June in the Kitchen – Lavender Nut Cake

June in the Kitchen – Lavender Nut Cake

My blog has been going for almost a year, yet this is only the second dessert recipe I have posted. My tastes don’t usually run to sweet, more to salty. And in the interests of keeping the “middle-aged spread” to a minimum, I carefully dole out my carbs. Enter this wonderful vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, Paleo friendly, low carbohydrate cake made from cashews. I served it in thin slices for dessert with fresh fruit, but you could cut it into larger slices for breakfast scones.  It would be wonderful anytime with a cup of Earl Grey. It’s dense and flavorful with honey and lavender. And best of all, this is an easy and delicious recipe.

IMG_3322

Lavender season is in full bloom in Northern California so it seemed appropriate to season it with fresh lavender. Make sure you purchase food grade lavender (I purchased dried lavender at Williams Sonoma) or use blooms that have not been sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides.

Lavender

  • 1 1/2 cups of Cashews (or 1 1/3 cups ground). I used unsalted but roast Cashews.
  • 1/4 cup of Arrowroot
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of lavender
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons of honey (or 3 tablespoons of maple syrup)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

IMG_3324

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch metal pie plate with parchment paper.
  2. Blend the cashews in a food processor until powdered.
  3. Whisk all the dry ingredients (powdered cashews, arrowroot, salt, baking powder and lavender) together in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk the wet ingredients together, stir into the dry ones.
  5. Pour into the lined baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

    Cashew and Lavender Cake

    Cashew and Lavender Cake

  6. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

IMG_3320

IMG_3323

I’m taking this to Fiesta Friday for the guests at Angie’s to enjoy.

Fiesta Friday

December in the kitchen – Coconut crusted chicken and persimmon caprese

December in the kitchen – Coconut crusted chicken and persimmon caprese

I love a crisp coating on chicken, but would like to avoid the refined carbohydrates and fat of fried chicken. I’ve been searching for something that gives chicken that same satisfying crunch in a baked version. Paleo circles use almond meal to coat chicken. I tried it and found it to be too heavy, not crisp enough, and fairly high in calories (although delicious).

Then I had an idea; what about coconut meal? Maybe coconut meal (which has more texture than coconut flour) would be a healthy way to add coconut flavor to the chicken, eliminate gluten, and increase crispness. As an added benefit, it is both high in fiber and low in saturated fat. And, coconut fried shrimp have a lovely crunch (although there is still the problem of frying), so crunch is possible.

Thus was born Coconut Crusted Chicken!

With the chicken I wanted to serve something festive. There were some Fuyu persimmons, picked up at a farm stand the week before, in a bowl on the counter. I made a simple caprese salad by replacing the usual tomatoes with persimmons, garnishing with pomegranate seeds and chopped almonds. As a finishing touch I drizzled an aged balsamic vinegar over the whole.

coconut crusted chicken

Coconut crusted chicken

Coconut Crusted Chicken

  • 6 -8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed to remove any excess skin and fat (you can use other cuts, adjust the cooking time)
  • 1 cup of coconut meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place racks in a roasting or baking pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer.
  3. Place the coconut meal, salt, and cumin in a shallow bowl or plate and mix.
  4. Roll the chicken in the coating, patting it on to cover all sides
  5. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the racks.
  6. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until juices run clear and chicken is crisp.
persimmon salad with mozzarella

Persimmon caprese

Persimmon Caprese Salad

  • 4 fuyu persimmons, sliced about ¼ inch thick
  • 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ cup of pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup of chopped roast almonds
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Alternate the persimmon and mozzarella slices on a platter.
  2. Generously salt and pepper.
  3. Garnish with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
persimmon salad

Persimmon caprese

I added a salad of arugula for a touch of green and the sharpness of the leaves.

Coconut crusted chicken with persimmon caprese

Coconut crusted chicken with persimmon caprese

It worked!

I’m taking this to the party at Friday Favorites sponsored by the Blog The Diary of a Real Housewife, and Real Food Fridays sponsored by Lydia’s Flexitarian Kitchen. Come join us at the last parties of 2014. Happy Holidays!

December in the kitchen – Red lentil and cauliflower couscous

December in the kitchen – Red lentil and cauliflower couscous

Lately I have been reading a lot about substituting cauliflower for rice and couscous in recipes. The substitution is popular in paleo circles as well as with folks trying to cut down on carbohydrates (useful after the holidays). It seems to me that any way you can add more vegetables to your diet is a good thing.

This recipe combines the cauliflower “couscous” with lentils and preserved mandarin oranges. It can be served hot, room temperature, or cold as a salad with some tasty greens on the side. This could even be the main dish for a vegetarian meal, it’s gluten free and vegan.

