Monday, February 26, 2007
We were able to hustle them in to our first gourmet
destination, Babycakes, a bakery that caters to gluten-free
and other allergy-sensitive customers. Located in a funky section of east Chinatown (248 Broome Street, between Orchard and Ludlow), this was a quiet, small haven with the feel of a 1930s-40s grandma's kitchen. At least four aproned bakers were busy behind the counter in the tiny kitchen, so the quarters were cramped, but we sat down and enjoyed tasty cupcakes, chocolate cake and blueberry crumb cake with sides of coffee and soda that were scrumptious. My daughter raved that her wheat-free, sugar-free cupcakes were the best she ever had.
Erroneously thinking that Chinatown was right next to Greenwich Village, home of the parental lunch spot of choice, we marched the kids many miles before we finally plopped down to eat at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at Risotteria (270 Bleecker Street). This was the Holy Grail we had been seeking: most everything on the menu was safe to eat and designated as gluten-free and/or
Of course we had to try two of the spectacular versions of the 35 different risottos offered on the current menu. We also tried the pizza, which I didn't like as much since the crust was too crisp and thin for my taste. However, if we had the luxury of another day in New York, we would certainly have come back to sample the panini, salads and decadent-sounding appetizers. Risotteria was just so relaxing for our family. Ordering food was transformed from a worrisome task to effortless pleasure. We grabbed a bag of gluten-free croutons and breadstick mix to play with back home, but the croutons got gobbled up in-transit. Four thumbs up!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
My first tip for the gluten-free traveler would be to avoid what I did in packing a glass bottle of wheat-free soy sauce in my purse. We planned on a Chinese/Thai/Japanese meal or two, so I had gotten a bottle packed inside a plastic bag to use on our table. This was unfortunately not enough protection as it leaked inside my new pleather purse and onto the floor of our lunch spot and worst of all, on my borrowed library book. My next trip will be to the dollar store to procure a leak-free plastic condiment bottle. And I will only bring ratty paperbacks along for the ride.
Our dinner was at Bloom's Delicatessen Cafe, located at 350 Lexington Avenue, at the corner of E. 4oth Street. This was a quick walk from our hotel room and we had gotten their name from the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program on the Internet. Our omnivorous offspring were thrilled with their Chicken Fingers and Shrimp Parmigiana and even tried a New York deli must-drink, Cel-Ray, a celery-flavored ginger ale. Dan and I enjoyed the complimentary Pickle Bar and were appreciative that they had a gluten-free menu, but there were limited options for a vegetarian. We ended up with okay broiled fish, although Dan opted for the delicious gluten-free french fries. Two doors up on the same block was an Indian restaurant which piqued our interest for the next night's dining, but I will save that for tomorrow's blog.....
Friday, February 16, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Now the snow is up to two and a half feet and even the plows aren't coming around on our lonely road. More blizzard conditions and wind shuffling the powdery snow around so that shoveling and plowing don't have a lingering effect. More cooking heralded.
I am happy to report that a year after the whole wheat-free diet was mandated, I have finally achieved a tasty and flaky pie crust. I owe it all to the dean of wheat-free cooking, Bette Hagman. I have a copy of her flagship cookbook, "The Gluten-Free Gourmet"(NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1991) and used her Tender Vinegar Pastry recipe for the crust. I made two crusts, one for a pumpkin pie and one for my family favorite, Apple Sour Cream Pie.
The crusts held together well and were fairly easy to repair after rolling them out and attempting the transfer to the pie pans. My Franken-crusts just needed some extra work to seal the cracks. It is hard to make a beautiful sculptured edge as is more easily done with a wheat crust, but the taste is really light and it's texture is wonderful. We tried some frozen gluten-free pie crusts and they were leaden and as tasty as a busted shoe.
Here is Ms. Hagman's Tender Vinegar Pastry recipe:
1-1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch (not to be confused with potato flour)
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. cold water
Sift flours, salt, sugar and xanthan gum into a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening. Blend together egg, vinegar and cold water. Stir them into the flour mix. This will seem quite moist, but a rice crust needs to be more moist than a wheat flour one.
Knead the mixture into a ball (handling will not toughen the dough). Separate into two balls and roll, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap. Place in pie tin.
Makes 2 crusts.
Apple Sour Cream Pie
One unbaked pie crust
4 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. gluten-free baking mix
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
Topping: 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/3 cup gluten-free baking mix & 1/4 cup butter
Line pie plate with pastry.
Mix 3/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. baking mix. Add sour cream, vanilla, egg and salt. Add apples and combine. Pour into pie shell.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Then combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of pie. Lower oven heat to 325 degrees and bake another 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Top with sweetened whipped cream, if desired.
2 ripe avocadoes, peeled and mashed
1 fat clove garlic, run through garlic press or minced fine
Kosher salt to taste
Juice of ½ lime
2 Tbsp. chopped red onion
Hot sauce to taste (red or green)
2 tsp. cumin
Blend all ingredients together and let stand at room temperature at least one hour before serving to let flavors get to know each other.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I have never been a great baker, as this skill requires precision measurements and I’m more of a jazz improvisation cook. And then there’s all those exotic-sized baking pans, madeleine molds, pie weights and such which I never seem to have. Baking gluten-free has been even more frustrating for me as I am easily daunted by the talcum powder storms produced by all those superfine wheatless flours. However, we must all have our sweets and so I shall press on.
