Archive for ‘Gluten-Free’

February 28, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Goat Cheese and Parsley

I have a confession to make: the spaghetti squash, which came from my CSA, for this recipe must have sat on my countertop for two months. Secretly, I was hoping it would go bad, so I wouldn’t have to figure out what to do with it. But I realized after two months that it was wishful thinking.

I scrounged through a vegetarian cookbook and realized that I could roast the squash without cutting it first. When I cooked spaghetti squash last year, I cut it in half lengthwise and then roasted it in the oven with the fleshy side down. But getting a knife through the uncooked squash was a huge challenge—one I didn’t want to endure again. So, this time, I poked holes throughout the squash with a fork and put it in the oven to roast at 375 degrees for an hour. After that, it was almost effortless to slice the squash in half. After scraping out the seeds, I dragged a fork through the flesh, pulling the strands apart. Then, I simply tossed it with a few tablespoons of butter, 1 cup of goat cheese, a handful of chopped parsley and some salt and pepper. My squash was so big it must have made 12 cups of spaghetti squash.

Surprisingly, the kids more than tolerated it. S said she liked it, but didn’t love it. Meanwhile, C gobbled his up quickly. But the truth is, C saw the squash as a vehicle for goat cheese, one of his favorites. Although I served it for dinner, I had plenty left over the next day. I decided to pack it in S’s lunch with some deli turkey on the side. It tastes fine at room temperature.  As for me, I warmed up the leftovers and ate it with an over-easy egg for a low-carb breakfast. That runny yolk made the squash unbelievably rich and delicious.

February 24, 2012

Chickpea, Spinach and Cauliflower Curry

I was craving a hearty vegetarian meal last night, so I decided to tinker with a few chickpea and spinach curry recipes. Both my kids like Indian food (But I want them to like it more!), so I thought this was a good way to get them used to more spices, without setting their lips and tongue on fire. Some of the recipes called for tomatoes, while others relied on a cucumber yogurt accompaniment for acidity. I decided to go with the tomatoes, since I’m a big fan of one-pot meals.

Somewhat to my surprise, the kids loved it. S had three servings and asked for it for lunch today. Everyone agreed it was a dish I should make again. Yay! Simple pleasures.

Unfortunately, I didn’t measure any of the ingredients or spices last night, so I’m not sure I can replicate the dish. I basically kept adding spices until I felt that it had enough flavor. I started by sautéing one large chopped onion with a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger. Then I added roughly 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground cumin and ground coriander, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder and a fat pinch of salt. What I wish I had was some garam masala. But last night I had to make do without it. Once the spices became fragrant, I added a can of drained chickpeas, florets from a small head of cauliflower, a 16 oz. bag of thawed frozen spinach and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes. I let it simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, until all the flavors blended and there was a nice thick consistency. Serve it over rice with a little chopped cilantro over the top.

This is a great recipe when you’re low on fresh produce. All you need is an onion and cauliflower. You could also make it without the cauliflower.

Note to reader and self:  Indian food really does not photograph well.

February 23, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Grilled Chicken

Leftovers! I love leftovers, because it makes packing lunch a cinch. Last night’s quinoa salad and grilled chicken went straight from my Pyrex dish in the fridge into S’s LunchBots container.

Quinoa is a high-protein, gluten-free grain (actually, a seed) that’s easy to make and very versatile. I had a plethora of cucumbers and grape tomatoes, so I decided to go Greek with the quinoa salad. I like to make quinoa in my rice cooker because it’s perfect every time and I don’t have to think about it once I hit “Cook.” After letting it cool, I tossed it with finely chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, minced flat-leaf parsley and red onion, chopped and pitted Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. Then I made a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and dried oregano. I gently mixed it all together and let it chill in the fridge, while I grilled chicken breasts that were marinated in pesto.

Along with the quinoa salad, I packed some carrots, fruit and blue corn chips.  All done and all gluten-free.

February 21, 2012

Zucchini Patties with Feta

I’m always looking for ways to use up zucchinis, especially in the summer when they’re in season, so when I came across this recipe I had to try it. I couldn’t wait for the summer. And I’m glad I did, because C ate three in a sitting. S was lukewarm on them, telling me she prefers spinach patties. Oh, well. You can’t please everyone all of the time.

I bought so many zucchinis that I ended up doubling the Epicurious recipe.  To make it gluten-free, I simply substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour for the regular wheat flour. Other than that, it calls for eggs, feta cheese, green onions (which I subbed with sautéed white onions and garlic) and fresh parsley and dill. I left out the dill, because I wasn’t sure the kids would like it. Instead, I minced and stirred it into the Greek yogurt dipping sauce that accompanies the zucchini cakes. As it turns out, the kids loved the dill in the yogurt. Next time, I’ll definitely mix it into the patties. I may also try it with Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, instead of the feta.

