Category Archives: gluten free

Some thoughts (in verse)

The celiac’s lament (a large GI grumble)

Peristalsis and I are no longer friends;
Barely do I swallow the food
before it comes out the end.


Cumilonimbus layered on an overcast sky;
already depressed, likely to thunder & cry.


An unsalted thanks

I’ve been cooking, and adapting my cooking, to deal with the new low-salt restriction in my dad’s diet.  Since it was just us two this year for Thanksgiving, I could experiment with something other than turkey (sacriligeous secret, I don’t like turkey) and try my hand at slight less salty, less fatty versions of our traditional dishes.  I ended up with a low sodium, mostly low-carb, low-sugar holiday meal that was really delicious.  (Even if I added some salt to my plate.  I can’t help it, my normal BP is 100/60, I need that NAO2.)

Weird flowers brought home from work, because I like weird things.

Duck marinated in red wine, smashed garlic, rosemary, sage, parsley & juniper berries with herbs, roasted according to Amanda Hesser’s method in The Cook & the Gardener.

Sliced & served with windowsill herbs.

Gluten-free stuffing– wild rice cooked in red wine (the rest of the Bogle Merlot used on the duck) and butter and water, 4 italian sausages browned in a saute pan with red onion, 2 gala apples, a handful of dried cranberries & walnuts, then baked in a 350F oven with a splash of low-salt (Whole Foods 365 Organic) chicken broth & butter until the rice is cooked through & everything’s hot.

Cippolini onions & peeled shallots, cooked according to the recipe for braised rutabaga in Nigel Slater’s Tender.  Unsalted butter, low sodium chicken stock, white pepper, a pinch of white organic sugar.  Dressed once the liquid was boiled almost all the way down with generous gratings of nutmeg & two tablespoons of heavy cream, cooked until thickened & glazed.

One half a red cabbage, cooked again according to the recipe for red cabbage braised with cider vinegar from Tender.  Vegetable oil, black pepper, juniper berries, cider vinegar, a teaspoon of agave nectar and vinegar to correct a little burning at the end.

Warm potato & cucumber salad, dressed with mustard, olive oil, cider vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, chopped fresh dill, a pinch of sugar, black pepper.  Nigel Slater’s Tender, again.

Pumpkin cheesecake.  Gluten free, low sugar, low salt pumpkin cheesecake.  It looks like this when you slice it.

The recipe is based off this one, except I used gluten-free gingersnaps sweetened with stevia I bought from work and walnuts plus unsalted butter and agave nectar in the crust, (otherwise following the directions) then used full-fat ricotta & agave nectar in the pie instead of honey/maple syrup and lowfat ricotta.  I used 1/2 cup more pumpkin and 1/2 cup less ricotta than called for, to level out the fat content.   It was better than any regular pumpkin pie I’ve had in a while– less sweet, which is often my problem with pumpkiny things, and the gingersnap crust was delicious & had a nice zing.


Buonanotte, Marcella

If you’re at all an aficionado of cooking, you know that the grand doyenne of Italian cooking passed away this week.  I will admit, freely, that I don’t page through Marcella Hazan for inspiration the way that I flip through Julia Child; I find her (husband’s) translation too authoritative & cranky, and while I appreciate clear direction in a cookbook, there was always something about the tone of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that seemed to promise that what befell the denizens of Dante’s Inferno would only be the start if I dared deviate from the steps laid out, so painstaking, therein.  If I want some inspiration for something Italian-ish to cook for supper, I’ve been far more likely to pull out Elizabeth David, whose firm but friendly writing and combinations of flavors always appeal.  Plus, I can never disagree with a woman who tells you to serve prosciutto with the very best butter.

Still– back to Marcella (though I think she would prefer me to call her Signora Hazan).  The fact still remains; crank though she might have been, and absolute snob for nothing but the best imported Italian what-have-you (and yes, I understand, the insistence was valid, whereas the book was written back in the day before concepts like locavore, heirloom seeds/breeds, and CSA meat/vegetable/aquaculture share were ever a glint in any hipster foodie wordsmith’s eye), Marcella’s books still were and are the Bible when I was looking for the recipe to rule them all or to tell me which amalgam of flavors was most likely truest & best.  I look at Barbara Lynch, at Susan Hermann Loomis, at Elizabeth David, at Patricia Wells and a half dozen more, but Marcella’s recipes distill the essentials, just like she says on the cover.  And for all that the recipes can sometimes be time-consuming, they’re always worth it.

