Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pasta Primavera with Saffron Cream Sauce

One of my favorite readers recently mentioned that it would be great if I could explore some more vegetarian options for the gluten free diet. Our family does tend to eat a lot of chicken and fish, so I thought it would be a nice challenge to look for ways in which to expand our culinary repertoire into the mysterious and wonderful land of fruit and vegetables.

This first attempt is loosely based on a recipe I found in the 2007 Bon Appetit cookbook, called "Spring Vegetable Fricassee with Saffron Cream". The recipe is accompanied in the book (p.132) with a really sexy looking picture of vibrant red and orangey vegetables in a lovely saffron sauce, glowing from an equally lovely yellow pan. I found it so enticing I decided to plan an entire meal around the dish. (Goes to show ya, photos really are worth thousands of words…)

That said, I was a bit disappointed with the bland taste of the original recipe on my first time experimenting with it... and so have added a few suggestions about how you can spice it up in your own kitchen including (haha) an additional meat option.

I hope you will enjoy this dish, and please do write in and let me know if you have new ideas about how to make it taste even more decadent.

Pasta Primavera with Saffron Cream Sauce

What You’ll Need:

1 bag of baby carrots (24 oz)
8 oz fresh Crimini mushrooms (sliced into quarters)
1 large bunch asparagus (cut into thirds, ends trimmed off)
1 cup frozen peas
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 shallots, thinly sliced
¾ bag of fresh baby spinach leaves (= several cups)
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups whipping cream
½ teaspoon saffron threads
¾ tsp thyme
2/3 cup vegetable broth (for non-veggies, use chicken broth)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 bag Tinkyada rice fettuccine pasta (or you can use angel hair)
Olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Sea salt

Recommended additions:

For Vegetarians: 5 oz sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into quarters
For Meat Eaters: 4 – 6 oz pancetta, cooked and crumbled

How It Works:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare all of your ingredients. Wash and slice your mushrooms, trim the ends off of your asparagus and cut them into thirds. If using sun dried tomatoes, slice them into quarters. If using pancetta, cook it in the microwave until lightly browned and then break it into crumbles. Prepare your broth and spices; finely slice your onion and shallots. Have everything you need nearby so that once you begin cooking the process is seamless and goes fast.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil, and rest another pot of cold water (you can use ice cubes if necessary) nearby. When your water is boiling, throw in the entire bag of baby carrots. Boil them for 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the icy water.

In a deep saucepan (I used a 3 quart pot) heat olive oil and a dab of butter. When it is warm but not smoking, add the sliced onion. Cook for 1 minute, then add shallots. Cook until both are translucent but not browned and then add the saffron and mix it in well. Next add your lightly boiled carrots, mushrooms, thyme... and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the mix constantly so your onions and shallots don’t burn.

Add white wine and simmer down the liquid for a few minutes, then add broth and simmer for about 5 minutes. Now it is time to add the cream, and once it begins to simmer it is the perfect time to add your asparagus, frozen peas and spinach. If you are a vegetarian, also add the sun dried tomatoes now.

Butter a large baking dish. Stir your vegetable medley and pour or ladle it carefully into the baking dish. (If you are a meat eater, now is the time to add your crumbled cooked pancetta.) Put it into the center of your hot oven and cook it for twenty minutes.

When your timer goes off, pull out the baking dish and pour the grated parmesan over its top so that the cheese forms a thin crust. Place the baking dish back in your oven and cook for approximately 10 more minutes, but do not allow the parmesan cheese to burn.

While your vegetables are cooking, put on a large kettle of salted water to boil and cook up your delicious Tinkyada fettuccine or angel hair pasta. Drain and rinse in cool water or olive oil so it does not stick.

Serve your creamy primavera sauce in the midst of a bed of rice pasta, and grate just a touch more fresh parmesan over it as a final garnish. Wonderful with fresh baked gluten free rolls and a crisp vegetable salad.

Serves 4 – 6.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Garlic Herb Stuffed Chicken

No matter how much you love food and truly enjoy your time in the kitchen, sometimes every chef needs a recipe that can be whipped up in less than 20 minutes* and still look gorgeous... This is one of those, "Honey, okay if my Boss joins us for dinner tonight?" or "Surprise, Aunt Edna is in town and on her way over to see you!" type meals.

The ingredients which really make this gluten free chicken memorable are its garlic and herb goat cheese, white wine and tomatoes. I would recommend serving it with a tangy side, something balsamic or citrus-y to bring out the full flavor of your dinner. It would also be lovely on a bed of angel hair rice pasta!

*Prep time = less than 20 minutes. With cooking time this meal takes one hour total.

