Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Taste of Radicchio

I've made this chicken dish three times now, and finally decided I ought to write about it. The fennel-mustard butter along with the capers and anchovies is delicious. But, it's all about the radicchio. The bitterness can be off-putting and after making the dish once, I thought I probably wouldn't prepare it again, but I found myself craving it  bitter radicchio and all.

I've been asked about radicchio: Is it a type of cabbage, or what? I looked it up, and although it looks a lot like red cabbage, it's actually in the chicory family. Most of us have heard of chicory root, which is baked, ground, and sometimes added to coffee. Radicchio, however, is a leaf chicory also know as Italian chicory.

It's supposed to mellow when cooked, but I have to say, the flavor is still pretty peppery and bitter (not kid-friendly). I keep it on the side, so my kids can have plain chicken. Also, I've learned not all heads of radicchio are alike. I'm not sure if it's just a coincidence, but the very small oval-shaped radicchio I got the first time was very bitter indeed. The next time, I got a large round head and it was not nearly as intense, but then, it was way more than I needed for the recipe.

On the side, I was trying to come up with something gluten-free other than rice or potatoes and thought I'd give polenta a try for a change. And who knew? the creamy taste and texture was just right with the pungent, salty, peppery, bitter flavors of this dish. I'm still looking for the right vegetable side. I guess, technically, radicchio is a vegetable, but I feel like I need to have something green on the plate too. As in the photo, I've served it with baby broccoli, but it wasn't quite right. Maybe next time I'll try green beans.

I found the recipe on epicurious.com one of my favorite recipe sources. It was originally published in 2004 in Bon Apétit: Chicken Breasts with Fennel-Mustard Butter & Radicchio. It's a flavorful and interesting dish. I hope you'll give it a chance and like it as much as I.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fast & Fabulous Soup You'll Love

I made this, so-called, 7-Minute Soup from Food & Wine magazine last evening. It's made with roasted red pepper, hummus, and chicken. And while, from start to finish, it took me a bit longer than seven minutes, it was indeed, fast and easy. Plus, it was delicious!

I think once all the ingredients are prepped peppers drained and sliced, chicken boned and shredded, etc. from that point on, it's probably about seven minutes. I also made rice specifically for this soup, so that took some time, but since the recipe only calls for half a cup, leftover rice would be a perfect solution.

I didn't shop around for piquillo peppers, but used a jar of roasted red bell peppers instead. I also used brown rice instead of white; store-bought broth instead of stock; and I omitted the black pepper.

Pepper is a huge turn-off for my kids lately, so for most things, we just add pepper to taste at the table. In the end, however, I didn't even add pepper to mine it didn't need it. Same with the hot sauce, which is suggested for serving. I did, however, top the soup with red pepper strips, olive oil, and chopped parsley. While the red pepper is mostly for color (there's already plenty blended into the soup itself), the parsley and extra virgin olive oil added wonderful flavor that I wouldn't want to go without.

If you're needing a truly fast week-night dinner, prep your ingredients in advance, then start blending and cooking just seven minutes before serving time. Here's the recipe from Food & Wine: Creamy Piquillo Pepper and Chickpea Soup with Chicken.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chocolate Chip Blondies (Gluten-Free!)

One of the last, delicious baked treats I remember eating before going gluten-free was chocolate-chip blondies (AKA butterscotch brownies) made by my neighbor. They were so darn good! And I knew I was about to phase out gluten, so I suppose I enjoyed them even more because of that.

Occasionally, I get a craving for these blondies, and I've looked for gluten-free recipes online, but they all seem kind of odd to me. For example, one recipe calls for almond flour, which is out at my house because of my son's nut allergy. Another a no-bake recipe calls for pre-made vanilla wafer cookies. Other recipes claim to be wonderfully cake-like, but I don't want cake-like. I want moist, a bit chewy, brownie-like. I finally found a fairly standard recipe (standard for gluten-free, that is), but my results were just OK, not great, and worst of all, they were dry and crumbly.

I decided to take the traditional blondies recipe from one of my cookbooks, a recipe I know to be excellent when made with regular wheat flour, and make the substitutions myself. I used a gluten-free brownies recipe as kind of a guide... Three eggs? No, too much that would make them cakey. I decided on two.

