Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seeds of Promise

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

A few years ago, we began to hear a lot about flaxseeds. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these seeds also are loaded with vitamin E, B vitamins and certain important minerals (manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium). Impressed, I’d buy flaxseeds from time to time and add them to breads, muffins or granola. But to be honest, I never much liked the taste.

Then one day I sampled some toasted flaxseeds sprinkled atop yogurt — and that changed everything. Once toasted, they have a delicious nutty flavor similar to that of sesame seeds. I bought a bag of toasted flaxseeds right away and spent a week experimenting with them in the kitchen.

Flaxseeds are harder than sesame seeds, so it’s a good idea to grind them — coarse or fine, depending on the recipe. That way, too, all the nutrition in flaxseeds is more readily available to the body. Keep what you don’t use in the refrigerator or freezer, as the oils in flaxseeds, like those in most nuts and seeds, will oxidize if not kept cold.

Besides using them in this week’s recipes, you can add ground toasted flaxseeds to yogurt, smoothies, granola and baked goods. You can sprinkle them on salads or mix them into salad dressings, or even stir them into mustard, mayonnaise or other sandwich spreads.

Banana Almond Flax Smoothie

This substantial smoothie is perfect following a high-energy workout.

1 medium or large banana, preferably frozen, sliced

2/3 cup yogurt or almond milk

1 tablespoon roasted unsalted almond butter

1 tablespoon flaxseeds

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

A couple of drops of almond extract or vanilla

1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, along with a few ice cubes if the bananas have not been previously frozen. Blend until smooth.

Yield: One serving.

Advance preparation: This smoothie is best if served right away.

Nutritional information per serving: 337 calories; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 6 grams monounsaturated fat; 7 milligrams cholesterol; 47 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 175 milligrams sodium; 12 grams protein

Friday, May 27, 2011

Quinoa Pancakes

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flourThe addition of cooked quinoa to my regular buttermilk pancake batter results in a thick, moist pancake that’s hefty but not heavy.

1 cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup cooked quinoa (any type)

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or other fruit, like sliced bananas, strawberries or raisins (optional)

1. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the buttermilk and whisk together, then whisk in the vanilla extract and the oil.

3. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and quickly whisk together. Do not overbeat; a few lumps are fine. Fold in the quinoa.

4. Heat a griddle over medium-hot heat. If necessary, brush with butter or oil. Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons onto the hot griddle. Place six to eight blueberries (or several slices of banana or strawberries) on each pancake. Cook until bubbles begin to break through, two to three minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for about a minute or until nicely browned. Remove from the heat, and continue cooking until all of the batter is used up.

5. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Yield: 15 pancakes (five servings).

Advance preparation: These pancakes freeze well and can be made a day ahead, refrigerated and reheated.

Nutritional information per pancake: 105 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 26 milligrams cholesterol; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 192 milligrams sodium; 4 grams protein

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leeks: Onion Flavor, Without the Onions

This was a luxury, and as I cooked them last week I wondered why leeks are so underused in this country. In Europe, they are as common in kitchens as carrots and turnips. In French cooking, rare is the soup or stew that does not feature a leek or two in its supporting cast of aromatics, not to mention the tarts, soups and starters in which it has the starring role.

If you are one of those people who can’t tolerate an abundance of onions in a dish, try leeks instead. They’re milder, even though they contain many of the sulfur compounds present in onions that are difficult for some people to digest. But these compounds, also found in green garlic, are the source of many health benefits. Leeks contain other important nutrients as well, like lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that are being studied for their role in eye health. Leeks also are a good source ofcalcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin K, and are a very good source of vitamin A.

Leeks should be trimmed and cleaned before you use them. As the green shoots push up from the ground, dirt can become lodged between their thin layers. The dark green part is tough, and while good for stocks, it doesn’t have the delicate flavor and texture of the white bulb or the tender light green part just above the bulb.

Cut away the dark green parts and the hairy root end, where most of the dirt is. Then cut the leek in half lengthwise and soak it in a bowl of water for about five minutes to loosen the dirt. Finally, run the leek under cold water, fanning the layers under the stream to wash away any lingering sand. Alternatively, you can trim and slice the leeks, soak the slices for five minutes, swish them around in the water, rinse again and drain on paper towels.