Garlic Herb Stuffed Chicken

What You’ll Need:

4 large chicken breasts with skin left on
10 oz garlic and herb Chavrie goat cheese
4 large fresh basil leaves
4 large fresh tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
36 trimmed asparagus sticks (a big bunch will do nicely)
Dry white wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Small aluminum or cast iron baking dish (or you can use tin foil)

How It Works:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss each chicken breast by hand in a bowl with salt, pepper, olive oil, leaves from one rosemary sprig, asparagus and quarters of one large fresh tomato. It’s fine if the mixture gets good and juicy.

Place asparagus and most of the tomato quarters on the bottom of your small baking dish or hand made tin foil bowl. Pop the chicken breast and rosemary leaves on top. With a small sharp knife (or your fingers) make space between the chicken skin and the chicken breast – without pulling the skin off.

Cut thin slices of your garlic herb goat cheese and slide them into the pocket between the chicken breast and skin. Also add one large basil leaf, then tuck skin back over breast as smoothly as possible.

Sprinkle more salt and pepper over the top of your breast, as well as the remaining tomato quarters and rosemary. Drizzle with a bit of dry white wine and a bit more olive oil.

Bake approximately 30 – 35 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden brown, and the chicken is cooked through but still moist and tender (not dry).

Lovely in its juices and tin foil nest

As you can see, this recipe works very nicely with chicken thighs as well... we made a large batch of both breasts and thighs and they were all succulent.

Looks like you've been cooking all day!

Serves 4.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gorgeous Fresh Marinara Sauce
Meatballs Optional

In our home, food goes a long way to ease an aching heart. I guess some would call that a problem… but we don’t see it that way. Our family (and extended family) just really loves savory aromas, the process of cooking a delicious meal and sitting down a table together to share our dining experience. Perhaps it is the companionship, conversation or togetherness time that gives us these warm feelings about food. Either way, some favorite dishes rise above the rest in terms of the comfort and satisfaction they bring after a long weary day.

Spaghetti with meatballs is definitely one of those meals that seem to leave my husband and children smiling and relaxed. It’s a fairly straightforward dish, easy to make and mercifully difficult to mess up. Many of our vegetarian friends love my recipe for its marinara sauce alone... but if you’re looking for a walk on the wilder side of meat, try coupling it with these mouth-watering meatballs made from ground buffalo... the leaner, lower-cholesterol cousin of ground beef.

Gorgeous Fresh Marinara Sauce, Meatballs Optional

What You’ll Need:

For the Marinara Sauce...

6 fresh basil leaves, finely minced
5 – 7 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 large onion, chopped
6 large fresh tomatoes (preferably home grown!)
24 oz Muir Glen tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 dash Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
¼ cup and 1 large dash extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine
1 small hunk of Parmesan cheese rind

For the optional Buffalo Meatballs...

10 oz ground buffalo meat
1 dried red chile, finely ground with food processor
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ to 1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
1 egg
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of two small limes
A touch of cinnamon


1 lb rice spaghetti or angel hair pasta (I use Tinkyada)

How It Works:

In a food processor, combine your basil leaves and fresh tomatoes and puree them until they are the lovely scent and consistency of cold gazpacho. Set aside. Next, finely mince your garlic and about 1/3 of your large onion in the same food processor until they are mostly liquid. Pour a large dash (more like a glug) of olive oil into a 3 quart pot and heat at medium temperature until warm but not smoking. Add the garlic/onion liquid and stir it with a wooden spoon until it becomes fragrant. Add all spices and seasonings except the Bay leaf and Parmesan rind, and continue to stir. Pour in the rest of your chopped onions, and sauté them in the seasoning mixture until they turn translucent.

Pour your puree of fresh tomatoes and basil into the pot and combine it well by stirring. Add the tomato sauce, white wine and ¼ cup olive oil. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for 60 – 90 minutes. (Add your Parmesan rind and Bay leaf at this juncture, as you begin to simmer the sauce.) The longer you simmer it, the more delicious it will taste.

Remove the Bay Leaf and Parmesan rind before serving.

Serves 4 comfortably.

Buffalo meatballs....

Although I’ve made a few clear adaptations here (buffalo meat, lime zest) this is basically Jamie Oliver’s meatball recipe. Please click here to learn how to make his absolutely fabulous Ragu of Tiny Meatballs to accompany my original marinara sauce.

Surprisingly delicious... and much more nutritious than ground beef!

Who knew spicy buffalo meatballs = modern art?

Sizzle, yum!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Salmon Stroganoff
with Butter Dill Fettuccine

As a child my all-time favorite food was stroganoff. It isn’t really that I had such sophisticated tastes... more likely, my mother was merely a charismatic cook that somehow managed to sell me on the idea of eating steak and pasta in a mushroom sauce. However it happened, I requested her stroganoff for every single birthday dinner from the age of six to nearly fifteen (when my parents stopped eating meat).

