Month: February 2015

Gluten-free Dairy-free Hamantashen (or Hamentashen) Revisited

Wheat-free * Dairy-free * Gluten-free * Vegetarian *  Parve~~~

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It’s Purim so it’s Hamantashen Time (to learn more see the original hamantashen post).  Last year’s were really good but the dough did have a hint of coconut (not a bad thing) and I wondered if I could make them with a more neutral flavored fat.  I recently purchased organic shortening;  I practically never use shortening in my cooking but I have fond memories of my friend Suzy’s mom, Rose, baking brownies with shortening and frying French fries in it.  Both tasted great.

So, this year I made my hamantashen dough using the shortening.  It blended into the other ingredients much better than the coconut oil had…if you look closely at the old photos you’ll see little white spots in the dough – that’s the unblended coconut oil.  This dough has none of that.

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However, the dough came out much softer than the one made with coconut oil.

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In practical terms that means when you divide the dough in half and pat it into a disk, you have to cover the dough with a second piece of wax paper and pat the wax paper to make the disk, then refrigerate at least 1 hour until dough firms up.

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To roll the dough: dust the disk with oat flour then spread it all over; place between 2 pieces of wax paper and roll it out.

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And because the dough is soft, after you’ve cut out the circles; move them from the wax paper to the baking sheet using a spatula and use the spatula to help lift the sides to make the triangle shapes

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The end result was very very good and worth the extra effort.

These are mini hamantashen, you can use a bigger biscuit cutter to make normal sized cookies, you’ll just end up with fewer.

The recipe from last year follows.

Happy Purim
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Palak Shorba (Punjabi/Mughlai Spinach Soup)

Wheat-free * Dairy-free * Gluten-free * Vegetarian * Vegan * Parve * Paleo ~~~~

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There’s a pretty good Indian restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment called Swagat.  They make a spinach soup with chicken that I always order and it occurred to me that I could probably make it at home without too much difficulty.  As I often do, I googled Palak Shorba and checked out a few of the recipes.  The one that sounded best to me was by master chef Sanjeev Kapoor.  His recipe is vegetarian, instead of the chicken soup I get at Swagat, and used lots of whole spices.  I simplified the recipe but used a similar flavor profile.  Traditionally Palak Shorba is finished with a bit of cream; but, since I’m dairy free, I use coconut cream instead.   I make this recipe often.  Frequently, I revert to the Swagat version by adding shredded cooked chicken and eating the soup as a main course.

Today I had lunch with my friend Larry at Swagat.  I ordered the Chicken Palak Shorba and brought my own version of Palak Shorba to do a taste comparison.  NO CONTEST…mine was much better.  I was shocked and pleased…Larry agreed with me.

Enjoy!
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Better Paleo Soy Sauce and a recipe for Soy Sauce Shrimp

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Tamari (soy sauce minus the wheat), one of the pantry staples I was using when merely gluten-free, is now off limits since I’m paleo and beans are out.  The paleo substitute for soy sauce is coconut aminos.

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It’s true that it tastes sort of soy sauce-y, but in truth it tastes much more like teriyaki sauce – meaning it’s much sweeter and much less salty and concentrated than soy sauce (coconut sap blended with salt – whatever that means).  It actually makes a yummy dipping sauce for sashimi when mixed with wasabi – better than soy sauce to my way of thinking, but when it comes to cooking stir-frying or making marinades, they come out lacking something (flavor?).  Not being someone who rests content with less than good, I let my little scientist alter ego wander and I think I’ve found an excellent answer.  Marmite.  Huh?

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Marmite is a pretty vile tasting goo that is popular with the British, especially the colonials so I am told.  I was having coffee with my friend Pene ( who happens to be South African) and we were talking about breakfasts. She mentioned that one of her favorite breakfast items is buttered toast with Marmite.  In an effort to enlighten me she brought out the the jar of Marmite and put a little on a spoon for me to taste. OMG – ghastly!!!!  The only way I can describe it is a prune colored, thicker than syrup substance that tastes like pure salt with a hint of bitterness.  Now I’ve seen jars of Marmite in stores but never really gave it much thought but now that I tasted it a light bulb went off in my brain – paleo soy sauce!  Think about it…if you thinned out the marmite, wouldn’t that be pretty much the same as soy sauce?  I could have left it at that, but truly I wasn’t looking for an inedible substitute for soy.

I went directly to Zabar’s (our local super delicacy market) and picked up a jar.  When I got home, I started playing with the proportions of marmite to coconut aminos.  I actually needed more Marmite than I had predicted, but in the end, I believe I have a very satisfactory soy sauce for those of us who don’t eat soy.

Here’s the formula:

Heat 1/4 cup coconut aminos in a microwave oven until warm (about 20 seconds);  stir in 1 teaspoon marmite (or more or less to taste) until dissolved.

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Pour into storage container and store in refrigerator.

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Happy Asian Cooking!
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Suya (or Tsire or Chichinga) – Nigerian Grilled Meat Skewers

Wheat-free * Dairy-free * Gluten-free * Paleo ~~~

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Suya or tsire (also known as chichinga in Ghana) is a Nigerian street food.  The traditional recipe uses roasted peanuts to marinate the meat, but since peanuts are a legume and legumes are not allowed on paleo, I substituted roasted cashews which also gives it a wonderful flavor. On the other hand if you do eat peanuts, feel free to substitute them for the cashews and know that you are having an even more authentic version.  Speaking of authentic versions, although 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne sounds pretty spicy, the truth of the matter is most of the other recipes I looked at used at least 1 teaspoon cayenne – so feel free to increase the cayenne significantly (or decrease it if you are not fond of spicy).   Also, you do not have to limit yourself to beef for these skewers; they would be equally good with chicken, lamb, pork, shrimp, or even goat.

Now you might ask yourself how does a die hard New Yorker, who barely leaves her neighborhood, know of a Nigerian street food?  Good question.  I can’t imagine that I dreamed up the word Suya (or tsire or chichinga) and googled it, nor do I think I googled Nigerian street food – so how did I get there?  I don’t know, but I do know an interesting recipe when I see one and since I’ve been stuck at home with a cold and cough I had time to look for something that piqued my interest.  When I found Suya it struck just the right cord as I generally like to eat really spicy foods when I have a cold because:

a) they are the only thing I can still taste

b) cayenne is excellent to relieve coughs (my home remedy cough medicine starts with 1/4 cup red pepper flakes)

c) I had a defrosted steak and had to figure out something to do with it

So however I got to this recipe I can assure you it was a lucky (and delicious) find.  The salad is completely my own addition – I think spicy food goes so well with light and crunchy salads – and this truly is a dynamic duo (or if you add a beer it would make this a terrific trio).

Enjoy! (more…)