Strawberry Buckwheat Thumbprint Cookies {gluten-free, vegan}

Buckwheat, despite containing the word “wheat”, is actually gluten-free.  It is native to Asia and the key ingredient in soba noodles and sundry other prepartions like French galletes, and Russian blinis. This psuedo-grain is often referred to Kasha here in the states. It imparts a subtle woodsy flavor to baked goods that I absolutely love.  Another feature to note is that buckwheat is related to rhubarb…which got me thinking, if rhubarb and strawberries are such a dynamic duo, wouldn’t buckwheat and strawberries make a great pair, too?

The verdict?  The little ruby colored gems did not disappoint.

STRAWBERRY-BUCKWHEAT THUMBPRINT COOKIES
The buckwheat shortbread would make lovely cookies on their own. The addition of strawberry jam just makes them extra special. Do use good jam; in an effort to finish up random ingredients in our fridge, I went with a weird low-sugar jelly for half the cookies and then some Knott’s Berry Farm jam on the other half. The cookies with Knott’s jam were far tastier!

This recipe makes about 1 dozen cookies using a round tablespoon measure for the dough. I used a round 1/2 teaspoon to make the even sized craters for the filling or you can use your thumb, hence “thumbprints”. Also, my filling shrank some while cooking. So, I simply heated a little more fruit spread in the microwave for 30 seconds and re-filled the craters before the cookies cooled completely. This worked well and the filling set perfectly.

Dry Ingredients:

1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour*
2 tablespoons white or brown rice flour, or more sorghum flour
2 tablespoons potato starch (not potato flour!)
1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:

7 tablespoons Spectrum organic shortening (or 4 tablespoons coconut oil)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a bowl whisk together the dry ingredients
  2. Using a stand mixer beat the wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until a dough just comes together.
  4. Measure out tablespoons of dough and gently roll into balls. Arrange 1 1/2″ apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using your thumb or a round 1/2 teaspoon create indentions in the center or each dough ball. Fill each indention with jam. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake 15 – 20 minutes until edges of cookies just begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, refilling any craters with additional jam if necessary.

* If you’re not gluten free, simply replace all the gluten free flours except the buckwheat with about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.

Beef Kebabs with Muhammara

Cumin Kebobs with Muhammara

This meal is a real family favorite.  The combination of flavors are slightly exotic and complex. I love to make this for company because I can prep everything ahead of time and just grill the kebabs right before serving.  Guests always rave about it.  Muhammara is a Middle Eastern spread typically consisting of roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, bread crumbs and olive oil. It makes the meal!  Don’t skip it!

ROASTED RED PEPPER AND WALNUT SPREAD
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009

This spread is great with almost anything. Serve it up as an appetizer with fresh veggies or dollop some on your next omelette or sandwich.

2 (7-8 oz) jars roasted red peppers, sliced, drained
1-2 slices sandwich bread, enough to make 1 cup of breadcrumbs (substitute GF bread, if necessary)
1 C. chopped, toasted walnuts (350 degrees, 7 mins.)
1 T. red wine vinegar
1-2 T. tomato paste, to taste
1 T. pomegranate molasses (or honey)
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil

  • Place roasted peppers, roughly torn slices of bread, and toasted walnuts in food processor or blender.  Process for a few seconds, turn off, and scrape down sides.  Process for a few seconds more.  The ingredients should resemble a thickish spread.
  • Add seasonings through pinch of cayenne. Process until incorporated.
  • With processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process a few seconds more.
  • With the machine off and using a spoon (never stick your fingers in a food processor unless its unplugged!), taste the spread.  What, if anything, does your muhammara need?  A touch more cumin, a dash more of red wine vinegar, a tiny bit more salt?  Use moderation in your additions.

CUMIN-SCENTED BEEF KEBABS
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2009

I like to use sirloin steaks for beef kebabs, as this cut always stays nice and moist. These are a little pricier, but well worth it. You can also skewer up some veggies (I love to use whole cherry tomatoes and zucchini slices) to make the meat go further. Note that my beef cubes aren’t bunched up too close together. For even cooking leave a little space between each piece of meat.

2 lb. beef sirloin steak (lamb would also be wonderful)
1/4 C. olive oil
1 T. dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne

  • Cut your steak into approximately 1″ cubes, avoiding any big chunks of fat (some fat/marbling is good and keeps the meat tender). Toss in a container for marinating.
  • Add remaining ingredients to container and stir around to coat the meat, cover and refrigerate 30 mins – 2 hours (up to 8 hours).
  • Oil grill rack and then prep grill for medium-high to high heat.
  • Thread meat on skewers, leaving space between each piece.
  • Grill a couple of minutes on each side, until meat is nicely browned but still a little pink inside.
  • Serve immediately with red pepper spread on the side.

Note: Beef kebabs always cook in a flash for me. I would hang out by the grill while these are cooking.  You can also broil these in the oven on a sheet pan; adjust your oven rack to about 3 inches from your broiler.

Stone Fruit Tea Cake with Peaches and Blueberries {gluten-free}

I’m a sucker for anything rustic and old-fashioned, especially when it comes to food. Give me something simple, made well with knowing hands.  Preferably served up family-style on a  big platter.  This is how I cook and this is how I prefer to eat.

DSC01607At first glance this cake might look like a type of pie or cobbler, and in some ways it is. You line the tart dish like a pie and dollop the fruit with dough like a cobbler. What is different, however, is that the two dough layers come together while baking to make a marvelous cake with a delightfully crunchy top.

STONE FRUIT TEA CAKE
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

This dough threw me off at first. It is quite wet once together, but don’t panic, throwing it in the freezer firmed it up.  I used a combo of peaches and blueberries, because they go so well together.  Any stone fruit or berry would work.  Be careful that your fruit isn’t overly ripe.

Here goes…

2  1/4 cups of flour (for GF – 1  1/4 c. brown rice flour, 1/2 c. potato starch, 1/2 c. tapioca starch and 1 tsp. xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped stone fruit or berries (fresh or frozen)
turbinado or cane sugar for sprinkling

  • In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients except the sugar, through the sea salt.  Set aside.
  • Cream your choice of fats along with the granulated sugar for a few minutes or until pale and fluffy.  I used my stand mixer.
  • Add each egg to the sugar mix, one at a time, allowing it to fully  incorporate before adding the next.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl with each addition.  Add the vanilla.
  • Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mix.  It will quickly form a smooth dough, almost like cake batter.  Scrape the dough onto plastic wrap, wrap tightly and flatten into a disk.  Place in the freezer to firm up 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your over to 375
  • Oil a 10″ round tart pan.
  • Remove your dough from the freezer after 30 minutes and break in two halves.  Using your hands press half of the dough into the tart pan and up the sides.  Place your fruit on top.  Pull small chunks of dough (the size of a plum) from the remaining half of dough and place on top of the fruit, distributing somewhat evenly. There will be gaps! That’s okay because the chunks will cook and spread to meet. Sprinkle the dough chunks lightly with cane sugar.
  • Bake 30 to 40 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the cake is somewhat firm to the touch or until a cake tester comes out clean. At this point I placed my cake under the broiler for a minute or so to brown it a little more, but keep a close eye on anything under the broiler. Let it cool a bit before serving (I’m terrible at that last bit.  I always dig right in).

* This reheated well and the top crisped back up the next day by placing it in the oven for 10 minutes or so.