Black Bean Salad

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Another flexible recipe that will adjust to whatever you have on hand, but as always, the more colorful, the better-looking (for your eyes) and the better for your health. This one had:

1 cup dried black beans, which I brought to a boil with water to cover in a saucepan, over high heat, then turned off and left overnight, then cooked a bit more the next day to just the right tenderness, which takes 15 minutes or so — this will amount to about 2 1/2 cooked beans
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, diced, tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and roasted in 400 degree oven 12-15 minutes or just until it has a touch of color (indicating a Maillard reaction has occurred — this brings out flavor)
1 cup frozen corn, toasted in a dry skillet until slightly colored
1 orange, peeled, cut into sections and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 handful cilantro, minced
1 red pepper, roasted in 400 degree oven ~20 minutes, then cooled, peeled under running water, and diced
the juice of 1 lime
3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (I do this to taste because of the kids)
1 avocado, chopped and immediately tossed with some juice from the lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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After you’ve got all that up there done, the rest is easy. Just toss, adjust seasonings, and enjoy.

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Note: I try to use all organic ingredients whenever I can, so if you peruse the recipes here, there are many that will specify “organic this” and “organic that”. I’ve decided to stop doing that now since many people are more aware about the benefits and implications of opting for organic foods whenever and wherever possible. However, to make it easy for the reader who isn’t used yet to this kind of intentional shopping, here’s a handy guide that may help.

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This is a graphic that appeared here but it seems they’ve taken the original down and I can’t find a new link. No copyright infringement intended.

Shrimp Pad Thai

This is the dish I turn to when I need some Thai comfort food. I’ve adapted it from Chez Pim’s recipe from years ago. It was the first pad thai recipe I tried that actually worked for me and so I’ve kept it as part of my regular arsenal and whip it out when cooking for a group.

Though with a really large skillet or a wok you can cook all of it in one go, it’s best cooked in batches, just enough for one or two people at a time, so everything cooks evenly. That also makes it more fun to do when you’ve got a whole bunch of hungry people in the kitchen waiting for their turn to cook and/or eat.

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1 package rice noodles (the flat kind, about 1/2 to 1-cm wide)
Half of a 1-pound block of tofu
a 2 x 2 inch square of tamarind paste (from a block), soaked in 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup shaved Thai palm sugar, or brown sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup fish sauce, or to taste, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon Thai chili powder (or regular chili powder), or to taste, plus more for serving
Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 large eggs, beaten with a couple of pinches salt
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined if you like (can use fresh or frozen here — thaw frozen shrimp in cool water an hour or so before cooking)
4 cups mung bean sprouts, rinsed (tailed if want and/or you have the time)
1 bunch garlic chives, cut into 2-inch pieces (chives and/or scallions will do as well)
Water in a large measuring cup, to add as necessary while cooking
chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, to top finished dish
roughly chopped cilantro for serving
lime wedges for serving

In a large bowl, soak noodles in water to cover, about 30 minutes or until pliable (but take note, you don’t want it too soft as it still has to cook in the wok, so drain and set aside if it takes you longer to prepare the rest of the ingredients).

Put the tofu block down in a colander set on a plate (to catch liquid), and weight it with another plate plus something heavy like canned beans (I like using my marble mortar). Set tofu aside while preparing the other ingredients.

With a fork or mashing tool, break tamarind paste apart in the water; stir well. Pour into a saucepan through a sieve, pressing well on the solids. Discard seeds and any fibrous material. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and chili powder to tamarind water and whisk gently over low heat until well blended. Keep warm while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Cut the tofu into 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ “sticks”.

Drain the noodles.

Taste the sauce and adjust if needed — you want a balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.

When all ingredients are ready, set them in an area within easy reach of the stove. Set your sauce pot with a ladle on another burner over lowest heat. You’ll have to work fast so keeping things near is essential.

Ready? Let’s go.

Heat your wok or other large skillet over high heat. Pour a couple of tablespoons oil into the wok. Add some garlic, stir fry for a few seconds, and then the tofu. Stir fry a minute or so, then add a large handful of the noodles, and a ladle of the sauce. Stir the noodles around several minutes or until noodles are soft but not mushy — add a bit more sauce and/or water if things are getting a little too dry, a bit more oil if you think it’s necessary.

