31 May 2013

Rhubarb and Mango Clafoutis

To round out the month of "spring-themed" recipes, I am sharing something in the food world near and dear to my heart.

Clafoutis is a simple French dessert traditionally made with cherries. The version I am sharing today is one of my favorite breakfast treats or quick-to-prepare desserts. It's generously studded with tangy rhubarb and sweet mango which are suspended in a baked custard. The consistency of this custard falls somewhere between flan and a puff pancake (also known as Dutch or German pancakes). It has more structure than flan thanks to corn starch and just a few tablespoons of your choice of flour, but is less flour based than a puff pancake. I use light spelt flour, but you can also use all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour. Regular whole wheat flour would be too heavy. And for gluten-free, use  tapioca flour or an all-purpose gluten-free flour.

Pairing mango with rhubarb helps to naturally balance the tartness of the rhubarb and requires less sugar than is usually needed for rhubarb desserts. If you don't have a love for tart-and-sweet desserts like I do, of course you can increase the amount of sugar. But one quiet, rainy morning this week I shared this with my friend and neighbor who has quite the sweet tooth, and she thoroughly enjoyed it as is.

If you are not familiar with rhubarb, it is as easy to prepare as celery. Simply run the stalks under water to rinse away dirt. Trim the ends by slicing only half-way through the stalk, then pull the end back and string the full stalk like you would celery. Halve the stalk lengthwise if the rhubarb is rather thick and wide, and chop into bite size pieces.

This clafoutis is simple to pull together; no careful heating of cream or chocolate over a double boiler or mixing of wet and dry ingredients separately. And with the exception of the fruit, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen. Rhubarb is abundant right now where I am, but for the summer months you could swap it out for berries or cherries. I would stay away from juicy stone-fruit, however, because it could water down the custard.

This is best enjoyed warm with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. I hope it brings as much joy to your table on a rainy day as it did mine.

Let Me Hear From You!
Did you enjoy this month of spring-themed recipes? Would you like to see more 'themed' posts in the future? I love hearing what you like or would like to see more of so I know whether the recipes and ideas I share strike a cord with your interests and needs at mealtime. So please don't hesitate to drop me a note! :)

Rhubarb and Mango Clafoutis
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmand's Rhubarb, Raspberry Clafoutis
Serves 2-4

Notes: I use light spelt flour in this recipe, but all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, tapioca flour, or an all-purpose gluten-free flour are all good options.

7 oz. rhubarb, cut in bite-size pieces (~3-4 stalks)
1/2 large ripe but firm mango, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp. natural cane sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. full-fat natural, plain yogurt (or crème fraîche)
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle

Place the prepared rhubarb in a colander and stir in 3 Tbsp of sugar. Set aside in the sink or over a plate for 30-45 minutes so that the rhubarb releases some juice.

Preheat oven to 400 F (204 C). Grease a deep pie dish, 8x8 square baking dish or something of similar size. In a large bowl use a hand mixer to beat eggs and sugar until the mixture is smooth and silky. On low speed mix in cornstarch and flour, just until incorporated. Do not over mix. Mix in milk and yogurt.

Place the mango and rhubarb pieces in the prepared dish and pour the batter over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard is no longer wobbly, starts to pull away from the fruit pieces, and is golden in color.

Serve warm with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.

26 May 2013

Overnight Quinoa Oatmeal

On weekday mornings, I have criteria for breakfast. I must have something that is enjoyable to eat but also nourishing and balanced. Something that has staying power, but does not require much hands-on time the morning of so that I can get on with the day. Now I work from home, but when I drove to work, I also needed something that was easily transportable to the office.

This overnight quinoa oatmeal  checks all of those boxes, plus it's gluten-free (providing you buy certified gluten-free oats and quinoa) and dairy-free, so I think it will appeal to many of you out there and whatever your own personal breakfast requirements are! 

