Sunday, December 28, 2008

GF Restaurant Review: Raul's Mexican Grill

Raul's Mexican Grill
162 Glen Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801


Right on Centennial Circle in downtown Glens Falls, lies this little, pie-shaped restaurant with fantastic, fresh food. Raul's Mexican Grill is small, with only seating for about seven or eight tables, but what the restaurant lacks in size it makes up for with a mighty stupendous meal.

My husband and I enjoyed a meal for two last night, with drinks and tip, for only $50 and were very pleased (and stuffed). I had fresh crab cake tortillas and he enjoyed a “Black Goat” (veggie taco) meal. Hubby is gluten-free, and the wait staff was very knowledgeable about all the ingredients in the food and offered several alternatives, so we really felt pampered. We don't dine out much because of the arduous back and forth you have to go to many times in educating servers and chefs about gluten-free stuff, but Raul's made us right at home so Dan could relax and enjoy his meal.

Raul's doesn't take credit cards, but they do take checks and our waitress pointed out that there are several ATMs right on their block, so the payment issue isn't a negative. We walked in without a reservation early Saturday night and they were able to seat us right away, but quickly filled up while we were dining, so weekend reservations are recommended.

The Raul's menu has interesting variations on traditional Mexican quesadillas, salads, tacos and burritos, and we are looking forward to making our way through them on future visits. We have a new favorite Mexican place!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pasta with Anchovies, An Heirloom Recipe from a Sicilian Mamma

From the same great cucina that brought you Pasta con Sarde comes a Pasta with Anchovies that even won over my previous hater of salty little fish, husband Dan. He picks them off his Caesar salads and won't let the "hairy eyebrows" near his pizza pies, but my mom's friend's mom, Rose, introduced him to anchovy love with her simple recipe. I even got a few capers into his gullet with this magical mixture, so a big thank you to Rose for bringing our culinary predilections into greater alignment.

Cooking anchovies blunts the sharpness of their salty tang and melds them into a mellower paste that gives this simple, frugal pasta sauce a great flavor. It's not really fishy so much as pungent and garlicky.


Rose's Pasta with Anchovies


4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
Handful of capers, rinsed (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 (2 oz.) cans of anchovies with capers
1 lb. pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta until al dente in boiling water, but be sure not to add salt to the cooking water. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on it to keep from burning. Add capers and anchovies and smash down with wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook a few minutes longer to let anchovies dissolve.

Toss pasta with anchovy sauce and serve topped with grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.

Now, to make Dan a fan of Pasta alla Puttanesca!

I discovered a new foodie event, Presto Pasta Nights, the invention of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast, where pasta lovers converge on Friday nights to share their wonderful recipes for every kind of noodle, from elbow macaroni to tagliatelle to Thai rice noodles. I am submitting this delicious recipe for Presto Pasta Nights, where Ruth will provide a tasty and filling roundup after the January 8th, 2009 deadline.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays to All


May everyone enjoy as restful and happy a holiday season as my sweet dog Martha. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Soybean and Feta Dip, Grown my Own Self



Yet another snowy December day out there in our winter wonder corner of upstate New York. It's been a hectic holiday week, but I am looking forward to a cozy meal with my family tonight and the anticipation of a decorated tree when I return home after work tonight. I made a few snacks and baked a few items for our Christmas feasting in between ice storms, kid chauffeuring, book selling and shopping errands this week and one of the delights was my blogger friend Deb's Edamame-Feta Dip.

I have bags of frozen, blanched green soybeans in our freezer from our summer garden and this was a new way to munch on them. I discovered that I didn't have any lemons on hand for this recipe, but after perusing my ever-present table of condiments in the fridge, I came up with most of a 15 oz. jar of pickled red peppers. Once drained and chopped, they subbed in the acid tang of the lemons and added Christmasy color as well. Delicious!



I am submitting this dip as my contribution to Andrea's Recipes end of the year Grow Your Own Event. This fun event celebrates the home-grown, foraged, fished and hunted items for the table from great home cooks around the world and will be running through December 30, 2008. Be sure to check Andrea's roundup after that date to see what we all made during this festive month.

