Pizza is one of those foods I have always loved. For me, that generally means tomato sauce, cheese, and crust (gluten-free of course.), and sometimes I will add some sausage. I know it isn’t all that exciting, but sometimes it really is good.
I decided to do something a little more interesting, and lighter since it is now pretty hot here. No sauce of any kind, and just sliced pear, chevre, and a little bit of parmesan. Then about a minute before it comes out of the oven I tossed a handful of arugula on it! Thinking about it, a nice gorgonzola could also work very well in a pizza like this.
I’ve been on a bit of a quest for pizza crust. So far, the winner in terms of taste, texture, and relative ease of making it happen is from Emeril Lagasse. I know, weird, right? Apparently, he has daughters who have some gluten issues. He came up with this pizza crust for their gluten-free cookbook, and it is great! It makes enough crust for four pizzas for two people. You can pop the leftover par-baked crusts in the freezer, and pull them out for a quick dinner. Just top them and bake.
Obviously, if you have a pizza crust that works well for you, go ahead and use it. Amy was a bit skeptical of this at first, but it is a fantastic flavor combo! It is always fun to try things that may not immediately spring to mind when you have a dish as iconic as pizza.
Early in our relationship I took Amy to a restaurant that I really like. It is this tiny place in what is a not very good neighborhood of St Louis. The place is called Fritanga. It is a Nicaraguan restaurant, and they serve some of the most fantastic food I have ever eaten. It is not a fancy place, and you don’t ever want to go if you are in a hurry. On a busy night all of the tables will be full of people eating, drinking and talking, enjoying the food and relaxed atmosphere as well as the company of the others at their table.
Once I went gluten-free I knew that there would be some sacrifices that I would have to make when dining out. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Fritanga is almost entirely gluten-free!!
Amy likes the pollo al achiote, and I like the lomo de cerdo asado. The two dishes are actually pretty similar, either chicken or pork, marinated in achiote or annatto paste. Annatto seeds are ground with various spices such as cumin, and oregano. It is a very tasty combination, but not hot. I was at Global foods the other day and ran across a container of achiote paste. After seeing how easy it was to use the achiote when I made my chili at work I decided I would try my hand at the pollo al achiote from Fritanga.
The first step for this dish is to marinate the chicken. Pork loin could also be used. The lomo de cerdo asado that I frequently eat there is a thick pork loin chop that is marinated in achiote and grilled. To make the marinade combine a tablespoon of canola oil, and a tablespoon of the achiote paste. This stuff goes a long way, and it will impart a fantastic color and very nice flavor to the chicken.
Combine the achiote and your chicken and allow it to sit for several hours in the fridge. You could grill or bake the chicken. In this case I decided to just bake it.
At Fritanga this would be served with gallo pinto or black beans and rice, with a side of a really tasty slaw, and plantains. The Plantains are served one of several ways. They give you a choice of either chips, tostones or maduros. Any of those are fantastic choices. I personally really like tostones! Unfortunately, I didn’t think to pick up any plantains. When you have them what you do with them depends on how ripe they are. You can make chips when they are green, tostones when they are yellow, and maduros when they are pretty well black.
The other night Amy and I were trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Neither of us had anything thawed, and didn’t really feel like a big meal, but we both wanted something tasty. What we did have was a can of chickpeas(for some reason we thought they were actually cannelini beans until she actually got them out of her pantry), some pasta, a couple of roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, half of a red onion, some garlic, a bottle of Pinot Grigio that we only needed part of. This is actually a really simple thing to put together, and will get you a really quick and tasty dinner in under a half hour.
The first thing is to cook the pasta. Obviously, you need to follow the recommendations on the package since gluten-free pastas vary in cooking times. Once it is cooked drain it, and rinse it in cold water to cool it. Toss it in a little olive oil, and set it aside for now.
Next, we’ll make our “sauce.” Dice the tomato. Half inch cubes should be fine. Mince a few cloves of garlic. We used about four, but if you really like garlic use as much as you want. Dice half of a red onion. To that add white wine and olive oil to just cover everything. A fifty-fifty mix will work well, but it doesn’t need to be exact.
Open the can of chickpeas, drain, and rinse them. Get a medium sized skillet hot over medium heat, and add a small amount of oil. When the oil is hot add the chickpeas. Saute them for a minute or so to get them hot. Next, add the tomato mixture (There is no rule saying how much to add so go with what looks good to you.), and keep things moving in the pan. Add the spinach to the pan, and cook until it has wilted. You may be surprised at how little spinach it looks like once it is wilted! You’ll eventually get it up to a boil. Once the liquid comes up to a boil add the pasta, and saute everything until everything is hot.
Obviously, this kind of thing gives you lots of room to improvise, and make it your own. In this case, it was vegan as well as being gluten-free. Whatever it little category you want to cram it into, it was very tasty, very quick, and very easy!