I use a mixture of white quinoa and steel-cut (Irish) oats (or hafergrütze in Switzerland). I've made versions with only steel-cut oats, which is also delicious, but I prefer quinoa as the base because it has more protein and stays with me longer. The mixture is soaked in a nut or grain-based milk overnight which allows it to cook up quicker in the morning. Additionally, soaking grains, seeds, and nuts help remove the phytic acid coating allowing the nutrients to be more accessible to your body and more easily digestible. Sometimes I'll add a few almonds in with the oats and milk the night before and they soak and cook along with the oatmeal. Other times I add them raw on top after the oatmeal has been cooked.

For quicker prep I cook mine in the microwave. I have not tried this version on the stove-top, but if you have the extra time, it should cook up fine covered, over medium-low to medium heat. Stir once or twice so the bottom does not burn, and make sure some liquid is left at the end so it has a porridge consistency.  You may need additional milk or water for cooking on the stove-top and the cooking time will inevitably increase. 

I like to top this oatmeal with a handful of seasonal fruit, chopped almonds, and coconut butter than slowly melts into the oatmeal. Sometimes I'll add an extra splash of milk to thin it out a bit, as it thickens when it cools.

Breakfast is as important for me as any other meal. It sets the tone for body and mind for the rest of the day, directly impacting energy levels and mood. We all have hectic schedules and multiple distractions in the day starting from the moment we wake up. But breakfast should not be an after-thought that gets pushed aside as a result. It should be a coping mechanism to help us deal with the day and give us something to look forward to in the mornings. And when much of the prep work can be done ahead, there is really no excuse not to fit such a nourishing and satisfying meal into our morning routine. 

Overnight Quinoa Oatmeal
Serves 1 generously

Notes: I prefer naturally sweet nut or grain-based milks (i.e. no added sugar) because  they add a nice flavor to the oatmeal. Almond and coconut-rice milk are two of my favorites. And I haven't tried it, but oat or hazelnut milk may be another nice choice.

Night Before
1/3 cup (63 g) white quinoa, rinsed until water runs clear and drained
2 Tbsp steel cut/Irish oats
1 cup (236 ml) nut or grain-based milk of choice

Mix all ingredients in a deep microwavable dish twice as large as your contents. (A 4 or 8 cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup would also work well.) Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Morning Of

Pinch of salt

Fruit (berries, kiwi, mango, etc)
Chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
Honey, agave, or maple syrup
Coconut butter (I use this brand)
Additional milk

Add salt to the soaked oatmeal, stir, and microwave uncovered on high for 3-5 minutes (stirring a few times), until the liquid is at a constant simmer, rises up, and the grains are cooked to your liking.  The time will really depend on how powerful your microwave is. If you know your microwave is slower, the cooking time may take 6-7 minutes, but that should be max. Watch carefully the last few minutes so the contents do not overflow.

Transfer to a bowl and add desired toppings and/or additional milk if you want to thin it out.

18 May 2013

Green Lentil and Coconut Soup with Avocado Relish

Coconut...curry….avocado...lime….cilantro. These flavors complement each other nicely, and here they mingle together in a lentil soup. This is a nice spring meal to have in your back pocket when the days can turn from warm and sunny one minute to cool and rainy the next. This is not a Dal, but it's a lentil soup with an Indian twist; toothsome lentils are cooked in a coconut curry broth and finished with fresh lime juice and a generous mound of avocado relish. And it all comes together in 25 minutes.

This time of the year spring onions, with their small slender bulbs and delicate green stalks, are abundant. These seasonal young greens are mild and delicate and are perfect enjoyed raw. They add a mellow onion flavor to the relish which, when heated ever so slightly by the steam of the soup, provides a perfect counter to the sweet curry and coconut milk. If you want to add more spring greenery to the soup, you can throw in a few handfuls of peas or chopped asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

I used Puy lentils, a small, sturdy, slate-green lentil from the Puy region of France. I like them because they have a distinctive peppery flavor, and they hold up to cooking without turning to mush. But they are costly and more of a delicacy than an everyday pantry staple. So more often than not I use the generic French green lentils or black beluga lentils which also hold their shape well and are perfect substitutions here.