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a Happy, Healthy, More Peaceful New Year to all!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gluten Free Product Review: Orgran Pasta


Heather over at Life, Gluten Free is putting the spotlight on gluten-free products this holiday season and I am pleased to review Orgran pasta. I picked up a 8.8 oz. package of their Rice and Corn Vegetable Pasta in a beautiful corkscrew shape at my local health food store. The price was great ($2.98) but I bought it for the beauty of the three colors of noodles, which is normally not something to be had in the limited palette of GF pastas normally on the market shelf.

The Australian-based Orgran company makes these noodles from rice and corn. The red noodles are tinted with beets and tomatoes and the green tinted with spinach. That's it for ingredients. The corkscrew shape is also a nice change from the usual choice of straight or elbow shapes. These corkscrew noodles held their lovely curves well and did not turn mushy, although I have learned to hover over my boiling GF pasta pot because the window of opportunity is very slim with gluten-free noodles.

I bathed these Orgran Noodles with a simple tomato sauce, enlivened with a little dollop of leftover Baba Ghanouj (I often bake an eggplant until soft and add it to my marinara to inject a little aubergine into my kids on the sly) and the lovely ridges of the noodles held onto this delectable sauce. Highly recommended!



Heather has a bunch of product reviews for gluten-free edibles and other items, many of which would make great stocking stuffers, so be sure to check in with her blog posts during the last month.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Novel Food: Snowballs for Robertson Davies

It is time for the sixth mouthwatering installment of that fun foodie event for brainy cooks, Novel Food. This quarterly blog event is co-hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of A Champaign Taste and offers participants a chance to share some favorite books and the culinary creations inspired by them. In the past I have joined in Novel Food fun with a delicious Yemenite Eggplant Salad inspired by Diana Abu-Jaber's novel "Crescent" (and now am looking forward to reading Abu-Jaber's food-laced memoir "The Language of Baklava" for the second Cook the Books event).

One of my all-time favorite authors is the late Robertson Davies. I have enjoyed reading my way through his body of works, which include ghost stories, plays, literary criticism, essays about books, humor, and of course, his novels. The greatest of these is his Deptford trilogy, begun in "Fifth Business" with a young boys' snowball fight. Dunstan Ramsey uses a minister and his pregnant wife as cover from his friend/enemy Percy, and the unfortunate mother-to-be is struck in the head by a snowball with a stone center, causing brain damage to her and a difficult birth for her infant son. Throughout the remainder of this book, and the successive novels in the Deptford Trilogy, "The Manticore" and "World of Wonders", this single act follows Dunstan and the other characters, including the premature baby, for the duration of their lives.

Davies' literary works are packed with plot lines and musings on art, magic, music, psychology and philosophy, and yet they remain easy to read and get lost in. They resonate with wit and passion and I have enjoyed everything I have dipped into, even his editorial pieces from the Peterborough Examiner writing under his curmudgeonly alter-ego, Samuel Marchbanks.

To honor Davies and his wonderful writings, I fashioned some snowballs of my own, although they are of a decidedly less dangerous and more delicious nature. The oldfashioned treat, popcorn balls, are incredibly easy to make with the following recipe which I found here.



You have to work quickly and carefully to shape the popcorn balls before the mixture cools and hardens, but they are otherwise easy little snack treats to whip up and will be enjoyed by my daughters' indoor soccer team (if they last around), rechristened as Soccer Balls.

Be sure to check back with Briciole in a few days to see the roundup of a culinary-literary World of Wonders with Novel Food.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

La Cucina Roundup of Italian & Sicilian Recipes

The first roundup for the Cook the Books Foodie Book Club is up. 12 of us read Lily Prior's novel "La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture" and headed to our kitchens and keyboards to blog about dishes we made inspired by the Italian and Sicilian cooking scenes from the book. If you would like to see what we all made head over to the Cook the Books blog and stay tuned to see who will be judged to have the best post by our featured author herself.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feeding my Hungry Guests with Chili-Fried Shrimp


There is an exciting new band of food bloggers joined in raising awareness of and funds for hunger issues. Val of More than Burnt Toast, Ivy of Kopiaste..to Greek Hospitality and the various folks at Equal Opportunity Kitchen are the beautiful minds behind BloggerAid. Through December 28th, 2008 Equal Opportunity Kitchen is hosting an event, "BloggerAid: Because We Can Help" that asks for recipes that one would feed a hungry guest visiting during the holiday season.

