Mejadra- Israeli Rice with Lentils

If this Israeli mejadra was in a one-on-one competition with my go-to Indian lentil rice pilaf, it might lose if judged as a one-item meal.  The Indian version’s addition of tomatoes, serrano peppers and a whole cumin seed tadka adds a lot more interest and complexity to the lentils and rice.

But where this recipe shines (in a wallflower sort of way) is as a side for a variety of meats and fish.  It was great topped with salmon with a herb sauce and is much more versatile than its Indian counterpart.

Mejadra

Ingredients:

* 1 cup lentils
* 2 cups brown rice
* 3 Tablespoons olive oil
* 2 onions, chopped
* 1 Tablespoons cumin
* salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring 3-4 cups of water to boil in a saucepan over high heat. Rinse lentils and add to cooking water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat and cook the lentils in water until soft, about 20-30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onions until they begin to brown. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the lentils, cumin and season with salt and pepper.

Add three cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Serve with fried onions (see below).

Fried Onions:
* 1 large or 2 small yellow onions
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Halve the onion(s) and slice very thinly. Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the onions and stir until well-coated in oil. Spread into an even layer. Stop stirring and let the onions cook until the onions on the periphery begin to brown. Stir well and again spread the onions out into an even layer. Repeat until all of the onions are a dark brown. Resist the urge to stir constantly. Drain on a paper towel.

Grilled Oysters with Garlic Butter Topping and Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs

Oysters have been an extremely important shellfish to the Irish for centuries and so I thought now was the perfect time to reacquaint myself with these little guys.  I’d eaten one raw on the half shell years and years ago at a party.  I clearly didn’t love them as much as my fellow party-goers and so I left my share for the hard-core oyster fans and probably diverted my attention to a platter of cheese.

The high cost of oysters, along with my cheapskate ways, have kept me away from trying them again in recent years.  But a recipe for Oysters Baked in Garlic and Herbs in The Irish Pub Cookbook made me want to give oysters another go.

I was blithely unaware of the difficulty of shucking oysters when I bought them… and then internet accounts of oyster shucking gone wrong pretty much scared the pants right off me.  Texts were sent out to oyster-loving friends to see whether anybody had an oyster knife I could borrow.  Nobody had one.  Why?  Out here pretty much everybody just throws them on the grill and they open up themselves.  So I rolled with the punches and tweaked my original plan; the oysters got grilled and topped with seasoned, toasted breadcrumbs.

In the end everything worked out.  The oysters were great and I got to keep all of my digits intact- a real win-win…
Grilled Oysters with Garlic Butter Topping, Adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook

* 24 fresh oysters
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/4 cup minced shallots
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 cups fresh white gluten-free breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
* 1/4 lemon juice
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until soft.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs start to turn golden.  Add the lemon juice and mix well.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Add the parsley and mix well.  Set aside.

Clean the oysters by scrubbing the shells with a stiff brush under running water.  Rinse well.

Heat the grill and place oysters on the grill grate so that they’re resting on their deeply curved halves of their shells to ensure that their juices don’t run out.

Remove oysters from heat when their shells just start to open – for me it took between 4-7 minutes.  Use a butter knife to open the shell and cut the oyster meat from the shell.  Top with the garlic butter

Serves four.

* * * * * *

Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs, Adapted from Gluten-Free Baking Classics

* 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
* 1 cup warm water
* 1 1/4 cups potato starch
* 3/4 cup corn starch
* 1/2 cup sorghum flour
* 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1 Tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 Tablespoons sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan.

Stir yeast into warm water and set aside for several minutes.

Combine all of the the ingredients in a large bowl and stir.  Add the yeast water mixture and use an electric mixer to blend together for one minute on medium speed.

Spoon dough into prepared pan and use a wet spatula to spread the dough evenly in the loaf pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Remove bread from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Slice bread very thinly.  Place slices in a food processor or a blender and process until fine crumbs appear.  Store in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag in the freezer.

