Thursday, July 31, 2008

Broccoli Shooting in Garden

We've had a great year for broccoli in the old home garden, what with tons of rain, one rolling heat wave after another, and lots of compost-enriched soil in the back garden. We've harvested some gigantic green Brocco Heads and steamed and roasted and given them away to friends. Now the shoots are rocketing out of the headless broccoli and we're trying to keep up with them before they start to push out yellow flowers, so it was time to heat up the wok!

Stir-Fried Broccoli Shoots and Tofu

2 Tbsp. peanut oil
2 bunches broccoli shoots
1 carton firm tofu, drained and cubed
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup vegetable stock (if using canned, check to make sure it's gluten-free!)
3 Tbsp. wheat-free soy sauce
1 Tbsp. chili-garlic sauce
1 Tbsp. brown miso
1 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed into paste with 1-2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Mix together vegetable stock, soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce and miso. Add tofu cubes and gently stir to coat. Let sit and marinate while stir-frying broccoli.

Cut broccoli shoots into flowerets and slice stems into 1/2 inch sections.

Heat wok or large skillet. Add peanut oil and heat 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add broccoli and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain off marinade from tofu into wok and add cornstarch. Bring to boil and let sauce thicken. Add tofu and sesame seeds and gently stir until heated through. Season with more soy sauce if necessary.

This is great as is or served over hot cooked rice.

Serves 6.

I am submitting this recipe for inclusion in Joelen's Culinary Adventures Summer Produce Recipes event, which runs until August 3rd. Find out more with this link. I am sure the broccoli shoot out will continue for a while yet, so perhaps I will have to come up with another cruciferous creation. Meanwhile, check out Joelen's fun cooking blog. She's a Chicago foodie who organizes culinary events for her local social activity club and there are numerous cooking events each month on her engaging blog.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gluten-Free Blueberry Pizza

It's blueberry season in upstate New York so I am programmed to buy an obligatory couple of pints to play with in the kitchen. In my pre-caffeinated state this morning I was attempting to find my gluten-free blueberry pancake recipe (is it one of the dog-eared pages in one of a hundred or so cookbooks? Or in my piles of bespattered papers that are going to be typed neatly and organized into plastic-sheeted notebook SOMEDAY?). Too daunting.

On the way I pulled out Carol Fenster's "Wheat-Free Recipes and Menus" (Littleton, CO: Savory Palate, 199) and was diverted by a recipe for Peach Clafouti (rhymes with Doug Flutie), which I thought could be easily converted into a bluer concoction. After sucking down some more java, I was able to adapt Ms. Fenster's peachy recipe into this delightful breakfast blueberry pizza, which was eaten by four hungry humans in less than eight minutes.

Blueberry Pizza

2 Tbsp. shortening

3 Tbsp. white rice flour
1 Tbsp. potato starch (don't confuse this with potato flour, which is a different animal)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. corn oil

1 pint blueberries, rinsed and free of stems

Powdered sugar

Grease an ovenproof skillet with shortening. I used my trusty 10 inch cast iron frying pan, which made this blueberry pizza wonderfully CRISPY, but a smaller 8 or 9 inch skillet would be alright, and would just make the pizza a little softer and thicker.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Blend together white rice flour, potato starch, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla, oil and cinnamon in mixing bowl or blender.

Heat skillet over medium heat on stove. Add 1/3 of the pizza batter to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes, or until it looks like a mostly cooked pancake or crepe. Sprinkle blueberries over the top and pour on the rest of the batter.

Place in oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until nicely browned and puffy. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to taste (3-4 Tbsp. should do for the whole pizza).

Cut into 6 wedges (so 4 people have to fight over the extras).

We ate this warm, but I would imagine that it is also nice cold.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spicy Omelette Sushi

It is time for another Royal Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queen's excellent Foodie Forum. The object of this monthly cooking challenge is to come up with a tasty recipe featuring three ingredients selected by the previous month's winner. For the July Joust, Peter of the Greek recipe blog Kalofagas, selected cilantro, seafood and sesame as the inspiring ingredients. Cilantro is certainly in harvest mode in our garden, so I was delighted with the idea of coming up with a new dish to feature its grassy, lemony taste.