Green Lentil and Coconut Soup with Avocado Relish
Serves 4-6

Notes: Any lentil that holds it's shape when cooked, such as French green lentils or black beluga lentils, can be substituted for the Puy lentils.

2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or mild olive oil)
1 Tbsp. mild curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. ground chili (cayenne pepper)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece ginger, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups/ 1 quart water (or vegetable stock)
1 1/2 cups (300 g) Puy lentils  (preferably soaked overnight, rinsed and picked over)
1-2 tsp. salt (depending if using stock and how salty it is)
1 can coconut milk
Juice from 1/2 lime
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the next 4 spices (through ground chili), and stir to coat with oil. Toast until fragrant and color begins to deepen, stirring often and taking care it does not burn (about 30 seconds). Add garlic and ginger, pinch of salt and black pepper, and cook for another 30 seconds, then stir in tomato paste to heat through.

Add water, lentils, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are al-dente. (While lentils are cooking, prepare the avocado relish)

Once the lentils are cooked, stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and fresh cilantro (if using)  to warm through. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Ladle in soup bowls and serve with a mound of avocado relish dolloped on top.

Avocado relish
Serves 3-4

Notes: If you prefer your relish spicier, use the entire red chili.

Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. mild olive oil
1/2 tsp. honey
2 spring onions, chopped
1/2 red chili, finely chopped
1/4 cup coriander, chopped (~1 large handful)
1 large avocado, diced

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together lime, oil, and honey. Gently stir in remaining ingredients.

11 May 2013

Lemon Curd, A Deconstructed Trifle, and a Triathlon

Sometimes I really enjoy the process of making a recipe. This isn't true all of the time, and in fact if you asked me which I enjoy more about cooking, the creative component of brainstorming and developing a recipe/meal or the actual cooking, I would say the former, hands down. But sometimes the stars align in the kitchen and things come together fluidly and with ease. The individual ingredients, when heated and stirred, transform right in front of your eyes into something much greater than the sum of their parts. It's called instant gratification my friends, and that's where this lemon curd comes in. 

It takes all of 6 minutes to cook, and then is popped in the fridge to cool and set. The most difficult part is separating the egg yolks from the whites. I had the yolks already separated and waiting in the fridge because I used the egg whites last week in almond macaroons I made for friends we visited in Zurich. Below I've listed other suggestions for using the leftover egg whites. If you do plan ahead to have the yolks stored in the fridge waiting for you, this recipe comes together so quickly you'll hardly notice you're cooking. Plus having homemade lemon curd hanging around is never a bad thing. Sure, you can buy the pre-made jar of it at the store, but there's such a difference in texture and freshness with the real thing. The brightness of the fresh lemon juice really shines through, you can control the sweetness, and you can rest assured you won't be consuming any of the stabilizers, unnatural thickeners, preservatives, or powdered egg yolks in the homemade version. This is the real deal, made from whole ingredients only.

My husband competed in his first of two Spring triathlons last weekend, and he did excellent I might add. The swim was in an outdoor pool this time but will be in open water in a month. The water is quite chilly and full wet suits are a must, but the weather cooperated with us and there was no rain at least.

I wanted to have a post-race treat for him and had in mind something like a trifle, or at least the elements of a trifle; buttery pound cake, lemon curd, soft and light cream. So I made a more straight-forward deconstructed trifle with an olive oil pound cake made the previous day.

And if your mom is a fan of lemon, this would be a great light, sweet treat to make for her this weekendHappy Mother's Day, Mom! I hope you take time for yourself and enjoy your day! And a Happy Mother's Day to my mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, and girlfriends who are mothers! You all amaze me.

 Here are some other ideas for using lemon curd:
  • Make lemon bars
  • Spread on toast
  • Fold whipped cream into the curd for an instant mousse
  • Enjoy as is with biscotti or crumbled Amaretti cookies on top

…..and leftover egg whites:

Lemon Curd
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup/100 g sugar
1/2 cup/118 ml fresh lemon juice (~2 juicy lemons)
2 Tbsp. fresh grapefruit or orange juice (~1/2 of a small grapefruit or a regular sized orange)
1/8 tsp. salt
6 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. coconut oil (butter will work here too)

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until it starts to thicken (about 6 minutes), whisking often throughout the cooking process so the bottom does not stick.