They real key, I think, is the bake time. Over-baking makes the bars too dry. Under-baking leaves you with gooey cookie dough. Check them often, as ovens vary; the changing weather seems to affect things; and other mystery factors do too. Mine were just right, this time, after 25 minutes.

Blondies with Chocolate Chips  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - melted
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup brown rice flour blend  PRINTABLE RECIPE
3/4 tsp xanthun gum
1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet - your choice)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Prepare an 8" square baking pan (mine is glass) with non-stick spray.

2. With an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and sugar until smooth; then mix in the eggs and vanilla. Add the salt, flour, and xanthun gum and mix until well combined.

3. Stir in the chocolate chips; then pour the batter in to the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until just set in the middle - do not over-bake!

4. Cool completely (be patient) before cutting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jen Cooks Curry

I tried out a new curry recipe last evening and it was one of my more successful attempts at this type of dish. I know I should just stay away from cooking Thai and curries at home, but I love the flavors of these foods so much that once in awhile I have to take a stab at it.

Anyway, for curry, it was a fairly simple recipe. And, for a curry made by me, it tasted pretty good too. It was beautiful to look at as well, so I just had to post a picture.

I used mint and cilantro, but didn't make it to the Asian grocery for curry leaves or Thai basil (both optional). Also, no palm sugar I used brown sugar instead.

I loved the fresh herbs and the shallots, but overall, it was on the mild side for me. I like a lot of spice and more pungent flavors. If you're more of the mild type, you might like to try it. The recipe is from Sunset Magazine: Fresh Herb & Tofu Curry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Into Fall: Salmon Chowder

It was the last week of summer, and we wanted to make Northwest salmon on the grill one last time, before the cooler weather and rain arrived. I prepared a huge side of wild-caught salmon, using my favorite cedar plank salmon recipe. We enjoyed it, but it was way too much food for just the four of us.

Leftover salmon is good on a crisp salad, in a pasta dish, or just re-heated. But the forecast predicted the beginnings of fall weather. Salmon chowder, I thought, was the way to go. I've made chowders before, but never with great results, so I looked for a new recipe. I found one that looked promising, which actually called for canned salmon, but of course, I was looking for a way to use our leftovers, so I made that substitution and a few other changes. I wasn't sure about the idea of using creamed corn, but decided to give it shot. The chowder turned out delicious and just in time for the first cool, drizzly day we've had in months. Perfect!

My recipe is below. If you decide to try it with canned salmon, let me know how it turns out. I'm a little curious.


3 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves - minced
2 cups diced red potatoes
2 carrots - diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dill weed
15 oz can creamed corn
12 oz can low-fat evaporated milk
1 Lb (at least) cooked salmon - broken into small pieces
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic for a few minutes, until onions are tender.

2. Stir in potatoes, carrots, broth, salt, pepper, and dill weed. Bring to a boil; then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

3. Add corn, evaporated milk, salmon, and cheese to the pot. Stir often, until heated through. Ladle chowder into individual bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Avocado Love: A Salad

When buying avocados, I always get an extra and give a half to my six-year-old daughter. She loves scooping the fruit out of the peel with a spoon and eating it up. She's determined to grow an avocado tree, and there are a number of pits buried in our backyard in random locations. Unfortunately, I've never heard of an avocado tree growing in Oregon.

If you love avocados too, you'll enjoy this salad. It's super simple and quite delicious. It can be a nice alternative for those who like Caesar salad. It's made with tender butter lettuce, lime citrus instead of lemon, red onion for bite, and avocado for creamy richness.

Salad with Avocado, Onion, and Lime Dressing  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 cup thin slivers of red onion (about half an onion)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups torn butter lettuce
1 cup sliced avocado (about 1 avocado)

Combine the onion, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Add lettuce and avocado and toss gently.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cleaned-Up (Vegetarian) Dirty Rice

Here's a little something for you, for Meatless Monday. Be sure to check out the Meatless Monday website if you haven't already heard about this movement.

I got the latest special issue of Cooking Light recently, called Dinner Tonight! (Yes, there's an exclamation point in the title.) And dinner the other night was Cooking Light all the way, except that I made slight modifications to, I think, yes, all the recipes: blackened chicken, dirty rice, and salad.

