October 15, 2015

Spaghetti Squash with Walnut and Arugula Pesto

Fresh, rich, light, and seasonal, all at once! If you prefer a vegan version, simply omit the cheese.

For about 1 1/2 cups of pesto, you will need:

1 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted (Sauté pan, medium heat, watch carefully and toss to prevent burning!)
1-2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup arugula, firmly packed
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped and firmly packed
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (to your taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 medium lemon)
Optional: 1/3 cup grated hard Italian cheese (I like Pecorino Romano here. Grana Padano and Parmesan are also great.)

Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor for about 20 seconds to incorporate. Then process for about one minute until it becomes a smooth, thick, textured paste.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash, recipe here

Toss with cooked spaghetti squash (or pasta!) in a separate bowl before plating. I like a lot of pesto, so I use about 2 tablespoons sauce per serving, but this is entirely up to you. Serve with fresh black pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and more cheese.

Perfect Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a an amazing substitute for grain or rice noodles. You get the satisfaction (fiber!) and mouth feel of a pile of pasta, with a wide range of vitamins and without the high carbs. It's taste is light and neutral, and thus a perfect vehicle for sauces. 

It can be challenging to prepare, however. No one wants a mound of watery, overcooked mush! Here's my secret for perfectly al dente, slightly crunchy, individual strands of spaghetti squash, great in place of pasta or cold as a salad. 

As a generous meal for 2, you will need:

1 small spaghetti squash, 1 1/2 to 2 lbs, cut in half horizontally, seeds scooped out
Olive oil
Optional: Sprinkle of kosher salt


Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle the cut sides of the squash with olive oil, and place, face up, in a roasting pan. (You want the excess water to evaporate from the squash, leaving behind cooked squash with a firm texture. If you put the squash face down, it will cook faster, but essentially steam, and leave you with a mushy end product.)

Roast, uncovered, for 1 to 1.25 hours. If a knife or fork easily pierces the flesh and the skin is dry, fragile, and lightly browned, the squash is done. Let cool until safe to handle. Using a fork, gently "fluff" out the strands of squash, working from the center, then scoop out around the skin.

Serve hot with your favorite pasta sauce or with vinaigrette as a salad. (I suggest a caesar, or with goat cheese, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, and vinaigrette!)

March 22, 2015

The Simplest Beef Paprikash

The last gasp of winter means the last gasp of winter comfort food! I can't claim any Hungarian heritage, and I haven't yet visited the country. But when I was a kid, my mother made Hungarian Goulash fairly often, out of a midcentury edition of The Joy of Cooking.  It was a simple recipe, eaten with hot buttered noodles or sticky white rice. It was one of my favorite childhood dinners, and very easy to make. My version is kid-friendly, allergen-free, and highly adaptable to your individual tastes.

For 4-6 servings, you will need:

1 3/4 - 2 lbs stew beef (chuck roast is a good choice) cut into 1" cubes
2 tablespoons oil (olive and veggie are fine. I used bacon fat for extra oomph)
5 cups sliced yellow onions, cut 1/3 inch thick (About 1 1/2 lbs whole, unpeeled onions)
3 tablespoons sweet paprika (If you want heat, you can replace some of the sweet paprika for hot paprika, to your taste.)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme (Or oregano or marjoram. Or caraway seeds, as some traditional recipes call for. It's up to you!)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Pepper, to taste
Parsley and Sour Cream/Plain Yogurt, optional, as garnish


In a heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven, fry beef over high heat in 1 tablespoon of oil until well browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the second tablespoon of oil, the paprika, the onions, the herbs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes. Then, scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. (The onions will become soft and translucent, and their moisture will have softened the fond of caramelized meat, oil, and paprika at the bottom of the pot.)

Add 2 cups water and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, checking every 1/2 hour or so to scrape the bottom of the pot and make sure enough liquid remains, as it will evaporate and thicken. Add water as needed, a 1/2 cup at a time. There should be enough liquid to cover the meat about halfway, and it should be the viscosity of heavy cream. (You could also place the pot, covered, in a 275 degree oven for 2-3 hours.)

