Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sourdough Starter - Day 3 & 4

Day 3
There are a few bubbles and its starting to smell a bit... not like sourdough, but like something.
I added more starches and water to double the mixture and swirled to combine.
Potato starch flour
Rice flour
Millet flour
Sorghum flour
Filtered water

Day 4
Good morning weird goop!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Buttermilk Banana Muffins

I had some left over buttermilk and three very ripe bananas that inspired this cold, rainy Monday night baking experience.

Buttermilk Banana Muffins
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup potato flour (this was an oops, it was suppose to be 1/4 cup, lets see how this comes out)
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans + tbsp for topping muffins (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp buttermilk

1. Cream the butter and sugar.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing for each to be fully incorporated into the batter.
3. Add in the mashed bananas and beat until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet. Stir to combine.
6. Add 2-3 tablespoons of buttermilk until the batter loosens up. (you want the batter to slide off the spoon and then plop off sorda slowly.)
7. Place in lined muffin tins.
8. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Overall these were a bit less sweet and a little drier than the banana bread recipe I made last time. I think the explosion of potato starch is to blame.

The texture was better last night when the muffins were still warm, but I doubt they will go to waste.

Gluten Free Marketing Discussion

An interesting podcast about gluten free labeling, dieting and is it a fad.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sourdough Starter

After a successful pancake making session (I mixed a lot of things without measuring or writing them down... I should know better, but they came out tasty), I was watching an episode of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie and was re-inspired to attempt making a sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter Day 1
Sorghum flour
Millet flour
Potato starch flour
Filtered water*

I poured some of each flour into a jar and covered with an equal amount of water. Then, I shook it up a bit. Covered it loosely.

Hopefully, in a few days, there will be bubbles!

*The chlorine in tap water kills bacteria and some yeasts (a good thing in your pipes) but can slow down the formation of a sourdough starter, which is a combination of bacteria, yeast and flour(s).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gluten Free iPhone App

Celiac Travel just released a gluten free app for the iPhone.

Click here to download the application. (It opens in iTunes)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cadbury Candy

I have to thank a friend for this. Its a little early for Easter, but this old Cadbury commercial is necessary:

YouTube Video

Psssst, Easter Bunny. Check this out too:
Gluten Free list of Cadbury products (non-USA list*)

*In the USA, while Hershey's does not technically own Cadbury, they license and distribute their products. There seems to be a lot of confusion over what Hershey's will and will not disclose about their product ingredients. Some lists say some products are ok, other lists contradict those. SIZE MATTERS! Miniatures and seasonal products can and often do contain different ingredients. Always read labels and double check.

In the mean time, while I feel that this old Cadbury commercial his hysterical, I will not be buying Cadbury or Hershey's products in the near future.
Instead, I am going to send a letter requesting full disclosure of ingredients to:

David J. West
COO of Hershey Incorporated
100 Crystal A Drive
Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033

Hershey's "contact us" number: 800.468.1714

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Belated St. Patrick's Day Celebration

You are going to look at this recipe and wonder why a nice Irish girl would go mucking about with a culinary standard. Well, this lass had a German-Irish father and a Sicilian mother... that's how the garlic, oregano, basil and rosemary got added to the pot. The first time my mother prepared boiled dinner for my dad, to his horror, she throw in a tomato as well. The literally melting pot of flavors produced a St. Patrick's Day feast so tasty that the Italian influences became a family tradition.

Corned Beef & Cabbage
corned beef brisket, recipe here
cold water
2 tbsp Italian seasonings
1 head of garlic
4 carrots, peeled and quartered
4 onions, peeled and halved
1 head of green cabbage cut into wedges (keep the core attached for easier removal)
8 potatoes peeled
brown mustard and viewing of Lost, optional

1. Remove the brisket from the brine and brush off most of the spices. Place it in a large stock pot and cover with enough cold water so that the meat is submerged and there are few inches of extra water (you will need this later to cook the veggies).
2. Add in a tablespoon or so of fresh black peppercorns, Italian seasonings and head of garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
3. Cook for 1-3 hours, depending on the weight of the meat, till it is mostly cooked through. (The original brisket I used was 4.31 lbs and this took about 1.5 hours over medium-low heat.)
4. Add in the vegetables and turn the heat up till it begins to boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook veggies until fork-tender.
5. Remove the meat, trim it of the fat and cut into slices, against the grain of the meat.
6. Serve with spicy brown mustard and enjoy the fact that there will be many many left overs.*
*Store left overs in the boiling liquid to prevent them from drying out.

