October 31, 2008

the pomegranate

No art historian can speak of early renaissance illuminated manuscripts with out uttering these three words: jewel tone colors. We students feverishly wrote this down over and over in our notebooks and dutifully spit it back out in classroom discussions and essay questions.

It always made sense to me. All the slides we were shown had vivid colorings; rich blues, verdant greens, bleeding scarlet and glittering gold. I knew the printed photographs in our books and the slides in our lectures barely did justice to the actual works, and yet they were still astounding.

In the lounge of our Gothic dormitory, my friend K introduced me to the pomegranate. The moment I held one of those tart scarlet seeds, I knew what a jewel tone was. As a student of art and jewelry I knew the color of gems; richly saturated with the play of light within. Never before had I seen a color like this fruit.

The flavor of the seeds are equally multi-faceted. Sweet and tart, red and white, sparkling across the tongue.

I knew about pomegranates long before I started eating Ks. When Hades kidnapped Persephone, Demeter was so distraught she allowed all the green things to stop growing. In order to restore life to the plants Zeus went to retrieve Persephone from the Underworld. She could return to her mother only as long as she had eaten no food of the Underworld. But Persephone had eaten half of a pomegranate and Zeus decreed that she would spend half the year with her mother and half the year with Hades. The seasons we know are said to come from Demeter's joy and grief.

The Roman's thought that pomegranate seeds had contraceptive qualities. The ancient Assyrians and Egyptians ate them. Pomegranates are symbolic in Judaism and Christianity and appear in art and family crests. They are one of Buddhism's three holy fruits. Each little seed is a tangy, juicy bite of history.

In her book, gluten-free girl, Shuana has a recipe for pomegranate molasses braised chicken thighs. I love the way she writes and her creativity with food and I was intrigued by this pomegranate molasses. I assumed that it was some type of molasses infused with pomegranate. Something that I was pretty sure I couldn't eat.

Upon doing research, probably while I ought to have been working, I discovered that pomegranate molasses was simply a very thick syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. That is something I can handle.

I decided to do things the hard way and picked up six pomegranates from the fruit cart near my office. I opened the pomegranates one by one, popping the seeds out in a bowl of water. The seeds sink and the pith floats, making separation easier. I briefly ran the seeds through the blender, in batches, to break the skins. I then pushed the pulp through a cheese cloth sieve with a spoon, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds. And then I made my molasses.

This was certainly a time consuming process, and not necessarily any less expensive that buying the pomegranate juice, but there is a certain satisfaction one gets from holding up the finished product and saying "I made this, from start to finish, with my own hands".

pomegranate molasses

3 cups pomegranate juice
4 tbsp honey
In a small sauce pan slowly heat the pomegranate juice and mix in the honey. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to about 3/4 of a cup.

See? That was easy! Although it does take several hours, it's totally worth it if you can't use the store bought kind.

October 28, 2008

pork and fennel stuffed apples

Lately I feel like we're stuck in the intermezzo of Monty Python's "Holy Grail", the season flip-flopping willy-nilly, confusing our bodies and wardrobes. (thankfully, I have not yet been forced to eat Robin's minstrels) Last week we plunged into winter, bright nippy days that had to be faced with long coats and scarves. Today it is decidedly, gloomily fall. Big fat raindrops are being blown through on an icy wind. Weather that drives even the hardiest New Yorkers indoors. It is time for comfort food.

Lately I have been craving something sweet and savoury, like Sunday morning sausage sopping up the last of the maple syrup. Something juicy on my tongue. A mix of unexpected flavors to spice up a cold evening awaiting the Trainer's arrival. A meal to take me home.

Last Sunday I joined S and her husband for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to take a gander at the DUMBO Farmer's Market. A small affair with a guy who sells fantastic, organic, SCD 'legal' roasted nuts and nut butters. The apple seller's table was piled high with red, gold and green offerings, juicy slices teasing my tongue. I picked out some fantastic Gala apples and another type I have never tried before. I'm embarrassed to admit I've forget it's name: Sugarcrisp perhaps. This large golden green gem was just to beautiful to eat with disregard, it needed special attention.

Our apple tree at home offered up copious amounts of small, sweet heirloom apples, perfect for baking and apple sauce, not quite up to our antiseptic culture's idea of an eating apple. Whatever these little guys lack in polished appearance they make up for in flavor. Every fall we picked them from the tree, gathered the windfall and retired to the kitchen to 'process'. The largest apples were always saved for baking, cored and stuffed with oatmeal, cinnamon and clove while the smaller ones were turned into apple sauce.

