Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Early Summer Garden

After a cool and rainless spring, our gardens are finally springing into vegetable frenzy with lots of recent warm temperatures and hazy, rainy weather. We've enjoyed tatsoi, mustard greens, radishes, asparagus, boat loads of volunteer dill, mint, parsley, lettuce, and spring peas. There's nothing like strolling around our garden beds pulling out supper fixings.

Rampaging moles still irk me, but at least we are past cutworm season and none of my veggie tykes have been decimated from down under. I am beginning to pull out some of the dill to make way for Fall peas to be planted in a couple of weeks, though I take care with this task as many swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs in these plants for their ravenous offspring to chow. The newly emergent caterpillars start out as little black fuzzy babies about 1/4 inch long and rapidly become beautiful green, white and black striped beauties. I found a fat one last week just sitting still when I went to remove him to another dill plant and then I looked more closely and saw that s/he had slung a gossamer thread of silk around its back to anchor it to the plant. I checked back the next morning and the caterpillar had metamorphosed into this spiky green cocoon with festive yellow trim. Amazing.

I like to have flowers mixed into my vegetable beds to attract pollinators so right now the most vivid thing growing is my army of red poppies. These beautiful, delicate and downright fecund flowers are the descendants of a packet of seeds I sprinkled around several years ago. Their tiny seeds disperse like mad around my yard and I have them in all of my flower and vegetable beds. I let them grow in the spring and then when they get yellow and spent, I yank them out, only to find that when cooler September weather hits, they are back again!

Off to yank some weeds and collect some salad....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tatsoi with Mushrooms and Indian Spices

One of my new favorite cookbooks is Sylvia Thompson's "The Kitchen Garden Cookbook" (NY: Bantam, 1995). I was so happy when a customer brought in a copy to trade in our used bookstore and immediately smuggled it home to peruse. The book is organized by vegetable types and has so many unusual treatments for veggies that Dan and I have been consulting it frequently as the motor on the home garden has started to cycle.

Our crop of Tatsoi, little baby bok choy, started to flower now that the warmer weather is here, so it was time to start harvesting. The Kitchen Garden has lots of intriguing recipes for Asian greens and a passing blurb caught my attention about how one might prepare them in an Indian manner with spices and mushrooms. I headed out to the garden patch and within half an hour had a delectable stir-fry lunch for my sweetheart and I to gobble for renewed rounds of last-week-of-school chauffeuring for the girls.

We liked this recipe so much we made it again for supper last night, using chopped up portabellas. It was good that way too, but I think the portabellas' rich flavor got somewhat lost in this spicy dish so I would stick with the plain white mushrooms for this recipe.

Tatsoi with Mushrooms and Indian Spices

2 big bunches tatsoi, bok choy or other mustardy/cabbagey greens, chopped, stalks even more finely chopped so they cook evenly

1 (10 oz.) pkg. mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp. peanut oil

2 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. cumin seeds (ground cumin would be acceptable, but the seeds really pop nicely in your mouth)

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced thinly

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add garlic and stir, one minute. Add onions and spices and cook, stirring, another 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and tatsoi and stir well to wilt, then cover and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Serve over rice. Try to fish out the bay leaves before serving as they are rather stiff and pointy.

Serves 3-4.

Leftovers are fantastic the next day.

I am submitting this recipe to the monthly blog event, Grow Your Own, hosted by Andrea's Recipes. This is a cooking event which I just discovered and am wild over as I love to garden and preserve the harvest in my freezer, new (well, newly garaged-saled) dehydrator, and in the canning pot. Grow Your Own features recipes about edibles that participants have either grown or raised themselves, foraged or hunted/fished.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Apricot-Ginger Shortbread Fit for a Queen

A buttery, rich shortbread studded with bits of crystallized ginger, white chocolate chunks and dried apricots (apricots making this hedonistic chew a healthy cookie, of course). Just lovely.

