Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gluten-Free Baked Goods at the local Farmers Market

The Gansevoort Farmers Market is a new institution this summer and has a lovely selection of vegetables, meats, and baked goods available from local vendors on Thursdays from 3 pm to 6 pm at the Village Green (corner of State Route 32 and Wilton-Gansevoort Road). I stopped by after work to catch some delicious gluten-free treats baked by Jeanne Daley and two of her buddies. I stocked up on Chocolate Chip Bars, Apple Pie Cookies, Fudge and a beautiful little loaf of French Bread which I sliced, toasted and topped with some of our garden tomatoes chopped up with some fresh garlic, basil, olive oil and vinegar. I then ran it back in the toaster oven with some grated cheese on top and what a treat for my gluten-free husband!

The Gansevoort Farmers Market will run through the end of October each Thursday and the variety gluten-free baked goods is promised to change weekly. If you are in the area, stop by and check it out!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baking in Honor of Bette



Sea over at the delicious and detailed Book of Yum blog came up with a wonderful idea to honor the memory of the late Bette Hagman, aka the Gluten-Free Gourmet, the trail-blazing gluten-free cookbook author. Bette's cookbooks were the first we consulted when faced with Dan's celiac diagnosis and we own three of her cookbooks. Sea had the inspiration to organize a bake-off from Bette's recipes and I was delighted to try my hand at making something sweet to show her family my appreciation for all of her hard work and inventiveness in the kitchen.

I made the Mini-Sponge Cakes with Lemon Cream from her book "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Makes Desserts" which I bought as a Christmas present to myself this past year.

Thank you Bette. You made the Jagareski family's life a little sweeter.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Traveling Gluten-Free in Central Vermont



My mom came to stay with the girls for two days and two nights, so Dan and I headed off for a romantic 48-hour trip to Montpelier, Vermont. Both of us had never been there before and we love country drives, book hunting and small cities, so this turned out to be a very relaxing and interesting trip. As parents, we are also counting down the days until school starts, so it was a much-needed break.

We drove small highways into Montpelier, the state capital, which has a lovely gold-domed capitol building featuring lots of Vermont granite and marble and topped with a statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. There were lots of young folks playing frisbee, reading and basking in the sun on the Capitol lawns and we joined them the next day to loll about with our books. But the first order of the day was to scout the bookstores and find some lunch. We first stopped at Bear Pond Books, a new bookstore with lots of unusual titles and a great children's section upstairs. Got a couple of great books, then headed across the street to Rivendell Books, a used bookstore with lots of new remaindered titles. Rivendell Books has the added attraction of Veruca, the resident tortoise, whom I almost stepped on while in my book trance.

Feeling faint from our biblio-exertions, we needed some lunch, so after a walk around the funky downtown we decided upon Rhapsody Natural Foods, which was so good we ate there the next night. The place is painted a vibrant orange with art and photographs along the walls and features a self-serve buffet of cold, hot and sushi delights. All food is vegetarian (except for some fish sushi) and dairy-free, and most of the buffet salads and entrees had little signs next to them indicating what ingredients they contained. Nirvana for the gluten-free diner! The chef was right there in the open kitchen, so Dan was able to ask him about what specific items were safe for him to eat. We loaded up on Caribbean-style vegetable stews, vegetable sushi, barbecued tofu, artichoke salads and many more scrumptious offerings. They do use a soy sauce which contains wheat, so Dan had to steer away from that, but at least half of the items in the Rhapsody buffet were gluten-free, so he piled his plate high and left no crumbs behind when he was done eating. Highly recommended for gluten-free diners and omnivores alike, as everything tasted fresh and vibrant and was beautiful to behold besides.

We strolled around some more in this lovely college town and checked out another great new and used bookshop, The Book Garden, where we picked up a few local history titles and chatted with the lively owner about nutrition (she's a devotee of lacto-fermentation) and things bookish. We settled into The Capitol Plaza hotel, which was a nice, clean, family-run hotel located directly across from the town's movie theatre and unfortunately also across from the City courthouse with its hourly chiming of the clocks. However, we loved the Plaza porch and settled there for a drink and people watching both evenings.

