Sunday, August 12, 2007

Super Natural Cooking: Amaranth Biscuits

Heidi Swanson, photographer and blogger extraordinaire of 101 Cookbooks fame, recently published her totally awesome new book, Super Natural Cooking. This wonderful, down-to-earth volume has in short order become one of my favorite sources of culinary inspiration. First off, the pictures are gorgeous. The colors are so bright and the composition so perfect that they caught the eyes of fellow passengers when I took it on the DC subway just the other day. The recipes are so innovative yet simple that everyone from a natural foods neophyte to the chef de cuisine of the finest five star restaurant can appreciate them. And how could I ignore her consistent promotion of organic and local produce throughout the book? Any organic farmer would cheer-and order it immediately, which is how I ended up on Amazon a few short days ago.

The book is divided into five sections. The first explains in easy to understand terms how to stock a natural foods pantry, looking at staples such as refined grain products, sugar and fats and presenting healthier, more exciting alternatives. Unusual seeds like quinoa and amaranth, exotic flours such as teff and mesquite, healthy oils like pumpkin and olive and an array of alternative sweeteners including agave nectar and date sugar are discussed. By the end of the first chapter the shopping list is made and one is already planning exciting forays to the grocery store!

Chapters 2 through 5 then present all sorts of great recipes and ideas for using your new foodstuffs. Each recipe is accompanied by tantalizing photographs that make the reader want to hop right up and start cooking. Luckily for me Whole Foods isn't far away, so I was soon the proud possessor of several new types of flour and various bottles and boxes promising low-glycemic sweetness inside.

In the past two weeks of experimentation I tried the Yucatecan Street Corn (which despite Belize's proximity to Mexico, I had never had occasion to experience), baked a set of Sticky Teff Loaves that were devoured both at work and home, and set my sights on other recipes to try later.

Heidi does not shy away from butter-her sticky teff loaves contain a full cup of the stuff, which I felt obligated to cut in half, substituting some yogurt in its place-nor does she avoid eggs, as the same recipe calls for three. I replaced them with eggbeaters and the loaves still turned out sticky, delicious and dark as sin. Yay for blackstrap molasses!

Yesterday I decided it was time to grind up some of the amaranth seeds I had picked up from the bulk bins at my local Whole Foods, and try out the yummy looking Seed Crusted Amaranth Biscuits.

I decided to use oil instead of butter, increased the milk to make them drop biscuits and stuck with plain sesame seeds for the topping as I didn't have anything else lying around. In spite of my unorthodox substitutions, they turned out scrumptious: light and fluffy despite their whole-grain status, and considerably more flavourful than most of the more traditional biscuits that I have enjoyed. I devoured two hot out of the oven with orange blossom honey and Belizean surinam jam, and saved the rest to make shortcakes later.

When I launched this blog, I thought "This is great, now I'll start using my camera more often!" Unfortunately the poor thing had been ignored for many moons and so I had fun playing with my macro lens trying to remember how it worked. As a result, my pictures appear to be a bit vague around the edges, but hopefully you can imagine clean crisp light and shadow where the fuzzy parts are and I promise to try to do the biscuits justice in the future. If I get permission, I will post the recipe this week, so check back!


Brilynn said...

I just got this book, one of the first recipes I made from it was with teff too, grilled!

Lyra said...

Cool! Arent the pictures gorgeous? How did the grilled teff turn out?