Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stuffed Spinach and Cheese Butternut Squash

Winter has come very early to southern Vermont. Not only did we have a white Thanksgiving to the tune of 13 inches of snow, we’ve had day upon day of ice. It seems like just yesterday that we were harvesting the last kale, chard, broccoli, and our meager two pumpkins from the garden.  Now it’s time to buy produce again, and we’re fortunate to have a number of local organic squash and root vegetables available. So when the weather looked like this for days upon days,


It seemed like a good excuse to make a hearty meal of stuffed butternut squash. 

This one was a pretty big fellow, and I erred by scooping out the squash too close to the edges, but this stuffed squash was a complete meal and a very satisfying one at that.

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery heart, finely chopped
½ Against The Grain Original Baguette, finely chopped
1 large egg
¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and cut the squash length-wise into two halves. Scoop out the pulp and seeds and place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and sauté the onion and celery just until tender, about three minutes. Remove from the heat and add the baguette, tossing the mixture until the bread is coated. Set aside to cool.

When the squash is done and cooled enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving enough of a wall to support the filling. Set the squash boats back on the baking tray, open side up.

When the squash flesh is cooled, add the baguette mix, egg, cheese, and spinach to the squash flesh and blend thoroughly.

Spoon the filling into the two squash boats and sprinkle with a little shredded parmesan. Bake on a medium rack for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top becomes crusty.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ooey-Gooey Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate chip cookies are one of those baked goods that are guaranteed to spark emotions. Like brewing the perfect cup of coffee, bakers like me are always in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. What makes a perfect cookie? Depends on who you talk to. NPR’s The Salt just ran a feature called “The Science Behind Baking Your Ideal Chocolate Chip Cookie.” (September 4, 2014) Here are some of the features that the authors deconstructed: ooey-gooey, crispy with a soft center, chewy, thick (not crispy,) and cakey. What they didn’t address was how to attain these attributes without using gluten, or for that matter, no grains at all.

These cookies are gluten free, grain-free, and gum free. How to describe them? Well, they are the closest I have come to perfection in my nine years of gluten free baking. They are definitely crispy with a soft center, and thanks in part to Equal Exchange Semi-Sweet chocolate chips, the ooey-gooey part melts in your mouth.  The small amount of coconut flour adds to the soft center and the hint of cinnamon accentuates the intensity of the chocolate experience. I don’t want to over-sell these; I just want to send you into the kitchen to try them. For me, they are an excellent illustration of “be careful what you wish for!” Being a perfectionist, though, this certainly won’t be my final recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
4 tablespoons (56g) coconut oil, room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 ½ cups (180g) light buckwheat flour
½ cup (70g) tapioca starch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup soy-free chocolate chips (such as Equal Exchange Semi-Sweet)

Directions:
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, use a hand mixer on high to cream the butter, coconut oil, and sugars until it is light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and egg until well blended, followed by the baking soda and salt.
3. Beat in the coconut flour, buckwheat flour, and tapioca starch. The dough will become very stiff. Fold in the chocolate chips and use your hands to bring it together into a ball.
4. Roll the dough into 11/2-inch balls and space them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
5. Bake the cookies for approximately 12 minutes until the bottoms and tops are lightly browned. The cookies will continue to set as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 to 7 minutes on the pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft and fragile when first removed from the oven.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Marble Cheesecake Brownies

Makes 16 Brownies


For years, I was intimidated by coconut flour. In fact, I bought a package, and it sat unopened in my pantry for over six months. Coconut flour is very fibrous, about 36% fiber, which makes it a very different ingredient than other flours. A number of home bakers have suggested that it is hard to work with and produces dry baked goods. Once I started working with it and understanding its properties, I learned to love it. I love the natural sweetness and the tenderness it imparts in bake goods. And, contrary to what others have reported, I find it makes very moist baked goods if you utilize its absorptive qualities.

Coconut flour is dried and milled coconut meat, and it is a byproduct of pressing coconut meat during coconut milk production. It is a beige flour, high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and 14% fat. Since coconut flour is over 1/3 fiber, it absorbs three to four times the amount of liquid of low fiber flours such as rice flour and tapioca starch. To compensate for this, you must either work with lesser amounts of coconut flour or increase the liquids in a recipe accordingly. For light baked goods, it requires generally twice the amount of eggs you would normally use.

