Monday, November 26, 2007

The 100th Post: Red Pepper Cheese Spread

I can't believe this is Blog Post #100 already; seems like I just got started a little while ago with this project. I've learned so much from other bloggers and Internet resources about the gluten-free life and am happy to be part of this online community, helping each other make adjustments to eating well without the wheat family.

This new way of cooking and shopping has become so much easier over the last two years. Just before Thanksgiving, I attended a Gluten-Free Living class held at a local Hannaford supermarket and learned a few new things from the dietician teacher, but was more delighted by being able to pass on a few things to a recently-diagnosed celiac. We and the other attendees, some of whom had been living gluten-free for 15 years or more, were able to swap recipes, restaurant reviews and tips about our favorite gluten-free products and help ease our new celiac buddy's worries that she wouldn't be able to eat "normally" again.

In that spirit, I am happy to share an appetizer spread that is great for the holiday feasting season. You can dunk carrot and celery sticks in it, spread it on crackers or use it as a sandwich filling (it's pretty rich, so just use a thin layer). I am not sure where I clipped this recipe from. I suspect it may be from a cooking magazine from at least ten years ago, but I am positive that it is delicious.

Red Pepper Cheese Spread

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into several slices
1 small onion, rough chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and cut in half
olive oil
1-1/2 cups Cheddar cheese
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
2 Tbsp. snipped chives

Place garlic, onion, and red peppers (cut side down) in oiled glass baking dish. Drizzle with about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Roast in preheated 375 degree oven 50-60 minutes. Place peppers in a brown bag or covered bowl to steam for 10 minutes. Peel skin off peppers.

Place all ingredients except chives in food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Add in chives.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to blend flavors.

Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

In an effort to use up some refrigerator oddments and clear shelf space for the Thanksgiving feast, I decided to make a pot of soup the other day. I consulted my cookbooks for the best use of two baked sweet potatoes, some vegetable stock, a few corn tortillas and a bag of frozen corn that kept getting roughly shuffled around by various naughty Jagareskis with a resultant confetti of corn kernels sticking to all parts of the freezer compartment. Perusal of one of my favorite cookbooks, "Vegetarian Planet" by Didi Emmons (Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1997) offered up a delicious-sounding Corn and Sweet-Potato Chowder. I riffed on the recipe, which ingeniously uses bits of corn tortilla to thicken the chowder in a delightfully gluten-free way. Here's my version:

2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. white rice flour
6 cups vegetable stock
3 corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
2 cups frozen corn
2 sweet potatoes, baked and cut into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 small can green chiles, diced

Melt butter and olive oil in a heavy stockpot. Add onions, garlic, cumin and paprika and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until onions are softened.

Add flour and stir constantly with a whisk for 30 seconds. Gradually add stock, stirring all the while, to keep smooth. Add tortilla bits and frozen corn and bring back to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and chiles and cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in half-and-half and warm up chowder, but don't let boil.

Serves 4-6 people.

This is a very rich chowder, so just serve with a green salad for a warming dinner on a cold night.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu

At our house we are planning a day of relaxing with some festive foods sandwiched between busy days at the bookstore. We usually have holiday shoppers and regular customers who stop in to see us once or twice a year when they are visiting folks, so we don't travel anywhere for Thanksgiving as we only take Thursday off. While there no line outside of the shop when we open, we have a respectable Black Friday and strong Thanksgiving weekend sales at our Old Saratoga Books, our used and rare bookstore. To fortify ourselves for the holiday shopping season, I have planned the following menu for our Thanksgiving Feast. An asterisk after the item indicates that a recipe is already shared here on this blog :

Spicy Toasted Nuts*
Grandma's Stuffed Celery*
Relish Tray

Creamed Onions
Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Turkey and Gravy (for the carnivores)
Roast Porta Bella Mushrooms and Gravy (for the vegetarians)
Sweet Potato Pudding

Cranberry Sauce (Dan insists on the quivering jellied mass from the can)
Mashed Turnips
Twice Baked Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie*

Now to find time to make all of this!

Nuts to You

Dan needed a football nibble to root on his beloved Giants yesterday and I tinkered with a Toasted Spiced Nuts recipe from one of my cookbooks to come up with this moderately spicy, naturally gluten-free snack. This would be a nice appetizer to bring to your Thanksgiving gathering or as part of a holiday party spread.

Spicy Toasted Nuts

5 cups nuts (I used a mix of cashews and walnuts, but pecans, peanuts, and almonds would also work too. And an addition of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds would be great additions as well. If nuts and seeds are previously toasted or roasted, skip the roasting and just add them in the mix later)

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tsp. dried rosemary (or 2 tsp. fresh rosemary)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add rosemary and heat, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes, or until aromatic. Pour hot oil over nuts and coat well.

Mix remaining ingredients together. Mix this spice rub into the nuts.

Spread on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Let nuts cool and then start nibbling! Store in a sealed container to keep fresh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Delicious Pumpkin Pie

Susan over at the Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen posted a great recipe for a gluten-free pumpkin pie that you whirl up in the blender and pour into some greased pie shells. Pop them in the oven and you've got a pumpkin pie that makes its own sort-of crust. The cornstarch and rice flour work a little alchemy to make the pie have a moist base that you can even pick up in your hand and snack on. This pie was a hit with the family, although I did find that it improved with a little pure maple syrup drizzled on top.