Push noodles to the side and pour a bit of the egg in. Let set for a bit, break up the omelet roughly, then give everything a nice toss. Add several pieces of shrimp and a handful of bean sprouts plus some garlic chives and stir, stir, stir, until shrimp turns color. Add a bit more sauce if things are looking a little too dry. Toss one more time. The noodles and shrimp should be done at this point.

Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with the chopped peanuts, as well as lime wedges, additional chili powder, and additional fish sauce for diners to adjust seasonings at the table if desired.

The peanuts could be added into the wok when the bean sprouts are added. However, since some of our family members have peanut allergies we keep the peanuts separate and let people add them to their serving.

Wash your wok out quickly with hot water, heat and repeat, until everything is cooked and everyone is happy. Enjoy!

Fresh Spring Rolls

It’s spring!! The perfect time to make spring rolls!

These can be made vegetarian simply by omitting the shrimp or substituting tofu. Or, you can add on more meat like barbecued pork, grilled chicken breast, and the like. The vegetables also are very flexible. What you’re shooting for here is a combination of bright colors to contrast with the whiteness of the spring roll wrapper. But there really are no rules. You can even use this for a Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato roll if you like. (I’ll post that recipe one of these days.)

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1 small bundle mung bean vermicelli/cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water 30 minutes, then drained and cut into 4-inch strands
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned red cabbage
1/2 cup julienned green onions
1/2 lb. large shrimp, blanched in boiling water with a couple of large pinches each salt and sugar, then peeled, deveined, and sliced in half lengthwise
cilantro sprigs, Thai basil (optional), and lettuce leaves, rinsed and spun dry, leaves torn/sliced in half if large
2 eggs, scrambled with a bit of salt and pepper and cooked in batches, to make thin omelettes, then sliced into strips
1 package banh trang, aka rice wrappers

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Dip banh trang — one at a time — for a few moments in the water, feeling the ridges with your fingers. When the ridges start to disappear and/or the banh trang is soft and pliable, it’s ready for wrapping. Lay it flat on a cutting board.

Layer shrimp, lettuce, a bit of the vermicelli, and the different vegetables and roll up the wrapper, enclosing the filling. Fold in the left and right edges as you roll. (Click here for a video tutorial.)

Pile neatly on a plate lined with lettuce leaves. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap to prevent from drying out.

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Dipping Sauce #1:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
the juice of 1 lime
1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, sliced thinly, or 1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup water

Dipping Sauce #2:
1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter (or tahini, for those with nut allergies)
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
the juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional, or use tamari if you’re gluten free)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Thai chili, sliced thinly, or 1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste
water, to thin to dipping consistency

Fried Mini Spring Rolls (Gluten-Free)

There are many many recipes for spring rolls, fresh and fried. This is a simple one I prepare for the kids when they are craving something small and crunchy. I like eating these wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in nuoc cham. It can be served with other dishes as part of a meal, or as appetizers.

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1 package Vietnamese banh trang

1 pound ground pork or turkey
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and mashed to a paste with a large pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) – optional
freshly ground white pepper to taste (black pepper is an acceptable substitute)
large pinch sugar
salt to taste
other optional ingredients: chopped fresh water chestnuts, chopped carrots, chopped jicama — for crunch
Oil for frying

Combine the above in a large bowl. Prepare another deep dish of warm water to dip the banh trang in.

For a quick dipping sauce, whisk the following to taste. What you want is a good balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.

Fish sauce
Sugar
Lime juice and/or rice vinegar
Sriracha or garlic-chili paste (or use freshly minced garlic + finely chopped Thai chili)
Water for thinning if necessary

Lettuce leaves for serving

Dip banh trang — one at a time — for a few moments in the water, feeling the ridges with your fingers. When the ridges start to disappear and/or the banh trang is soft and pliable, it’s ready for wrapping. Lay it flat on a cutting board and spoon about 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of the pork or turkey mixture in a cylinder shape about 1/2 inch in diameter, all along the length of the wrapper.