Stir-Fried Leeks With Amaranth and Green Garlic

In April, I found piles of baby leeks, red spring onions, amaranth and green garlic at one stand at the local farmers’ market. I bought some of each on impulse, and this dish is what became of them. Amaranth is a beautiful leafy green used in the cuisines of China and Mexico. You can find it at some Asian markets and farmers’ markets.

1 generous bunch amaranth, about 1/2 pound

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced

1 medium spring onion, trimmed, or 1 bunch scallions, white and light green part only, chopped

1/2 bulb green garlic, minced (2 tablespoons minced)

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Soy sauce to taste

1. Wash the amaranth, and trim away the thick ends of the stems. Cut the bottom, thicker parts of the stems into 1/2-inch lengths. If the leaves are very large, remove them and break off the stringy stems. Place the cut stems and leaves together in a large bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your pan.

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two from the surface. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil by adding it to the sides of the wok and tilting it. Add the leeks, spring onion, garlic and ginger, and stir-fry for one to two minutes until the leeks have softened.

3. Add the remaining oil, amaranth (stems and leaves), sesame seeds, salt, pepper and sugar. Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for two minutes, or until the leaves have wilted and the stems are crisp-tender. Add soy sauce to taste. Remove from the heat and serve with rice.

Yield: Serves two as a main dish.

Advance preparation: This is a last minute stir-fry, but you can have all of your ingredients prepared several hours ahead.

Nutritional information per serving: 256 calories; 3 grams saturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 27 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 639 milligrams sodium (based on higher amount of salt; does not include soy sauce); 5 grams protein

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beet Greens, Green Garlic and Barley Gratin

By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN Published: May 9, 2011

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oilI use a certain formula for Provençal gratins combining grains and vegetables. I cook the greens and garlic, and then toss them with a cup of cooked grains, three eggs, a half cup of milk and some Gruyère cheese. I happened to have purple barley in my freezer when trying out this recipe, but you can use any type of barley, brown rice or arborio rice.

1 generous bunch beet greens, stemmed and washed

1 medium onion, chopped

4 large cloves green garlic, peeled and sliced, or one small head that has not separated into cloves, chopped

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 eggs

1/2 cup 2 percent milk

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup cooked barley (regular pearled or purple), brown rice or arborio rice

1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin dish with olive oil. Blanch the beet greens for one minute in a large pot of generously salted boiling water, or steam over 1 inch of boiling water for two to five minutes until wilted and tender. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out water and chop medium-fine. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the cooked greens and the thyme, and toss together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the greens mixture, the barley or rice, and the cheeses. Mix together well. Scrape into the oiled baking dish.

4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until sizzling and lightly browned on the top and sides. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: The gratin will be good for three or four days. It is as good served cold or at room temperature as it is hot.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 272 calories; 6 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 8 grams monounsaturated fat; 159 milligrams cholesterol; 19 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 282 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 13 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 181 calories; 4 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 106 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 188 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 9 grams protein

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gluten-Free Rice and Millet Flour Crackers

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

1 3/4 cups rice flour (preferably brown rice flour)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons millet flour (I make mine by grinding millet in a spice mill)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup water

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or omit the butter and use 1/4 cup olive oil)

2 tablespoons seeds, like as sesame, charnushka (nigella) or poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Combine the flours, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the flour mixture is crumbly. Combine the water, eggs and olive oil in a measuring cup. Turn on the processor. Add the liquids with the machine running, and process until the dough comes together. The dough will be soft. If it seems wet, add another tablespoon or two of rice flour.

2. Remove from the food processor. Divide into two portions, and roll out each portion into thin sheets. Sprinkle on the seeds. Using the rolling pin, gently press the topping into the surface of the dough. Cut the dough into squares or rectangles, and transfer to the baking sheets.

3. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.

Yield: Eighty to 90 crackers.

Advance preparation: These crackers will keep for about a week in an airtight container.

Nutritional information per cracker: 26 calories; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 1 gram monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 25 milligrams sodium; 1 gram protein

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