Her pork loin braised in milk (Essentials, 417-418) should never be attempted when the mercury hovers over 80F, but any other time, please– set aside the 6-8 hours and make it.  It ain’t just stunt cooking, that stuff is worth it.  And her tomato sauce with onion and butter (Essentials, 152) will make you wonder– why bother with anything else? Vodka sauce? Who needs it? Take a stick blender to this.)  Her spinach soup with rice (Essentials, 89, 90-2) can be varied with sausage or baby kale or lacinato kale or not and will freeze like nobody’s business, just the thing to warm you.

So tonight, I cooked a dinner to bid Marcella mille grazie, and buonanotte.   Even if she was cranky.  I guess I’d be cranky if people were screwing up good food, as well.

Backyard beefsteak tomato salad.  Salt.  Pepper.  Real balsamic.  Real Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. And back porch chopped italian parsley and basil.  It’s not a recipe, but it is fresh.  I think Marcella would have approved.

Veal scallopini, dredged in toasted hazelnut flour, salt and pepper, browned in butter and olive oil and set aside, then the brown nutty juices reduced with a balsamic vinegar and chicken stock/juice of 1 lemon substitute for the wine called for in this Molly O’Neill adaptation of a Marcella recipe from “Marcella’s Italian Kitchen.”

Broccolini, cooked until tender all the way through, then sauteed quickly in its saucepan with the rest of the fresh-chopped parsley, basil, olives, red pepper flakes and garlic called for in this adaptation of a sauce for oriecchette , which is a souped-up version of the Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce (Essentials, 173) that Marcella recommends for oriecchette.  I skipped the grated cheese, as well as the anchovies, and let the olives speak for themselves.

And finally, last but not least, maybe Marcella’s most famous dessert, and a cake that deserves to be up there with Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba.

Behold, the Walnut Cake (Essentials, 588-9).

This needs a springform, and I futzed the 8-inch requirement and used a 9-inch, cooking the recipe 10 minutes less.  I also used Bob’s Gluten-Free flour blend in place of the 1 cup of regular flour the recipe calls for.  Some day, I’ll use all walnuts instead to make up the volume.

It’s a light, fragile cake, musky and fragrant with rum and lemon zest, tender and nutty.  (She has you toast the raw walnuts.  Do it.  It makes a difference versus buying pre-roasted nuts.)

It’s awesome, warm, still a little soft in the middle, with some creme fraiche stirred into whipped cream.  (Somehow, I don’t think Marcella would have minded the creme fraiche all that much.)

(And also, for those playing at home, with the exception of the tomatoes and the fresh herbs, I did buy all the ingredients, especially the perfect, tender, excellent and humanely-raised veal, at my lovely employer, whose name rhymes with Shmole Foods.)

The best use & reuse of accidentally-purchased shell-on shrimp

The use of the word “best” here comes with a caveat, namely, what I could think of without resorting to looking up a recipe, and just sorting through memories of dishes eaten and cookbooks and magazine read in the past.  The “accidentally-purchased” part comes from the fact that I was dead-tired, and snagged the wrong bag of frozen shrimp out of the freezer at work– I bought the jumbo shell-on, instead of the large shelled shrimp.

Still, I had a whole tub of pre-peeled garlic at home, and bless the inventor of that nifty device, not because I care about the smell of garlic but because peeling garlic is fussy and I always end up nicking myself.

Garlic + shrimp + a pantry like mine (here, Aggi shrimp bouillon, fino sherry, olive oil, generous amounts of fresh-ground black pepper, plus a big sprig of the rosemary growing out in the garden) equals Spanish-style shrimp in garlic sauce.   I used the fino sherry (this recipe uses an equalish amount of brandy) because I had it, but I could have used lemon, like this recipe.

Messy to peel?  Yes.  Delicious to lick off your fingers?  You bet.

To go with/alongside, because I don’t think the Spaniards go much in for corn, but when in New England in summer, it’s corn, corn, corn, corn, I did a simple saute of corn sliced off the cob, whole cherry tomatoes, sliced onion, lots of butter, a little bit of salt and pepper, and a large sprig of windowbox thyme, sauteed until warm and the tomatoes a little bit collapsed.

