Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Capone Foods

A place known for its fresh pasta might not be on the top of your list of go-to places, but Capone Foods in Union Square in Somerville, MA should be. Small and narrow, the shop is packed to the gills with homemade and imported foodstuffs to tickle the taste buds. A cheese case, meat case, freezer and fridge filled with fresh pastas and sauces just make up one side of the store. The other is floor-to-ceiling oils, vinegars, olives, mushrooms and beverages - all things you did not know you needed but feel compelled to take home. I made a visit this past weekend, with a goal in mind but came out with something I did not expect--perhaps its a contradiction but perhaps it is the reason I go into small, specialty markets in the first place.

I stopped in Sunday and the owner, Albert, stands behind the counter with a smile beaming through his mustache and urges me to taste a new red wine vinegar. (It is good, surprisingly good. Sweeter and complicated than 89 cent stuff I have at home and it makes me wonder how I have made a salad with anything else. $12.95 a bottle tells me why, and that I won't be bringing it home today, but most certainly will be back.)

I ask if he carries abbrusseze, and an eyebrow goes up. He responds no, but have I tried this salame, and offers me a slice. It is better than it looks, and it looks beautiful. No two are perfectly alike and there is a nice dry, white mold on the outside and it smell cave-aged. Its looks were not deceiving. I gush over its tenderness and he smiles widens. We discuss the shop, the neighborhood and where one does find obscure, dried sausages.

The conversation meanders a bit more about different products -their pasta and why I am not buying any - and I mention I used to work at a specialty food store and he insists I try his sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. I tell him they are not my favorite things, but he picks one up with tongs, out of a long glass vase and holds it out towards me with pride. I gingerly grasp it between two fingers and take a bite. The tomatoes were soft, not leathery and sweet. Before I go, he insists that I try some of their pesto, on the house.

I was so excited to go home and try out new foods and cooking techniques (the pesto warns DO NOT HEAT) and figure out how to make a meal out of these new treats.


I tried there house made sun dried tomato pesto last night; it was better than I anticipated (I had set the bar pretty high). My big gripe with sun dried tomatoes is that they can get bitter; this pesto not taste bitter at all. I place the semi-thawed pesto atop the hot pasta and allowed it to melt gently. It was bright, not too oily and clung nicely to my rice pasta, making for a delicious dinner and left over.
The container says not to heat the pesto - but cold rice pasta is gritty and disgusting, so I gently warmed it in the microwave.

I ate it with a salad and a few slices of the salame. Columbus artisan salames are gluten free and amazing. Not overly salted or seasoned, with a nice mix of fat and meat, but the real treat was the beautiful rind. I tried the smaller, harder cacciatore, that was beautiful. It has the texture of an abbrusseze, but much milder.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Uno's Chicago Grill's National Dough Rai$er for Celiac Awareness

I received this email from the American Celiac Foundation and thought its worth passing on.

Starting TODAY and continuing through May 31st, Uno's Chicago Grill is hosting a National Dough Rai$er for Celiac Awareness. Uno is the first national, casual dining chain to launch a Gluten Free Pizza and to offer a Gluten-Free menu. They understand people with celiac disease want to eat out and must have safe options.

Gather your family and friends and celebrate awareness month by visiting your local Uno's Chicago Grill. Why not have your support group meet for a night out!

The National Dough Rai$er is one more way Uno's is supporting the celiac community. Show your appreciation by enjoying one of their gluten free pizzas! Twenty percent of sales generated by participants in this event will go to support the ACDA's efforts to raise awareness and to improve the lives of those with celiac disease.

Be sure to print this voucher ( also at ) and give it to your server. Go to and click on 'locations' to find the nearest restaurant. This is not valid at Pizzeria Uno or Uno Due.

Thank you and Enjoy!

The American Celiac Disease Alliance

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Resources: Gluten-Free Books

I love cookbooks. I inevitably gravitate towards them in any new or used bookstore. Flipping through dogeared pages with stains and crumbs accompanying well-used recipes makes me smile - notes in the margin are even better. (Yes, I wash my hands afterward. Crumbs are sneaky devils.)

I grew up with the large, red 3-ring bound Better Crocker, a hardcover Joy of Cooking and a paperback version of The Frugal Gourmet, that would always open to the hummus recipe.
My culinary tomes expanded when I took a cooking class, and later one on cake decorating, in high school. We worked nearly exclusively out of a plaid-bound Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Even though most of my recipes now come from new books, or blogs, I find myself looking for old copies of these four books. There is something about wanting to (re)create the dishes of childhood that is more than enticing, its compelling. I have tracked down 2 of the four, but am still on the look out for Betty and Mr. Smith.

