Sunday, April 29, 2007

Unidentified Vegtacular Object


What is this crazy knobby vegetable in the photo, you ask? Well, it is a perennial North American native, which is the easiest thing to grow in my upstate New York garden. It's a Jerusalem Artichoke, or Sunchoke, which I planted as a tuber many years ago in our sandy soil and which flourishes each year no matter our weather.

The tubers sprout into six-foot-tall stalks that are topped with small yellow sunflower-like blossoms in September. After the frost is the best time to harvest the tubers, which grow very close to the surface. I wash them carefully and usually slice them thinly into our salads or sprinkle with kosher salt and serve as a raw vegetable. We've also cooked them like potatoes and eaten them, but prefer them crispy. They taste somewhat nutty and a little sweet. We have also harvested them in the early Spring, but they are a bit starchier then. They do spread like crazy, so we have them in their own circular spot in the yard and just mow around them.

One word of warning. This is a very "windy" vegetable. Even a small taste of a Jerusalem Artichoke causes a lot of flatulence, so they are family-friendly fare only. Party food they aren't. They are, however, full of inulin, rather than the normal starch when they are first harvested, so diabetics can partake of them freely.
Check out the 'chokes!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Vegetarian Planet Pasta



Another pasta winner! One of my favorite cookbooks is Didi Emmons' "Vegetarian Planet" (Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1997). I've had lots of successes with her boldly flavored, but fairly simple to prepare dishes, and this pasta recipe is just wonderful. It's a delicately nutty-tasting, very healthy, beautiful-looking recipe and I am delighted to share it with you. Be careful to keep heat low to medium while lightly browning the garlic and ginger as you want to keep the taste delicate.
I do have a hardcover copy of this cookbook in stock at our bookshop, if anyone is interested. There are 349 other fantastic recipes in this book to explore.

PASTA WITH BABY RED LENTILS AND GINGER

1 lb. gluten-free pasta (Emmons recommends penne)
8 Tbsp. butter
2 large garlic cloves, sliced very thin (I always add more garlic for our taste)
1 2-inch piece of ginger, cut into thin julienne strips
1 tsp. minced fresh sage or 1/2 tsp. crumbled dried sage
3/4 cup baby red lentils (I got them at my health food store)
1 cup water
2 cups fresh spinach, firmly packed (I've used frozen spinach in a pinch)
1 tsp. salt
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta into the water, stir, and cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is just tender. Drain it, and rinse it well.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to turn golden with some brown specks, add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Then add the sage, the lentils, and the 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low.

Let the lentils simmer for 10 minutes or until they are tender but still slightly chewy (if the lentils are large they may need more time and more water). Stir the spinach and salt into the lentils, and turn the heat up a bit. Stir often until the spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Then add the cooked pasta and pepper to taste, and heat the mixture through. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

Mangia bene!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jigsaw Bars a Puzzlement

I received a free box of Jigsaw bars in chocolate and coconut almond flavors from the maker, Jigsaw Health, and while I appreciate the company's kind offer, they just didn't pass muster with our family. The kids didn't even finish their bars, which is surprising with my little one, as she enjoys healthy eating. Dan, the celiac-in-search-of-munchies, was lukewarm in his praise for the Chocolate flavor (grade = C) and hated the Coconut Almond. I liked the Chocolate Bar a little better (grade = B), and also couldn't finish my Coconut Almond Jigsaw Bar. I found an unpleasant stale nut kind of taste in my mouth after eating the Coconut Almond Bars (two separate tastings).

I'm going to pass on the remaining bars to one of my celiac pals to see if she finds them tasty, but these bars won no endorsement here. I'd rather bake something from scratch for a healthy treat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Salmon Burgers Up!



This is a family favorite we hadn't made in a while, but it's a real winner. It's a bit time-intensive and a little wiggly to handle, but we all sit down to wolf these burgers down. Makes 6 burgers, which feeds 6 persons or 3 people and 1 teenager. Make sure you have a couple of hours to make it before supper time, as you have to let the burgers rest at least an hour before cooking them.

Salmon Burgers


2 lbs. salmon, skinned and picked over to remove bones
3 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and minced
wheat-free soy sauce
sesame oil
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Vegetable oil


Chop salmon roughly and put in food processor with scallions, garlic, ginger, 2 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Pulse on and off until well-minced and well-mixed. With lightly oiled hands, shape into six patties. Place on a platter and cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight to let firm up.