We had them as side dish with dinner, and the next morning C asked for them for breakfast. Even though S thought they were just meh, I packed them in her lunch. I froze the rest, so I could have an easy, healthy snack on hand.

CLICK HERE for the Zucchini Patties with Feta recipe.

 

February 7, 2012

Thai Fish Cakes

It’s a feast of leftovers at my house, after hosting a Thai food party on Saturday evening (I’m kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures!). I was so worried there wouldn’t be enough food that I sort of  completely overdid it. I made 100 Thai fish cakes, 100 skewers of chicken satay, a large mound of papaya salad and a vat of vegetarian green curry. And that was for 15 skinny women. On top of that, a friend of mine brought two rice noodle dishes, one cold and the other warm. Plus, another made Thai coconut and mango sticky rice. In my defense, I had a handful of moms who at the last minute couldn’t make it.

My kids love Thai fish cakes, especially after dipping them in a sweet chili sauce. It’s a good thing they dig them, because in addition to having them for dinner and snack time, they’re also showing up in S’s lunch today. Fish cakes are one of the very few foods I deep fry. But they’re so quintessentially Thai and so delicious that I give myself a get-out-of-jail pass for serving them to my kids. And I make them only once or twice a year.

The secret to a good fish cake is using kaffir lime leaves. I like to throw in a few extras for extra flavor, and I use a very generous tablespoon of red curry paste. Then, I also add some minced lemongrass, even though the recipe below doesn’t call for it. Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, a beaten egg and some thinly sliced snake beans or green beans and you’re ready to mix and shape them into little patties. I deep fry them in a wok, and drain and blot them on paper towels after they’re cooked. Serve these to your family warm, and I promise they’ll think you’re a culinary goddess. But don’t forget that dipping sauce. It comes in a glass bottle, often in the international section of grocery stores and at Trader Joe’s.

Fried Fish Cakes with Green Beans (from The Food of Thailand)

Makes 30

Ingredients

1 lb. firm white fish fillets

1 generous TB red curry paste

1 TB fish sauce

1 egg

2 oz. snake beans or green beans, finely sliced

5 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves, finely shredded

peanut oil, for deep-frying

sweet chili sauce to serve

Directions

Remove any skin and bone from the fish and roughly chop the flesh. In a food processor or a blender, mince the fish fillets until smooth. Add the curry paste, fish sauce and egg, then blend briefly until until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and mix in the beans and kaffir lime leaves. Use wet hands to shape the fish paste into thin, fat cakes, about 5 cm (2 inches) across, using about a tablespoon of mixture of each.

Heat 5 cm (2 inches) oil in a wok or deep frying pan over a medium heat. When the oil seems hot, drop a small piece of fish cake into it. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.

Lower five or six of the fish cakes into the oil and deep-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides and very puffy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep the cooked fish cakes warm while deep-frying the rest. Serve hot with sweet chili sauce.

January 31, 2012

Five under 5: Pesto Pasta

I’m completely exhausted. I don’t know if it was all the Chinese New Year festivities or sleeping six hours each night for the past week, but I am toast—crispy and burnt. So, for the next week or so, I’m going to try to come up with five lunches that have five or fewer ingredients. This morning, I grabbed some leftover (already cooked) brown-rice fusilli noodles from the fridge, a handful of peas from the freezer and ran them both together under very hot water. Then, I warmed store-bought pesto (I like Buitoni) and tossed the peas and pasta in it. Lastly, I chopped some grape tomatoes and sprinkled it throughout the pasta. Lunch is done, and using just four ingredients: fusilli pasta, pesto, peas, and grape tomatoes. Yay! To turn this into dinner, all you’d have to do is grill some chicken or fish and serve  it alongside the pasta.

January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year – Making Tea Eggs

I have memories of my mom making these eggs for me when I could barely peer over the stove. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see the hard-boiled eggs bubbling in the pot, because I could smell them. The aroma of anise, cinnamon, orange peel and black tea would waft through the house as the eggs simmered hour after hour. I’d be so excited when she turned off the heat, but I would have to continue to wait. And as you know, waiting is not a children’s game. The eggs had to steep in the tea overnight, so the dark caramel color could penetrate the egg’s cracks and create a beautiful marbled effect. This takes coloring eggs to another level—and without the food coloring. Bonus: they’re incredibly easy to make.

