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Category Archives: Condiments and sauces

Basilicious! Fresh Pesto and Sundried-Tomato, Olive Tapenade… Now and Later!

Basil from my garden in early September

Basil from my garden in early September!

Pesto cubes.

Pesto cubes.

One of my favorite herbs to grow each year is BASIL! I just love it… the scent and flavor is so distinctive and comforting. When I have a good crop ready in early September, I look forward to making a nice big batch of pesto! The wonderful thing about pesto, is that it stores fresh in the fridge for a decent amount of time (perhaps a week or two with a film of olive oil over the top), but that it’s also very convenient to make extra and freeze it for the off-season. I use spare ice cube trays, as I think that it’s very easy to store this way, and grabbing a cube or two is a perfect serving size to add to marinara or even to cream cheese to make a spread. I use it to make a simple dressing or marinade for pork or chicken by adding balsamic vinegar.

If you search, you will find many recipes for pesto, with the ingredients remaining more or less constant, and the proportions of each changing slightly for different tastes and preferences. This is how I make mine, but by all means, feel free to adjust to your liking! I changed it up just a little this year… I usually use only pine nuts, but this time I also added some walnuts to make up for not having as many pine nuts as I would have liked. Different olive oils will result in stronger or milder flavors, and it will depend, as well, on the strength of your garlic! While I used Parmesan cheese, you could also use some asiago, romano or a hard Swiss for variety.

Tapenade with cream cheese on Rosemary Focaccia bread.

Tapenade with cream cheese on Rosemary Focaccia bread.

 

This year I also made a tapenade with one batch of the pesto. I had some lovely sun-dried tomatoes to add, and then my creativity kicked in and I added a few more ingredients that resulted in a delicious concoction! If you don’t make your pesto from scratch, you can still buy pesto at the store and then “enhance” it with the remaining ingredients to have something really special. We enjoyed it with some cream cheese and Rosemary Focaccia bread by Dr. Davis, author of Wheat Belly. It was an amazing treat!

Just starting my next batch of pesto! You can see the previous batch as well as a bowl of grated Parmesan.

Just starting my next batch of pesto! You can see the previous batch (upper left) as well as a bowl of grated Parmesan.

Basil Pesto

  • 4C fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic (or to taste)
  • !/4C pine nuts
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1C good olive oil
  • 2/3C finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Either finely dice the garlic by hand, or pulse in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Add basil a bit at a time, and process until finely chopped.
  3. Add nuts and process.
  4. Add oil a little at a time, allowing the basil mixture to incorporate the oil before adding more.
  5. Add grates cheese and process to combine.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pesto in an ice cube tray for freezing.

Pesto in an ice cube tray for freezing.

 

When storing pesto in the refrigerator, I prefer a glass jar, and will pour a thin film of olive oil over the surface of the pesto to prevent air from getting in and oxidizing it, causing it darken in color. It can also be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in ziploc bags to use in the off-season.

 

Sun-dried Tomato, Olive Tapenade with Capers

  • Tapenade

    Tapenade

    1 batch of Basil Pesto (above recipe)

  • 1 can black olives, drained and chopped medium-fine
  • 1/4C diced green olives
  • 1/2 C sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 4 Tb capers
  • olive oil as needed to make a spread
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine first four ingredients.
  2. Add olive oil by the tablespoon to get the tapenade to a spreading consistency.
  3. Season as desired.

Serve as is, or combine with cream cheese to make a savory cheese spread. Tapenade can also be stored the same way as pesto, both in the refrigerator and the freezer. 

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My Favorite Guacamole!

My Favorite Guacamole

My Favorite Guacamole! Avocados are an abundant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, potassium, and folate, along with vitamins A, C, E, K and B6. The many different anti-oxidants found in avocados help prevent inflammation.

Guacamole burgers with Muenster cheese and Low-carb buns

Baby Guacamole burgers with Muenster cheese and Low-carb buns

This is a guacamole recipe that I tweaked years ago, and I am often asked for the recipe when I take it to parties to share with friends. It’s naturally grain-free, gluten-free, Wheat Belly and primal friendly.

Tonight I’ve made a 1/2 batch to serve on grilled burgers with melted muenster cheese and grain-free, low-carb buns. Mmmmmm! It’s also great as a dip for veggies, low-carb cheese crackers and even pork rinds 😉 Low-Carb and lovin’ it!

The Low-carb bun recipe isn’t mine; it was posted by a fellow WB cook on the Wheat Belly Recipe Central page if you’d like to have a look! Check the “posts by others.”