Mix a teriyaki marinade of: 1/4 cup soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. sesame oil.

Grill or fry burgers about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Drizzle with marinade during last minute of cooking.

These burgers are great on buns with Bermuda onion, tomato, lettuce and Thousand Island dressing or alone served along with steamed rice and teriyaki sauce spooned on top.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Pig in the Kitchen


I just discovered a very entertaining cooking blog from across the pond in England Pig in the Kitchen. There are some delicious-sounding recipes like Quinoa and Chickpea Soup, Smug 'n' Spicy Veg, Cranberry Cookies, Rocket Pesto and others that are clammering for my attention. I may break down and have to convert those gram measurements into cludgy American cups and teaspoons right awy. The author has a daughter with multiple food allergies, so the recipes are free of gluten, soy, eggs and dairy, yet her food porn pictures and descriptions make them sound chock full of taste.

The blog is great for the comedy content as well. Here's her introduction for the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe:
Pineapple Upside Down Cake


This is a little stodgier than the cake my mother used to bake (in yester-years), I am blaming the buckwheat flour. It did not stop me eating lots of it.


She also advises readers on the sexiness quotient of various recipes.

Now there's someone I'd love to sit down and have a cuppa with. And a nice hunk of cake.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect, or At Least Better


In the last post I was whinging about my cooking blahs this past week, but today I managed to fiddle around enough with a great-sounding recipe for General Tsao's Tofu I got off vegweb.com
that was a mucilaginous mess when I made it last week. Armed with more broccoli and tofu I assaulted the General and emerged victorious. Three out of four Jagareskis snorked it up. I still need to fine tune some things, but it was a great recipe that we'll make again.

General Tsao's Tofu

1 box firm tofu (not firm silken, but firm firm)
1 egg
1/2 cup cornstarch
Vegetable oil
3 scallions, chopped (or one onion and some chives from the garden)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2/3 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. wheat-free soy sauce or tamari
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bunches of broccoli, cut into florets and stems chopped fine

Pat tofu dry and press to remove extra moisture about 1/2 hour.

Put rice on to cook (3 cups of uncooked rice seems to work for our 4 member family). The rice cooker makes it a snap.

Steam broccoli until bright green, but not mushy. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

Beat egg well. Cut up tofu into cubes and dip into egg and then cornstarch. Heat vegetable oil in large saute pan and fry tofu pieces until golden. Scrape up any crusty bits and place with tofu to drain.

Heat another couple Tbsps. vegetable oil in pan. Add scallions, ginger and garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, vinegar and sesame oil. Bring to boil.

Add broccoli and tofu and stir to coat with sauce and heat through.

Serve over steamed rice.

Serves 4.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gluten-Free Food Find of the Week



I've had a very lackluster bout of gluten-free cooking lately. Tried some pasta that came up gummy; tried a General Tsao's Tofu recipe peppered with viscid lumps of cornstarch; made some calamari in marinara that snapped like rubber. Blech.

So nothing to report on the wheat-free-meat-free culinary frontier. I was forced to console the family with a store bought treat, Turkish Delight. I found a box of this cornstarch candy, known as lokum to the Turks and Turkish Delight to the Brits, on my supermarket shelves. The contents were not labeled as gluten-free, but the ingredients were listed: nuts, sugar, cornstarch, water, "apricot kernel" (I thought cyanide was made from apricot pits!?!), vanilla and citric acid.

Everyone liked it and my husband Dan recalled that Turkish Delight was the favorite food of young Edmund in C.S. Lewis' first Chronicles of Narnia book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". The evil White Witch tempts him to report about his siblings' adventures in Narnia by proferring a round box tied with a green silk ribbon containing several pounds of this confection:
Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable".


Turkish Delight is very good, although it is not on any Jagareski's top ten list of dishes to die for. It's got a nice chewiness and isn't cloyingly sweet. I think the nuts add a lot of interest. Apparently Turkish Delight can be made with lovely and delicate flavors like rosewater and for those who would like more candy facts, I would recommend the Candy Blog to you. Click on the link to find out more information specifically about Turkish Delight, although this blogger tries out and rates all kinds of candies.