The Dance of the Holiday Shrimps immediately popped up in my mind. Everybody likes shrimp (except for the allergic and kosher crowd, but I would make those guys something equally scrumptious) and they cook so quickly that a Crispy hostess can always throw something together that is speedy and splendid for her hungry guests. I will share my recipe for Chili-Fried Shrimps that can be served with a trio of dipping sauces that are just right for noshing throughout the holiday season.

Chili-Fried Shrimps

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (frozen, thawed shrimp works just fine as long as the little pink beauties are thoroughly patted dry). Leave tails on for dipping handles or remove them if your family is tail-phobic, as mine is.

1/2 cup white rice flour
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

3 Tbsp. peanut oil

Mix rice flour, cornstarch, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper in brown lunch bag or other bag. Shake to mix. Pop in the shrimps and shake them to coat them well.

Heat wok or large frying pan. Add oil and heat until a shrimp dropped in sizzles and bubbles at the edges. Fry shrimp in batches, about 5 minutes for each batch, stirring and turning until they curl up and are completely pink. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Serve with a variety of dipping sauces. We like the following:

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 scallions, finely minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes


Standard Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:

1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. ground horseradish
1 tsp. lemon juice
Splash of hot sauce


Creamy Dill Dipping Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
3 tsp. snipped dill
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt


A platter of fried shrimps with dipping sauces makes a nice part of an appetizer spread or could serve as the main meal, paired with some steamed rice and a green salad, for 4-6 people.



Equal Opportunity Kitchen is also donating the proceeds from some lovely handmade gifts, including bookmarks, keychains and cell phone charms, to the World Food Programme as part of this wonderful BloggerAid event. They can ship anywhere in the world, so do consider these beautiful little gifts during this holiday season.

You can find more out about the events and membership of BloggerAid by clicking on the badge to the right directly under my About Me information. If you are a blogger, I would like to extend a warm invitation to you to join us in planning some fun events for the future to help alleviate hunger throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Crispy Tidbits to Chew On

I have several newsy bits which may be of interest to readers of the Crispy Cook.

First, I am delighted to announce that Lily Prior, author of "La Cucina", the first book pick for the new foodie book club, Cook the Books, will serve as judge in choosing the winning blog entry. The cohosts of Cook the Books are me, Johanna of Food Junkie and Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, and we are thrilled that Ms. Prior is taking time out of her busy schedule to judge our humble book club entries. If you are planning to cook up and blog about something inspired by "La Cucina", be sure to have your post submitted by midnight, December 15 (Eastern Standard Time). I am the first host of this new bimonthly foodie book club and so I will endeavor to have the roundup of delicious entries posted at the Cook the Books blog as soon as possible. Deb, Johanna and I will then be announcing the next foodie book club pick.

Second, Capital District residents may be interested in attending a meeting of the newly formed Saratoga County Food Allergy/Sensitivity Support Group. The group is meeting on December 15 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at KD's Fish Fry, 418 Geyser Road, Ballston Spa (Country Club Plaza). Dawn of KD's and DAFFI is hosting the meeting and will provide samples of her allergen free foods. There is no charge to attend or join. Please register with Sue at 884-8003 or thfarm@nycap.rr.com or treat yourself to some awesome gluten-free fried fish and seafood at KD's Fish Fy to learn more. And don't forget the cole slaw!

Third, I am proud to say that my Mocha Pepper Sandwich Cookies received third place in the Leftover Queen's last Foodie Joust! This fun foodie event challenges participants to come up with creative recipes that involve three specified ingredients; in this case, black peppercorns, honey and coffee. Check out the other entrants in this event, as some of them are truly amazing, like deep-fried spicy ice cream, homemade duck bacon, chocolate-drizzled panforte, and the winning entry, a stellar Lantana cake of coffee sponge layered with a white chocolate filling and covered in a peppery, chocolate glaze. Whoa!