The Leftover Queen has summoned her minions for another Foodie Joust and this month’s trio of ingredients are apricots, ginger and butter. Not having much experience with apricots, I had a bit of foodie fun browsing my cookbooks and much food bloggery, but nothing made me flex my jousting arm until it struck me that the toothsome Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread I made recently from a Joy of Baking recipe might be transformed into an appropriately apricoty and gingery sweet.

The gambit paid off and this sophisticated blend of flavors was declared a winner among our taste testers and will be presented to the Queen for her delectation.

For our gluten-free household consumers I tried a batch with millet flour and another with sorghum flour, and the sorghum flour seemed less gritty and had a nuttier flavor. I think brown rice flour might also work here in a future batch. If you are not baking gluten-free, you could substitute wheat flour.

Apricot-Ginger Shortbread

8 Tbsp. butter, softened

¼ cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla

¾ cup sorghum flour

¼ cup corn meal

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

4 squares white baking chocolate, chopped

2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger

2-3 Tbsp. Turbinado or raw sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Blend in vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk together sorghum flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, and salt. Add this mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated. Fold in apricots, white chocolate and crystallized ginger.

Press the shortbread dough evenly into an 8 inch springform pan or tart part. Prick the surface of the shortbread all over with a fork and then, using a sharp knife, score the top of the shortbread into 8 even pieces. This will make the CRISPY shortbread easier to cut into eight pieces when baked. Sprinkle tops with Turbinado sugar for extra dazzle, as we are cooking for royalty.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until the shortbread is tan, about 60 to 75 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing sides from pan. Cut into 8 wedges and allow to cool completely before snacking, or shortbread will shatter.

Makes 8 shortbread cookies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Peanut Butter Eclair Cake for the Peanut Butter Boy

Nick the Peanut Butter Boy, whose food blog is a paean to the nutty paste and whom I suspect may be a gluten-free blogger as well, is having his third Great Peanut Butter Exposition. This foodie contest involves peanut buttery cakes and so this was the perfect excuse to try out Lea is Gluten Free's Peanut Butter Eclair Cake, one of the oldest recipes in my To-Be-Cooked pile. I am not planning to officially enter the contest as this is not my original recipe, but just wanted to join in the cooking fun.

The recipe takes a while, as you must cook stuff on the stove, mix it in a mixer, cool it, throw on another mixer batch of peanut butter pudding, cool some more and then top off with whipped cream (I don't do Cool Whip with its periodic-table-of-contents ingredients list) and chocolate sauce, so it's not a recipe I would make often.

The caloric content is probably off the charts too, so there's another reason to limit supply, but the demand for it among my family and friends was high! A dessert winner! It's a gooey, rich, comfort dessert that seemed to get better the next morning, when we had it for a completely decadent breakfast. But I'm sure the Peanut Butter Boy would approve of that, he of the Peanut Butter and Banana Omelets and Chocolate/PB/Cream Cheese Toast Spreads.....

I didn't have any Tom's Light Gluten Free Bread Mix on hand as Lea used in her recipe, so I used a box of Gluten-Free Pantry's French Bread and Pizza Mix. The base was a bit, well, pizza-like and probably more chewy than desired. The next time I make this treat I would try a blend of rice flour and corn starch to get it to be a more delicate texture. We brought a batch of this deliciousness to my daughter's softball banquet last night and the Bulldogs (70-2 this year!) polished off the batch, though I did see some of the eclair part left behind in the pan.

The Peanut Butter Boy's Cake Contest continues on through the rest of this month, so you can still have time to whip up something worthy of George Washington Carver's favorite legume and enter in this fun foodie event.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Three Spring Sisters Pasta

Subterranean moles continue their deviltry in the garden and left me with exactly three spinach plants, three fennel plants and three
Italian dandelion plants in my carefully planted and tended rows. I
have been summoning mole hunting advice from all quarters and have several options profferred from my neighbors, blogger buddies and bookstore customers:

1) Poke mothballs into the mole tunnels

2) Poke unwrapped wads of unchewed pink bubble gum into the mole tunnels (the moles apparently choke while chewing).