Maybe this weekend I'll try some more nutritious gluten-free home cooking, powered by the restorative powers of Turkish Delight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stuff that Celery


My grandmother used to bring these snacks to our house on holidays and I felt a little nostalgic for them. Here's her recipe:

Stuffed Celery

1 bunch celery, washed and cut into 4-5 inch sticks (keep them U-shaped)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup roasted and salted peanuts, chopped fine
Green olives
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Garlic salt

Blend cream cheese with peanuts, garlic salt and worcestershire sauce. Add a little milk if it's too stiff. I like to mix in chopped green olives, but I have two olive-phobes in the house, so we put olives on top of half of our sticks.

Eat.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chipotle Oven Fries

Dan is the Champion of Breakfasts, so this is his recipe:

Chipotle Oven Fries

3-4 lbs. potatoes, unpeeled and cut 3/4 inch thick. (Dan uses a crinkle-cutter so that the edges of the potatoes absorb more spices and oil and get very crispy on the outside)

Olive oil

Chipotle hot sauce (we use Tabasco brand)

Salt, pepper and your favorite spices

Coat two 9 x 13 glass baking dishes with olive oil. Add potatoes, hot sauce and spices and mix well. Place in 400 degree oven for an hour or so to cook until browned. Stir several times during baking.

This makes enough for several breakfasts. Very spicy!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pies of Unlimited Possibility



Real men don't eat quiche, but they do enjoy a good egg pie now and again. I was pricing up a box of cookbooks in the bookstore today and came across this humorous title by some hip hospice volunteers. These fundraiser cookbooks always have some good down home recipes, although they do tend to be heavy on the jello salads and cream of mushroom soup casseroles. I found a recipe for Impossible Seafood Pie, which brought back memories of leafing through homemaker magazines back in the day and seeing all those advertisements pushing Bisquick and other prepackaged foods. There was always some variant of Impossible Pie, basically a mixed up slurry of stuff that you baked and which magically produced its own crust in the oven.

I had some zucchini and assorted cheese ends in the fridge, so I came up with this version of a completely plausible pie, basically a crustless quiche or frittata. It was a hit with my Real Man.

Crustless Zucchini Pie

2 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 cups grated cheese (I used some garlic/herb cheddar and regular cheddar)
1-1/2 cups milk
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 or 10 inch pie pan.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add onions and saute until lightly browned. Add zucchini and saute until softened. Place in center of pie pan with cheese.

Beat eggs and milk until smooth (about 1 minute with hand mixer). Season with salt and pepper. Pour over cheese and zucchini.

Bake 35-40 minutes (I forgot about this poor pie while I was on the computer, blogging dontcha know, so it can stand another 10 minutes of baking). Cool for 5-10 minutes to let set and then serve.

Serves 4-6 people.

You can also use other sauteed vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, etc. in place of the zucchini.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Pasta That Refreshes

After our rich Easter feast yesterday, we needed something lighter and more refreshing, so I perused my kitchen library and found a very nice and light pasta salad in Mollie Katzen's "Still Life with Menu Cookbook" (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1988). I found that 5 to 6 oz. of noodles only made enough for two dinner portions and made a few changes, so this is a modified version of:

Sunomono (Japanese Noodle and Cucumber Salad)

5 to 6 oz. rice noodles (I would have used the whole 14 oz. pkg. rice noodles for our family of four plus one teenaged guest)
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
4 tsp. sugar (I used brown sugar)
2 tsp. wheat-free soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
1-2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 medium-sized cucumber
Sesame oil to taste
2 thinly sliced scallions

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn off heat, throw in noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Mix together vinegar, brown sugar, soy, salt, sesame seeds and sesame oil to taste. Pour over noodles. Chill until cold.

Peel and seed cucumber. Cut into quarters lengthwise, then into thin pieces.

Divide noodles into 4 or 5 serving bowls. Top with cucumber slices, a light sprinkling of sesame seeds and scallions. Serve cold.

Serves 4-5 people.

Brazilian Cheese Bread Balls


I got a copy of Carol Fenster's "Gluten-Free 101-Easy, Basic Dishes Without Wheat (Centennial, CO: Savory Palate, 2003) and was leafing through it with Dan, when he spied the recipe for Cheese Bread Balls. We miraculously had all the ingredients on hand, so I tried a batch. The recipe hails from Brazil, where they are called Pao de Quiejo.

