Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Glass is Half Full

I tried two new recipes today, with a 50% success rate. 
I'm being glass-half-full about this.

First of all, this was the kitchen I was working in. How can you not want to cook in a kitchen like this?

Recipe #1 was for Spelt Crackers from this cookbook. I was so excited about it because I actually had just picked up some spelt flour (admittedly not "white" spelt flour which may have made a difference in the final product). 

Why spelt? The thing is, my doctor has me on this new diet in an attempt to solve my continuing digestive problems. I don't want to get into details - and I assure you that you don't want me to - but the short version of the story is that this new diet eliminates a LOT of foods - mostly a broad selection of fruits, vegetables, and grains. It is hugely inconvenient and has, overnight, turned me into an extremely high maintenance eater. Eating out is virtually impossible and so frustrating. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel and I think that at some point I won't have to be quite this high maintenance and we'll have this all a bit more under control and I'll be able to eat a wider variety of things but for now I'm just trying to avoid being sick. 

Being sick is no fun.

That said, I basically ate zucchini, potatoes, and cheese for Christmas Eve dinner. At least the wine was delicious. Thank God I can still drink wine. 

The good news - the really, really great news -  is this: gluten isn't my problem! This is awesome. I kind of always knew all along that wheat might be a problem but not gluten and, indeed, my intuition was right. I still can't eat wheat. But gluten is ok. Which means that a world of ancient grains have opened up to me, my favorite of which is spelt. I love spelt, because it's like wheat, but magically doesn't make me sick.  

Spelt tortillas taste just like regular flour tortillas. It's amazing. I'm so happy. This discovery feels like a really wonderful Christmas gift.

Alright, so I've digressed a bit but now you have the backstory required to understand why I was absurdly excited to run across a recipe for Spelt Crackers this morning while I was eating breakfast. I can eat spelt crackers! I just had to make them. And so I did. The recipe (printed here) was pretty easy. 

Mix some salt and water together. 

Add the spelt flour and stir...

Until combined.

Knead the dough a little bit until it forms a lump. (Not shown.)
Overturn a sheet pan and flour it with more spelt flour.

Roll out the dough. (Put a damp kitchen towel under the pan as otherwise it will slide all over the counter when you try to roll the dough.)

Get it as thin as you can. Mine wasn't thin enough. Go off the edges, and do some trimming.

Dock the dough (i.e. poke holes in it with a fork). Spray it with water. Sprinkle on sea salt, a little coarse pepper, other seeds to your liking. (I did mine 1/3 plain sea salt, 1/3 sea salt and pepper and 1/3 sea salt, fennel, and caraway because that was what we had on hand.)

Bake it.

Break it up into pieces.


These crackers came out ok. If you are desperate for bread-like products, as I am, you might even eat them. But in truth, I didn't roll out the dough thin enough and the thicker pieces were quite a workout for the jaw. I personally feel this recipe could use some optimizing. 

Good thing recipe #2 worked out a bit better. Not least because it comprised a significant portion of my dinner. 

It helped that I had a snack of Leslee's Chicken Liver mousse, one of my favorite foods on the planet. To my knowledge, Leslee's can only be acquired at Schaefer's, locally. It doesn't look like much but it is divine. 

With a little food in my tummy, I was ready to tackle this recipe.

Tiny potatoes with creme fraiche, caviar and chives are a catering staple. They are classic hors d'oeuvres and perfect partners to champagne. I've always wanted to make them as they seem ever so sophisticated. Luckily, all the ingredients - potatoes, creme fraiche, caviar, and chives - are approved on this insane restricted eating plan. Despite the fancy finished product, these were superbly easy and if you're up for springing for a little caviar, they are a real treat. 

You barely even need a recipe.

Steam some small new potatoes, or in our case, fingerlings. About 15 minutes in the steamer basket.

 Cool the potatoes quickly in ice water, which, in Chicago this time of year means "tap water".

Then cut them into pieces and scoop out one end with a tiny measuring spoon - like the 1/4 teaspoon size.

You can see in the background that I attempted to use a melon baller at first but that failed - it was taking chunks that were too big. Racking my brain for a smaller tool, I ran across the measuring spoons. Perfect.

Fill the holes in the potatoes with creme fraiche. This couldn't be easier as you just scoop creme fraiche into a zip-top bag, cut off a tiny corner with kitchen shears, and squirt the stuff into the potato craters.

Put a tiny dollop - about 1/8 teaspoon - of caviar on top of the creme fraiche. Snip up some chives and stick a pair into each of the sour cream craters. 

And there you have it. They'd be perfect for a New Year's Eve party or even New Year's Brunch. I might have to make them again. Soon.

So fancy! So easy! My favorite kind of bite.  

I ate at least a dozen of these. 

And then we sat down for a friendly round of family Texas Hold 'Em. 

I am pretty sure champagne, caviar, and poker is precisely how the baby Jesus would have wanted us to celebrate his birthday.

Merry Christmas Eve!

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