Friday, March 27, 2009

A Love Affair with the Black-Eyed Peas

Not those Black Eyed Peas, though their music is quite sprightly, but these loverly legumes. It is time for another round of My Legume Love Affair (MLLA), the blog event that celebrates legumes and beany dishes of all kinds, and which is the brainchild of Susan the Well Seasoned Cook. This month's MLLA event is being hosted way up north by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

I had some dried black eyed-peas that I wanted to cook up and perfume with some preserved lemon that I had made a couple of months back during my exploration of Middle Eastern cooking inspired by Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir "The Language of Baklava". This great book was the second book pick for the Cook the Books club (now we're all reading Tony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential", so that should inspire me to cook up something in the French bistro manner. Or take up chain smoking. Hopefully the former).

Back to preserved lemons.

I had checked out Claudia Roden's great "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" and immediately peppered it with an armful of bookmarks to note all the recipes I wanted to try. One thing that intrigued me was preserved lemons, which are a fragrant ingredient in many Arab dishes. I remember poring through my mom's old copy of the gigantic "Larousse Gastronomique" when I was just a budding teen foodie and being particularly fascinated by one of the first entries, "Lemon Achar", which was a way of preserving lemons with salt. I never did get through my intention to read that whole thousand page volume, but I did come back to the Lemon Achar entry a many times. It seemed so exotic and tasty to read about.

Back to the preserved lemons again.

I followed Roden's recipe for making these citrusy goodies, which involved slicing them down to their nubs, but not quite, and then boiling them a bit, removing the pulp, salting them and packing them into sterlized jars under a lot of olive oil. I had to return her book to the library, so I can't quote her exact recipe, but I did find some other Preserved Lemon recipes on the Internet here (including Roden's 1970 recipe version) and here which sound equally good, though they don't involve boiling and must be a good bit saltier.

I waited a month to let my lemons ripen and then tried a bit. It's very soft and citrusy, without the harsh bite that the white pith often leaves. A delicate taste indeed and one which inspired me to use it in this Middle Eastern-inspired salad:

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Preserved Lemon

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight in cold water

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves

Juice of one lemon (1/4 cup juice)
1/2 olive oil
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh dill (I had some frozen dill in the freezer)
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 of a preserved lemon, finely chopped

Soak dried peas overnight. Drain and add fresh water to cover in a medium pot. Add onions and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until peas are tender but not mushy, about 20-25 minutes. Drain. Remove bay leaves.

Mix lemon juice, olive oil and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss peas with this dressing. Garnish with bits of preserved lemon.

This salad could be served warm or chilled, though Dan and I preferred it at room temperature, so we took it out of the refrigerator about a half hour before serving. This Black-Eyed Pea Salad is lovely served with a green salad and a side of grilled fish.

Makes 8 side dish servings.

Laurie will no doubt have an Alaskan-sized roundup of leguminous dishes to feature after the March 31st deadline, so we can all look forward to that. Love your legumes!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Adorability Factor of Some Food Blogs

Ivy, the big-hearted host of Kopiaste...To Greek Hospitality, and one of the three founders of BloggerAid, the initiative to raise money and awareness of global hunger issues, recently bestowed me with An Adorable Blogger Award, in recognition of the "adorability, cuteness and charm" of the Crispy Cook. I blush, I blush. Thank you very much, Ivy, or should I say, "Efharisto" in your native language.

Here are the rules for this award:

1) Include the award logo in your blog or post.

2) Nominate as many blogs which show adorability, cuteness and charm.

3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5) Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

I thought a little bit about whom to share this lovely blog award with in turn, and have some food blogger buddies to introduce you to below who I believe embody charm in their writing style, joie de vivre and interest in sharing their passion for cooking:

The Food of Love - Arlene is my upstate New York blogger buddy who cooks up a storm in her little cabin in the woods. You'll find some great Italian recipes and many enticing recipes from her huge cookbook collection.

Flour Arrangements - Sophie's got a beautifully-designed blog with wonderful gluten-free recipes, particularly for baked goods. Her wonderful photography will lure you in to trying some of her gorgeous recipes.

Duo Dishes - Chrystal and Amir win this award right off the bat just for their cute photo, but their fun, homey writing style and luscious recipes lure you back again and again. I tried their roasted kale recently and it was hard to believe something so decadently tasty could be so nutritious.

