Sunday, July 29, 2007

Damp Apple and Almond Cake

One of my wonderful customers at the bookstore was chatting with me about baking and I told her about our new gluten-free lifestyle and how baking is quite a challenge these days. She recommended that I try Nigella Lawson's weirdly-named Damp Apple and Almond Cake. Through the power of the Internet I scrounged up the recipe which you can also access here for a better photograph.

The cake turned out to be delicious although I was a bit put off by how truly damp it is on the inside. I prefer my baked goods a bit more dessicated, so I limited myself to one slice and a few stolen crumbs here and there, while Dan devoured the remainder. The cake is not too sweet and would make a nice teatime treat.
Damp Apple and Almond Cake
Nigella Lawson

Serves 12


3 apples eating apples, such as Braeburns
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
8 eggs
1 3/4 quarters cup superfine sugar
3 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar

Peel, core and chop the apples roughly. Put them in a saucepan with one the lemon juice and sugar, and bring the pan to a boil over a medium heat. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until you can mash the apple to a rough puree with a wooden spoon or fork. (You should have about one heaped cup of puree.) Leave to get cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F; and oil a 10” springform pan with almond oil or a flavourless vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the cooled puree in the processor with the eggs, ground almonds, superfine sugar and a tablespoonful — or generous squeeze — of lemon juice and blitz to a puree. Pour and scrape, with a rubber spatula for ease, into the prepared pan, sprinkle the flaked almonds on top and bake for about 45 minutes. It’s worth checking after 35 minutes, as ovens do vary, and you might well find it’s cooked earlier — or indeed you may need to give it a few minutes longer.

Put on a wire rack to cool slightly, then remove the sides of the pan. This cake is best served slightly warm, though still good cold. As you bring it to the table, push a teaspoon of confectioners’ sugar through a fine sieve to give a light dusting.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What Should I Do with my Daikon?

I bought a daikon radish last year at the supermarket to grate up and use as a condiment for a homemade sushi supper and we really enjoyed it. I grated and squeezed dry a grated daikon and seasoned it with soy sauce, sesame oil, a little sugar and ginger and it was a hit.

So this year, when perusing my seed catalogues, I thought I would try and grow some daikon (pronounced dye-kon) radishes in our garden. Well, I certainly didn't need to plant a whole packet of seeds, because they have taken over my garden with their beautiful, if bushy tops and we certainly can't eat all of our daikon-zillas. Some of these babies are now over a foot long and four inches in circumference! We tried a daikon pickle recipe we got out of one of our cookbooks, but the pickles were way too salty and besides, the daikon ferments quickly and has given our refrigerator a very unappealing gym sneaker scent.

I have managed to pawn off some baseball bat-sized daikons to my Japanese-born friend Junko and she offered up basically the same daikon condiment recipe that we had already tried, so if anyone out there has other cooking suggestions, please feel free to forward them.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Leo's Spicy Black Beans

My friend Leo made this great spicy black bean salad recipe for us and kindly shared his recipe. It was the hit of our Fourth of July barbecue and got scooped up before Dan or I could try it, but people raved about it so much, so of course we had to make it soon. I halved this recipe, which was enough for the four of us, but next time I would make the original quantity because it was that good.

Leo got the recipe from the cookbook "Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Celebrated Green Restaurant", by Annie Somerville (Bantam Books, 1993), and his notes are included in the recipe below. Enjoy!

Spicy Black beans with Chiles and Lime

Author's notes: Mint leaves, cilantro, and fresh lime give black beans a refreshing lift. We often crumble queso fresco (a Mexican cheese) over the beans and serve them with Jicama-Orange Salad, Pickled Red Onions, and sliced avocado.

Leo's notes: I usually don't bother with the carrot and celery part of this and I only do the cilantro part if I feel like plucking and chopping the cilantro leaves.

