Saturday, October 30, 2010

The last day of the Farmer's Market

Sadness....the outdoor Green Market ends today.....till we meet again!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

With the turn of the weather the other day, I suddenly was craving chocolate chip cookies. Here was another chance to experiment with the gluten-free baking craze I am on. These cookies came out light and crunchy on outside, with a tender middle. I used some very dark chocolate, just chopped it into chunks. I have decided I much prefer this than the chips you buy in the bags.

Here's the thing though that I am finding about gluten-free baking- I think if you can do it, using butter and eggs really makes the difference. I have noticed that a lot of gluten-free recipes seem to also be dairy free as well. I suppose because one intolerance goes with the other- if you are allergic to wheat and gluten products you are more than likely allergic or intolerant to dairy products as well. But if you can tolerate dairy and oats (in this recipe) then these might be the cookies for you. You can substitute the oats with quinoa flakes and you can find them here. (I have not been able to find at my local Whole Foods). I also used walnuts, but use what you like- pecans, hazelnuts, slivered almonds etc....

Here is what to do:


  • 1 - 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/3 cup quinoa or oat flakes
  • 1/3 cup amaranth flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate (70% cocoa )
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, pecans or slivered almonds


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or use silpat liners.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together all the flours, quinoa or oat flakes, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with the paddle, beat the butter until light, then beat in the sugar.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Mix for a few minutes and then add the eggs, making sure the first one is well incorporated before adding the second — scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
  • Add the flour mixture slowly, until incorporated-do not over mix.
  • Stir in the chocolate and nuts.
  • Place 1 large Tbsp of dough for each cookie onto the baking sheet, making sure to keep them about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, until the edges start to be golden in color; transfer to racks to cool. Eat right away, or store in airtight container.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gluten-free Goodness

So, I have been experimenting with gluten-free baking and I have to say that it's really amazing how far the gluten-free choices have come. I have tried many products over the past several years, and it's been hard to find something that doesn't taste, well, like cardboard! It seems I have an "intolerance" to wheat products that has gotten worse over the past couple of years-and I just can't imagine having to live without baked goods-I mean who can really? All that comfort that comes from baking and eating the finished products...I think people these days are getting more and more wheat intolerant-due to genetic and environmental factors and there is a clear and present movement in progress to offer alternatives to those of us afflicted.

Babycakes, a bakery in NYC, has become almost famous for their gluten-free cupcakes....and now doughnuts! I will definitely go check those out on my next visit back east. They are quite successful at eliminating not just the gluten, but other allergens like dairy, soy, casein, and even eggs. They use agave to replace refined sugar as well. I have had these cupcakes and you really don't miss these things! It's truly amazing.

But I digress......back to my experiments.

Enter my new discovery: Quinoa flour. I am sure you have heard of the grain but when ground into a flour, it becomes something completely different- I like the texture it offers, and the fact that it is high in protein, makes it even a better choice. Bob's Red Mill is an excellent source if you don't have Whole Foods in your area.

I made a Swiss chard tart using a combination of quinoa, rice and tapioca flours. And somehow, I really didn't miss the wheat. There was a sort of nutty crunchy texture to it and I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Here is the recipe for the crust:

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/4 cup quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, whisk all flours with the salt .

2. Make a well in the middle and break the egg. Work into the dough until incorporated, then add the oil.

3. Finish with the water, enough for the dough to form a ball. Wrap in a plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours until firmer.

4. Roll out the dough and set into a tart pan with a removable bottom. (spray with oil to make it easier to remove later) Refrigerate until ready to fill with any type of custard- (I used swiss chard and goat cheese with my egg custard).

5. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until set.

Stay tuned for more recipes........

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kitchen Equipment:Part One

When it comes to setting up one's kitchen with all the gadgets, cookware and such needed to turn out some decent meals, we can really get overwhelmed! Believe me I know!  As a former buyer of all things for the cook, the amount of product in the marketplace can send your head spinning round- not to mention make a big dent in your wallet!

Don't despair! I am here to help! I have composed my list of what I call "essentials" and I thought I would share those with you along with a video from Jamie Oliver's new show, 30 Minute Meals (sadly only being broadcast in England!) where he shares his absolute essential list to get you "kitted out"!

It seems he and I are totally in agreement with what you really need to make it happen in your kitchen- and you  don't need to spend a ton of money either. While his video gives a quick run down, I will give you more details and some links to some of my recommended items. There are things I am absolutely adamant about too, and made sure my customers did not leave the store without- and I will make mention of those magical items in this and the next post, Kitchen Equipment: Part Two.

Remember: You can find great deals these days at outlet stores, flea markets and antique shops. In fact, I love using older gadgets as they were made so much better years ago! (I think one of my flour sifters is circa the 50's).