Coconut goes extremely well with cream, so I developed these cheesecake brownies with a few simple ingredients around the coconut flour. In this recipe, the only flour is ½ cup of coconut, flour although the cocoa powder also performs as a flour. Unlike most brownie recipes, this one uses oil, which acts as another source of liquid to counterbalance the absorptive qualities of the coconut flour. The only leavening agent, and also a source of liquid, is the eggs. These are good-looking, moist brownies, for which the cheesecake filling intensifies the dark chocolate notes. It should be noted that the brownies without the cheesecake layer are dairy-free.

Ingredients:
1 cup (200g) sugar
½ cup (100g) canola
½ cup (50g) cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup (56g) coconut flour
Cheese cake filling:
1, 8 oz  package cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup (75g) sugar

Directions:
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan (I used coconut oil.) After greasing the sides of the pan, line the pan with parchment paper, allowing a flap to extend over two sides.

2. By hand, blend the sugar, oil, cocoa, eggs, and vanilla. Then using a hand mixer, mix on high speed until the batter is thick and thoroughly blended.

3. Gradually add the coconut flour until the coconut flour is fully blended. The batter will thicken as the coconut absorbs the liquid. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes to maximize its absorption.

4. Spoon ¾ of the batter into the baking pan. Use a spatula, to spread the brownie batter to an even thickness. Set aside.

5. Prepare the cheese cake filling: Using a clean hand mixer, whip the cream cheese, egg, and sugar until it is smooth and whipped-cream like.

6. Spoon the filling over the brownie batter and carefully spread it until it is smoothed across the top. Spoon the remaining 1/4 of the batter over the cheesecake filling in small dollops. Use a butter knife to create a marbled effect on the top by dragging the knife through the brownie mix and cheesecake filling.

7. Bake the brownies for 40 minutes or until the center springs back when pressed.

8. Allow the brownies to cool fully, lift them out by their parchment paper handles, and place on a cutting board to cut. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gluten Free Spiral Pasta With Basil Cream Sauce


This past fourth of July, like all the rest of them for the last 13 years, we spent it on the St. Lawrence River. Families flock to the River, some cottages hosting as many as four generations. The fourth begins with a flag raising at the Main dock and a flotilla of non-motorized craft, it features strawberry shortcake on the green, and always ends with swatting bugs while trying to take in fireworks over Boldt Castle or watching firework displays on distant islands. 

This summer for the first time, our community decided to offer organic garden plots to its residents. Not quite sure what to expect, I signed up for one, and was amazed to witness the creation of a large block of raised beds, surrounded by pea gravel.

Never having gardened before in a raised bed—all 32 square feet of it—I prepared my soil with a compost mixture and planted nine tomato plants, six broccoli plants, three kinds of peppers, purple and green basil, red onions, bib lettuce, and musk melon. If that sounds like a lot for a small raised bed, you’re right. With near perfect weather, and heat retained by the pea gravel, my plants shot up and flourished. The same tomato plants that I started from seed in Vermont are now four times the size of the ones growing in Vermont.  And my first experiment with melons surprised me--those things grow everywhere. Without something to climb, they started preying on the onions. Imagine trying to climb up an onion!

My first harvest was basil, both purple and green, as well as a hot cherry pepper (which was really tongue-searing hot.) I decided to make a cream basil sauce for our gluten free pasta, and everyone declared it a success.

Gluten Free Spiral Pasta With Basil Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh hot cherry peppers to taste, minced
1 tsp tapioca
1-1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 C heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 C freshly shredded Parmesan
16 ounces GF pasta

Directions:
1, Melt butter and olive oil.
2. Sauté garlic and hot peppers for 3 min or until just browned.
3. Stir in tapioca--it will be slightly pasty.
4. Reduce heat very low.
5. Add cream and stir until blended, and it begins to thicken.
6. Add Parmesan and stir until melted and sauce is smooth.
7. Meanwhile, begin boiling pasta (I prefer Tinkyada)
despite what the package says, I find that the spirals are perfect at 8 minutes.
8. Two minutes before the pasta is done, stir in the fresh, chopped basil.
9. Toss sauce and pasta and serve.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

SOURDOUGH PRETZELS!! Help Us Bring Yummy Gluten Free Sourdough Pretzels to the Market

Yes, this is the real deal. The tastiest, gluten-free, grain-free sourdough pretzel you can imagine. The recipe is all ready to go

Did you know that small businesses like ours generated over 60% of net new jobs over the past 15 years? Investments in small businesses are investments in our economic growth. Chase Bank and the social media firm, LivingSocial, realize this and have teamed up to offer grants of $250,000 to 12 small businesses (defined as <100 employees.)

