Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finally! A Gluten-Free Challah

We are fortunate to run with a lively group of observant lesbian Jews. They are among my most favorite people in the world. They are the most inclusive, the most loving and the most interesting in my circle of friends. To say they are my favorite would not be understating how I feel about them. We get invited to celebrate all of the Jewish holidays, Pesach, Purim, Hanukkah, and Sukkot to name a few. I look forward to these events like a three year old in a candy story. My enthusiasm is palpable. My favorite however is the weekly festive day of Shabbat, the seventh day of the Jewish week and the Jewish day of rest during which Jews recall the Biblical Creation account in Genesis in which God creates the Heaves and the Earth in six days and rests on the seventh. I love the deliberateness of being freed from the regular labors of everyday life.

So when Friday rolls around and we are invited to Shabbat dinner I get giddy. What I like most is the ritual and the prayer that is the center of the Friday evening meal beginning with Kiddish and a blessing recited over two loaves of Challah. According to Jewish law, Shabbat starts on Friday, a few minutes before sunset. Candles are lit and a prayer welcomes the arrival of Shabbat. Two songs are sung one greeting the Shabbat angels into the house and the other thanking the woman of the house for all the work she has done during the past week. After a blessing over the wine another blessing is recited over the bread, the Challah is broken, dipped in salt and eaten. It is all very spiritual and each step is significant. I always bring my own bread, usually a piece of Udi's and I always feel, well a little left out which is really silly because I have been invited to this table. I just always want to be having some Challah, just like everyone else.

So when a favorite blogger of mine posted a recipe for Gluten-Free Challah last September I thought, next Shabbat, I am making this for myself. To be completely traditional my loaf should be braided, not round. The only time a loaf of round Challah appears is for Rosh Hashanah, representing the circle of the year. I don't think anyone will mind my Challah isn't braided tomorrow night and quite frankly I don't think I am up to braiding gluten free dough. Personally I am just happy to show up with the real deal in hand for myself. It took 6 hours which I can not imagine doing every single week but I know that is exactly what my friends do every single Friday before the sun goes down, they make two loaves of Challah!

You can google gluten-free Challah and you will get a plethora of results. I am a fan of The Gluten Free Canteen which is where I got my recipe: I am simply delighted with the results and I can't wait until sundown tomorrow evening.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Beaver Creek Chef

We are going to Beaver Creek in February, a week of skiing for most of those going on the trip. For me, it will be a week of cooking for the house. Can you imagine, a ski trip with a personal chef? I am already busy thinking of great menus and gathering my tasting team to try new recipes. First up, an authentic Mexican menu. I am working on pork carnitas with homemade corn tortillas. The corn tortillas really do require some practice so we are going to be enjoying a fair amount of them in the next few months. I've got the pork carnitas and refried beans down, they are ease. So last night I served a potential appetizer to my trusted group of taste testers. Parmesan crusted crab quesadillas with roasted red pepper and chipotle chili aioli and roasted pineapple salsa. Tina always laughs when I say everything is easy. So here we go, this is not easy, it is complicated, time consuming, involves multiple steps and undivided attention! While it is still a work in progress it is worth all the time and effort.

Parmesan Crusted Crab Quesadillas

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chipotle-cream cheese sauce (see below)
salt and pepper
4 12 inch flour tortillas (I used 12 6 inch corn tortillas, store bought not homemade)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please don't use that stuff in a the green can, grate your own)
1 cup grated monetary jack
1 cup crumble queso freso
roasted red pepper and chipotle chili aioli (see below)
Roasted pineapple salsa (see below)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
8 ounces dungeness crab (see notes)

Chipotle-cream cheese sauce (makes about 2 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano (I used dry)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle puree (see notes)
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Monterrey jack

Notes: I used La Costena Chipotle pepper in Adobe sauce which is GF! There is enough puree in the can to get what you need by a long shot. You can also puree one of the peppers if you want. I also used the remaining sauce to make another dish, otherwise I would have cut it in thirds to get what I needed. That being said, I think 1/2 a cup of sauce was a little scant for the recipe and next time I will use a little more. Also, I did not use dungeness crab. I used a very high quality canned crab that was sort of flaked. Next time I am going to go for a lump crab or many be a mix of lump and flake. These were really good but I would be nice to bite into a chunk of crab right?

