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!
Since I am a cook, and we are open for Thanksgiving, I work. After, I go to my mom’s for dinner. We have a pretty basic Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I am also on a gluten-free diet, which complicates things a bit. Amy’s family has Thanksgiving dinner while I am at work, and she comes to our dinner late. It works out well enough. I don’t get to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner of my own, but I try to cook something that feels nice and fall-like. This year I decided to take a shot at gluten-free butternut squash ravioli, and a sage beurre blanc. This was the second time I have made pasta, and the first time gluten-free.
The first thing I did was start with the filling for my ravioli.
1 small butternut squash cut into cubes, and seeded
2 thin slices of guanciale(I used less than a slice of bacon. Use pancetta if you don’t have guanciale.) finely diced (optional)
1/2 small onion, finely dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 TBSP herbes de provence
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
Start with the squash. Cut off the top and the bottom, then cut the neck off. Cut the neck into one inch cubes, and quarter the bottom, seed it, and cut into one inch cubes. Toss with a little oil, and salt and pepper, and roast it until it is softened and brown. Let it cool for a few minutes, and pull the skins off. This will be easy.Next I heated a skillet, and added a little oil, and then the guanciale to render it. Once it had started to brown a bit I added the garlic and onion. Once the onion had become a bit transparent I added the squash, and herbes de provence, and a little bit of salt. Next I transfered everything to my food processor, and pureed it in batches. I added part of the asiago with each batch. Once I was done I put this in the fridge to cool before I filled the ravioli. If you want to make this vegetarian the only change you would have to make is skip the guanciale, and just saute the onions and garlic in a little oil.
Pasta is a fairly simple thing. With wheat flour it can be as simple as flour, eggs and salt. The time I made lasagna noodles by hand that is what I did. With gluten-free flours it is a bit more involved, but only because you need xanthan gum! I used the four flour bean mix from the Gluten-Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman, but I would imagine any good flour blend would work well. This is a variation of her bean pasta recipe. It worked well. In the case of gluten-free pasta we have an advantage. We don’t have to spend a long time kneading to develop gluten, and the dough doesn’t have to rest before it can be worked, and we also don’t have to worry about overworking the gluten.
1 cup flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP oil
2 large eggs
That is all it takes. Combine the dry ingredients, whisk the eggs and oil together, and combine, and mix until a ball forms. I had to add a little water to make it all come together, but it was maybe a tablespoon. Kneed for a few minutes on a counter dusted with cornstarch, or you can do what I did. I worked on a piece of parchment, and then rolled it out between a second piece. This allowed me to cut down on the mess in my small kitchen! If you have a pasta maker you could use that, a rolling pin would work well, and if all else fails, improvise! An empty wine bottle would work just fine. I rolled my dough out as thin as I thought I needed it. (I was a little off! Oops, next time I do this they will be a bit thinner!)Add a small amount of filling to the center of the ravioli. In the picture above I have the right amount of filling. When you are ready to top the ravioli with the top dough a small amount of watter along the edge will help them stick together. Pinch the edges together, and set aside. Make sure you have a pot of boiling, salted water ready.
Now, we need to make the sauce. Beurre blanc is literally white butter. It is a simple sauce, but brings a lot of flavor! Start with white wine, and cider vinegar, in equal amounts. I started with 1/2 cup total, and a tablespoon of finely diced onion (shallots would be more traditional, but this worked fine.) and a little fresh ground pepper. Reduce the liquid au sec, add a half dozen torn up leaves of fresh sage, and then whisk in room temperature butter. I used a bit less butter than would traditionally be used. I used a quarter pound of butter, to make a lighter sauce rather than the half pound that should have been used in a traditional beurre blanc. It was still a nice sauce, and tasted great. While you are working on the sauce, boil your pasta for about 7 minutes, and serve hot, topped with the sage beurre blanc! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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.
I’ve been playing around with pasta a bit lately. As any of us who have been gluten-free for any length of time have surely noticed, most of the pasta sucks. It generally tastes fine, not really like what we were used to, but good enough. It tends to just have a strange texture. Rice is the worst because it is just gritty. Corn just never ends up feeling right.
The other day I ended up at the grocery store, again, and found pasta made from quinoa. Quinoa is an ancient grain originally grown in the Andean mountains, and is highly nutritious. It is a complete protein, which is a very good thing for all you vegetarians! Apparently it also makes fantastic pasta! It is a blend of corn and quinoa, and tastes pretty good, and can actually be cooked al dente, just like the pasta we all miss!
Now, Amy is not really big into sausage, or pork, or beef. I love sausages, and generally the porkier the better! However, since she said she would give them a shot I bought some turkey salsiccia. They are Jeanie-O brand, and actually not too bad. I started by cooking a couple of the sausages. (I was making dinner as well as my lunch for tomorrow.) Then started the pasta. I always cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Cooking time varies by grain as well as shape. I only had the shells so that is what I went with.
Next I split the sausages down the middle, and put them in the skillet with some sauce. I had a jar of cabernet marinara. It is very tasty with just a hint of wine flavor, it’s there, but not overwhelming. I always try to get the sauce ready first, because you don’t want your pasta to wait for the sauce getting cold and mushy. The sauce had thickened a bit so before I drained the pasta I added a splash of the pasta water to the marinara. Then drained the pasta, poured the pasta into the skillet with the sauce, and tossed a bit to get everything sauced. Then onto a plate, a little cheese, and mangia!