Against The Grain is applying for this grant, and view it as an opportunity to bring a really cool gluten free product to market. As you may know, we have spent the past five years in business working extremely hard to keep up with the demand for our products. No one is happier than us that our products have been met with such enthusiasm and devotion, but it has been at the expense of innovation. This is an opportunity for us to fast-track a new and incredibly delicious product. Given the participation of the social media company, LivingSocial, we are required to amass 250 votes by June 30, in order to qualify. This is where you come in. Want to help us innovate? Want to have REAL sourdough soft pretzels that are naturally gluten- and grain-free? Soon? Here’s what you do:

1) Go to http://www.missionsmallbusiness.com/

2) Click on “Log on and Support”

3) Log in with your Facebook account

4) Type in “against the grain gourmet” in the search, then click on the search button

5) Cast us a vote.

6) Cast a vote for all your favorite companies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pizza Party for the 4th of July: Three Pizzas to Wow The Crowds


Backyard fireworks launched from a small sandpit my dad would create for the occasion, sparklers, black snakes (the kid-friendly firework kind, not the reptiles,) watermelon seed spitting contests with my siblings, and mounds of barbecued chicken. These are my early memories of the fourth of July. The fourth of July comes just at the time in the summer when everyone needs a fun holiday, an excuse to have a picnic with red and white checkered tablecloths and decorate with red, white, and blue. It is fun to decorate with food, too, but as it turns out, there aren’t too many blue ones—lots of red and white, but blue? None-the-less, we came up with three patriotic pizzas that will leave family and guests smiling. The first recipe idea comes from Alex, who didn’t miss a beat when asked what foods were blue. “Blue cheese!” obviously.

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Pizza

Ingredients:

1 Against The Grain Cheese
¼ fresh organic red pepper
2 ounces of blue cheese (we have several great local choices, and I used blue cheese from Boucher Family Farms)

Directions:

1. Cut the pepper into thin strips and arrange it like fireworks bursts on your pizza. Ours looked like this:
2. Crumble the blue cheese and put little mounds in the middle of the pepper bursts. Sprinkle the rest around the pizza (like random fireworks?)
3. Bake directly on the rack at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.

Blue Potato Pizza With Red Pepper Confetti

The idea for the blue potatoes in this recipe came from Jeremy, who is way into organic gardening. Thinly sliced, the potatoes bake until just tender. The aroma is pleasing, the polka-dot effect arresting, and fresh potatoes on pizzas are unusually yummy toppings.

Ingredients:

1 Against The Grain Cheese Pizza
6 small blue potatoes, very thinly sliced
1/8 fresh organic red pepper
Dash of salt
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. Place the sliced blue potatoes and crushed garlic in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss with olive oil. Let the mixture marinate for approximately 30 minutes.
2. Chop the pepper into small pieces.
3. Arrange the potatoes on the top of the pizza and sprinkle with the red pepper. Ours looked like this:


4. Bake directly on the rack at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.

Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake Pizza

Yes, you read that title right, with cheesecake and pizza in the same sentence. This pizza was inspired by our resident dessert pizza creator, Josh. Since our organic strawberries have just started ripening in our garden, it seemed like a great way to share some of them. Besides, we’ve already shared way too many with the pesky voles who seem to have moved in over night and made a pool table’s worth of holes in our strawberry patch. Just wait until you try this one. While we all thought that one never eats a cheesecake hot, we couldn’t resist and were rewarded with the bursts of hot blueberries and strawberries tucked into a divine cheesecake layer. My test pizza, more like a cheese danish, disappeared in nanoseconds. Who says pizzas are for dinner? This pizza is a dessert you won’t forget... now, I’ve already promised to make two more for the staff for tomorrow.

Ingredients:

1 Against The Grain Pizza Shell
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
½ cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, cut in half

Directions:

1. Blend together the cheesecake ingredients with a wisk. Spread the mixture evenly on the pizza shell.
2. Top with a mixture of strawberries (cut-side down) and blueberries.
3. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, just until the cheesecake starts to brown slightly.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Three Winning Gluten Free Baguette Recipes for Super Bowl Sunday

I have to confess right up front that I have never been a televised football fan, even though I grew up in a family with three football fan brothers. I love the Tour de France and actually got a chance to watch some of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge live in Colorado, but football, well, I don't know.

Like the estimated 111 million viewers, though, I have watched my share of Super Bowls. My greatest association with the Super Bowl is when it was played twice right next door to my dorm in the Tulane Stadium (since torn down) while Tom and I were undergraduates. It was the only event that even comes close to Mardi Gras for which I have seen so many revelers in one place. I particularly remember Super Bowl VI, being awakened EARLY on a Sunday morning with the sounds of hoards of people streaming through Tulane’s campus already in a party state.

