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!