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NEXT LEVEL BANANA BREAD

(chocolate chocolate walnut)

The perfect thing for when casual chocolate cake is the ONLY thing. Though generally a sceptic of fruity-chocolate pairings, banana continues to be an exception for my palate, and the addition of intense dark chocolate to simple, still-barely-sweet, banana bread is a home run.

Bang it out in basically 1 bowl and just over an hour, including baking time. Go:

Mash 2 (3 if they’re small) v ripe bananas in a mixing bowl. Melt together:

  • 1/4 c ghee
  • 1/4 c butter

and whisk into the banana. Add 1/2 c brown sugar, and stir. Follow with:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla

Separately, measure and combine:

  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 c wheat or sprouted wheat flour
  • 1/2 c (generous) unsweetened cocoa powder

Add to wet ingredients, stir until just combined, then fold in:

  • 3/4 c bittersweet choc chips
  • 2/3 c chopped sprouted walnuts

Pour into a buttered 9x5 loaf pan, then scatter an additional 1/3 c chopped sprouted walnuts over top. Lick the bowl and bake the loaf at 350 for 1 hour. Remove from the oven when a knife comes out clean, but maybe chocolatey. Share with friends.

SHAVED FENNEL, CITRUS & PARSLEY CHX SALAD

Craving bright flavors, I whipped up this v simple salad on a recent, precious day off using leftovers from a perfect roast chicken, Alex’s specialty. Thinly slicing the fennel is key to keeping it crisp and light. Segmenting citrus can take some patience (and practice), but I think it’s kind of gratifying.

First, cut off either end of one orange, then carefully slice off the skin and pith with a sharp paring knife. Work over a bowl to catch the juices; once the flesh is exposed, slice into the orange at the white segment dividers and carefully remove the flesh from the membrane, releasing the segment into the bowl. The first can be tricky; continue around until the fruit is complete - this technique works with any citrus fruit. Cut each segment in half, then add:

  • 1/2 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • Large handful picked parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 c roast chicken, pulled

Dress with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and nice evoo, plus salt and black pepper to taste. That’s all. Be brave; spring is coming.

SWEET GRAIN DUO W CARROTS & ALMONDS

Inspired by Persian jeweled rice, this dish is fragrant and sweetly spiced - a perfect accompaniment to braised meat; I made it several weeks ago to serve with goat. Black rice and quinoa make a great base for this dish, which contains almost as much grated carrot as it does grain. The sweetness comes from raisins and coconut. 

First, cook 1.5 c each black wild rice and quinoa. In a sauté pan, soften one diced onion in coconut oil; add the zest of 1 lemon. Grate 5-6 large carrots and add them, along with 1 c chopped each raisins, sprouted almonds and coconut flakes, to the onion. Stir everything to combine, then add 2 t each turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon, plus a pinch of saffron. Cook until the carrots are tender and the raisins have plumped. Remove from the heat and add the carrot mixture to the grains. Season to taste, and serve - it’s great hot or cold.

DUCK BROTH W EGGS, SOBA & FRESH HERBS

I recently enjoyed a great dinner with friends and family at Tao Yuan in Brunswick, ME, after which Chef Cara sent us home with the carcass from our Peking duck - a major highlight of the meal. Upon returning home, I put the duck body in a large pot with fresh turmeric and garlic, star anise, black and white peppercorns, and celery, covered it with water, and let it simmer for 20 hours. After straining the stock I reduced it by about 40%, and ended up with 2 quarts of divine duck broth. 

Noodle soup was the perfect use for the flavorful broth, and I’ve come to love spicy poached egg soups for breakfast. Once you have a nice broth, this one comes together in just a few minutes. To start, mince:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 inches peeled ginger root

Sauté in ghee, and add 1 small onion, thinly sliced. Cook together until the onions begin to brown, then deglaze with several tablespoons of broth. Add 1/2 tsp each:

  • turmeric
  • cinnamon
  • cayenne

Cover with 1 qt of broth and bring to a simmer, seasoning to taste. Meanwhile, slice and set aside several fresh scallions and a handful of parsley. Boil some water, salt it well, and cook soba noodles for 4 minutes (or according to their directions). Rinse the noodles in cold water, then divide into bowls.

Once the broth is simmering, drop 4 eggs into the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes, occasionally ladling hot broth over the top of the eggs. Carefully ladle the broth-poached eggs on top of the soba, then cover with rest of the soup. Top with fresh herbs and black pepper -  ducky!