I tried a recipe for Wheat-Free Apple Layer Cake, courtesy of http://www.veganfamily.co.uk/. It’s a nice, homey recipe website with lots of photos of finished products and cute kids ingesting delicious-looking treats. I didn’t have soy flour and substituted tapioca flour. Also, the recipe calls for caster sugar, which is a finely ground kind of sugar which one could theoretically produce in a food processor or blender, but as that’s just another opportunity for a talcum tornado (not to mention the cleanup factor), I substituted regular granulated sugar.
How to make a Rubbery Apple Layer Cake
1-1/2 cups white rice flour
Scant cup soy flour (I used tapioca flour)
½ cup caster sugar (I used regular sugar)
1 tsp. wheat-free raising agent (I used yeast, but maybe they meant baking powder)
2 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup water
¼ cup apple juice
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
Few drops vanilla
Dash of vinegar
Mix dry ingredients together. Add water, juice, oil, vanilla and mix well. Add vinegar and stir. Pour half of cake batter into a greased (9 x 9 inch) square cake tin (Another substitution: I used a 2 quart glass baking pan). Spread apple slices evenly over the batter and then top with the remaining mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake at 360 degrees for 40 minutes or until firm.
Well, it was firm alright. The taste is good, but I think the substitution for the soy flour and my misinterpretation of raising agent caused a chemical imbalance in the finished product and it was more like rubber than a delectable dessert. It was crummy instead of crumb-y. My family still ate it, and it was improved with reheating in the microwave and dousing with pure maple syrup, but I shall have to learn to be less of a deviant in my baking.
Friday, February 9, 2007
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Add remaining ingredients, except for pasta. Simmer gently 15-20 minutes. Add pasta for the last five minutes of cooking to avoid mushiness. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serves 6.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
1 large potato, unpeeled
1-2 Tbsp. butter
Seasonings: onion powder, Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 slice provolone cheese
Grate potato onto several paper towels. Squeeze as much water out of the potato as you can. Heat frying pan. Add 1 Tbsp. butter to melt.
When sizzling, add potatoes and flatten down hard with spatula. Season with onion powder and Montreal Steak Seasoning (gluten-free, we checked with the manufacturer!). If you don't have Montreal Steak Seasoning, use black pepper, paprika and garlic salt.
Cook on low, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until potatoes hold together as a cake. Add more butter if necessary. Flip and cook another 5 minutes or until browned. Place a slice of cheese on top. Dan used provolone, but any good melting cheese will do. Flip half over and just heat until cheese is melted.
Barbecued Baked Beans
This recipe is adapted from Nava Atlas' wonderful cookbook "The Great American Vegetarian".
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ginger
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
4 cups cooked beans (we used soybeans as we had a bumper crop from the garden. They are ridiculously easy to grow and don't get bug pests or diseases in our neck of the woods. You can use navy beans or cannelli beans too).
Heat oil in heavy saucepan. Add onion and saute over low heat until translucent. Add garlic, stirring, and saute until onion is browned. Add all other ingredients except for beans and simmer 10-20 minutes.
Add beans and mix well. We put this into the crockpot for 3 hours, but you could also bake this in your stove (covered, 45 minutes covered and then 15 minutes uncovered). Dan also likes a round of Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce (gluten-free as per the manufacturer) mixed in for extra flavor.
This delicious breakfast provides all the nutrients required of a brace of lumberjacks.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Middle Eastern Rice Salad
3 cups cooked rice
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 small cloves of garlic, pressed
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
4 scallions, chopped (I substituted ¼ cup finely minced red onion, in summertime I would use the chives in my kitchen garden)
Handful of grape tomatoes, halved (so they don’t spit you or a friend in the eye when chomped)
Chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried mint
Kosher salt and pepper to taste.
A couple of splashes of extra virgin olive oil
Ideally, you make your rice right before you mix in the dressing so that the rice grains suck it up better, but cold leftover rice will do. Mix all ingredients together and let flavors mingle at room temperature for several hours. If salad seems a little dry, splash in some rice wine vinegar and maybe a little more olive oil.
Feta cheese, black olives, dill, and chick peas can be added to vary this salad.
A good party dish, particularly for summer gatherings, as it can be left out for hours without spoiling.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Friday, February 2, 2007
Almond Cloud Cookies
2 cups blanched almonds (you can find bags of whole almonds or sliced almonds, any form will do as long as the brown skin is gone)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
2 egg whites at room temperature
Using a food processor, grind the almonds and sugar, half at a time, until finely ground. Blend in vanilla and egg whites.
Drop with teaspoon onto a well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes, until golden peaks form. Let sit for a couple of minutes to cool a bit and then wrestle from the cookie sheet with a spatula.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
You can also add 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, if desired.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
1 cup potato starch (not to be confused with potato flour, we get it at our health foods store)
1-1/2 cups corn starch (bought on sale in bulk at the grocery store)
3-1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (from health food store, expensive stuff)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Spray a baking stone with cooking spray or lightly oil it. If you don't have a baking stone (great for pizza and crisping up other baked goods too) you can use a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Work in butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Pour in buttermilk and mix until dough gathers into a ball.
Sprinkle counter with rice flour and turn dough out. Quickly form into two large balls and press flat. Cut each ball into eight sections, like a scone. Place on baking stone.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly brown.
Makes 16 biscuits.
Enjoy warm with butter and jam.