Quick Vietnamese Pho with Fresh Herbs
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
This quick Vietnamese pho, pronounced fuh, as in fun, is a soothing one-pot meal that’s flavorful and light, especially after the heavier foods of winter.
Watch the Video Quick Vietnamese Pho with Fresh Herbs
The first step is to toast some spices—a couple of tablespoons of coriander, a few cloves, a pieces of star anise, a spoonful of black peppercorns— in a dry heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until the spices smell fragrant, which takes only a couple of minutes. I then wrap the spices in a cheesecloth along with some chunks of ginger and onions. l add this bouquet to two quarts of chicken broth (this is where a homemade one really shines) along with a pound of boneless chicken (breasts or legs are fine), a tablespoon of natural brown sugar, a couple of tablespoons of Vietnamese fish sauce, and a few pinches of salt. The fish sauce consists simply of fermented anchovies, which gives the broth authentic Southeast Asian pizazz. After bringing the liquid to a boil, I lower the heat and simmer the broth very gently (so as not to toughen the chicken) for 20 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. I love that I can flavor the broth and cook the chicken all at the same time.
While the chicken is cooking, I pour hot water over fettuccine rice noodles, and I assemble the garnishes. I chop some fresh mint, cilantro and basil, cut some limes, slice some red onions, and finely chop a couple of hot chile peppers.
When the chicken is cooked, I remove it from the broth and discard the spice bag. As soon as the chicken is cool enough to touch, I tear it into chunky pieces.
To assemble the final dish, I ladle the broth over the noodles and chicken, then add the garnishes. I start with the onions and bean sprouts and then add a big handful of the fresh herbs. A sprinkle of the hot chiles and a squeeze of fresh lime at the last minute makes the dish sing! Assembling the dish to order allows me to adjust the spice level for all who are eating.
The flavorful herbed broth is nourishing and cleansing, not to mention delicious!
Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Cornmeal-Crusted Cod with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Miniature tomatoes dazzle in a variety of different sizes, shapes and colors; they are flavorful long after the larger varieties are truly out of season. I love using these miniature packets of flavor to make versatile stove-top sauces. The one that I demo in the video is just as delicious over polenta and simple greens as it is over fish. In the video, I’m demonstrating a single serving of cornmeal-crusted cod, although the tomato sauce is enough for up to four filets. You can swap out the cod for halibut or pollack or any thick white-fleshed fish.
Cornmeal-Crusted Cod with Fresh Tomato Sauce
I begin with a pint of small tomatoes. I’ve used grape and cherry, or sweet sun-golds—my favorites—when I can find them at my local greenmarket. I often mix a beautiful combination of colors, varieties and sizes. I add to the skillet—besides the halved tomatoes—a teaspoon or so of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons minced shallots, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I sprinkle a dusting of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over everything, give it a quick mix, then cover and set the pan aside while I start the fish.
I salt and pepper the filet before I dredge it on both sides in cornmeal. When the cast iron skillet (or any other heavy-bottomed skillet will do) is heated, I add a film of coconut oil—unflavored is best—and cook the fish a couple of minutes on each side over medium-high heat until golden. I transfer the pan to a preheated 400˚F oven for 5 minutes to cook the inside of the fish thoroughly.
While the fish is in the oven, I turn the heat on the tomatoes and let them stew for 2 to 3 minutes, just until warmed through and juicy. I then stir in a tablespoon or so of minced chives and parsley, which brightens the colors and heightens the flavors. When the fish is ready, I plate it and spoon the sauce over the top. The fish is moist on the inside, crispy on the outside and complemented by the warm tomato sauce.
It’s a guest-worthy dish that is easy, seasonal, and delicious.
Gluten Free Flours — Part 2
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Here’s a primer on some of the most useful gluten free flours:
Almond Meal or Flour is ground blanched almonds. It’s great for crusts, as a combo in flours, and as a coating for chicken, fish, or vegetables. Hazelnut meal also makes a tasty nut flour. Nut flours work well in combination with brown rice flours to create a grainy pleasing texture. Almond flour mixed with sorghum flour and a little arrowroot is a good mix for thin tuille cookies.
Arrowroot is a root starch thickener, and acts like cornstarch, but is more digestible. Arrowroot is good for thickening sauces and making crispy coatings. Add a couple tablespoons to thin tuille cookie batter to add the necessary gluey component.