I ransacked the cookbook shelves for inspiration and was taken with a Thai-inspired "Chilli Egg Roll" recipe in "The Complete Book of Low Carbohydrate Cooking", by Elaine Gardner (London: Hermes House, 2004). Mostly I am taken with the food porn photos in this lovely cookbook, but I managed to wipe away the drool long enough to actually focus on the recipe. I swapped around some of the ingredients to incorporate more cilantro, some sesame oil and sesame seeds and fiddle with the seasonings, so here is my version of:

Spicy Omelette Sushi

3 medium eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. plus 3 Tbsp. soy sauce (be sure to check to see if it is gluten-free)
3 scallions, trimmed and sliced thin
1 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
1 medium bunch cilantro, finely chopped (makes about 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped (I had leftover grilled shrimp which lent a nice smoky taste, but canned small salad shrimp would be a good substitute)

1 Tbsp. peanut oil

Juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp. sesame oil

Mix eggs with 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, scallions, chili garlic sauce, cilantro, sesame seeds and shrimp.

Heat peanut oil in skillet over medium heat. Add omelette mixture and turn heat to low. Cook until omelette is cooked through, shaking the pan now and then to slide the omelette around, about 3-4 minutes. I used a 9 inch skillet so my omelette got a bit browner on the outside than I would have liked. I think my larger 14 inch cast iron skillet, "Big Mama", would make for a thinner, CRISPIER at the edges, lighter-colored omelette next time.

Take omelette out of the pan carefully and place on a large plate. Roll omelette up into as tight a tube as possible. Let cool.

Meanwhile, mix up a dipping sauce of 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil.

Slice rolled-up omelette into 1 inch sections and drizzle with a little dipping sauce. Garnish with a few snippets of cilantro.

Makes a spicy breakfast for 2 or appetizers for a few more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yellow String Beans & Tomatoes

Keeping up with the veggie vitality in the gardens is becoming a big part of each day now that it is mid-July. This morning I picked tons of lemon balm and stripped off the leaves. They were popped into the dehydrator and after a couple of hours I had a lovely, lemony tea for the cold winter days of the future.
When I get home from the bookshop I will do another round of garden touring to see how many herbs, lettuces, cucumbers and snow peas are in need of harvesting for a cool salad. I may even to need to pick some more of the Yellow String Beans that I plucked over the weekend and made into a savory salad for a steamy supper. This salad was good warm that evening and even better served cold the next day. The key is to pick the beans when they are very young and tender and cooked just until they squeak on your teeth. String bean nirvana!

I am submitting this recipe to the "No Croutons Required" event at Tinned Tomatoes, a Scottish vegetarian blog I just discovered. No Croutons Required is a monthly recipe roundup of soup and salad recipes and this month's theme concentrates on one's favorite herb or an herb you haven't experimented with. The Yellow Bean Salad below is one that uses thyme, which I haven't used all that much until this year, when the perennial plant that I scooped out of my mom's garden has really taken off. I used a good bit of fresh thyme in this salad and I think it really was a great aromatic addition. My recipe even makes use of Tinned Tomatoes, so I think this was recipe was preordained for this event.

Yellow String Beans and Tomatoes

1 lb. yellow string beans, trimmed of blossom ends and cut in half horizontally
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatoes(juice drained and saved for soup stock or a Bloody Mary)
Splash of white wine
Splash of rice or cider vinegar
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a vigorous boil. Add beans and cook 6-8 minutes, just until they are crisp-tender (the aforementioned squeak on the teeth test). Drain and plunge into cold water to stop beans from cooking.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and stir constantly for one minute. Add onion and cook another 4-5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add tomatoes and white wine and cook until heated through. Add beans back to skillet, along with vinegar, thyme and salt and pepper. Heat through and serve warm or cold.

Serve over lettuce for 4 dinner servings or as a side salad to 6 people.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Mid-Summer Garden: Turtles, Peas and Lettuces

The third snapping turtle of the season, this adorable, 2 inch circumference baby, strolled into my garden, making me thankful that I usually wear garden clogs. This is a weird year for snappers. Apparently, the females stroll out of their rivers and ponds around the Summer Solstice to lay eggs in a drier locale, and this year we've seen one medium-sized one strutting around looking for love on our lawn, one gigantic specimen get hit by a car in front of our house (it only got spun around in its prehistoric carapace and crawled away unharmed into our neighbor's hay fields) and now this feisty little mamma. We resettled her into our nearby pond.

It is the time of year when local gardeners must inspect their vegetable patches daily to not only look for reptiles, but keep up with the bounty. We're enjoying lots of beautiful herbs and greens, and a couple of handfuls of snow peas each day. I planted Oregon Giant Snow Peas (available from Johnny's Selected Seeds) for the first time and they are a big hit. They have huge, bumpy pods which, once rinsed and cleared of strings, are entirely edible, pod and all.

