Monday, December 28, 2009

Potato & Rosemary Pizza

I had a few queries about the Potato Pizza I described in my last Crispy Cook post, so I will share the kitchen wisdom of my pizza maestro, husband Dan, in that regard. After all the many steps in making the perfect thin and CRISPY gluten-free crust, the topping for a Potato & Rosemary Pizza is ridiculously easy. Here's what Dan does:

Potato & Rosemary Pizza


1 prepared pizza crust (see this post)
1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
1 Tbsp. fresh or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Dan slices the potatoes thinly using the slot on the side of our box grater. You want the potato slices to be about 1/4 inch thick. A mandoline makes them too paper thin, but the box grater works just great. Dan then soaks the potato slices in cold water, both to keep them from oxidizing brown and to wash off some of the starch. Then he drains and pats the potato slices dry when the other ingredients are chopped, and the pizza crust has gone through the first baking stage and is ready to receive its bountiful toppings.

Arrange potato slices on pizza crust so that they are slightly overlapping at the edges. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, season with salt and pepper and brush on a little olive oil over all. Sprinkle with a final coating of Parmesan and then bake your pizza in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes.

We saw a potato pizza being made on one of Martha Stewart's shows last year and experimented with the basic idea a few times before coming up with this version. You'd think having two starches in one recipe would be too heavy, but it's actually a nice combination and not too rich.

Mangia!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Perfecting the Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

It's been four years (and 400 posts!) of living gluten-free and Dan has finally perfected his pizza crust. He's the head baker in the house (I just dabble at it) and loves to tinker around with recipes for gf rolls and breads. After many, many tweaks and taste testings, the recipe below gives the latest, greatest version of a chewy, thin pizza crust, just like Dan used to chomp on in his carefree, pre-celiac days.

Many of the other pizza crust recipes we've tried either come out crumbly and dry, like that Chef Boyardee pizza from the box mix we thought was the ultimate in deliciousness in our Seventies-era youth OR you get a big, spongy "Sicilian" type pizza crust, which is not to our family's taste. We like our pizza thin and CRISPY, of course. The better to slap toppings on, we say! Here's a picture of a delicious rosemary-dusted potato pizza:



Since we love pizza so much and since we are eating gourmet GF meals at home rather than dining out 99% of the time, we invested in a wooden pizza paddle, a pizza stone and special pizza pans. The pizza stone really seems to get the pizza crust to crisp up over our pizza experiments just using the pizza pans alone or trying pizza on a cookie sheet.

Dan starts out with 2 cups of the flour mixture called for by the late GF legend, Bette Hagman, in her wonderful bread bible, "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread" (NY: Henry Holt, 2000). He makes this up in 12 cup batches and we keep this is a separate canister in the pantry so we can make up rolls, bread and pizza crusts more quickly at dinnertime. Dan adds potato flour for a springier texture in his pizza crusts.

Here's proportions in the French Bread/Pizza Flour Mix:

7 cups white rice flour (we buy rice flour and tapioca starch in bulk at an Asian supermarket)
5 cups tapioca starch
1/4 cup xanthan gum
4 (7 gram) pkts. unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup Egg Replacer (bought at health food store)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup potato flour (not potato starch, we buy Bob's Red Mill at supermarket)

Dan's GF Pizza Crust

This recipe makes one pizza crust (about 12 inch diameter), though Dan usually makes two at a time and then pops one in the freezer for later. They thaw beautifully.

2 cups French Bread/Pizza flour mix
2 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dry milk powder

3/4 cup gluten-free beer
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Shortening
Cornmeal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients separately. Slowly add wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined into a soft dough.

Generously grease 16 inch pizza pan with shortening. Slap on dough and pat it into shape with a fork. Finish spreading dough to the edges of the pan with your greased hands.

Bake pizza crust at 375 degrees F. for about 15 minutes, or until it is no longer wet on the bottom. Dust pizza paddle with cornmeal and slide pizza crust off the pizza pan onto the paddle.

Place pizza stone in oven on a lower rack. Turn up oven heat to 475 degrees F. Add your pizza toppings (a marinara sauce well-seasoned with oregano and garlic and topped with shredded mozzarella is our usual go-to topping, but the aforementioned potato pizza with very thin slices of potato, chunks of garlic and rosemary is a close second. And when the zucchinis are flying out of the garden faster than we can harvest them, zucchini pizza (see below) rules!).

Place pizza onto pizza stone. Cook until cheese melts and crust reaches desired crispiness, about 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on your oven, though, as this high temperature can easily scorch all your hard work if you overcook it.

Makes one 12 inch pizza.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Cookbook Giveaway

My real life has seriously been interfering with my virtual life hence the dearth of blog posts lately. I took over a volunteer position at my daughters' school and that, plus the book biz and various other projects have kept me from enjoying my cyber life as the Crispy Cook. However, one must still eat, so I have some recipes and cooking tips to share in some blog posts in the coming days. In the interim, here is a fresh cookbook giveaway and some announcements.

Last month I offered a copy of the retro Peter Pauper Press book ""The ABC of Gourmet Cookery". The winner, picked randomly from the comments left after the November Cookbook Giveaway post, is Ellie. Congratulations Ellie!

The cookbook featured in this month's cookbook giveaway is "Souffles: Forty Easy Savory and Sweet Recipes" by Ann Amernick and Richard Chirol (NY: Crown, 1989). Who doesn't love a souffle? And I'm sure we all could use a few new tricks to whip one up. This gently used book hails from Old Saratoga Books, the used and rare bookstore that my husband and I own and I would be happy to mail a copy to one of my Crispy Cook readers anywhere in the world. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and I will randomly pick a winner after the deadline of December 31, 2009, midnight Eastern Standard Time. Good luck to everyone!