Roll it up gently, wrapping wrapper tightly around the filling. The ends can be left open as the rolls will be cut anyway. Cut the wrapped roll into 2 1/2 to 3-inch pieces. Set aside on a baking sheet or flat dish.

I wrap and fry at the same time, using a cast iron skillet and keeping the oil at least 3/4 inch high. You can either cut the rolls into pieces before or after frying.

Fry rolls in hot oil over medium-high heat, 6-8 minutes total or until golden brown, turning several times to keep coloring even. Remove to a baking sheet or dish lined with paper towels to drain. I like to put these in a warm oven until all are fried.

Serve with lettuce leaves and the dipping sauce.


The same recipe can be used to make spring roll wrappers using wheat flour wrappers, which can usually be found in the freezer section of your Asian supermarket. I like Spring Home (pink label) or Wei Chuan brand (red label), or the large square ones that come in the bag with the large blue label (sorry, can’t remember which brand that is).

A fun docu of how rice paper wrappers are made. — You might want to show your kids!

Ddeokguk / Tteokguk / Korean Rice Cake Soup

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This soup is one of my go-to Korean dishes that the whole family loves. If you’re gluten-free, look for the rice cakes/ovalettes that are made without wheat. They look like this and usually come vacuum-packaged in the refrigerated section of your Korean or Asian store. There are many ways to make the soup; this is my favorite.

To make it, you’ll need

1 pound of sirloin or tenderloin or rib-eye meat, sliced thinly across the grain, and then into bite-sized strips

It’s easiest to slice meat in semi-frozen state; you can also purchase pre-sliced bulgogi beef at your Korean store, they usually come in 2-pound packages, at least where I live, so if not making straight up bulgogi I divide the package into 1-pound packages to incorporate into stir-fries or soups.

Marinate the beef in a bowl, at least 30 minutes or up to several hours in the fridge, with:

4 large cloves garlic, crushed, peeled and mashed to a paste with a pinch of sea salt
1 inch piece gingerroot, peeled and minced
2 scallions, chopped, plus additional if using for topping
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or use wheat-free tamari
if you’re gluten-free)
2 tablespoons sugar (regular granulated or brown will work here)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
several grinds freshly ground black pepper

To make the soup:

1 1.5-lb. package rice cake ovalettes
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
cooking spray or additional oil for making omelettes and stir-frying beef
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sheets toasted gim or nori
Fish sauce and/or soy sauce/tamari, to taste
2 scallions, sliced thinly
Storebought or homemade kimchi for serving
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Shichimi togarashi
for serving, to taste

In a large bowl, soak the rice cakes in tap water for 30 minutes.

While the rice cakes are soaking, heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. When hot but not smoking, add marinated beef and stir fry a few minutes over high heat until it has turned color. With a slotted spoon, remove half the beef into a bowl. Add 7 cups water into the saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling lower heat to a simmer, 20 minutes or so.

While broth is cooking, heat skillet and coat bottom with cooking spray or oil. When hot, pour in enough of the beaten egg to cover bottom of pan. Cook briefly, just until set, and remove to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining egg, coating bottom of skillet with spray or oil each time, until all the egg is gone. Julienne and set aside.

Cut nori with scissors into thin strips, or crush into pieces with your hands.

Add scallions to the broth. Taste for seasoning and adjust using fish sauce and/or soy sauce. Add the soaked rice cakes and cook 7-8 minutes or just until tender. Do not overcook.

While rice cakes are cooking, heat skillet and coat with a bit of oil. Over high heat, return the beef that was set aside and stir-fry a few minutes or just until heated through.

Ladle broth and rice cakes into bowls, top with beef, julienned egg, and gim/nori strips. Sprinkle with (optional) chopped scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with shichimi togarashi and kimchi on the side.

