Category Archives: Gluten-free

A cabbage barrage

Let’s get this out of the way real quick. This post is about cabbage. But wait, hold on! I know what you’re thinking.“Cabbage. Huh. Well I guess I’ll click back to that tutorial on how operate the vacuum at it’s optimal potential.” I know. Cabbage sounds extremely boring. And no, even though St. Patrick’s Day was last week, this has nothing to do with being Irish (which I am) or colcannon. I’m not even being festive.

But before you click away, I used to think the same thing. Cabbage = bland, watery, overcooked, healthy in that feet-dragging kinda way. But then I lived with Jenn, my old roommate. She made this fresh cabbage salad with tons of lime, jalapeno, shredded carrots, green and red cabbage, tossed with a very light, creamy dressing and handfuls of fresh cilantro. She made me reconsider cabbage. (Other things I learned to love from Jenn: black beans, cilantro, jalapenos, mushrooms and Key lime pie.)

Once cabbage and I made friends, it realized how versatile it is. Have you ever bought a head of romaine lettuce, then realized that you want something you can sautee? Or the opposite. You buy some sweet potatoes, then you crave something fresh and uncooked. This happens to me all the time. Especially when the seasons are changing, like they are right now. The beauty of cabbage though, is that it goes both ways. It’s the bisexual, if you will, of brassicas. Eat it fresh, saute it, braise it, roast it, blow your nose with one of its leaves! (Okay, maybe not the last one. Unless you’re really desperate.)

My recent favorite cabbage recipe is caramelized cabbage with lemon and parmesan. This is a great side dish; basically a warm cabbage salad, sauteed until there are little bits of smoky and burnt leaves, tossed with a squinch of fresh lemon and a handful of cheesy goodness. It’s also great for breakfast; fry up an egg, plop it on top, toast a slice of bread and you’re in business.

Warm cabbage salad with lemon and parmesan

Serves 2 as a side dish

1/2 head green cabbage, sliced very thin

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 heaping tablespoons of parmesan cheese, to taste

lemon, to taste (I use roughly 1/4 lemon per 1/2 head cabbage, taste as you go and find your sweet spot)

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed saute pan over medium high heat, add garlic, sautee until fragrant. Add the slivered cabbage.

2. Cook the cabbage until browned in places (5-7 minutes). Turn off the heat, add parmesan, lemon, salt and pepper. Taste. Adjust for seasoning. Serve warm. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

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Filed under Gluten-free, Local, Quick, Recipes, Sidedish, Vegetables

Lazy, but not local

Making pesto in winter when Mother Nature just dumped a fluffy foot of snow on your house is certainly not endorsed by strict localvores. It’s a task normally reserved for the hazy days of summer, when gardens are busting with basil, not sleeping quietly under a heavy blanket of white.

But I’m a fish taco freak and for me, fish tacos need fresh cilantro. In the winter this means I buy my fresh herbs from Mexico, Guatemala, or where ever else they’re shipped from. Oops.

Wilted cilantro ready for the food processor.

I usually buy a bunch and everything is fine and dandy. I have some delicious tacos, then I toss the rest of the cilantro in the fridge and forget about it. Until a week later, when I’m rummaging in the vegetable drawer, trying to scare up some grub and there it is. A bunch of verdant herbs, now wilted and limp. It makes me feel guilty.

Enter, poor man’s pesto.

Even yellowing and wilted herbs can turn into a bright pesto.

Whatever wilted and forgotten herbs you have on hand (I’ve tried cilantro, parsley and basil all with success), whizzed in the food processor with nuts, a bit of olive oil and citrus, salt and pepper and you’ve got a vibrant, zippy condiment that is great on anything: fish, chicken, tofu, meat, bread, crackers. It freezes well too.

Pesto most frequently presents itself in the pesto alla genovese form, with basil and pine nuts as the base. But “pesto” is really just a term derived from the Italian word for “to crush,” as in to crush herbs and garlic (think mortar and pestle). I stopped using pine nuts in my pesto because they are so expensive and I prefer the flavor of walnuts. Use whatever you like. The best part about pesto is you can use whatever you have on hand. I’ve made pesto with pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower sweets, peanuts, almonds and pecans. Also, herbs that may be too wilted to chop and sprinkle are great for pesto, I’ve never noticed a lack of brightness, even from leaves that look destined for the compost pile. Just watch for the rotten bits. Pick those out.

Some ideas:

  • cilantro, walnut, lime pesto atop a firm white fish like halibut or sea bass
  • lemon, parmesan, parsley pesto tossed with whole wheat pasta
  • sage, walnut, garlic pesto served with roasted pork

This recipe is in the style of Michael Ruhlman author of, “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.” In Ruhlman’s cookbook he focuses on the ratios required in different recipes, rather than give exact measurements of every single ingredient.