I am also happy to announce a winner for the giveaway of some Betty Crocker fruit snacks and toys as described in this Crispy Cook blog post. The winner of this prize pack is Karin! Congratulations Karin!

I hope all my American readers enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We had a nice feast and a relaxing day off. I basically reprised last year's Thanksgiving menu, minus several dishes because I simply didn't have a lot of preparation and cooking time this time around. I thought I was doing well with my organization, though, and had made a delicious sweet potato pie the day before, which I cooled and then covered with plastic wrap and stuck in my oven overnight to protect it from my dog Martha (she's a big girl and able to reach most surfaces in the kitchen). I also popped in some sticks of butter to keep soft for other baking projects the next day). Here's a photo of Martha in her hygienic hair net helping out in the kitchen.



On Thanksgiving morning I woke up early and with the help of my two daughters, started a highly smooth and organized feast prep with lots of appetizers made, gravies, stuffings and broths underway, and a gluten-free crust whipped up for my pumpkin pies. I preheated the oven to 425 so I could slip in my pies, and completely forgot about the stuff inside until toxic plastic fumes and burning melted butter set off the smoke alarm. What a mess! We had to open the windows, find the dog and cats amidst the acrid fumes and barricade them, and clean the oven before I could dare attempt to start roasting a 15 lb. turkey. Needless to say, we ate much, much later than planned and added another "crazy mom" story to the family folklore.

I also want to let people know that I am the current host of Cook the Books, the foodie book club started by me and two food blogger friends, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and Jo of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food. Our current book selection is Anik See's book "A Taste for Adventure: A Culinary Odyssey Around the World". See traveled by bicycle through Malaysia, Singapore, Patagonia, Thailand, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Iran, Mexico and Canada, and her observations about this intimate tour of these lands and the people she met in transit is absorbing reading.

To join us at Cook the Books, all you have to do is read the book, blog about it and something you cook up that is inspired by your reading. The deadline for doing so is Friday, January 22, 2010. I will post a roundup of blog posts and then the author herself, Anik See, will be our guest judge to pick a winning post. The winner receives a badge for their blog, addition to the Cook the Books blog roll and all the accolades one can put up with. Sound fun? Please do join us, we love reading everyone's thoughts about our book picks and seeing the creative entries from kitchens around the world.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thumbs Up for Nature's Path New GF Cereals

The Nature's Path Organic Foods company recently sent me two packages of their new Crunchy Maple Sunrise and Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise cereals to sample and I am delighted to report that both were excellent. My husband already enjoys their Peanut Butter Panda Puffs that we find in the gluten-free section of our local Hannaford Supermarket, and these two new GF cereal varieties are a welcome addition to the repertoire of breakfast foods he can safely enjoy.



Both new cereals are delicately flavored with maple and vanilla and are truly crunchy, even after hanging out for a while in their milky bath, so that is also a positive factor in my mate's enjoyment of his morning meal. He abhors a soggy cereal and I like the whole grain additions of flax, amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat, as so many other breakfast options for the gluten-free diner are lacking in fiber.

You can find out more about the Nature's Path line of organic foods, and their gluten-free foods, at their website. I just bookmarked their recipes tab too as they have a lot of great ideas for smashing up their GF cereals into yummy-sounding baked goods and side dishes.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bejeweled Beans for my GF Football Fan

Despite my husband's funk as he watches his beloved Giants team falls further behind this football season, there must be a hallowed time for him each week to scream at the television set and revel in his sports lust. And there must be accompanying snacks.

Before the gluten-free lifestyle entered our household, the snack fuel for these weekly testosterone-laden sessions primarily consisted of beer and pizza. Now that barley malt and wheat crusts are verboten for my hubby, I try to make sure we have Redbridge Beer (made from sorghum, reminiscent of Killian's Irish Red Ale) around and some tasty dips and spreads for his tortilla chips and vegetable sticks.

I was planning to make some guacamole for his last viewing session, but my avocado was too far gone, so I rummaged around the cupboards for inspiration and decided to make a spicy bean dip for him. It was a hit with the old man, so I made sure to write down what I slapped together to share with you all.



This beany dip was spicy, easy and pretty, so I call it:

Bejeweled Bean Dip


1 (15.5 oz.) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (cannelli would work well too)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. garam masala (substitute curry powder if you want a milder heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup snipped chives
1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp. mango chutney
Salt and Pepper to taste


Melt butter in frying pan and heat garam masala 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add garlic, chives and red pepper, and cook, stirring, another several minutes, until red pepper is softened.

Add beans, and mash them up a bit, stirring and cooking another several minutes to heat through. Add mango chutney and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 2 cups. Great served warm with tortilla chips.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Cookbook Giveaway

The October cookbook offered up by the Crispy Cook was a vintage copy of Caroline Hightower's "The Pennypincher's Book of Fine Food". Martha my trusty scullery hound helped me to randomly select the winner of this prize (along with random.org), commenter #7, Cee. Congratulations Cee!

For this month's cookbook giveaway, I straightened up the ol' cookbook section at Old Saratoga Books, the used and rare bookshop that my husband and I own, and found this cute book: "The ABC of Gourmet Cookery" published in 1956 by the The Peter Pauper Press. This publisher specializes in diminutive gift books and the vintage editions of their titles have become collectible for their whimsical, beautiful and distinctive illustrations. "The ABC of Gourmet Cookery", illustrated by Ruth McCrea in vivid 50s style, contains recipes for each letter of the alphabet. From Arroz con Pollo to Hungarian Tomato Sauerkraut to Zabaglione, it's a visual treat.



To enter the giveaway just leave a comment below by midnight (Eastern Standard Time), November 30, 2009. I will randomly pick a winner from the comments below and ship the book anywhere in the world to the winner.