The stew is cooked when the meat is fork tender. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Serve with buttered noodles, boiled potatoes, or rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, if you wish.

March 1, 2015

Whole Grain Country Bread: Version 1

Every time I post a g-free bread recipe,  I wax poetic about good wheat bread and how much I miss it.  My absolute favorite breads are Russian and Polish country ryes, some lighter ("Grandma's Bread") some darker ("Farmer's Bread") and made with a mix of whole wheat and rye flours, sourdough starter, salt, and water. They're more dense than a Western European bread, but with a moist, tender texture that makes them light enough for a sandwich and perfect for morning toast. But my favorite thing about them is how they taste: They are sour and earthy, not simply flavorless, cardboard vehicles for meats and cheeses, but really unique flavors all their own. 

All this is well and good, and strictly off limits for me, and presumably you, too, if you're reading this blog. Most passable commercial g-free breads that I've found are more in the vein of a white sandwich bread.  Udi's has done a great job with texture, and the flavor is light and kid-friendly. But what if we want a more grown-up tasting bread?

This is my first pass at a g-free, dairy-free, whole grain yeast bread that's packed with protein and nutrition and full of flavor. It's moist, and it holds together better than most g-free breads. The crust is thick, crunchy, and delicious. It's also quite easy to make. (I used King Arthur's Gluten-Free Whole-Grain Bread recipe as a proportional jumping off point, but as you'll see, I made so many changes that my version is quite different.)  I'm really happy with this bread, and I'll share variations in future posts. I also welcome your feedback and would LOVE to hear about your adventures in g-free bread making in the comments!

Note: I strongly recommend using a digital scale for bread making. It's more accurate and less messy than measuring cups.  I use grams rather than ounces because the measurements are smaller, so more accurate and easier to calculate. (Also a habit from reading French cookbooks!) Most digital scales will switch back and forth between grams and ounces. 

Another note: Yes, there are a lot of eggs in this recipe. Eggs = structure, rise, tenderness, flavor, and nutrition. I'll post an egg-free version later for those egg-free folks out there. 

Last note: You'll notice that, unlike wheat bread recipes, there's only one rise here. With wheat bread,   the gases produced by the yeast strain against the elastic bands of gluten, which produces the fabulous, complex texture we love about wheat bread. Here, we're relying on eggs and starches and xantham gum for structure, but they're not nearly as strong as stretchy as gluten, and so we don't need a second rise to develop texture. We want to get as much lift as we can out of the first rise, and get than sucker in the oven!

For one loaf, you will need: 

2 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend (332g)
1/2 cup millet flour (64g)
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (32g)
1/4 cup teff flour (42g)
1/4 cup raw milled flax seed (21g) You can buy it already ground, but it's cheaper and fresher to buy the seeds whole and grind them yourself in a good blender or spice/coffee grinder. 
2 teaspoons instant yeast (One 1/4 ounce envelope of "Rapid Rise" Yeast.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons xantham gum
1 cup water
3 large egg whites
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil with excellent results.)
2 tablespoons honey (Tip: Measure the honey after the vegetable oil, using the same spoon. The honey will slip out with no mess or sticky fingers.)


Whisk all the dry ingredients in large bowl until well-integrated. Beat all the wet ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix with a hand or stand mixer for about 3 minutes on high. (Start on low power to incorporate, then increase speed.) 

Scrape the dough (yes, it's quite wet, more like a quick bread batter than a wheat bread dough) into a well-greased 5x9 inch glass loaf pan. (Glass is an even, gentle heat conductor, and you won't risk hot spots and burning like you might with a metal pan.)  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit in warm place for approximately 1 hour, until the dough rises about an inch above the top of the pan. It may start to spill over; if so, just gently scoop the dough back into the center of the pan. 

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until the crust is crispy and brown, the internal temperature reaches about 202 degrees, and a knife put through the center of the loaf comes out almost clean, just barely sticky. (If you want to mix the dough ahead and bake a few hours later, you need to slow down the rise. Put the covered loaf pan in the fridge until a couple of hours before you're ready to bake it. Then, let it sit in a warm place on the counter to finish its rise. 