Absolutely Not Martha - A supremely stylish blog about la vida Gluten Free with plenty of fashion, photography, links, and cool information. Blogger Jackie also owns Vanilla Spoons, a GF gift basket company.

Celiac Teen - Lauren's a young Canadian who's learning how to cook and bake and doing it with a lot of style. Adorability factor is high here.

Please stop by and visit these Adorable friends and inspire them to keep on bloggin'. You'll be waylaid by their delicious recipes too, I'm sure....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mojito Cupcakes, Gluten-Free, Boozy Little Bites

Ever since last summer when I whipped up a batch of Brii's Mint Sugar, I've been thinking about making my favorite cocktail into a GF cupcake sprinkled with some of this sparkling, magical substance. I've put Mint Sugar into lots of cups of hot tea this winter, but never got to making those cupcake cuties until yesterday.

It is a retro-baking concept to infuse cakes with the flavors of mixed drinks and I am partial to lime, mint and rum in their separate incarnations. With all three involved, it's a Mojito party! So I was determined to research this cocktail cake concept. A lot of these cakes were concocted of cake mixes and flavored Jello packets, poked when cooled and saturated with flavored glazes, but I was going for more of a minty fresh and aromatic cupcake and of course, I wanted to cap my creation with sparkling Mint Sugar.

Cooking with mint is a balancing act. Too much mint and you get that toothpaste taste; too little and you don't get that herbal aromatic flavor. I also had to do this baking thing gluten-free, which is ALWAYS a challenge when I'm at kitchen helm. I have to rein in my riffing impulses and I'm easily distracted, so more often than not I am roused by the screech of my smoke detector when I get spin off onto another project.

Back to my baking success, however, since I gotta crow when something works out in my oven. I started with a basic yellow cake recipe from my favorite GF baking bible, Elizabeth Barbone's Easy Gluten-Free Baking cookbook. I have Elizabeth's original self-published cookbook, but a new spiral bound, color photo-infused revised version with even more recipes is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

I needed to get that Mojito trio of flavors in there, so I pressed some dried mint through a kitchen strainer, threw in a glug of dark rum and squeezed a lime. I am also more partial to the taste, texture and protein-rich aspects of sorghum flour blends than the white rice flour blends Elizabeth uses, so I went that route. And I thought I would skip the glaze that some cocktail-flavored cakes sport so my proposed cap of minty-lime frosting wouldn't slide off.

Holy Mojito! It worked! These little cupcakes came out great and were quite delicious, though I must say the adults in our household have consumed more of them than the kiddies. Mint must be more of a grownup flavor.

Here's my recipe for these minty little gems. And thanks again to my Italian blogging buddy Brii for sharing the wonderful recipe for Mint Sugar. I put up four half-pints of this magical Mint Sugar when my garden mint was overtaking its barrel and I'm glad I did!


1-1/2 cups sorghum flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup tapioca flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup softened butter (10-2/3 Tbsps.)
1-1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs
1/2 cup dried mint, crumbled
1 shot dark rum
Juice of one lime

1 cup milk (fat-free, full milk, soy, etc.)

Mojito Frosting:

1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

1 shot dark rum
Juice of 1/2 lime

Mint Sugar and or 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint to garnish (if you have none, you can add 1/2 tsp. mint extract for the third key mint ingredient for this Mojito combo)

Slivers of lime peel for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix sorghum flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, baking powder and salt together in medium mixing bowl.

In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. A stand mixer will make quick work of this, but otherwise you can use a hand mixer or your own arm power and a wooden spoon.

Mix in eggs, lime juice, rum and 1/2 cup crumbled mint. Blend until smooth. Then alternate adding dry ingredients and milk gradually, blending in each addition until smooth.

Place cupcake liners in each of two 12-cup muffin or cupcake pans. Place in preheated oven and bake 18-20 minutes or until done. Cupcakes will be springy to the touch.

Remove from oven and place on racks to cool 5 minutes Pluck out cupcakes and let cool on rack until completely cool.

Meanwhile, whip up your Mojito Frosting:

Cream butter until fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar and salt and blend well. Add rum and lime juice and blend until creamy. Frost your Mojito cupcakes when they are thoroughly cooled. Garnish with mint sugar or crumbled mint and little lime peel twists, to keep up the cocktail theme.