3) Pour gasoline into the mole tunnels.

4) Get a Jack Russell terrier.

All of the above seem worth investigating, although I am an organic
gardener and don't think I want to ingest mothballs and gasoline
(especially not at $4.29 a gallon!) and the chewing gum idea seems a
bit cruel. I don't mind mole hills and tunnels in my lawn, but when
they start eating my groceries, I turn into Mr. MacGregor. Please let
me know if you have any other methods for banning moles from my
vegetable patch.

With my trio of spinach plants, some fresh garden peas and fat asparagus spears, mercifully spared by the mole brigade, I put together a light pasta sauce which came out rather deliciously and which I thought I would share with others.

Three Spring Sisters Pasta

10 asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 cup fresh peas
3 spinach plants (or more if you got 'em!), chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 (1 lb.) box of your favorite pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta and drain. Keep warm.

Heat saute pan. When hot, add butter and olive oil and let butter melt. Add garlic and stir around for 1 minute. Add white wine and bring to boil. Lower heat and reduce liquid to half.

Add peas, spinach and asparagus. Cover and cook over medium heat about 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss with your pasta.

Serves 6.

This recipe is being submitted for this week's round of Weekend Herb Blogging started by Kalyn's Kitchen and actually hosted by her this time! Check Kalyn's blog later in the week for a roundup of other blog posts featuring vegetables, flowers and herbs. With gardens and farmers markets in full swing in the northern hemisphere this should be a great roundup!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Squeeze the Grilled Mango

Those of us who came of age in the Eighties remember the English pop band Squeeze. They had interesting lyrics and a catchy, New Wave sound that still makes me bop around when I hear one of their singles.

Well I remember helping my first date in high school try to jimmy open his car door after inadvertently locking ourselves outside. Inside the car, the cassette player kept going, playing Squeeze. My date had the unfortunate last name of "Bras", so I knew the relationship would never come to anything, but I had fun riding around that summer in his (later unlocked) car, going to the movies and eating out at Chinese restaurants.

With the lyrics of "Tempted" playing in my head, I was tempted by the fruit of another; in this case Lyra, the Gluten-Free Hippie's Cardamom-Glazed Grilled Mango recipe. I have been digging fresh mangos a bit now since jousting away with them in a Chutney at the May Foodie Joust Event. I had a nice fresh mango at the ready, but the weather was uncooperative when I set out for some grilling and therefore had to switch to grilling the objects of my fruit temptations in my toaster oven.

The results were tasty enough but not as agreeably charred and caramelized as I am sure they would be if grilled properly outdoors. However, I and my family managed to scarf these tasty mango chunks up, deftly removing the skins inside our mouths like diligent chipmunks, and we will certainly add grilled mango to our repertoire of tasty barbecued treats.

Tempted by the fruit of another...yes, I am afraid I had to indulge myself in this mangoliciousness. Thank you Lyra.

This recipe is being submitted as part of the fun Eat to the Beat blogger event, started by Elly Says Opa! and her delicious blog which features lots of Greek and other international flavors. Eat to the Beat runs until June 30th and features blog posts that pair food with music. Mangos and Squeeze, perfect together!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Chinese Take-in at the Crispy Cook

So Gluten-Free Gobsmacked has been tempting me for many months now with a recipe for Shrimp Dim Sum Balls and I finally got around to corraling the ingredients and making a batch. I tried the Shrimp Balls with a beard of rice vermicelli coating (Dan likes them that way) as in Gobsmacked's original recipe

and without

(us chicks preferred ours nude)

They were yummy bits of shrimp goodness either way and so we over-gorged on them and were unable to feast on the beautiful and tasty Spring Rolls that I also made that evening. It was okay, though, since they are nice cold and we tucked them in our respective lunch pails the next day.

I had a dickens of a time trying to break up the rice vermicelli noodles, though. I I used my hands and kitchen shears and just had to wrestle with them to get them into 1/2 inch pieces. They kept sproinging all over my kitchen and I'm finding them still as I sweep and clean up days later. I would just avoid them.