Amaranth flour is best used in a flour mix (such as 25 per cent of a gluten-free combo) in recipes that do not have a lot of water, such as breads, muffins, or cookies. It adds protein, and tastes nutty and sweet. You can also use amaranth flour to thicken roux, sauces, and gravies.
Buckwheat flour is strong and earthy, and best when you want that particular flavor, such as in buckwheat pancakes and waffles. You can also use it as part of a flour combination.
Chickpea flour adds protein, moisture and texture. Both the delicious French socca and the Italian chickpea farinata are versions of crêpes made from chickpea flour. Another bean flour combination that is popular now is garfava flour, which is half chickpea flour and half fava bean flour. The mix of beans flours has a less intense flavor than pure chickpea flour. Chickpea flour functions deliciously in baked goods that have strong flavors, such as chocolate, spices or nut butters. (The uncooked batter never tastes good, however.) Bean flours boost the protein content of baked goods, although some people have a hard time digesting them.
Coconut flour, also know as coconut fiber, is amazing when it works. Sift it and use in small quantities. It is high in fiber and fat, and low in carbohydrates. Coconut flour is highly absorbent and therefore requires a lot of added liquid to keep baked products moist. You can’t use coconut flours directly to replace wheat flours in recipes, because the recipes don’t call for enough liquid, and the cooking methods cause moisture to be absorbed by the coconut too quickly. It’s best to use recipes that have been specially designed for coconut flour. You’ll notice they all have a high liquid to coconut flour ratio. Muffins made with coconut flour and eggs make a great low-carbohydrate high-energy breakfast, perfect for those on the go. Make sure to refrigerate baked goods made with coconut flour.
Cornmeal is great for corn muffins, bread and pancakes, and is a wonderful flour to use for dredging. Use it in combination with rice flour or quinoa flour for excellent light muffins. Purchase the stoneground variety in natural food stores.
Millet flour is high in protein. Add it in small amounts, in combination with other flours, to boost the nutrition in baked goods.
Potato Starch is a thickener, and it is used to add moisture to baked goods. It can tolerate higher temperatures than arrowroot.
Quinoa flour is a good source of protein, gives baked goods a nutty flavor, and adds moisture to gluten-free baked goods. It has a somewhat bitter taste, but is excellent in combination with other flours. Try it with cornmeal in muffins or quick breads.
Rice Flour includes three types: brown, white, and sweet rice. All are mild- flavored. Brown rice flour, which is the most nutritious, has a somewhat gritty texture. You can use the grittiness to advantage by combining it with nut flours, such as almond or walnut, to make baked goods with a pleasant nutty crumb.
Rice flours, both white and brown, make excellent roux. Sweet rice flour is called glutinous flours, but doesn’t contain gluten. It is a good thickener; you can coat foods with it before sautéing, and small amounts added in baked goods improve the texture.
Sorghum flour is high in protein, and has a wheat-like taste. It is becoming very popular in the gluten-free community, since it has a neutral flavor and adds great texture to baked goods. It isn’t gritty like brown rice flour, and doesn’t have the beany flavor of chickpea. You can use it in a gluten-free flour mix; and in many recipes it works well by itself.
Tapicoa flour is a flavorless, high carbohydrate starch, and is low in nutrients. On the up side, it is a good binder in baked goods when used in combination with other flours. It is a reliable thickener for sauces and desserts, and is included in batter coatings to make crisp, golden crusts.
Teff flour has a nutty, almost sweet flavor, and imparts moistness in gluten-free baking. Use it in small quantities to improve the nutritional quality.
Xantham gum is a common ingredient used in gluten free baking to improve the binding quality, which is lacking. The amount that usually works is ¼ teaspoon per cup of flour for cakes and ¼ to ½ teaspoon cup per flour for cookies, quick breads, and muffins. For baked goods that require kneading, 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup flour is needed. Guar gum can be used in place of xantham gum.
Keep in mind that it is a good idea to combine the more nutritious gluten-free flours with the high starch flours to improve the nutritional quality.
Soy flour, which is commonly used in gluten-free baking, is difficult to digest, and therefore not recommended. Sorghum flour can substitute for soy flour in most recipes.
Here are some simple mixes that you can keep on hand. Make up a canister; and for best results, keep it refrigerated. Have fun experimenting with your favorite recipes.
