Wednesday, 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!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Italian White Bean and Tuna Salad

For some reason, there's nothing I love more than putting together a nice lunch or supper from my pantry. Maybe it's a strong foraging instinct, rooting around for what's available nearby, and creating something delicious within those limitations. 

This is a classic Italian dish that's super quick, easy, and tasty. Because it's so simple, the individual flavors really shine, so the quality of the ingredients is really important. I recommend a good quality olive oil, one that is sweet and a little peppery. If you're using tuna, an Italian or Spanish olive oil packed tuna is preferable to an American brand. (The difference in flavor and texture is pretty stark.)  If you can't get your hands on Italian tuna, try wild salmon broiled with olive oil and lots of salt. Equally tender and flakey, and great if you're avoiding tuna (mercury) or trying to eat more salmon (omega fatty acids).

Ideally I prefer cooked dried white beans (cannellini, navy) to canned: I have much more control over the texture, and I like my beans to be a little bit on the firmer side. However, dried beans need an overnight soak and planning, and I think canned are a great convenience. Since all brands have a slightly difference texture, just choose one that has a texture that you like and keep it on hand.

Proportions are really your preference, and since this recipe is about using what you have on hand, I'll just list the ingredients.

You will need:

Canned or Jarred Tuna Fish, Italian or Spanish, packed in olive oil (or fresh wild salmon, broiled with salt and olive oil)
Canned White Beans (cannellini, navy)
Red Onion, finely chopped
Greens of Your Choice: Parsley, arugula, shredded radicchio or endive, chopped romaine, fresh, spinach, etc. etc. Use individually or mix to your preferences.
Herbs: Chopped fresh thyme is good here. So are dill and torn basil leaves. Use what you like and what you have in the fridge.
Acid: Lemon juice, red wine or white wine or rice vinegar
Really Good Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper


Gently flake the fish, making sure not the mash it. (You want tender bite-sized pieces of recognizable fish throughout your salad.) Toss with the beans and red onion and greens and herbs. Dress with the acid, the oil, and lots of salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

This recipe is inspired by Alanna Taylor-Tobin's gorgeous blog The Bojon Gourmet. Her recipes are health conscious and modern and her photos are stunning. It was her recipe for Gluten-Free Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi that caught my eye. I realized I really needed a recipe for a basic gluten-free, dairy-free potato gnocchi! Gnocchi are surprisingly easy to make. Usually they contain just potatoes, wheat flour, eggs, and salt. For my gluten-free version, I tried nutrient dense flours like millet, but the texture was a bit gritty and the strong grain flavors competed with the lovely, light flavor of potato that makes gnocchi so comforting and such a great vehicle for sauces.

So,  I kept things simple and used sticky glutinous rice flour and egg to hold everything together. The result is light, tender, and versatile, and would fool a gluten-loving dinner guest. You can serve them boiled with a sauce (basil pesto and Bolognese are yummy) or pan-fried with sauteed mushrooms and grated cheese. The fried version would also be great as a potato side for a really good steak. 

As a main course for 2 or appetizer or side for 4, you will need:

2 large russet potatoes, skipricked with a fork and microwaved until cooked through. (The microwave is my g-free secret to getting the excess water out of the potatoes and creating an ideal texture that is light but sticky. I also microwave the potatoes in my latke recipeAnd it's much faster than the oven. Start with 6 minutes on high for 1 potato, 8 minutes for two. If a knife goes through the potato easily, it's cooked.) Allow to cool completely. 
1/4 cup glutinous rice flour, also called "sweet" rice flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown rice flour or millet flour for dusting

Peel the cooled potatoes and pass them through a sieve or potato ricer. From two large potatoes, you should get just under 3 cups of light, fluffy riced potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add the egg, salt, and rice flour. Mix with your hands until you have a smooth dough. Do not over mix, or the starches will become too gluey and dense. 

Generously dust a clean counter or cutting board with a slightly courser g-free flour such as Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. (To absorb excess liquid and prevent sticking.) Take small handfuls of dough and roll into logs that are about 3/4" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 1/2" long. Using a fork dipped in rice flour, lightly squish each gnocchi until you see the pattern of the fork tines. Then rotate 90 degrees and squish agaiuntil each gnocchi forma a 1" rectangle. These fork marks allow a sauce to cling to the gnocchi, and they make them more attractive, too. 

You can cook them immediately, but I recommend leaving them on the counter for a couple of hours to air dry. They'll hold up better during cooking this way. Sadly, they don't freeze well, so you'll want to cook and eat them the day you make them. 

You can cook them several different ways:

Boiled: Drop into a large pot of salted, boiling water. When they float (after about 1 minute), give them 30 more seconds. Do not overcook, or they will disintegrate. Drain, sauce, and serve immediately.

Boiled and Fried: Drop into a large pot of salted, boiling water. When they float (after about 1 minute), drain them, then pan fry them in butter or olive oil until lightly golden on one or more sides.

Steam Fried: Place a few tablespoons of water and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a large nonstick skillet with a lid. Bring to a simmer, add the gnocchi in a single a layer, and cover. After a couple of minutes, when all the water has evaporated, remove the lid and fry the gnocchi until golden on all sides. These will be very crispy and a little firmer than the boiled version. They would be great with meats.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apple and Honey Tarte with Almond Crust

L'Shana Tova! Today is Rosh Hashanha, the Jewish New Year, and I'm off to the Upper West Side to visit my dad's cousin, Clarice. Every year I make something with apples and honey, eaten on Rosh Hashanha to express hope that the coming year will be sweet. 

This year, it's a French-style apple tarte, drizzled with honey and baked in a gluten-free almond short crust. 

The crust recipe couldn't be simpler, and you could used it for any sweet filling. Pre-bake for pudding or fresh fruit tartes. I par baked it for 10 minutes at 325 degrees before adding a healthy schmear of homemade spiced apple sauce, then layers of very thinly sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon, drizzled with honey, and dotted with butter. I baked the tarte for about an hour at 325 so as not to burn the almonds in the crust, but you could shorten the time and crank up to 350 if you watch the edges carefully. Make sure to place the filled tarte pan on a large baking sheet for baking, so you don't risk ruining the delicate crust as you take it out of the oven. 

For one 10-inch tarte pan with removable bottom, you will need:

2 cups blanched almond meal
3 tablespoons glutinous (sweet) rice flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter or Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces.

Cut the butter into other ingredients with a pastry cutter, a food processor, or your fingers. As the butter warms, the dough will start to hold together. Press firmly into your tarte pan. Prick with a fork before par or pre-baking.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gluten-Free Pancakes: Another Win for Bisquick

Followed the directions on the box. Used rice milk, eggs, and Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks. Ener-G Egg Replacer would also work fine. They were light, fluffy, and tasted just like a pancake should. Win!