Makes 24 Mojito Cupcakes.

I hope you get a chance to try these little beauties. If you don't bake gluten-free, perhaps they would be just as good made with regular flour, but I thought they had a lovely texture and a delicately tangy taste made with the sorghum blend.

I'm sending my cupcake photo over to Bee and Jai at Jugalbandi for their Click Wood event, running through the end of this month. I took a bunch of photos of these cupcakes in various settings in an attempt to get a good natural light shot even at these northern latitudes and the best one turned out to be the one I took outside in our open-ended garden shed, perched on a large wooden spool we scavenged from the side of the road last year. Click is a monthly food photography event which is featuring the theme of wood (also includes paper and wood products) so I imagine the roundup will feature a lovely array of warm, textural food photos. Be sure to stop back at Jugalbandi after the March 31st deadline to see!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Clam & Corn Chowder

Happy St. Joseph's Day! If you want to fix an appropriate dish in celebration, you can check out my friend Marilyn's family recipe for Pasta Con Sarde. It's got an interesting fennel and garlic taste, and though my family of finicky fennel eaters didn't like the recipe, I will be making it again for me someday soon!

What the Crispettes and their dad do enjoy is a nice bowl of hot soup on a blustery Spring day and this Clam and Corn Chowder is a recipe that is a snap to put together and one that everyone enjoys.

Our version is adapted from Jeff Smith's cookbook "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine", though there is oddly no wine in this recipe. The original recipe calls for canned cream corn, which heads my list of gastronabominations, so avoid that and go with frozen corn or if you must, drained canned corn kernels.

Clam and Corn Chowder

1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 (or two!) 6-1/2 oz. can minced clams, drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 cups milk
1 tsp. dried or frozen snipped dill
Optional: Handful of dried cherry tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in soup pot. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all other ingredients and bring to simmer. The optional tomatoes will soften a bit and they sure add a nice bit of color to the soup pot. Simmer 5-10 minutes and serve hot.

Serves 4.

I'm sending a bowl of this easy and satisfying soup over to my Cook the Books buddy Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sunday roundup. Check back with Deb later on Sunday to see what is bubbling in everyone else's soup pot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Culinary Tour Around the World: Mongolia

How's this for a traditional St. Patrick's Day post: Mongolian Food!

Joan over at Foodalogue is winding down the Culinary Tour Around the World event to promote Bloggeraid and world hunger issues and the current stop on this examination of culture and food across the globe is Mongolia. Foodalogue has a great post with interesting Mongolian tidbits and I took inspiration from reading that and another website about traditional Mongolian recipes.

Mongolian cooking reflects a harsh climate of extremes; hot, dry desert conditions in the summer and fiercely cold and windy winters. Reading about traditional Mongolian recipes was really interesting, but a lot of the hearty and nourishing recipes featured hunks of meat dried in the rafters of one's yurt (borts), wheat noodles and other glutinous items. I thought about trying Eezgii, or Dried Mass of Cheese, but my adventures in cheesemaking were curtailed when I couldn't find my saddle bag, the traditional container for letting these cheese curds ripen. :]

For the Crispy Cook Mongolian cuisine proved a real challenge in trying to come up with a recipe to cook for my wheat-free, meat-free husband.

In the end, I decided to make a hot soup that would be Mongolian-esque, that is, in the spirit of the nomadic farmers and herdsmen that need a hot and hearty supper to stoke their internal furnaces during frigid, windy winter season. It was a spicy, slurpy soup that we will make again, though the noodles I used were so thick they required a crazy amount of boiling, so I would go with a fettuccine or egg noodle pasta next time.

Mongolian Hot Pot

8 oz. rice noodles (I used thick ovoid rice cakes I got at an ethnic market recently, but any stout rice noodle that won't flop out of your soup spoon and splash you while eating is great)

5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms

4 cups vegetable broth
1 (one inch) piece gingerroot, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bunch scallions, sliced

1 bunch fresh spinach, sliced thinly (substitute 5 oz. frozen chopped spinach if you like)
2 cups cabbage, sliced thinly

4 Tbsp. soy sauce (be sure to check if gluten-free)

Chili Paste in Soybean Oil to taste

Cook rice noodles until al dente in boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Soak dried mushrooms in warm water about 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain, reserving mushroom liquid for soup. Slice mushrooms and set aside.