The next Royal Foodie Joust has a Caribbean theme to celebrate the publication of Barbados food blogger Cynthia Nelson's "My Caribbean Cookbook: Tastes Like Home". Stay tuned to see what yours truly concocts using bananas, rice and coconut.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ginger-Nut Lace Cookies, Gluten-Free and Addictive

December is such a busy month for me with the children's school and music events, holiday orders at our bookstore and all the other fun but numerous decorating, gift buying/making/wrapping/mailing and Christmas card sending activities, that baking often gets crowded out. However, my celiac husband must have his wheatless treats, so I used Monday, my usual day of frenzied cooking and baking, to get something sweet into my gluten-free man.

Yesterday's hagiographic research into Saint Joseph led me to summon courage from St. Lawrence, the Patron Saint of Cooks and St. Honoratus (also known as St. Honore), the Patron Saint of Bakers. I had some crystallized ginger on hand to play with as I wanted to come up with a recipe for the Leftover Queen's Foodie Blog Roll holiday cookie contest. Foodie Blogroll members who submit a ginger cookie recipe are eligible to win a basket of goodies from Ginger People, an Australian company that makes awesome sounding ginger treats like Chocolate-Covered Ginger, Hot Coffee Ginger Chews, and Crystallized Ginger Chips for Baking.

Dan loves ginger, so I set about trying to come up with a spicy cookie recipe that would be gluten-free AND delicious. I thought a molasses and spice cookie rolled in sugar and studded with bits of crystallized ginger and walnuts would be perfect for my sweetie and riffed out of several different gluten-free baking cookbooks to come up with something soft and chewy. Imagine my surprise when my cookies turned out big and crunchy, more like Lace Cookies than the soft and chewy Molasses cookies I had anticipated. I am the Crispy Cook, after all, so I guess I just accept that most things I cook up will be crispy (and are usually edible).

These cookies were pronounced delicious by gluten-free and glutenous eaters alike, including an extra visiting test eater, so I would count this a success. I made this recipe in two batches, one rolled in red sugar and the other rolled in Turbinado (raw) sugar and the Turbinado sugar makes a much better looking cookie by far. I also rolled out my original cookies out into 1 inch balls and set them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, but this resulted in a much bigger circumference and crowded cookies, so I have called for smaller balls of dough in the recipe below.

I hope that you will try these tasty cookies if you are looking for some treats for celiac or gluten-intolerant friends and family this holiday season. They weren't too spicy for kids and not too sweet for adults, so this turned out to be a successful kitchen experiment. You might also try my gluten-free Rudolph's Noses cookie recipe which is even easier, as it requires no baking, only a working food processor.



The exotic flours below can be found at most health food stores and I find it easiest to mix up a baking master mix in batches so I can just go ahead and proceed with baking without this first flour blending step. Most gluten-free baking cookbooks will have several different flour blends to chose from, depending upon what types of baked goods you are planning. This bean blend is good for cookies, so I ambitiously made up a quadruple batch. You can also check out some other flour blends at the the Celiac Sprue Association site here and see which ones work best for your kitchen.

With thanks to Saints Honoratus and Lawrence, I present to you the recipe for:

Ginger-Nut Lace Cookies

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cups tapioca flour
3/4 cups cornstarch

Vegetable shortening
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. powdered cloves
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Turbinado (raw) sugar crystals (about 1/2 cup)

Grease 2 large baking sheets with shortening and set aside.

Mix together chickpea flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour and cornstarch. Mix in xanthan or guar gum, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Blend well. Add crystallized ginger and nuts and mix well.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar several minutes or until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and blend. Mix in dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least one hour to chill dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With wet hands, roll dough into 1/2 inch diameter balls and roll in Turbinado sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes, making sure they do not burn at the edges.

Let cool on trays several minutes, then remove carefully with a spatula to cool on baking racks.