Trips to the grocery store for me tend not to be well planned. Sometimes I have decided exactly what I want to eat, but a lot of the time I have no idea. I pick things up, check that they are gluten-free, and they end up in my cart. This is not the most economical way to shop. The other day I picked up a box of rice noodles. This was one of those things I had no immediate plans for, just something I thought might be fun to play with. A few days later I picked up a few oranges. That was when things started to come together in my mind. There is always chicken around in the freezer, and I almost always have ginger, garlic, gluten-free soy sauce, and there is a bottle of rice vinegar in the cabinet. This is a really quick and easy one, but it is very tasty!
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
a couple of carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
broccoli cut into bite sized pieces
any other veggies you may want to put in, julienned bell pepper, napa cabbage, snow peas, water chestnuts whatever sounds good to you.
Rice noodles (I picked up a box of Thai Kitchen linguini style noodles)
2 TBSP gluten-free soy sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar (I wouldn’t get seasoned rice vinegar. It is for sushi rice, and has salt and sugar added.)
zest and juice of one orange
1 TBSP minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP sambal oolek
Lets start with the sauce. First thing, zest your orange. I just use the smallest side of my box grater, make sure not to go too deep. There are a lot of ways to juice citrus fruits, but the easiest is to cut them in half (across the segments), and then stick a fork into the fruit, and twist. You should do this over a bowl so that you can keep any seeds out of your sauce. Then simply combine everything else. If you want a sauce that will coat everything a little better you can bring it all up to a boil, and then use a cornstarch slurry to thicken it. I wasn’t all that worried about that.Next we’ll get the noodles ready. This is really easy. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then turn it off. Drop in the noodles. They are ready when they are tender. They probably take 8 to 10 minutes. Check the package on yours. Once they are done, drain them, rinse with cold water to cool them, drain them well, and set them aside.
While the noodles are soaking we can prep everything else. First, cut up your veggies. I like pieces that are kind of medium thin. My goal is that they are tender but not mushy. The sizes will depend on what you have. Denser vegetables like carrots would be thinner than a bell pepper. And everything needs to be bite-sized. Put everything in a bowl, and set aside. Next, cut your chicken. Obviously you want something that is small enough to cook quickly, but not minced. I tend to cut a breast in half, and then cut cubes from the halves. Again the key is bite-sized. Of course you could also use tofu if you’re looking for a vegetarian option.
Now, everything is prepped, and ready so we can fire up the stove. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and add a couple of tablespoons of oil. Canola or peanut would be best. If you want a little bit of sesame oil would be fine, but since it doesn’t have a high smoke point you should use it only as an accent. Tilt the pan, and if you see ripples in the oil, start adding your chicken gently to the pan. Your oil is plenty hot, so don’t splash it all over yourself. Using a silicone spatula keep the chicken moving around the pan until it is mostly cooked. Add the veggies, and continue cooking. When the veggies are tender add the noodles. Mix everything together, and add the sauce. Bring the sauce up to a boil. You’re done! Enjoy your dinner. This kind of thing gives you lots of flexibility when you’re making dinner, since almost anything you have can be put in. The other great thing is that it is really quick.
Today my extended family is celebrating Christmas. Which means we’re having a potluck dinner. There won’t be a lot for my sister and I to eat, but that’s ok. My sister, in addition to having celiac also has to watch her carbohydrate intake, so I decided I would make a pot of lentil soup, because in addition to being highly nutritious, and tasty ends up being something she can eat about as much as she wants to. I found this in a book that the sous chef brought in to work a while back, and I made it there a few days ago. It was a hit there, so it should be a hit today as well. It is called Faki, and it is a fairly traditional Greek lentil soup.
I’m making a pretty good sized batch so you may want to scale down the ingredients a bit.
1 pound onions roughly chopped
1 pound carrots roughly chopped (I like carrots)
several cloves of garlic, minced (how much garlic do you like?)
2 pounds of lentils, sorted for extraneous crap, and rinsed well
2 cans diced tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp herbes de provence (I love this stuff, and it goes so well in lots of things)
salt and black pepper
water to cover, and more as needed.
red wine vinegar 1 cup (to taste)
This soup is a very easy one to get together. Start by sweating the onions and carrots with a dash of salt in a little vegetable oil until the onions are translucent. Then add the lentils, and mix them in. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaves, all the herbs,and water. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. It will need to simmer for roughly 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
That is it, then about five minutes before you serve the soup, add the vinegar. You don’t want it to be overpowering, but you do want to taste it. It will bring a nice balance to the earthiness of the lentils. Serve with some crumbled feta, and enjoy.
This really is a fantastic soup for a cold day, the omnivores will never miss the meat, and your vegetarian friends will be happy too!
Hope everybody had a safe, and happy holiday!
Well, this happens sometimes. I end up eating really late. It isn’t intentional, but I get busy doing things and still need dinner. Of course these time are usually when I have some long cooking dinner in the works. Tonight would certainly fall under that heading. I sort of had a feeling it might. I had a family thing to go to, and had planned to pop in, and split in fairly short order. I had hoped to be home, cooking by about 6, and instead didn’t get home until 7pm. It also took a bit longer than I expected to cook the beans, but in the end it was all worth it!
