Do You Cook with Flax?

Photo by Lauren SalkeldPhoto by Lauren SalkeldBy Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious.com

Years ago, I accidentally bought cereal with flax seeds, and after pretty much spitting out the first spoonful, swore off flax in all its forms. According to our food dictionary, "this tiny seed contains several essential nutrients including calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorous, and vitamin E" and is "a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids." All good healthy things, but I decided flax tasted like metal, and was officially off limits.

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My flax-friendly conversion started with peanut butter. Of course: Add peanut butter to just about anything and I will like it. Flax-fortified peanut butters like the ones from Naturally More and Trader Joe's were all it took to open my eyes to flax. There's no metallic flavor. These butters are richer and earthier than ones without flax, and when there are whole seeds, they lend extra crunch and a pleasant chewiness. Now I only want peanut butter with flax, except when I want almond butter with flax.

With my flax blinders off, I picked up ground flax (from Bob's Red Mill) and started thinking of ways to use it. Sprinkled over oatmeal is an easy way to get some extra fiber and nutrients though I can't say it affects the taste very much. The biggest success I've had so far is to use flax in place of breadcrumbs. Drizzled in a little olive oil or butter, and lightly toasted, ground flax is great on a raw kale salad. It also works in turkey meatballs.

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For the gratin-like dish shown above, I roasted Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then about 10 minutes before they were ready, I added a mixture of ground flax, grated Parmesan, and minced garlic, and returned the dish to the oven. The cheese melted, the flax crisped, and the garlic softened just slightly, making for a gooey, nutty crust much like the best macaroni and cheese. Baking with ground flax is the next experiment, and I'm planning to try out some of the flax-containing recipes in the Epicurious database, including chocolate chip cookies and blueberry waffles.

Do you like flax and do you cook or bake with it?

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