My Favorite Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 medium vidalia or white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 vine-ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 canned roasted chipotle pepper, seeded and diced (or use fresh hot pepper to taste)
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Halve and pit the avocados; scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving them still a bit chunky. Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together to gently mix.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn’t brown and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

 

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Cauliflower “Rice” Sushi {Low Carb, Primal, Grain-free, Gluten-free}

Cauliflower Sushi rolls with seared yellowfin, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese and sriracha

Cauliflower “Rice” Sushi rolls with seared yellowfin, avocado, cucumber, green onion, cream cheese and sriracha. Served with sriracha mayo, tamari and wasabi. This is our first attempt using cauliflower rice, and it was rather unplanned, the colors aren’t as vibrant as I usually prefer (so I added some black sesame to jazz it up), but the taste was wonderful!

Have I mentioned lately that I love seafood? Like almost ALL of it? I enjoy most fish and shellfish, and have consumed it grilled, sauteed, baked, broiled, steamed, poached, raw… you get the idea. In fact, one of my biggest culinary revelations was when my husband and I first tried sushi about 10 years ago in Ann Arbor. It was a sushi restaurant, but what we ordered turned out to be a LARGE sashimi platter just loaded with every type of raw sea delicacy I could imagine, and some I hadn’t!

Traditional sushi that we made at home using rice and a large variety of ingredients.

Traditional style homemade sushi that we created using rice and a large variety of ingredients.

If you aren’t familiar with sushi, the sushi rolls are a combination of rice, usually in a seaweed wrap, with seafood, vegetables and sauces. They are beautiful and (I think), quite delicious. (A basic California roll is an example of a sushi roll that doesn’t contain fish.) Sashimi are the artfully cut pieces of raw fish, sometimes laid over shaped portions of rice, or laid on shredded vegetables in a serving dish made of ice. Served with soy sauce and wasabi, it is an explosion of taste and texture that is visually stunning. At first it was intimidating, but it didn’t take long sampling the raw tuna, yellowfin, salmon, scallops, squid, and bbq eel before I knew that I had been missing out on an entire realm of flavors.

Well, now that I am no longer eating grains, I will admit to you that sushi rolls are the one exception that I have occasionally been making the past few months. White rice is still a carby food, but I do not have any adverse reactions from consuming it, so once in awhile I will. However, I began to get curious about whether the “cauliflower rice” technique that so many people use as a substitute for grains, would work for sushi! As it turns out, I am not the only one to wonder this, and I found a few examples on the net of people trying this technique. Now, I have been making rolls at home for several years now, so the process itself is not new to me (though I do not claim to have the talent or artistry of true sushi chefs!) If you have never made it before, it might be more challenging. The sticky rice in traditional rolls definitely helps to hold the shape better and glue the roll together, but with a little patience, I was able to come up with rolls that looked pretty good, and tasted great! If you would like a simple step by step for making rolls, take a look at this; I thought it was pretty straight-forward. The only real difference was that I chose to use sriracha mayonnaise (just mayo with a tsp or so of sriracha hot sauce mixed in) to help to glue the cauliflower to the nori (sheet of toasted seaweed.)

Cauliflower florets in the food processor.

Cauliflower florets in the food processor.

Cauliflower "rice" after processing for a few minutes.

Cauliflower “rice” after processing for a few minutes.

 

Cooling cauliflower "rice" on a plate after gently sauteing for a few minutes in coconut oil and adding rice vinegar

Cooling cauliflower “rice” on a plate after gently sauteing for a few minutes in coconut oil and adding rice vinegar

 

Yellowfin tuna briefly seared after being dipped in egg and sesame seeds

Yellowfin tuna briefly seared after being dipped in egg and sesame seeds. (Use caution when eating raw or under-cooked seafood. I have never had a problem consuming it rare or raw, but everyone is different.) We have also used salmon, scallops, shrimp, roast beef and anything else we have on hand! Not a bad way to make use of leftovers.

 

Plate of sliced veggies to fill the rolls

Plate of sliced veggies to fill the rolls; cucumber, avocado, green onions and cream cheese. You can use just about any ingredients that you enjoy! Our selection is usually more colorful than this, but I didn’t use carrots due to carbs and didn’t have sashimi salmon or roe on hand to brighten things up.

 

Sheet of nori (seaweed) laid out on a rolling mat.

Sheet of nori (seaweed) laid out on a rolling mat. Sometimes it is helpful to place a sheet of plastic wrap between the nori and the mat to prevent sticking when using rice, but it didn’t seem necessary with the cauliflower rice.

 

Cauliflower rice spread out on the nori with sriracha mayonnaise holding it in place.

Cauliflower rice spread out on the nori with sriracha mayonnaise holding it in place.

Sushi fillings laid out and ready to roll.

Sushi fillings laid out and ready to roll.

Cauliflower sushi with tamari, wasabi and sriracha mayonnaise.

Cauliflower sushi with tamari, wasabi and sriracha mayonnaise.