This version was even more flavorful than my homemade corned beef attempt of 2008! But for now, I am looking forward to hash for breakfast.

Vosges Chocolate

While in Chicago I checked out Vosges Chocolate. I have previously had their Mo's Bacon Bar and Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar. I found the bacon bar, well wanting for bacon, but thought the black sesame and wasabi worked well with the dark chocolate in the Black Pearl.

Armed with info about gluten-containing truffles from their website, I was excited to try most of their offerings. Honestly, I think I should have known better. Upon walking into the storefront on North Michigan Ave. it was clear that packaging was more important than product. Purple walls, check. Purple accents, check. Expensive lighting shining on chocolate that shouldn't be exposed to that much heat, check. Overpriced clothing oddly placed between the customer and the truffle counter, you got it.

Dazzled by the prospect of rich, intense flavors I purchased the following truffles:

Taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + Tahitian vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate
Olio d'Oliva:
First press extra virgin olive oil + white chocolate + dried kalamata olives
12-year aged balsamic vinegar + dark chocolate + Sicilian hazelnuts
Japanese macha green tea + white chocolate + cherry blossom petals
Buddha's Leaf:
Malaysian pandan leaves + dark chocolate + cocoa powder
Black Pearl: ginger + wasabi + dark chocolate + black sesame seeds
sweet Indian curry + coconut + deep milk chocolate
Red Fire: ancho chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + Venezuelan dark chocolate

and bars:

Organic Enchanted Mushroom Candy Bar

As I signed away my bill with a purple pen, the staff person threw in a mini Red Fire Exotic Candy Bar for free.

Overall I was underwhelmed. For the price point I expected something much more interesting, intense and more solidly constructed.

One of the truffles was cracked, the two white chocolate flavors were not filled properly and almost every truffle had separation between the two uneven layers of the outer shell. They were packaged in 2s or 4s in little cellophane bags (why they don't use boxes is beyond me), but without a guide some of the tasting was guesswork.

My favorite was the Redfire truffle which had heat, chocolate and cinnamon flavors that all came through. The pandan leaf truffle was a bit nutty but could easily have been hazelnut. The black pearl was my second favorite truffle, echoing the bar I remembered and liked so much. The rooster did pair chocolate and cheese effectively. It had an interesting tang but I am not sure its something I would necessarily reach for again. The balsamic vinegar truffle was one of the most disappointing; it clearly had a sour note, but the chocolate overwhelmed it. Some of the flavors were a bit lost, others were nearly obliterated. The white chocolate was salty and overwhelmed both the green tea and olive oil centers.
(I opted out of tasting the Naga truffle. I asked if it contained fenugreek and the staff there was not sure, so I bought one on a whim. Boy did it! Fenugreek is one of those spices that I can taste from a mile away and then only taste it for the next few hours.)

The bars faced a similar problem of missing or overpowered flavors. The dark chocolate in the Enchanted Mushroom bar masked most of the mushrooms earthiness as did the pink salt, taking over the goji in the Goji bar. The Calindia bar had a strong cardamom and chocolate flavor but I couldn't taste the prunes. (Dried plums on the label do not fool me.)
The mini Red Fire Bar hit hard with intense cinnamon and then a warm heat that tickled the back of the throat, like the truffle with the same name, it was the stand out favorite.

While I doubt I am going to be dropping that much cash on chocolate again, I think Vosges is using good products, I just question the pairings and truffle construction... a lot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lula's Cafe

I had a lovely meal at Lula, a restaurant in Logan Square, Chicago. I called ahead to ask about their Monday Night Farm Dinner, sadly it was gluten filled, but they assured me that there were other menu options that were or could be made gluten-free.

From the outside, Lula Cafe did not look like much sandwiched between a diner and apartment buildings. But the modest exterior gave way to a cozy, candlelit interior with a beautiful bar that lead down the narrow hall towards the dining room.

I started the night with a Malbec rose; I have never seen one before and thought it was worth a try. It was clean, slightly crisp, but it felt like something that was better left to warmer months.