My husband kept asking me, "What is dirty rice anyway?" Well, I've always thought of it as a leftover rice dish rice, dirtied up with Cajun seasonings, onion, celery, and bell pepper. But I googled it, and Wikipedia explains: "Dirty rice is a traditional Cajun dish made from white rice cooked with small pieces of chicken liver or giblets, which give it a dark ('dirty') color and a mild but distinctive flavor. Similar to a pilaf, it also includes green bell pepper, celery and onion...."

So, I didn't exactly make dirty rice, because in addition to using a mixture of leftover brown and wild rice, instead of white rice, I also omitted what turns out be the defining ingredient of dirty rice: the chicken livers. Another thing I did was to use smoked hot paprika (instead of standard paprika), which definitely added some heat and, of course, smokiness. Lastly, I kept the hot sauce on the side, thinking it would make the dish too spicy for the kids, but it was too much for them anyway. Maybe our dirty rice wasn't technically correct (shall we say it was clean dirty rice?), but it was flavorful and we really enjoyed it.

The chicken was quite good too, even though, mainly by accident, I altered that recipe a bit too and forgot to make the sauce at the end (we were hungry)!

The best of all, however, was the salad with lettuce, onion, avocado, and lime dressing. Again, accidentally, I altered the original recipe. But my only mistake was to use double the lime juice it called for nothing major and we really liked the limeyness (? liminess? limyness?). Anyway, we liked all the lime flavor especially good with the avocado and onion.

Following is the recipe for my cleaned-up version of dirty rice perfect for Meatless Monday. Watch for the salad recipe later this week.

Jen's (Vegetarian) Dirty Rice  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves - minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3 cups pre-cooked (leftover) rice (any kind - white or brown, with a little wild rice mixed in if you like)
2 tsp smoked hot paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
kosher salt
hot pepper sauce (like Tobasco)
2 green onions - thinly sliced

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper and sauté about 4 minutes.

2. Add garlic, thyme, then rice, paprika, and crushed red pepper and stir together. Stir rice occasionally over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until rice is warmed through. Season with salt and hot pepper sauce to taste.

3. Keep rice over low heat until ready to serve. Stir in green onions just before serving.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stick to the Specials: Sawatdee Thai Cuisine

I visited my local Thai restaurant again yesterday. The only one in the town of Sherwood, the one where I haven't had the best luck overall, but where I've tried a couple very good dishes.

Today, I picked the first item on the specials board, Yum Apple, and got it to go (as you can see in the photo). This salad is not on their regular menu, so it's a real special, not just on special. It was made of tart green apple slices, lettuce, shredded carrots, shallots, mint leaves, cilantro, toasted coconut, and a nice lime dressing with, I'd guess, a little fish sauce. It was quite delicious!

I've had good luck with other specials at this place too. The one that comes to mind is some sort of crispy papaya salad I tried over the summer. It was great! Because their specials seem to be better than their regular menu items, and because it'll keep me trying new things, I think my strategy with this place, from now on, will be to stick to the items featured on the specials board.

In case your wondering, the place is Sawatdee Thai Cuisine. The people are friendly and polite, and they seem to really care about the food presentation is always lovely. Be sure to try something from the specials board outside the front door. I think you'll find the best selections there.

Friday, August 31, 2012

In Season: Homemade Salsa

Tomatoes are ripe and delicious right now, and so are many kinds of hot peppers. That makes it the perfect time to make fresh salsa.

Just take the four main components of salsa: tomatoes, onion, chile peppers, and garlic. Then create your own basic or designer salsa using: hot peppers or mild ones, lots of onion or just a little; add optional ingredients like cilantro, lime juice, mango, cucumber....  A little salt is always a good idea too.

This salsa is made with a variety of heirloom tomatoes, shallots, habañero, cilantro, lime juice, and kosher salt. I used shallots, which have a mild onion and garlic flavor, because that's all I happened to have on hand. Lucky me it turned out great!

By the way, avocados are also in season now, so make some guacamole too, and enjoy the best of the season!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Banana Bread (Gluten-Free!)

I got this recipe off a bag of Namaste Foods gluten-free Perfect Flour Blend. They call it "Best Banana Bread" and it really is the best! No one would even guess it's gluten-free.

