November 26, 2007

Beet Focaccia with Dill & Beet Greens - Gluten Free

A November Daring Baker's Challenge

We are on the road today, traveling back from Atlanta where my family converged on my brother's home for the week. The Thanksgiving holiday's were wonderful and we had lots of great family time building memories and created a new tradition for playing cut throat Monopoly.

Before we left for Georgia, I made my Daring Baker's November challenge. This month's challenge is from Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups and the recipe is for Tender Potato Bread from the book "Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World" by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid. We could make either a loaf of bread, rolls or focaccia.

I chose to make focaccia and due to my nightshade allergy, I substituted red beets for the potatoes and topped it with fresh dill and fine strips of young beet greens. My picture will be posted this evening when I return home, as I was having technical difficulties with the hotel's Internet service. (Update 9:20 pm: I updated the post with my pictures of my gluten free beet focaccia.)

Although I had to alter the recipe a bit to make it gluten and nightshade free, I chose to boil the beets since that was the way the potatoes were cooked in the recipe. However, it does take a very long time for beets to boil until tender. Alternative ways to cook the beets would be to roast them in the oven at 450 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or cook them in a pressure cooker. I added one tablespoon of cane sugar to improve the flavor of the gluten free bread dough.


1 1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt, divided
4 oz chopped beet root (approximately 1 medium beet)
1 pkg gluten free dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups + 2 Tb brown rice flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 tsp butter or coconut oil/butter
2 tsp ground chia seed
1 Tb cane sugar
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup finely sliced young beet greens
olive oil for topping focaccia

1. Place the chopped beet in the water and 1/2 tsp salt into a sauce pan. Boil until the beets are tender. You will need to add more water periodically to keep the beets covered.

2. Drain the water off the chopped beet and save the water. Place the beets in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

3. Place the yeast into a medium bowl with 1 cup of brown rice flour and 1 cup of warm water (110 -115 degrees Fahrenheit). Allow to sit for 30 minutes to proof.

4. Dump the rest of the salt, flours, butter, chia seed and cane sugar to the food processor. Then pour in the proofed yeast mixture and process until blended.

5. Pour the dough into a large bowl greased with olive oil and allow to rise in a warm location for about 1 hour.

6. Lay out several rectangles of parchment paper that are approximately 9 x 12 inches. Divide the focaccia dough onto the parchment paper. Pat out the dough until it is about 1 inch thick and is a round or oval shape. Then cover the top with olive oil, chopped dill and finely sliced young beet greens. Allow the dough to rest.

7. Place your baking stone or baking tiles in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. Press your finger into the dough making dimples prior to sliding the parchment paper onto the baking stone in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the bread to cool prior to serving.

What did my family think about the beet focaccia? I was delighted that they all enjoyed the bread. The beet bread had a lovely flavor and the dill and beet greens added a spicy peppery touch to the bread. This recipe will be a keeper for us, although I will roast the beets in the oven the next time.

November 14, 2007

French Lentil Soup - Gluten Free

Cooler weather causes me to hibernate in my warm kitchen, maybe it's due to a biological need to gather food and build body fat resources to survive the upcoming winter. On the other hand, it could be my need to hide in warm places so that I don't have to wear multiple layers of insulating clothing. Or maybe it's just my excuse to make hearty bone warming food like French Lentil Soup.

French Lentil Soup is an aromatic dish that will have everyone in your house gravitating towards the kitchen. Traditionally built on a base of vegetable broth, lentils and tomatoes, I needed to adjust the ingredients for the nightshade (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers) allergic crew at my house. The recipe I began to work with was from one of my favorite chefs, Alton Brown.

Prior to the advent of allergies and gluten sensitivity, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed lentil soup. Alton's recipe is where I started with my substitution for the tomatoes. I used celeriac in place of the tomatoes. Since I didn't have an onion on hand, I substituted shallots and leeks for the onion.

The French Lentil Soup turned out wonderfully. A soul satisfying medley of vegetables, this soup will have your taste buds demanding for more.


4 Tb olive oil
2 medium leeks, whites only chopped
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped celeriac
2 tsp sea salt
1 pound french lentils, pricked through and rinsed
2 quarts vegetable broth
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Optional: 1/2 tsp ground grains of paradise*

1. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, dump in the first seven ingredients. Then sweat the vegetables until the shallots are translucent.

2. Pour in the lentils, broth and spices, then bring to a boil. Once it has begun to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender, approximately 40 minutes.

3. Serve the soup warm. The next day the soup will have thickened, so add a little vegetable broth to the soup while reheating it.

What did my family think about the French Lentil soup? All of us thought this version of French Lentil soup was a winner. My children liked it so much, they keep asking me to make it again.

* Where can you find grains of paradise? I found mine in the spice area of my local Whole Foods, but you can also buy it from the Spice House.

November 10, 2007

Prickly Pear Mesquite Mini Muffins - Gluten Free

aka "Desert Mini Muffins"

This past week my computer had to make the trek to the Dell Depot to be repaired. I planned ahead and got all the information I needed for the week, but still some things didn't quite work as I had intended. I'm not the best at working from a paper calender anymore and I found myself double checking all my appointments. I had challenges with email addresses, files and pictures.

Yesterday, my computer returned from it's solitary trek, riding up in the vibrant yellow and red truck of DHL. There was an immediate sigh of relief from everyone in the house. The kids were delighted it was back so they could battle virtual bad guys side by side. My husband was relieved as it was a computer lamb returning to his technology fold. As for me, I was thrilled my life could return to normal. I could put away the paper and say good bye to all my crumpled to-do lists.