I also also added an 8 oz. can of sliced water chestnuts to the shrimp goo mixture in the food processor, as well as a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic powder. I also made a nice dipping sauce for both the shrimp balls and the spring rolls out of soy sauce, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and sesame oil. With a little pickled ginger on the side, it was a heavenly feast.

For the spring rolls I softened up some rice wrappers in water and then filled them with a stir-fry of 1/4 head cabbage, some chopped mint and cilantro from the garden, 5 cloves garlic, 2 shredded carrots and the remaining rice vermicelli that I gave up on bearding my shrimp balls with and tossed in hot oil in the wok until puffy and CRISPY.

And of course, Crispy is always good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where's My Spinach Risotto!

It seems that celebrity chef and kitchen tantrum expert Gordon Ramsey is always nattering on about how slowly his apprentice chefs are taking with his beloved risottos on my guilty TV pleasure, Hell's Kitchen.

"Where's my risotto?!", he bellows and whines.

"Aw, come on, this risotto is too mushy!".

"There's no's unpalatable!"

I get a guilty shiver of schadenfreude when I watch his bullying tactics and his discus toss of offending appetizers. Nonetheless I was inspired to whip up a spinach risotto of my own the other night. I looked longingly at my struggling spinach seedlings, pruned harshly into a Morse code of dots and dashes by infernal underground moles. There was not enough fresh spinach for my family of four, so I was forced to reach into the freezer for a block of icy greens. Perhaps a mole risotto?

At any rate, I did pull together a lovely, fresh meal for my bunch, spurred on by my husband's occasional exhortation of Ramseyisms.

Here's my recipe:

Spinach Risotto

2/3 stick butter
2 cups rice, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (homemade is best and always naturally gluten-free!)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large onions, chopped
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Salt and Pepper to taste
Snippings of fresh herbs to taste (snipped fresh dill is divine)
Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Heat butter in a heavy saute pan. Add rice and stir frequently until it is a toasty golden color, about 8-10 minutes.

Pour in vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, over a low flame, for 20 minutes, or until broth is absorbed and rice is al dente.

Heat olive oil in another pan and add onions. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes more. Stir spinach-onion mixture into risotto and cook until completely mixed and warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with snipped herbs and grated cheese.

Serves 6-8.

I am submitting this one-dish recipe to the current round of "Go Ahead, Honey, It's Gluten-Free", started by Naomi over at the witty food blog Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried and hosted this time by Carrie, the Ginger Lemon Girl. Carrie is still accepting submissions for this event until June 27th, so get cooking!


Monday, June 16, 2008

Cranberry & White Chocolate Shortbread

I needed a Father's Day treat for my sweetie, and found this great recipe on The Joy of Baking. It was easy to adapt as a gluten-free delight by substituting sorghum flour for the all-purpose wheat flour. I sprinkled Turbinado sugar on top for a little extra sparkle. I also didn't have a 6 inch tart pan so I used an 8 inch springform pan. Next time I will put a cookie sheet under my springform pan to catch any drips.

Since this recipe didn't need a lot of structure (aka gluten) and the crumbly, sandy texture is one that benefits from cornmeal and rice flour, it was a perfect, rich end to a lovely meal to pamper our favorite daddy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Cucumber is Famous

The glistening forkful of cucumber and mint salad photograph that graced this blog two days ago has made the big time by appearing on the front page of Tastespotting. That was a surprise, because I've been regularly submitting food photos to this breathtaking and hunger-inducing website for a couple of months now and nary a photo has been picked. This time I thought I might have a shot, so to speak, because the timing worked out perfectly in catching the elusive drip of salad juice off the fork. It required balancing my old old clunky Sony Mavica (with its whopping 2.0 megapixels and slot for a floppy disk to record the photos) on the ground and using my left hand to dip the cucumber fork repeatedly in the salad juices and pressing the shutter button with my right hand. All that happened on a blastingly hot and humid afternoon, where I had as much sweat dripping off my nose as left the fork, but didn't that shot look cool.