I recommend Namaste Foods flour blend as well as the recipe, but in the interest of saving space in my pantry and not having a bunch of different flours and mixes in there, I adapted the recipe ever so slightly to use a homemade brown rice flour blend that I like to keep on hand.

If you like, you can add half a cup or so of chopped nuts or seeds to the batter.

Banana Bread (Gluten-Free)  PRINTABLE RECIPE

2 cups brown rice flour blend  PRINTABLE RECIPE
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3 very ripe bananas - mashed
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325° and lightly spray 9" x 5" loaf pan with non-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour blend, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together sugars and oil. Add eggs, bananas, and vanilla, and stir until well blended. Fold in dry ingredients.

4. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 65 to 75 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thai In The Suburbs: Sawatdee Thai in Sherwood

The suburbs have always kind of turned me off. I like the diversity found in cities, the liberal thinking, the unique neighborhoods, and the independent businesses. Nonetheless, we moved last year, out of the city and into the land of strip malls and soccer moms.

Although there are certainly things I miss about Portland, I actually like it here a lot. And yes, it's exactly the stuff you'd expect: more house for the money, better schools, great parks, and peace & quiet. But in addition, there's a quaint little downtown with a handful of independent businesses, an outdoor Saturday market in the summertime, and a nice library. Overall, I'm really happy here and it was a great move for our family.

That said, one thing I do miss are the great restaurants of Portland. Of course, they're not out of reach; the city isn't that far away. But the selection of places that are nearby and handy that don't require at least a brief road trip is quickly getting boring. I've especially missed Thai food, which I love to eat, but am not very good at cooking. There is a Thai place here, but I've been pretty disappointed with their food. Even so, I've gone back on several occasions, trying something different each time in hopes of finding a dish they're really good at. It's certainly far from terrible, but the curries are unexciting, the pad Thai is a bit sad, and the stir-fries are over-seasoned. I gave up.

But then, my husband suggested we go there for lunch the other day, and I thought, why not? I'll give it one more chance. I picked something I hadn't yet tried, the tom yum noodle soup from the lunch specials menu, and finally, I was not disappointed. In fact, I loved, loved, loved it! I expected it to be similar to tom yum, the hot & sour soup I've had at many Thai restaurants. But it was really quite different not just because of the addition of rice noodles, but also ground chicken and crushed peanuts. I requested a spicy version and it was just the right amount of heat for me. Two days later, I was back for another bowl. I told myself it was to get a photo for the blog, but actually, I was just craving that soup! Maybe eventually, I'll try something else, and I'll let you know if I find another dish I like, but I'll be sticking with that delicious soup for awhile.

So here's the deal, if you ever find yourself down in Sherwood, and feel like Thai for lunch, it's the Tom Yum Noodle Soup at Sawatdee Thai Cuisine. Fantastic!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pizza Night

We made individual pizzas for dinner the other night. I have to admit, they were not homemade, but build-your-own pizzas. I went shopping with different intentions, but found I just wasn't motivated to put much effort into our dinner and went the convenience route instead: pre-made pizza crusts, pre-made marinara sauce (which I thickened with a little tomato paste), and even pre-shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. I also got a few basic toppings that please my family: mushrooms, black olives, turkey pepperoni, and jalapeno slices.

I don't know how the other pizzas with their gluten-filled crusts tasted, but my pizza with its thin and crispy crust was pretty delicious. I used mushrooms and pepperoni, plus lots of oregano and some crushed red pepper flakes. Then, after baking, I topped it with a bunch of spring greens. I'm sure it was more than a single-serving's worth, but I ate the whole thing and enjoyed every bite.

This was a fun, easy dinner, that we'll definitely be doing again. And I look forward to changing up the ingredients and trying some different types of salad on top my new favorite way to enjoy pizza!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dangerous Doughnut Muffins (Gluten-Free!)

I love food TV. Admittedly, some of the shows are pretty goofy and others are just plain bad. But over the years, I've learned a lot about cooking from these shows, mostly long before the Food Network or the Cooking Channel were even around. Nothing against the current food and cooking programming I certainly watch a few of the shows. If it's about food, after all, it's pretty easy to draw me in.