Remove from heat and stir in the coconut oil until melted. Transfer the curd to a small glass bowl, cover the surface with plastic and let set in in the refrigerator until chilled.

Deconstructed Trifle Assembly

Lightly butter a few thick slices of pound cake (I made this olive oil pound cake minus the syrup and glaze), drizzle with honey, and place under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned and toasted.

Once the cake has cooled slightly, spread a layer of lemon curd over the slices, and top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. 

05 May 2013

Swiss Market Salad with Tarragon-Buttermilk Dressing

In honor of the spring that I hope most of you are enjoying by now, I am dedicating the month of May to recipes inspired by the lightness and simplicity of the season. The focus will be on minimal ingredients, quick cooking, and a lighter, fresher take on favorites such as salads, soups, weekday breakfast, and dessert.

Fresh, local produce is so flavorful that it doesn't need much embellishment to be enjoyed. This raw shredded salad makes the most of the produce, allowing the natural flavors and colors to shine through. I really love the idea of shredding up several different vegetables, pouring over a dressing, and in minutes having a very substantial, but unique salad on the table. It's a fun take on the usual lettuce base and it's quite adaptable. Use whatever crunchy vegetables are your favorite or that look good at the market. Radishes, carrots, and corn are great alternative options as is cucumber (the latter is better sliced or shredded separately and squeezed to release excess water before adding to the salad). Unlike lettuce-based salads, leftovers hold up beautifully for a day or two. And I'm thinking just maybe the more color and crunch in the salad, the more enticing it will be to even the smallest of eaters around the table.

We have been in Switzerland for almost a year, and I have yet to mention anything about Swiss cuisine. The thing is, we don't really eat Swiss food. And based on the wide range of products from other cuisines available at the market, I question how much the Swiss themselves eat the typical Swiss dishes on a regular basis. Rosti, cheese fondue, raclette, spaetzle, and cervelat sausages don't translate very well to everyday eating. However, there is one dish (besides bircher muesli), when done well I really enjoy, and it is usually offered at various restaurants regardless of the cuisine. It is called Gemischter Salat, and it is what inspired the salad I am sharing today. Literally translated as mixed salad, it's really an assortment of several different marinated salads, often consisting of corn, beets, carrots, and cucumber. Here is one we had in Lucerne.

The marinade is usually a crème fraiche or mayonnaise base with a healthy addition of vinegar to cut through the creaminess along with fresh herbs such as tarragon or dill. The acid and cream is a very nice pairing, and one I try to maintain using buttermilk as the base instead. And fresh herbs may seem minor but they add a lot in flavor.

You can separate the vegetables on the plate as they do here, or they can be tossed together. I usually toss mine together, but the beets turn the whole salad pink which didn't make for a very pretty picture! Either way, I hope this provides an easy way for you to enjoy the season's best. 

Swiss Market Salad with Tarragon-Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 4 as a side salad

Notes: Unlike the thick and rich buttermilk in the US, buttermilk in Switzerland is as thin as milk. To thicken the dressing a touch I add a spoonful of yogurt, but if you're using thick buttermilk, the yogurt is not necessary.

1 medium, firm zucchini
1 medium fennel bulb
1 small beet, peeled

1/4 cup/60 ml buttermilk
1 spoonful plain, natural yogurt (optional)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt + additional to add at the end
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon (~ 1 small bunch)

Shred the vegetables using the shredder attachment  of a food processor or the largest holes of a box grater. Alternatively, the zucchini and fennel can be sliced using the slicing attachment of a food processor or a mandolin, but the beet (assuming it is not the very small variety) is best shredded.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mix all ingredients for the dressing. Add the shredded vegetables to the dressing and stir to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle fennel fronds on top if desired, and serve.