 

 

 

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Making Gomasio {Sesame Salt}

Gomasio

One of the beautiful things about the world of blogging is that we are in an atmosphere of sharing and learning. While some of my foodie counterparts are grain free, low carb and some are not, there is much to be learned all the way around when paying attention to other writers. Recently, I saw a post by the talented Julie Minten on her blog, Grano Salis, talking about home made gomasio. Hmmmm… I had no idea what gomasio was before that, not to mention that one could make it at home!

So that post of hers sparked an interest and I began investigating more about gomasio and why I might want to attempt to make a batch! It turns out that it is sesame salt, a condiment that is wonderfully flavorful while providing the health benefits of sesame seeds. It is an essential seasoning in macrobiotic diets, and allows one to use less salt while adding flavor.

I have a collection of mortars and pestles, but this is the largest and heaviest, which is perfect for this task.

According to an article by Harold Kulungian, gomasio has medicinal powers that include soothing digestion, adding energy, help in healing inflammatory disorders, and possibly even help with cancer and diabetes. He goes on to talk about how gomasio de-acidifies the blood which leads to more balanced health. His article also provides a recipe if you are interested in checking it out. One of the biggest keys is making sure to grind it by hand, not using a blender. He uses a suribachi (Japanese wooden, grooved mortar and pestle.) Gomasio is also featured in blogs that promote health and beauty, such as at Beauty is Wellness, where Jolene Hart talks about the health and beauty benefits of gomasio made with added seaweed.

After digging around, I was convinced that it would be worth the effort to make my own, and I also decided that I wanted to include some seaweed flakes in half of the batch. I have a nice amount of both white and black sesame seeds on hand as I picked some up recently at our bulk food store. I have sea salt as well as some earth salt that I wanted to include. While it did take awhile to crush by hand in the mortar and pestle, it is delicious and I know I will be keeping a supply on hand from now on! This is my own version, and it varies in salt content from some other recipes I found, but the salt I used seemed milder than usual, so I adjusted. (Scroll down past the images to see the entire recipe.)

Roasting the salts, getting all the moisture out in preparation for grinding with the mortar and pestle.

Toasting the sesame seeds to crisp them slightly and activate the oils. Do not over cook or burn, just get them to the point of crunching when squeezed.

Beginning to grind the sesame seeds and salt in my heavy mortar and pestle.

Grinding the seeds takes time. Be patient.

Grinding the seeds takes time. Be patient.

Finely chopping the seaweed sheets to add to a portion of the gomasio.

Gomasio {Sesame Salt}

  • 1 Tb sea salt (fine)
  • 1 Tb earth salt
  • 6 Tb white sesame seeds
  • 6 Tb black sesame seeds
  • 4 sheets (2″x3″) toasted seaweed (optional)
  1. Begin by roasting the salt over medium heat in a heavy skillet to remove moisture.
  2. Transfer to mortar and grind to a fine texture.
  3. Next, lower heat to medium/low and roast the sesame seeds, stirring frequently until they are lightly toasted and crunchy, but not dark.
  4. Carefully transfer to mortar with the salt and begin to grind in a gentle crushing motion to release the oils. Have patience, as grinding the seeds by hand will take some time. You may even want to consider this a sort of peaceful quiet or meditation time, just enjoying the process. It took me perhaps 20 minutes to get the consistency I desired, though you may prefer it finer.
  5. If you are not adding seaweed, you are done now, and can store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I found conflicting opinions on whether the seasoning should be refrigerated or not; some said it spoiled in the fridge, others said the opposite. As I can tell already, I will be using this quickly enough that I am just storing it in the pantry with my other seasonings.
  6. If using seaweed sheets, you may want to toast them further in your same skillet, just be sure that they are dry and easy to chop.
  7. When toasted, transfer to a cutting board, and using a large, heavy knife, finely dice the sheets into small flakes and add to the gomasio. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Here, I have used gomasio on freshly sliced garden cucmbers. Delicious!

 

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Almond Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes (Gluten Free) with Berry Sauce

Almond Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes served with Berry Sauce

Since we have gone gluten free, I have been keeping my eyes open for a good buckwheat pancake recipe that my family would enjoy, as buckwheat pancakes were always our favorite! I also wanted the recipe to be lower carb so that we could eat it without guilt. I have seen lots of recipes that looked yummy, and decided to combine and tweak to come up with one that would satisfy our dietary choices. This one combines buckwheat flour with almond flour (lower carb, not no carb), and I have to say, the boys RAVED about it! It was so gratifying to hear my teenager telling me that these were the “best pancakes ever!” (I plan to make another batch soon for the freezer so that he can pop them in the toaster in the morning.) I can’t guarantee you will feel the same way, but I do hope you enjoy!

Almond Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1/2 C almond flour
  • 1/2 C buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp Truvia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C plus 2 Tb  buttermilk
  • butter or oil to grease griddle

Heat griddle to 325 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixed completely. Add wet ingredients and blend. When griddle is hot, grease with butter and spoon batter into smallish pancakes. (I was able to make 8.) Cook several minutes until the first side appears to be done and is starting to brown at the edges. (My pancakes did not get the traditional bubbles before flipping.) Flip and cook another minute or so. Serve with butter and berry sauce.