All winter long Mom always served her pork tenderloin with our homegrown applesauce, to great critical acclaim. Not having the means to make such lovely sauce I stewed and chewed on this combination of pork and apples. Looking at my beautiful local apple I knew what to do with it. Instead of cooking the pork tenderloin with fruit in the middle, I would cook the apple with the pork in the middle.

Since I was cooking this for one, I made the pork stuffing, stuffed my lone apple, and cooked the rest of the pork in a separate dish. This combination would make a great stuffing for chicken or turkey as well.

Pork and Fennel Stuffed Apples

for three stuffed apple:
9 oz pork tenderloin, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large sweet apples

Prepare the stuffing by mixing the pork, fennel, onion, garlic and salt to taste. Allow to sit at room temperature while preparing the apples

Preheat oven to 425 F

Wash the apples and cut the top third off. Scoop the flesh of the apple out of both top and bottom, using a small paring knife or grapefruit spoon. Leave about 1/4 inch of flesh with the skin. Coat the inside of the apples with ground cinnamon and cloves.

Arrange the apples in ramekins or in a small baking pan. Fill the apples with the pork stuffing, packing well, pile the stuffing so that it fills the top of the apple as well. Mix the apple flesh with any remaining pork stuffing and fill an additional ramekin.

Bake for 45 minutes.

October 23, 2008

go ahead honey... it's gluten free! indigenous foods

venison* and a new england fall fruit egg bake
When I proposed indigenous foods for this month's "Go Ahead Honey... It's Gluten Free!" I was thinking of all the wonderful New World foods that the Americas have to offer. I wanted to encourage research into what food stuff are native to an area. I wanted to have an idea of what people were preparing here 600 years ago. Before the arrival of the Dutch and English what were the natives of Manhattan Island and New England harvesting and storing for the winter.

Corn, fruits, berries, game and seafood I discovered. Apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries to name a few that we still enjoy. Others are lost to history or only found wild in the woods.

On the New England coast fish were a staple and shellfish abound. The clambake is a tradition adopted from the natives. At thanksgiving every school child hears the story of Squanto, the native who taught the newcomers to plant each seed with a fish to fertilize it.

In the wooded areas game was plentiful. I expect anything that could be caught could be eaten. I must confess I had a desire to cook venison when I formulated this month's theme.

The natives of this area dried fruits, berries and nuts for the winter, to be eaten along with smoked meats, stews and pemican.

After dutiful research and a thorough brain wracking my New England Fall Fruit Egg Bake was born. Mixing squash, apples and New England's fall favorite: cranberries. An experiment with good ingredients that turned out wonderfully, great as a side, elevenses or even dessert. In the spirit of authenticity, I attempted to dry my own cranberries with partial success, not having a dehydrator at my disposal.

New England Fall Fruit Egg Bake
1- apple, sliced
1/4- baked squash, about 1/2 cup
1/4- cup dried unsweetened cranberries
1- tbsp dark honey
6- eggs or egg whites
Sea salt
Butter, oil or fat to grease skillet

•Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cast iron skillet, pie pan or baking dish

•Arrange apple slices to cover the bottom of the dish.

•Sprinkle dried cranberries over apple slices.

•In a blender, whiz the squash, eggs and a liberal pinch of sea salt.

•Slowly pour egg mixture over apples and cranberries

•Bake for 30 minutes or until firm.

While the torte was in the oven I managed to trip the circuit in my electrically challenged apartment when I started to heat my electric grill to cook the venison. The frittata had to finish cooking itself in the preheated oven, but after a trip down to the basement, flashlight in hand, the power was restored and I was able to finish cooking the meal.

The venison was simple to cook, 4 minutes in my grill at 400 F was just rare enough for me. The sweet frittata was a perfect compliment to the flavorful, hearty meat.

*Those of you who are squeamish, please turn away, but I must get this out of my system. Yes! Yes, I had Bambi for dinner, he was delicious, and I make no apologies!