The best thing about Super Bowl Sunday is that there is something for everyone. Aside from the sports competition, there is entertainment and entertainingly outrageous commercials. It is a time for people to gather, and food-wise, it is the second largest day for food consumption in the US after Thanksgiving.

At Against The Grain, we’ve been developing and tasting scrumptious gluten free Super Bowl foods. This year, we decided to focus on baguettes. Yesterday, Ruth prepared “Fiesta Panzanella,” a Southwestern take on the traditionally Italian salad of bread and tomatoes, and we sampled it throughout the day. We’re in Vermont, after all, where spicy sounds really good on a freeze-dried day. Besides, real tomatoes are scarce, and after reading Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit (a must read,) I’m pretty suspicious of grocery store winter tomatoes.

Recipe I: RUTH’S FIESTA PANZANELLA

2 Against The Grain Original Baguettes (cut in cubes)*
1 cucumber (peeled)
1 head of lettuce
fresh cilantro
½ red onion
1 fresh avocado
1 15-oz can black beans
1 cup corn (or substitute sunflower kernels if avoiding corn)
1 package Mexi-blend cheese
16 oz tub fresh salsa
Additional oil and vinegar (apple cider suggested) to taste (or bottled vinaigrette dressing)

Toss all ingredients, except avocados, together. Slice avocados and arrange on top. Optional add-ins are limited only by your imagination, but how about: chicken, olives, peppers (bell or jalapeno? This salad can be prepared a few hours ahead of time. Unlike other salads, this one improves with time as the yummy baguette soaks up the seasonings.

* Note: To make this a gluten free and dairy free dish, you can substitute Vermont Country Rolls for the bread and omit the Mexican cheese blend.

Recipe II: JOSH’S LAYERED BAGUETTE BOAT DIP

This is a recipe for all of you out there, like me, who need to avoid corn but have been missing nachos. With all the ingredients of nachos, held together with a “U” of crusty baguette, this is a messy but very satisfying gluten free appetizer that everyone will enjoy.

2 Against The Grain Original Baguettes (sliced horizontally)
15 oz can refried beans with green chilies
1 jar salsa
1 package prepared guacamole
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 medium contained sour cream
sliced and pitted black olives

Slice two baguettes horizontally. Divide the refried beans into quarters, and spread a layer of refried beans into the sliced baguette's holes and grooves. Top the refried beans with a layer of salsa, and then top the salsa with a layer of guacamole.

Bake the baguettes directly on the rack at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. The crust of the baguettes will crisp up and the dip layers will warm up.

Remove the baguettes, top with the shredded cheddar cheese, and return to the oven until the cheese is bubbly. To serve, spread sour cream on the top and dot with sliced black olives (Optionally, you could used chopped scallions, chives, or cilantro.) Using a serrated knife, slice each baguette into 1 to 1-1/2 slices, creating a dip-filled “U” and serve with plenty of napkins. Expect to get sour cream on your nose!

RECIPE III: NASH’S PORK BALL CURRY BAGUETTES (gluten and dairy free)

Nash is particularly fond of Anglo-Indian cuisine, which he brings from his native country, the south of India. Here at Against The Grain, he has treated us to some delicious Anglo-Indian Gluten Free Fusion dishes. This recipe, when served on baguettes, will leave your family a guests, full and smiling.
Pork Balls:
1 pound ground pork
½ medium red onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
½ bunch fresh cilantro, minced
½ bunch fresh mint, minced
2 to 3 small green chilies, minced
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt

Curry:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 large red onion, chopped
1-1/2 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste (or ¾ Tbsp each minced ginger and garlic)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cayenne
¼ tsp ground turmeric
15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 C unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
½ bunch fresh mint, chopped

Make the pork balls: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix very well. Using your hands, form the mixture into 16 equal-size balls measuring about 1-1/2 inches each. Place on a plate and set aside.

Make the curry: In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon and cook until sizzling and aromatic—about 1 minute. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the coriander, cayenne, and turmeric and cook, stirring for about 1 minute until the bottom of the pan becomes coated with the spices and very well browned, but not burnt (this is an important flavoring step.)

Add the tomatoes and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the coconut milk and ½ cup water and bring to a simmer. Carefully add the pork balls, one at a time, and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 25 minutes. Add the salt and lemon juice; taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Remove from heat and add the cilantro and mint. Serve as pork ball sandwiches on horizontally sliced baguettes.