The taste was good, the outside was crispy, but the inside is unpleasantly rubbery (Fenster described the inside as "sticky"), sort of like an escargot wrapped in a nice cheesy, crispy pastry. I don't know if it's because of the tapioca flour, but next time I'm going to try the recipe with part rice flour and see if that helps the texture. Try them for yourself.

Cheese Bread Balls

1-1/2 cups tapioca flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Have measured tapioca flour ready.

Heat milk and oil in medium saucepan and bring to rolling boil. Remove from heat and immediately add tapioca flour. Mix quickly with wooden spoon. Cool 5 minutes.

Place mixture in food processor and add egg, cheese, and salt. Process until mixture is smooth and forms a ball.

With 1-1/2 inch or 2-inch spring-action ice cream scoop, drop 12 balls of dough onto ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. For smoother balls, roll each between your oiled palms.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until balls are lightly browned and crisp. Makes 12.

Serve warm or at room temperature (I think texture is better when they are cooled).

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Decadent Easter Feast


There's nothing my youngest daughter likes better than King Crab legs, but since they are expensive, they are a holiday treat. We had a batch of these spiny limbs with melted butter, jasmine rice and roasted asparagus. Our asparagus patch is not yet awake, so I bought a nice bunch of pencil-thin spears. 3 out of 4 Jagareskis enjoy the following dish, which disappeared before I could shoot a photo:

Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed (cut off woody parts at base and for thick asparagus, peel the lower inch with a vegetable peeler)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, pepper and rosemary
4 chopped scallions or 3 cloves minced garlic

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat the bottom of a glass 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Toss in asparagus and scallions/garlic to coat. Season with salt, pepper and rosemary.

Roast 30 minutes or until asparagus tips are nice and crispy. You may need to stir things once or twice during roasting. Thicker asparagus will take a bit longer to roast up.


We followed up our Easter repast with Almond Coffee Cake with an Orange Glaze made from Elizabeth Barbone's "Easy Gluten-Free Baking" cookbook (see previous blog post) which we all really liked. A second baking success for me out of this cookbook, which is very encouraging.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking - with Elizabeth Barbone




I promised a blog entry on Elizabeth Barbone's cooking demonstration at Monday's Glens Fall Celiac Support Group meeting and have had some time to "digest" it, literally. I brought home two of the moist chocolate cupcakes she brought for sampling and my husband and kids pronounced them delicious (don't tell them about the cat hair I scraped off the frosting when they fell over in the car on the ride home).

Barbone was funny, enthusiastic and knowledgable as she gently reminded everyone about baking basics, like measuring correctly and keeping your fingers out of the mixer. If only my high school home economics teacher had been as lively and practical (all I remember are the weird grape jelly omelettes and endless vats of white sauce we had to make, and worse, ingest). Her bodacious purple KitchenAid mixer was the envy of the room and it was an informative and most of all, FUN.

I bought a copy of "Easy Gluten-Free Baking', which the author was kind enough to autograph for me. I was inspired to flip through and am pleased to see lots of standards that we've been missing in our new gluten-free lifestyle: oatmeal cookies (made gluten-free by using quinoa flakes),Mexican Wedding cookies, edible pizza, onion rings and lemon bars. I decided to try the Lemon Bar recipe and it turned out great, even though I had to stop halfway through to pick up my kid from a friend's house. Barbone gave me permission to reprint this recipe from her book, which I would recommend to everyone. You can order a copy of the book for $24.95 directly from the author at her website. It's a nice large-sized softcover with wet and dry ingredients laid out separately so you have the option of pre-measuring and packing ingredients to save time if you bake in bulk. This cookbook uses fairly common ingredients and does not use those weird tasting bean flours that are in many other gluten-free recipes.

Barbone is based in Rensselaer County, so if you live in the Capital District you can attend one of her gluten-free baking classes, held in Latham and Queensbury. I am tempted by her Gluten-Free Cracker class and she also teaches a basic baking, and beginner and advanced bread-making classes. There is also a monthly gluten-free baking newsletter you can subscribe to for more recipes and instruction, as well as a blog so if you're a serious baker, you can really find some great information.