Ingredients/4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups dried black beans, about 9 ounces, sorted and soaked overnight

(Leo's note: I use two 28-ounce cans of black beans instead...Just
be sure to rinse them thoroughly)

Salt and pepper

1/2 medium-sized carrot, diced, about 1/4 cup

1/2 celery rib, diced, about 1/4 cup

Zest of 2 limes, minced, about 1 1/2 teaspoons

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (Rachel's note: I used rice vinegar)

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 pinches of cayenne pepper

1/4 cup light olive oil (Leo's note: You can probably use less)

1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced (Rachel's note: I used red canned jalapenos)

2 heaped tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (Leo's note: I skipped this)

1. If you use the dried beans, drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Cover generously with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil for 20-25 minutes, until the beans are tender yet still hold their shape. Taste the beans to be sure they're cooked before draining.

2. While the beans are cooking, bring a small pot of water to boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Drop the carrot into the water and cook for 1 minute, adding the celery for the last 30 seconds. Drain
immediately and rinse under cold water. Make the dressing by combining the lime zest and juice, vinegar, garlic, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Gradually, whisk in the oil.

3. When the beans are tender, drain and toss immediately with the dressing and the jalapenos. If the chiles are very hot, add half the amount to the salad, then add more to taste; the salad should be spicy. Marinate for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the cilantro and mint before serving.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Restaurants

Dan and I had two opportunities for romantic dining this past week with my mom here for a visit. Our first gourmet foray was a success. We took a twilight drive around Saratoga Springs, admiring the public art exhibit of decorated horses all along Broadway and ended up cruising along the eastern shore of Saratoga Lake. We ended up at Mangino's Restaurant. It was a Monday night, around 8 pm, so we weren't at a busy time, even though it is the summer season. Our waitress was new to the restaurant but she knew about celiac disease and went several times back to the kitchen to make sure various parts of our dinner order would be gluten-free. The chef was so kind as to cook Dan's shrimp without the usual crumb coating and he even gave him an extra oven-roasted potato when asked. A great dinner date at this Italian seafood restaurant and I give them a hearty thumbs up for being so attentive to us.

We had a different experience in our own hometown of Schuylerville at Amigos Cantina. This is a new Mexican restaurant with a beautiful interior painted with vibrant, earthy colors, hand-painted tables and folk art decorating the bar. We went to the restaurant early, a little after 5 pm on a Wednesday, and were the one of only two patrons. Our waitress was friendly and earnest, but after ordering a drink, we inquired about whether the complimentary chips and salsa would be safe to eat for someone who can't eat wheat. The waitress wasn't familiar with celiac disease and so went back to the kitchen, where we overheard the chef bellowing that he didn't know if the chips contained any wheat flour, couldn't find any boxes or ingredient listings for the chips and corn tortillas, and told the waitress to instruct us that "It's better safe than sorry." We then asked our waitress if there was anything on the menu that my husband could eat and another trip to the kitchen ensued, with the same bellowed truism. It felt like the bum's rush, as opposed to the Mangino's meal, where we felt welcomed.

We will be going back to Mangino's.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kisses

I have made these peanut butter kiss cookies twice now, and they have been snapped up quickly. For the first batch I religiously followed the recipe I got from the "Tried and True Recipes" cookbook put together by the Glens Falls Regional Celiac Support Group and they were delicious, but a little gritty. For the second batch, I substituted some of the white rice flour with chick pea flour and they were a better texture. I normally don't like the taste of the chick pea flour in my baked goods, but it works well with the strong taste of the peanut butter, I think. Here's my adapted recipe. I'd recommend doubling the recipe as they disappear fast!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kisses

1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup chick pea flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky (we prefer chunky)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
30 unwrapped chocolate "kisses"
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flours, baking soda and baking powder.

Cream butter, peanut butter and brown sugar together in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and continue creaming until well mixed. Add dry ingredients and combine well.