Bring vegetable broth and reserved mushroom liquid in soup pot. Add ginger, garlic and scallions and simmer 15 minutes. Toss in spinach and cabbbage and cook another 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add noodles, soy sauce and chili paste and heat through.

Tofu cubes, cooked fish or shrimp, would also make good additions to the pot if you have them on hand.

Serves 4.

Joan will be publishing a roundup of Mongolian recipes tomorrow, so hop on over to Foodalogue to see what's cooking! And if you plan to submit a recipe for the Bloggeraid fundraising cookbook to benefit the UN World Food Programme, don't forget that the deadline of March 31, 20009 is coming up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Asparagus-Rice Salad with Lemongrass Gremolata

Lemon grass is an exotic ingredient from the tropics which I had never played around with, so I was intrigued when the ingredients were announced for this month's Royal Foodie Joust. Jousters must use lemon grass, asparagus and almonds in creating a recipe for the Leftover Queen's royal table.

I did manage to hunt down a rather poor specimen of fresh lemon grass at the supermarket, but it looked unappetizingly withered and yellowed. I did some further prowling in the Asian foods section and found a small jar of sliced lemon grass in water. It has a pronounced grassy and citrusy perfume, though its taste is not very robust.

I was interested in making a lemon grass version of gremolata, the classic Italian garnish for osso buco which traditionally contains lemon, fresh garlic and parsley, but the lemon grass seemed much too delicate to withstand this culinary assault, so I made a completely blasphemous gremolata of lemongrass, finely chopped scallion tips and chopped toasted almonds to crown a delicately flavored rice and asparagus salad.

Crowned with asparagus tips steamed to a perfect shade of emerald and tied up in sheaves with scallion ribbons, this seems an appropriately regal dish to serve up in the royal court and to welcome (and plead for in upstate New York!) the arrival of Spring.

Asparagus-Rice Salad with Lemon Grass Gremolata

1 bunch asparagus spears
3 scallions
4 cups cold cooked rice
2 Tbsp. sliced lemon grass in water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Trip woody ends from asparagus. Trim the top 3 inches of your spears and reserve. Cut remaining asparagus stalks on the diagonal into 1 inch lengths.

Clean and trim scallions. Cut off white parts of scallion and chop finely. Reserve. Take green parts of scallions and place with asparagus tips.

Bring 1/2 cup lightly salted water to boil in saucepot. Place steamer basket in and add diagonally-cut asparagus pieces. Cover and steam for 5-6 minutes, or until crisp-tender and bright green. Remove steamer basket and dump asparagus pieces into colander. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain and reserve.

Place steamer basket back in saucepot and add asparagus tips. Lay scallion greens on top. Cover and steam 3-4 minutes, or until asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender and scallion "ribbons" are soft and pliable. Remove steamer basket and place vegetables in colander. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain and reserve. Lay scallion ribbons out flat to dry.

Toast almonds in 400 degree F oven (I used my toaster oven) for 4-5 minutes, until they are golden brown and fragrant. They burn easily (Voice of Experience!) so keep an eye on them, as nuts are expensive ingredients. Cool and chop coarsely.

Mix rice and diagonally-cut asparagus pieces. Add half of chopped, toasted almonds (reserving other half for the gremolata). Make a vinaigrette of rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over rice salad and gently combine.

For the gremolata, mix remaining toasted almonds with lemon grass and reserved portion of chopped white scallions.

Take about 5-6 asparagus spears and lay across scallion ribbon. Tie in a simple knot (the scallions are a bit slippery, but they do stay once tied). Trim bottoms of asparagus to tidy things up and add trimmings to your rice salad.

To plate the dish up, place gremolata in bottom of a 5 cup dish (individual servings would look lovely molded from custard cups, but I didn't have any.) Press rice salad in dish and pat down firmly. Invert onto a serving plate and unmold carefully. Garnish with asparagus bundles.

Serves 6.

This dish looks a little more prissy than it actually is. The whole dish took less than 45 minutes from start to finish, and involved three simple techniques: steaming, mixing up a vinaigrette and unmolding the rice salad. The cute little asparagus bundles are an optional garnish, but were easy enough to make provided your scallion greens are long enough.

