Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blogging from the Garden

I've been lax about posting here of late, but spring in the northeastern U.S. is ephemeral and lovely and I've been outside digging in the dirt, watching my kid play softball and trying to run around with the dog as much as possible in between raindrops and windstorms.

Dan and I got the gardens finished up today with a final (cutworms willing) trip to the local farmstand for some filler plants. We're going to try growing leeks for the first time, which involved digging a foot-deep trench which needs to be filled up gradually until a fall harvest to mound up compost-rich soil against the leeks. They look really skimpy now, like little wispy grass seedlings, but I have big plans for some leek and potato soup, so I will baby them.

The other photograph here shows some of our greens and herbs already up. The green fuzzy stuff everywhere is dill that reseeded itself from last year. I've been pulling it out slowly and throwing some in salads, salsa, dips and omelets. If anyone out there has any good recipes featuring dill, please forward them. Later in summer, when my crazy curly cucumbers pop out, we'll make refrigerator pickles, but until then, bring on the dill recipes!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gluten-Free at the Dollar Store

Over the years I have haunted the local dollar store while killing time during the kids' tae kwon do and gymnastics lessons or in between regular errand runs, and I've always found some good deals: the handknit sweater in Muppet shades of blue, orange and purple which got many compliments until it got shrunk in the wash, duct tape, art supplies, calendars and all sorts of hair adornments. The food aisles, however, usually contain lots of "zoo food" as writer Jim Harrison dubs over-processed grub, chock full of high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, dyes, and in the last year, WHEAT!

However, with the new refrigerated case that the Dollar Store folks added last year, Dan and I have begun to inspect the other grocery items, and while we are steering clear of the suspiciously-colored fish fillets, we have brought home some cheese. A lovely, runny, Wisconsin-made Brie as a matter of fact. So don't forget to inspect the dollar stores in your search of gluten-free eating so you can scoop up a bargain and help off-set the high price of this special diet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mother's Day Mixology

Almost a week later, I am finally blogging about my wonderful Mother's Day present: my new mixer! I had been hinting about wanting a more powerful mixer to help with my gluten-free baking, as some recipes call for 10 minutes or more of blending (and I want to walk away and let the mixer handle that), so Dan and the girls surprised me with a shiny new silver model last Sunday. I broke it in with a double batch of Elizabeth Barbone's Coffeecake Muffins (cinnamon sugar in the middle and on the tops) and made a variant version using maple sugar which was even more delectable. The maple sugar melts in the middle and is wonderful with a little soft butter hot out of the oven.

Now, while this mixer has 300 amps and meets my needs fully, the question remains: Should I pimp my mixer? Check out this link if you want to see some muscular mixers with flames, camouflage and patriotic detailing. I'll just stick with the classic look of flour smudges myself.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pasta Spanakopita

Dan really misses spanakopita, those savory Greek phyllo pastries. I played around with some spinach and feta and dill and came up with this pasta recipe which scored a home run with the old man. I bet it will be even more mouthwatering when the garden comes up and we have fresh spinach and dill to work with.

Pasta Spanakopita

3 plum tomatoes, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen spinach, cooked and drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. snipped dill

Cook up a package of gluten-free pasta.

Heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in pan. Add garlic and onions, and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes and cook until they melt into a sauce, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and feta and heat through until feta is softened. Toss with salt and pepper to taste and add a few more splashes of extra virgin olive oil. Mix in with pasta and serve hot.

Serves 4-6 people.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Versatile Americanized Curry

Many years ago my friend Barb taught me to make vegetable curry. She was fearless in her studio kitchen, sauteeing spices and chopping whatever vegetables were on hand to produce fragrant and quick vegetarian meals. She had learned some curry tricks from her erstwhile boyfriend and long after his sorry carcass had exited the door she at least had some good culinary skills. I made this curry with vegetables on hand, but it is versatile enough to include frozen or fresh peas, red peppers, green beans, sweet potatoes, leftover rice, cauliflower and other vegetable oddments. My kids don't especially like it, but they will in time, I'm sure.

Vegetable Curry a la Barb

3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. safflower or corn oil
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15.5 oz.) can chick peas, drained
curry powder to taste (someday I will make my own the proper way, but for now...)
4-5 small red potatoes, quartered and parboiled (or 2 large potatoes)
1 cup water
Handful of raisins
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan. Saute garlic 1-2 minutes. Add onions and ginger and cook until golden. Add curry powder and stir 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, chick peas, raisins, potatoes and water. Bring to boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.

Serves 4-6.

Serve over hot cooked rice with mango chutney and plain yogurt.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Spring Garden

Despite winds that blow dirt in the eyes, it's time to plant the spring garden here in Saratoga County. Last year one of our birch trees came down in a windstorm, so Dan cut it down to stump level and then perched a barrel on top for radishes. Then he enlisted the forces of pyramid power to provide a lattice for our pea crop to grow on. We are planting our radish crop today. I like the French red and white icicle radishes, and the cute Easter Egg round radishes that come in various hues of red, purple and white, but this year, I'm trying some white radishes.

Here's a great radish dip recipe that we enjoy. It doesn't look all that photogenic, sort of like chunky cottage cheese, but it's tasty. Just try and eat it up in a day or two, as the radishes leach out water over successive days.

Radish Dip

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softeened
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 bunch radishes, minced (red and pink radishes look loveliest)
1 clove garlic, minced or run through a garlic press
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Few Tbsp. milk as needed

I smash everything up in my food processor but you can also just finely mince and blend everything together. Let set for at least an hour before serving to mingle flavors.

Serve with gluten-free crackers, celery or carrot sticks, red pepper strips, etc.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Rare Baker's Triple Play

Three items have survived the gluten-free launch pad in the past week, rocketing my gluten-free baking statistics into the stratosphere. First, I cooked up a fantastic Ginger Cake, after seeing the recipe on Mrs. G.F.'s excellent gluten-free cooking blog. Check it out, she really has some great recipes posted there. I made the cake exactly as she describes, thinking that 1/2 cup of minced ginger was maybe a typo, but proceeding anyway. It is a very aromatic and lovely textured cake, with the pieces of ginger sort of getting caramelized and mellowed by baking. If you love the strong taste of ginger beer, you will love this cake. It is great with a cup of tea. I didn't have coconut milk on hand to whip up the chocolate icing, so I just made a buttercream frosting for the top and it paired well. A big hit with Dan.

Next up was to cook up the bag of gluten-free breadstick mix that I had gotten from the Risotteria Restaurant in New York City in February. All went well and they were eaten immediately by all the Jags. I will try making up some more with other bread mixes and see how that goes.

The third baking triumph was a batch of Coffee Cake Muffins from Elizabeth Barbone's Easy Gluten-Free Baking cookbook that I blogged about last month. I already divulged her luscious Lemon Bars recipe, so it wouldn't be fair to give out more recipes, but you can check out her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on her own blog. I'm very pleased with this cookbook. Everything that I've made has turned out just great and I am happy with the detailed instructions and common ingredients she uses.