One of the best things about the internet is the abundance of information about cooking, recipes, and food. Michael Ruhlman, Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert, and Mark Bittman just to name a few. I follow these, and several others on Twitter, and they all send out interesting messages, recipes, and today I adapted a post from Mark Bittman. Really, my biggest change to his recipe was to skip the bulk of the meats and just use a couple of chicken legs.
1/2 pound of dry cannellini beans soaked overnight
2 chicken leg quarters
2 cloves of garlic
2 onions cut into half inch dice
2 sticks of celery half inch dice
2 carrots half inch dice
1 zucchini half inch dice
salt and pepper
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dry thyme
handful fresh parsley chopped
1 quart of chicken stock plus a little water
Since I had my beans soaked last night, and I broke down the chicken to get the legs I was more or less in assembly mode tonight. Step one, heat some oil in the large pot, and brown the chicken a bit. I could have given them a bit more time to brown a bit more, and that might have added a bit to the flavor, but in the end it was pretty good.
Then add the beans and enough stock to cover everything. This took about a quart for me. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer.This will need to simmer for about an hour. In the mean time, take your diced vegetables, and sweat them in a large skillet. You’re looking for them to start to get nice and tender, but not brown. A little salt is helpful when you are sweating veggies since it draws out moisture. Once they are tender I added the tomatoes, and herbs, and got everything hot, and also reduced the liquid a bit from the tomatoes and whatever came out of the veggies.
Once I had been simmering the beans for about an hour, and the veggies were softened and hot I added the veggies to the beans. Then I returned the pot to a boil, and turned it back to a simmer. This is where patience started to come into play. Everything really started to smell great. Cannellini beans take time to cook, and if you want to do this right you will let them take the time they need. You will be rewarded.My beans took another 30 minutes to finish cooking. They were tender, and not the least bit chalky. After an hour and a half simmering in the stock, and with all of the veggies the chicken was so tender that grabbing a leg bone to fish it out would leave you with no meat at all! That was dinner, and although it was certainly different than the cassoulet that I have had in the past I would certainly be happy to eat it again. That is a good thing, because I have plenty! Next time I make it I will probably find some turkey sausages that I can throw in there, and make it a bit more traditional. Traditional or not this was very tasty. Personally I always find this kind of long, slow cooking process very rewarding. It always seems to pay off in the end with a ton of flavor, and actually is fairly simple to do as long as you give yourself the time to take on the challenge. I ended up having dinner a little later than I would have liked, but it was great, and gluten-free. Hope you all enjoy it.
Edit: One thing I kind of forgot this morning at 2 am when I was finishing this up is a link back to day one, just in case you haven’t read it yet.
Obviously I’m going to be writing about soup, again. Remember what I said last time about leftovers? Well, this one is exactly what you need to get rid of all those random bits of leftover veggies. Seriously, it almost makes no difference what it is. What I’m talking about is minestrone. Its a classic Italian soup. Minestrone means big soup, and it is certainly big on flavor. There is no standard recipe, and varies from family to family. Traditionally, it will have beans, but they are not a requirement. Today I made a lot of minestrone. This soup can very easily be made vegetarian or even vegan, depending on what you have around the house, and what you want to put in. This is a vegetable soup, but it doesn’t have to be a vegetarian soup. Through history meat wasn’t eaten as much as it is now, but it was eaten, and probably by almost everyone. In a soup like this pancetta is used to flavor the soup, but it is a minor component in the actual ingredients of the soup. If you don’t eat meat, leave it out.
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 inch thick slice pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, medium dice
1 carrot medium dice
1 stick of celery, medium dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 TBSP herbes de provence
Now, once you get to this point you’ll want to just eat it, but don’t! This is kind of the base of the soup, so stick with it!
So, what do you have in the fridge?
Green beans? Corn? Gluten-free pasta? Kohlrabi? Broccoli? Cauliflower? Kale? Spinach? Zucchini? Squash? A can of canellini beans?
You’re also going to need some chicken stock or vegetable stock.
Ok, so lets get started. You have everything cut up? In a large pot, heat your oil, and then add the pancetta if you’re using it. With the pancetta you just want to render it over medium heat, until it is browned but not crisp. Next, add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Add a little salt, and sweat this over medium heat until the onions have started to turn clear.
Add the tomatoes, mix them in, and add the wine, and herbs. Add the stock, bring it up to a boil, and then depending on what veggies you have to put in the soup start adding them. You’ll want to make sure that you add things that will take longest to cook earliest. As you simmer the soup add things, keeping in mind how long they will take to cook. The last thing I would add would be something like beans or pasta. Beans and pasta taste great, but they tend to soak up liquid, and swell up. They can very easily take over a pot of soup so add way less than you think you should!
That is really all it takes to make great minestrone. No recipe at all, just go, and cook it. Now, for the funny part… I actually adapted this from a cookbook! Henry Hill wrote a cookbook based on his life, and its called the Wiseguy’s Cookbook. If you are a fan of Italian food, as well as the movie Goodfellas you’ll want to get a copy of this book. There are lots of recipes, and its got some pretty interesting stories as well. Not all of them are gluten-free, but a lot of them can be made gluten-free with a little playing around.