While in my semi-lost state this past week, I wanted to create a muffin that would celebrate all the desert products I have in my pantry. I decided on creating Prickly Pear Mesquite Mini Muffins. Filled with prickly pear nectar, agave syrup, mesquite flour, pine nuts and chia seeds, the muffins are fragrant with a delicate sweetness and the tender crunch of pine nuts.

I discovered the first time I tested my recipe, that something was going on with my ingredient list that I hadn't known. The muffins baked up beautiful on the outside, but the insides were another story. They had an airy yet firm gelatinous texture. As it turns out, prickly pears have quite a bit of natural pectin in their skin and flesh. Interestingly prickly pears are good for lowering cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and has a future as a cancer chemopreventative food. Prickly pear fruit has fiber, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6 and potassium.

So, the chia seeds I had used as my binder weren't needed to hold the muffins together, the prickly pear nectar had enough pectin to do the job alone. However, I did want to use the chia seeds for the extra nutrition they would add to the muffins, although I had to be careful when I added them to the recipe to keep them from creating a binding gel. To keep the chia seeds from gelling much I added them to the recipe last. Then quickly poured the batter into the muffin cups and baked the mini muffins.


2/3 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup arrowroot starch
3 Tb mesquite flour*
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup prickly pear nectar*
1/4 cup gluten free oat milk**
1/4 cup melted vegetable shortening
1/4 cup agave syrup*
1 tsp chia seed, saved till last*

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place out 36 mini muffin papers on a cookie sheet. Do not raise the temperature to cook the muffins faster, as the mesquite flour cooks quickly and can over cook causing a slightly burnt caramel flavor.

2. In a medium bowl, dump in the first seven dry ingredients and stir together.

3. In a medium bowl, dump in the egg, water, prickly pear nectar oat milk, melted shortening, and agave nectar. Stir together.

4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and quickly blend together. Sprinkle the chia seeds over the top and fold the seeds into the mixture.

5. Spoon the muffin batter into the muffin cups and cook for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before removing them from the muffin cups.

What did my family think of my prickly pear mesquite mini muffins? They were a hit with all of us. Although my husband and I liked them most when served warm. This one is a keeper.

* I purchased my prickly pear nectar from Native Seeds/SEARCH, but you can also find it at the Arizona Cactus Ranch. I purchased my chia seeds, agave nectar and mesquite flour from Native Seeds/SEARCH. My pine nuts came from Trader Joe's.

** To make oat milk: 1/2 cup of cooked gluten free oatmeal (rolled gluten free oats, water, salt) and 2 cups water, 2 Tb agave nectar placed into a food processor. Process until blended and refrigerate.

November 3, 2007

Kale With Fig & Grape Must Vinaigrette - Gluten Free

My husband and I are having a delightful time eating our way through the various types of greens at our vegetable market. The other day they had kale and the leaves were young and tender to the touch. They taste was slightly peppery with a base note of savory. I served the kale for our dinner salad topped with a rich fig & grape must vinaigrette and sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts.

Kale is a variety of cabbage that doesn't form a head and is a cousin to broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Kale has a long history, it was eaten by the Greeks, Romans, Russians and was the most prevalent green vegetable through the Middle Ages. The Dig For Victory campaign during World War II, encouraged home gardeners to grow kale as it would provide many nutrients that might be missing from the diet due to food rationing. Kale is high in Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Vitamin C and Calcium. It rich in protein, fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.

The recipe for the vinaigrette is a variation on one from Emeril Lagasse at the Food Network. For the dressing I chose to sweeten it with an earthy sweetener called grape must, Saba syrup, petimezi or vino cotto. Nancy Gaifyllia at describes how to make your own grape must syrup or petimezi, which has been used by the Greeks as their sweetener until sugar arrived. The Guerzoni company makes a SABA biodynamic traditional grape syrup that is available at some Whole Foods, natural foods markets, or fine food stores. If you cannot find grape must syrup, you can substitute honey instead.

One of the spices used in the recipe is called grains of paradise, a member of the ginger family. This West African spice provides a peppery bite, but savory aftertaste. Throughout Europe and other parts of the world during the 14th and 15th centuries, grains of paradise were once a favorite. Now however, grains of paradise are typically found in the cuisine of Morocco and Tunisia. In the countries that grow grains of paradise plants, the grains are chewed and used warm up the body on a cold day. In the United States, Alton Brown likes to use them in his recipe for okra and tomatoes. Amanda Hesser, a food writer for the New York Times, writes about grains of paradise in her book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, and says that they tasted far better than black peppercorns. You can find grains of paradise at your local Whole Foods or online from The Spice House.


1 Tb grapeseed oil
1 tsp minced shallots
1 tsp minced garlic
5 fresh figs, stemmed and chopped
2 Tb grape must syrup or honey
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
Optional: Pinch grains of paradise
kale, washed & destemmed
sliced Comte cheese

1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk together.

2. Serve over a bowl of chopped kale greens topped with thin slices of Comte cheese.

What did my family think of the kale and fig & grape must vinaigrette? My children would only try small bites of the kale, which they thought tasted like a leaf. My husband and I thought the salad was wonderful on a chilly fall night. It was rich and savory punctuated by the crunchiness of the hazelnuts and the smooth slightly sharp taste of the cheese. Simply divine.