Basic Hummus

With all the listeria hysteria last week caused by hummus, I thought I’d share a very basic recipe for making it at home. It really is that simple and it really is that good. Many of the store-bought hummus available in our area have additional things like red peppers (which my kids don’t like) or pine nuts (allergies in the family) or just not flavorful enough, and that’s what’s great about homemade — it’s customizable. I like my hummus garlicky and not too lemony, and that swirl of olive oil at the end plus the sprinkling of paprika makes this dish party-ready as well. This recipe is from a Lebanese co-worker of my hubby’s, who generously shared his recipe with me after I fell in love with it at his party, one of the very first we attended as a newlywed couple years ago. It’s been a favorite since.

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1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
water for soaking
1 teaspoon baking soda
the juice of two small lemons + the zest of one
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 cup homemade or storebought tahini (sesame paste)
approximately 8 tablespoons water
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
paprika for sprinkling

Pick through and rinse chickpeas, then soak overnight in water to cover.

Drain chickpeas and transfer to a saucepan. Sprinkle with baking soda. Over high heat, cook 2-3 minutes, stirring, then add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and cook, 20 minutes or so or until tender, skimming foam and chickpea skins as they come to the top every now and then.

When done, drain chickpeas and set aside a few for garnishing. Transfer to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt, and tahini. Process slowly at first, adding most of the water gradually and stopping every now and then to scrape down sides of blender or food processor. When everything is incorporated, process on high, adding just enough water to achieve the consistency of a dip. Taste for saltiness and adjust if needed.

Scoop/pour into a bowl. Swirl a spoon on the surface to create a spiral groove. Put reserved whole chickpeas in the center. Pour olive oil on top so that it pools nicely into the grooves. Sprinkle paprika in a cross pattern on top, and serve.

Almost anything can be served with hummus: pita chips, pita bread wedges, tortilla chips, various crudites, or (shhhhh) you can even just eat it with a spoon.


If you forgot to soak the chickpeas (which I’ve done often enough), pick through and rinse, then put in large saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and cook about 2 hours or until tender, baking soda optional.

Canned chickpeas (2 15-oz cans), drained, can also be used to make this recipe.

Hummus can be found all over the Middle East, but since I learned about this dish from a Lebanese friend, I especially like to serve it on July 24, St. Charbel Makhlouf’s feast day.

Chicken with Almond Sauce on St. Frances of Rome’s Feast Day, March 9

Today we’re celebrating St. Frances of Rome (click here for her fascinating story), so for dinner I’ve made a chicken dish which dates back to the Middle Ages. Since St. Frances was a good home manager I could imagine her directing the servants to pound the nuts and grind the spices and chop up the herbs for her. We have our modern appliances to help us with this, but if you don’t have a food processor or blender, I’ve provided ideas for substitutions below.

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Nut sauces can be found in many different cuisines: Spain’s romesco, Syria’s muhammara, Mexico’s mole. Through all of these there seems to be a common thread running which food historian Rachel Laudan discusses here. Italian pesto is more an herb sauce than a nut sauce, so this particular Medieval almond sauce with its accompanying spices seems to be a marriage between ancient Rome’s moretum and the Islamic-influenced nut sauce. (I am an amateur food historian and would welcome any corrections on this.)

So, without further ado, the recipe, adapted from Redon, Sabban and Serventi’s The Medieval Kitchen.

1 whole chicken, cut into parts (cut yourself (here’s how), or buy already cut pieces)
olive oil for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup almonds
handful flat-leaf parsley
handful dill

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
pinch saffron threads

Heat olive oil in large skillet (I use a 12″ cast iron) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

Arrange chicken pieces in skillet, leaving space in between so they brown properly. Do this in batches if necessary.

Brown 4 minutes or so, until golden. Turn pieces carefully, browning the other side, 4 minutes more.

After all pieces are browned (return everything to the pan if you did this in batches), add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately lower heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, covered, approximately 35 minutes or until tender but not falling apart.

While chicken is cooking, process almonds and herbs in food processor or blender until smooth.

Grind peppercorns in coffee or spice grinder, or with the use of mortar and pestle. Combine with cinnamon, ginger, and saffron and set aside.

Remove chicken pieces to platter when they are done. Keep warm in low oven, covered loosely with foil.

Add cooking liquid to almond mixture in blender and process until smooth, adjusting seasonings with salt and pepper.