The verdict: The Crispy Cook presented this dish to her man, who was quite hungry, but still raised an eyebrow at his plate, which he thought looked like "something cute for the Ladies who Lunch set". Happily, after he forked in a few mouthfuls, he thought it was a winner. The chopped, toasted almonds add a delicate richness to the other delicately-flavored ingredients and the scallions are about as zingy as you want to get in spicing up this light salad.

Wish me luck in the Royal Foodie Joust! Be sure to check out the other great asparagus/lemon grass/almond creations that are starting to pour in. There are already Asparagus Cookies, a cool Chicken Satay grilled on Asparagus spears, and Pork and Asparagus Rolls from other creative cooks. This is always a fun foodie event and the entries should prove to be very inspiring this round.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From Lake to Plate: Fresh Caught Pike 2 Ways

Dan the Man got a day out ice fishing in the Adirondacks with his cousins last weekend. It was a perfect ice fishing day with lots of sun, little wind, but still a good bit of ice thickness below. The lads even managed to catch a bunch of respectable fish and Dan brought home a couple of small pikes which he filleted and we prepared en kebab with some red peppers, mushrooms and onions, after marinating everything in a nice Italian dressing for a couple of hours.

Mysteriously, I kept getting bone after bone in my pike portions, while the rest of the family plates were bone-free. We took the leftover cooked fish, tweezered out the bones and made up some fried pike balls the next day after improvising with some smashed up corn chips and they turned out to be spicy and tasty.

Here's the Crispy Pike Balls Recipe:

2 cups flaked cooked pike (or other mild white fish)
1/2 cup cooked red pepper, chopped fine
1/2 cup cooked mushrooms, chopped fine
1 egg
1/2 cup smashed corn chip crumbs
2 scallions, chopped fine
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil

If you don't have leftover grilled red pepper and mushrooms, as we did for this recipe from the last night's kebabs, you can briefly saute some red pepper and mushrooms in a little olive oil until softened.

Mix fish, red pepper, mushrooms, egg, scallions, corn chip crumbs and seasonings together. Shape into ping pong ball sized balls (1 inch diameter).

Heat butter and oil in a skillet. Fry pike balls until nicely CRISPY and browned on all sides.

Drain and serve hot.

Makes about ten pike balls.

I can't resist showing off Dan in his "male catalogue model" pose caught on camera below. Isn't he handsome?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On a Crusade with Rice and Beans

Variations on the theme of rice and beans has been a popular dining option in the Crispy Casa of late, given the economic crunch. We recently chowed down some Cristianos y Moros, (Christians and Moors) a colorful historic name for black beans and rice.

I tried this recipe, omitting the bacon, and it was very tasty. I topped our peacefully coexisting faction of legumes and grains with some fried cubes of Queso Blanco, which I had never used before. It is a Latin American cheese that is grated atop many dishes and really doesn't get to the gooey, melty stage so much as getting pleasantly rubbery. I just cut up my Queso Blanco into small cubes which then got sizzled around a frying pan with a couple of pats of butter and it made for a nice garnish for our Cuban rice and beans supper.

Queso Blanco is slightly salty and according to Wikipedia, is made from liquids pressed from cottage cheese. I am sending my cheesy discovery over to Chez Loulou over in the South of France for her delightful and informative La Fete du Fromage event, which celebrates cheeses from around the world. Loulou will be posting a roundup of this festival of dairy delights after the March 15th deadline, so you can enjoy this delicious cheese sampler then or visit for some gorgeous photography and wonderful French tastings before then.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Palak Paneer for a Culinary Trip to India

Another bookmarked recipe was turned into a luscious meal for the Crispy family thanks to my Cook the Books buddy Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. She recently made a Palak Paneer, a spicy Indian spinach curry usually made with paneer cheese. In Deb's recipe, baked spiced tofu cubes substitute for the paneer.

I was anxious to try this recipe as I often order it when we dine out at Indian restaurants and will sometimes buy a package of "heat and eat" palak paneer at the grocery for a quick dinner or lunch. I made her dish in two steps, roasting the tofu cubes in the oven in the morning before work and then making the spinach curry when I got home from work. I paired it with some wonderfully fragrant basmati rice with a bunch of pointy curry leaves, which are two awesome purchases from my recent trip to India Bazaar. The philistines in my family picked out the curry leaves and complained that they looked like they dropped off a ficus plant, but I thought they added a great perfume to the dish and cheerfully chomped all mine down.

