Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins

One of the most important things in my kitchen is my collection of herbs and spices. Without them, food would be bland and uninteresting. I have never been brand-loyal--I buy everyday spices that are the most affordable, but once in a while I splash out for a blend that seems too delicious to pass up. I'm always open to trying new things, so I was pretty pleased when Spicewalla offered to send me a selection of their spices to play with. Four were savory blends, but I cracked into the two sweeter items right away. The first thing I did was to make golden milk with their Golden Milk blend (Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Black pepper, Nutmeg, Roasted Coriander) warm hemp milk, and a dash of maple syrup for sweetness. I like to make a base mixture first, combining a few heaping teaspoons of spices with non-dairy milk to make a very runny paste and keeping that in the fridge. Then when I want a bit of warm golden milk before bedtime, I mix a few spoonsful of the paste into about half a cup of hemp milk and warm it in the microwave, adding a bit of maple for sweetness. (A half cup is plenty, as I don't want to drink too much liquid before going to bed at night.) Spicewalla's blend has all the right elements for a tasty and soothing sweet-savory beverage.

The other spice I used right away was the Chai Masala blend, though not to make chai. (Did you know that since "chai" means tea, saying "chai tea" is like saying "tea tea?") I thought it would be perfect as the spice in some pumpkin muffins. And damn if I wasn't absolutely right! Spicewalla's freshly-ground small-batch blend of ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, clove, and allspice was the perfect seasoning for these ultra-moist muffins. Like pumpkin spice, but with a little bit extra. While plain muffins are nice, muffins topped with streusel are even nicer, texture-wise. I also added chopped walnuts to the batter. Chopped, toasted, pecans or almonds would work as well, or you can omit both the streusel and the nuts. Up to you. 

Did you catch the words "gluten-free" in the title of this post? Since 2019, I've been on a mostly gluten-free diet, which I have found is a big help in losing weight. Sometimes, though, I crave a sweet treat that's not a piece of chocolate (though nothing is wrong with that!), like a cookie, cupcake, or muffin. There are several good gluten-free flour blends on the market, but I am not particularly crazy about the texture of ones that are primarily rice flour; I find it to be gritty. Almond flour makes a tasty wheat flour substitute, but I find that makes things too dense. A combination of GF flour and almond flour is just perfect, and what I used in this recipe. (If you're ok with gluten, you may substitute 1 3/4 all purpose white flour for the GF and almond flours.)

I know, enough talking. Here's the recipe.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins 

For the muffins:
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, only if your flour blend doesn't already include xanthan gum)
3/4 cup finely ground almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

For the streusel:
1/4 cup Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

To make the muffins:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease one 12-well or two 6-well standard-size muffin tins.

Whisk together the eggs and pumpkin purée. Set aside.

Whisk together the gluten-free flour (with additional xanthan gum, if needed), almond flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and Spicewalla Chai Masala spices.

Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the butter until fluffy. Add in the flour mixture and combine until it looks like wet sand. Add the egg/pumpkin mixture a bit at a time, beating well after each addition. The final mixture should be light and fluffy. Stir in the walnuts, if using.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to the top. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

To make the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients until it forms crumbs. Sprinkle about a tablespoon onto each muffin, pressing it in so it sticks. 

Bake the streusel-topped muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly touched. Let rest for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. 

12 servings

Posted on Minxeats.com.
I received a collection of spices from Spicewalla, including the Chai Masala spices, but I am not being otherwise compensated for this post.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

Despite only just learning how to make homemade pasta, I'm now getting fancy with it. I have found that I prefer forming pasta by hand than rolling it out with Kitchen Aid attachments. For one thing, I can sit while I'm working rather than stand in front of the counter, and my bad back appreciates that. For another thing, I find it more suited to my creative mind. Hand-forming pasta shapes is almost like making edible beads. (For those who don't know, I have a jewelry business on the side.)

A couple of weeks ago, I tried making cavatelli for the first time, with the help of Mr Minx. It worked out so well, I decided to buy one of those little grooved paddles used to make gnocchi and tried making malloreddus, aka Sardinian gnocchi. Only malloreddus are made with semolina, and mine are not; technically I have no idea what the things I made are called. Someone on Instagram suggested "gnocchi" or "gnocchetti," but doesn't that normally bring to mind the pasta commonly made with potato?

So what did I do to cause myself so much nomenclatural consternation? I used rye flour. And all-purpose wheat flour. And some ground caraway seeds. You see, I wanted them to taste like rye bread. I was feeling all clever and decided that rye pasta needed a mustard cream sauce and pastrami.

I would have preferred to use pastrami from a real Jewish deli, but I didn't feel like making a special trip. Boar's Head, Dietz and Watson, et. al., are just not the same thing, but they were as close as I was going to get. If you can get real pastrami (or corned beef), then by all means use the good stuff! As for the mustard cream sauce, I used a combination of spicy brown mustard and dried mustard, but you can use whatever you prefer in whatever amounts most please your palate. I used about a quarter cup of liquid mustard. YMMV. I had some smoked mozzarella in the fridge that I put on top, but I'm betting Swiss would be great and fit with the theme nicely.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way the dish turned out and thought I'd share the recipe guidelines with you. Enjoy!