In the morning, I would be the first one down the stairs because I wanted dibs on the eggs.  I’d examine all the tea-stained shells and find the one with the most cracks—but small, fine cracks, without large pieces of shell broken off. Those were usually the most beautiful inside. Then, I would carefully peel off the shell to reveal the art beneath. Egg after egg after egg, the anticipation never wore off. My brother and I would compare eggs, and like a typical boy he didn’t care that I had the prettier egg. But I did.

Now, I get to pass on the tradition to my kids. I watched this morning as S painstakingly removed the shell of her tea egg. Her excitement mounted with each fragment of shell that came off. She was so pleased with herself when she was finally done. After admiring the intricacy of the design, she gobbled it up and asked me, “Can I take one to school, so everyone else can see what tea eggs look like?” After C peeled his egg, he asked me repeatedly, “How’d you do that?”

I love that the kids love tea eggs, and not just because I have such fond memories of my mom making them. Eggs are high in choline, which is essential brain food for growing children. Plus, the high quality protein in the eggs keep them full longer, gives them more energy and makes them more alert. Sure beats a handful of crackers or Pirate Booty.

Note: These do taste different from regular hard-boiled eggs, but it’s subtle. However, the fragrance of all the spices is pretty strong. When you bring that egg to your lips, you’ll get a nice whiff of anise, cinnamon and tea.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Ingredients:

12 eggs

4 TB of black tea leaves (or 4 tea bags)

1/2 cup soy sauce (or tamari, if you’re gluten-free)

2 tsp salt

1 TB sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 star of anise

1 tsp. Szechwan peppercorns (optional)

3 strips of dried mandarin orange peel (optional)

Directions:

Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs, but leave the water in the pot. Cool the eggs under running water. Using the back of a small spoon, or the surface of a hard counter, tap the eggshell to create cracks all over. You want to tap hard enough to make the cracks, but not so hard that pieces of shell start to fall off.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the eggs back into the pot and simmer on low for three hours. Turn off the heat, and let the eggs steep in the tea overnight. Peel, admire beauty and eat.

January 17, 2012

Kale and White Bean Soup

After last week’s Frito Pie, I decided we needed to cleanse our system with kale. Lots of it. Yay for super foods! That’s why I was instantly sold when I came across this kale and white bean soup from Epicurious.com. It calls for one whole pound of lacinato kale.  And soup was just the thing, in the midst of a few cold chilly days. Yes, contrary to popular belief, it can get quite brisk in San Diego.

The recipe uses dried beans, but you could just as easily substitute canned ones. If you opt for canned, I recommend that you add the beans towards the end, at the same time as the carrots. Otherwise, your beans will disintegrate after all that simmering. Instead of kielbasa, I chose a smoked chicken sausage with apple and chardonnay from Trader Joe’s. It’s lower in fat, but I think ultimately it was also lower in flavor. Next time, I’ll stick with kielbasa. Last bit of advice: don’t leave out the piece of Parmigian-Reggiano rind. It gives the soup so much richness and depth.

Even if your kids aren’t big fans of kale, I recommend that you try this recipe. Once kale is cooked in a soup or stew, its flavor really mellows out and turns from slightly bitter to sweet. S had seconds for dinner and then asked for it for lunch the next day. C only had one serving, but licked his bowl clean.

CLICK HERE for Epicurious.com’s Kale and White Bean Soup recipe.

January 13, 2012

Recipe Makeover: Frito Pie!

I never thought I would, but I did. And I blame it on the Texan I’m married to. Once or twice a year, my husband gets a faraway, wistful look in his eyes as he recounts how he and his childhood friend used to open a can of chili and pour it into a bag of Fritos.

“Mmmmm,” he’d say. “Frito pie. Those were the days.”

I’d respond with a roll of the eyes and a groan.

For me, Frito pie is right up down there with a tater-tot casserole or a green bean casserole made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and Durkee French fried onions. It just seems antithetical to all things culinary and nutritive. But, love drives you to do strange things.

I heard my husband’s story again over Christmas, so it was fresh in my mind when earlier this week Saveur featured its version of Frito pie on its Facebook page. I thought, I have to see this recipe. The recipe comes from Mabel’s Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Initially, I had my doubts—because what do New Yawkers know about barbecue and Southwestern food, right? But I was impressed with how heavy handed they are with the spices in their chili. They throw in 2 tablespoons each of cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, 1 tablespoon of paprika and garlic powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. At the least, I would have a very flavorful chili. So I decided to challenge myself to a Frito pie recipe makeover. Why not take gas station fare to a much higher level, and at the same time let my husband revisit some of his fondest childhood memories?