Return almond mixture to pan and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently until reduced to a thick sauce. Add chicken pieces to sauce to coat lightly and heat a few minutes more before serving. Alternatively, arrange chicken pieces in platter and serve sauce on the side. Sprinkle with spice mixture.

Suggested substitutions for the sauce:

– store-bought pesto, with or without finely chopped fresh dill mixed in
– almond butter mixed with chopped herbs
– almond flour mixed with store bought pesto

Prayer for St. Frances’ intercession, from Catholic Culture:

O God, who have given us in Saint Frances of Rome a singular model of both married and monastic life, grant us perseverance in your service, that in every circumstance of life we may see and follow you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Montmorency (Sour) Cherry Lambic Sorbet / Sorbetto alla Ciliegia

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I’m in a cherry mood. 🙂 And I’ve been wanting to make cherry sorbet for a while now, except the recipes I’ve been running into seem to produce a light rose-colored sorbet, and I wanted to replicate the deep-red cherry sorbet that I tasted in Italy years ago. I didn’t quite achieve it with this experiment, some of the smoothness is lacking, but maybe just a couple more tweaks — perhaps the addition of corn syrup — will do it. Will post an updated recipe when I get to it! Meanwhile, enjoy 🙂

1 cup dried sour cherries
1 cup cherry lambic
up to 1 cup simple syrup made from 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water (instructions below)
enough fresh or frozen cherries to make 4 cups total
the juice of 1 lemon
enough water to balance sweet/sour

Soak the dried cherries in the cherry lambic overnight.

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Make the simple syrup by combining sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring gently. until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool and set aside, covered.

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Puree the soaked cherries in blender and add in half the simple syrup, the lemon juice, plus enough cherries to make 4 cups total. Taste and adjust to your desired sweetness/tartness using the rest of the simple syrup or water, to make about 4 1/2 cups total.

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Run blender again until everything is smooth. Freeze in ice-cream maker using manufacturer directions, about 20 minutes. This should produce a sorbet that’s still fairly liquid. Freeze in airtight container until firm. It will not be firm like ice cream. Leave out 5 minutes or so until scoopable before serving.

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One mistake I made with the first batch was putting in the whole cup of simple syrup immediately. I did not figure on the dried cherries being so sweet, so the resulting product was much sweeter than I had planned.


Some notes about tart/sour cherries: Dried cherries are available at Eden Foods.

From Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise:

//Montmorency cherry juice consumption improved the recovery of isometric muscle strength after intensive exercise perhaps owing to the attenuation of the oxidative damage induced by the damaging exercise.//

Due to the high ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) values of Montmorency Cherry, the powdered fruit extracts are also placed in capsules as organic health supplement/vitamins.


Because Pope St. Gregory for some reason craved cherries on the feast of St. Mark, this would be a fitting dessert for Feast Day on September 3, or for St. Mark’s Feast Day on April 25.

Chopped Horiatiki Salata / Greek Salad

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I make no claims at all about the authenticity of this recipe. I’ve read in places that romaine lettuce does not play a part at all in traditional horiatiki. All I know is that our Greek foodie friend who married a Greek foodie gal are two of the coolest people around, and this is how THEY serve horiatiki in THEIR home. So who am I to argue with that? 🙂

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed, spun-dry a couple of times
1 large tomato (love heirlooms for this), chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled or semi-peeled or not peeled, your choice — chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced thinly or chopped
large handful kalamata olives, halved
pepperoncini — I leave these whole because I’m the only one who likes them in my Greek salad
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Greek if available
handful Greek oregano if using fresh, a tablespoon or so if using dried
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Greek feta cheese, sliced, chopped into cubes, or crumbled (I let my family indulge when it comes to real Greek feta since they’re not allergic to goat/sheep milk cheese)

Toss all vegetables in a large bowl. Either whisk the red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in another bowl and then pour it into the bowl with the vegetables and toss, OR, sprinkle onto the vegetables directly and toss, toss, toss, until flavors are evenly distributed. Top with feta cheese. Drizzle more olive oil on top as desired.