Good luck to all Gourmets!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pastry-Wrapped Brie, Gluten-Free? Mais, Oui!

Francophilia reigns in our house. I took French lessons from junior high through my college years and revel in the sensuous sound of the French language whenever we visit Montreal or hear French Canadian visitors here in upstate New York. Dan and I honeymooned in Quebec City and my two daughters have picked French as their second language. Someday, I hope to cross the pond for an extended visit, but until then, armchair travels with books will have to suffice.

Peter Mayle's "French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew" is the current book pick for Cook the Books, the virtual book club for foodies, and like Mayle's other books about his adopted home, the writing captures his bemused impressions of the French landscape, the food, and the people. The Provence books capture life as an expat Englishman trying to adapt to a life where one's central priorities and the pace of life itself are quite different. And historic home renovations are not accomplished in a day, a month, a year, perhaps several years.



"French Lessons" is entirely about the French preoccupation with one's meals and the various food festivals that Mayle explores throughout France. We travel to many regions to celebrate frog legs, truffles, snails, spa cuisine, the sublime chickens of Bresse, Livarot cheese and other delights, and in my favorite chapter, "A Connoisseur's Marathon", are treated to the spectacle of the Marathon du Medoc, a long-distance road race in which 8,000 participants run 26 miles through the vineyards of Bordeaux. Only one quarter of the runners aspire to seriousness in the race (though the winner receives his/her weight in wine); the others are there to have fun, clad in crazy, cross-dressing costumes, and helping themselves to superior wines and gourmet snacks at civilized refreshment stations along the race course.

It is these kinds of vivid scenes, and Mayle's genial, self-deprecating sense of humor that made the book such an enjoyable read. Mayle describes his joy in reading a used book treasure that his wife bought him, "L'Escargot Comestible", in researching his upcoming snail festival sojourn:

"The text was scholarly in tone, and there were no unnecessary typographical flourishes. In other words, it was a serious piece of work, designed to inform students and breeders of the mollusk, rather than entertain snail diletantes like me. But serious work though it was, a Frenchman had written it. And so, inevitably, there was a recipe section".

I read "French Lessons" last month and it inspired me to attend two local food festivals in our area, Bennington's Garlic Festival and the Washington County Cheese Tour. After all that luscious cheese sampling, I wanted to try my hand at baking some pastry-wrapped Brie for a savory appetizer course for the mister and me one romantic day when both girls were out with their friends. Doing so when gluten is not your enemy is easy enough. Wrap one piece of store-bought Brie in some thawed store-bought puff pastry, heat it all up in the oven and then attack the gooey result with gusto. Alas, the gluten-free diner must approach this simple culinary project with the perusing of many wheatless pastry recipes and then attempt to cover their cheese without the whole crumbling, flopping over and sticking to rolling pins and countertops.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find a recipe online or in my arsenal of cookbooks for a gluten-free pastry-wrapped Brie. Clearly, there are unchartered waters here.

It was easy enough to find a luscious wedge of herb-infused Brie at the supermarket, but the pastry, which would have to be flaky when cooked and not outlandishly hard to maneuver around my cheese when raw, was a stumper. Eventually, I came upon this recipe on a cooking message board which seemed like a good launching point, though the pastry recipe was intended to house an appalling amalgam of kidney beans, maple syrup and raisins. I had a bag of white bean flour in my pantry and have made some garbanzo bean pie pastry in the past with success, so I set to it, with some tweaking here and there. Most notably, the pastry recipe called for 3/4 cup of cold water, which would have made an unworkable slurry rather than a good, workable crust, so that must be a misprint.

The experiment ended up a success (though the pumpkin pie I made with the remainder of my crust tasted a little too beany) and I would even have been proud to share a bite with Mayle himself. Here's how to make:

Baked Brie in a Savory Gluten-Free Pastry Crust


1 (1/2 lb.) wedge of Brie (I used President's double creme Herb Brie)

1-1/2 cups white bean flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. shortening (I used Butter-Flavored Crisco)

1 egg, separated
1/4 cup cold water


Let Brie sit, unwrapped, at room temperature, while you make your pastry.

Mix together white bean flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix together egg white and water. Add enough water to pastry mix to make it a smooth, workable dough. You may not need to add all this liquid.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Maneuver pastry into a ball and then squash it down between two sheets of plastic wrap. Parchment paper will not do, as the dough will stick to it and cause inappropriate amounts of cursing in the kitchen.

Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness in a roughly rectangular shape. Peel off top layer of plastic wrap and then play your wedge of Brie, top side down, over your pastry. Wrap your cheese in the pastry, pressing down the seams to make your pastry case as hole-free as possible.

(I found that this pastry was very workable, kind of like working with fondant or that old childhood standby, Play Doh. The heat from your hands makes the pastry seams come together very easily and the one advantage that this pastry has over regular wheat flour pastry, is that you can work it over and over without the dough becoming tough. Without the tough strands of gluten, you can keep handling your doughy mistakes over a long period of time. The dough smells very strongly of raw beans when raw, but it will change to a much pleasanter aroma when baked.)

Grease a glass pie pan with some extra shortening and then flop your pastry-wrapped cheese right-side up in your pan. Again, the dough is eminently pliable, so you can adorn it with fancy pastry scraps. I gave my Brie a pastry boutonniere for a little extra Gallic elegance.

Whisk up your remaining egg yolk and brush over the top of your pastry. You are now ready to bake your Brie!



Bake your production at 375 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and melting Brie has popped the seams of its pastry shell.

Makes 4-6 appetizer servings.

We ate this for Second Breakfast on a rainy mid-morning, but I imagine that this luscious cheese experiment would be wonderful as a romantic meal paired with grapes, pears and a bottle of lusty red wine.