When it comes to gluten free, here are my top go-to grabs:

Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic

Dr. Peter Green
This is a good book that talks about science but without scientific terms. No recipes, but interesting information to help get ones head around what celiac is, isn't and how to talk to doctors and other people about it. (I now do a little puppet show with my fingers as small intestinal villi. I am a hoot at parties.)

The Gluten-Free Gourmet
Bette Hagman
This was one of, if not the first, gluten free cookbooks. Its been republished a bunch and you will notice that almost all gf recipes start with her flour mix or an adaptation thereof. She tends to use a lot of powdered milk in her breads, which I am not a huge fan of, but its a good starting point.

Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back... & How You Can Too
Shauna James Ahern
All of the recipes in the book are on her blog:
The book is written like a memoir/novel with recipes thrown in here and there.
I do not like her writing style and she often uses expensive, obscure ingredients and her book isn't indexed well, so its a pain. Just search her sight if you are looking for something.
She does have a lot of recipes, so its worth looking at.

Gluten-Free Baking
Rebecca Reilly
I like this book a lot and have found myself going to it first for recipe ideas and basic cake structures.

Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking
Darina Allen
This is written by a woman who studied in Ireland but has a lot of Australian/New Zealand recipes or influences. Because it is not US-based, they have both the weight and volume of measurements.
There are some odd recipes, but even though I don't cook from them regularly, they do inspire me. All of my pancake attempts have been based off this book and they have a fantastic breakfast bar recipe that freezes well. (I make these when I am traveling and unsure about early morning food options.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wheat Free Tamari

Discovering that soy sauce contains wheat was a big surprise. I am not going to lie, I was bummed out about kissing most Chinese and Japanese foods goodbye. I was elated to discover wheat-free tamari!

Tamari is a Japanese fermented soy sauce. Most traditional tamaris do contain wheat, so read the labels carefully. San-J Wheat Free Tamari is my favorite. It has a round flavor, softer and sweeter than soy sauce. Its less salty, but since its naturally fermented, there is also a complexity to its flavor. It has become a pantry staple, right alongside fish sauce, siracha and toasted sesame oil - items that can sometimes be found in the grocery store, but are worth the adventure out to an Asian market to find.

(I love this stuff so much that I bring a small bottle of it with me when I go out for sushi.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I had every intention of following a recipe. (I know this is hard to believe because I have no photographic proof, but take my word on it, just this one time.) I could blame the big bands and crooners sailing out of my radio, from AM radio 740WJIB, but it is my own fault for not paying attention to which measuring cup I pulled, not the melodic sounds of Frank. My goal was to attempt scones, specifically the fruit scone recipe from Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking by Allen & Kearney, but it went awry around the time that I realized I didn't buy enough yogurt, and decided to make things up as I went, oh and yeah, grabbing the 2/3 measuring cup rather than the 1/2. Here is what I cobbled together and if I may say so, THEY RULE! The original recipe uses more yogurt, so keep some extra dairy handy; yogurt or cream will work well if your dough won't come together. Just add a little at a time till you have a cohesive dough.

Raisin Scones
2/3 cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp xanthan gum
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup golden raisins - you could substitute regular or dried cherries
1 stick butter
7 oz (small tub) of Greek yogurt - plus a few tablespoons of cream on hand
2 eggs
+1 egg for egg wash (egg well mixed with a splash of cold water)
plastic wrap or extra rice flour for rolling out dough

Preheat the oven to 475F.
1. Combine the dry ingredients.
2. Cut in the butter. Shoot for pea-sized bits of butter. Then stir in the raisins.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the 2 eggs and the yogurt until they are well combined.
4. Make a well in the butter-flours mixture and pour in the egg-yogurt mixture. Work it together till at least half of it is a dough.
5. Turn the dough out onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap (you can use a counter, but keep reading and see why I think the plastic wrap is useful). Work the dough together, kneading and folding it gently to form a cohesive dough.
Using the plastic wrap, lift and fold the dough over and onto itself, then turn it a quarter turn and repeat. This technique will keep your hands off the dough - keep the butter cold - and make it so you do not have to work more flour into the dough by flour the counter.
6. Roll out the dough so its 1" (I did this by folding over the plastic wrap and gently rolling with a pin). Cut into 12-15 scones with a cookie cutter or sharp knife.*
7. Brush the top with the egg wash. You can sprinkle with sugar if you wish, but not necessary.
8. Bake at 475F for 10-11 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
9. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.
*Don't futz around or handle the dough too much, you want to keep the butter cold so the scones puff when baked.

These came out so much better than I could have hoped for. The texture was spot-on scone: moist, but crumbly, a little sweet but not that much, a good, consistent crumb!