The ratio (roughly) =

2 parts fresh herbs 1 part nuts

Sometimes you have two wilting bunches of herbs, sometimes a scant one. Maybe you have a lime to use up, maybe it’s a lemon. They key to success lies in tasting as you go. When you can’t stop dipping your hand straight into the bowl, licking the pesto surreptitiously from your fingers, you’re done.

Note: You need a food processor. Or giant muscles and a mortar and pestle, but that’s a lot of work.

Poor man’s wilted herb pesto

Ingredients

2 cups fresh herbs, stems on, roughly chopped (cilantro, basil, parsley or some combination have all worked well for me)

1 cup nuts (I’ve had success with walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pine nuts)

1/4 cup oil (olive, or another but stay away from very strong flavors like sesame). NOTE: This is a fairly dry pesto, with less oil than some. Add more if you prefer.

2 cloves garlic (more or less, depending on preference)

lemon or lime juice to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Skin the garlic and mince it in a food processor.

2. Chop off the end of the herb’s stems, roughly chop the rest. Add into the food processor along with the nuts, no need to chop them. Whiz the herbs and nuts together, drizzling in the olive oil until you get the consistency you’re looking for. I like mine smooth, but with visible specks of herbs.

3. Add the lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper. Whiz everything together, taste, adjust for seasoning. Freeze in small glass jars with an inch of head room or refrigerate for 3-4 days.

Yields roughly a cup and a half.

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Filed under Gluten-free, Local, Recipes, Steals and Deals, Uncategorized

Hippie sugar, gluten-free, and making an ass of you and me

In the past three years or so, two little words have been popping up all over the place with increasing frequency. Printed on restaurant menus, discussed on online forums and written about in newspapers: gluten-free.

To my uneducated self I assumed: Hm. Gluten-free means no carbs right? The horror! I tried this once before with the South Beach Diet. Worst four hours of my life.

But a certain recipe gifted to me by a woman in Vietnam led me to do a little more research. Gluten-free does not mean no carbs. As Mr. Tinker, my seventh grade science teacher said, to assume only makes an ass of you and me. (As a side note, he also showed a video of live childbirth in class, to a group of stunned 13 year olds and was known to pull over on the highway and pick up roadkill, taking home the mangled carcasses to store in his freezer for experiments. He was an awesome guy.)

Gluten-free simply means a diet free of gluten-containing cereals. The most common is wheat, but it also encompasses barley, rye and malt, amongst others. But things like corn, potatoes (sweet and white), quinoa, buckwheat (pure), taro, and yams may all be eaten on a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is also used as a stabilizer in some of those wonderfully chemicalized, 50-ingredient products like ketchup, commercial salad dressings and ice cream, making avoiding gluten all the more complicated.

The most common motivation for a gluten-free diet is Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged by eating gluten, leading to a myriad of stomach problems.

Stomach problems, hm, stomachs remind me of eating. Off of indigestion and onto the recipe.

Gluten-free almond butter chocolate chip cookies.

It took me forever to actually make these cookies, we got back from Vietnam in April. I waited so long basically out of sheer cheapness. Almond butter can be very expensive; it was $7 a jar at our co-op in Vermont. But  now that we live closer to the wonder that is Trader Joe’s, where a jar costs $3.99, I took the plunge.

If you make these expecting a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie, you will be disappointed. Like many gluten-free baked goods, they are a bit rougher, less delicately textured, a little more rugged.

Instead, think about a pretty chocolate chip cookie and a tall, strong biscotti getting together and having a baby; these cookies would be their love child. The nuttiness of almond, with rich dark chocolate and a nice chewy crunch, they’re quite good, simple to make, and full of heart-healthy fats. I’m not saying eating one of these is like popping a vitamin by any means, but there is no oil or butter added and the sweetener is sucanat.

Sucanat, or evaporated cane juice, is a brand name sweetener named for the French term, sucre de canne natural.

Sucanat is what I like to call hippie sugar. Of all major sugars derived from sugar cane, it ranks highest in nutritional value. Brown and grainy, sucanat is unprocessed and unrefined, it’s simply dried sugar cane juice. You can buy it at most grocery stores, but to save money, head to the bulk section of Whole Foods or your local co-op. A one pound bag costs roughly $3.99, where as 3/4 of a cup, the amount called for here, will cost you less than 50 cents from the bin.

A word of caution, when baking err on the side of under-cooked, or the crunch factor will be too pronounced. I’d suggest to start checking them at 8 minutes, looking for a hardened top, just shy of browning.

Gluten-Free Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 cookies
Ingredients
1 cup unsalted almond butter, stirred well
3/4 cup sucanat
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, 60 percent cocoa or greater chopped into small pieces
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl stir together first five ingredients until blended. Stir in chocolate.
2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until very lightly browned.
3. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool for 15 more minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Gluten-free, Recipes