Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating

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Subtracting foods increases our options

Limitations breed creativity.  That’s my motto in the kitchen, which is good.  We have a long list of foods that my husband reacts to, most are allergies.  One such food is citrus.  Yep.  You would be amazed at how many foods you eat in a day have some citrus in them. But, like all food restrictions, when one pantry door closes, another opens up – with the added bonus that the food made through substitutions keeps everyone feeling healthy!   What are your options if you are citrus-free?  Our favorites include:

  • Sumac berries we mainly used dried ones, which are easy to find in Mediterranean markets.  It’s the red spice some people sprinkle over humus.  Others make a lemonade -like drink out of the fresh berries, watch for a post on that later this summer (I hope!).
  • Tamarind a dried fruit concentrate that you can easily find in Indian groceries.  I use this a lot in soups or stir-fries.  Just cut the amount in half.  If your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon lemon juice, use 1 to 1 1/2 tsp tamarind.  A little goes a long way!
  • Cider vinegar especially in soups or casseroles, in small quantities, can replace that sour taste without making your dish taste like vinegar.
  • We’ve also been better about using herbs like parsley and cilantro, which also provide a citrus-like taste to foods.
  • For large quantities of citrus replacement, I like to use pomegranate.  It is easy to find in grocery stores and has tartness to it.

Which brings me to a recent cake I wanted to make.  I subscribe to the Splendid Table’s Weeknight Kitchen, which is a mostly weekly email with very yummy and usually quick meals.  Sometimes they throw in dessert recipes, and the French Lemon Yogurt Cake they printed from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg seemed too tempting.  Never mind that the main ingredients are lemon and wheat flour.  By the time I was done with it, it was a completely different cake, but very satisfying!

I created the Pomegranate Yogurt Cake for the same dinner with friends I described in my last post.  I started in on the cake about a week before our dinner, when I stared looking in earnest for ground pomegranate seeds.  I’d been looking for months for them, after I had heard somewhere about their use as a sour agent in some types of cooking.  I checked the Mediterranean market several times, the high-end spice store, the grocery store, and then I finally found it at the Indian Grocery.  They called them anardana powder.  I call them tart and slightly bitter, a nice replacement for citrus zest.

Pomegranate Yogurt Cake:
I followed the directions for the Lemon Cake, roughly well.  I substituted  1-1/2 cups 4 flour bean blend for the flour called for in the recipe.
I also added in 1 teaspoon xantham gum and substitued  2 teaspoons pomegranate seeds for the lemon zest.  In place of the eggs, we used 3 tablespoons ground flax-seed steeped in 9 tablespoons boiling water.  Let the flax steep about 15 minutes, or until the mix is the consistency of an egg.

The recipe also called for both a syrup and an icing for the cake.  When it called for lemon juice, I substituted pomegranate juice in the same amount.  It baked for about 40 minutes, and came out fairly well.  It was a little dense, but I have some ideas on how to deal with that.  More soon, but in the mean time….Eat and enjoy!

Updated on 4/3 to accommodate my evolving understanding of copyright rules 🙂  Oh, and to fix a few typos.  Cheers!