Off to read my old camera manual some more....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cool as a Cucumber Salad

Every living thing is being pounded by the fourth day of an early summer heatwave here in Saratoga County. The garden plants need twice daily watering to keep from looking like limp celery, my poor fuzzy dog and cats are just laying quietly on the wooden floors and we're all sporting a head full of frizzy ringlets above our shiny red faces.

Since there's NO WAY I'm gonna heat up the stove, I've been using the food processor a lot to cook us up some grub. I was perusing Joe Famularo's "A Cook's Tour of Italy" (NY: HP Books, 2003) where he described a Bolognese recipe for Sliced Cucumbers with Mint, and this sounded like an intriguing, and more importantly, COOL, flavor combination.

I pulled out the Cuisinart and whipped up my usual recipe for Cucumbers Vinaigrette, only with the pleasing taste of a few mint sprigs, and darned if eating this didn't lower our collective heat index.

The Greedy Gourmet is currently accepting Summer Salad recipes for its Snackshots #4 contest and I am submitting this as an entry. There's still time to enter as the deadline is June 16th, so check it out if you are interested.

Cucumber-Mint Salad

3 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced thinly (A food processor is great for this)
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh dill
Several sprigs fresh mint, finely chopped
Splash of extra-virgin olive oil

Mix vinaigrette ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over sliced cucumbers and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Serves 4.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Spring Garden 2008

What a slow start to the Spring garden here at the old homestead! Between cool weather, tunneling moles, scarce amounts of rain and a gaggle of cutworms, I have little food for the table to show for all my callused hands.

Things were promising enough at the beginning of May. Dan moved one of our outdoor sheds and we used the underlying bald patch of ground as a third garden plot, intended for the crazy cucurbit family to roam free. Pumpkins, gourds and squashes tend to take over the other garden plots, so we stuck our winter squash transplants there along with a few cucumbers and peppers for company. The yellow-striped cucumber beetles immediately found these infants and gnawed at them for a couple of days until we found out about them. I went out each morning and night and squished them until no more striped inhabitants remained.

I was not so lucky with my other garden plot, where the stubby Striped German tomato plants and hot pepper plants were lovingly plunked into compost-rich holes. The morning after transplant, I found several tomatoes felled by offending cutworms, which have never been as ravenous as this year.

Here's a photo of the damage caused by these grayish caterpillars that are the larvae of several moth species. They apparently come out at night and wrap their bodies around the stem of a delicious plant and then whip around with their pincers and fell it. Then they feast and sometimes drag the tops back into their little underground lairs. I grubbed around in the soil around the base of my damaged plants and found this little guy

whom I promptly consigned to the Circle of Life when I tossed him to a hungry robin lurking nearby.

The organic way to prevent cutworms from lumberjacking your crops is to encircle them with a cardboard toilet paper tube or juice can, which lessens the aesthetic value of the garden, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Mole Miners have been tunneling underground to slice away at the sumptuously tender roots of my other crops and I have been bereft of radishes and spinach and fennel as a result. Radishes are the easiest vegetable of all to grow, and yet from two rows of radishes planted from a fresh packet of seeds, only a few bunches are present. I grew Easter Egg Radishes this year, which are a gorgeous mix of purple, pink, red and white.

I have resorted to importing snapping turtles to rid my garden of these crazy moles.

Just kidding. This guy/gal sauntered into the yard yesterday afternoon and it's a good thing we spotted him before letting our beloved Martha dog out for a romp because these prehistoric critters have lightning-fast and fearsome beaks. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with the moles and would welcome advice on organic mole control. I've tried stuffing hanks of Martha's everpresent hair into their mole hole openings, but so far the mole rampages have gone on unabated. At least they leave us some asparagus.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dad's All-Purpose Barbecue Sauce

It's almost full bore summertime here in upstate New York and so I made up a batch of Dan's dad's barbecue sauce to have on hand for our grilling. Dan's father Gene isn't around anymore, but we smile and think of him and his post-retirement passion for cooking, especially barbecuing, every time we make a batch of his lip-smacking sauce.