Serve by itself, or with warm pita or a crusty baguette.

A great lunch item for the feast of St. Andrew of Crete, on the 4th of July.

Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Banana Bread

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This is the allergen-free version of Jazzed Up Banana Bread, as promised…. but first, a note on flours:

I keep a variety of gluten-free flours and starches and just mix and match when experimenting with recipes. My general rule is to dump small amounts of several different ones — trying to keep a ratio of 1 part starch : 1 part grain or other “flour” — in a large bowl, and then when everything’s in there, feeling the mixture with my hands and seeing if it’s “floury” enough, adjusting amounts as necessary. Too much starch means it might feel pasty in the mouth when baked, or simply will need to bake/cook longer. Too much of a particular grain and I get a dominant flavor or texture that isn’t pleasant, i.e., rice or amaranth. I’ve found that small amounts of different starches and flours up the yum-factor, because there isn’t ONE dominant flavor that the kids are likely to hate. The good news about experimentation is that because of the increased availability and affordability of alternative flours and starches in recent years, compared to 10 years ago — it’s not as cost-prohibitive to play with them and come up with decent substitute recipes. Most things we make these days are edible even if they might need some future tweaking and retweaking. Enjoy the process, that’s the key! 🙂

So that means, in this particular recipe, if you can’t find amaranth flour where you are, let’s say, feel free to substitute another gluten-free flour or increase amounts of other things, like teff (I <3 teff!!). 1/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk if you're avoiding nuts) 2 teaspoons white vinegar 2 tablespoons flax seed meal 1/4 cup sorghum flour (see note on flours above) 1/4 cup amaranth flour 1/4 cup arrowroot starch 1/4 cup teff flour 1/4 cup almond flour 1/4 cup potato starch 1/4 cup tapioca flour 1/4 cup coconut flour 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum 2/3 cup sugar (If you're avoiding processed sugar, sub with a healthy option like Sucanat. Helpful reading about sugar.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips and/or cocoa nibs (any ratio will work)
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
3 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Cooking spray or additional coconut oil or other oil of your choice for prepping loaf pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl or glass measuring cup, add vinegar to almond milk. In another bowl, mix flax seed meal with some water (~3-4 tablespoons) until you have a thickish slurry — this will thicken as it sits.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the flours and starches, plus the xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips/cocoa nibs, chopped ginger and mashed bananas. Add vanilla extract to almond milk mixture and fold into the rest of the ingredients, along with the flax seed meal slurry. Fold in melted coconut oil last, making sure everything is nicely combined.

Transfer to lightly-greased loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, turning pan halfway, until skewer comes out clean when inserted in center of loaf. Let cool in pan, on a rack, 5 minutes, then turn out and let cool completely before slicing. (Riiiiiight.)

Enjoy!!

Bouchons au Thon

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Molly Wizenberg wrote about this dish in 2005, when I was just beginning my blogging journey. I made it with canned salmon because that’s what I had, and it struck me how similar it is to the Filipino torta, which I learned as a child, with a couple of exceptions: no dairy, and everything was sauteed with the classic Filipino combo of garlic-onion-tomato before folding into scrambled eggs, and then either fried in patties, or baked in a dish. In 2005 also we weren’t avoiding dairy, like we are now, but once in a while I miss the cheesy, creamy richness of Molly’s recipe, so it gets a spot on the menu.

It’s a great protein addition to a salad, plopped in the middle of a bed of greens and other goodies. Or tucked into lunchboxes as a handy snack — it’s delicious hot, cold or at room temperature.

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You can follow original recipe linked above. Or do it with my substitutions:

1 jar tuna in olive oil, drained (if I can’t find Spanish tuna like As Do Mar or Ortiz, I like this tuna; Molly specifies tuna in water, but I almost never use a water-packed one, as I prefer those packed in olive oil) — I used more in this recipe, since I still had a partially finished jar which I added in as well
3 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons crème fraîche, or do as I do and use 4 tablespoons heavy cream mixed with 1 tablespoon yogurt and let stand for 10 minutes
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyère
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup minced onion

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, distribute into 12 muffin tins (Molly’s recipe makes 8, mine makes 12 because of the additional tuna, and I think mine come out smaller) and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes.