Red Lentils and Cauliflower Couscous

Red Lentils and Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower Couscous with Red Lentils and Easy Preserved Mandarins    (serves 4)

  • 2 mandarin oranges, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 small cauliflower, “riced” in a food processor
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup almonds, sliced scallions, and chopped cilantro for garnish

Preserved Mandarin Oranges:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the sugar and 1½ teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper; stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
  2. Add the slices of mandarin orange and cook over medium heat until softened, about 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the orange slices to a plate and boil the remaining liquid until reduced to 1/3 cup; it will take about 3 minutes. Let cool, then whisk in ¼ cup of olive oil. Set aside.

Cauliflower Couscous

  1. Break the cauliflower into medium sized pieces and add to the food processor, pulse the machine until the cauliflower resembles couscous. You may need to do this in batches. Don’t over process.
cauliflower rice

Cauliflower couscous or rice

Red Lentils

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add the lentils and cook over medium heat until tender but not mushy, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain.
  2. Heat a frying pan on medium heat; add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot and beginning to shimmer, add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
  1. Add the cauliflower to the pan, increase the heat to medium high and sauté, stirring constantly, until the cauliflower is beginning to soften and brown. It should retain some texture and still be crisp.
  2. Add the lentils to the pan and reheat the whole.
  3. Add the reserved liquid from the mandarin oranges and the lemon juice. Taste for salt and turn out to a serving dish.
  4. Serve garnished with almonds, the slices of mandarin orange, scallions, and chopped cilantro.

I served this with the marmalade chicken. It was a great combination with the pilaf coming together while the chicken was in the oven.

Cauliflower couscous

Cauliflower couscous

How have you used cauliflower to replace rice or pasta or couscous? I’d love to hear other ideas.

December in the kitchen – Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

December in the kitchen – Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

Ok, I give up; the red wine pickle brine has won! Inspired by Mr. Fitz’s hanger steak and the beet pickle brine that was tossed down the sink, I purchased skirt steak at the butchers.

Then I got curious about the difference between skirt steak and hanger steak, were they the same? I thought so, but I was wrong. A little searching turned up the answer. There are four cuts which are very similar in looks but come from different places on the cow; the skirt, flatiron, hanger, and flank steaks. Isn’t the Internet amazing? You can find out anything with just a few clicks. Following is a quick map of where you will those various steaks:

cow

Skirt steak, it turns out, is actually the cow’s diaphragm muscle, it’s chewy but tender if cooked quickly and left quite rare. It has quite a lot of marbling and is very flavorful. It’s a long and narrow piece of meat, as much as a few feet in length. It takes well to marinades or dry rubs. It’s one of my favorite cuts and has been discovered in recent years. At my butchers it was more expensive per pound than a T-bone steak!

Flank steak comes from the belly area near a cow’s back legs. It’s much leaner than the skirt steak and takes well to marinades and grilling. Flank should be sliced against the grain for serving.

Hanger steak comes from deep inside the loin, encircled by the rib cake. It’s relatively tender compared to skirt and flank steaks (and more expensive since there is only one per cow). The French call this cut an onglet; it’s frequently seen on menus in bistros accompanied by pomme frites.

A flatiron steak comes from the front shoulder of the cow; it’s sometimes called a top blade or petite tender.

I’d recommend cooking all of them to rare to medium rare.

This post should probably be titled “Skirt steak marinated in red wine pickle brine with chimichurri sauce”, but that’s a bit of a mouthful! Chimichurri sauce is a green herb sauce originally from Argentina; there it’s commonly paired with steak.

Red wine marinade

Red wine pickling brine and marinade

Red wine and vinegar marinade

  • 2 cups of red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • ½ cup of water
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns
  • 16 sprigs of fresh thyme (8 for heating with marinade)
  • 8 sprigs of fresh rosemary (4 for heating with marinade)
  1. Combine the red wine vinegar, red wine, water, honey, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, 8 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 4 sprigs of rosemary in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and allow the herbs to infuse the marinade as it cools.
  2. Once cool remove the thyme and rosemary.
  3. Pour the marinade over the steaks, adding the other fresh herbs.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight would be ok.
  5. Pat dry before grilling (we used the BBQ) or cooking on a stove top grill. Since a single steak will vary in thickness you will have a range of “rareness”. We cooked on fairly high heat for 3 minutes a side.
skirt steak

Skirt steak

Marinating skirt steak

Marinating skirt steak

Chimichurri sauce

chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri sauce

  • 1 cup of fresh parsley leaves, stalks removed
  • ¼ cup of fresh oregano
  • ¼ cup of fresh mint
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of shallots
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of chili flakes (less if you do not want spicy)
  • ¾ cup of olive oil
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Process until finely chopped by turning off and on, scrape down the sides as needed.
  2. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until an emulsion is formed. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Pour into a container and refrigerate. This will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce

I served this with an adaptation of the spiced cauliflower “couscous” recipe from Giramuk’s Kitchen. It was a big hit!