For muffins and quick breads try equal parts sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and brown rice flour.
For an all-purpose combination, try 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour, and 1 teaspoon xantham gum.
Gluten Free Flours – Part 1
Friday, July 8, 2011
Before examining the ins and outs of the different gluten-free flours, it’s good to have a basic understanding of gluten and its properties. You are then in a better position to make an informed choice when deciding which of the gluten-free flours or mixes will be appropriate for your particular dish.
As a quick review: note that the flours that contain gluten include barley, rye and wheat, including the unhybridized varieties, such as spelt, kamut, and farro. Gluten-free oats can be purchased, but not everyone on a gluten-free diet can tolerate them. If you’re not sure about oats, it’s safer to leave them out of your diet.
Gluten is what makes dough stretchy and doughy, and in the case of bread, helps the dough to rise. Flours that contain gluten actually have two proteins in them by the name of glutenin and gliadin. These only turn into gluten when they come in contact with liquid. The more water added to the flour, the more gluten, and the chewier the dough. Kneading makes gluten molecules in dough form into long elastic strands, so how much the dough is kneaded also makes a big difference in the degree of elasticity. Added yeast gives off gasses that are trapped by sheets of gluten molecules, causing the dough to rise.
Different types of wheat dough contain different amounts of gluten. Bread dough has a lot, pastry dough a little. In addition, pastry dough contains additional fat, with only a little water, which is mixed in briefly, so that the gluten strands are just barely formed.
Wheat is especially versatile. It is used as a thickener in pies, sauces, and roux, as well as a crispy coating for sautéed items. It is common for a recipe to call for dredging an item in flour before sautéing it to make a crispy coating.
When it comes to substituting gluten-free flours for those with gluten, there is no “magic blend” that works for all recipes. You need to consider whether you need a thickener, a binder, or just simply structure. Gluten-free flour mixtures (as opposed to a quantity of a single variety) work best in many instances, since a combination of flours will contribute different properties. You can buy a commercial mix, or keep the flours on hand to make your own. In some instances, however, a single flour will do the job. I’ve used almond flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, chickpea flour, and coconut flour successfully in recipes.
When you need to thicken a sauce, the root starch thickeners, such as tapioca or arrowroot, work well. You can coat items in arrowroot, tapioca, rice flour, or cornmeal to get delicious crispy crusts.
Since tapioca and rice flours tend to give baked goods structure, these are common in flour blends. Gums, such as xantham gum or guar gum are used to create the sticky binding effect that gluten has. They are not always necessary, especially if there are eggs in a recipe. Although people vary the amount of gum added, a good rule of thumb is a ratio of ¼ teaspoon xantham gum per cup of flour for cakes, ¼ to ½ teaspoon for cookies, quick breads and muffins, and 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of flour for items that require kneading.
Sometimes gluten-free baked goods do not hold up as well as those containing gluten, so the use of muffin tins or bread loaf pans can be helpful.
Note that the addition of warm liquid helps to give structure to your baked goods, and it is always best to add your liquid slowly.
If you are using a blend of flours, it’s a good idea to sift them together in order to make sure that you don’t end up with unmixed pockets of leavener or flour.
Keep gluten free flours in the refrigerator, if you have the room, for up to four or five months, or in the freezer for up to a year.
Most of the time, 1 cup of wheat flour can be substituted for 1 cup of a gluten-free flour, but there are some notable exceptions. The biggest difference is that you have to use only half as much nut flour in your recipe.
You can grind your own grains in a high power blender or a spice grinder.
It is easiest, however, to use readymade flours. The following flours can be purchased readymade:
1 cup Wheat Flour Equals:
Amaranth – 1 cup
Bean Flour – 1 cup
Cornmeal – 1 cup
Gluten free flour mix – either home made or commercial – 1 cup
Millet Flour – 1 cup
Nuts (finely ground- almond, hazel nut)- ½ cup
Oat Flour – (only if gluten free) 1 1/3 cup
Potato Starch – ¾ cup
Quinoa Flour – 1 cup
Rice Flour (White/Brown)- 7/8 cup
Sorghum Flour – 1 cup
Sweet Rice Flour – 7/8 cup
Tapioca Flour/Starch – 1 cup
Teff Flour – 7/8 cup