Sent from my iPhone

October 20, 2008

the ice dream cookbook

Just as I was headed for Alaska, I was offered a chance to review Chef Rachel Matesz's new dessert cookbook The Ice Dream Cookbook. I was intrigued by the concept of making frozen desserts from coconut milk using agave and stevia rather than sugar. It sounded like the recipes would be very close to SCD compliance than many others.
I was very excited when the book arrived and set out to read it right away. Despite the fact that it is a dessert book, the Trainer was impressed by it as well. Chef Rachel does a wonderful job explaining everything. She gives detailed information about all of her ingredients, their uses and nutritional benefits. She writes a very informative section on gluten free grains alone which is probably the most comprehensive and useful I have seen in one place.
After reading the book I was presented with a challange: while I could easily make the base 'custard', slightly modified for SCD, I don't have an ice cream maker. This is not a kitchen tool that I can buy and hide easily. I am running out of places to store tools, and the Trainer would surely figure out what it was. In stepped by wonderful new friend S along with her kitchen and ice cream maker.

On my day off I was able to prepare the base on the sl
y, without the Trainer poking his nose in and asking questions. I wanted to start with a simple recipe before trying anything too fancy. As much as I love vanilla, I decided that I really wanted cinnamon. After spending my whole afternoon preparing burgers and other foods I was about to sit down and relax when I realized I had completely forgotten to prepare the Ice Dream. I dashed around the kitchen, expecting the Trainer to walk in at any moment, and prepared the vanilla recipe with some added cinnamon. I finished just in time, tucking the container of base safely into the back of the fridge just as the Trainer walked in the door.

Saturday, with S, we set the Ice Dream to churning before we heated up the kitchen with our little bake-a-thon. The result was a creamy, delicious icy treat. I could definitly taste the coconut, but the flavor was mild. My result was a bit icy, but S and I think we left it to churn to long. The only change I made to make the recipe SCD was to use a little extra honey instead of stevia (which is not permitted)

I left some of the Ice Dream with S, brought some to my coworker whose son is lactose intollerant and managed to make my remaining portion last several days.
I will be making this again, although I think it was a little early for me to introduce coconut into my diet. When the weather warns up again I will try making my own SCD coconut milk to try more flavors. I was unable to try any of Chef Rachel's gluten free desserts, since they are so carefully balanced various blends of gluten free flours I did not want to arbitrarily substitute almond meal for everything.

October 16, 2008

starbucks considering gluten free options

Did anyone else see this email from Starbucks? I made a comment months ago that I would like to see gluten free options at Starbucks, and today I received an email with this newsletter.

October 13, 2008

stuffed tomatoes save the day

This past Thursday I was fortunate enough to have the day off work for Yom Kippor. I did not fast on this Jewish day of atonement, but I did spend the day in meditation. In the kitchen.

Since it is so unusual for me to have a day off, the Trainer decided to stay home for the morning to spend time with me. His day did not begin so well. He awoke to find that we were out of coffee filters and had to trek out in search of them, finally finding them at the place I would have assumed would his first stop.

While making the coffee he burned his pancake, then tore it up in a pique, muttering how it was going to be such a bad day. I salvaged breakfast with some Tropical Squash Bread from the freezer and things calmed down as we sat with our coffee for a few minutes.

Soon after retreating to our nest it was time to start the special lunch or Bison Stuffed Tomatoes that I had planned for our morning together. I was interrupted in this by the real day saver, thanks to my friends C and J. Knowing that I would be home, C sent me an Edible Arrangement as a belated birthday gift. (J is currently deployed overseas) The Trainer answered the door, and nearly turned the delivery guy away since we weren't expecting anything, let alone a huge bouquet of fruit.

We were so surprised, and the Trainer so impressed, that everything had to stop so that I could open and photograph the masterpiece before the fruit was eaten. This, of course, put me behind in my lunch preparations. On the other hand, it brought us together and I've never seen the Trainer eat so much fruit at one time.

I quickly got back to our lunch, preheating the oven, sauteing the meat, scooping out the tomatoes. All with the Trainer hovering at my shoulder asking when we were going to eat and reminding me that we said lunch would be at 11:30. Never tell a Hungry Man (or as I sometimes call him, my Very Hungry Caterpillar) that something will take 30 minutes in the oven. With hungry masculine selective hearing they hear 30 minutes and can't comprehend the prep time. Luckily I got the tomatoes into the oven and they didn't take as long in the oven as I had estimated.

We enjoyed our lunch, and the Trainer was quite impressed with the stuffed tomatoes. The day was officially saved! I had him to myself for another short hour before he headed to the gym and I got down and dirty making burgers for the next two weeks.