Once the bread is baked, immediately turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool for a good 30 minutes before cutting. (It will continue to set up as a cools - it you cut into it while it's steamy and warm, you'll be greeted with a gummy loaf.)

Once it's cool, cut it into 1/2 inch slices and and store it, well-wrapped, in the freezer until you're ready to eat it. I recommend microwaving it for 15-20 seconds a slice for warm, soft, just-baked-tasting bread. If you like it toasted, microwave first for best results.

November 26, 2014

Brazilian Cheese Buns - Pao de Queijo

Standing in line at the grocery store right before Thanksgiving, what do you see on the covers of all the food magazines? Turkey. What's gluten-free? Turkey!

Thanksgiving can be pretty easy on a gluten-free diet, since most of the classic dishes are naturally g-free or can be made so with a small adjustment or two. Green beans? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Mashed potatoes? Check. Sweet potatoes with pecans and maple syrup? Yum, check. Gravy? Substitute a gluten-free blend for the regular flour. Pie? Try my Almond Crust.

Even the stuffing/dressing is possible. Instead of regular bread or croutons, just get a loaf of good gluten-free white bread (for this, I like Whole Foods' Gluten Free Bakehouse Light White Sandwich Bread from their freezer case. It's dairy-free. Their Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread has milk.) Cut the bread slices into small cubes, spread them out on a cookie sheet, give them an hour in the oven at 275 degrees until they're hard and dry. Then do your usual recipe. Mine is celery, onion, sage, thyme, and rosemary, lots of salt and pepper, broth, olive oil or butter. Use that as your base, then add dried fruit, sausage, etc. etc. at will. Bake it in a greased dish for an hour or so until it's crispy and brown on top. Or stuff some crimini mushroom caps, drizzle with olive oil, and bake those for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. A really great side.

So, all that to get to the part of a wheaty Thanksgiving that I do miss: ROLLS! I love soft, fluffy white rolls with my turkey dinner. I love them the next day with leftovers. I can't eat them anymore, and frankly, I hadn't found a gluten-free version that I loved.  And then I remembered Brazil's cheesy, moist, delicious pão de queijo cheese rolls. They're made with tapioca starch, which lends them a sticky, toothsome texture. They're savory and salty and decadent, worthy of a holiday table. 

I make mine in mini muffin tins with a loose batter, which lends a super moist and pretty result. (Traditionally, the batter is drier and formed into balls.) The texture and shape is very similar to popovers, and who doesn't love a cheese popover? Plan on at least 3 per person, more for kids and bread fiends like me. They will disappear. (And, yes, you can make them dairy-free with Daiya!)

For about 20 mini muffins, you will need:

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup milk, either dairy or a non-dairy alternative. For non-dairy cooking, I almost exclusively use So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage  for its neutral flavor, good texture, and lack of sweetness. 
1 cup lightly packed, finely grated, flavorful, good quality hard cheese. I use Percorino Romano. Parmesan or the like is also great. You'll want cheese that is grated in a food processor rather than on a box grater, because it will integrate better into the batter. OR, if you're doing dairy-free, you can use Daiya Shreds. I suggest putting the batter in a blender to integrate the Daiya. 
Black pepper, to taste, optional
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch/flour


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a non-stick mini muffin pan with a touch of olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together everything but the tapioca starch. (If you're using dairy-free cheese, now's the time to blend the batter.) Now whisk in the tapioca until it's completely integrated into the liquid with no lumps. Pour the batter into the mini muffin pan. One full tablespoon should fill each cup almost to the top. You should get 20-21 muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. They should be pale blond on top, light golden brown on the bottom.

Flip them out of the pans right away to cool - they should fall right out. They are infinitely better if served IMMEDIATELY!

(However, you can make them a day ahead, store them in an airtight container, and reheat them on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for a few minutes right before serving. Please, don't serve them cold, and don't microwave them! They just won't be as delectable.)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!