Now that I am a mother, I enjoy preparing stroganoff for my own children very much. Although we do eat red meat in our household, we’ve been trying to cut down a bit lately which is what inspired me to think about developing a stroganoff recipe that would work with fish.

Skeptical? I completely understand, and felt exactly the same way... until I found a recipe online at BigOven.Com for salmon stroganoff with butter dill sauce on a bed of fettuccine. Salmon in butter dill sauce is definitely something I have eaten in many fine restaurants and enjoyed on multiple occasions, so it didn’t seem as great of a stretch to add some cream and mushrooms.

I’ve made a few adaptations and modifications for my version, so I will give you my recipe but also provide the link to the original recipe so that its author can receive full credit and you can see another way to make the same recipe. The next time I make it, I may try substituting a tablespoon or more of Dijon mustard for the curry that we used here. Either way, it is a delicious meal – and a way to appreciate the rich ecstasy of creamy stroganoff without the meat.

Salmon Stroganoff with Butter Dill Fettuccine

What You’ll Need:

For the Salmon Stroganoff...

18 oz of fresh wild salmon
(I used Whole Catch Wild Sockeye Salmon)
8 oz Crimini mushrooms
2 cups diced onions
Large hunk of Butter
Large splash of Canola Oil
½ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups whipping cream (or heavy cream)
1 tsp curry powder

For the Fettuccine with Butter Dill Sauce

1 pkg Tinkayada Brown Rice Fettucine (14 oz)
½ cup butter
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh dill

How It Works:

Set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta. It will take a while to heat up, and Tinkyada pasta cooks for more than twice as long as normal gluten pasta. Best to get started with this part early.

Next prepare all of your ingredients. If you are using frozen salmon, defrost it in the microwave or under hot water. Whether fresh or frozen, skin and bone your salmon fillets. Slice up your mushrooms and dice your onions. Uncork your wine and measure out your curry powder, mince your dill, and slice open your fresh lemons (for the lemon juice). Once you actually get started cooking this meal, it will go very quickly so you’ll appreciate having all of the ingredients at your fingertips, ready to add.

In a very wide sauté pan (preferably a few inches deep) add a large hunk of butter and large splash of canola oil and warm it over medium heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add your diced onions and mushrooms and cook until the onions are translucent and mushrooms are slightly browned and soft. When finished, remove from pan and set aside but do not rinse pan.

Deglaze same pan with white wine and allow it to boil. Next, add whipping cream and curry powder and allow the entire mix to boil down a bit. Add your salmon fillets to this lovely yellow cream sauce and allow them to poach in the hot sauce. This will take a while (it was far longer than 5 minutes when I made the dish – more like 10!) and you will need to turn your salmon fillets over in the cream sauce to make sure that the salmon is evenly poached.

When your salmon is poached, use a wooden spoon to gently break each fillet into bite sized flakes. Pour the onion and mushroom mixture back into your cream sauce, and warm the onions and mushrooms until they match the temperature of the rest of the stroganoff.

Serve on a bed of Tinkyada fettuccine tossed with lemon butter-dill sauce. This dish isn’t just elegant... with all the cream and wine, it makes for first rate comfort food too.

Serves 4

As an interesting aside I read a story while researching this recipe about the origins of beef stroganoff, indicating that the dish hails from the Russian city of St. Petersburg where it was adapted in the 1890s to win a culinary competition and named for its chef’s patron, Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov. I wonder what the chef himself would think of my 'healthy' gluten free salmon version! I’m sure he never envisioned such an adaptation of his recipe...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pot Roasted Chicken Tart and Sweet

After three weeks on the road doing surprisingly little cooking, it is absolutely fantastic to be back in my kitchen experimenting with old and new recipes. I never thought I could miss cooking so much. I guess I must have been missing (a) the process of creation, (b) the part where I get to see happy looks on the faces of my family when they sit down to eat a meal I’ve made or (c) eating delicious home cooked meals 100% guaranteed to be gluten free.

Today I experimented with another outstanding Jamie Oliver recipe. Seriously, I must be like the millionth aspiring cook to say "That guy’s food is so sexy". My husband laughs good-naturedly over my Jamie Oliver crush, but I feel no shame. I think most chefs must feel the same way that I do.

The recipe I’ve been free-styling off of is his Pot-roasted poussins agro dolce. This basically translates to "Little Chickens Tart and Sweet". Of course, my local market was nowhere near chic enough to carry poussins or even Cornish game-hens for that matter. I had to settle for a standard roasting bird, and made a lot of other little changes along the way. I’ll give you my modifications to his recipe as long as we have the clear understanding that this outstanding meal comes directly from Jamie Oliver... and that you should run (not walk) to your nearest bookstore or Amazon dealer to purchase Cook With Jamie. You won’t regret it for a second!