ALMOND LEMON BLUEBERRY DREAM CAKES

Ultimate fantasy pancakes made with almond and corn meals combined with buckwheat flour - they’re crunchy and wholesome, with lots of lemon zest for a brightness that’s the perfect partner for blueberries. Soaking the flours overnight in kefir ferments them slightly and renders them easy to digest. Simply combine:

  • 1/2 c buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 c cornmeal
  • 2/3 c almond meal

Add 2 c kefir, mix thoroughly and cover with a clean dish towel. Leave on the counter overnight; in the morning, stir in:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • Zest + 1 T juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 c melted ghee
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t each baking soda and baking powder

In a separate bowl, beat 3 egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold them in to the mixed batter. Melt some ghee in a pan and ladle out your pancake and scatter blueberries on top. Flip once the surface begins to bubble and cook for another minute of two. Serve with yogurt, more blueberries, and of course, maple syrup.

SPROUTED ALMONDS, SPROUTED ALMOND BUTTER

(& a bonus smoothie)

Ever since I got my hands on a Vitamix I’ve been eager to use it to make almond butter. Almonds are a favorite snack of mine; they’re incredibly healthy and nutrient-dense, but I always prefer to eat soaked or sprouted nuts, as they’re easier to digest once the natural enzyme inhibitors are broken down by this traditional process. Some natural foods stores sell sprouted almonds, though they’re much more expensive than regular organic raw almonds. Fortunately, it’s very easy to do this step yourself!

Start with 3 c of raw almonds; if they’re not raw it will be impossible to sprout them. Soak the almonds in filtered water overnight; leave plenty of room, as they’ll expand significantly. In the morning, drain the almonds and lay them out on a baking tray. Twice a day, rinse the almonds until they develop tiny white tails. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this will take 2-4 days. Once the almonds have sprouted, lay them out on dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 100 degrees until they’re crisp again. (If you don’t have a dehydrator you can do this in your oven on the lowest setting - usually 150-170. The almonds will no longer be raw, however, the enzyme inhibitors have already been released during sprouting, so some benefit remains.)

It’s worth noting here that Vitamix claims you must add some liquid oil when making almond butter to ensure proper blending. Needless to say, this is an idea that doesn’t much appeal to me. Well, au contraire, Vitamix - I’ve made beautifully successful almond butter using sprouted almonds and nary a trace of added oil.

Once you have dry, sprouted almonds, whether by your own devises or store-bought, place them in the blender. Add 1/2 t salt if you like. Start with the Vitamix on speed 1, immediately move it to 10, then to high, and mash the nuts into the blade, using the tamper continuously. After two minutes or so, you should have perfectly creamy almond butter. Transfer the almond butter to a jar, then load up the Vitamix with almond-butter friendly smoothie ingredients for easier, tastier clean-up. I recommend a frozen banana, some blueberries, an apple, several kale leaves, and some yogurt for a healthy, pb&j-inspired smoothie that prevents any of the almond butter from going to waste.

SWEET BURDOCK SLAW

So pleased to still be seeing burdock root at the farmers’ market; it doesn’t look like much, but this root has lots to offer. In addition to being incredibly delicious, burdock also has many medicinal properties. It promotes circulation and is helpful in treating arthritis and rheumatism; high levels of inulin are beneficial to the liver and aid in regulating blood sugar; burdock is also a renowned blood tonic. Burdock grows rampant and wild everywhere I’ve ever lived, and is readily foraged if you’re prepared to do some digging.

Commonly dried and used in herbal infusions, burdock is also a valued ingredient for cooking. Kinpira gobo is a staple Japanese dish made of carrot and burdock sautéed with sesame seeds and oil, and was the vague inspiration for the burdock I cooked up last week to go with a pork roast Alex made. This preparation is simple; the flavor of the burdock really comes through after being lightly charred, and pairs perfectly with sweet apple and some punchy acv. Burdock can be tricky to prepare because it’s so fibrous; the key is to slice it very thin and on the bias. Peel the root and slice it into deeply angled rounds, then julienne.

Heat some ghee in a pan and add the burdock. Toss to evenly distribute the ghee, then allow to char lightly. Deglaze with a splash of apple cider vinegar, then stir in some julienned carrot. When the carrot and burdock are tender, add 1 apple, julienned. Sauté briefly, allowing the apple to soften, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately - this makes a perfect side for meat or fish; make a meal of it by topping the warm slaw with a couple of sunny eggs and some fresh greens. 

KALE, MUSHROOM & CHEDDAR FRITTATA

Another frittata - perhaps I could write something apologetic here, but this is my f+cking blog; I’ll post as many frittata recipes as I please. I’ve made this variation once a week for at least the last three, and I love how the mushrooms become a meaty and rich accompaniment to plenty of greens.