Note: This makes enough pastry to wrap 3 wedges of Brie. I used the remainder of my pastry to make a 9 inch pastry shell for a pumpkin pie (the crust edges burned so next time I would cover the rim with foil), but I would imagine one could freeze the remainder into pastry logs to freeze and roll out another day.



Please join in the fun when our current Cook the Books hostess, Jo of Food Junkie, Not Junk Food, rounds up the blog posts about "French Lessons" and the foods we cook up inspired by our reading. The deadline to do so is November 8th, and then it will be my turn to host this fun, bimonthly biblio-foodie fiesta. Anyone can participate in Cook the Books as long as they read the selected book and blog about it and some edible inspiration.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gluten-Free Fruit Snacks Review and Giveaway

Betty Crocker recently sent me a couple of their fruit-flavored snacks to sample, and included a fun "Simple Joys" prize package that included some pick-up sticks, a light-up yo-yo and a frisbee. The fruit-flavored snacks are gluten-free, and were a hit with my two daughters, especially the roll-up "tape". I find them too sweet, but kids like the taste and the lurid colors.

As for the toys, the light-up yo-yo was the overall family favorite thing to play with. Martha the dog would have just snacked on the frisbee, so we passed it on to our local charity thrift shop.

For dog owners in a similar situation, we recommend buying a Nylabone frisbee for around $20 at your local pet shop. Martha loves catching it and can't chew off pieces, plus it has a nifty "bone" that sticks out of the top that she can latch onto when she fetches it back to us.



Anyway, I am pleased to say that I can offer a similar "Simple Joys" prize package to one of my Crispy Cook readers (U.S. residents only, though). Just leave a comment after this post telling me about your favorite childhood toy and Martha will assist me in randomly picking a winner from the comments after November 15, 2009.

Good luck to all!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Heart Pumpkin: A Multiplicity of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Treats

I Heart Pumpkin. What a great bounty from the old pumpkin patch this year. I planted four hills of Rouge Vif d'Etampes, a French heirloom variety this year, and even after giving away pumpkins to various friends, I still have ten pumpkins adorning my kitchen floor (we have had our killing frost so my babies have to come inside).



After last weekend's pumpkin bonanza, where I got 16 cups of pumpkin puree out of a 30 lb. beauty that was almost as big as Cinderella's Coach, I cooked up a big batch of pumpkin treats for my family.

There was a moist and spicy loaf of Pumpkin Bread, which I studded with a cup of golden raisins:



And a couple of Impossible Pumpkin Pies using Susan the Fat-Free Vegan's great recipe. You mix up all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and then pour it into your pie pans. This pie comes out very custardy and makes its own crust on the bottom. No foolin' around with rolling out crumbling gluten-free crusts between waxed paper and then cursing while attempting to transition them into the pie pans.



Then came the roasted pumpkin seeds. They were so ridiculously easy to make, I wonder why I never tried them out. Here's what I did:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Rinse and remove pumpkin flesh from seeds. Pat dry.

Toss with corn oil to coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place on lightly oiled cookie sheet and toast in a preheated 300 degree F oven and toast, stirring every 15 minutes, for about an hour.

Voila! A nutty, healthy treat!



This trio of pumpkin delights is being sent over to Life, Gluten Free, who is the current hostess of Go Ahead, Honey, It's Gluten Free, a monthly blog event started by Naomi at Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried. The theme of this month's round is "Pumpkin Treats" and I look forward to the roundup for other autumnal cooking ideas as nine other pumpkins await me in the Crispy Kitchen. Life, Gluten Free will post the roundup after the end of October, so do join me in stopping by for a tasteful peek at some more pumpkin fun.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mom's Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole

My mom always thoughtfully makes special dinners for our family when we come to visit, even though Dan's gluten-free diet makes her nervous. And the vegetarian part makes her crazy so she and her husband try to entice him into partaking of the meaty dishes on the table and convert him back to the carnivorous realm.

We had a sumptuous dinner at my mom's the other day and she made a terrific cheesy cauliflower casserole that we all devoured. Here's her great recipe:



Mom's Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole

1 head cauliflower, cut up into florets

1/4 cup gluten-free flour mix (Mom used Bob's Red Mill all-purpose)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs
Grated Cheddar and smoked gruyere cheese (Mom says add as much as you like)

Steam cauliflower in boiling salted water until al dente.

Place in buttered baking pan.

Melt butter in saucepan. Whisk in flour. Add salt, sour cream, milk and eggs. Stir until creamy and until lumps are all gone. Add in cheese and stir until melted.
Pour over cauliflower in baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until nice and bubbly and browned on top.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Pumpkin Invades the Crispy Kitchen

Pumpkins and gourds have never been big players in our home gardens. The vines and umbrella leaves are so huge and I've really only thought of them for table use in pumpkin pies, so I never wanted to devote a whole lot of valuable garden acreage to their cultivation. One time we had a volunteer pumpkin vine running out of our compost heap from a decaying roadside stand giant pumpkin purchase, but planting them on purpose was never considered until this spring, when the voluptuous curves of the French heirloom variety, Rouge Vif d'Etampes, made its siren song from the seed catalogue.

This heirloom variety looks like a giant red cheese and after a slow start in the wet back garden (those cucumber beetles kept bedeviling my seedlings) they took over the entire patch and were very poor neighbors to my adjacent rows of string beans and cabbages. We had a nice harvest of varying size pumpkins, and they come in an array of red, yellow and orange shades, with varying degrees of ridginess.



The Rouge Vif d'Etampes variety is an old French market pumpkin, so naturally they make for good eating in addition to their stylish good looks. I decided to cook up one of my best-looking monsters (and one of the biggest, weighing in at 30 pounds!) and brought this lovely pumpkin inside.