Roll tablespoons of cookie dough into balls with dry hands and then roll each ball into granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press a chocolate kiss into the center of each ball.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool a few minutes on cookie sheet and then remove cookies and cool completely on wire racks.

Makes 30 cookies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gluten-Free Cheesecake

My mom came over to spend some time with us and showered us with much-needed cooking, gardening and child care assistance. Also, a lot of love. She made us the delicious New York-style cheesecake which is shown above during its brief life before being devoured by a horde of hungry humans. She originally got the recipe from the back label of a certain cream cheese brand, but we adapted it to be safe for gluten-free diners. Here's our version:

Mom's Famous Cheesecake

3/4 cup crushed gluten-free cookies (we used gluten-free animal crackers from the store, but homemade gluten-free cookies would of course be preferable)
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
Raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line one round 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil, folding edges over sides of pan.

Mix cookie crumbs with butter and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar. Press crumb mixture into bottom of cake pan.

Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add 1/2 cup sour cream and continue mixing. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well. Pour into cake pan.

Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Mix remaining sour cream, another 1 Tbsp. sugar and remaining vanilla until well blended. Spread over top of cheesecake and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool cheesecake.

When completely cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours before serving. Top with raspberry preserves or other preserves. Fresh ripe berries or other macerated fruits in season would also be lovely.

Serves 8. Leftovers unlikely.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Polish Pea Power

Before I met my husband Dan, he had never tried fresh garlic, just the powdery stuff and he returned the favor by introducing me to fresh peas. His family haunted the local farmstand for the brief pea-picking season in early summer and would bring home pounds of peas to steam up on the stove and then serve by the plateful, adorned with just a pat of butter. These "Polish Peas" (we are Jagareskis, after all) are still a favorite one generation later with our family.

If you grow peas yourself, even the bush varieties can stand a bit of support. We experimented with tomato cages this year, which have even toppled with the weight of these leggy legumes, so we must resort to sturdier supports next year. We pick and wash the peas still in their pods, string them, and then have a pot with a simmering couple of inches of lightly salted water ready for them to be steamed until tender (5-10 minutes depending on how fat the peas are, but they will turn from pea green to an avocado color. Then you just put them in serving bowls with a little butter and maybe a short shake of salt and pepper and then just pop each pod into your mouth, with your lips covering your teeth and gum the tender peas out. We have a communal pot in the middle to toss empty pods into. Simple, rustic eating at its best. Fresh peas are simply a different vegetable than the wrinkly, starchy things in your grocer's freezer or the swollen, mushy things that reside in tin cans.

It has been a string of hazy, hot days here in upstate New York, so yesterday we experimented with microwaving the peas instead of using the stove and that worked beautifully, with the pods retaining more of their brilliant green color. We placed one cup of pea pods in a microwaveable plastic container and zapped them on high power for 3 minutes. Then we stirred them around and then zapped them on high again for an additional 2 minutes.

Polish Pea Power. Try it on for size.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Payback for the Gluten-Free Goddess

After floundering about quite a bit in the kitchen after the celiac diagnosis, my smart friend Mary clued me into the wonderful cooking blog made by Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess
Here were fabulous wheatless recipes, kitchen wisdom, health advice and (most needed) baking tips, tossed liberally with humor and wonderful graphic design. I have gained a lot from her website and it was the inspiration to learn how to blog and share some of the successful recipes we've experimented with in our household.

Alas, Karina has since found out that she has a multitude of other food allergies and they have further curtailed her culinary palette. No soy, no dairy, no citrus, no poultry or eggs, no nuts, etc. Ay caramba! Enter our hero/heroine and blogger extraordinaire, Gluten Free By the Bay, who is compiling recipes that will be safe for our Gluten Free Goddess to eat. I prowled around my cookbook collection and then took a stroll around the garden to come up with a beautiful and tasty vegetable dish that Dan and I really enjoyed. It is quick and easy if you have a garden in season, but a trip to the farmer's market or supermarket will only add a little extra time for this delicately-colored, satisfying vegetable medley. A small thank you to Karina, who has helped me out so much over the last year. Hope you enjoy!