The cheese plate appetizer came with far too much bread (not just because I could not eat it) there were two small cheese offerings a bloomy rind Italian cheese and some Great Hill Blue from Wisconsin plus brandied cherries, candied walnuts, preserves, micro greens, a drizzle of honey, flat bread crisps plus a small side plate of 4 slices of bread... it was bread overkill.
The beet and blood orange salad was a surprise. Layers of shaved fennel, serrano ham, arugula, golden and garnet beets, and supremes of blood oranges were dressed table side with black olive infused honey. The plate was also garnished with dried bits of black olives that provided a light crunch and salt that helped balance the plate.

The main dishes offered generous portions of protein paired with interesting sides. The whitefish came lightly crusted atop stinging nettles and black trumpet mushrooms and fried fingerling potatoes. I honestly thought the dots of chile oil around the plate would be overwhelming, but they added a pleasant and balanced heat to the dish. (I have never had stinging nettles before and they were a little fuzzy feeling, but soft, tender and paired well with the mushrooms.)
The flank steak, served medium rare over a bed of chickpeas and marrow-poached baby turnips had at least one or two hidden spices, beyond the cilantro listed, that made me keep going back for another bite. The meat stood out with its crisp, perfectly seasoned exterior that gave way to a tender interior, making me think that it was bathed in some clarified butter. The chickpeas were firm, but not undercooked, but the turnips were the real treat. Soft, bite sized roots had me digging through the chickpeas and green onions to find one more bite.

There was a comfortable and needed lull between courses, with casually dressed servers who knew how to read a table and their clientele.

The meal ended with the apricot milkshake and caramel panna cotta. The toasted rice and almond milkshake was thick but not overly sweet. (I passed on the accompanying cookies)
There was some confusion about the oatmeal praline topping on the panna cotta, but it was quickly resolved and a new dessert was sent out. If it would have been doable, I would have lapped the cajeta off the plate that accompanied the barely sweet goats milk panna cotta. The quince offered a texture contrast, nice, but not necessary. The salty and tangy curls of a hard goats milk cheese were cute but appropriate since the panna cotta itself did not have the characteristicly metallic or lemony hits of most goats milk products. The cajeta (similar to dulce de leche) was sweet and luscious and even with such a filling meal, I wanted more of it.

Lula is good and often times sometimes great local cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. I look forward to a reason to visit both it and Chicago again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More gluten free Chex

By way of Gluten Free Blog, there is word that General Mills will be reformulating more of their Chex products - in addition to the now gluten free Rice Chex - to be released in June 2009!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gluten Free Favorites

I have been emailing this list out to a lot of people lately, so I thought I would post it. Here is a bunch of my favorite gluten free substitute products that really helped get me over the initial diagnosis hump.

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Brown Mix - a little greasy, but tastes like the real thing and is cheaper that most box mixes

Namaste Spice Cake Mix - (I love the carrot cake adaptation, I throw in carrots, coconut, pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries - I made it into cupcakes for my birthday!)
This company does all allergy-free stuff.

EnjoyLife Snickerdoodles (I don't like their other cookies, but these are great) allergy-free, vegan and taste good!

Pamela's Cookies - some are dairy free, which is awesome (Ginger almond are my favorite)

Gluten Free Pantry mixes are good - their Angel Food Cake was good enough I served it with berries and people ate it like the real thing two weeks ago

Tinkyada Rice Pasta - best texture (DON'T serve cold)

Erewhon Cereal - They have 3 that are gluten free, two rice ones and one corn flake. The one with freeze dried berries is my favorite - pretty close to the old rice krispies

Gorilla Munch - corn cereal, similar to Kixx but crunchier

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Granola - the cranberry maple nut is really really good

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Waffles - the banana are really good and hold up well to toasting

Jennies Coconut Macaroons - hard to stop eating these once the yellow can is open

Sunshine Burgers - gluten/dairy/vegan veggie burgers (in the freezer section)

Bell & Evan's Gluten Free Chicken Strips - corn-based, expensive, but a good in-a-pinch-dinner (better with bbq or hot sauce)

Gluteno Pizza - way better than Amy's which has the texture of soggy styrofoam (any frozen gf pizza needs extra cheese/sauce)

San-J Wheat Free Tamari - less salty and a little sweeter in flavor than traditional soy sauce, this stuff rules

Julian's Gluten Free Rolls - contain soy, but are dairy free (dried and crumbled makes amazing panko-like crumbs!)

