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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Keto Asparagus Ricotta Tart

 



It’s so funny. I told el esposo I wanted to blog this tart for Mother’s Day because it might be a nice brunchy item for people to share with their moms and he said, “But you hate your mother - she was terrible to you!” It never occurred to me that my mother had anything to do with it. Most people love their mothers, as it should be, and it makes me happy to know others do. What happened to me with mine has in no way affected my sentiments about others celebrating the day. Is that crazy of me? Probably. Well, crazy or not... here we go. This tart is not only keto, but it offers all the best that spring brings to the table. A great sort of ad-lib I created with ingredients I had in the pantry and fridge for our Thursday Night Vegetarian Meal. I made up the recipe as I went along, but it came out well:



 

 Keto Asparagus Ricotta Tart


You can, of course, substitute shallots or onions for the leeks and leave out the fennel. You can also use puff pastry or a pre-made crust, if you are not on the ketogenic diet. You can use fresh cherry tomatoes, instead of sun-dried tomatoes... 


Ingredients:

  • 1 fathead pizza crust - rolled into a 13 x 9 inch rectangle (Click here for recipe)
  • 1 lb of ricotta
  • 1 large egg
  • a half handful of mixed herbs: basil (I used Thai basil, but regular basil is fine), thyme and oregano leaves, finely chopped (or use pesto) 
  • a grating of nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • white pepper (pinch)
  • 1/4 cup drained and rough chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • sliced shallots and fennel bulb, sauteed until caramelized (1 shallot and 1 fennel bulb)
  • 1/2 bunch large asparagus spears (about 10-12)
  • 1-2 tbsp oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 small lemon (optional)
  • shaved parmesan, to taste (about 1/3 cup)
  • chives (optional) 

Instructions:

1) Saute shallots and fennel bulb over medium heat until golden, deglaze pan with a splash of chardonnay, when all pan fond is scraped and incorporated and wine is reduced, add herbs. Remove from pan and set aside.

2) Make and roll out the fathead pizza dough. Press into small parchment-lined rectangular baking pan or place free-form on a parchment-lined baking sheet or pizza stone, dock the dough with fork tines allover, and blind-bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees in a pre-heated oven.

3) In the same pan you used to cook the shallot and fennel, add trimmed asparagus spears (10-12 large), add 2 tablespoons of sundried tomato oil & a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, mix well, then add to the oven on the rack below baking tart dough for 5 minutes.

4) Mix the ricotta with half the shaved parmesan. Crack in the egg, add nutmeg, white pepper and mix well. Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed shallots and fennel bulb and mix well.

5) Remove tart dough and asparagus from oven. Add the ricotta mixture to the pre-baked tart dough. Arrange the asparagus spears nicely on top. Season the asparagus with the remainder of parmesan and pepper.

6) Bake the tart for about 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden. If the asparagus looks dry, brush with additional oil. Sprinkle with lemon zest and chives on top. Enjoy!






Happy Mother's Day! 





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ketolicious Millionaire's Shortbread

 



As those three of you who read this blog can see, I've been on a mission lately to combine el esposo's favorite two dessert flavors: chocolate and peanut butter in a variety of ways. Otherwise he just sits with a spoon and mindlessly eats out of the 40 oz. sugar-free peanut butter jar & then dumps 1/2 cup of sugar-free chocolate chips in a dish and eats those. Combining them into a dessert makes him more aware that he is in fact eating dessert and therefore he eats less. Portion-control is key to weight-loss and maintenance. So... since he is also a fan of those dreadful Atkins peanut butter bars, I decided to conjure up a much more fulfilling version and Millionaire shortbread came to mind. 

A relatively modern twist on the more traditional Scottish shortbread, Millionaire’s Shortbread follows the Scottish tradition of making a traybake (a dessert baked in a tray to be sliced and shared after cooking). Using the traditional buttery shortbread as a base, Millionaire’s Shortbread adds lush layers of caramel and chocolate atop the shortbread—a decadent treat. 

I combined about four different recipe ideas and condensed them into one! There are many ways to go about making the dish, all of them great, but since el esposo hates caramel and loves peanut butter I subbed in peanut butter with Lakanto keto "maple" syrup , a little cream cheese, and coconut oil in place of the usual sugar-free caramel sauce. It worked beautifully. Almond butter or even tahini sauce would also work, if you're allergic to peanuts. 

So, this is a simple dish but a little laborious. First you will bake the crust, let it cool, then stick it in the freezer to further firm up for 10 minutes before adding the peanut butter caramel layer, after adding that layer, you will firm it up in the freezer for 10-15 minutes again, then you will add the chocolate ganache over that and freeze it all for 10 minutes. When the chocolate is set? It's ready to eat, but cutting it requires care. Use a large knife that you have wet with hot water, wipe the knife, and cut the bar in half, wet, wipe repeat... until you get 16 pieces. try not to saw the pieces, try to use the entire blade of the knife (a 10 or 12 inch chef's knife worked for me) and press downward evenly from the tip to the hilt in one sure steady downward stroke using your bodyweight. This will prevent the chocolate and the shortbread from cracking and crumbling:






 There are no-bake versions of the crust, but those would be a mealy mess. Baking the shortbread gives an aroma and texture that is worth the trouble. Take the time to do it right. You're combining all the same ingredients and pressing them into a parchment lined dish anyway, so just go ahead and take the little extra time to bake and cool the shortbread, rather than just freezing it for ten minutes to firm up. These bars will store in the fridge for two weeks or the freezer for three months. I do not recommend storing them at room temperature for any length of time. The chocolate ganache will melt. 