We love them sliced into salads and eaten out of hand, but best of all we like them as scoopers. Their crunchiness and curvy shape makes them terrific scoops for dips. There were a couple of art gallery shows opening up in our Schuylerville business neighborhood last Saturday night and of all the snacks I brought for the evening's extended hours, the snow peas were gobbled up the fastest. I served them next to a White Bean Dip and another lovely Herbed Cream Cheese round, and the peas did not last an hour. They were certainly the favorite dunker at our spread, leaving the bowls of nearby tortilla chips and corn chips in the dust. I plan to get a Fall crop of these beauties in the ground this week so we can harvest them again in cooler September weather.

Our patch of mixed lettuces is at its peak now and before things get too hot and they start bolting, Dan and I are scoffing down as many salads as we can. We swish around the tender lettuces in at least two changes of cold water, spin them in the salad spinner and then roll them up in a clean kitchen towel and cover that with a plastic bag to crisp up in the refrigerator. They are so tender and tasty right now that all our salads need is a splash of olive oil, a little vinegar and a grinding of salt and pepper, but occasionally we mix up a batch of homemade vinaigrette or other salad dressing for a change of taste.

Dan picked up a bottle of Asian Sesame Dressing at the supermarket, only to find that the darn thing contained wheat in the soy sauce ingredient. Luckily this research finding was achieved in only his second mouthful of salad, so he avoided getting glutened. I tinkered with a homemade salad dressing the next day and we've enjoyed it, so we thought we would pass it along:

Asian Sesame-Ginger Dressing

2 Tbsp. gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili garlic sauce (or hot sauce)
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (black ones look great)

Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, onion powder, paprika, and chili garlic sauce. Blend in honey until dissolved. Whisk in peanut and sesame oils. Add sesame seeds and shake in container to blend well.

Makes about 1 cup dressing. This is lovely over a salad of greens, sliced scallions and snow peas and mandarin orange sections.

Back to the gardens....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Black Raspberry Parfait

We have a spot in our backyard where we dump the grass from our mower and let it rot awhile before using it as mulch in our gardens. All along this grassy bower are wild raspberry bushes which the birds usually get to before I remember they are ripening. This year, however, I was out weeding in the vegetable garden and saw some bright red bird scat on one of my tomato leaves. An ornithological message! I hied it over to the raspberries as quickly as I could.

Half an hour later I had 2 cups of velvety dark purple berries and a collection of scratches all over my arms, but no matter, it was time to reward my family with a great seasonal dessert. It's simple and luscious and you could make it with other types of seasonal berries and cut-up fruit.

Black Raspberry Parfait

2 cups black raspberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. sugar

Whip cream with vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. Layer some berries in each of four wine or parfait glasses and then add some whipped cream and repeat once more. Chill 1-2 hours before serving.

Serves 4.

I am submitting this recipe to the Grow Your Own event hosted by Andrea's Recipes, which features home grown or foraged edibles. With gardens bursting with produce in the Northern Hemisphere, there should be a cornucopia of entries at the roundup.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Search for a Gluten-Free Cannoli

Last month, my daughter needed to make an Italian food to bring to school and wanted to bring cannolis. It was easy enough to find a recipe for the filling, but the cannoli shells seemed too daunting to attempt, gluten-free or not, so we went to our local supermarket and bought a batch of unfilled shells.

We filled them with a blend of ricotta cheese blended with some vanilla, instant coffee powder and powdered sugar and then stuffed the filling into a plastic bag with a corner snipped off for a makeshift pastry bag. Then we dipped the ends of the cannolis in mini-chocolate chips and Badda Bing! They looked rather splendid and I can assure that none were left on the plate by my daughter's classmates.

I still wanted to scout out a gluten-free cannoli shell recipe so I could use the leftover ricotta filling to make Dan some of these beauties, but I couldn't find any information on the Internet or in any of my gluten-free cookbooks, so I think the wheat gluten may be somewhat vital to the architecture of these crispy little tubes. Perhaps some Daring Baker out there would like to tackle this as a gluten-free baking challenge?

I did find some mention that a gluten-free pizzelle, a crispy sort of Italian fried cookie, might be a good substitute cannoli shell if rolled around a metal cannoli tube. Apparently you also need a special pizzelle iron to make these cookies, so I was further thwarted in my quest for a gluten-free cannoli, although here is a link to a pizzelle recipe for those dessert makers more stubborn than I.