Makes approximately 60 cookies. Store in tightly covered tins or other containers to keep crisp.

In addition to submitting this recipe to the Foodie Blogroll Ginger People Recipe Contest, I am sending it on to Susan the Food Blogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies event, for which entries are already pouring in from around the world. I am also sending it on to Joelen for her Tasty Tools event that features baking sheets, having just missed the deadline for her Holiday Cookie event. Happy Baking!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pasta con Sarde or St. Joseph's Day Pasta

I wanted to learn more about Sicilian cooking after reading Lily Prior's sensuous foodie novel, "La Cucina" for the Cook the Books foodie book club. I even treated myself to an early Christmas present (hey, Dan just has to wrap it up) with a copy of "Sicilian Home Cooking: Family Recipes from Gangivecchio" by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001).

I asked my mom if she had any good recipes handed down from my Italian grandfather, but alas, his folks were from Naples and he left the cooking up to my Russian grandma, so there are no heirloom recipes there. Mom did, however, remember a Pasta con Sarde that her friend Marilyn's mother had made for her one St. Joseph's Day (March 19th). I contacted Marilyn, who consulted with her gracious mom, Rose, for this classic Sicilian recipe. St. Joseph's Day usually falls during Lent, so this meatless dish, which always has sardines, fennel and breadcrumbs, is perfect for Lenten feasting. St. Joseph, or San Giuseppe, was the Virgin Mary's husband, and is the patron saint of fathers, the working man, and carpenters. The breadcrumbs in this dish are representative of the ever-present sawdust that carpenters produce.

Rose's delicious recipe uses Cuoco brand "Seasoning for Macaroni with Sardines", which I tracked down at Roma's Import store in Saratoga Springs and which should be available at most larger Italian delis. The Cuoco Seasoning contains wild fennel, sardines, black currents [sic], onion, sunflower oil, salted sardines puree and salt. I easily made this recipe gluten-free for my family by using gluten-free pasta and gluten-free bread crumbs (we always keep a bag in the freezer of gluten-free bread scraps for crumbs and croutons).

Pasta con Sarde alla Rose


2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 (14.5 oz.) can Cuoco's Seasoning for Macaroni with Sardines (bright yellow label)

1 lb. pasta

1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Grated Parmesan


Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain, rinse in hot water and keep warm.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in frying pan. Saute garlic until golden. Add Cuoco's Seasoning. Swirl about 1/4 of the can's worth of water in Cuoco can and add to pan. Bring to boil, slowly, stirring.

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in another frying pan. Add bread crumbs and garlic powder and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Rose advises keeping a close eye on this to avoid burning the crumbs.

Mix cooked pasta with sardine sauce. Top each serving with some crumbs and then sprinkle on grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.



While the Crispy Cook really enjoyed the strong fennel taste of this pasta, the Crispettes and Crispy Husband did not, so I ate it myself over the course of several days and enjoyed every bite. It has a slight sweetness from the currants, but I didn't really taste much of the sardines or the salt in the Cuoco seasoning, so this must really blend in.

Rose has generously also provided me with the recipe for her Pasta with Anchovies, which I'll be making soon and will report back on here at the Crispy Cook. Thank you Rose and Marilyn!

For those interested in making a Pasta con Sarde from scratch, The Tornabene cookbook has a delicious sounding Pasta con le Sarde di Nonna Julia. Nonna means grandmother in Italian so you know this is going to be awesomely good. Her ingredients include chopped fennel tops and bottoms, anchovies, fresh sardines, currants, pine nuts and saffron, so I will have to try that sometime. As I don't want to reproduce the recipe without the authors' permission, I will refer you all to a similar Pasta con le Sarde recipe at In Mama's Kitchen.

Look for more Sicilian and Italian gems after the December 15th deadline for submissions to Cook the Books, when I'll be posting the roundup as the first host for this new food-centric book club. Until then.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jerusalem Artichoke and Greens Spread

Dan and I are still playing around with our garden harvest of Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes. We dug up these perennial tubers last month and are storing them, after subjecting them to vigorous scrubbing to remove dirt from all their knobbly crevices, in a bag in our refrigerator vegetable drawer. We like to slice them up raw for crunchy additions to our green salads and have recently started to enjoy them roasted.