Bison Stuffed Tomatoes

1lb- ground bison meat, or other ground meat
1- red onion, chopped
3- cloves garlic, chopped
6Tbsp- chopped fresh cilantro
1Tbdp- chili powder
1tsp- ground cumin
1tsp- kosher salt
1/2 tsp- fresh ground black pepper
5- large ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup- almond meal
1Tbsp- olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet saute the onion and garlic with a small amount of vegetable oil.

Add the bison meat, 3Tbsp cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and brwon the meat, breaking it up into small chunks.

While the meat is cooking prepare the tomatoes. Cut of the tops, about 1cm from the base of the stem. Scoop out insides into a bowl. Save the flesh and discard the seeds.

Chop the tomato flesh and tops and add to the meat.

Arrange the tomatoes in a foil lined baking dish.

Fill each tomato as full as possible with the bison mixture. Sprinkle reserved cilantro on top.

In a small bowl toss together almond meal and olive oil.

Top each a tomato with a small amount of almond meal mixture and shake a little salt over the whole pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tomatoes have split thier skins and almond meal topping is toasted light brown.

October 9, 2008

'Go ahead honey, it's gluten free!' - October: Indigenous Foods

Noami has been kind enough to hand the reins over to me for October's 'Go ahead honey, it's gluten free!'. We had discussed several ideas for October, but I'm going to surprise her with this one. Last month, we all made slow food with local ingredients.

As the weather gets colder, I gravitate towards the comfort foods of my childhood. Slow cooked soups and stews and the Italian favorites that my mother learned while tied to her Nonnie's apron strings. When I think of those warm, filling dishes it's the tart tomatoes that really make my moth water.

I love tomatoes! Nothing compares on a warm summer day to tomatoes, fresh from the vine, with fresh basil. Nothing says 'Italian' (at least to Americans) like tomato sauce: on pizza, pasta, lasagna. As well has tomatoes have been incorporated into Italian, and many other, dishes it remains that they are a New World Food. So are potatoes and some types of rice.

Now that the world is our grocery store we're exposed to so many styles, types and flavors of food. For those of us who are gluten free it introduces a world of gluten free grains from all over the world. Maize from the Americas, quinoa from the Andes and teff from Africa, to name just a few.

I buy locally grown produce, meat and dairy whenever I can but as I perused the selections at whole foods I began to wonder which of the animals we eat are indigenous to the Americas, and my area in particular . The ancestors of the cattle we are familiar with are from Africa, but bovines exist all over the world. Sheep were domesticated during prehistory in the Fertile Crescent but they thrive all over the world, in South America and Australia. In South America cuyes (or guinea pigs) were domesticated for food.

Traditional or regional dishes and flavors sprang from indigenous foods. As humanity has traversed the globe, these tastes have travelled with us. Wherever we settle we strive to recreate the foods we know. As I walked through the local markets I saw locally grown produce whose origins are not local and I began to wonder just where some of these foods and ingredients came form.

I want to challenge myself, and you, to really be aware of what foods are indigenous to my region and country and to try to create something with those native foods.

So, for this month's 'Go ahead honey, it's gluten free!' I am pleased to present Indigenous Foods. The deadline for entries is November 1st, when I will be posting a round up of all your recipes. Simply post your indigenous food recipe, with a link back to this page, and send me the link to your post along with a picture of your food. Please send submissions to: deliciouslygf [at] gmail [dot] com.

I can't wait to see what's native to your area!

October 8, 2008

celiac disease awareness month

I subscribe to several daily email publications. Little blurbs about health, fitness, fashion, culture. It's nice to have an idea of what's going on in my city. Sometimes I delete them, sometimes I read them, once in a while there's something really good.

Today I received two, TWO, emails about celiac awareness month. One from Daily Candy and one from Vital Juice Daily. I subscribe to the local New York publications, but I'm glad to see that both of them recognize celiac awareness month.

Since both of these sites are updated daily, I have copied the articles to my site.

Daily Candy: Gluten For Punishment

Vital Juice Daily: What's the Deal with Gluten?

October 7, 2008

autumn, or anatomy of a squash

In the Michigan of my childhood the crisp air and turning leaves of October could only mean one thing: Halloween.

A trip to my elementary school’s gym, parents in tow. The terrifying basketball court turned, for an evening, into a pumpkin patch. Neat orange rows from hoop to hoop. The annual pumpkin sale.

Three Pumpkins. Every year, three. A tall skinny one for Mom, a big fat on for Dad, to sit on our front steps like Bert and Ernie. Me, hunting, searching, always seeking the Perfect Pumpkin. Odd in shape, a vegetable that spoke to me.