I had shrimp leftover.  (They were a pain to peel.  I won’t make the mistake of not reading the bag ever again.)  And for some recipe I’d made in some variation before, I had a half-bottle of mild(er) kimchi, which I dumped into a big bowl and chopped roughly with my mezzaluna. I’d bought a small red cabbage, so I chopped that into half and then into thin slices, peeled and chopped up the shrimp, beat three eggs, chopped a huge handful of chives from the garden (are we detecting a theme here?  my herbs are in luxurious growth, super-abundant, and I use them as such) and spooned in enough Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour mix to make it bind together but still be a little bit wet.

And then I fried the hell out of it in one big cake in my 12″ nonstick skillet, slid it onto a sheet pan, then, taking my life into my hands, used potholders to flip the whole thing over and fried the whole other side until it was brown.  I chopped purple basil from the garden and cut up some limes to squeeze over the top, and did add some sriracha and fish sauce to my serving, though it was plenty seasoned already.  (You could have added lime zest or ginger or sriracha to the pancake batter if you were so inclined.)  It was beautiful.

I had the kimchi around from a white cabbage/kimchi/scallion pancake not unlike this basic recipe and which I think I also used shrimp to proteinize… that I fried into small fritters, and if you’re afraid of burning yourself flipping el grando shrimp pancake, the little fritters are equally tasty, just keep the heat up to get that good brown crust, and use a spatter screen.

For a vegetable (what, two cups of cabbage isn’t enough?) I had garden-fresh green beans.  I steamed and cooled them, then dressed them while they were still warm with sesame oil and a sauce called Bone Suckin’ Mustard, sriracha, and a bit of soy sauce.  A strong yellow mustard (not dijon-style) with a bit of cider vinegar, some hot sauce, and a little sweetener (I’d use agave, probably) would stand in for the Bone Suckin’ Mustard– you want it to be on the zippy/sour side of sweet & sour & tangy, but you still want a little sweet to balance the chili sauce.  And then I dressed them with toasted sesame seeds.

Good thing I wasn’t paying attention when I bought those shrimp.

Apricot & Mascarpone (Gluten Free) Tart

It’s actually not really as fancy as it looks– peak-season apricots, halved.  Most of a tub of mascarpone, beat with a tablespon of honey.  A 9-inch ceramic tart pan filled with most of a recipe of Namaste brand gluten-free biscuit/piecrust mix (I froze the rest, I can make a mini tartlet sometime) pressed into the pan because GF piecrust just doesn’t roll, it only smooshes into the pan.  I parbaked the crust for 10 minutes (no pricking, because of the liquidy filling) at 400F (the recommended heat from the mix) and then took it out, put in the cheese & then placed the apricots on top, then baked at 400F for another half-hour, until the filling bubbled and the apricot skins were shrunken and browned, and the crust edges were browned as well.

The mix does have xanthan gum, so if you’re sensitive, please take note.  I wanted to try something else besides Bob’s and King Arthur, and this was on offer at the newest of the stores our company’s been opening up in the area, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I like it– it’s got rice flour & tapioca starch for the starches, and sorghum for the flour part, as well as xantham, baking powder, potato starch & baking soda– which make it the biscuit mix, I guess, with the rise.  It’s not as gritty as Bob’s, though, so either there’s less rice flour by ratio, or it’s milled more finely.

On a non-baking note, but related to why the crust is gluten-free:

I’ve been getting more celiac and less gluten-intolerant lately– I don’t know if it’s a function of stress, age, too much gluten eaten all at once, lately, because there is so much tasty stuff to eat at work, or some combination of all of those things.  I know my grandmother, whom I inherit it from, figured it out at about my age (late 30s) so it makes sense that it’s getting worse, but the last few “Urgh, I got glutened” bouts have been really miserable, with bad headaches and a case of cold sweats, not just the antisocial GI distress that can and has gone on for days.  Time to really cut it all out, and also to cut back on the carb consumption again– I love the new job, but it has been stressful with all the work & responsibility & being around food in a sedentary position all day isn’t great, so I’ve put on about 5 lbs more than I’m comfortable with.  Some of that is sugar consumption, since we don’t carry diet anything, ever, and sugar and carbs are not good for the PCOS (which I like to forget that I have) but some of that is activity level, I’m sure.

I’m going to make this tart my last carbtastic blowout– and then find ways to make crisps and crumbles with nuts and agave instead.