Ketolicious Millionaire's Shortbread 




Note: Do be sure to soften the butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, melt the coconut oil (microwave everything individually for 20-30 seconds, if you're in a hurry) and have everything else at room temperature before combining the ingredients. I used a mixing bowl and arm power to combine everything but you can use a food processor, instead. 

I don't microwave the sugar-free chocolate chips, I melt them with 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat, stirring constantly with a silicon spatula, but you can nuke them instead. I just like stirring the pot. It soothes me. 

Preheat your oven to 355 degrees. Gather all your ingredients, measuring spoons, and cups, whisks and bowls including an 8x8 or 9x9 square dish which you will line with parchment paper. You will make the crust, then the peanut butter caramel, then the chocolate ganache. 

Each bar has about 312 calories and 2 net carbs. 

Let the madness begin!








For the sugar-free shortbread crust

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 2/3 cup superfine almond flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated erythritol (Swerve)
  • 8 drops stevia
  • 1 stick butter (softened) (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp psyllium husk (or xanthum gum)



Instructions:
  • Preheat the oven to 355 Fahrenheit.
  • Whisk your dry ingredients until well-combined.
  • Add the softened butter, vanilla/almond extract and stevia and mix with a flexible spatula until you have a smooth dough.
  • Press the dough evenly into your parchment-lined baking dish.
  • Place the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • This will harden the butter and provide for a more tender pastry.
  • Place baking dish in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the crust smells fragrant and has a slightly golden top.
  • Allow to cool completely, then place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • While crust is cooling prepare your peanut butter caramel  




For the sugar-free peanut butter caramel layer

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup Lakanto sugar-free maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons softened cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt






Instructions:

  1. Add peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and salt to a bowl. Mix together with flexible spatula until combined, or whir together in a food processor. 
  2. Remove baking dish from the freezer.
  3. Spread caramel evenly across the shortbread layer.
  4. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.



For the chocolate ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of sugar-free chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons of coconut oil





Instructions:

  1. Place chocolate chips & coconut oil in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat
  2. Stir continuously with a silicon spatula being sure to combine well and not allow chocolate to stick or burn. About 3 minutes.
  3. When chocolate is melted, remove shortbread pan from freezer, pour warm chocolate over caramel layer, spread evenly.
  4. Return pan to freezer for at least 10 minutes or until chocolate sets.
  5. When set, carefully cut 16 squares. Use a large knife that you have wet with hot water, wipe the knife, and cut the bar in half, wet, wipe repeat cutting the halves in half etc... until you get 16 pieces. Do not saw the pieces, try to use the entire blade of the knife (a 10 or 12 inch chef's knife worked for me) and press downward evenly from the tip to the hilt in one sure steady downward stroke using your bodyweight for one quick cut through the length of the bar. This will prevent the chocolate and the shortbread from cracking and crumbling.









Thursday, March 18, 2021

Keto Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

 



Gluten-free, Sugar-free! Yummy! Today is honeydew day... I have been doing (& cooking) all the things the honey (esposito) likes. First deviled eggs, then these cookies, and next cheeseburgers with cheddar, sriracha caramelized onions and a little iceberg lettuce salad with tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. 


Porque no?

These cookies are best eaten after they've cooled, they won't spread like other cookies, but if you like a slightly thinner crisper cookie, you can always add 1/2 stick of unsalted butter to the mixture - should you opt to do this be sure to cream the butter with the Swerve and peanut butter. 


Below you will see the cookies raw:






Then baked: 








I really don't need to blog this... it is super simple... 

Take a cup of natural chunky peanut butter (one made only with peanuts and salt - Whole Foods has a fab & cheap one) and mix it with 1/2 cup of powdered Swerve (a sugar substitute) and 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli), beat one large egg with a teaspoon of vanilla, add it into the peanut butter mixture, mix it in well, (I use a flexible spatula, but you can use the food processor for all this) fold in 1/3 cup of sugar-free dark chocolate chips, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat ( a silicon mat that I love using), roll the cookie dough into balls (about 10 balls), place the balls on the cookie sheet, giving them at least 1 inch of space between press them down slightly, reform them into rounds as necessary, stud each cookie with more chips if you like, then place in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes... let cool, voila! xo




But here we go:


Keto Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies




Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with either a Silpat or a sheet of parchment paper. 



Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of natural chunky peanut butter 
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered Swerve
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar-free chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Mix peanut butter, butter, baking powder, 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa 
  2. Mix egg well with Swerve, and a teaspoon of vanilla
  3. Add it into the peanut butter mixture, mix it in well
  4. Fold in chocolate chips
  5. Roll the cookie dough into balls (about 10 balls)
  6. Place the balls on the cookie sheet, giving them at least 1 inch of space between press them down slightly, reform them into rounds as necessary, stud each cookie with more chips if you like
  7. Place in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes... let cool, voila!









Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ketolicious Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter Cheesecake and Strawberry Swirl


 

Whenever el esposito is feeling blue, I try to bake him back to life... and with the pandemic, the blues seem to visit him with greater frequency, this keto fudge brownie has all of his favorite flavors rolled into one. You can certainly play with the ingredients, and even layer them differently, but I kept it fairly straightforward, so that the integrity of each layer shone on its own, but all the flavors are of course delectable when combined into one luscious bite. 

I use powdered Swerve and brown Swerve (erythritol) for the brownie portion but you can use one or the other or substitute your own sweetener, just bear in mind that Swerve can be subbed in for sugar 1:1 - not true for all substitute sweeteners. Those of you who are not on the ketogenic diet can just use sugar, of course. I cut it into 9 pieces. Be sure to use a sharp slightly warm wet knife and wipe it down after each slice. It is VERY rich... more fudge than cake... the strawberry swirl brought a nice flash of brightness and much needed acidity... I added no sweetener to the berries before pureeing them. 



Ketolicious Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter Cheesecake and Strawberry Swirl 



Preheat the oven to 350, prep an 8x8 inch enamel baking dish with parchment paper...
Make the brownie mixture first, then the cheesecake batter, then the strawberry puree. I used medium brown eggs because that's what I had, large eggs will be fine, it'll make the brownie slightly less dense than mine, but it'll still be plenty fudgey. You can, of course, prepare these batters by hand, or use a mixer. I used a food processor. 



For the brownie mixture 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of almond flour
  • 11 tablespoons (about 3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 medium eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons of half and half (optional)
  • 4-1/2 oz of unsalted butter (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup powdered Swerve
  • 1/4 cup brown Swerve

Instructions:

1) Combine the first three dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
2) Cream the butter and the sweeteners in a food processor until light and fluffy & the sweetener was well-incorporated (about 5 minutes, including scraping down the sides several times) 
3) Add the cocoa/almond flour mixture to the butter, combining until smooth (about 3-4 minutes  scraping down sides of bowl occasionally) 
4) Process the eggs into the brownie mixture one at a time until smooth, if it appears too thick, add the the half & half one Tablespoon at a time until you like the consistency
5) Smooth mixture into body of baking dish and prepare cheesecake batter


For the cheesecake batter

Ingredients 

  • 8 oz cream cheese ( room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup powdered Swerve
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen and thawed) 

Instructions:

1) Whip cream cheese in a food processor until smooth (scraping sides of bowl with a flexible rubber spatula as necessary)
2) Add Swerve and process until sweetener is fully combined (scraping bowl as necessary)
3) Add peanut butter & process til smooth (scraping bowl as necessary)
4) Process egg into mixture (scraping bowl as necessary) 
5) Process vanilla and lemon juice
6) Dump batter atop the brownie batter and smooth
7) Without washing food processor bowl, add strawberries and puree until smooth 
8) Add dollops of strawberry puree atop cheesecake/brownie batter, then using a knife, run the the tip through the dollops of strawberry puree to create swirls
9) Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, center should still be jiggly
10) After 25 minutes turn off oven, crack open oven door, and let the cake cool completely
11) When completely cooled, chill in fridge for four hours minimum.






Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Ketolicious Sushi: Poke Uramaki Rolls with Cauliflower Sushi Rice



One of the foods I have missed most over the past four years since I have embarked on the ketogenic diet is sushi. I usually make poke bowls with salads, slaws, or cauliflower rice - chirashi sushi-style, but I really missed my favorite sushi bar delicacies, like nigiri and makimono. No more. I finally decided to start experimenting and figured out a good way to make it keto with cauliflower rice using traditional sushi rice seasoning. The cauliflower's flavor is mild and refreshing as a substitute. However, cauliflower rice has no starch so making it bind is a challenge, especially for uramaki (inside-out rolls). I have seen keto bloggers desperately attempt to use binders like cream cheese - a heinous bastardization of sushi which would alter the flavor profile considerably and ruin the delicate balance of this perennial all-star favorite. I make the cauliflower rice grains adhere better without weird additives that would detract from the sushi's clean taste and I had such fun creating all kinds of variations on the theme. But first a little sushi primer. For those of you less than interested in this retrospective, you can skip waaaay down to the recipe itself. 



Sushi is a Japanese dish of specially prepared rice (sushi-meshi) seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt, combined with a variety of ingredients such as seafood  (often, but not exclusively, raw), vegetables, and even tropical fruits. Styles of sushi and presentation vary widely, especially here in the USA, but the key ingredient is "sushi rice",  also referred to as shari or sumeshi. 

It started its life eons ago circa 4 B.C. in Southeast Asia as a way of preserving fresh fish. At that time, cleaned, gutted and salted fish was kept in cooked rice because the natural fermentation process of the rice helped to preserve the fish. The reason for this is because when the rice begins to ferment, lactic acid bacilli is produced. This acid, combined with the salt, causes a reaction that slows the bacterial growth in fish. This process is also referred to as pickling or "tsuke-ba". This early form of sushi was called "Nare-zushi". After several months of fermentation, it was taken out of storage, the fermented rice was discarded and only the fish was consumed.  