This sauce is mellow and sweet (kind of like Gene was, come to think of it) with a nice tomatoey flavor that he used to enjoy on barbecued chicken and steaks. In the Wheat-Free, Meat-Free world, we slather this on portabellas, thick slices of eggplant or zucchini, and tempeh. I have tinkered with the original recipe to substitute out the high-fructose corn syrup-infused ketchup with tomato puree, but I feel Gene's eyes disdainfully boring down on me when I do I usually make the sauce as he handed it down, thusly:

Dad's Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder

Mix all ingredients together in saucepan. Simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

Makes 2 cups of sauce.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stalking the Wild Nettle

In the constant struggle to amend our sandy soil, I procured a bale of hay some years back to sprinkle over my agricultural lands at the end of the season. This was intended to seal in some of the good juices that normally leach out with winter snows and I hoped the hay would rot nicely, to be tilled into the dirt in the springtime to add more texture and water-absorption capacity.

The plan mostly worked, but what I didn't bank on was that the seeds of the nefarious Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) would impregnate my garden bed and send forth its prickly spawn each year. This plant is armored with hairs that contain an irritating poison and even a light brush against the skin causes an insect-like sting and subsequent rash and/or numbness that lasts a day. I find garden gloves too floppy for weeding, so I invariably yank out several of these prickly pests each season before my mind registers the enemy.

This year I decided on a counter-assault. My scheme was to not only yank out the nettlesome weed early on, but stuff it into my stockpot and eat it. I would be a Nettle Predator!

Armed with fashionable yellow dish washing gloves, a couture nettle entrapment bag and my trusty hunting hound, Martha, I went on the attack. I had previously consulted our home library, containing the complete works of the late Euell Gibbons and scanned the chapter in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs (NY: David McKay, 1966) in which he devotes a entire chapter to the Common Stinging Nettle. Gibbons waxes devotedly about its healthful properties (vitamins A and C! protein!, chlorophyll! trace minerals!) and noted that the plants, if gathered before they flower, are a tender potherb that resemble spinach. The horrible nettle venom would be zapped in the cooking pot and provide a healthful and satisfying meal for the family.

Martha and I went forth and topped off every nettle we saw ringing our house and garden. I flung the lower extremities into the compost heap, where Euell told me they would add their high nitrogen content. Perfect. I would be eradicating a pestilent weed and foraging part of my supper in a delirious weeding/frugal feeding/garden composting tactical maneuver.

I hosed off the nettles outside and then stripped off the leaves and tops. These got swished around some more in a large stockpot of water and then placed in another large pot on the stove, where I snipped them up with kitchen shears. I didn't want to try anything fancy with my first batch of nettles, although Euell tempted me with Creamed Nettles and Nettle Pudding.

I covered the pot, brought everything to a satisfying rolling boil, and then simmered away for 20 minutes. The nettles seemed tender at the end and while the perfume wafting out from the pot had a slight medicinal scent, I was chortling as I dished out a couple of bowls of stewed nettles and topped each with a pat of butter and some salt and pepper for Dan and I to savor for lunch.

Foiled again! I chomped up a bite and found them to spinachy enough in flavor, but the texture was unpleasantly matted and coarse, sort of like munching on an Irish sweater. Or maybe an Irish setter. Something awful. The back of my throat started to feel scratchy, like I was getting a cold. Dan took a tentative mouthful and munched, but spat it out again quickly, asking me pointedly if I had read the recipe correctly.

Indignantly, I brought out Euell and showed him the Chapter of Nettle Rhapsody. Dan read it slowly, and then asked whether I had registered the sentence about only harvesting nettle plants that are less than a foot tall. Taller plants have gritty cystoliths that make them unpalatable. Oops. Cystoliths! This is one powerful plant-enemy. I remain vanquished by Nettles, but do plan another assault next Spring, much, much earlier.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: The GFCF Experience

For the last two three rounds of the Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger Event started by Sea at the Book of Yum, my adoptees were all female bloggers, but this time I thought I'd check out one of the male GF bloggers, Thomas at the GFCF Experience. He also happens to be the current host for this round, which runs through June 9th.