One evening recently, my son was watching with me. It was one of those shows where they feature the best restaurants and bakeries around the county. They were spotlighting Chocolate Doughnut Muffins. They didn't sound particularly amazing to me, but my son was enthralled and could hardly go to sleep that night because he wanted to travel to this bakery in Durham, North Carolina that very night to get one of their delicious confections. I told him there was no way we were traveling to North Carolina anytime soon, but we'd look for a recipe and try to make our own. I actually thought he'd forget all about it by the next day, but he did not.

So, I found a recipe online. Of course, I had to convert it to gluten-free if I was going to be able to partake. So, I took the recipe I'd found, and a doughnut recipe from a gluten-free baking book I have, plus what I learned about the doughnut muffins from the food show, and came up with a recipe I thought might work. The kids helped me to mix it all together. After baking, we rolled them in melted butter I guess you have to do something to make up for the fact that the "doughnuts" are not fried and then in cinnamon and sugar.

Guess what? They were good, really good! Softer and springier than a cake doughnut definitely more like a muffin,  but that touch of nutmeg in the batter and the cinnamon-sugar on the outside gave them that doughnut quality. They're dangerous because after eating one, you really want another, if only to ponder the question: Is it a muffin or is it a doughnut?

Chocolate Doughnut Muffins (Gluten-Free)  PRINTABLE RECIPE

1-1/2 cups brown rice flour blend  PRINTABLE RECIPE
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a standard muffin tin with cooking spray.

2. Combine flour,  cocoa powder, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk together.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour mixture, and then the oil, milk, cream, and vanilla. Mix for about a minute on low speed. The batter will be a little lumpy.

4. Divide the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin center comes out clean.

5. Let the muffins set in the tin for about a minute or so, then remove to a wire rack. While they cool a bit, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. In separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave; or melt on the stove top in a small saucepan.

6. Roll the warm muffins in melted butter to coat all over; then roll in the cinnamon-sugar, again coating all sides.

Delicious warm or cool.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Scones (Gluten-Free!)

I'm a coffee person. I make my own most days, but I like to stop by a local coffee place once in awhile too, and get a nice latté. As you know, those little coffee shops almost always have a tempting offering of pastries: donuts, croissants, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, muffins, cookies, and my favorite  scones. Since going gluten-free, I suppose I've saved a few dollars and a few calories by passing on the morning pastry, but I do miss it and sometimes I feel so bummed and left out that I can't get a baked treat along with my kids or my friends on those occasions when we stop for coffee. There was a little place in town that carried gluten-free scones and other pastries that were pretty decent, but sadly, they went out of business. There's another place that has gluten-free donuts, but BLAH! They're no good!

I prefer not to make my own scones because you can't make just one (can you?). And when I have half a dozen or more in the house, I tend to eat them up far too quickly. Getting a single one at the coffee shop, not more than once a week, works out far better for me and my belly. But, I finally gave in recently and baked some for myself. This morning, I made another batch, with a few modifications, and the recipe is good enough to share.

If lemon poppy seed is not your thing, omit the last three ingredients below and leave them plain or add nuts, blueberries, chocolate chips... whatever you like.

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones (Gluten-Free)  PRINTABLE RECIPE

2 cups brown rice flour blend  PRINTABLE RECIPE
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter - cut into tiny pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk (or, for richer scones, use cream)
2 tsp (approx) finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 425 -->° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until very light and foamy.

4. Add flour mixture, milk, lemon zest, juice, and poppy seeds to the eggs and mix on low for about a minute.

5. On a lightly floured surface, pat out the dough (a little flour on your hands will help as the dough can be sticky) into a one-inch thick round. Cut into eight triangles and place on the baking sheet.

6. Place the scones in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375°. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden/lightly browned.

Serve warm. These scones are best if served right away. You can store them in an airtight container, but you'll notice that by the next day the texture just isn't the same. So plan a tea (or coffee) party with your scone-loving friends and eat them up before it's too late.

Now, if only there was a gluten-free recipe for my other favorite – the buttery, flaky, chocolate croissant. I have a feeling there's no gluten-free version of the croissant that would come close to the original, but if you think you can prove me wrong... please do!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Gluten-Free Bread Salad

I don't know why it's been so long since I made bread salad  --> well, there's the gluten thing. That may have something to do with it. But even though I discovered a decent gluten-free baguette several months ago, it only occurred to me recently that I could use the bread to make panzanella.