Now onto the serious business of making

LEMON BARS

Cookie base

Dry Ingredients

1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Wet Ingredients

1 stick butter, cold and cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp. water

Topping

2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. white rice flour
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and rice flour an 8-inch square pan.

2. In a food processor, add the dry ingredients. Pulse once or twice to combine. Add butter. Pulse mixture until butter is more thoroughly incorporated. (Dough should resemble a coarse meal.)

3. Add water. Pulse a few times until a dough forms.

4. Press mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

5. Bake crust for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Remove pan from oven. Place pan on a cooling rack. (Be sure to leave oven on.)

7. In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, white rice flour and lemon juice.

8. Pour mixture over baked crust.

9. Return pan to oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until filling is set. (Filling should be firm and not jiggle.)

10. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes one dozen bars.

**** These were terrific. Nice flaky bottom with a sweet-sour-lemony top. Dan had at least four of them last night. I wonder if they would work with lime juice instead of lemon?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

First Celiac Support Group Meeting

Last night my friend Lisa and I went to our first meeting of the Glens Falls Regional Celiac Support Group. The meeting was very informative and there were lots of free samples from various gluten-free food companies. The meeting featured a guest speaker, Elizabeth Barbone, who is a CIA-educated chef and author of "Easy Gluten-Free Baking". I bought Elizabeth's book and will blog about her delightful presentation and recipes after I do some cooking.

One of the group members, Shirley, is apparently the volunteer caterer for these bimonthly meetings, which is very generous of her. She brought two wonderful dishes to sample, kasha varniskes (buckwheat groats with apple and onion, the most popular item and one for which I only got to sample a few groats-worth) and a delicious lentil salad. Shirley gave me the recipe for the salad, which was a big hit with Dan when I brought it home late at night and I am delighted to share it:

Lentil Salad a la Shirley

1-1/2 cups dried lentils
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups water
1 cup finely chopped red and green peppers
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped red onions
1 cup plain yogurt (or 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup yogurt)
3 Tbsp. mango chutney
1-1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. finely minced red onions
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, combine lentils, onions, garlic and water. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

Combine peppers, celery and 1 cup red onion in nonreactive bowl. When the lentils are cooked, drain and add them, while hot, to the bowl. Stir and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Stir dressing into the lentils and serve. If you'll be serving the lentil salad later, store in refrigerator and return to room temperature before serving.

Delicious!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Southern-Fried Tofu and Sushi



The Book of Yum blog is one of my favorite food blogs. Yum host Sea has not only one of the loveliest and cleanest layouts, but her recipes are highly detailed and exotic. A blog for all of the senses.

I decided to try her Southern Fried Tofu recipe and while my attempt did not turn out to be as visually appealing, the kids were filching pieces of sauteed tofu almost as fast as I cooked them. I will have to work on my tofu-pressing technique as my lower layer dissolved into a mass of distinctly untriangular pieces, but they did fry up okay and were certainly not left on the platter after dinner.

We paired this excellent recipe with some homemade sushi and grated daikon radish accompaniment. Here are the recipes for our sushi, which again, The Book of Yum can instruct you to make much more photogenically. Definitely a blog to check out if you swoon at the sight of a perfectly formed vegetable and are culinarily adventurous.

Shrimp and Cucumber Sushi

1-1/2 cups sushi rice
2 cups water
rice vinegar
wheat-free soy sauce or tamari
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and grated
sesame oil
4 sheets nori, cut in half
2 small pickling cucumbers or other firm cucumber, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled, cooked and cut into matchsticks
1 large daikon
3 scallions, sliced thin

Rinse starch off the sushi rice until water runs clear. Then cook in rice cooker with 2 cups water until done. You can also cook on the stove until tender. Turn out rice into a pot to cool. When cooled, moisten with a few tablespoons of rice vinegar. The rice should stick together, but not be gummy.

Lay nori on sushi mat or moistened cutting board. Add about 1-1/2 Tbsp. rice, some shrimp, carrot and cucumber and then roll up. Moisten edges to seal.

Grate daikon and squeeze out extra moisture. Season with sesame oil, grated ginger, soy, scallions and rice vinegar. Serve as an accompaniment to the sushi.