My trusty scullery hound, Martha, was a little apprehensive about this Giant Vegetable, but a little peanut butter spread on the outside eased her mind.



The first order of business was to wash the outside and then attempt to carve the pumpkin into wedges for roasting. This was quite a feat and worthy of a Halloween horror movie. It involved a cleaver. And my biggest kitchen knife. I thought about a machete, or perhaps a small brush chainsaw, but Martha objected. The pumpkin grinned in a terrible rictus.



In the end, I would cleave deep into the pumpkin, then remove it and lever in my kitchen knife to hack off small wedges. The Rouge Vif d'Etampes is flattened (some might say squashed) so I found that trimming the tapered ends worked better to scoop out the seeds and strings. A grapefruit spoon was the instrument of choice for that project. I filled a roasting pan and my largest baking dish with a 1/2 cup each of water, laid in the pumpkin slices and then roasted them for 1-1/2 hours at 375 degrees F. And that only dealt with half of the pumpkin! So I repeated that process over the course of an afternoon.



When cooled, I scooped the pumpkin flesh from the skins and then pureed it in my food processor. That 30-lb. pumpkin made somewhere just shy of 20 cups of pumpkin puree! Some went into my already-stuffed-with-garden-harvest-freezer and about half was set aside for a second day of pumpkin mania.

There is a Royal Foodie Joust underway over at the Foodie Blogroll Forum and the three ingredients which must be jousted with to create a recipe are pumpkin, dark beer and sugar. I wanted to make something savory, rather than sweet, so after perusing a bunch of cookbooks and Internet recipes for pumpkin pasta recipes, I cooked up this very elegant variation on the old comfort food standby, macaroni and cheese with a Crispy crumb topping.



I am happy to report that this creamy, pale orange concoction was gobbled up by my Crispy Crew and was even better heated up the next day after the delicate flavors melded more. I made our recipe gluten-free with GF pasta, bread crumbs and gluten-free beer, which are now so much more readily available in local food markets. Here's my autumnal recipe:

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Crispy Crumb Topping

1 lb. gluten-free pasta (I used Sam Mills corn rigatoni - $1.50 bag at Odd-Lot)

2 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

1 cup Red Bridge sorghum beer

2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

2 cups fresh, soft bread crumbs (I used half a baguette (the end parts) from Saratoga Gluten-Free Goods from my freezer)
2/3 cups walnuts
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste.

3 Tbsp. softened butter

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Heat oil in frying pan. Add onions and cook over low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and add beer. Turn up heat, bring to boil and then cook until beer is reduced by half, about 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, yogurt, brown sugar and Parmesan. Mix in cooked onions and blend well. Carefully mix in cooked pasta (GF pasta tends to be brittler than wheat pasta) and pour into a greased 9 x 11 baking dish.

Place walnuts, bread crumbs, and sage in food processor and whizz it up until crumbs are coarse. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle crumbs over macaroni in baking pan and dot with bits of softened butter.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until topping is Crispy and golden brown.

Makes 8 generous servings.

This was truly a great recipe for our family. My kids liked the familiarity of the mac n' cheese, while Dan and I enjoyed the subtle flavors of beer-braised onions, earthy sage and pumpkin. Enjoy!



My only reservation about this recipe is that it ONLY used 2 cups of my vat of pureed Great Pumpkin, so I spent a bit of time baking stuff up the next day to use up more of my reserves. Stay tuned for more pumpkin recipes....

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Tour of the Autumnal Garden and a Bowl of Soup

Things are winding down in the Crispy Garden. I'm finally getting around to weeding some of the beds, I'm embarrassed to say, but the weather has been lovely and in between weeding, I'm tucking in various kinds of garlic to harvest next summer.

Those fecund Busillus frying pepper plants are still setting fruit,



I've got a forest of kale that will keep on chugging through the coming snowdrifts,



And this prehistoric patch of Brussels Sprouts awaits our consumption after the first frost, when the little sprouts are even sweeter.



I have my herb patch still soldiering on and a couple of lonely red cabbages. A single Tatsoi plant remained from my Spring planting, at least one that hadn't gone to seed, and was shivering under some fall leaves. So I grabbed it and into the cooking pot it went!



I had been thinking about this month's round of No Croutons Required, the vegetarian foodie event alternately hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa's Kitchen. The current challenge is to make a soup or salad using the contents of one's cupboards (and maybe a nip out to the autumn garden!). Frugality is the name of the game and participants may not go to the store to purchase ingredients specifically for their chosen dish.

My lonely bunch of tatsoi was the inspiration for this Chinese-style soup. I had read that tatsoi is often a soup ingredient in Chinese cooking, but hadn't yet experimented with it. I chopped the crunchy stalks off and diced them up to add to the soup pot a few minutes before adding the leafy parts and that made a nice counterpoint. The leaves got very silky and tender and were perfect in this hot, noodly broth.

Chinese-Style Noodle Soup with Tatsoi


10.5 oz pkg. rice stick noodles

1 small bunch tatsoi, washed several times (makes about 4 cups)

6 cups water
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (Knorr's was gluten-free, but check ingredients for other brands. Better yet, use homemade vegetable stock)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
3 Tbsp. soy sauce (check to make sure it is gluten-free)


Cook rice stick noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 6-8 minutes, or until soft. Drain and rinse under cold water for one minute to remove starch. Reserve.

Remove stems from tatsoi and dice finely. Rough chop the leaves.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add garlic, bouillon cubes, ginger and soy sauce. Return to boil and then let simmer 10 minutes to cook garlic and ginger. Add tatsoi stems and cook, stirring often, another 5 minutes. Add leaves and cook only a minute or two to get the tatsoi to soften. The tatsoi leaves get velvety soft and the stems still retain a nice crunch. Add noodles and heat through.

Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.



I reheated this soup the next day and threw in some leftover diced smoked tofu and that made it a little richer. The noodles had also soaked up more of the soup stock and got very plump and soft.

In addition to sending a bowl of this garlic- and ginger-scented soup over to Tinned Tomatoes for No Croutons Required, I am going to wing a bowl over to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sundays event. It was that good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baked Stuffed Busillus Frying Peppers

What a weird gardening year. After an inordinately slow start with our cooler and rainier than normal Spring and Summer, the Fall garden season has been balmy and today, October 7th, we have yet to have a killing frost. The always fertile zucchini plants keep pumping out produce, though the vines are somewhat withered, and my bell and frying pepper plants just keep fruiting away. The trees are just shy of the peak of autumn color, but we still have summer veggies. Just plain weird.

Faced with this autumnal abundance, we have been eating a lot of peppers and eggs, peppered tomato sauce, raw pepper strips, and packing egg and tuna salad into small hollowed-out peppers for breadless lunches. Not to mention those countless numbers of diced peppers cryogenically preserved in my chest freezer and which fly out to bonk us in the head every time we open the overhead freezer compartment in our refrigerator.



To keep up with this pepper bonanza, I decided to make some stuffed peppers. I have a gorgeous bunch of Busillus pepper plants which are still blossoming away. They are very faintly hot when cooked and they make my hands tingle slightly after I handle them, so people with sensitive skin should probably wear gloves. And try not to rub their eyes right afterward either.

Some of the Busillus Peppers are turning a glorious red, but most stay dark and glossy green. Despite their unfortunate name (doesn't Busillus sound like a pathogen?), they are a new favorite in our garden. They are incredibly productive and taste wonderful fried up with onions and garlic as the basis for other dishes, but I wanted to feature them (and use a good number of them up) in a casserole for supper, so I came up with this version of the classic rice-stuffed peppers.



It was a satisfying supper and was even better heated up as leftovers for successive lunches. The queso fresco cheese gets soft, but doesn't melt as much as other cheeses, so if you want a gooier stuffed pepper, you could substitute Monterey Jack. The herb patch is still green, so I harvested some fresh cilantro, plucked some homegrown garlic from the garden shed and got creative in the kitchen.



Baked Stuffed Frying Peppers


1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce, divided (check ingredients to make sure wheat is not added as a thickener)

12 oz. queso fresco

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 extra frying peppers, seeded and chopped

12 large frying peppers, tops cut off, seeds and ribs removed, and slit up one side

1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice (make up a bigger pot of rice to serve peppers over later, mmmmm)

Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with 1/2 cup enchilada sauce.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, blanch prepared peppers 4-5 minutes, or until skins are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. Repeat with remaining peppers.

Cut queso fresco into wedges as below.



Heat oil in frying pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring, one minute. Add onion and chopped peppers and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, 7-8 minutes.

Add cooked vegetables to mixing bowl. Add rice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce to moisten. Stuff about 2 Tbsp. rice mixture into each blanched pepper. Place a wedge of cheese in the center and place in prepared baking dish. Drizzle peppers with remaining enchilada sauce. Cover baking dish with foil and bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes.

Serves 6 pepper lovers. Delicious over more plain cooked rice.



This seemed like the kind of recipe that would be enjoyed over at Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly blog event run by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once, where the focus is on the Vegetable Kingdom. This week WHB is being hosted by Susan the Well-Seasoned Cook, whose blog has lots of gorgeous photography and is the headquarters of My Legume Love Affair. Susan will have a roundup of all the Weekend Herb Blogging entries after Sunday's deadline, so be sure to swing by and see what everyone's playing around with in kitchens from around the world.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Cookbook Giveaway

Last month the Crispy Cook offered a copy of "Toujours Provence", by Peter Mayle. The randomly selected winner is Natashya, the Canadian blogger behind the adventurous, tasty and beautifully-photographed Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. I've gotten to know Natashya a little bit through her thoughtful posts for the Cook the Books Club, where we are reading Mayle's newest book "French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew". Please feel free join us in reading the book, cooking up something inspired by our reading and then blogging about it by November 8th. Anyone can submit a post in our bimonthly foodie book club. Anyway, congratulations Natashya!

For the October Cookbook Giveaway, I thought it would be topical to offer a book on frugal cooking and hereby announce that this month's cookbook is a gently used hardcover copy of Caroline Hightower's "The Pennypincher's Book of Fine Food" (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1968). Everyone can always use some economy in the kitchen and Ms. Hightower's book offers some grocery shopping tips and good advice for saving on the cost of food and drink, such as "The best way to save money on liquor is to serve dinner on time". Ha! I learned that the hard way at a few family Thanksgivings. Mostly, though, our featured cookbook is a good compendium of budget-minded recipes, from Curry Dip to Stuffed Eggplant to Onions in Honey and Lemon Souffle.



To enter the giveaway just leave a comment below by midnight (Eastern Standard Time), October 31st, 2009. I will randomly pick a winner from the comments below and ship the book anywhere in the world to the winner.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Playing Around with Curry Leaves

The curry leaf is a new favored ingredient in the Crispy Kitchen. I recently discovered the pleasures of the India Bazaar in Albany, NY, (1321 Central Avenue) where they stock a diverting selection of dried beans, spices, barfi (brightly colored "chickpea fudge"),Indian groceries, sacks of heavenly-scented basmati rice, and fresh produce. Bags of fresh curry leaves are something that I picked up on my last several visits, and upon the advice of the grocer, have stuck them in my pots of steamed rice for a wonderful scent and flavor.

