Thursday, August 29, 2013

La Loca Tapioca

Oh man.

I learn something new everyday.  For sure.

A dear reader submitted a gluten-free recipe for cheese buns, or cheese puffs, or gluten-free Red Lobster garlic-cheese biscuit knock offs. 

2 cups tapioca flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
4 eggs
4 cups shredded cheese (I used a simple straight-up sharp cheddar)

I also added 2 teaspoons of garlic salt to the other dry ingredients.  I added and incorporated the eggs, then the cheese.  Then I "rolled" in into 15 balls, which I baked at 350 for about 18 minutes.

Before today's adventure, what I knew about tapioca was limited to a pudding that not many people like.  What I gathered from my dear reader, however, was that tapioca flour had nothing to do with pudding (unless you use it to thicken tapioca pudding...whoa), and everything to do with being gluten-free.

Upon further research, tapioca flour also happens to be a very efficient thickener.  Depending on the website, tapioca flour is actually better than cornstarch! 

Anyway, back to the story.  I mixed all the ingredients as I was instructed, and I was struck by how slack my batter/dough was.  So...without even researching the properties of this new flour I was using, I dumped in another cup of flour and added another egg.  Because, you know, that's what I would do were I using wheat flour.

Something weird then happened.  The dough got all...ooblicky on me. know?  That stuff you make when you mix a lot of cornstarch with a little water?  You could squeeze it through your fingers, even though its texture was still somewhat liquidy?  That's what I had.  Definitely NOT something I could then "roll into balls".

Yep.  I started over.  I figured that there was some strange property behind the tapioca that caused a thickening, gelatinizing or whatever.  And well, for a reason I don't know, the next dough "took".  Once I added the cheese, the feel reminded me greatly of play-doh.  In fact, that's very much what it felt like once I began to scale the rolls off. 

These gluten-free gems baked off rather nicely, although next time, I think I'll scale back on the baking soda because I want the rise more than I want the spread (personal preference here).  Also, more garlic salt for taste. 

I suppose, due to the elastic nature of the tapioca, there's no way to change the chewiness of the rolls.  While not unpleasant, the texture was certainly different, and anyone looking for melt-in-your-mouth or flaky or crumbly may have to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Return to Reading...That Is Not Assigned By A College Professor

So, a new term began this week, and now that the accursed (but highly enjoyable) wine class is finito, I seem to have some extra time on my hands.

For how long that extra time will be available, I really cannot say.  Perhaps once the trimester is in full swing, I may have none.  But for now, I've renewed my vow to read more (and stuff that is not textbook).  I started this morning with a quick perusal of Marion Nestle's Food Politics website (the FDA is taking action! Egads!), moved on to a quick Kindle sample download of Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America's Favorite Food, and ended this evening in a family read-aloud of Chapter 3 of this book:


Yeah.  I know.  One of my most favoritely provocative a young readers' edition.  Even Elliot (the 9-year-old) has no problem with the words when he read his bit.  I will say, while there has not been an AHA moment yet for my kids, they've achieved these objectives (spoken like a true former teacher):

*they've learned what a GMO is, and how they've taken purchasing and growing power away from farmers.

*why people left their farms, and thus, why American farmland has dwindled.

*in what way Americans are a "walking corn chip".

More Face.  More Book.  Less Facebook.  That's my motto for the week.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

When Friends Give You Tomatoes and Cucumbers...

You get your arse in the kitchen and do something with them!

This weekend caps a week-long break from classes, and I have mostly spent it working at the Winery.  And if I wasn't working there, then I was testing recipes...and well, maybe someday when I don't need a break from such kitchen activities, I'll post about it here.

Until then...

Late August in the Midwest means the first (maybe even second) fruit of the garden harvest.  And my experience has been that the best, most prolific gardeners are retired men...who have the time to water and care for a garden...and who like to give stuff away! 

Lucky me has been on the receiving end of a couple of boxes of tomatoes and cucumbers recently, and when it rains, it pours.  We've received more than we can possibly eat before it all spoils, but that doesn't mean we won't die trying.  Today, in particular, with the exception of a Harry Potter movie break and a bike ride to the grocery store, I spent the hours between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. in my kitchen with my knife kit.  I'll let the pictures tell the story here.

This picture illustrates a "Cucumber Cup".  The scrapings of a container of sour cream, half a block of cream cheese, half a container of Gorgonzola cheese, some dried chives (fresh would be immensely better), garlic salt, onion powder go into a processor and then piped into 3/4" thick slices of cucumber that have been scooped with a small melon-baller.  The final result was fun and delicious, but too salty and onion-y...thus, next time, only garlic powder and no onion powder at all (because of the chives).  I can see this one totally going over at a family function at the in-laws.

The golden summer standard - fresh salsa.  Seems like every year, I make it different, but cilantro, lime juice, tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers are the key players.  Some years I puree it, others (like this year) I don't.  Gimme a bag of Tostitos' Hint Of Lime tortilla chips and I'm good for, like, three days.  If my kids don't finish it first.

This is a test run of the burger I'm doing at the winery this coming Friday night - a Stuffed Caprese Burger.  Two hamburger patties in which a slice of tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese, and a basil leaf are tucked (the lemon basil came to me by way of one of the boxes of tomatoes).  A word of caution, be incredibly sure the two small patties are well-pinched and crimped together...otherwise, there's oozing on the grill.  But still...

 Yeah, pretty as a picture!  Melty cheesy goodness.  For next time, I might try adding an extra tomato slice.

And this was our dinner tonight.  The salsa pile in the background, the Caprese burger on the right, and a cucumber salad in the foreground (two cukes, fresh lime juice, cilantro, sugar, Tabasco - the cuke strips did not work well, so I'd go with chunks next time...also, I'd cut back on the sugar a smidgen).

Our own garden was quite pathetic this year (due to a lack of care, mind), so I'm terribly, terrifically grateful to have friends in high places!