Sushi later became a popular street food in Edo in the early 19th century where its preparation was simplified by an enterprising fishmonger named Hanaya Yohei into what subsequently came to be called nigiri-- hand-rolled freshly cooked and seasoned rice balls served with thin pristine fish slices atop, and by the early 20th Century, sushi found its way indoors at specialty bars/restaurants throughout Japan. It wasn't until the 1966 that sushi was sold in America. The first dedicated restaurant was opened in Los Angeles (of course), by the 1980s sushi bars had flourished in every major metropolis in the land, and, these days, it's as ubiquitous as pizza. There is now packaged sushi sold in practically every supermarket in the country. 







Sushi is often served with pickled ginger (gari), wasabi (or horseradish paste), and soy sauce (or tamari/shoyu). Daikon radish is popular as a garnish. Sushi is sometimes confused with sashimi, a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced raw fish, or meat eaten with a dipping sauce like soy sauce with wasabi paste or ponzu sauce (a citrus based sauce made by mixing soy sauce, lemon juice, rice vinegar, dashi, and mirin), served atop daikon and occasionally with a side of rice. Sashimi - technically, the word sashimi means "pierced body", where sashi = (pierced) and mi = (body, meat) - is naturally keto-friendly and I adore it, but it does require well-honed knife skills and fresh "sashimi-grade" fish. 

Of course, there really is no grading system for fish. Although there are no actual guidelines to determine if a fish is "sushi grade", the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have regulations in place for the proper handling procedures of fish meant for raw consumption. The FDA has provided information on the different times and temperatures required for a variety of species of fish to be deemed safe. These are the general guidelines for what the FDA calls “Parasite Destruction Guarantee” that must be followed for most fish species after they are caught:


  • Freezing and storing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days (total time)
  • Freezing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours
  • Freezing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours

The low temperatures kill the parasites that may be living in the fish when caught. However, this process needs to begin right away once the fish is on the boat. They must be caught quickly, bled and gutted upon capture, and frozen thoroughly in a flash freezer within 8 hours of leaving the water. There are a lot of steps that go into keeping a fish safe to eat raw, which is why there will always be a risk to eating raw sushi or sashimi. 

Some aspects of fresh fish include:
  • Smells of the seawater and not spoilage
  • Clear and slightly bulged eyes
  • Red gills
  • Firm flesh
  • Intact scales
  • Not slimy





Some fish are more susceptible to parasites than others, so it is important to be familiar with your fish species before just purchasing something with a sushi grade certification on it, especially if you intend on eating it raw. Here are the most common types of fish (excluding shellfish) used in raw sushi or sashimi.

  • Tuna. Tuna is considered to be one of the only species of fish that is safe enough to be consumed raw with minimal processing as it is highly resistant to parasites. This includes albacore, bigeye, bluefin, bonito, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna.
  • Salmon. If you are purchasing salmon for raw consumption, you should avoid wild caught and go with farmed salmon. Wild salmon spends a portion of its life in fresh water, where they are at a higher risk of contracting parasites. Aquacultured salmon is raised on a parasite-free diet and considered much safer to eat.
  • Yellowtail. You may find this listed as hamachi on a sushi menu under the Japanese name. It can be rather high in mercury, so it should be consumed in moderation.
  • Halibut/ Flounder. This may be listed as hirame in Japanese.
  • Gizzard Shad. This is also known as kohada.
  • Mackerel. This fish is also called saba or aji. Mackerel is usually treated with vinegar before serving and can be high in mercury.
  • Seabass. Also known as tai or suzuki, this fish is generally treated with vinegar before serving. It is high in mercury and should be eaten in moderation.
  • Farmed Fish. Fish that are raised in an aquaculture have a reduced risk of contracting parasites and are considered safer to consume raw.

It is important to note that freshwater fish should never be eaten raw as they are very prone to parasites. They should be cooked thoroughly to kill off the parasites before serving. 





The most popular type of sushi here in the USA is makimono, which literally translates to "wrapped things" or "scroll'. Makimono (also known as makizushi) consists of sushi rice and other ingredients generally wrapped in nori (thin sheets of seaweed), but is occasionally wrapped in a thin omelette, soy paper, cucumber or shiso (perilla) leaves. The roll is formed with the help of a bamboo mat called a makisu. The typical roll cuts into six or eight pieces, depending on the girth of the roll - in general, the thicker the roll, the thinner the slice, the more pieces per roll. There are different types of rolls:

  • Hosomaki Roll - ("Thin Roll" 1 inch in diameter and 1 ingredient)
  • Chumaki Roll - ("Medium Roll" 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 or 3 ingredients)
  • Futomaki Roll - ("Fat Roll" 2 to 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 or 5 ingredients)
  • Uramaki Roll - ("Inside-Out Roll" Rice on outside, Nori on inside and 2 to 3 ingredients)
  • Temaki Roll - ("Hand-Roll" Cone shaped roll)


Ketolicious Sushi: Poke Rolls with Cauliflower Sushi Rice 




So in order to make any basic keto sushi rolls, you will need a few staples. All of them are easily found in the average supermarket (or online) across the USA:

  1. Cauliflower rice (I use one 12 oz. package of frozen organic for 2 rolls)
  2. 8 oz of "Sushi grade" fish (I use 3-4 oz per roll)
  3. Rice vinegar (a mild vinegar made from rice)
  4. Mirin ( rice wine made for cooking - you can use Sake, instead)
  5. Wasabi (a green Japanese horseradish generally sold powdered)
  6. Nori (dried seaweed, 1 sheet per roll)
  7. Soy Sauce (for dipping)
  8. A bamboo sushi mat
  9. Cellophane (to wrap the sushi mat)
  10. A very sharp knife (I use a boning knife)
  11. Sushi vegetables (scallions, avocado, cucumber... whatever you like)
  12. Ginger
  13. Unflavored powdered gelatin (I use Knox brand)
  14. Powdered Swerve (or your favorite keto sweetener)
  15. Toasted Sesame Seeds
  16. Toasted Sesame Oil