Jerusalem Mixed Grill

Think you’re not an offal fan?  This recipe might just convert you.  Chicken livers and chicken breast cooked in a baharat spice mixture, drizzled with tahini sauce and served on flatbread with some greens.

The original version also called for heart and spleen, but Whole Foods didn’t carry any.  If you’re able to find either- and are an adventurous cook- feel free to add some in.

This is also traditionally eaten in a pita, but I haven’t had much luck making my own gluten-free version and so I served it on my favorite new flatbread.  I’ll share that recipe tomorrow.

Jerusalem Mixed Grill

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

* 1 pound chicken livers, chopped
* 1 pound chicken breast, chopped
* 1 large onion, sliced
* 1 teaspoon baharat spice mix (recipe follows)
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions:

Mix the chicken livers and breast with the onions, spices and olive oil. Marinate for several hours (up to one full day).

Heat a skillet and add the seasoned meat mixture. Cook, stirring, until meat has cooked through.

Serve on a pita, or gluten-free bread (or see my new favorite substitute), with some tahini sauce (recipe follows) and some greens.

Baharat Spice Mix:
* 1 Tablespoon ground cardamom
* 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
* 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
* 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
* 1/2 Tablespoon ground allspice
* 1/2 Tablespoon ground nutmeg

Tahini Sauce:
* 1 cup tahini
* 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* salt and pepper
* 1/2 to 1 cup water

Mix tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Add water to desired consistency.

Israeli Malabi Pudding

It was only after I chose Israel as one of my first culinary destinations that I learned a debate as to whether Israel has its own distinct and unique cuisine existed.  Apparently some people argue that Israeli cuisine is really just a collection of recipes from Jewish immigrants as well as recipes from its Arab neighbors.  But I’m not interested in the debate- I came for the food.

While Malabi is popular all over the Middle East (although it apparently goes by other names as well), it has become a staple dessert in Israel.  Wherever it’s from, it’s 100% amazing.

I snuck a couple spoonfuls while I was transferring it to my serving dishes.  My initial reaction?  Meh.  After it cooled?  Well, let’s just say the eight servings lasted about 24 hours in the house.

I topped the malabi with raspberries pureed with rosewater, toasted coconut flakes, pistachios.  They were all great.  Come summer I’ll be topping the malabi with a strawberry-rosewater topping.

Malabi

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

* 4 cups whole milk
* 3/4 cup corn starch
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 Tablespoon rose water

Directions:

Mix one cup of milk with the corn starch to make a slurry. Stir until the cornstarch dissolves completely.

Heat the remaining 3 cups of milk, heavy cream, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Pour in the milk and corn starch mixture and cook over low heat until thick. Stir in the rose water.

Remove from stove and pour into serving glasses or dishes. Allow to come to room temperature. Refigerate until thoroughly cooled.

Top with your favorite fruit, nut, or syrup.

Indonesian Fried Bananas

Last weekend I went to the Punahou Carnival.  Although I was extremely excited to see a sign for gluten-free nacho plates (!!!), I still got a little jealous to see my gluten-eating friends eating malasadas and other fried foods.

So I went home and made these the next morning.  Suddenly I didn’t care about not having been able to eat those malasadas…

Indonesian Fried Bananas

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* Approximately 5-6 small, medium-ripe bananas (I used 5 Hawaiian candy apple bananas)
* 1 cup rice flour
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon melted butter
* 1/2 cup coconut milk
* Coconut or vegetable oil for deep-frying (I used coconut)
* Powdered sugar or maple syrup

Directions:

Cut each banana in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 2 or 3 pieces.

In a bowl mix together the rice flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg, melted butter and coconut milk.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan to approximately 350º. Dip the banana pieces into the batter and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Great sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar or with some maple syrup for breakfast.