I saw a recipe for Jerusalem Artichoke Dip on the Crazy Orange Turtle blog and thought I would make a batch up for noshing in front of the Giants football game. With a few substituted ingredients and a tweak here and there, here's my adapted version, which proved to be a great dunker for corn chips and celery sticks. We even thinned the leftovers with some more olive oil and enjoyed it as a pasta sauce. It's similar to the cholesterol-laden hot artichoke dip recipe that you commonly see at gatherings (and which is awesome in SMALL amounts), but this similar spread is much more heart-healthy and full of good green vitamins so you can snack away.

Crazy Orange Turtle's recipe calls for peeling the Jerusalem artichokes after roasting, which was rather tedious, but then I remembered that we had just eaten the chokes, peel and all, after roasting, so I gave up on that and just left them with skins on. They end up being smashed around in the food processor, anyway, so my revised version calls for leaving the chokes alone.

One word of advice about Jerusalem Artichokes bears repeating, so to speak. Jerusalem Artichokes repeat, as in causing a fair bit of gas in the old digestive tract, which is a consideration if you are planning on serving them as a party dish. And don't try to preempt the problem by ingesting a couple of Beano tablets if you can't handle the gluten. I had to return a bottle of Beano after reading the ingredients label back at the Casa Crispy and finding out that wheat starch is in there.



Jerusalem Artichoke and Greens Spread

1 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed unmercifully and cut into large chunks
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press or finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
5 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (I had some snipped cilantro in my freezer and it worked fine after I thawed it and squeezed it out a bit)

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add spinach and bring to boil a second time. Drain spinach, cool, and squeeze dry.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss artichokes with olive oil in a glass baking dish. Roast 30 minutes, or until soft when poked with a fork. Let cool and then scrape chokes and oil into a food processor or blender. Add spinach and remaining ingredients and pulse until mixture is thoroughly blended.

Makes about 3-1/2 cups dip. Serve at room temperature.

I am submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a food blogging event that highlights unusual plants and vegetables, edible flowers and of course, herbs. Jerusalem Artichokes, though native to North America, are fairly uncommon edibles, so I thought this would be an appropriate recipe to submit to Ivy at Kopiaste...to Greek Hospitality, who is this week's host. Ivy is one of the founders of Blogger Aid, a new initiative to raise funds and awareness of world hunger and I am happy to have joined this great group of bloggers. You can learn more in the Blogger Aid button on the right-hand side of the Crispy Cook. Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once is now the headquarters for Weekend Herb Blogging and has a lovely blog of recipes and photographs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Panforte and Madeleines with Gluten Free South Africa

Sea over at the Book of Yum had a thematic Adopt-A-Gluten-Free-Blogger event to prepare recipes for the holiday table and I knew immediately who I was going to adopt: Aylena of Gluten Free South Africa. Originally from Ireland, Aylena moved to South Africa two years ago and blogs about the beautiful landscape and gluten-free restaurants, bakeries and bed-and-breakfasts in the Capetown area. And then there are those wonderful recipes for baked goods that she provides with equally enticing photographs! Her recipes are provided in metric measurements, but these are easy to convert to American measurements if you click on the Cooking Conversions link at the lower right-hand side of the Crispy Cook links section.

I was lured in originally by her panforte recipe. Panforte is a classic Italian dessert studded with lots of fruits and nuts, somewhat like a fruitcake, only without those nauseating clots of candied fruit. Aylena's recipe makes use of some non-traditional nuts and seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and adds a tasty bit of cocoa. Based on Aylena's photo, I assumed they would be more chocolate-y than they are. Rather, this panforte version is more spicy from the ginger and makes a sophisticated sweet treat. You could make one giant panforte or make smaller panfortes for, as Aylena puts it, versions of the "original energy bar".