All was not lost for Dan's sweet tooth, however, as I made him a different kind of Italian treat with some cannoli goodness: a Sicilian-style Cassata Cake. I figured a good, firm sponge cake would be an easy gluten-free thing to bake up, and it thankfully was according to this recipe.. I then let the sponge cakes cool and topped each layer with some of the coffee-flavored ricotta filling and there was a tasty, cannoli-like dessert for Dan, which he enjoyed especially over several mornings with his cup of coffee.

Now if only some gluten-free baking entrepreneur would manufacture a gluten-free cannoli shell that I could purchase through the mail and stick in the freezer to pull out as needed for my sweetheart......

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Grilling with Country Bob

With summer barbeque season in full throttle here in the great Northeast, we have been doing our best to keep the outdoor fires burning and the indoor ovens off. In between rolling heat waves when nobody's appetite is up for more than salads and cold leftovers, we've enjoyed lots of great kebabs, grilled veggies and fish, including our favorite seafood recipe of all time, Plantation Shrimp.

Last month the folks at Country Bob's offered to send me two bottles of their All-Purpose Steak Sauce. After receiving assurances that it was gluten-free, I agreed to cook up some edibles using their product and am pleased to report that it meets with our family's approval. The All-Purpose Sauce tastes like an A-1 type steak sauce, only with a little more fruit flavor.

In our pescetarian household we eschewed the enclosed recipe booklet of predominantly porcine recipes and did our own kitchen experiments. We tried slathering it on our standard vegetable kebab recipe (we like a mix of vinaigrette-marinated peppers, onions (secured with a toothpick), zucchini, yellow squash, pineapple chunks, mushrooms, and the crowd favorite: canned small whole potatoes. The canning process seems to keep the potatoes together so they don't slide off the skewers.) We also basted portabella mushroom caps with Country Bob's splendid sauce and this made them taste very rich and delicious. The bold flavors of the sauce also paired well with some meaty shark kebabs. The sauce has also seen double duty in our house in spicing up rice, Breakfast Potatoes, and cheese quesadillas, so we are happy to recommend it to others.

Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce does not appear to be available in our area grocery stores, but is more widely distributed in the midwestern and western U.S., so if you would like to try out a free bottle, check out the Country Bobs website for a coupon that they will mail to you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Herbed Cream Cheese

With the abundance of herbs popping out in my garden, I remembered a homemade herbed cream cheese recipe that used a generous amount of greenery. I have made this recipe many times and it is a versatile one that can accommodate whatever fresh herbs are in season. When I make it in the winter, I pull out snipped chives and basil from my freezer and grind up dried rosemary, oregano and thyme in my mortar and pestle, but for summer, a nice combination of snipped fresh herbs is just heavenly and puts the clean, green taste of herbs front and center.

I have a good bit of volunteer dill and lots of other perennial herbs planted throughout my vegetable and flower patch, so I pulled out one of my favorite French cookbooks, "A Provencal Kitchen in America", by Suzanne McLucas (Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1982) for the basic bones of the recipe and then riffed off of that. This cookbook is one I use a lot as it has many Mediterranean recipes focused on seasonal fruits and vegetables. The cookbook also grades recipes by degree of difficulty, so it is easy to run through and see which recipes fit your repertoire of cooking skills.

I brought this appetizer with some crackers to a Fourth of July party and it was scooped up quickly by adults and kids alike, so I think you all may enjoy it too. It's easy to make and transport to boot.

Herbed Cream Cheese

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (I used one low-fat cream cheese and one regular cream cheese)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
2 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press or very finely minced
2 Tbsp. EACH snipped fresh herbs: dill, parsley, basil, thyme, lemon balm, chives (in winter use 1-1/2 tsp. EACH dried herbs of your choice, ground in mortar and pestle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of white wine, lemon juice or milk to moisten just a little bit

Mix cream cheese and butter together. Add garlic and herbs and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add just enough liquid to make the cheese mixture a bit more spreadable.

Form into a circle or ball and adorn with snippets of herbs, cracked pepper, or spices. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let harden.

Serve at room temperature.

This makes enough for a crowd (20 people), so you may want to halve the recipe for a smaller gathering.

I am submitting this recipe for the current round of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this time by Briciole, an interesting food blog that illustrates Italian cooking terms with delicious results. Weekend Herb Blogging is a cooking event started by Kalyn's Kitchen which is now in its third year, and which highlights herbs and other unusual plant ingredients.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Retro Creamed Peas and Potatoes

For the last of the spring crop of garden peas (snow peas almost ready though), I trolled my cookbook collection and Internet foodie sites for a special send-off recipe. I was intrigued by the many variations of Creamed Peas and Potatoes, an old-fashioned treatment for these spring beauties.