To make the spicy rolls you'll need a few additional condiments:

  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Chili Garlic Sauce
  • Garlic cloves
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cilantro
  • Lime





There are many delectable variations of keto sushi-making that I will delve into on the next blog - like sashimi and avocado tostadas over sriracha aioli with ahi slaw in miso vinaigrette and poke beggars purses -  but for today, we will just focus on the makimonos: both the uramaki (inside out rolls with rice on the outside) and the Chumaki (regular rolls with seaweed outside rice inside). 

I use frozen organic cauliflower rice, but you can make fresh rice by pulverizing a chopped head of cauliflower in a food processor until grain-like bits of cauliflower are formed. 






Note: The preparation seems laborious but nothing here should intimidate you. It's just a matter of gathering, measuring, and chopping all of your ingredients. The only cooking, if you can call it that, is microwaving the cauliflower rice, draining it well (quite literally squeezing the water out of it with your bare hands or a cheesecloth) as soon as it has cooled enough to be handled, it is imperative you remove as much excess liquid as possible, and then placing it in a bowl and stirring in well the rice vinegar, mirin, Swerve,  salt, and powdered gelatin and then refrigerating it for half an hour to let the gelatin set.  Once the gelatin is set, you can remove the rice and allow to come to room temperature, so it is best to make the rice first, then prepare the poke sauce, then chop your fish. Keep your fish refrigerated until the last possible moment... it will keep it from growing bacteria and make it easier to slice.  The rest is a matter of assembly and rolling.

The bamboo sushi mat really helps to shape to roll, so while you can get away with not using one, you really should invest in it. You should take your time rolling and forming the makimono, gently pressing the sides of the filling back into the nori as you roll because the filling wants to escape.  

You will start by preparing the rice, while the rice is cooling prepare the poke sauce, after preparing the sauce prepare the fillings: fish, vegetables; mix the wasabi powder into a paste and set aside - it will need about 10 minutes to heighten its flavor; then be sure to have a towel and a small bowl filled with 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons rice vinegar (called the tezu) next to your sushi mat to dip your fingers and later your knife in as needed. 

There is an excellent video on Youtube that demonstrates the uramaki rolling process beautifully - the sushi chef (itamae) made California rolls which you might enjoy. It is the most popular roll in America, though not my favorite. I prefer eating crab other ways. Give it a look: 




This recipe makes 2 rolls. You can double, triple, or quadruple it. Just do the math;) 


For the cauliflower sushi rice:

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) of frozen organic cauliflower rice (or the fresh equivalent)
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (or sake)
  • 1 tablespoon powdered Swerve (or any sweetener you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt (or any salt you like)
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

Instructions:

  1. Microwave unopened bag of frozen cauliflower rice for 5 minutes and let rest for 1 minute (or follow rice manufacturer's suggestion for cooking)
  2. Carefully snip open top seam of the bag of cooked cauliflower and drain in a colander in the sink, until cool enough to handle. 
  3. While cauliflower cools, prepare sushi rice seasoning in a mixing bowl large enough to contain the rice. Mix the vinegar, mirin, Swerve, salt & gelatin, set aside near sink.
  4. When cauliflower is cool enough to touch, grabbing one handful at a time, squeeze all the excess liquid out of each handful, placing the drained rice into the bowl with sushi seasoning. (You can alternatively use a cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. I'm tactile... I like using my hands.)
  5. When all the rice is drained of excess liquid, stir the seasoning and the rice well to make sure to coat each grain of rice. You can adjust seasoning to determine whether the rice is sweet/salty/tangy enough to suit your taste. 
  6. Place rice in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow gelatin to set. Remove from refrigerator and prepare poke sauce.


For the poke sauce:

You can adjust the ingredients to suit your palate. These are what I used, but you are not me. Just be sure to keep a balance of flavors in mind if you adjust. I wouldn't usually add mayonnaise to poke, but in this instance an aioli is necessary to thicken the sauce to make it creamier and more binding since we are going to place it inside a roll and, without the mayo, the sauce would be too wet and liquidy - the texture of the rice and the nori would suffer. The cauliflower rice is already wet enough. Fresh ginger has a bit of heat (an assertive bite which I like), but it can be overwhelming for some palates, so feel free to grate it, rather than mince it. It will be subtler that way. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Chili Garlic sauce (Sambal Oelek or your favorite: sugar-free, starch-free chili sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon of Sriracha Sauce
  • 1/3 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 half-inch knob of fresh ginger root, finely minced
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, finely minced
  • 2 scallions, finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • juice from half a lime

Instructions:

Whisk all the ingredients well in a bowl. Set aside. 



