Monday, March 2, 2015

Buckwheat Pancakes – Our Gang Loved Them

There’s nothing like a Little Rascals reference to make sure everyone knows you’re at least 50, but I just couldn't help it. 

I decided to do this video for buckwheat pancakes for a few reasons: I get lots of requests for anything breakfast; I’m trying to cook with more whole grains (see age reference above); and I heard someone say it’s almost impossible to make a great pancake using 100% buckwheat flour.

Conventional pancake wisdom says you need to cut this nutty, earthy flour with regular flour to lighten the texture and taste, but I’m happy to report that’s not true. It took a few days of experimenting, but I was really pleased with how these came out.

As I mentioned in the video, you can probably make this using regular milk, but I highly recommend using the buttermilk. Not only does its natural acidity add a nice tanginess to the flavor, it also reacts with the soda to create bubbles, which really helps the texture.

Sure these are gluten-free, high-fiber, and just generally more nutritious than something made with white flour, but that’s not why you should make them. You should try these because they're just really good pancakes. I hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredient for 8-10 small buckwheat pancakes:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (always shake the container first)
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
unsalted butter to grease pan, and top pancakes

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Brandade – Hot Cod

There are certain things that if I see on a menu, I will almost always order them, and brandade is one of those things. This amazing dish from the south of France can be made many different ways, but it’s usually some sort of combination of salt cod, potato, garlic, and olive oil.

Once made, it can be eaten as is, or turned into a beautifully browned and bubbly gratin. Actually, forget I said that, as this should always be baked and eaten piping hot, ideally with some homemade crostini.

The biggest (and only) challenge with this dish is handling the salt cod. It needs to be soaked in cold water for a day or two before you can work with it. However, depending on which salt cod you use, the time this takes can vary. If you’ve never used it before, follow the instructions herein, but maybe cut off a small piece once it’s soaked, cook it in a little bit of water, and test it for salt content. It should still be kind of salty, but not unpleasantly so.

As I mention in the video, the final product should get precariously close to being too salty, without going past that point. It's going to be similar to things like smoked salmon, prosciutto, or salami. This is why you should not do any salting, including when you boil the potatoes, until everything comes together.

This is a great recipe for entertaining, since you can make it ahead of time, and bake when you’re ready to serve. You can use one large shallow dish, or do a smaller size portion like I did here. Remember everything is cooked; so all you need to do is heat it through, brown the top, and serve. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 24 snack-sized portions:
1 pound skinless salt cod fillet, soaked in cold water for 24-36 hours, changing water 4-5 times
2 bay leaves
6 springs thyme
1 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
8 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved
1 pound gold potatoes, cooked until tender with garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp crème fraiche for the top, optional

- Bake at 450 F. for about 20, or until browned

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homemade Beef Jerky – A Real Convenient Store

Until recently, beef jerky was a late night, convenience store impulse buy, and what was in it was the least of your worries at that hour. I’ve had beef jerky where MSG was the most nutritious thing in it, but times have changed. 

Thanks to a new wave of modern day cave-people, eating healthy, high-protein snacks is all the rage, and while you can find many artisan brands out there, making your own is fun, easy, and using this method, relatively quick. 

You can get great flavor with as little as a 3-hour marination, but feel free to go as long as 24-hours. I did half a batch using both methods, and I actually prefer the shorter period, which seems to produce a beefier jerky. Michele on the other hand, liked the longer method, and its spicier, slightly saltier taste.

You can use any lean cut of beef you want, but I think top round is a great choice, as I explain in the video. Whatever you decide to use, please do yourself a favor, and have the butcher cut it for you. Nice thin, even slices are key, so the meat dries evenly. Just tell the butcher you are making jerky, and they’ll know what to do. I hope you give this beef jerky recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 6 (2-oz) portions Beef Jerky:
2 pounds thinly sliced beef top round
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 generous tablespoon honey
- Marinate for 3 hours or more.
- Bake at 175 F. for 3-4 hours or until dry and leathery