Back home with newspapers strewn across the kitchen floor it’s carving time. First; you have to cut off the top, on an angle of course, and with a notch so it won’t fall in later. Then: scoop out the guts. This is child’s work if there ever was, arms up to the elbow, no- the shoulder, in sticky, slimy, slippery bright orange pumpkin guts.

Mom carved hers with a simple geometric face. Dad tried something imposing. The budding artist agonized over a new, avant-garde pumpkin face each year. Later, I carved all three. One memorable year the huge pumpkin ate the screaming little pumpkin with relish as a strawberry-shaped alien pumpkin watched through green glowing eye slits.

To end the late evening, one of a very few school nights I stayed up late, Mom produced a tray of fresh, salty warm pumpkin seeds. A once a year treats for autumn.

True autumn, for me, began with the carving of pumpkins. As my masterpieces sat on the stoop, the squirrels sampled their flesh, distorting my handy work. The night frosts made the faces wilt and melt, more ghoul-like several days after All Hallows Eve.

sweet squash soup

1 butternut squash
1 sweet apple
1 small onion
2 cups cashew milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 F

Prepare the squash by cutting it in half and removing the pulp and seeds. Save the seeds from the pulp for roasting.

Lightly oil the cut edges of the squash and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 min depending on the size of the squash.

In a heavy pan saute the onions until translucent. Add chopped apple and continue to cook until the apple is very soft.

When the squash is cooked, carefully scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

In a blender puree small batches of squash, apple mixture, and fluid. Put each small batch into a medium size sauce pan.

When all the vegetables are pureed, add the cinnamon and vanilla to the pot. Stir and simmer to combine flavors. Add extra water to change the consistency.

roasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 200 F

remove all the pulp from the seeds

soak the seeds in a bowl with salt water

pour off the water and arrange the seeds on a baking sheet

bake for 2 hours and allow to cool.

October 3, 2008

Slow Food For Fall

I'm a few days late for Naomi's Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free event, but maybe she'll let me slide under the wire. This month's theme is slow food. The slowest food I can think of is my mother's turkey soup. Every Thanksgiving, except one, Mom roasted a huge turkey for our family of three, or four while Nonna was with us. I'm talking 20 pounds, in the oven ALL day, big kinda turkey.

After everyone ate turkey for several days Mom would cut the remaining meat from the bones and boil the bones in her huge soup pot. Th pot stayed on the stove for several days, simmering away. After two days of simmering the bones she removed them from the stock and placed the pot outside on th
e deck to cool. The next morning Mom skimmed the fat from the surface and began freezing bags or turkey stock.

We always had a big pot of turkey soup made from the last of the Thanksgiving bird, and homemade turkey soup was Mom's answer to all of winters sniffs, sniffles and dark days. Her soups were always peppery sharp and hearty. She added chunks of roast turkey or chicken, onions, carrots, celery, lots of garlic and pepper. Rice got fat soaking up the stock and fresh grated parmesan and pecorino topped these love fill
ed bowls she placed before us.
If that's not slow food, I don't know what is.

I have neither the tools, space, or kitchen time to cook this the way Mom did. Maybe one day I'll have a kitchen of my own, but until then, I can always make Mom's feel better soup like this.

1 bone-in chicken breast, with or without skin
2 white onions
6 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery
1 bunch parsley
1 huge carrot
3 bay leaves
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt

In a large soup pot, stock pot slow cooker place the rinsed chicken, 1 onion, 3 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of celery, 1/2 the parsley and bay leaves. Simmer for at least three hours.

Allow stock to cool, then remove chicken, onion, garlic, celery, parsley and bay leaves. Discard the vegetables.

In a large bowl or on a plate, pick all the chicken meat from the bones, shredding it into small pieces.

Chill the stock and skim the congealed fat from the surface if desired.

Chop the remaining vegetables. Heat a skillet with olive oil and begin sauteing the garlic and onions on low heat. When they are translucent and the carrots and let them sweat, covered, until they are slightly crisper than you would like. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is cooked.

Return the chicken and vegetables to the stock, add remainder of the parsley, chopped, and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

If you can eat rice or grains, add any cooked rice or grain of your choice and serve.

* Mom always cooked the rice separately and added it only at the very end, into each bowl separately. If we stored the leftover soup and rice together, by the next night the rice had soaked up all the liquid and it no longer resembled soup.

**I always loved to add lots of fresh cheese to the left overs, I guess that was me making my very first risotto.