For the Uramaki ("inside-out") rolls:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz "sashimi-grade" fish, finely diced and placed in a bowl
  • 2 scallions, julienned lengthwise
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup (or more) Toasted Sesame Seeds, White & Black
  • 1-1/2 cups prepares cauliflower sushi rice (recipe above)
  • poke sauce (recipe above)
  • 2 sheets of roasted nori (8-1/4 by 7-1/4 inch)
  • bamboo sushi mat wrapped in cellophane
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder mixed with water into a paste, rolled into ball (for service)
  • low sodium soy sauce (for service)



Instructions


  1. Mix cubed fish with half the poke sauce.
  2. Place sushi mat with cellophane on work surface with slats running crosswise. Arrange 1 sheet nori, shiny side down, on mat, lining up a long edge of sheet with edge of mat nearest you. Using damp fingers, gently press 1/2 of rice onto nori in 1 layer, leaving a 1 3/4-inch border on side farthest from you. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  3. Flip the nori and rice over so that the nori is now the top layer. Make a thin line of scallion along the nori 1 to 2 inches from the edge closest to you. Place a thin line of avocado over the scallion. Spoon half the spicy tuna mixture over the veggies.  Grab the bottom edge of the bamboo mat while keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, roll into a tight cylinder. Lift the edge of the bamboo mat and continue to roll it forward while keeping gentle pressure on the mat. Roll tightly but gently, using the sushi mat to guide you. Finding your sushi falling apart easily? Maybe because you don’t squeeze the sushi rolls tightly enough. You have to tuck in and pull the bamboo mat while you roll. Also after you finish rolling, place the bamboo mat over the sushi roll and gently squeeze the sushi roll over the bamboo mat.
  4. With a very sharp knife, cut the roll in half and then cut each half into 3 pieces. Clean the knife with a damp cloth and dip it in the tezu after every few cuts. When you cut sushi rolls, dip your fingers in Tezu or you can cover the roll with plastic, so the rice won't stick to your hands, but I don't like the idea of tiny pieces of plastic possibly adhering to the roll. 
  5. Repeat instructions 1-4 to make the next roll (you can of course, just make a regular roll with the nori on the outside and save a step)
  6. Arrange your rolls decoratively on a plate and add a dollop of the spicy sauce atop for further garnish. Serve each roll with wasabi and a dish of soy sauce.





    Meshiagare!!!  









Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Keto Chicken Green Chili Verde With Cilantro and Cumin-Scented Cauliflower "Rice"

 



(I’m pretty sure most people will freak out if they read this recipe because of the length of this preamble. To me, it’s vitally important to truly understand what you’re cooking: its provenance and its method—not just mechanically follow ingredients lists and hastily scribbled instructions - we’re humans, not monkeys. We shouldn’t just imitate and swallow whole without chewing, but truly chew, taste, digest, chimify & nourish ourselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually with our meals and their preparations. We must eat to live like every other multi-celled creature on this planet, let’s take it beyond the bestial and into the realm of ritual and celebration with gratitude and love. However, you can skip the introduction it's okay...  and just scroll down to find the recipe itself.)

Chili Verde is a taqueria staple. You'll find it in everything that can be filled or stuffed: tacos, burritos, or on its own as a stew served with warm tortillas, beans and rice. It's essentially a roasted tomatillo salsa cooked into a braise with meat and additional aromatics. Pork butt is often used, but it's grand with chicken thighs which is how I made it here.

The salsa verde that provides the sauce for the dish includes onions, garlic, lime juice, Mexican oregano, Serrano chilies, and cilantro. The traditional salsa itself (without accompaniments) is gluten-free, sugar-free, and very low carb making it ideal for those on a ketogenic diet. It makes a great garnish for fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, eggs - anything and everything that you might like to add salsa to, but, when added to a slow braise, it really becomes lush, caramelized, and lovely. 

It has a long history.

The making of of a sauce by combining chiles, tomatoes (red and their green cousins, tomatillos) and other ingredients like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and even beans has been documented back to the Aztec culture. We have Spaniard Bernadino de Sahagun to thank for the detailed culinary history of the Aztec culture. His extensive diaries documented every food common red tomato and green chili to the culture. This is an excerpt from Sahagun's writings about the food vendors in the large Aztec markets: 

 "He sells foods, sauces, hot sauces, fried [food], olla-cooked, juices, sauces of juices, shredded [food] with chile, with squash seeds, with tomatoes, with smoke chile, with hot chile, with yellow chile, with mild red chile sauce, yellow chile sauce, sauce of smoked chile, heated sauce, he sells toasted beans, cooked beans, mushroom sauce, sauce of small squash, sauce of large tomatoes, sauce of ordinary tomatoes, sauce of various kinds of sour herbs, avocado sauce."

The tomato and the tomatillo are native to Mexico. Tomatillos are pronounced [toh-MAH-tee-YO] It's botanical name is Physalis philadelphica. A relative of the tomato and member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, tomatillos provide that tart flavor in Mexican green sauces. The fruits average about 1-2" wide and have a papery outer skin which must be removed prior to roasting. The tomatillo must be used when it is still green - once it ripens into a light yellow, it's past its prime for most uses. The Aztecs domesticated the tomatillo, and its use dates back to at least 800 B.C. The Aztec word tomatl means something "round and plump".