Aylena's recipe was easy to follow, and though I couldn't find my candy thermometer, I was able to determine when the heated syrup was ready through the old soft ball test (a drop of syrup is plopped into cold water and it can be squished between one's fingers to form a soft ball). I decided to divide my panforte into two separate batches. One was formed into small patties and baked on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and the other half was pressed into some silicon Christmas tree forms.



The Christmas trees really came out well as the syrup base of the panforte oozed into all the crevices of the silicon mold. If you go this route, though, you have to let the panforte cool completely before popping them out. These were intended as holiday gifts for some friends, but I notice that my panforte supply has been tapped by hungry members of the Crispy Cook brigade and I will have to do a better job of protecting my homemade holiday gift supply. Or make more panforte!



Thrilled with Gluten Free South Africa's panforte goodness, I decided to make a second recipe from Aylena's wonderful blog and got another hit with her Baby Marrow Madeleines. Marrows are also known as courgettes or zucchini, and I had a bag of frozen shredded zucchini from our garden which I thawed out and squeezed dry for this lovely recipe. I actually have a madeleine pan (from the Dollar Store, woo hoo!) which formed the lovely shell shape for these appetizers. We ate them with some other snacks while waiting for the main part of our Thanksgiving meal to cook. They are like mini-quiches, delectably moist and cheesy and were so easy to make.



Two stunners from Gluten Free South Africa! Thank you, Aylena! And thank you Sea for hosting this great gluten free blogging event. It is so much fun to roam around the gluten free blogosphere in search of new recipes and blogger buddies. Be sure to check back at the Book of Yum for Sea's delicious and festive roundup.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Cookbook Giveaway


For the November Cookbook Giveaway, I offered a copy of "John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle: For Cooks Who Love Wine", by John Sarich and Lori McKean (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1997). The lucky winner is the very first entrant, Vicki, author of the blog Work in Progress which chronicles her kitchen adventures and some cool book reviews as well. Congratulations Vicki!

For the December cookbook giveaway, the Crispy Cook prowled around the shelves over at our used bookstore, Old Saratoga Books, and came up with "Eating on the Run: Nutritious Eating-From Airline Meals to Microwave Zapping", by Evelyn Tribole (Champaign, IL: Leisure Press, 1992). I think it is an appropriate selection for this busy holiday month when we all could use a little extra help in cooking up quick and easy meals that don't skimp on nutrition. How do these recipes from the book sound? Tortilla Pinwheels, Strawberry Yogurt Frappe, Cobbette Salad and Spinach Cheese Pasta. The book has extensive chapters on planning and packing meals and lots of nutritional breakdowns.

As always, entries are made by leaving a comment after this post. Do so by midnight, December 31st, 2008 to be eligible to have this book sent to you courtesy of the Crispy Cook. Good luck to everyone!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Grow Your Own #21 Roundup

I have had the honor of hosting the 21st round of Grow Your Own, an always fun, always informative food blogging event which is the brainchild of Andrea's Recipes. Grow Your Own (GYO) has grown to become a twice-monthly project "that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products" (from Andrea's Recipes).



For GYO #21, ten home cooks around the world invited us into their kitchens and so I will take you now on a virtual tour to see what's cooking. Here's a map to see where we will be going:

On the tiny island of Hong Kong, effervescent Rita of Mochochocolata-Rita has no backyard or balcony for growing her own garden, but undaunted by a lack of real estate and by being a self-described "plant murderer" (her writing is very funny) she has taken over the care and feeding of a potted mint plant, named "mint jai", and used some of "his" carefully suntanned and watered leaves to make delectable Lamb in Creamy Coconut Milk and Mint.



Winging over to the Republic of the Philippines, we have two wonderful entries:

First up is the guest host of GYO #20, Ning of Hearth and Home, who prepared Steamed Milkfish en (Faux) Papillote using wine, tomatoes, peppers and some homegrown dill. Her recipe post provides some good points about using the freshest ingredients and sealing up the packet of fish and seasonings to let everything steam up inside for the best flavor. Check out this luscious photo:


Gay's blog, A Scientist in the Kitchen, offers another scrumptious dish from the Philippines, Inihaw na Liempo and Dill. Inihaw na Liempo is grilled pork belly, which Gay cooked up at a recent Sunday picnic in the garden. She chopped up the pork and tossed it with tomatoes, onions, soy sauce, Thai chilies, homegrown dill, and calamansi juice. Calamansis are a kind of citrus fruit grown in Southeast Asia. What a delicious combination of flavors!