Gluten-Free Amaranth Honey Cake

I guess honey cake is traditional for Rosh Hashanah because I saw versions of it in many of the Israeli cookbooks I looked through.  It was easy enough to convert to gluten-free.  You could also use oil in place of the butter if you’d like; most of the honey cake recipes originally called for oil.  But amaranth, butter and honey is one of my favorite whole grain flavor combinations (it makes a great hot breakfast cereal) and so I decided to stick with butter.

I use a coffee grinder to grind amaranth into flour.  I stop just short of grinding it completely and leave some grains whole- it adds a nice little crunch.

A note for those who aren’t coffee fans: feel free to substitute the coffee for tea or hot water, although my friend who hates coffee LOVED this bread.  I didn’t mention the secret ingredient….

Gluten-Free Amaranth Honey cake

Ingredients:

* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup honey
* 1/2 cup coffee (can substitute tea or hot water)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup oil
* 3/4 cup brown rice flour
* 2/3 cup potato starch
* 1/3 cup amaranth flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
* 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan.

Combine eggs, honey, coffee, sugar, and oil in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine starches and flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Gradually add in dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until blended.

Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Acarajé- Brazilian Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

In the book Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, main character Nacib quickly finds himself the owner of the most popular bar in town after his new cook, Gabriela, starts whipping up bar snacks like these.  Of course her good looks don’t hurt, but I think these fritters deserve some of the credit too.

Great as a snack, but would also make a great topping to a salad.  Why should falafel have all the fun?

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

Ingredients:

* 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
* 1/2 medium onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic
* salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
* several cups oil for frying

Directions:

After rinsing, place the beans in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak for 12-24 hours.

Drain the beans and place in a food processor with the onion and garlic and process until finely ground. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne and pulse until well-mixed.

Place the oil in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until 350. Use your hand to shape the dough into balls, about the size of a heaping tablespoon and drop into the oil, being careful not to crowd the fritters. Fry for several minutes until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels.

Pad Thai Noodles

Pad ThaiIf I’m going to make Thai noodles, nine times out of ten it’ll be a simpler spicy noodle with garlic and Chinese cabbage.  But sometimes, and I’m pretty sure you’ll all agree, only Pad Thai will do, with those chewy, sticky noodles, a sweet and slightly spicy sauce, crunchy beans sprouts and peanuts, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.  There’s a reason why it’s one of the world’s favorite Asian dishes.

Even just a few short years ago, the idea of making Pad Thai would have seemed overwhelming.  So.  Many.  Ingredients.   But I didn’t go on this culinary adventure to back down from food challenges.  So I finally put on my big girl pants, made the rounds to the grocery store, Asian supermarket and farmer’s market, and gave it the ol’ college try.

Pad ThaiAnd wow.  I’m pretty sure that a large number of Thai restaurants would go out of business if more people knew just how easy it is to make Pad Thai at home.  You’ll have to make a special trip to the Asian grocery store, sure, but that’s pretty much the most difficult part.

And please don’t go crazy (or get lazy) and make the very Americanized versions of this dish.  Friends don’t let friends make Pad Thai with peanut butter.  Tamarind is a non-negotiable ingredient.  No Asian market nearby?  Amazon is your friend.

While the noodles are soaking, just be sure to get all of your ingredients chopped and organized.  Mise en place will make all the difference in this recipe, as it’s a quick race to the finish once the chicken is cooked.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai Noodles

Although there are a lot of components to pad thai, you can easily prep the sauce and all of the ingredients while the rice noodles are soaking and the chicken is marinating. Once the 30 minute soak and marinade is done, the noodles come together in just minutes.

I like a mix of proteins in my pad thai, but feel free to use just shrimp, chicken or tofu if you’d like.