Green Goddess Saute

2 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered and sliced thinly
2 small (1 large) red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6-10 asparagus spears (or half a bunch), trimmed and sliced thinly on the bias
few sprigs of fresh dill, snipped
1/2 lb. fresh peas, shelled
1 head bok choy (or any mild green, such as Swiss chard, tat soi, etc.), sliced thinly
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in frying pan. Add red onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook another 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add bok choy and asparagus and stir another 5 minutes. Add peas and saute very briefly, about 2-3 minutes, until just tender. Add dill, salt to taste and maybe another splash of olive oil, if more juice is needed.

Serve over cooked rice.

Mangia bene!

Keen on Quinoa

The dust has cleared from the preparations, hosting and cleanup of our annual Fourth of July party. Having two cats and an extremely fuzzy dog requires intensive defurring of all surfaces of the house before company comes, and then there's the cooking, yard work and shopping factors. But it is always a great time and despite intermittent rain that prevented much pool time, I think all my buddies and their kids had a nice time. Dan's firing of his potato cannon is a big hit every year, with lots of outfielders vying to catch the far-flung bits of potato.

Because of the rain everyone was inside most of the day and our seemingly vast quantities of mostly gluten-free party foods were ravaged. I very nearly committed the venal sin of running out of edibles, but our circle of friends was so cool to bring all kinds of great salads and desserts that everyone could chow down. It was so sweet: so many thoughtful friends brought great dishes, including almond meal cookies, bean salads, vegetable delights of many varieties, dips, etc. That was a great feeling to know so many of our wonderful buddies took the time to research and prepare gluten-free eats for our family.

The radish dip recipe I've previously posted was a big hit (filed under Appetizers), as was our friend Leo's Spicy Black Beans (I'm bugging him for the recipe and will post it here), as well as several types of quinoa salads. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a new cooking ingredient for me, but a lot of our friends were already hip to this ancient South American grain which has a lot of protein and other nutrients. I have not been able to find in my local supermarkets, but our nearby health food store stocks it in 3 cup baggies, so I've done a little experimentation. You basically cook it up like rice: 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water, with a little salt. You bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. You must rinse the quinoa first to remove the naturally-occurring bitter seed coating. I love the taste of the quinoa grains and the texture is nice and crunchy, weirdly reminding me of firm caviar.

I prepared a Spinach Quinoa salad (cooked quinoa, crumbled feta cheese, cooked chopped spinach, dill and a little lemon juice) and other friends brought quinoa salad with black-eyed peas, chopped green and red peppers and vinaigrette dressing. Another buddy brought a quinoa salad mixed with chopped tomatoes, corn and peppers. If you haven't checked it out, try some quinoa for healthy and delicious gluten-free feasting.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Spicy Sesame Noodles

This delicious pasta salad is one of our family favorites and was easily transitioned to gluten-free goodness by switching to brown rice noodles instead of wheat noodles. I imagine Thai rice noodles would also work well in this dish too.

Spicy Sesame Noodles is great for summer parties as the dish can stand to sit out for a while without morphing into something dangerous in summer heat. It is actually more delectable at room temperature, I think, so you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate and then turn out for guests a little while before serving.

Spicy Sesame Noodles

1 (16 oz.) pkg. gluten-free pasta
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tsp. wheat-free soy sauce
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 bunch chopped scallions or handful of snipped chives
3 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press or minced
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (I like using the black seeds for color)
3 Tbsp. sesame oil

Cook pasta until al dente and drain. Place water and peanut butter in a blender and whir until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, except for sesame seeds and blend until smooth. Mix with warm pasta. Pasta will seem overly saucy, but it soaks up the peanut butter sauce in the fridge. Garnish with sesame seeds. Chill at least several hours before serving.

Serves about 8-10 people.