Next time I would add a pinch more of salt and some buttermilk for some tang.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Homemade gluten free puff pastry (take 1)

I have had it in my head that gluten free croissants will be mine. After seeing this recipe, its obvious that I am not alone in my quest. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I wondering about butter turns - the folding and layering of butter between layers of dough - and began pondering if a gluten free puff pastry could be a better jumping off point. Pouring through cookbooks and websites, I have yet to come across a single recipe for gluten free puff pastry. AH HA! I instantly wanted to see if I could create one.

Working off of Rebecca Reilly's recipe for Filo Dough - from her book Gluten Free Baking - I decided that if filo could be achieved, then so too should puff pastry. I made a lot of changes and substitutions including: argar argar instead of gelatin, potato starch instead of all rice flour and sugar instead of honey.

Warning - I am purposefully not tagging this as a recipe because this was my first attempt and scroll down to the bottom to see my comments about how I would change MANY ingredients and techniques for next time.

Gluten Free Puff Pastry (take 1)
1 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp argar argar
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
1/4-1/2 cup water
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

1. Mix dry ingredients together, for a well.

2. Mix the wet ingredients together - make sure to break up the egg.

3. Add additional water if needed to form a soft dough that is cohesive. (more wet than pie crust, more like a dough)

4. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
In preparation for rolling the dough and layering in the butter, I found this video extremely helpful.

Take 2 sticks of unsalted butter and knead them together into a rectangle.

The butter needs to be at the same temperature and consistency as the dough, so its important that the butter in thickness as possible. To do this, I borrowed a friend's technique of kneading the butter under cold water (in a bowl). This made the butter pliable without it melting. It is very important to dry the butter thoroughly before trying to add it to the dough.

After working it under the cold water and patting it dry, I placed it between two sheets of plastic wrap to help even out the shape and to be able to easily transfer it onto the dough.

Set the butter aside.

Working between two sheets of plastic wrap*, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick. It needs to be large enough to completely wrap the butter.

*I am a huge fan of parchment paper, but for this plastic wrap is best. This dough will stick to parchment and you will spend too much time fiddling with it trying to pry it off the dough and time is your enemy right now. You need to keep everything cold.

Place the butter near the center of the dough.

Fold the dough over the butter, overlap is not a bad thing, you need to completely envelope the butter.

Fold the other side of the dough over the butter.

Fold the bottom of the dough upwards.

Fold the top of the dough down. Now its really important for you to check your seams and make sure that there is dough everywhere and no butter poking out. The dough is not what a gluten-based one would be like; its similar to a slightly gummy pie dough. It will break and crack but you can patch it together.

Place another sheet of plastic wrap atop the dough and with a rolling pin, push downward making and X-shape across the dough. Then use the pin and push down on the dough horizontally and vertically - you are trying to smoosh the layers together - before you start rolling.

Then begin rolling the dough out. You want to keep the rectangle shape.

Notice here that the butter started breaking through. THIS IS BAD. Puff pastry only puffs when there are layers of dough-butter-dough throughout the mixture. If the butter layers start touching you are running into pie dough territory, not puff pastry.

Next time, I would refrigerate the butter and dough package before attempting to roll it out. Giving it time to ensure that the butter and dough were at the same temperature.

In trying to keep the butter layers from touching, I generously sprinkled the dough with sweet rice flour. And continued rolling.

So right now there is one mass with three layers: dough-butter-dough. The process of adding more layers is called "putting in turns" and its all about taking those three layers and layering them atop one another and making more layers - the more layers, the more flaky the dough.

You are going to make two folds, cutting the dough in thirds and stacking each atop the other - like folding a business letter.

Fold the top third down.

Fold the bottom third up, covering the top third.

Turn the folded dough 90 degrees, so it faces you so it looks like the opening of a book.

Then proceed to roll out the dough again into a rectangle.

This is the completion of 1 turn.

You can see that there is still some butter poking through - again, this is NOT a good thing.

Follow the same steps of folding the dough in thirds and then turning it 90 degrees and roll it out again.

*It is really important to keep an eye on your plastic wrap and lift it up from the dough pretty often. As the dough is rolled and stretched, so too is the plastic wrap and it will break and tear. For this whole process I went through 2 sets of plastic wrap.

Second turn complete.

Then refrigerate for at least an hour.

Putting in the third turn.

I then put it in the fridge to rest.

After removing it from the fridge and putting in the 4th turn, I then rolled it out and cut off an edge piece and baked it off. (At this point I thought that too much butter and made its way through the dough and I had ruined the batch and was not ready to put in more time rolling if it was going to be a blob and not flake.)

But it did puff and flake!

But the dough lacked salt. This was something I was worried about from the get-go, but thought maybe it was unnecessary. I was very wrong.

So I ground up some table salt and sprinkled it on the dough and put in a 5th turn.