Fresh peas are such a delightfully sweet and non-starchy version of those dark green, wrinkly frozen peas we must make do with out of season and deserve to shine when they are on our supper menu. For most nights, we eat our spring peas simply, as Polish Peas but this new recipe, adapted from, is one that we will make again.


5 medium red potates, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas (about 3-4 cups unshelled)
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. white rice flour
Salt and pepper to taste (use a light hand as this is a delicate tasting dish)
1 cup milk
1 sprig mint, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, snipped

In a medium saucepan cook potatoes in a small amount of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add peas and cook 3-4minutes more or until tender. Drain.

In a medium saucepan cook onion in butter until tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in potatoes, peas, mint and dill.

Serves 4.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Putting Up the Cilantro Harvest with the Book of Yum

Sea over at the Book of Yum is my kindred gluten-free cooking spirit. While she may be an urban dweller on the West Coast, and I'm a rural devotee on the East Coast, she and I share a love for vegetables, herbs and adventurous cooking. She's the first foodie blog I check every day and I'm always delighted by the fresh take on a recipe, her good natured and detailed commentary about her kitchen experiments and her interest in Asian, Indian and other international flavors.

Our family has enjoyed her Southern Fried Tofu recipe quite a lot and I was delighted when she started the Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger Event this past winter so that I could have an excuse to try out some of the many bookmarked recipes in my pile.

I have enjoyed adopting Jeena's Kitchen (Onion Bhajis), The GFCF Experience (Brownie Tart), Fresh Ginger (Lard Nah) and Gluten A Go Go (Coca-Cola Cake) in the past rounds of this event, and now I am pleased to adopt our Founder, Sea. from the Book of Yum, in this fifth round. I have a ton of cilantro coming up in my garden and before it bolts overnight, I harvested two huge bunches to make Sea's recently posted Cilantro Chutney recipe.

I had all the ingredients in my pantry and garden except for the asafoetida/hing, which a quick trip to Wikipedia informed me was a plant seasoning also known as Devil's Dung (?!?) which lends a leek-like flavor to dishes when cooked. I opted to substitute in 2 cloves of finely minced garlic instead of this quaintly-named delight and things seemed to be tasty enough. Whirling around this chutney in my food processor produced just enough chutney to fill twelve spots in my ice cube tray. I froze this overnight and then popped out the cubes into a freezer baggie to be pulled out well after cilantro season for spicing up raitas, yogurt dips, and zipping up my canned salsa. Thanks Sea, for helping me with my summer garden harvest and for starting this fun foodie event!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Broccoli Salad a la Grecque - Gluten Free BBQ Party

Those long, sultry days of summer are here. School is out, the farmers are haying their fields and today is the Fourth of July, the celebration of our country’s birthday and a day of outdoor grilling, fireworks, parades and hanging out with friends.

A perfect day for a gluten-free barbeque with Kate at Gluten-Free Gobsmacked, who has an alphabet full of delicious food that will be unveiled later this month at her BBQ Party Roundup. I signed on for the letter B and have a great Broccoli Salad to bring to this virtual party. It is a great outdoor party dish as it can stand to be left out for awhile with no ill effects due to the vinaigrette slathered over the broccoli and feta. It’s healthy, tasty and best of all, naturally gluten-free!

For this recipe I call for the crowning glory of the broccoli for a lovelier presentation. Broccoli crowns are more expensive at the grocery store per pound than broccoli bunches, so I would go ahead and buy the bunches, saving the stalks for later peeling and julienning into slaw, soup, or stir fries.

Broccoli a la Grecque

4 broccoli crowns, cut into spears
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I used low-fat feta and it held its shape very well)
1 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped)
1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely minced
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, snipped
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place broccoli in steamer basket and bring to a second boil. Lower heat and cover pot. Steam just until broccoli is crisp-tender, but still a nice, bright green (about 4-5 minutes). Remove from pot and plunge into cold water to stop the broccoli from cooking further. Drain and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients into a dressing for the broccoli, taking care not to obliterate feta chunks. Pour over broccoli spears and marinate at least 1-2 hours, to let the flavors mingle.

Serve chilled, although again, this salad can stand to be left out for barbecue guests to enjoy at room temperature because there are no perishable ingredients that might spoil easily.

Serves 6-8.