Whole Foods Gluten Free Sandwich Bread - favorite bread w/dairy

Food for Life's Gluten Free Millet bread - favorite dairy-free bread

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My $0.02 on the FDA gluten free labeling survey

I posted the other day about the call for public comment on the proposed FDA survey on gluten free labeling. Today I uploaded my comments to Regulations.gov

This study could be really helpful and important. This is the FDA potentially asking us - the people who have to live and eat gluten-free - what we need and want in labeling. Do you want to know where your food comes from and what has been added to it? What if the ubiquitous "natural flavorings" was gone and replaced with the actual contents of the packaged food?!

I am not saying that it would solve every problem, but here is a chance for a large study to be conducted and further substantiate the findings of other studies* that to be able to be able to adhere to the gluten-free diet, persons need clear, concise and adequate information about food.

It sounds so simple, "we need to know what is in food," but like it or not, more often times than not we don't. Just last night I noticed that a product that I have used for 2 years, that was gluten free, now contains wheat. The packaging did not change, there was no warning on it. I have become relatively comfortable, almost lax, about shopping and this snapped me awake again. Like it or not, checking packaging and labels EVERY TIME is a necessity. It would be great if information could be collected about the day-to-day needs of persons who must avoid gluten and hopefully some positive legislation could be enacted.

If you are interested in viewing and posting comments, you can do so by searching for the docket number and then click on the comment bubble to add your own comment.
Docket No. FDA-2009-N-0083

Paper submissions can be sent to:
Division of Dockets Management (HFA- 305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number found in brackets in the heading of this document.
Deadline for submissions is May 5, 2009

Here is my submission:

"RE: Docket No. FDA-2009-N-0083

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in response to the March 6, 2009 FDA notice for public comment on a voluntary consumer study entitled: “Gluten-Free Labeling of Food Products Experimental Study.”

First and foremost I would like to say that yes, a study of this nature is not only important, it is essential for the 1 in every 133 Americans who have Celiac Disease in addition to those allergic, sensitive to gluten and persons with Dermatitis Herpetiformis.

In response to your 4 points:

(1) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FDA's functions, including whether the information will have practical utility;


Only the “top 8” allergens are required by law to be listed, currently there are no regulations that require the full disclosure of all ingredients in packaged foods in the US. Gluten is found in: wheat, rye, barley, kamut, spelt, durum, semolina, einkorn, faro and triticale. Since the ubiquitous “natural flavors” is often listed as ingredients and can be almost anything, it is truly difficult to know if a product does or does not contain gluten.

In addition to a lack of information about what is (or is not) contained within a product, current labels are often confusing and contradictory.
e.g. products such as Rice Dream and Benefiber that both contain barely and/or wheat, but are labeled “gluten free.”

Even when packages are clearly labeled, cross-contamination and mistakes cause people to become violently ill. See one of the most recently reported cases where “gluten free” was not: “Children at risk in food roulette: Mislabeling, lax oversight threaten people with allergies” by Same Roe in Chicago Tribune, 21 November 2008)

(2) the accuracy of FDA's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used

It is essential to get participants who are in the various stages of the gluten-free diet; persons just starting the diet have drastically different needs than those who have done it for many years, where changes to products without adequate labeling of new or different ingredients is often a problem. It is also essential to survey those caregivers who purchase and prepare foods for those who cannot eat gluten. (Parents of young children, food assistance programs, care giving facilities, etc.)
It is also important to survey persons from different ethnic and socio-economic groups because what people can eat and what people should it is shaped by their culture and their wallet.

One challenge will be the fact that many persons who have Celiac Disease and/or gluten sensitivity also have other food intolerances. The needs and questions surrounding good packaging are limited to just whether something does or does not contain gluten. This will skew some responses and survey questions need to be constructed with this in mind.

(3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected

-Offer the survey in more than one language.
-Offer a paper version of the survey for those with physical limitation or without access to the internet.
-Products labeled “gluten free” often cost more. This is an important data collection point.
-Offer the results of the survey to the public.

(4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques, when appropriate, and other forms of information technology.

-Using already developed online survey tools (like surveymonkey.com) allows for customizable data collection and would defray much of the cost of having to start, build and test a database system.
-Using a simple, online survey that allowed for a variety of types of questions (multiple choice and open ended response) would aid in the collection of more accurate date.
-An online survey would also enable the FDA to contact current Celiac Disease Research Centers, ask for them to distribute the survey to their mailing lists. (Beth Israel Celiac Disease Center, CDC @ Columbia, U of Maryland for Celiac Research, American Celiac Society, Celiac.com, etc.) This would further defray the cost of finding participants.