From the Philippines we head west and north to arrive in the Mediterranean city of Athens, Greece, where Ivy of Kopiaste...to Greek Hospitality invites us to share some Tyrokafteri, a spicy cheese dip made with feta and Xynomyzithra, a sheep's milk cheese that her relatives from Crete made from their own flock. When there were no chili peppers to be had at the market for Ivy's traditional Tyrokafteri recipe, she improvised with harissa and roasted green bell peppers and a new recipe was born! Ivy is also organizing a new initiative to raise funds and awareness about hunger issues through Blogger Aid, so be sure to visit her site to learn more.


From Greece we trek north to Hamburg, Germany, where PG of My Kitchen Stories tempts us with Black Olive and Sage Pesto. The sage is from her garden and she used her aromatic pesto as a topping on toasted bread and mixed with zucchini, mushrooms and other ingredients for a heavenly sounding pasta dish.



On to London, England, where two food bloggers provided two seasonal entries using homegrown apples.

Abby of Eat the Right Stuff tried her hand at Apple and Lemon Curd, a favorite bread spread remembered from her childhood days. Using apples from a friends' trees and an overabundance of lemons from a supermarket order mixup (when life hands you lemons....) Abby whipped up 5 jars of curd from butter, lemons, apples, sugar and eggs. While curd is perishable and must be eaten within 4-6 weeks, she reports that only one jar was left after only three weeks, so you know this recipe must be a treat!


Jeanne is a transplant from South Africa living in London and blogging about food, gardening, travel and photography at Cook Sister!. She was also in food preservation mode and tried hot water bath canning for the first time with a batch of Spicy Green Tomato and Apple Chutney. Bravo Cook Sister! That made good use of some of the numerous green tomatoes she was tenderly rearing during a decidedly unsunny English summer.


Crossing the pond, we arrive at the southern United States and into Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music and Tamra, the food blogger author of Eat Seasonally. Tamra participates for the first time in Grow Your Own with a savory Pumpkin Coconut Soup using pumpkin and cilantro from her garden. This recipe tempted me so that I have a can of coconut milk in the pantry awaiting its marriage with a certain winter squash from our garden. Perhaps dinner tonight? Welcome to GYO Tamra and I look forward to more of your homegrown recipes.


Heading east in to Virginia, we visit our Founding Mother, Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, who used homemade vegetable broth and sage from her garden to whip up a batch of Risotto with Onions and Sage. Andrea served this elegant risotto with her Thanksgiving turkey and that must have been some feast! Making risotto is a time-consuming but not difficult cooking skill if you follow Andrea's instructions (guided by Italian kitchen goddess Marcella Hazan), but you do need patience and a strong stirring arm.


The final leg of our culinary journey takes us north to my Zone 4 garden in upstate New York. Rachel, the Crispy Cook, has only a few windburned Brussels Sprouts plants and a hardy thyme plant soldiering on. For my GYO entry I headed to the freezer, where I have several bags of frozen, blanched green soybeans. We harvested these easy-to-grow legumes from seeds we saved over the last several years and they are great steamed green and sprinkled with kosher salt in the Japanese manner, as Edamame, or tossed into stir-fries. I tried Roasted Soybeans for the first time with my GYO entry and they were delectable.



I hope you all have enjoyed this peek into the kitchens and gardens of fabulous cooks from around the world. I know I have enjoyed this armchair travel and learned a few new things about food from my other blogging buddies. Thanks to all who contributed their recipes and insights. And now off to make Tamra's Pumpkin Coconut Soup!

The next round of Grow Your Own will be hosted by Andrea herself at Andrea's Recipes, so be sure to visit to see what's in season and in the cooking pot. Andrea is looking for more guest hosts for future GYO adventures so visit her wonderful site to learn more.