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

For the pasta:
1.5 cups finely milled rye flour (I used Arrowhead Mills)
1.5 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground to a powder in a spice mill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1 cup water

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Spicy brown mustard
Mustard powder
Sherry vinegar
1/4 lb pastrami, chopped
Cheese of your choice (I used cubed smoked mozzarella)
Parsley for garnish
Additional caraway seeds (optional)

To make the pasta: Place flours, ground seeds, and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add most of the water and turn on the machine. After a few turns of the hook and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, check to see if the mixture seems too dry. If that's the case, add more water. If you add too much, the dough will make an unpleasant squishy slapping sound in the mixer.  Never fear! That can be fixed by adding more rye flour until the dough seems dryer yet holds together. (It is better to err on the side of dry than of wet.) Remove the dough from the bowl to a board and give it a few kneads. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Flour a cutting board and prepare some baking sheets with parchment. Give them a generous dusting of semolina or regular flour to prevent sticking. If you have a grooved gnocchi board, give that a light dusting, too. If you don't have one, don't worry about it; you'll just be making cavatelli instead.

Remove the rested dough from the fridge. Cut off small pieces of the dough and roll them into snakes that are a bit less than half an inch wide. Cut the snake into pieces about an inch long. Take each piece and roll into a hot-dog shape by pressing it with your first two fingers and rolling it toward yourself. A video really helps:

I actually use my thumb and roll the pasta away from me, but whatever works!

Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheets and toss with the flour. Repeat until all of the dough is used up.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until the pieces float and stay there, 3-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pasta. Reserve a bit of the cooking water to thin the sauce, if necessary.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onion with the flour and stir to combine. Let to cook a few moments before adding the cream. I wanted my sauce to be obviously mustardy, so I added about 1/4 cup of the brown mustard and a good teaspoon of the dried mustard, plus a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar to add the requisite tang. You may feel the brown mustard alone does the trick, so I suggest seasoning to your taste. Add half the pastrami to the sauce.

Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce, using reserved cooking liquid if the sauce seems too thick. Serve pasta topped with more of the pastrami, a bit of cheese, and some parsley. A sprinkle of caraway too, if you're as fond of the flavor as I am.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Top Chef Portland

Did anyone watch Top Chef Portland? I think it was one of the best seasons ever. 

I didn't do a recap, and I'm not sorry. It was nice to actually enjoy watching the show rather than taking notes and trying to come up with jokes. Because the pandemic caused this season to be very straightforward, with a big focus on the food itself--no gimmicky challenges, no traveling for the finale--I think my recaps would have been pretty dry anyway. 

I love that most of the contestants were non-white. It gets a little dull watching white folks cooking the same French-inspired stuff all the time. Latin American/Mexican and Asian cuisines are my jam, so I would have been quite happy to judge all of the goodies presented by Shota, Maria, Gabe, Jamie, Byron, and Avishar. Dawn was my favorite contestant though. She must have made some fabulous food if she could survive leaving stuff off plates on multiple occasions!
Spoiler Space
I even thought Dawn could pull off a win all the way into the finale's Chef's' Table, but after listening to the judges deliberate, I realized that Gabe was the winner. Deservedly so, as his food shone all season long. But have you read about the controversy surrounding his firing from restaurant Comedor? Apparently he was in a "consensual sexual relationship" with a female staffer--in other words, fucking around on his wife--pre-Top Chef, and cut the woman's hours once he returned. Allegedly for a "decline in her performance." We can assume this means on the job, but maybe she just didn't want to sleep with him anymore? That sort of toxic male behavior should no longer be acceptable in the culinary industry. I'd love to see that big check taken out of Gabe's hands and put into Dawn's. Or Shota's. 

Is anyone watching Top Chef Amateurs? I'll be tuning in. 

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pancho's (Sponsored Post)

Who doesn't appreciate some cheesy goodness now and again? I'm not just talking a slice of cheese on a sandwich or sprinkled on a taco. I mean real, ooey gooey, sexy cheese, draped over everything from a tortilla chip to a stuffed pepper.

I'm talking queso. Specifically Pancho's cheese dip.

There are only two Pancho's restaurants (in West Memphis, AK, and Memphis, TN) but their famed cheese dip is available in 1200 locations across the country, including Giant Food Stores in Baltimore, and the Weis Market on Goucher Blvd in Towson. (Check their store locator--https://panchosdip.com/store-locator--for info.) People have called this stuff the Best Dip on the Planet; it even has a fan club. I can see why. It's not too thick, not too spicy, and it tastes fresh. As I was putting these dishes together, I was literally scooping the cheese out of the tub with my fingers and eating it.

But then, I do like me some cheese.

I crumbled some freshly fried Mexican chorizo on some Pancho's to make a super easy and delicious choriqueso dip. And I thought it made a brilliant topping for some Mexican-style stuffed bell peppers.

Papas con Chorizo-stuffed Bell Peppers with Pancho's Cheese Dip

2 fist-sized red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, seeds removed
Your favorite salsa
Pancho's Cheese Dip
Minced green onions or chives

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water seasoned with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the chorizo in a saute pan set over medium-high heat. Breaking the chorizo up with a wooden spoon, cook the sausage until it's crumbled and browned. Add the minced garlic, turn the heat to medium, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the meat and garlic from the skillet, leaving the fat. If there doesn't seem to be much fat in the pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes start to brown. Return the chorizo to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Fill each bell pepper half with a heaping amount of the chorizo and potato mixture and place them in a baking pan--ideally an 8" glass pan. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. NOTE: If it's too hot to put the oven on for this long, as it is in my house right now, you can microwave the peppers for 10 minutes on a covered plate to make them tender. Then they'll only need about 15 minutes in the oven. 

Put a puddle of salsa on each of four plates. Top with a pepper half. Generously drizzle Pancho's Cheese Dip over the peppers, and garnish with the onions or chives.

Serves 4.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!