I hope these are in some way useful.

Again, I thank you for your time and concern and am looking forward to the study and its results.

Kristina Nies
Diagnosed with Celiac Disease June 2007"
Comment tracking number is 8091b9f7

A. Sverker, G. Hensing & C. Hallert. “‘Controlled by food’ – lived experiences of coeliac disease.” The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 18 (2005): 171-180.; and
H.R. Green and Chrstophe Cellier. “Celiac Disease” The New England Journal of Medicine (2007) 357. 1731-1743.; and A.R. Lee, D.L. Ng, J. Zivin & P.H.R. Green. “Economic burden of a gluten-free diet” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (20) 423-430.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

I postponed the full corned beef and cabbage dinner till next week, but I had a hankering for soda bread. My attempt last year resulted in a chewy, spongy, weird "bread" so this year I tried combining three different recipes to create one new one.

Working off of my Grammy Scally's recipe, Irish Soda Bread w/Millet, and Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread, I made one recipe to rule them all:

Irish Soda Bread
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1-2 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)

1. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. (sift if necessary)
2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. (make sure the melted butter isn't hot or it will scramble the eggs - that would be bad)
3. Stir in raisins and seeds.
4. Put into a greased loaf pan or cake pan and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from pan and place on cooling rack.

The luck of the Irish must have been with me this year because this turned out fantastically. Good, even crumb, moist and a bit sweet and toothsome but not at all chewy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

National Artichoke Heart Day

March 16th is National Artichoke Heart Day!

I like artichokes, I love artichokes.

Here is a picture I took in 2002 when I went to Sicily in search of the perfect artichoke.
(I was lucky enough to enjoy a 13 course meal of artichokes in a small restaurant in Cefalu, the self-proclaimed artichoke capital of the world!)

The idea for tonight's meal was artichokes 2 ways: fried baby artichokes with aioli and stuffed and steamed artichokes - the way my mom used to make them.

The cleaned and quartered baby artichokes fried up well, sprinkled with course salt and dipped in aioli they were really good (even after a fellow dinner pointed out that they sort of looked like cockroaches, we all still kept on eating).

The side dish of chick peas with cumin and mustard seeds along with rice and a quick salad of Boston lettuce and honey mustard dressing, round out the meal pretty well.

The stuffed artichokes on the other hand... well they were not as expected.
We cleaned them and stuffed them with minced garlic, olive oil, homemade gf breadcrumbs and topped with a bit of grated Romano cheese. The flavor was there, but they never cooked through fully. I think most of the water burned off (they were being steamed in a veggie steamer inside a pot) and while the bottom of the pot charred, the artichokes just sat there.

Artichokes are just starting to come into season, so it won't be the last time to appreciate these buds this year.

Pi(e) Day Revisited, w/Apricots

Dried Apricot Pie

Flaky Pie Crust
2/3 cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch
2/3 cup potato starch
6 tbsp corn starch
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
2. Cut cold butter in to pieces, cut into dry ingredients until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and vinegar.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into butter mixture. Mix together.
5. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic or place in zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

2 cups dried apricots
1 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp corn starch

1. Put apricots and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the apricots and water and place in a covered bowl to steam.
3. In the sauce pan, place 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half.
4. Allow the mixture to cool and mix in the corn starch, whisking well to remove any lumps.

1. Roll out the dough between layers of parchment - dust the parchment with extra tapioca starch to prevent sticking.
2. Layer the apricots in the bottom crust and cover with cornstarch, water and sugar mixture.
3. Place top crust on and cut a few holes in to vent steam.
4. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.
5. Lower to 325F and bake until golden brown, approximately another 45 minutes.

Its as sour and flaky as the pie I remembered my parents' friend made when I was growing up.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patrick's Day - Step 1

Corning the Beef (a stronger adaptation of Alton Brown's brine)
1 cup kosher salt
2 tbsp saltpetre
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
8 cloves
13 allspice berries
4 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 cups of water
3 handfuls of ice
4-5 lbs of brisket

1. Bring all ingredients to a boil.
2. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Cool brine then add ice.
4. Add the brisket to the pot or place brisket in a plastic bag and pour in brine.
5. Make sure the brisket is fully submerged and turn at least once a day for 1-2 weeks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day

3.141... never looked so tasty!