Curry leaves look similar to bay leaves (my husband says they look like they fell off a house plant) being glossy green ovals with pointed tips. They come from a small shrub, Murraya koenigii, which is grown throughout India and South Asia. The leaves do get softened during cooking, so I leave them in my dishes, but you can remove them like a bay leaf from finished dishes and their pungent flavor and scent will remain. You can find out more about cooking with and the botanical and medicinal properties of curry leaves and other plants at this informative website.



One can freeze curry leaves, but like cilantro, their flavor is much reduced, so it is best to use them fresh. I recently tried out this recipe for Parsi Potatoes with Egg and it was lovely, sort of like an exotically-spiced Potato Frittata. The recipe was a bit time-consuming, but the flavors were spectacular.

I thought I would send this post about curry leaves over to Weekend Herb Blogging, the weekly blog event that celebrates the Vegetable Kingdom. WHB is headquartered by Haalo at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once and is being hosted this week by Serbian food blogger Palachinka. Head on over to see what other interesting leaves, herbs, fruit and other plant ingredients are being featured by great cooks from around the world at the WHB roundup after October 5th.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gluten-Free Baking with Flour Arrangements

For this month's round of Adopt A Gluten Free Blogger I went for some baking instruction from Sophie of Flour Arrangements. She's a real adventuress in the kitchen and knows how to bake, which is something that particularly flummoxes me. I end up getting distracted in the assemblage of the myriad flours and leavening agents need for baking up GF things and usually end up missing a step or putting in a tablespoon of something when a teaspoon is called for. Clearly, I need more guidance in the kitchen to hone my less than "mad" GF baking skills.

So Sophie was my Baking Guide last weekend when I attempted two of her wonderful recipes. Both came out as luscious as advertised on her beautifully-designed and photographed blog and my GF husband was delighted to have two new treats to devour.

First on my agenda was Sophie's Cracker Recipe. I had some success in making some crispy Sesame-Rosemary Crackers and Chickpea Hearts in the past, but these looked thicker and had a nice combination of flavors, so dug out my rolling pin, bought a fresh roll of parchment paper and popped out a batch of Sophie's Crackers.



They reminded me of Wheat Thins in texture and had a nice hearty flavor. I made up a batch of Vegetable Cream Cheese to spread on them (I whizzed up 1 pkg. softened cream cheese with a few radishes, celery stalks, carrots, chives, dill, and part of a red bell pepper) and Dan tucked into the cracker stash with gusto. They are also not so fragile as to buckle under the heft of a slice of cheese.

Bursting with self-esteem over the success of this first Flour Arrangement project, I decided to tackle a yeast bread. I was enamored of her photo of her Gluten-Free Honey and Flax Yeast Rolls and liked incorporating the fiber-rich powers of the flax seed, so I devoted an afternoon to the coddling of these yeasty babies. Man, they were good! Once again, with Sophie's detailed instructions, I produced a winning recipe. The rolls were great warm out of the oven and nuked up the next day in the microwave (I froze the immediately uneaten rolls in a bag in the freezer so they wouldn't dry out). Next time, it will be a double batch!

The rolls are soft, yet chewy, with a nice crunch from the flax seeds and a honey-tinged, nutty flavor. It's a time consuming recipe, as most yeasty breads are, and one does need a full gluten-free pantry supply as you need 1/4 of this and a 1/4 cup of that, but the end result is really lovely. A lot of gluten-free baked goods are somewhat on the white and fluffy side, and this was a hearty and substantial roll that my husband particularly enjoyed. He misses the "chew" of glutenous breads and these rolls gave his choppers the right amount of workout.



Sophie's blog is a visual delight to peruse. It has a clean layout, appealing graphics, and widgets that pop up and allow you to easily print out recipes. Her writing style is funny and engaging, and it is easy to lose track of time while browsing her posts, like standing in front of a great big GF bakery showcase.

Sea at the Book of Yum is the founder and current host of this edition of the Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger Event. Check back during the first week of October to see the roundup of all the other GF blogger adoptions and to see how we took our test drives with their recipes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Juggling Apples, Maple Syrup and Canine Pepper

A Royal Foodie Joust is on over at the Foodie Blogroll and in this monthly event, participants must come up with a dish that uses three ingredients selected by the previous month's winning Jouster. Natasha the Four-Star Foodie won the last Joust and selected apples, maple syrup and cayenne pepper as the featured ingredient trio. That set my blogger heart aglow as I love all three equally.

Years ago I had a friend who took some cooking classes from an instructor who would refer to cayenne pepper as canine pepper, and the substitute name has stuck in my mind ever since. A special pepper just for dogs! Or maybe that's what postal carriers should carry on their belts. I have since seen cayenne pepper spelled as cheyenne pepper on some cooking websites and that cracks me up too.

In a family with various dietary needs and tastes, it is not always easy for the Crispy Cook to come up with something we all really enjoy, but everyone cleans the plate when I cook up my teriyaki roast salmon. I thought it would be a delicious twist to substitute maple syrup as the sweetener in that recipe, but it took some pondering and some experimentation to incorporate apples and canine pepper into the dish.

There are a lot of apple salsa recipes out in the blogoverse, but they are not all created equally. I think the apple and green pepper combo just tastes swampy, and it was after dicing half a bag of Macintosh apples and swapping in a variety of different edibles, I came up with a crunchy, cool and spicy salsa that is a nice counterpoint with the richness of the roasted fish. The kids scraped their salsa off their portions, but the adult diners thought it rather a nice contrast of tastes.

Salmon was a bit dear at the supermarket, so I used its fishy cousin, Steelhead Trout, for my recipe and it was terrific. The meat is the same pink color and firm texture as the salmon and roasted up nicely.