Berry Sauce

  • 1/3 C reduced sugar raspberry preserves
  • 1/4 C fresh or frozen blueberries

Heat ingredients together until the blueberries begin to soften. Serve over pancakes.

 

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Spicy Crab Cakes (Low carb, Gluten free)

When avoiding wheat flours that contain gluten, there are many other types of flours that one can use in its place, such as rice, sorghum, or tapioca flours which are still high in carbs. Since we are also on a low carb diet to promote weight loss, we choose to use the alternatives of almond or coconut flours.

This is a crab cake recipe that I came up with for our Friday night treat, and I chose to use coconut flour because I felt that the slightly sweet taste would work well with the sweetness of the crab meat and the heat of the chipotle pepper, while acting as a glue to hold the delicate patties in shape. Crab cakes often have fillers such as potato, which increases the carbs and can also disguise the flavor of the crab… I skipped this, since we like our crab cakes to be ALL about the crab.The Parmesan cheese takes the place of breadcrumbs as a coating, and browns up nicely in the oven. This is similar to the method used in Parmesan Perch.

Crab cakes should be refrigerated for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to baking, to help them hold their shape.

Spicy Gluten Free Crab Cakes

  • 1/4C celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium leek, washed well and finely diced
  • coconut oil for sauteing
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2T mayonnaise
  • 2T heavy cream
  • 6 oz crab meat (I used refrigerated in a packet)
  • 1/2 chipotle pepper, canned, finely diced (seeded if you prefer milder)
  • 2tsp capers, diced
  • 2Tb fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tb coconut flour
  • kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 C Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Saute the celery and leek in coconut oil until tender, 2-3 minutes, and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together egg, mayonnaise and cream. Gently fold in the crab meat. Add the leeks, celery, chipotle pepper, capers and parsley, mixing gently. Add coconut flour, 1 Tb at a time, mixing well. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture will be soft, but should be manageable. If it is too delicate, add a small amount of additional coconut flour. Divide mixture into about 6 medium patties, dredging each one in the grated Parmesan cheese before setting on a plate. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to chill cakes and make them a little easier to handle. When they are chilled, bake at 450 degrees on a silicone baking mat or parchment-lined sheet for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately with tartar or roumelade sauce.

Sauce: The sauce I used was a base of 1/2C mayo and 2Tb cream seasoned with a finely diced gerkin pickle, dash of hot sauce, 1/2 diced chipotle and 1tsp dijon mustard with a squeeze of lemon.

 

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Roasted Garlic Dip (If you haven’t roasted garlic before, you MUST!)

I’m not usually one to insist that someone do something or try something… but I CAN get a bit enthusiastic about things that are really, really wonderful! Roasted garlic fits the bill perfectly. The process of roasting changes the flavors, brings out the sweetness while subduing the hotness, and yields simple and complex flavor (and smell) that makes my mouth water!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is insanely simple to do… just cut off the top of a garlic bulb, drizzle in cococut oil (or any healthy oil you prefer), sprinkle with a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Easy peasy… and elegant… gourmet… delicious… indulgent… you get the idea! After roasting and cooling, the garlic is very soft, and needs to be pressed from the skins of the individual cloves. It can be great just like this, spread on low carb cheese crackers, veggies, on pizza crust, mixed into tomato herb pasta sauce, smeared on ribs or chicken for grilling, mixed into cream cheese for a simple roasted garlic dip, or any other number of wonderful uses.

 

Here, I used it to make a warm cheesy dip that we devoured on raw celery and carrots, as well as a few gluten free crackers. I hope you enjoy the recipe, but even more, I enthusiastically recommend that you roast some garlic soon! This is also a great base for adding spinach and artichokes or sun-dried tomatoes and herbs.

 

 

 

Warm, Cheesy, Roasted Garlic Dip

  • 16 oz cream cheese at room temp
  • 1C mixed Italian cheeses, shredded (or mozzarella, etc)
  • 1T blue cheese (because I had a little left I wanted to use up)
  • 1/3C heavy cream
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1Tb hot sauce
  • 2 bulbs roasted garlic flesh
  • 1/4-1/2 C more Italian cheese to top

Using a food processor, zip the fresh garlic, then add cream cheese, blue cheese, 1C of Italian cheese and heavy cream, and process until smooth. Add hot sauce and roasted garlic, process. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper if desired. Spoon into baking dish and cover with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browned. (Leave a little extra room in the dish, as you can see, mine bubbled over! Glad I had a baking sheet under it!) Serve with fresh raw veggies or low carb cheese crackers.

Using a baking sheet under the dish was a “great” idea 😉

 

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