The GFCF Experience is a labor of love for this devoted father of four, one of whom resides on the autism spectrum. A gluten-free, casein-free diet has been shown to have many beneficial effects in treating kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Thomas' blog has many informative links and resources on this subject. He is also an awesome cook, as a list of his many recipes show.

I tried out the Brownie Tart recipe that Thomas had modified to be GFCF from the Barefoot Contessa. I didn't have a 9 inch tart pan and used an 8 inch springform pan instead. I also didn't have a bag of gluten-free flour mix on hand and substituted brown rice flour. The tart came out nice and chewy, with a meltingly rich chocolate-coffee taste, that was perfect with a cup of coffee on the side. Bravo GFCF! Another dessert winner for our family recipe box!

Check back with The GFCF Experience after June 9th for a roundup of all the blogger recipes from adoptees.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Marinated Mushrooms

I came across a recipe I had made before, a long time ago for my mom's college graduation feast. We had a nice picnic in her basement apartment and feasted on deviled eggs topped with black caviar, a selection of salads, and some classy French-style marinated mushrooms. I blew the dust off my recipe card and set out to make them again this afternoon. They need to sit for a couple of days to "mature", so but I did sneak a premature sample of pickled fungus and the taste was delicate, yet earthy, and very good.

Here's what I did:

1 pound white mushrooms, wiped free of dirt and quartered
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 lemon, cut in half and juiced, rinds reserved
2 cups white wine
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 scallions, sliced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tsp. salt
Handful of parsley, chopped
2/3 cup olive oil

Soak mushrooms in lightly salted water for 10 minutes. Drain. Add to small pot containing remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until tender. Discard lemon rinds and bay leaves and then chill at least two days to let flavors marry. To serve, drain marinade and serve with toothpicks for spearing.

Makes 1-1/2 pints.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Gluten-Free Buffet of Newsy Bits

There is a smorgasbord of interesting and noteworthy items to report in the gluten-free blogging community:

Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess over at Karina's Kitchen, has posted a tasty roundup of summery dishes in her Recipe Rodeo to highlight Celiac Awareness Month. Her website has a fresh, new design and even more gorgeous food photography, so be sure to check it out. I was honored to have my Salmon Burger recipe included in the roundup, which is a lot of work, but ultimately an elegant barbecue burger perfect for summer entertaining.

Another health awareness cooking event sponsored by The Food Blogga, Beautiful Bones, has wrapped up with an awesome calcium-rich recipe roundup of over 100 recipes. The Beautiful Bones event was designed to highlight awareness of osteoporosis and prevention of bone loss through better nutrition. I contributed Dan's new Polenta-Quinoa Sticks recipe which has just been the meal voted least likely to become a leftover in our house. There are an incredible variety of beautifully bony dishes at the roundup, from soups to Mango Ice Cream.

Carrie over at the relatively new gluten-free and dairy-free blog, The Good Eatah, recently announced her engagement. She and her honey were on vacation skydiving (whoa!) and just before he leaped into the sky, he ripped off some tape on his helmet which popped the question. Congratulations!

Thomas at the GFCF Experience, is hosting this month's edition of the Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger Event. It runs through June 9th, so there is still time to adopt your favorite GF blogger, cook up one of his or her recipes and blog away. Click here for more details.

And finally, the latest round of the Go Ahead, Honey, It's Gluten-Free cooking challenge, which featured breakfast dishes, has a roundup posted over at Naomi's beautiful and often humorous Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried blog. I contributed a potato recipe which is amusingly described in this delightful roundup. The next GAHGF event will focus on one-pot meals and will hosted by another gluten-free Carrie, The Ginger Lemon Girl, so look for details on her blog.