Europeans that came to the New World and documented the local foods often confused the food names. The Aztec word for tomato (as we know the fruit) is xitomatl and the husk tomato (tomatillo) was call miltomatl. Europeans frequently shortened both names to tomatl and therein lies the confusion. In most cases historical references to the tomatoes such as those written by Sahagun were in fact to the tomatillo not what we know today as a tomato. The confusion is carried on today. In many areas of Mexico the domesticated tomatillo is called tomate and the wild version called miltomate and what we know as tomato is called jitomate.  Interestingly, even today in Mexico, a concoction made of the flower calyces is used to treat diabetes. Making them perfect for those of who are on a keto diet which seeks to eliminate sugar and its insulin response.

The humble tomatillo never gained in popularity with Europeans, and it was the showy red tomato that was taken to Italy where it grew well in the Mediterranean climate. Today, the tomatillo is common in the U.S. most especially the West and Southwest as the Hispanic population has increased. It's sold in most major supermarket chains here in California, and stores very well. I so love its jammy texture and tart flavor.

Of course, you don’t even have to make the tomatillo sauce yourself (though it’s easy enough as long as you have a blender and can find tomatillos). There are really good clean prepared sauces available in the refrigerated section of most markets and with the addition of some onion, cumin, garlic, cilantro, chicken stock, wine and lime to doctor and freshen the store-bought version, you'd save time and still have a delicious dish. No shame in taking short cuts, if you use quality prepared foods. I really like Casa Sanchez  because they use no preservatives, no sugars, no starches - just pure ingredients. Salsa For All Seasons or Primavera Salsa are good options. Same thing goes for the cauliflower rice... Most of the time, I use Whole Foods Frozen Organic Cauliflower Rice because at $1.99 for 12 oz it's a good buy & I can stock up on them, keeping them in my freezer whenever I need to make a good quick side... it is SO versatile and a wonderful canvas for any kind of flavor profile from Italian to Spanish to Chinese to Mexican. And in this recipe the rice tasted lovely after being sauteed in olive oil, shallots, cumin, paprikon, and chicken stock with a quick handful of cilantro thrown into the mix just before serving.

Just a quick word about products I recommend: I get paid nada by anyone for endorsements... I don't think anyone knows this little blog exists, so when I link to a product I do so only because it's easier than downloading & uploading pictures, and it's the actual product I use! You may find similar products in other brands, just be sure to check the nutritional info on the label.... manufacturers LOVE to sneak sugar into food... it's a natural preservative and flavor enhancer, but it will take you out of ketosis... so let the buyer beware! 



Keto Chicken Green Chili Verde With Cilantro and Cumin-Scented Cauliflower "Rice"


 
Note: I will provide you with recipes for the salsa verde, chicken chili verde, and cauliflower rice.
Make the tomatillo sauce first, unless you are using store-bought sauce, then skip this step. I braise the chicken in the sauce in a very low oven (275 degrees)  after initially searing the seasoned the chicken on the stove top with aromatics and then slowcook it for 2 hours. I use boneless skinless thighs for this, but you can use bone-in thighs with the skin on... it's just for me, stewed chicken skin is completely flaccid and unappealing, the thighs themselves have lots of lovely intramuscular fat so I don't need much more, and though bones add collagen and flavor, my husband hates them - even when the flesh is falling off of them as it would here - hence the boneless skinless variety used. An oven-safe braising pot (or Dutch oven) with a well-fitted lid is the best option for cooking this dish. This will serve four to six people. 


 Tomatillo Salsa Verde (yields 3 cups)

The tomatillos will be roasted and blended, and the accompanying aromatics can be rough-chopped since everything is going into the blender together anyway. You can blend the tomatillos raw, but roasting them first give them added depth and umami. The salsa can be made a few days ahead & stored in the fridge in a tightly-lidded container. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatillos, papery husks removed
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 whole cloves (or more) garlic with their skins
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves with tops of stems
  • The juice of half a fresh lime
  • 2 chilies, seeds and membranes removed, chopped (JalapeƱo if you want less heat, Serrano if you want more)
  • 2 Poblano (or Anaheim chilies), seeds and membranes removed, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly milled black pepper to taste


Instructions 

  1. Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well 3 ways to cook the tomatillos
  2. Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Add a few garlic cloves in their skin (if using)
  4. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skins of the tomatillos.
  5. Place the cooked tomatillos, lime juice, onions, garlic, cilantro, chili peppers in a blender or food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed and saucy looking.







Chicken Chili Verde

You will use the freshly prepared (or store-bought) salsa verde as the sauce, but I also like to saute more aromatics when searing the chicken for an added layer of flavor. Be sure to season the chicken before searing. You can always use a packaged seasoning salt like Sazon, instead. If you don't have the dried coriander - just skip it; if you don't have paprikon (smoked paprika) just use regular (sweet) paprika. Smoked paprika, often called paprikon or pimenton or smoked Spanish paprika, is made from peppers that are smoked and dried over oak fires. This process gives the red powder a rich, smoky flavor. You can find this smoked variety in mild, medium-hot, and hot. True Spanish pimenton is produced using traditional techniques and comes from specific areas in Spain, as per the European Union's laws. This variety has a smoky flavor you might find by grilling outdoors or charring a red pepper. The flavor is still sweet and cool without adding any heat to the dish, unless you purchase a hot, smoked version.

I use dry white wine to deglaze the pan after searing the chicken, but you can use vinegar instead. Balsamic vinegar is nice, but apple cider vinegar or even plain white vinegar works too. I add a little chicken stock after deglazing the pan and before adding the salsa verse, just to smooth out the dish. Be sure you preheat your oven at 275 degrees. You will be finishing the dish in the oven for two hours.

