March is in sight, but cold weather is still with us, so we have some warming food for you this week, starting with Dorie Greenspan’s take on a French shepherd’s pie. It’s a comfort-food keeper, I promise. And speaking of comfort food, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin recently made his way to Texas to claim a coveted berth at Camp Brisket, an intensive two-day event in the art of smoking the iconic Texas meat. He has a glossary, tips from the pros and a recipe, of course.
Also in Food this week, Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel tackles the question of whether grass-feeding beef cattle is really best for us, for the cattle and for the environment. And Nevin Martell looks at Matchbox, a local mini chain of restaurants that’s poised to make a big national push.
Jim and Tamar will be on hand for today’s Free Range chat, so do drop in for a lively hour of questions and answers, give and take. It beats being outdoors, I assure you.
To get you in the mood, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:
For Valentine’s Day, my husband got me a half-dozen flours. I now have one-pound bags of almond flour, tapioca flour, coconut flour, semolina, buckwheat flour and rice flour. I know I want to make macarons with the almond flour, but what should I do with the other kinds? We don’t keep to a gluten-free diet, so that’s not a constraint for us.
Your husband rocks! What a great idea, though I’m sure the floral industry would beg to differ.
Here’s some information about your new holdings, along with suggested recipes, where available, from our Recipe Finder database.
Almond flour, a.k.a. almond meal: This is ground almonds, usually blanched but sometimes not (in which case it’s often called “natural” almond flour), mostly used in baking cookies, cakes, pie crusts, etc. Your idea about macarons is a good one; we have several recipes in Recipe Finder. May I also suggest two of my favorites: Amaretti Cookies (a lot like macarons, but without the filling) and Fabio Trabocchi’s Almond Cookies.
Tapioca flour, a.k.a. cassava flour, a.k.a. tapioca starch: It’s a starchy substance from the root of the cassava plant. The flour is used in much the same way cornstarch is used, as a thickening agent, and also as a gluten-free flour to help bind, and improve the texture of, baked goods. Try these: Spiced Apple Crumb Bars; Gluten-Free Light Lemon Cheesecake Tartlets; and a savory treat, Pumpkin Dumplings With Bacon and Radicchio (which also calls for rice flour).
Coconut flour: Made from dried, defatted coconut meat. It imparts a slight coconut taste, which can be problematic if you don’t want that flavor in the food. It also is extremely dry, so it sucks up a ton of liquid; if you want to substitute it for some of the regular flour in a recipe, you’ll need to add extra liquid, and you’ll need to guess at how much. So, best to look for recipes that specifically call for coconut flour and that have already been adapted to work with its particular qualities.
Buckwheat flour: This is the finely milled seeds of a plant that’s not, as some people think, a grass or cereal but is related to rhubarb. (Fun fact!) For most people, buckwheat is inextricably linked with pancakes. Caution: This flour can be very assertive, but balance it with regular wheat flours and you’ll be happy. Beyond pancakes, I love love love these Buckwheat and Fig Thumbprints.
Rice flour: It’s a fine flour made from white rice that’s used chiefly in baked goods. (There’s also brown rice flour, and sweet rice flour, but we’ll assume those aren’t what you have.) Use yours in Hanoi-Style Fried Fish With Turmeric and Dill, Blissful Corn Torte, Gluten-Free Kimchi Pancakes, Crab Pancakes With Sweet-Spicy Hoisin Sauce.
That should keep you busy for a while. Happy flouring.