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You can make this with almost anything in place of the tuna — sauteed chopped asparagus or broccoli or mushroom duxelles for instance, or chopped ham or bacon or precooked ground meat, or chopped shrimp. Think of them as mini quiches, though a bit firmer and heavier. Yum yum.

Autumn Breakfast Quinoa

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Here’s a simple, flexible recipe for autumn-themed quinoa. I was out of breakfast ideas and saw pumpkin quinoa on Pinterest, and that was enough to set me experimenting on my own.

I’ve had horrible experiences with overcooked quinoa, so this was carefully watched.

Bring a pot

~4 cups water

to the boil over high heat.

When boiling, add

1 cup quinoa

and lower heat to medium. Let cook ~10 minutes or just until done.

While quinoa is cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

When done, drain well (a large sieve works well for me). Transfer to a large bowl and toss with

3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 30 minutes, giving it a good stir every 10 minutes or so. Don’t press too much on the grains, you don’t want them all smooshed together as to become pasty. After the first 10 minutes, keep stirring/tossing, but leave them in small flattish clumps, with spaces in between, so that some edges get exposed to air and get nice and toasty. You’re shooting for a nice combo of soft and grainy but with a teeny bit of crunch. What you’re really doing is drying it, kinda like how you would make granola. (If you have more time, you can extend the baking time so the quinoa does get crunchier and drier.)

Remove from oven and serve hot. I topped mine with a sprinkling of brown sugar, chopped pecans (which would be really yummy made into a praline first, but who’s got time for that, right?), and raspberries, after which I drizzled a bit of almond milk all throughout.

Walnuts would work too, roasted 5-7 minutes first in a 350 degree F oven
Raisins
Cranberries
Fresh chopped apples, or apples cooked in a bit of butter or Earth Balance, lemon juice and cinnamon
Hemp seeds, YUM!!
Butter! (if you’re not avoiding dairy), or maybe a little cream
Any other autumny fruit or nut topping you like
Maple syrup would be sensational

Happy Fall!!!

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Quinoa is grown in the Andean region, so this dish would be suitable for celebrating the feast days of any of the following saints. A simple variation of toppings — for instance, strawberries for the spring or summer saints, or an Andean-grown fruit, like dried papaya — will work here.

St. Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran, August 30
St. Teresa of the Andes, July 13
St. Francis Solano, July 14
St. Laura Montoya, May 13
St. Martin de Porres, November 3
St. Rose of Lima, August 23

Poulet Basquaise (Chicken Basque-Style) for St. Bernadette’s Feast Day, April 16

pouletbasquaise

When we visited Lourdes in 2008, we ate a chicken dish at this restaurant, but I don’t remember much about it except that it had a winey sauce with a bit of bite, and that it had peppers, which I disliked as a child but now love as an adult. So when I was looking for a chicken recipe to prepare for St. Bernadette’s Feast, I chanced upon this Poulet Basquaise, that does have the spicy winey sauce, and the peppers. Parfait!

It starts out with a classic chicken sauté, and then come the peppers, and finally the finishing sauce, with everything heated gently together at the end to allow flavors to blend more fully. Excellent over rice or potatoes, or accompany with some French bread.

I used organic boneless chicken thighs here, which we keep in stock in the freezer to make daily meal prep easier, but you can easily adapt the recipe to bone-in chicken parts; just cook the chicken a few minutes longer to make sure they’re cooked through. You can also use boneless chicken breasts, but watch that you don’t overcook 🙂 .