Thank you Deb for sharing another great recipe! I am sending a bowl of this fabulous Palak Paneer to Joan at Foodalogue for her Culinary Tour Around the World Event, where we are all now on a virtual visit to India. Joan's event is promoting awareness of world hunger issues and is linked to the BloggerAid group of folks hoping to raise funds for the UN World Food Programme. Joan will be publishing a roundup of Indian dishes on March 11th, so be sure to drop by to see what we all brought to our fragrant feast.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Adopt a GF Blogger: Gluten Free Kay & Her Hot Mamas

Sea at the Book of Yum is celebrating one year of founding the Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger event, in which participants choose a gluten-free blogger or a blogger with a lot of tagged GF recipes, and then cook up a recipe from their adoptee and blog it up. In the past I have discovered many great GF bloggers and new family favorite recipes (love those Onion Bhajis!) through this fun event and it certainly gives me an excuse to go through my extensive list of bookmarked recipes and actually put one to the test.

For this special Anniversary Edition of this event, I immediately thought of my kindred gardening spirit, Gluten Free Kay in Indiana. She has a glorious garden as evidenced by her many photographs of vegetables, fruits, herbs and lovely flowers, and even the occasional box turtle visitor. Kay is an adventurous gardener and keeps trying new varieties in her garden plot, including cucuzzi squash, sorghum and paprika peppers.

Kay is also does heavy duty in the kitchen when the harvest starts pumping out food at a record pace and I am in awe of her canning, dehydrating and other food preservation skills. She even dried and ground her own paprika from homegrown peppers! And let's all stay tuned to her adventures in worm farming!

Despite multiple food allergies aside from the gluten-filled wheat family, Kay has a sunny and undaunted spirit and concocts delicious, beautiful and healthful recipes, including many on my bookmarked list. I would love to follow her lead in making my own paprika and to make her Tomato and Goat Cheese pie, but somehow I never seem to assemble all the ingredients there. I did however, get everything assembled to make a batch of her Hot Mamas and they were as delightful as I had hoped.

These are VERY cheesy and rich, so a little bit went a long way when I made them for our little family. We had them with salad for lunch and then a Hot Mama was reheated over beans and rice for another meal and another and another... These would be great to make for a party and next time I'd like to try them baked in muffin tins rather than a big 9x13 baking dish, so they could be sized into individual portions.

Be sure to visit Kay's blog sometime soon to see what exciting plans she has for the 2009 garden and to see what other treats she is whipping up in her kitchen. The added bonus are the occasional photos of the handsome and venerable Daddy Cat that prowls around her grounds. And the Book of Yum will be posting a roundup of Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger posts after the March 8th deadline, so be sure to drop by and wish Sea a Happy Anniversary!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pomegranate Cranachan

Those POM Wonderful folks sent me a case of pomegranate juice to play with. I had tried the POM before, as my daughters raved about having it at friends' houses. I like that this brand is 100% juice, rather than mixed with that diabolical high-fructose corn syrup that you find in so many other "juice blends". Unlike my girls, I find straight POM a bit too tart to drink straight, but love it mixed with other juices or sparkling water.

My daughters kept raiding my POM stash (they love those curvaceous bottles!) so I had to hide the remainder until I had time in the kitchen to think up a good way to cook with them. I had seen several inspiring posts on making pomegranate molasses on the Internet, so I tried my hand at that first.

I took two 8 oz. bottles of pomegranate juice and brought it to a boil in a small saucepan. Then I lowered the heat, but let it simmer merrily for a full hour, until it was reduced to 1/3 cup. It thickened up quite a bit upon cooling.

Next I wanted to try using some of my tart pomegranate molasses in a traditional Scottish dessert recipe, Cranachan, which is basically a rich parfait of whipped cream, toasted oatmeal and berries. One of my gluten-free blogger buddies with a serious sweet tooth, Trav, had recently posted a recipe for Raspberry Cranachan, which I wanted to use fresh pomegranates in, but they are now out of stock and out of season at my local market, so I modified Trav's recipe a bit to incorporate my POM bounty. Here, then, is my recipe for:

POM Cranachan

1 cup rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill has a certified gluten-free brand)

1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

1 cup fresh raspberries, washed

4 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. whiskey
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

2 additional Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

Spread oats on cookie sheet or toaster oven pan and toast until golden brown at 450 degrees F. It only took my oats 7 minutes to reach the right shade, so keep an eye on them and stir them around at least twice during the cooking. Let cool.