A terrible dinner ensued at Julio's Cantina (I'll spare everyone the link to this "festive", pre-packaged Tex-Mex franchise), where our waitress kept nervously laughing at all our inquiries about what menu items might be gluten-free. Dan attempted a grilled portobella mushroom (hold the bun) and the world's smallest fungus arrived on his plate, overcanopied by its garnish, along with some tasteless beans and rice. I had a tasteless, forgettable item as well, so thumbs down on this one, even if you are not dining gluten-free.

Still hungry the next morning, we rose early in search of breakfast. We would have loved to tried Kismet Cafe for some gluten-free baked products (they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), and wistfully perused the offerings at the New England Culinary School's bakery on Main Street, but wheat was much in evidence so we had a nice egg and home fries breakfast (hold the toast) at the Coffee Corner. A busy little community diner with great eats and a good view of the breakfast grill chefs with their patterned toques.

We headed out to Plainfield, Vermont to check out The Country Bookshop, a great labyrinth of books surrounded by beautiful gardens, and then headed south to Barre, an historic granite sculpting and quarrying town, where we scrounged for books in the local thrift shops and scooped up some Vermont-made goodies at L.A.C.E., a downtown grocery, cafe, community space started up by the late and fantastic Warren Zevon's daughter, Ariel. No gluten-free baked goods in evidence, but we got some cool condiments and maple candy to bring back home.

Heading west back to Montpelier, we ended up stopping at the cool ReStore that recycles various business leftovers for people to buy and reuse. I got some homemade paper scraps to forge into bookmarks and Dan acquired some big plastic tubs to add to his collection of big plastic tubs. Oy. Then, we had a grand lunch feast at Finkerman's Barbeque Restaurant on River Street which had advertised vegetarian barbeque items in some of the hotel guides. It was fantastic. I as the omnivore had a variety of items to choose from and settled on a pulled pork with kale and coleslaw. Dan ended up selecting a pan-fried trout with sweet potato fries and something else scrumptious and the waitress and chef were solicitous in checking to see that things were prepared gluten-free and fresh to order. They were even willing to whip him up something special if the trout wasn't gluten-free. Everything was delicious and the atmosphere on the porch overlooking the Winooski River was serene. Trotter thumbs up to Finkerman's!

Another round of drinks and reading on our hotel porch ensued as we digested our fabulous lunch and then we walked around downtown Montpelier again, ending up with another great round of chow at Rhapsody Natural Foods.

All in all, a very enjoyable trip to this eclectic and picturesque college town, with lots of gluten-free, farm-fresh dining choices.

*Photo of the Montpelier State Capitol Building is courtesy of www.photoninja.com.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Canning Dilly Beans


So the dewpoint is in the 70s and it's 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside and we are all sweating just sitting still in the shade. Time to boil up a cauldron of water and start canning!

It is ironic that harvesting and storing the garden bounty must be done in the steamiest of weather, but that's when the vegetables start bounding out of the garden at a lightning clip and you can actually hear them growing when the cricket chirps die down. My friend Hope taught me how to can many years ago when I was an energetic, single young lass and I enjoyed making all kinds of weird chutneys and pickle relishes that I would give out to my bewildered relatives. "What is this and how do I eat it?" was their common reaction. Once the kids came, my canning efforts ceased, as toddlers do not allow for the long preparation, focus and boiling water dangers that is necessitated. Now the kids are older and I have time to can again.

The bean patch started to really churn last week, so I harvested up my beautiful purple string beans, snipped off their ends and prepared them to be pickled for later consumption. It is especially nice to chop up these dilled beans and sprinkle them in winter salads, when the good, fresh vegetable selection at the market is sparse. If you have never canned before, see if you can find a friend to show you the basics, as there are a lot of health issues involved with making sure every part of the canning process is sterilized. If that is not possible, I would recommend getting a copy of the Ball Blue Book, published by the good folks at the Ball Canning Jar Corporation in Muncie, Indiana. There are also a lot of Internet resources, including this article from Organic Gardening Magazine, which is a good starter course.

Here, then, is the Dilly Bean recipe from the Ball Blue Book:

Dilly Beans

2 lbs. trimmed green beans
4 heads dill
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (I like to use red pepper flakes instead)
2-1/2 cups vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup canning salt (don't substitute regular salt, this is chemistry!)