Let's start with the small appliances first (and remember you can build your "batterie de cuisine" over time).

1. Blender- comes in handy for pureeing soups and sauces- not to mention for smoothies and frozen cocktails! You can get a decent blender or "liquidator" as Jamie calls it, for less than $100 new, but make sure it can handle ice cubes- that is key! Kitchenaid's 5 speed blender is getting some high marks for it's ice crushing ability and it's right around that $100 price range too.

2. Food Processor- now this differs from the blender in that it has a shredding/grating blade and a dough blade offering more variety and deeming it a real "workhorse" in your kitchen. I prefer this to a blender for making homemade mayonnaise too. (Here is one of my must-haves! A food processor was the very first electric item I purchased when I got my first job out of college- it has never let me down!) I have a Cuisinart but Kitchenaid also makes a good one-and definitely get the larger one (either the 12 cup or the 14 cup) anything smaller, is just not worth it. You should expect to pay around $200 for either of these models if purchased new.

3. Hand Mixer- now Jamie didn't mention this item but I think at the least if you are a baker you need to have one of these.  Later, a stand mixer would be a great investment if you've been bitten by the baking and pastry bug-it will make your life a lot easier and quicker. Again Cuisinart and Kitchenaid make some really powerful hand mixers and they are easy to find. (check out the links to the ones I like)

4. Immersion Blender- this is a stick-like blender that you may have seen the chefs on Iron Chef use and it's great for quickly pureeing soups right in the pot you are cooking in! Again, not totally essential but a "nice to have" item.

5. Electric Water Kettle- Hands down the fastest way to boil water! No kidding. They are widely used in Europe and the UK and with good reason. We are not as used to them on this side of the pond, but they are gaining in popularity and demand. Cook's Illustrated loves this one. I myself have yet to get one of these in all habit of the kettle on the stove is hard to break!

As far as cookware is concerned: I don't recommend cookware sets- simply because they always seem to have the sizes or styles you don't want. Cherry picking your pieces will give you a more custom and personal collection of the pots and pans you really need. Not all material will give you the same results as you will see below.

1. Skillets- sometimes called a fry pan. Skillets will come in standard sizes of 8, 10, 12 and even 14 inch. These almost never come with lids (that's what you get a saute pan for.)
I would highly recommend having at least 2-3 skillets in various sizes.  One of them should be a good non-stick. This one is highly recommended for only $29.99!  Non-stick is great for doing eggs and/or fish and anything you don't want to stick. Another one of your skillets should be cast iron for searing a steak or meats. Lastly, I think stainless steel works really well, especially if it's triple ply. I adore and highly recommend this one by All-Clad- so worth the investment. It's a "french" skillet with the sides being higher than a standard fry pan and it's a sort of meet-in-the-middle kind of thing for me-I can use it almost like a saute pan when a lid isn't required.

2. Saucepans- again, totally necessary for anything from sauces to cooking rice, oatmeal and such. I highly recommend at least 2 sizes here but if you can do it- go for 3. Great sizes would be: 1, 2 and 3 quart. Get all your bases covered here. You really don't need to have non-stick either. Just some good ol' thick bottom stainless steel is just fine. Cuisinart, and/or All-Clad are my top picks here-they will last you a lifetime and then some so worth every penny. And did I mention that you can put stainless steel in the dishwasher? Easy clean up is always a plus for me. 

3. Specialty pans- here would be your dutch ovens, saute pans, grille pans (or griddle pan as Jamie calls it) and stock pots. A classic Dutch oven like Le Creuset is great if you are ready to invest the big bucks, but there are many other comparable ones now that would be a little easier on the pocketbook like Mario Batali's and Lodge Logic. At least a 5 quart and up is the best size to get so you can do roasts and stews and have plenty of room. As far as the grill pans go-I happen to have a great cast iron grille pan from Lodge and it's been with me for a long time-was inexpensive too. Saute pans differ from fry pans in that they have high straight sides and come with a cover. They are great for braising and for making larger quantities than you ordinary fry pan-again here I would try a tri-ply stainless for best results.  Stock pots I recommend would be stainless steel and do get at least an 8 quart so you can cook your pasta in plenty of water. If you plan on making stock or soups a lot, a 12 quart would be a great addition. This one has great features and an affordable price tag too!

4. Roasting/Baking pans- I say invest in a good roasting pan- especially if you plan to do the traditional holiday meals. I would recommend a stainless roaster, with substantial handles like this one recommended by Cook's Illustrated. And always have at least 2-3 "sheet pans" on hand. I like these. They are so great for not just cookies and baking, but I use my sheet pans to roast veggies and more.

Stayed tuned, because my on next post, we will go over knives, cutting boards, tools and various gadgets essential to making your kitchen hum like a well oiled machine!