You can see the dough is looking a lot more homogenious now. No visible butter breaking through. Working with very cold dough takes a lot longer - it is very hard and takes a while to roll out - but I think it might be the trick to preventing the butter from escaping.

I left it here, about 1/2" thick and wrapped it and put it in the fridge to rest overnight.

The dough was very cold and equally difficult to roll out. (Hence less photos because I spent that time mumbling under my breath that I should be more patient and let the dough warm up and I would struggle less. But I digress.)

I decided on an apple tart and I rolled the dough out to between 1/4" and 3/8" thick. I cut a rectangle and then strips to run around the edges. I glued the edges together with egg wash, placed sliced apples in the center, brushed the top of the edges with more egg wash and sprinkled sugar over everything.

I constructed everything on an upside down cookie sheet lined with parchment.

I placed it in a 400F oven for 40 minutes total.

(I started with just 20 minutes and checked on it every 5 minutes until the edges were golden brown.)

You can see that the sides should have been a little wider but they puffed and browned!

While not the most beautiful thing I have ever made, I have never been prouder of something I baked. I served it up with a quick homemade caramel sauce, not pictured here.

Ideas for next time
-The pastry has a very distinct rice flour taste - a different blend of flours might help. Perhaps tapioca starch, more potato starch and some corn starch and much less rice flour.
-Maybe a full tablespoon of sugar in the initial dough.
-Definitely salt is needed in the dough, maybe 1/2 a tsp?
-Work the dough and butter together when they are cold, don't put more than 2 turns in at a time; refrigerate between each time.
-Maybe up the argar argar to prevent the dough from cracking when rolling it out when its so cold. (I am not sure if this would work) Or roll the dough out thinner and do two additions of butter in stead of one.
-The bottom dough was chewy and a little flaky, but the outer crust was much better. This recipe might work best for shells that are filled after they are baked rather than for tarts or turnovers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


A friend shared this post from boingboing last month and I really couldn't wait to try it out. Its slightly terrifying and oddly intriguing and reminded me of octodogs. When Tikyada pasta went on sale last week at Whole Foods, well I couldn't really resist the temptation to string hot dogs on pasta and call it dinner.

It was hard to manipulate the pasta, which got moist and pliable and started to snap if I strung too many dogs on it. But it held up long enough for me to make some weird shapes.

(this one is suppose to be a giraffe - his head is way at the top)

(hot dog tree!)

One of the biggest concerns, voiced by others, was fear that the past inside the dogs wouldn't cook, but you can see that the pieces of hot dogs got larger as they took on water and the pasta cooked through.

The biggest problem was what to serve with this dish. Ketchup, mustard, spaghetti sauce?
We went with mustard, which tasted great with the dogs, but a little weird with just a mouthful of spaghetti.

I would totally make this again and think its a great idea for kids of any age.
Making up interesting names is almost as fun as eating it. Weenieccinni, Spaghettidog, dogs on a rope...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fiddleheads and Arepas

There is something about the arrival of fiddleheads to market that provides reassurance that spring is here to stay. They are baby ferns, picked before they unfurl. (Do non't go picking these from your yard or forest willy-nilly, some ferns are poisonous.) I only tasted them for the first time last year, and I have to admit that I wasn't bowled over. A bit like asparagus mixed with green beans and a hint of okra, but more bitter, fiddleheads are special because they have such a short season, so I thought it best to give them a second try.

I have also been experimenting a lot late with gorditas and arepa recipes. Portable, pocket foods are awesome - they are the culinary marsupials! I have modified the Bob's Red Mills recipe for gorditas on the back of the masa harina bag, but they are still too dense. Last week there was some significant success using P.A.N. pre-cooked cornmeal during a group effort to produce arepas and I thought tonight was the night to make them again.

I didn't have any P.A.N. precooked cornmeal, but I did have a bag of this:

The translation on the back of the bag said it was pre-cooked cornmeal, so I figured I could just mix it 1-to-1 with water, add salt and make arepas.
I should have known something was amiss when the mixture needed an extra cup of water to form a dough. But I pressed on, shaping the balls, forming disks, searing them on each side and then placing them in an oven till they cooked through and made a hollow sound when tapped.

The fiddleheads
I cleaned them (washed them in water a few times, and snipped off the brown ends) and then sauteed them in brown butter with garlic. They lightened in color as they cooked.

I served them up with seasoned black beans (onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, turmeric) and chopped avocado with lime and some scallions.

The fiddleheads were much better than I remember them being! They retained a bit of their crunch and had a nice green asparagus-green bean flavor. And honestly, what doesn't taste good sauteed in brown butter with garlic?
The arepas on the other hand were very dense and the flavor was off. I am going to have to hunt down some P.A.N. cooked corn meal and some more masa harina and do more experiments.