A neighbor growing up used to make dried apricot pie. The flaky crust gave way to a sour and sweet, make-your-mouth-pucker filling. I found this recipe online and decided it as time to recreate this childhood memory.

But I got side-tracked and made the crust and filling, but didn't get a chance to put it together and bake it... yet.

Friday, March 13, 2009

FDA Wants Your Imput on Gluten Free Labeling - MAY 9th DEADLINE

I have to thank Gluten-Free NYC for this link and analysis to the FDA's call for input on a possible Gluten-Free Labeling Study.

Being able to decipher packaging labels is one of the greatest hurdles to being able to being and maintain a gluten-free lifestyle and an FDA sponsored study could help bring many of these issues to light.

The call for public comment is an opportunity to comment on their four information points, but its also an opportunity to say "YES, please conduct a survey about gluten-free labeling in the U.S."

To do so, you must visit the the FDA's web page about this proposal is: Docket No. FDA-2009-N-0083

(I will type up and share my comments soon.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Corned Beef - It starts with a brine

Last year I modified Alton Brown's recipe and corned my own beef for St. Patrick's Day.

Homemade Corned Beef
2 quarts of water
1 cup kosher salt
2 tbsp salt petre
2 tbsp sugar
1tsp molasses (I didn't have any brown sugar, so I fudged it here)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1tsp black pepper corns
5 cloves garlic
2 slices fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 piece of mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 quart ice

Bring all ingredients to a boil (except the ice and brisket).
Lower to a simmer and stir until salt is dissolved.
Remove from heat, allow to cool.
Add ice.

Place brisket into a zip-top bag, and pour in cooled liquid.
Store in refrigerator for at least a week, flipping meat at least once a day.

1.5 weeks later... it made a delicious dinner, by:

Corned Beef & Cabbage
Removed the brisket from the brine, washed it thoroughly.

Place in a pot, covered with cold water.
Brought to a boil, then backed down to a simmer with 2 bay leaves, some pepper corns and a few ribs of celery.

1.5 hours latter, added the vegetables:
1 head cabbage, cut into wedges
1 lb carrots, cut in chunks
1/2lb+ boiling onions, peeled
potatoes, quartered

It turned out very well, not salty at all.

My dinner guest thought we should dress up mr. beef for his photo shoot. (Eyes are clementines, heirloom carrots around the edge and I believe the nose is a prune)

The meal was delicious, as was the hash I made the next day.

I am a little late to the game this year, but hopefully I can start the pickle tonight!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eggplant & Chick Peas

I am not really sure what to call this concoction other than "lunch" because its not really a curry or a traditional recipe of sorts. Its more of a this-is-what-I-have-in-the-house-that-will-feed-me-for-days-and-cheaply.
I had a lone eggplant that I bought last week with the greatest intentions of turning it into baba ganoush. I have really been in the mood for chick peas, so I thought that I would use up the extra stock I had in the fridge and came up with the following:

Eggplant & Chick Peas
2 tbps oil
1 small onion diced
1 carrot diced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 cardamom pods
1 eggplant diced
1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes & the juice
4 cloves sliced garlic
1 potato diced
2-3 cups of stock or broth (I used chicken, but veg would be fine here as well)
1 can of whole chick peas, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste

1. In a large sauce pan or stock pot heat the oil an onions over medium high heat until brown.
2. Add the carrots and spice, stir to coat.
3. Add and brown the eggplant. (If it sticks you can add more oil or jump to #4)
4. Add the tomatoes, garlic, potato and enough stock or broth to cover the veggies.
5. Bring to a boil then simmer till the potato is fork tender.
6. Add in the chick peas and salt.
7. Serve over rice.
Take the leftover to work as soup:

This turned out really well, but I would add some coriander next time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Caramel Chocolate Truffles

When I was making my coconut milk truffles a few weeks ago, I got the notion to try to make a caramel truffle too. I was toying between a caramel center, enrobed in dark chocolate, or a caramel infused chocolate. With some help from a good friend and lover of chocolate himself, we created this recipe:

Caramel Chocolate Truffles
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut 60%)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/8 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
seeds & pulp of one vanilla bean (very optional)
toasted pecans for coating

1. Chop the chocolate as evenly as possible. Place in a glass bowl and set aside.

2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, place the sugar, salt and water. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and bubbles start forming. (You can use a pastry brush dipped in a bit of water to go around the inside edge of the pan to help prevent crystals from forming.)