Teriyaki Trout with Snappy Apple Salsa


1 (2 lb.) fillet steelhead trout, washed and patted dry
1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (make sure it's gluten-free)
1 Tbsp. gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. dark maple syrup

2 apples, unpeeled, cored and diced
1 small bulb fennel, trimmed and diced (makes 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp. lime juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Pour olive oil in large baking dish. Place trout fillet on top, skin side down.

Make marinade of garlic, soy sauce, ginger and maple syrup. Pour over fish in baking dish and cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

When ready to roast your fish, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place baking dish on top rack in oven and roast 35 minutes or until trout flakes easily.

Meanwhile, mix up your apple salsa. Toss apple and fennel with lime juice to coat and prevent them from browning. Add cayenne and salt to taste, but start with just a pinch of each, as it is easy to overwhelm the delicate apple and fennel flavors.

When fish is done, top with a dollop of salsa. We enjoyed our salmon over a bed of clear sweet potato noodles dressed with homemade pesto and it was a lovely dinner all around. The sweet potato noodles were a new gluten-free find at Albany's Asian Market and they have a springy texture and cool blue-green tint.

To see what other cooks are whipping up in their kitchens with apples, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, be sure to visit the Royal Foodie Joust before October 1st. Happy Jousting!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Washington County Cheese Tour


To bookend my enjoyable sojourn last weekend to the Bennington Garlic and Herb Festival this weekend was all about the cheese. Enjoying a Sunday drive down the country roads of Washington County on a gorgeous late summer day with burnished wildflowers and spectacular mountain views was a perfect treat with my youngest. We picked out three farms to visit around Argyle, New York on this weekend's Washington County Cheese Tour. We packed up our patterned socks and a portable cooler and had a lovely several hours petting goats, cows and dogs and sampling the dairy epicurean delights.



The first stop on our cheesy tour was Sweet Spring Farm on Saunders Road. You travel down an over-canopied one-lane dirt road before entering the break in the woods that nestles this goat farm and cheese plant. My girl got a little nervous about our lack of gasoline as we were driving through this entrance tunnel, but it was a beautiful farm indeed and swarmed with Cheese Tourists.



The Farm only had samples of its soft cheeses for sampling and for sale, and most were sold out when we arrived. They also didn't take checks so we were skunked as far as buying any of their herbed and peppered chevres and lovely feta, but we did taste a microspoon of them before clambering down to lure some of their cats and goats out of the barn.

After refueling the Crispy Car and getting some cash for future cheese fun, we hit The Argyle Cheese Farmer located on Randle Farm (on the fabulously named Coot Hill Road). This was a popular stop as well, especially with a gaggle of Harley Riders, and we sampled some cow's milk cheeses, including Pumpkin Spice Quark, Cheese Curds and a tasty Caerphilly Cheese. Caerphilly is a Welsh hard cheese with a buttery taste that is often used melted in Welsh Rarebit.



My Dairy Princess enjoyed petting a newborn calf



while I was enamored of an ancient border collie, Tor, who kept bringing me wood chips in his mouth. I'd throw them and he'd just look at me in puzzlement and bring me another.



Completely worn out by our efforts, we hit the cheesemonger shed with a vengeance and got some of that luscious Caerphilly, some Chive and Dill cheese curds (my kids won't eat ANYthing laced with my homegrown dill, but loved this product), and a ball of fresh mozzarella to make a caprese salad for dinner.



We wrapped our cheese tour with a visit to Longview Farm, where we were pleased to see a couple of our friends, including my book loving young friend Orrie, who sold me on a luscious slab of High Rock Cheese, a nutty Gruyere-style cheese made from goat's milk. Alas, they were sold out of chevre when we arrived, so we will have to seek out their other cheeses at the local farmer's markets.



We had a funny and informative tour of the goat barn, milking parlor and cheesemaking operations, and then we bid adieu to various barnyard friends, including a chicken that crossed the road.



After picking up some local corn, we came home and made dinner for the rest of the family, featuring corn on the cob, caprese salad, sliced garden cukes and peppers and a big cheese-tasting plate with some GF crackers. A very satisfying meal and a fantastic day trip. The Washington County Cheese Tour is an annual event and we hope to come back and visit the other two farms on the itinerary next year. I will do so with some cash in pocket and a full tank in the car though.

I thought this post would be perfect to send over to Chez Loulou, who hosts a monthly La Fete du Fromage in which participants feature cheese and particularly droolworthy examples of the cheesemaker's art.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Mediterranean-Style Chickpea and Fennel Salad



The September theme for No Croutons Required is Mediterranean soups and salads. I had some finocchio (fennel) ready to pick in the Crispy Garden, so I perused my cupboards, cookbooks and some internet sites to come up with an entry for this fun vegetarian event started by Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa's Kitchen.

I liked this recipe that I found on Food & Wine, but lacking and not liking some of the ingredients, I played around with it and came up with an altered version that uses many ingredients commonly used by Mediterranean cooks, including chick peas, olive oil, fennel, and thyme.

The combination of cool, crunchy fennel and celery and mealy cooked chick peas was very tasty and I look forward to bringing this salad to my next warm weather gathering as it can be served chilled or at room temperature and keeps well.



Chickpea and Fennel Salad a la Mediterranee

1 (14 oz.) can cooked chickpeas, drained
3 stalks celery, diced fine
1 small bulb fennel, trimmed and diced fine (save some fennel fronds for garnish)

1 fat garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 cup high quality, extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Handful of thyme, leaves stripped off
Handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped

Gently mix chickpeas, celery and fennel in bowl.

Make a dressing out remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over salad and let marinate at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Garnish with sprig of thyme and snipped fennel leaves.

Serves 6.

Looking forward to the No Croutons Required roundup after September 20th, when you and others get a chance to peruse the entries and vote for your favorite.