The gluten-free baguette I use is made by Against the Grain Gourmet. They have a plain (original) baguette and a rosemary version. The rosemary flavor is very subtle and I prefer it to the plain. Against the Grain also makes a good frozen pizza. Yes, the crust is a little different, but it's still good. I like the pesto pizza, which happens to be nut-free (made with sunflower seeds, instead of pine nuts) a bonus at my house since my son is allergic to nuts.

They have a variety of other products that I look forward to trying as well. Check out their web site at Against the Grain Gourmet. In the Portland area, you can find some of their products, including the baguette and pizza (both in the freezer section), at New Seasons Market and Whole Foods.

Now, back to the panzanella. I really don't have an exact recipe for you. Like most salads, I just add this and that until the proportions look and "feel" right. Then I whisk together some dressing (again, I rarely follow a recipe) and we're good to go. For my family, this is an entree, so we make a giant salad and that's it for our dinner.

Mine is not really a traditional panzanella as I include some baby greens, cucumbers, and Parmesan. But I've seen many different versions of this Italian salad in cookbooks and magazines, so I think mine qualifies. Here are the ingredients for the yummy bread salad I made a few nights ago:


Baby lettuces (like the organic baby lettuce mix from Trader Joe's)
Sugar plum tomatoes halved lengthwise (or if you're feeling lazy, leave them whole)
Red onion cut into thin slivers (if you like big chunks of onion, that's fine, but I don't)
English cucumber sliced
Gluten-free baguette (or day-old rustic wheat baguette if gluten is acceptable) cut into cubes
Fresh basil cut into ribbons or torn into small pieces
Parmesan cheese shredded or shaved 

Note: Depending on the size of your salad, this may be more or less dressing than you need, but I wanted to give you some proportions to work with.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp finely minced garlic
2 tsp finely minced red onion
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and some of the basil in a large bowl. Top with the bread cubes and some of the Parmesan cheese.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the salad, specifically the bread cubes. Let the bread soak up some of the olive oil for a couple minutes before you add the dressing and toss well.

4. Top with a little more basil and Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

If you read my previous post, you know that our plans to make homemade pasta and fresh basil pesto for Christmas didn't work out. Well, I found some nice, fresh basil at New Seasons Market on New Year's Eve, and Dave's cold had finally passed, so we decided to do the pasta dinner that evening. As you may know, I'm not supposed to be eating gluten, so we decided to take a stab at pasta made with brown rice flour. We followed a recipe from a gluten-free cookbook I have. It sounded simple enough and the author made it seem like it would turn out as good as regular pasta and just as easily, if not more so. But for us, it did not.

At first the dough didn't come together at all and we weren't sure what to do. The cookbook said what to do if the dough was too sticky, but not the opposite. We opted to add olive oil since our regular wheat pasta recipe includes olive oil. That seemed to do the trick, though the texture was still a little different than what we were used to. Putting it through the pasta machine, we couldn't get it anywhere near thin enough and the edges were cracking terribly. We made one handful of thick noodles and frustrated, gave up. My husband got out the wheat flour and made the traditional pasta dough easily, as if he did it everyday rather than just once or twice per year. With the help of the pasta machine, he and the kids rolled out beautiful, thin sheets of pasta, then cut them into wide noodles.

Meanwhile, I decided to boil the thick rice pasta noodles and give them a try. And really, they weren't that far off  a little heavy and doughy, but I think with practice and some experimentation, we might be able to get it right eventually.

So anyway, the traditional wheat flour pasta turned out so great that yes, I indulged. It certainly wasn't my first time to cheat on the gluten-free diet. Just that week I'd eaten Chinese take-out, including dumplings. But that night I went all out delicious fresh pasta, fantastic, crusty sourdough bread (I bought it at New Seasons, knowing I might very well be eating it myself that night) along with wonderful basil pesto. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite and don't regret it a bit. I also have a no-brainer resolution for the new year: strict gluten-free. We'll see if I can stick to it.

Happy 2012 to all! Eat well and love every bite of the year!