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, patted dry
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sliced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped Bayonne ham, or substitute prosciutto
1 bay leaf
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 pinches piment d’espelette, or substitute red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine (I used a combo of Rioja & some leftover French Merlot)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons minced parsley

Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet, over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken thighs in one layer, leaving enough space between chicken pieces to ensure that they sauté properly and not steam. (Cook the chicken in batches if you have to.) Cook until golden on one side, 7-8 minutes. Carefully turn and cook the other side, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, another 7-8 minutes. Remove to a platter. Add onions and sauté until just becoming limp, then add garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes to release aroma, then add ham and bay leaf. Cook a few minutes to meld flavors. Add sliced peppers and cook, 5-6 minutes, stirring, until peppers are just limp. Do not overcook or they will turn to mush. Season with piment d’espelette and a bit of salt, stir and cook a couple minutes more, then remove to platter. Pour in wine, deglazing skillet to incorporate browned bits. Increase heat to medium-high and boil down to about 3/4 cup. Whisk in tomato paste. Taste and adjust seasoning, then return chicken and pepper mixture to skillet. Fold to coat everything with the sauce. Remove from heat, transfer to platter, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Note: French sauces are often enriched with a bit of butter at the end. Though truly delicious and gives the dish that extra OOMPH, I’ve omitted this step because of dairy allergies here. If you wish to add butter, swirl in 3 tablespoons of it, cut into small pieces, after adding the tomato paste and correcting for seasoning. Continue as above.

I’ve found different recipes for Poulet Basquaise; some call for white wine, others no wine at all, and still others use chicken stock. I’ve picked the red for this dish as the one I remember eating in Lourdes definitely had red wine and not white. 🙂

Salt Cod and Potato Salad for St. Bernadette’s Feast Day, April 16

saltcod-potato

Salt cod is one of those things that have always appealed to me. There are so many things you can do with it! You can put it in soups, flake and make fish balls/fritters with it, make into a brandade (my FAVORITE, except the family can’t have it), add to a stir fry, or some fried rice, put in a tomato-based stew, etc. It is used not only in France and parts of Europe, but also in Latin America, and my homeland, the Philippines, where it is called Bacalao and is a mainstay of the Lenten season. The only thing that has discouraged me from using it more often is the traditional long-term soak, as you have to leave it in the fridge, where it takes up space, and change the water it soaks in several times, for at least a couple of days. I finally found a way to quick-soak it, and it works perfectly. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a SOAK, but it is a fast way of getting rid of the salt, which means you can do it early in the morning, with enough time to serve it at lunch. Or start after lunch and have it ready for supper.

The other consideration when eating salt cod, besides the soaking process, is mercury. Cod does offer omega-3 fatty acids and other benefits, but it is also a moderate-mercury fish. Enjoy it once in a while, but know that there are other, better choices.

1 lb. salt cod, brought gently to a boil with water to cover — change the water 2-3 times until no longer salty and cod is tender and flakes easily
1 1/2 lbs. French fingerlings or other potato
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine or apple cider vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot with water to cover. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, approx. 20 minutes, or just until they can be pierced through with a fork or the tip of a knife. Peel potatoes (if desired; I left some unpeeled) and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add flaked salt cod and potatoes. Toss gently, adjust seasoning, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Can be served warm or at room temperature.


Note on the potatoes: I love these French fingerlings, not just because of the name which matches today’s feast perfectly. French fingerlings have a somewhat rosy hue and a hint of sweetness to their flesh, a perfect partner to the salt cod. Of course, you can use whatever potatoes you have on hand, or your favorite.

Basque-Style Green Beans for the Feast of St. Bernadette

greenbeansbasque

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped red peppers
1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped Basque/Bayonne Ham, or Jamon Iberico or Serrano, or Prosciutto

Heat olive oil in skillet and sauté minced garlic over medium heat, just until garlic begins to turn color. Add in onions and sauté a few minutes, until onions are limp and beginning to color. Add red peppers, keep sautéing a few minutes more, then add green beans. Give a quick stir, cover and cook 5 minutes. Test for tenderness — you want the green beans still a very lively green and with a bit of resistance. Cook a few more minutes or to desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with chopped ham. Serve.

See also: Olive and Anchovy Pinchos/Pintxos for St. Bernadette’s Feast Day


Prayer of St. Bernadette Soubirous:

Let the crucifix be not only in my eyes and on my breast, but in my heart.
O Jesus! Release all my affections and draw them upwards.
Let my crucified heart sink forever into Thine and bury itself in the mysterious
wound made by the entry of the lance.”