Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Leaf Lettuce Overdrive Needs A-Dressing

 My dear husband and I have been married for more than two decades. We've accomplished this feat through many a compromise and by leaving unsaid many critiques of each other's differing systems for doing things. Dan is the linear thinker; the rational one, who plans things out before plunging ahead on a project. I'm more apt to go with the flow and start in on something in a haze of creative chaos.

We had ONE garden plot when we first moved to our little parcel of rural heaven, but after the first year, we decided to each have our own separate garden spaces after we nearly did each other in with our hoes and trowels. Dan is banned from weeding my garden patch, having strangulated too many little plants that I thought would develop into something edible and I am banned from traipsing through his carefully tended rows (I apparently leave footprints in the wrong spots).

Here's my garden plot:

Note the mixture of flowers and herbs and vegetables and the somewhat crooked edging job that I did. I like to wait each Spring and see what stuff has reseeded itself before turning every over, unlike SOMEONE I know. The yellow flowering bush is actually a couple of kale plants that overwintered and went to seed. I left them in because they are pretty and attract lots of flying pollinators, but it makes Dan crazy to have something unproductive in there when we could be putting in something we are actually going to eat someday.

Now here's my beloved's garden spot:

I can assure you that all the plants are in perfectly straight rows (he uses string and stakes to lay out his seed furrows, whereas I kind of squat in and dig somewhat meandering rows when I plant). Weeds pretty much don't dare to show up in his garden beds. But he does have the biggest harvests by far. All his meticulous soil preparation and diligent diggings really do bring home the veggies.

Which brings me to the point of this post (about time!), which is to showcase the bumper crop of Green Leaf Lettuce that ol' Farmer MacGregor has been pumping out. It's been Lettuce-palooza this season with our abundant Spring rains and cooler temperatures. We have had some delectable, tender salads and have given away bags of lettuce to our friends and neighbors. You'd think it was zucchini season!

While we normally just dress our garden grown salads with a simple vinaigrette, maybe with a little crushed garlic and Dijon mustard if we really want to gussy things up, but I thought it would be a nice change of pace to make a creamy herb dressing to take advantage of the weeding I've been doing back in my garden plot. I usually have enough volunteer dill and cilantro plants to weed out of my spring rows and freeze in cubes for the winter, and those perennial chive plants pump out lots of chives and chive blossoms to grace our table as well. The chive blossoms have a mild onion flavor and when you pick them off of the blossom head they look so lovely sprinkled over pastas, salads and casseroles.

I pulled out the blender, got out some Greek yogurt and snipped away at a pile of spring herbs to make this delightful creamy herb dressing:

Springtime Creamy Herb Dressing

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped spring herbs: I used dill, chives and chive blossoms
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. sugar (optional, but I think it cuts the acidity of the vinegar)

Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz around until completely blended. It will be a delicate pastel green color.

Makes 1 cup dressing.

This really dresses up a plain plate of lettuce and makes it an elegant salad, with some extra snipped chives and chive blossoms to garnish the top.

I am sending this luscious salad dressing over to Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free, a monthly festival of food ideas started by Naomi of Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried, and hosted this month by Against All Grain.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spinach Quinoa Mediteraneo as a Side Dish and Salad

Recently I was contacted by Westside Market about their recipe for their popular Spinach Quinoa Mediteraneo dish.  This New York City market features freshly made prepared foods from recipes by Maria Zoitas, wife of the Market's founder and I jumped right into the kitchen to make this dish.

I don't remember to make quinoa often enough, though it's as easy to make as rice (and I even make it in my rice cooker for more simplicity).  Quinoa is so delightful in the mouth; the little seed kernels pop as you chew them, sort of like caviar, and the grain itself is one of those nutritional powerhouses, packed with iron, protein and calcium. Here's the recipe for this great side dish, which makes a bit batch, about 10-12 servings, so it's a good choice to bring to a potluck or picnic.

(recipe reprinted with permission from Westside Market)


·         8 oz. quinoa
·         1 bunch scallions (I used chives, which I have in abundance in the spring garden)

·         1 spanish onion
·         4 cups spinach
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 bunch parsley (I used Italian flat-leaf parsley)

·         1 bunch anise (I couldn't find anise, so I used a whole bulb of fennel)

·         1 bunch dill
·         2 teaspoon kosher salt
·         1 teaspoon black pepper
·         6 cups of water

·         Saute onion, scallion, parsley and anise, in olive oil
·         Add 6 cups of water and cook for 5 minutes
·         Add quinoa and cook for 15 minutes
·         Add the spinach and cook until wilted

My notes:

This was a delicious dish, but since it made such a big amount and my dill-phobic spawn wouldn't eat it, Dan and I decided to jazzed up the leftovers into an ever more Mondo Mediterraneo cold salad by adding 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese, juice of one lemon and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Both versions were very good!