When serving, I like to garnish the chili simply with chopped or sliced avocado and a sprig of fresh cilantro, but you can load it up with anything you like: sour cream, queso fresco, Monterey Jack, feta

Leftover chicken chili verde (like below) makes for delicious tacos or quesadillas. There are excellent keto-friendly tortillas sold in markets these days; or, of course, you can make your own! Adding extra stock to the leftovers to stretch it into a delectable soup with a few veggies like zucchini or black beans makes for another delightful dinner or lunch. It's just a great dish to add to your repertoire. 





Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of paprikon  or paprika (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (or to taste)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for sauteing)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh oregano, minced  
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • freshly milled black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or 1/4 cup of your favorite vinegar)
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 cups of tomatillo salsa verde (recipe above)
  • Avocado, chopped (for garnish)
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro (for garnish)
  • salt, to taste



Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F. 
  2. Pat and dry chicken thighs.
  3. Prepare seasoning salt by combining the next five ingredients (all the dry herbs and seasonings) along with salt & pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle the seasoning salt all over the thighs coating them lightly & massaging it in.
  4. Heat a large braising pan or Dutch oven over Medium-High heat, when pan is hot, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, when oil is hot, add chicken in one non-over lapping layer to pan, and sear it undisturbed on one side for five minutes, then flip the chicken thighs and sear them for an additional five minutes in one layer. You may sear the chicken in batches if your pan can't accommodate them all at once. 
  5. When both sides of chicken are seared, push them to the sides of the braising pan, add a bit more olive oil, and saute onion and garlic until onions are slightly soft and translucent (about 3 minutes), stirring occasionally being sure not to allow the garlic to burn.
  6. When aromatics are softened, add cinnamon and cocoa powder, mix them in well with the chicken and onion mixture and then pour wine (or vinegar) into pan to deglaze it, being sure to scrape up all the pan fond (burnt stuck bits) to incorporate the flavor with the wine.
  7. Add the salsa verde. Mix well.
  8. Then add the chicken stock. Mix well, add fresh oregano, mix well and bring everything up to a boil. When the braise is boiling, cover pan tightly, turn off the burner.
  9. Place braising pan in the center rack of the preheated 275 degree oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Checking for doneness at the 90 minute mark. The chicken is done when it is fork tender and falling apart.
  10. When done, remove from oven, stir the chicken, letting the pieces fall apart & melt into the sauce.
  11. Spoon into warm bowls. (I warm mine in the microwave). Garnish with avocado & fresh cilantro and serve with cauliflower rice (recipe below).




Cilantro and Cumin-Scented Cauliflower "Rice" 

This rice is easy to prepare. This is the one instance where I prefer frozen organic cauliflower rice because it's cheap, always available and in the Time of the Coronavirus we can't rely on markets being well-stocked with fresh vegetables. I get mine from Whole Foods 365 because it is a very clean product with no additives snuck in. You can rice a head of fresh cauliflower very easily, by chopping it & sticking in a food processor, then gently pulsing until the florets look like grains of rice.

I use a large shallot for the dish because shallots are small, have the combined flavor of onion and garlic, and I don't need a lot of it. However, you can substitute 1/2 an onion and a clove of garlic, instead. Don't use the dry granulated stuff ... powdered aromatics are fine when roasting or searing meats, but terribly flat in pilafs like this. We need the sweetness and juiciness of a fresh aromatic here. 

You don't have to defrost the rice, but you may want to bash the bag a bit, breaking up the bigger frozen chunks to make it easier to saute.  Cauliflower rice doesn't absorb liquid like rice grains, but it will absorb some liquid and lots of flavor. We will essentially saute, season, then braise it in a tightly covered pot for a few minutes until it is softened and fluffy. I try not to add too much liquid, but if you find you have by accident, you can always just take the lid off the pot & boil the excess liquid away. Unlike real rice grain, it will evaporate without damaging the texture of the "rice".






Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz package of frozen organic cauliflower rice (or your own fresh version)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to coat bottom of the pan)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprikon (or paprika)
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce (or just use salt to taste)
  • freshly milled black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped


Instructions

  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot add olive oil.
  2. When oil heats, add minced shallot and saute until soft and translucent.
  3. Add cumin, and another splash of olive oil. Let the cumin and parikon toast with shallots, stirring occasionally until fragrant (about 45 seconds to 1 minute), then add cauliflower rice, mixing in the shallots, oil, and cumin well. 
  4. Saute the cauliflower until it defrosts completely (about 3-4 minutes), adding a bit more olive oil if it seems dry. When the cauliflower is fully thawed in the pan, add the wine, stir well, let the wine evaporate into the cauliflower, then add the soy sauce, the stock, the pepper and stir well, bringing it up to a boil and then cover tightly, reducing the heat to medium-low
  5.  Allow the cauliflower to braise, undisturbed for 5-7 minutes, then stir, check for doneness, determine whether or not it needs more liquid, if it does, add just a splash of stock, and cover tightly for a few minutes more until done to your liking. 
  6. When cauliflower rice is done, add chopped cilantro, fluff cilantro in with a fork, and serve in warm bowls. 



Buen provecho!