Pack beans lengthwise into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. To each pint, add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill. Combine remaining ingredients in a large sauce pot (non-reactive, like an enamel or glass pot). Bring to a boil. Pour hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Yield: about 4 pints.

Happy Canning!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Rice Noodle Salad with Tofu and Nori


Hot sticky nights require easy recipes for the gluten-free cook. I whipped up this Asian-inspired cold noodle salad featuring some of my favorite sushi seasonings and it was a winner all the way around. I didn't have to slave over the proverbial hot stove other than to boil up one pot of water to soften the rice noodles. The rest of the minimal kitchen time was spent chopping and mixing. Highly recommended for dining on muggy nights with a side of sliced cucumbers in vinaigrette.

Rice Noodle Salad with Tofu and Nori

1 (6.75 oz.) pkg. rice vermicelli or maifun (rice sticks)
1/2 lb. firm tofu, cubed
4 Tbsp. gluten-free soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 sheets nori (seaweed sheets for sushi), crumbled
2 Tbsp. pickled ginger, chopped
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (black seeds add a little color)

Bring a pot of water to a boil and then turn off the heat and add rice vermicelli to soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Don't let vermicelli soften too much, you want some bite here. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

Mix remaining ingredients and blend with noodles. Chill at least one hour before serving.

A little slivered red pepper would no doubt improve this dish by adding a little color.

Serves 6.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

South-of-the-Border Zucchini Pancakes












I treated myself to a new book purchase (rare for this used bookseller, I assure you) of Donna Klein's "The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Kitchen"NY: Penguin, 2007), and am delighted. There are so many exotic and delicious-sounding recipes which will take me years to explore fully.

Given the state of our garden and the exploding zucchini patch, Dan and I made a batch of Klein's zucchini pancakes and they are wonderful. We made them on our electric non-stick griddle and topped them with a slice of cheese to melt on during the last few minutes of cooking. Based on this culinary success, we can't wait to try some other recipes from this delightful cookbook.

South-of-the-Border Zucchini Pancakes

4 medium zucchini (about 6 oz. each), grated or finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salsa, gluten-free shredded cheese, and/or sour cream, for topping, (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini and half of the salt. Transfer to a colander and let stand for 15 minutes. Press with the back of a large spoon to squeeze out the moisture. Transfer to several layers of paper towels and squeeze to get rid of excess moisture. Return to the bowl and add the eggs, cornmeal, remaining salt, oregano, cumin and pepper, tossing until thoroughly combined.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. Working with about half the batter, drop the zucchini mixture by the heaping tablespoons into the skillet and cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and batter. Serve warm, with the toppings (if using).

Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The High Summer Garden




























Summer is at its apex right now and our summer gardening is pumping out the veggies. We're cooking when it's not too steamy and giving away produce to our friends, doctor and bookstore neighbors, so this is a fun time. I like to grow colorful vegetables: Royal Burgundy string beans (they are easy to pick because they are deep purple, though they magically turn green after cooking), yellow, orange and red tomatoes, purple and green basil and summer squashes of various hues. I grew a new kind of zucchini this year, Costata Romanesco, from the always reliable Johnny's Selected Seeds catalogue. I figure that if vegetables can grow in Maine, they will grow in my Zone 4 garden. However beautiful this sculptural, ribbed zucchini is, it is a little off-putting when you pick it, because the blossom end doesn't really seal off into a cute little navel but remains juicy and slimy. I think I will go back to the darker, plain old zucchini varieties next year.

We've had various vegetable sautes in recent weeks featuring this rainbow bounty. I offer a skeleton recipe which can involve many vegetable variations. Prepare as your kitchen garden, farmer's market or local supermarket allows:

Vegetable Saute

1. Heat olive oil in pan.

2. Throw in chopped garlic and stir 1 minute. Don't use high heat, or garlic will burn and turn bitter.

3. Add chopped onions and saute until softened.

4. Add hard vegetables (string beans, zucchini, patty pan squash, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.). Saute until softened.

5. Add chopped tomatoes and any other liquid you might like (vegetable broth, wine, tomato juice). Bring to boil and then cover and simmer until vegetables are softened to your taste.

6. Season with salt, pepper, chopped fresh herbs and any other seasonings you prefer. Grated cheese is wonderful served on top too.

Always a winner!