There are loads of other wheat-free, meat-free recipes over at the Fat-Free Vegan Blog and I am looking forward to making my way through some of them. There are a couple of chickpea and sesame flour cracker recipes which sound and look fantastic. And her food photographic skills are of a much higher caliber.

Here's Susan's recipe for:

Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups soymilk
1 tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer*
1/4 cup water*
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups pureed or mashed cooked pumpkin (or cushaw or winter squash)
1/2 cup rice flour (or flour of your choice)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch deep dish pie pan with cooking spray. (I used a Pyrex pan, and it came out with no sticking.) A deep dish is recommended because this pie will rise a lot during cooking but will fall back down as it cools.

Put the first five ingredients in the blender, and blend well. Add the pumpkin, and puree. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides a couple of times to make sure everything is thoroughly blended. Pour into a pie pan and bake for about 60 minutes. The top and edges should be brown, but the edges should not be over-done. (Since this is a custardy pie, using the standard toothpick or knife test does not work; it will remain somewhat moist in the center, but it shouldn't be uncooked.)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the counter. For best results, refrigerate until chilled before eating.

*If you don't have Ener-G egg replacer, you can omit it and the 1/4 cup water and use any other replacement for two eggs. Of course, if you're not vegan, you could use two eggs, but why not give the vegan version a chance?

Makes 8 servings, each containing 153 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 264mg Sodium; 3g Fiber.Untitled

Copyright 2006 Susan Voisin and Fatfree Vegan Kitchen
All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gnudi: Naughty, but Nice

Hold onto your pasties, celiacs! Gnudis (naughtily pronounced "nudies") were on our dinner table the other night and they were scandalously delicious. Basically, they are raviolis without their outer coverings -they're nude!--which you poach up delicately and then modestly blanket with a little sauce.

I first heard about these trendy dainties in an issue of Bon Appetit I was perusing in the orthodontist's office. When I got home, I did more Internet research (aka playing on my computer) and found that they are a Florentine specialty that have become "hot" menu items at many cutting-edge big-City restaurants. They are not difficult to make, however, and I would urge you to give them a try. We used the following recipe from Giada De Laurentis provided on the Food Network site, substituting white rice flour for the all-purpose flour. An alternate recipe with a divine-sounding mushroom sauce can be found on the epicurious website.

Now, go be a gnudist for dinner!


1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons flour, plus 1 cup for coating
1 jar store bought marinara sauce, heated
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large bowl, mix ricotta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and yolks. Stir in nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour. Form mixture in to small, flattened balls.

Dredge the formed gnudi in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Slide formed gnudi into the boiling water. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they float to the top and have cooked for about 4 minutes.

Arrange gnudi on a platter and lightly drizzle with marinara sauce.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Love Loaf

My buddy Jill sent me a link to the Food Network's website highlighting recipes from a recent Vegetarian Italian episode and I tried my hand at Veronica's Veggie Meatloaf with Checca Sauce. I uncharacteristically shopped for all of the ingredients involved and followed the recipe to the letter, but found that while it looks loaf-like in the pan, my version didn't have any subsequent architectural integrity. It disintegrated into a floppy rice and beans medley which, however and more importantly, tasted delicious.

I took some ribbing for my culinary attempt, dubbed "Love Loaf" by my charming spouse (as he simultaneously reached for second helpings), but I will definitely make it again. Perhaps I didn't squeeze out my spinach sufficiently, so I will try to make things drier next time. Maybe add an additional egg. And while the original recipe states that prep time for this deliciousness is 30 minutes and cooking time is 1 hour and 30 minutes, there are so many steps involved that I found that I needed an entire morning to work on it on and off, so I would reserve a good block of time on one's day off to make it again.


You can check out the recipe at the Food Network site or eyeball it below:

Checca Sauce:
1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups, or 12 ounces), halved
3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Lentil Loaf:
3/4 cup lentils (about 5 ounces)
3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice, rinsed well
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 celery rib, sliced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter, divided
10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups cubed whole milk mozzarella cheese, divided (about 8 ounces total)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tomato, sliced

For the Checca Sauce:
Combine the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, basil, and oil in a processor. Pulse the tomatoes until they are coarsely chopped, being careful not to puree. Set aside. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

For the Lentil Loaf:
Place the lentils in a large saucepan of cold water. Bring the water just to a boil over high heat. Carefully drain the boiling water and rinse the lentils. Meanwhile, in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice and return the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover the rice, and gently simmer without stirring for 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils, onion, carrot, and celery. Cover and continue cooking without stirring until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes longer. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the corn over the rice and lentils and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and let stand for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the butter over a 10 by 4 1/2 by 3-inch loaf pan. In a heavy, large skillet, cook the spinach over medium heat until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach. Transfer the spinach to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, gently mix the lentil mixture, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and half of the checca sauce. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a row over the lentil mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

Bake uncovered until the loaf is heated through and the topping is melted and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Slice the loaf into 2-inch slices, arrange on plates, and serve with the remaining checca sauce.