Whip cream and sugar together until they form soft peaks. Set aside.

In small saucepan, mix honey, whiskey and 1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses together. Bring to a boil and heat for a minute or so. Let cool.

Fold toasted oats into whipped cream. Add cooled honey-whiskey mixture and blend carefully.

Make sure to set aside some of the raspberries for garnishing the top of your cranachan.

Assemble your cranachans (this makes four servings) by dolloping some of the cream mixture into goblets or wine glasses. Top with some raspberries and a drizzle of the remaining pomegranate molasses. Repeat layers.

Cover and chill for 15 minutes (the oats soak up some of the moisture from the cream and get a lovely soft, chewy texture).

Serves four.

My Pom Cranachans got a mixed review from the Crispy Gang. Husband Dan liked it, but the kids thought the dessert wasn't sweet enough and that the whole experience was like "eating a candle". I guess they don't like oats in their whipped cream confections.

I'm going to use the remaining bits of precious Pom molasses in a barbecue sauce as created on Jill's luminously-photographed blog, Hey, that tastes good!, and then I'll just have to go out and refresh my POM stash. And find a new hiding place!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tex-Mex Mosaic Salad

Standing at the supermarket deli counter, in a zombie-like stupor watching my provolone being sliced, I happened to turn my gaze to the selection of prepared salads behind the glass, when culinary lightning struck. Instead of the usual array of white foods (cole slaw, macaroni salad, pasta salad, potato salad and that strange and pallid, cabbagey "health salad") all drenched in the same dreary, chemical-tasting dressing, I saw a few enticements. One was an Edamame Salad studded with corn kernels, tomato chunks and black beans. It was beautiful and I thought to myself "Hey Crispy, you could do that back home with your home-grown vegetable babies and serve it forth".

So I did.

I was so transported, I had to go back and rescue my abandoned provolone, as I hurried back to the Crispy Casita to experiment. Black beans and corn demanded a Tex-Mex dressing and I thought immediately of my blogger buddy, Gloria Chadwick, whose newest cookbook, "The Foods and Flavors of San Antonio", has just been published. Gloria is celebrating all March long with a Fiesta of Foods and Flavors featuring recipes from many different bloggers. I am dedicating this recipe to Gloria, for her wonderful food fiesta event, which will include a boatload of recipes, prizes (including copies of her cookbook!) and lots of Texas-sized fun.

Tex-Mex Mosaic Salad

I am lucky to have a freezer full of corn, cilantro, and edamame from our garden, which I thawed for the freshest flavor, but use whatever canned or frozen substitutions are available to you as suggested below.

2 cups cooked black beans (I soaked 1/2 lb. dried black beans overnight, then drained and put them in a pot with fresh water and simmered until they were tender, about 30 minutes. This made three cups of cooked beans, so I set aside the extra cupful for use later). You could also use 1 (14.5 oz.) can of black beans, drained

1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or most of a 14.5 oz can)

1-1/2 cups steamed edamame (soybeans, can be found in freezer section or natural foods sections of grocery stores)

2 cups corn kernels


2 Tbsp. minced cilantro (I mince up cilantro in season and freeze it with little water in ice cube trays, then pop out cubes when frozen to store in baggies in the freezer)

1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently mix beans, tomatoes, edamame and corn in medium sized bowl.

Blend remaining ingredients together in separate bowl. Pour enough of this dressing over to moisten salad (don't dump the entire amount in at first like I did, which made things a little too juicy). Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to mingle flavors.

Serves 8.

This salad makes a wonderful meal paired with steamed rice, tortilla chips and a green salad. It is so colorful and would be a great party dish, as it can sit at room temperature for awhile without spoiling.

I am so happy that Gloria's book has been published and am especially delighted to have just won a copy of "Foods and Flavors of San Antonio" as the cool prize for being Gloria's February Chili Cook-Off Winner. I can't wait for it to arrive, so I can salivate over the Mexican Brownies and Chipotle Shrimp and all the other tempting recipes.