First, in a large cast iron pan, sauté with ghee:

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic

Once the onions are translucent, add 1/4 lb of sliced mushrooms. Shitakes are my favorite, but criminis cook up nicely too, and often $8 cheaper per pound. 

Cook the mushrooms until they release their liquid, then add as many greens as you can handle. Cook until the greens shrink significantly; meanwhile, whisk together:

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 2 T whole milk
  • Salt & pepper

Pour the eggs over the vegetables and stir quickly to distribute everything evenly. Grate a bit of sharp cheddar over top, and bake in a 500 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the frittata is evenly browned and firm. Upon removal from the oven: top with fresh parsley, slice into wedges, and serve. 

DIY GELATIN

Gelatin is so useful for a variety of restaurant purposes - panna cotta, foams, enriching broths, fruit or vegetable waters, gels… the list goes on. It’s also really healthy - a great source of protein and incredibly nourishing for joints, skin and aiding in digestion. True to the Vinland mission, Alex and I have honed a method for isolating and drying gelatin from local pig parts. It’s a pretty involved process, but the results have been great, plus it makes already divineee panna cotta about infinity times more special.

To make gelatin, it’s important to start with the gelatin-rich parts of an animal. Skin, trotters (feet), and tails are perfect. (Can you spy the nipple in my second photo!?) Ask your local butcher if they’re wiling to reserve these for you; they should be very affordable. To extract the gelatin, make a simple stock. Using a pressure cooker is great here - it speeds things up immensely, and maximizes what you’ll get out of the ingredients you have. Cover skin, trotters and tails with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain the water and cover again with fresh, cold water. This removed blood and scum, which helps the gelatin extracted to be as pure and clean as possible. Cover and secure the pressure cooker lid, and cook under maximum pressure for 4 hours.

Remove from heat and allow the pressure to drop in it’s own time. When it’s safe to remove the lid, do so and allow the gelatin to cool a bit before straining. Strain the gelatin through a fine chinoise and transfer to a pot. Reduce the gelatin by 30-50 percent, then allow to cool to room temperature and store under refrigeration overnight. In the morning, skim the lard off the surface. There will probably be a lot of beautifully rendered, clean lard - you should keep this, too - it will make killer pie crust or roasted potatoes. Just skim it off the surface with a clean spoon and store in the fridge. Now skim the thin layer of fatty gelatin off the top to reveal pure, jiggly gelatin below. Depending how firm it is already, you may want to reduce it some more. Now transfer the gelatin to loaf pans and re-refrigerate overnight.

Once the gelatin is fully set, turn the loaf pans, one at a time, out onto a cutting board. Slice the gelatin into sheets the way you’d slice bread. The thinner and more uniform the better - 3-5mm is about perfect. Lay the gelatin slices out on clean dehydrator sheets. DO NOT put them into a running dehydrator, even on low heat. Gelatin liquefies around 70 degrees and will melt through the mesh into a useless puddle. Instead, store the trays in an unplugged dehydrator until they’re COMPLETELY dry. Set up a fan blowing into the dehydrator if you’re feeling impatient - this phase can take several days. Once dry the gelatin will keep indefinitely in an airtight container and can be used for a million things. To use it, weigh out the amount of gelatin you need and bloom in cold water for 10-15 minutes. Wring out your hard-earned gelatin and continue as usual.

CARROT & COCONUT MILK SOUP

This supremely simple blended soup, made with the sweetest (and most beautiful!) winter carrots, is richly creamy and gently spiced. It’s also amazingly nutritious - full of healthy fats and beneficial herbs. 

Start with 3 lbs carrots - I used multi-colored ones, currently available at my farmers’ market in abundance, but any will suffice. Peel them, and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. 

Peel and slice:

  • 2 onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 inches ginger root

Melt 1 T coconut oil in a heavy pot and add the onions. When they’re lightly cooked and translucent, add ginger and garlic. Sauté for several minutes, then add the carrots, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, heat 2 quarts of stock (your choice; my default is chicken, but this soup is easily vegan if you use a vegetable based stock). As the carrots begin to soften slightly, stir in:

  • 2 T turmeric
  • 2 t coriander
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper (optional - avoid if you don’t like spice)

Pour the hot stock over everything and simmer until the carrots are truly tender. Add 2 cans coconut milk, turn off the heat, and, in batches, blend the soup until very smooth. Serve garnished with fresh parsley, pickled hot peppers, kefir, or all three.