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Apple-Kuzu Drink

1999 served me well.  It was the year I left Cal State Long Beach where I was attending college to major in Audiology/Speech Pathology.  Sign language and interpreting were part of my minor that really interested me. But, I left all that behind to pursue a passion instead; culinary school.  It was also the year I gained a best friend, the one I feel is the sister I never had; Dawn Sandoval.  She and I roomed together across from Gramercy Park in Manhattan in an extremely quaint women’s dorm.  So strict were they with the male race that it was like the soup nazi from Seinfeld.  NO MEN! So, it was something hysterical when my friend Myra snuck her boyfriend up 9 floors.  I have such amazingly fond memories of Natural Gourmet Cookery School run by Anne Marie Colban, the friends I met, and the experience/culture I was able to embrace. This was truly a highlight in my life.

Dawn and I had a close-knit group of friends that we acquired there along with our cooking skills. Together Mafalda Pinto Leite, Tracy Horwitz-Milenkovik, Myra Jane Church, Dawn, and I would spend days at school developing recipes to our hearts content, and race home to weave our way through the city partaking of fine food and spending afternoons in the warm glow of a community garden filled with stuffed animals as decor, roller skating in Central Park, or catching the underground to go see shows.  It was incredible. So much to see. So much to do. I am still friends with these wonderful gals to this day. We all still enjoy cooking whether professionally of personally.  I  also still have a permanent burn from breaking the dorm rules and extending my alotted 30 minutes in the gated park adjacent to the front lounge. It was sunny, and I was missing green grass and Dawn and I finagled the keys for a whole hour, piggy backing our time there.

It was at culinary school where I first tasted Apple-Kuzu Drink; a beverage containing the root starch.  It was something I stumbled upon.  It was a normal morning, rushing about the kitchens locating ingredients to create splendid meals for our instructors to grade.  I recall the school was fixing a broken refrigerator and it was mentioned to stay aware of the wires.  I happened to glance back as I was reaching in, and changed my glance to face the fridge while extending my reach, only to have a wire go straight into my eye.  It was so sudden, and so painful, that I stumbled backwards dropping the food from my grasp and crying aloud. I was instantly anxious because I had lasik surgery the year before and was in a panic that I had ruined it.

My instructor came to my aid, and instructed her assistant to prepare some apple-kuzu; for a relaxant. Truly, this combination worked on my nerves within 10 minutes.  It is something I use for my children when they have tummy aches, on myself when I feel stressed, or for treating colds.  It’s remedies include treatment of minor indigestion, treating colds, and minor aches and pains.  It’s also said to aid in treating headaches, colitis, sinus issues, tonsillitis, etc. Paired with ginger and umeboshi paste, it’s especially potent. The ginger aids in digestion while the umeboshi neutralizes lactic acid and eliminates it.

I have enjoyed mine several ways, but really love the following recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup filtered water

1 rounded tsp. kuzu (crush with back of spoon before measuring)

1-2 Tbsp. water for dissolving kuzu

1 Tbsp. minced ginger

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Heat the apple juice, ginger, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat.  Thoroughly dissolve the kudzu in water in water, add it to the juice while stirring, then return the pot to the burner.  Stir constantly until the kudzu thickens and becomes translucent. Simmer a bit longer, then remove from heat and pour 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice into mixture. Allow to cool for a minute before serving.

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Pumpkin & Apple-Fennel Tamales with Cinnamon Masa

A favorite thing of mine to do is develop recipes. I love getting creative in the kitchen, and look forward to the outcome.  One important word of advice given in culinary school was….experiment. Sometimes things turn out great, other times you go back to the drawing board and make alterations here and there.  In the end, it only helps to make you a better cook.

Tonight I needed to use up some fresh pumpkin that I had roasted and pureed for a previous recipe; my cranberry pumpkin loaf.  I love to bake, but unfortunately cannot live off of baked goods. So, the pumpkin & apple-fennel tamales were born.  Seasonally appropriate, these tamales were delicious.  (yield: 10 tamales)

MASA INGREDIENTS:

3 cups masa harina

2.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup olive oil

1 tsp. sea salt

TAMALE FILLING:

1/4 cup carmelized onions

1 tsp. orange zest, minced

1 Tbsp. fennel fronds, minced

1/4 cup apple, minced

pinch sea salt

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp. organic brown sugar

* 10 tamale corn husks, soaked.

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the masa: Place 3 cups of masa harina in a bowl. Add cinnamon, and sea salt and whisk.  Drizzle in water and olive oil and fold the wet into the dry.  Set aside

Soak the tamale husks in warm water for 3-5 minutes to soften.

Prepare the filling: In a saute pan, caramelize onion. Add orange zest, fennel fronds, and minced apple.  Saute for 7 more minutes. Add a pinch of sea salt and vanilla extract.  Then add pureed pumpkin and 1 tsp. brown sugar.  Saute for 3 more minutes.

Prepare the tamales: Place husks flat with pointed tip towards you (almost like a triangle tip) and the wider side away from you.  Press 1/8 cup of prepared masa onto the husk and make a flat surface to place the filling.  Place 1 heaping Tbsp. onto the masa and then cover filling with another 1/8 cup of masa; encasing the filling with the dough.  Take the pointed tip and fold onto the pile of uncooked tamale, then fold one side towards the other, rolling in the process.  You can tie the tamales with twine if they feel loose, or keep them piled with the fold on the bottom to prevent unfolding.  Repeat this step for each tamale.

Cooking the tamales: I have a 30-year-old tamale steamer I use, but I suppose you can use a steamer  if there is enough space for the tamales to cook thoroughly.  Allow 60 minutes to cook completely due to the pumpkin puree.  Otherwise, it will be mushy.  I like to accompany this meal with cumin scented pinto beans, Spanish rice, fresh salsa, a side vegetable, and home-made guacamole.

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Gluten Free Apple Spice Loaf

I created this recipe today for my darling Margeux.  Poor thing has such a sensitivity to gluten. I got lazy over the last month, and was not as careful or restrictive with her flour and she has been experiencing more issues lately. So, back on the wagon I go.

LOAF INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose GF flour

3/4 cup white rice flour GF

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2/3 cup organic cane sugar

1/3 cup safflower oil

2 Tbsp. ground flax meal

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup walnuts (optional)

1 cup apples, peeled and diced small

1 tsp + 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup coconut milk

ICING:

1/4 cup organic powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, combine the flax meal with the water. Whisk and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, white rice flour, baking powder, sea salt, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon, & ginger.  Whisk well.  In a separate bowl, combine oil, vanilla, coconut milk. Add flax meal mixture to wet, and whisk well.  Combine wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and then fold in apples and walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from center of loaf.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before glazing.

For the glaze, combine all three ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.  When apple loaf has had 15 minutes to cool, drizzle on lemon glaze.

Allow apple loaf to cool thoroughly before cutting.  Cooling overnight in a refrigerator will bind the loaf better.