I substituted half the ground beef with ground elk to make it healthier, and I also added a can of kidney beans so the chili wouldn’t be so meaty. If I were to do it again, I would add two cans of beans. As the chili was simmering and thickening, I cut up 5 ounces of kale into thin ribbons and threw them into the pot. I know, I know. But, really, no one could tell. Lastly, though this is probably sacrilege to Frito pie aficionados, I substituted Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Chip Dippers for Fritos. They’re basically an organic version of Fritos. Seems silly, but it soothed my conscience.

The Frito pie was a hit! No surprise, right? My husband topped his with sour cream, shredded cheese and lots of sliced jalapeños. Meanwhile, the kids couldn’t get over the fact that they could eat corn chips with dinner. In my family’s eyes, I was Top Chef.

Of course, S wanted Frito pie for lunch. After all, that means she gets to eat more of those corn chip dippers! How can I blame her? Because I confess: I’ve turned into a Frito-pie convert.

Here’s the link to the recipe at Saveur.com:

Frito Pie

January 6, 2012

My Favorite Noodle Dish—Ever

This is that dish. Which dish? That dish. The one you pine for when you’re away at camp for the very first time. The one you want every time you visit home. The one you crave at midnight when you’re seven months pregnant. Yes, that dish. The one that makes everything in the world right again, because it’s comfort and home wrapped in a warm bowl. For some of you, it might be lasagna, chicken pot pie or your mom’s fried chicken. For me, it’s this Chinese noodle dish, better known as “wat tan hor” or “char hor fun” in Cantonese. I grew up with it in Singapore and Malaysia, where you could get it at every hawker center in town. Even though my mom never cooked it, it holds a special spot in my heart—and, well, my gut. A delicious egg gravy with seafood and vegetables is poured over pan-fried rice noodles to create gastronomical bliss. It’s something you wish you could bathe in. Before fluids were outlawed on airplanes, I used to have my mom buy the dish from a little hole-in-the-wall in Atlanta and bring it to me when she came to visit.

      

In my family, we’ve renamed it Fat Noodle, after the thick, flat rice noodles that are in the dish. For years, I resigned myself to only getting to eat it whenever I visited home or went overseas. But then, one day I decided I had to try to make it myself. The first few times, it was embarrassing. Yes, it was edible, but nothing like the real deal.

      

After tinkering with a little more rice wine here and and a tad more oyster sauce there, I created something close to the perfect combination. I learned along the way that the secret to a good egg sauce is to turn off the heat immediately after cracking the eggs into the wok. Then you stir quickly, but with just a few strokes to break up the egg. If you leave the heat on, the sauce curdles and gets lumpy.

In my recipe I use shitake mushrooms, which is not traditionally in the dish but I think it adds a nice butteriness. Admittedly, my version of Fat Noodle is not as good as what you get in the streets of Penang, but it’s more than a respectable substitute. And definitely good enough to make you blow your low-carb diet. Added bonus: it’s gluten-free. Yes, the kids love it, too—especially as leftovers in their lunchbox.

The recipe follows the photo. If you don’t like seafood, try chicken, pork or beef.

Wat Tan Hor (Pan Fried Rice Noodles with Egg Gravy and Seafood)

Ingredients

Noodles

1 package of fresh rice noodles

1 1/2 TB light soy sauce

1 1/2 TB dark soy sauce

1 1/2 TB peanut oil

Seafood

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb. large scallops

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1/2 TB peanut oil

Gravy

1 1/2 TB garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal

6 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb. baby bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 TB oyster sauce

1 TB soy sauce

1 TB Shao Hsing rice cooking wine

1 tsp sugar

3 1/2 TB cornstarch

3 large eggs

Separate the noodles into individual strands and place them into a bowl. Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok or pan and put in a third of the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 TB light and dark soy sauce over the noodles. Stir-fry to keep the noodles from sticking. Remove the noodles after they turn a light brown color. Make sure they’re heated all the way through but not overcooked, otherwise they’ll get mushy. Repeat with the next two batches of noodles and add peanut oil as necessary. Set aside and cover with foil. Wipe out wok.

Toss the shrimp and scallops with the sesame oil and minced garlic. Heat 1/2 TB peanut oil in wok over high heat and stir-fry shrimp and scallops until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Wipe out wok.

Stir 1 cup chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry quickly for 15 seconds. Add carrots, mushrooms, stems of baby bok choy and stir-fry for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves. Pour in three cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops back into the wok. Stir chicken broth-oyster sauce mixture and pour into wok. Wait for it to simmer and thicken into a gravy. Crack the three eggs into the wok, turn off the heat and stir quickly with just a few strokes to mix the egg into the gravy. Do not overcook the eggs or the gravy will turn lumpy.

Put a helping of noodles on a dish and ladle the warm gravy over it. Indulge.

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