoothie (with bonus thoughts on curry and sashimi)

It's weird that there's no salad in there, because I'm pretty much a rhinoceros at this point, or some other zoo herbivore, inhaling giant troughs of leaves every second. Here's a fantastic one: greens, shredded raw beets, a tin of Trader Joe's Smoked Trout, and then a hot topping made from slivered almonds fried with capers (blot them on paper towels first) and garlic in lots of olive oil. Then a big squeeze of lemon juice. It's the best.

Sending love out to you! Stay safe and warm and well and angry. xo