It’s great to make this dish in the early afternoon when you can go at a relaxed pace and really savor the stunning aromas. Once you’ve got it in the oven you can kick back with a novel and a cup of tea and look forward to enjoying a gorgeous meal with your family later on. When he first saw our dinner my husband remarked, "Mmmmm, it looks like Coq au Vin..." but when he actually tasted it he concluded, "but WOW, the flavor is even better!"

Pot Roasted Chicken, Tart and Sweet
Adapted from a terrific recipe by Jamie Oliver

What You’ll Need:

1 roasting chicken (3.75 – 4 lbs)
1/2 large orange, sliced into two pieces
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
4 large sprigs of rosemary
5 celery sticks, thinly sliced
9 oz sun dried tomatoes in oil
3 cups gf Chianti* (Jamie uses 3 glasses)
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 handful seedless green grapes
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta

How It Works:

If I told you this, I think I’d be stealing his amazing recipe. Buy the book!

That said, I’ve found a food magazine online who apparently has permission to publish the original recipe and I don’t see any harm in linking to Leite's Culinaria. You can basically follow the directions there, however if you're interested in my modifications here they are:

Tasty and Gluten Free-Style:

Since I used one large chicken instead of several small ones, I filled its cavity with two orange quarters instead of one. I also stuffed both cinnamon sticks and 2 of the rosemary sprigs into the chicken.

I used 3 cups of gf Chianti rather than 3 glasses. Lush-ious, right ;) hahaha. Note that I used slightly fewer sun dried tomatoes than Jamie does... and I had to blend them for quite a while in the Cuisinart before the tomato liquid had an even consistency.

Finally, Jamie’s recipe calls for 16 thin slices of pancetta. I used about 6, from a 4 oz package. Believe me, there was plenty of pancetta to cover the entire roasted chicken... and its crispiness added just the right finishing touch! I didn’t use the pine nuts that he suggests (family allergy) but they might well be yummy.

This was seriously one of the best gluten free dinners I’ve ever made... the intensely flavorful mix of tart and sweet in the sauce was a symphony for the taste buds. I hope your family enjoys it as much as ours did.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gluten Free Bounty

Summer magic

We have at last returned from our Pacific Northwest vacation and I have to apologize for going offline for three weeks. Traveling with toddlers turned out to be a bit more challenging that we’d expected, so we didn’t end up doing much gourmet cooking.

That said, I am so happy to report that our family was able to eat gluten free with surprisingly little difficulty all the way along our journey. We found Whole Foods and Capers markets in every major city throughout California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. We discovered gluten free bakeries in Vancouver, BC and an excellent gluten free fish and chips restaurant in Portland, OR. Even our out of town friends who hosted us for meals at their homes prepared delicious gluten free meals for us to enjoy. Eating gluten free turned out to be the very least of our travel worries.

Now that we have arrived home, I will be updating this blog again regularly. I am thrilled to report that while we were out of town my new photography lights (Lowel Ego) arrived and I have begun to experiment with them. These first photos seem a bit washed out to me, but I hope that as time passes and I become better versed in the art of photography I will be able to provide you readers with mouth-watering food photos to accompany the recipes.

Here are some sample photos taken with the new lights:

Trout, a little blurry... still working on the lighting

Lucky to have a husband who cooks!

Lastly, I want to report about a recent discovery. While restocking our refrigerator at my small local market yesterday I was stunned and thrilled to see the words Gluten Free pop out at me from a magazine on the rack at the check-out stand. The magazine, Living Without is apparently celebrating its 10th year in operation. This is the first time my market has carried it, so perhaps as food intolerances and allergies are discovered more frequently their circulation and readership are expanding into new territories.

Living Without

I purchased a copy and after reading many of the articles and recipes have decided to become a subscriber. I was especially impressed with their comprehensive one page Gluten-Free Diet Quick Start Guide which gives a concise description of celiac disease and all of the foods allowed and not allowed, or those that may contain gluten. I can’t wait to Xerox this for my close friends and family members who have expressed a desire to cook for us but worry that they don’t understand the boundaries of a gluten free diet. The magazine also contains an equally great quick start guide for a casein free diet.

My only suggestion for this great and worthy publication would be that its title seems to me a bit dour... out of touch with the health benefits and other delights of a gluten free lifestyle. I don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna, but "Living Without" sounds like it describes hardship. Going gluten-free has been so liberating for me, and so great for my own physical and emotional health – I feel like a magazine publicizing the benefits of a gluten free diet and wonderful gf products could better be called Gluten Free Bounty!

That said, I’m very excited to experiment with their tasty sounding recipes for Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini, fresh-baked gluten free bread and low sugar jam... will let you know how they turn out! It’s nice to be home, and great to be back in the kitchen!