Yield: 4 side servings; 2 as a main dish

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

* 8 ounces dried rice noodles (banh pho)
* 4 ounces chicken, cut into strips or large chunks
* 1 Tablespoon palm sugar (can substitute light brown sugar)
* 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
* 1/4 c cup canola or another frying oil
* 4 ounces medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 4 ounces drained, firm tofu, cut into small cubes
* 1-1/2 cups bean sprouts
* 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
* 1/2 cup 1-1/2″ lengths green onion
* 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
* 1 lime, cut into wedges

SAUCE:
* 2 Tablespoons Sriracha chile sauce
* 2 Tablespoons palm sugar (can substitute light brown sugar)
* 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
* 3 Tablesoons tamarind concentrate
* 1/4 cup water

Directions:

Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak for 30 minutes, drain and set aside. Combine the chicken, 1 Tablespoon of palm sugar and 1 Tablespoon of fish sauce and set aside for 30 minutes.

While noodles are soaking and the chicken is marinading, prep all of your ingredients and make the sauce by combining all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stirring well to combine.

Heat the oil in a wok or a very large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Immediately remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside in a small bowl. Add the eggs to the same oil. Let cook until partially set, and then scramble. Remove the egg to the same bowl as the shrimp.

Add the shallots and cook until they begin to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Add the chicken and all of the marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the outside of the chicken is no longer pink (it does not need to be cooked through at this stage). Add the tofu and cook for another minute.

Add the drained noodles and cook until they begin to soften and begin to brown a bit on the edges. Add the prepared sauce and bean sprouts and stir well to mix. Add the cilantro, green onion, the reserved shrimp and eggs, and half of the chopped peanuts and cook until everything is nice and hot. Remove from the heat, transfer to individual dishes and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts. Squeeze a wedge or two of lime on each serving.

Head’s Up: Super Duper Deal on Blendtec High-Speed Blenders

So, I pretty much never ever do these kinds of posts, because I worry that it would come across like I’m just trying to make a couple bucks from Affiliate links.  But this time I’m making an exception because,  really, it’s more like a Public Service Announcement.

I first heard about high-speed blenders soon after I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I was looking at getting a grain mill for making my own gluten-free flours and was researching different models.  Then in some online forum I saw a recommendation to buy a high-speed blender instead of a grain mill because it wasn’t a single purpose appliance.  In addition to grinding flour, it could be used to make soups, smoothies, nut butters, ice cream, etc.  as well.   Within the hour I was pretty much obsessed with the idea of getting one.  I didn’t want to plop down $400-$500 for a blender, so I stalked Craigslist and finally became a proud owner of a used model several months later.

It’s an expensive appliance, but so, so worth it.  Five+ years later and I still use it pretty much every day for green smoothies, shakes or soup (or homemade Nutella!).  I’ve bought a couple high speed blenders to give away as gifts and several friends have, after seeing what mine could do, bought one for themselves (although those Will it Blend videos may have also influenced them 🙂.

I wanted to give you a heads up that Blendtec (one of the two most popular brands of high-speed blenders… the other is Vitamix) is having a crazy good sale on their refurbished models  right now.   They’re pretty much like new and they come with a 7 year warranty.   I think the sale is only through the end of January, so if you’ve been wanting to buy one, now’s the time.

A well-deserved reward for sticking to your New Year’s get healthy resolution?  Or a nudge to get you back on track?  If you use the links I provided I’ll get a small commission from any purchase you make (at no extra cost to you), but if you prefer, you can also get the same exact deal if you went straight to the Blendtec site.

Happy shopping and blending!

Back from New Zealand

New Zealand Girl Cooks WorldNew Zealand Girl Cooks WorldAlthough you guys are probably used to periodic radio silence around here by now, this time I actually had a legit excuse: I just got back from a much-needed vacation.  I ended up going on a pretty epic road trip through New Zealand and it was so nice to unplug, go on almost-daily hikes, and eat some pretty amazing gluten-free food.

But as great as the food in New Zealand was (more on that later… Vogel’s gluten-free bread alone deserves its own post!), I’m excited to get back in the kitchen and load up on veggies in an attempt to counteract all that dairy and starch I’ve been eating.   I have a backlog of Thai recipes that I just didn’t have time to post before my trip, so those should be ready to go soon.  Hopefully they”ll be a nice break from all those holiday recipes that are certainly clogging your readers these days.

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