Thanks to Westside Market for sharing this gluten-free, vegetarian recipe. You can check out more of Maria's recipes at their website.

I am sharing this recipe with No Croutons Required, a monthly vegetarian recipe contest held over at Tinned Tomatoes. This month's theme for No Croutons Required is Leafless Salads, so I thought this would be a great entry. Hop on over to Tinned Tomatoes to check out the other entries this month.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gluten Free Chickpea Sandwich Bread

Bread. The staff of life. The stuff of my celiac husband's dreams. Ironically, while the rest of our non-gluten-free family thinks bread is just okay, Dan must have something bready to complete his dining experience. A plate of pasta is not a whole meal if there is no roll to swab up the last luscious bits of sauce, breakfast isn't right without a couple of slices of toast on the side and breadstuffs are one of the holy trinity of the dinner hour.

Blame it on his Irish-Polish ancestry, and while we're at it, we can attribute the celiac gene to the paternal side of his family as well, though they were just known for their "sensitive stomachs" in the days before celiac disease was being diagnosed by the medical community.

So he and I bake a lot of gluten-free bread, buns and rolls and keep them, sliced and wrapped in the freezer for quick thawing for his meals. Dan prefers having buns and rolls around to slices of bread, so we've come up with some ways to get the soft, sticky, slidy gluten-free doughs (like using greased metal egg rings that restaurants use when they want eggs to stay in a perfect circle shape on the griddle) to stay in their bun shapes with some success. You can check out more GF bun baking tips at this post from the Crispy Cook archives and then pretty much adapt any gluten-free bread recipe into GF buns.

The recipe we use over and over again for sandwiches and for toast is Elizabeth Barbone's Sandwich Bread recipe from her cookbook "Easy Gluten-Free Baking". It makes a great basic white bread recipe that toasts beautifully and doesn't crumble easily.

With the encouragement of the Gluten Free Ratio Rally bakers, a group of gluten free food bloggers that tackles a different baking project each month and deconstructs/reconstructs them measuring ingredients by weight and recipes by ratios of flour/liquid/fat/egg, I was looking to make a different kind of sandwich bread to add variety to the freezer stash. This month's GF Ratio Rally Host, Karen of the Cooking Gluten-Free blog, picked BREAD as our baking challenge and initially I thought about trying to make a crusty, artisan-style loaf. I just ran out of time and schedule during this busy past month (note dearth of Crispy Cook posts) with various kid, business and garden activities on my plate, so I will hopefully be copying down someone else's recipe for such a gluten-free delight when Karen rounds up all the Ratio Rally posts on June 6th.

For my contribution to this bread rally, I wanted to use chickpea flour as my base flour. I find big bags of chickpea flour (labeled besan) at the Indian markets in Albany and they are economically priced. We use chickpea flour (and our other staple gluten free flour, brown rice flour) in lots of savory dishes to thicken sauces and curries, bread fish and veggies for pan drying and in one of our favorite meals, Bhajis with Rice. Chickpea flour also adds a nice bit of protein and fiber to our cooking, so that's a great bonus. My stab at converting a basic white bread recipe into a chickpea loaf was encouragingly successful. '

Here's what I did:

Chickpea Sandwich Bread

3 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 oz. warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

8 oz. chickpea flour (also known as besan or garbanzo bean flour)
4 oz. cornstarch
4 oz. white rice flour
8 oz. tapioca flour
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (can use garlic powder)
1 tsp. dried basil

3 eggs, beaten
4 oz. warm water
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Vegetable shortening

Grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.

Mix brown sugar, 4 oz. warm water and yeast together and let stand in a warm, draft-free place to proof for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and whisk until completely blended. The flours are pretty fine, so keep the whisking motion low. And using a deep bowl helps keep the flour cloud down a bit.

In another bowl. blend eggs together with remaining water and oil. Add in yeast mixture and blend well. Add to dry ingredients and combine until blended and smooth. Scrape into greased loaf pan.

Heat oven to 170 degrees F and then turn off. Place loaf pan inside a clean plastic bag (I use a shopping bag from grocery or store) and loosely tent it. Close oven door and let rise until mostly doubled, about 1 hour.

Take loaf pan out, turn oven back on to 375 degrees F and remove plastic bag. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until top is nicely golden-brown. Let cool in pan for several minutes, then carefully tap it out onto a cooling rack and let finish cooling.

When completely cool, slice, wrap and stick it in the freezer to use as necessary.

Makes one loaf.

Looking forward to seeing what the other creative and talented GF Ratio Rally bakers will be pulling out of their ovens tomorrow! Be sure to check over at Karen's blog to see links to all the other blogger's bread recipes. And come back next month to see some gluten-free cracker and breadstick recipes when it's my turn to host the GF Ratio Rally.