In a sauce pan over medium high melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until soft. Add the Jalapeno, garlic and red pepper, continue to saute until soft. Add the oregano, salt, cumin and chipotle puree. Decrease the heat to low, add the cream and cream cheese and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring until the cream cheese is melted and blended. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Monterrey jack, stirring until melted and well incorporated. The sauce will get sort of stringy, especially as it cools, keep warm over the lowest of heat possible or plan on reheating to use it.

Roasted Red Pepper and Chipotle Chili aioli

3-4 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 red bell pepper, roasted and seeded
1 cup mayo
1 teaspoon chipotle puree (again, I used the canned stuff)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Notes: This stuff is really good and can be used as a spread on just about anything. That being said, it make way too much for any one household and next time I might try and cut it half.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place garlic on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Combine the roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, mayo, chipotle puree, lemon juice and salt in a blender of food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use for up to three days.

Grilled pineapple salsa

OK I sort of made this one up so the proportions are really a guess.

1 cup of pineapple chunks
olive oil
1/4 a red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
pinch of salt, pinch of pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle puree

Drizzle pineapple with olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, turning once. Once cool, toss with everything else

O.K. now you have your chipotle cream cheese sauce and roasted red pepper aioli ready. Time to make the quesadillas.

To make the filling: Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high head. Add the onion and saute until soft, add the garlic, red pepper and green onion and saute for another minute or so, until soft. Add the Chipotle-cream cheese sauce (make sure it is warmish or it will be very stringy and hard to get out of the pan and mix in). Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and fold in the crab meat. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the quesadillas: Preheat a griddle or heat a skillet over medium heat. Please do this! Preheat before you start! Lay one tortilla on a work surface and brush the top side of the tortilla with olive oil. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan over the tortilla. Carefully flip the tortilla, oil-and-cheese side down, onto the griddle or skillet. Spread this tortilla with 1/4 cup queso fresco and 1/4 cup Monterrey jack cheese and then a quarter of the crab meat leaving a half inch boarder around the edge. Cook the quesadilla for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese melts and the other side is golden brown. Place the quesadilla on the work surface and fold in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas to make the other three quesadillas. I didn't do this as I had 6 inch tortillas on hand. Instead, I prepared a tortilla as directed placing the filling on the tortilla and then I topped that filled tortilla with another tortilla. I didn't brush the top one with olive oil or sprinkle with the Parmesan, next time I will. After 4 minutes I flipped the tortilla over and cooked it for another three minutes. I also put the finished tortillas on a cookie sheet and kept them in a 300 degree oven to keep them warm while I finished all of the.

To Serve: Cut the quesadillas into wedges. Put aioli in a a squirt bottle and decorate the plates with the aioli, alternatively spoon the aioli over the quesadillas. Spoon the salsa on the quesadillas and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Whew, that was a lot of work. But oh so worth it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ahoh! Sugared Cranberries where have you been all my life?

I am having a hard time keeping Ziva Jane away from these little delights. Sugared Cranberries. Start popping them in your mouth and you won't stop! Not to mention they are so easy. I love cranberries and the combination of sweet and tart rock my mouth to no end. They are a sparkly snack that pack a real zing.

Sugared Cranberries

2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup superfine sugar
1 bag fresh cranberries

Boil the water and add the granulated sugar. Stir, reduce heat to medium low and continue to heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour the sugar into a large container with a lid, add the cranberries and cover. Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Strain the cranberries and if you want reserve the "cranberry syrup" for another use. You know me, no waste around here. I am going to use it for some kind of holiday beverage. Pour the cranberries into a large, shallow dish and add the superfine sugar, tossing until the cranberries are coated. Transfer to a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment and leave to dry for a few hours.

If you can keep yourself from eating them all there are lots of ways to use these little holiday treats. Put out instead of expensive nuts during a party, use as garnishes for drinks, cookies, pies, cupcakes or package to give as gifts.

They will last about a week or so at room temp, stored in an airtight container.