Hope you like it!
Tonight I was in the mood for some pasta, and I really didn’t feel like going with the tomato sauce that I normally do. I did however have lots of interesting stuff in the fridge to play with, heavy cream, asiago, parmesan, broccoli, garlic, some chicken. I also decided that a little bit of pesto would add a nice bit of extra flavor.
Pesto is a great thing! It has tons of flavor, and can be added to pasta, tomatoes, potatoes, meats, it can be used as a spread, whatever you want. It is also very simple to make, and can be kept for quite a while in your freezer! A basic pesto is basil, garlic, parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. Need a recipe? If you feel traditional, make it with a mortar and pestle. Or do what I do, Cuisinart!
2 oz basil leaves
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 oz parmesan
olive oil (to the consistency you like) I just kind of eyeball this, but by all means use the recipe above. It is a great one from the CIA’s Professional Chef. I used slivered almonds in place of the pine nuts, because they are a lot less expensive, and still give you a nice consistency. I also use some asiago as well as parmesan, just because it gives a nice flavor.
Next I started boiling my water for the pasta. I also chopped some cooked chicken, cut the broccoli into bite sized pieces, and minced some garlic. I then heated up my skillet, so that as soon as the pasta was almost ready I could start putting everything together.When I figured I had just a few minutes before the pasta was ready I added some oil, the chicken, broccoli, and garlic to the pan. As soon as the pasta was ready I drained it, and added it to the skillet. I mixed everything together, and added about a cup of cream, some parmesan, pesto, and salt and pepper. I mixed it all together, and added more cheese. The cheese is really your thickener here, so as it cooks keep an eye on it. Add more if you need to. I like lots of cheese in mine!Obviously, the noodles I used were gluten-free. I had some DeBoles rice penne noodles. It turned out great, and really didn’t take long at all, probably under 30 minutes total.
I keep seeing these ads on TV for some steam in the bag dinner with like pasta and chicken, and veggies. They have this intro that says something like “who says sauteing, and chopping and peeling at the end of the day is relaxing?” These commercials bother me, a lot. Are we that lazy? Obviously, since I and at least some of you are on gluten-free diets we can’t eat these, but if you are looking for a quick meal like this there is a way to do it.
How many people do you have to feed? Figure one ounce of pasta per person. What do you like? Farfalle? Penne? Whatever. Cook that according to the directions on the box. Drain it, and rinse it with cold running water to cool it. Drain it, put it in a container to store it, toss it with some olive oil, and put it in the fridge till you need it for later.
At work we make a mix of tomatoes, white wine, fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic. It’s really simple, and works really well. Go. Do that! The easiest way to cut something leafy like the basil is to take the leaves, and kind of roll several of them together. Then take your knife, and slice through all of them. This is called chiffonade. Whatever you feel like is fine. This is going to be the sauce part of the pasta.
So, now you can pick whatever you feel like having in your pasta. Chicken? Peas? Broccoli? Mushrooms? The sky is pretty much the limit. The real key is to make sure that whatever it is will cook quickly. Something like chicken could be cooked ahead, and sliced or cubed so that when you put it in all you have to do is get it hot. Veggies will mostly go quick, so unless you have something like eggplant that will take some time don’t worry about them. Just cut them small enough that they are about the same size as everything else.
When it’s dinner time, get a skillet that is big enough to fit all of the stuff that you want to put in there, get it good and hot. Add some canola oil. (Now is NOT the time for you to use your nice extra virgin olive oil! You’ll be wasting it.) Once the oil is hot, add whatever will take the longest. Since I’m not giving a specific recipe, I can’t help you here. Once you have in the veggies, and chicken or whatever, and they are getting hot, add the tomato mixture. Carefully, and remember that you can always add a little more if you want, but its a bit tricky to take it out. You’ll see the liquid start to boil. Add the pasta, and toss or stir. This will get everything coated in your sauce, and heated through.
That’s it! Put it in your serving bowl or on plates or however you want to eat, and you’re done! Toss a little cheese on top, and everybody will be thrilled!
Ok, so I pretty much always want pork. Now that that is cleared up… tonight’s dinner. The thing is Amy doesn’t like pork, and I do, so I don’t cook it very often when she’s around, because she doesn’t like it. She’s busy, and I felt like cooking something. I had some pork tenderloin in the freezer, and this seemed like a great time to use it.
Now, an Italian will always tell you that you should have the sauce waiting for the pasta, and not the other way. Pasta should always be al dente. So, start your sauce first!! The other day I bought some really tasty marinara(if you are wondering, its Tony’s St. Louis), and I have some Schär fusilli.
The first thing I did was to get the pasta water started, and then wait until it was almost up to a boil before I did anything else.
Next, I seasoned a few slices of the tenderloin and seared it in a small skillet. After I turned the pieces over I poured in a little bit of white wine, and let that reduce a little, and then added the marinara. I put the skillet in the oven at 350F. Then I added the pasta to the water, and set the timer for 10 minutes. Cook the pasta according to the directions, and adjust the timing as needed. I cut the tenderloin thin enough that it would cook through in about the time the pasta took to cook.