The sugar is beginning to darken around the edges.

When its almost as dark as you want it - and you want it pretty dark here - remove it from the heat.

See that smoke coming off the burning sugar?!
PSA - Turn the vent or hood on BEFORE starting this process or else the smoke detector is going to start blaring.

3. Add the cream to the caramelized sugar and stir to combine.
You can see I used a much larger pot than necessary. This is because hot sugar + room temp or cold cream = splatters. Be very careful.

4. Pour the hot caramel over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is smooth.

5. Add in the butter, vanilla and vanilla pulp and continue to stir until well incorporated.

6. Cover the chocolate mixture (now a ganache) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If you go overnight, take the bowl out 1 hour before attempting to roll truffles, so it can warm up a bit.
7. Set up three stations. One for forming the truffles (you will need a melon baller or round spoon, something to help start the shape). A bowl or plate for coating the truffles in nuts. And a dish or plate for the finished product.

8. Scoop the ganache with the spoon/baller. Try to keep them as uniform as you can, but its up to you what size. (I used a teaspoon, but was generous with the portioning)

9. Roll the portions between your hands - you might want to don food-safe, powder free gloves for this part.

10. Place the formed truffle into the nut mixture and roll it around to coat.

11. Place truffle on plate/tray.

12. When you are done, store them flat in a cool, dry place - like a tupperware. (If its warm out, storing them in the fridge is great, just be wary of what else is in your fridge... like onions.)

13. It is important to set some aside for the cook, or else they will disappear without you having the proper chance to taste test them.

Overall, I thought these were good, but could be even better. The caramel flavor is subtle; if I didn't know it was in there I am not sure I would be able to pick it out. The ganache itself was much firmer than the coconut truffle batch, so I think there is a lot of room to work this recipe to include even more caramel next time.

I will probably omit the vanilla bean pulp, there is no need, and with the ganache this stiff it would be easy to add another teaspoon of vanilla extract instead. No gluten, but definitely more testing required.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Glutenous Minimus

I heard a rumor that Porter Square Books is now carrying Glutenous Minimus products now. I headed over today to check it out. They had two options: a peanut butter chocolate chip cookies & carrot cake muffins, both offerings individually wrapped - a nice bit of added insurance against cross contamination.

The carrot cake muffin was devoid of the usual nuts and raisins, and was lacking something. The texture was ok - but being wrapped in cellophane might have been part of the problem.
The peanut butter chocolate chip cookie however, was amazing. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it was hands-down the best gluten free cookie I have had.

The cafe staff said that they get other flavors in, sometimes double chocolate and a molasses chew. The bookstore is right around the corner from Zings Pizza - that offers a gluten free crust, made by Gluentous Minimus, so I will definitely be back.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Catfish & Asparagus

I know its a bit early in the season, but asparagus were on sale for $1.99 a pound and I could not resist. I had some left over greens from last night, so I was thinking salad. Doing laps around the store I finally settled on some decent looking catfish and thought about the preserved lemons sitting in the back of the fridge.

Charred Asparagus
1 lb. asparagus

1. Snap each asparagus at the base.
2. In a heavy bottom skillet, sear the asparagus over high heat. (Doing this in 2 or 3 batches will prevent over-crowding of the pan - which leads to steaming, rather than charring.)
3. Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt.

Baked Catfish with Preserved Lemons

2 tsp oil
1/2 peel of a preserved lemon, rinsed & chopped/torn
3/4-1 lb. catfish, cleaned
Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven at 350F
1. Spread oil and lemon peel on bottom of pan.
2. Put the fish atop the peel.
3. Sprinkle Old Bay, cumin and a little salt on top.
4. Bake at 350F till the fish is cooked through. (This is going to vary depending on the thickness of your fillets.)

Salad w/Lemon Vinaigrette
washed & dried salad greens
juice of one lemon (1 part)
white pepper
olive oil (3 parts)

1. In a large bowl - bigger than you think you need, the bigger the easier it is for tossing - put the lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Mix until the salt is dissolved.
2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking or mixing vigorously.
This is going to produce a "broken" dressing, one where the acid (lemon juice) and fat (olive oil) are separate, don't worry if its not one homogenized mix, its not suppose to be.
Add about 3x as much olive oil as lemon juice.
3. Place the greens in the bowl and gently toss to lightly coat the greens.

Put it all together and you get dinner!