December 22, 2008

pot roast

Maybe it's the weather, or the season, or maybe it's all the added stress at work due to the current economic situation. Maybe a girl doesn't really need a reason to crave comfort food. Something simple and satisfying that warms from the inside out after a day or romping in the snow or trudging through the cold.

Many of Mom's best recipes are so simple. Her pot roast is one of those, a few veggies, some meat, a dash of love and perfect meal is born. I was never a picky eater who pushed food around my plate or didn't let my vegetables to touch, but I still had my idiosyncrases. I remember that I used to eat my pot roast in a very specific order; first mash the potatoes and carrots to soak up the juice, then the pearl onions and then the meat (always save the best for last). Then, if there was any juice left, soak that up with a slice of bread, just like Dad. Oh, yes. I am my father's daughter through and through.

This pot roast is the simplest thing ever, and is perfect for any type of variation that pleases you. Every once in a while Mom would add peas at the very end, so that they didn't cook to long. I have left the potatoes out of this recipes, but Mom usualy used red skins or new potatoes.

Pot Roast
1 Sirloin 'spoon' roast, 3-6 pounds
1 tbsp olive oil
4 peeled tomatoes*
1 onion, quartered or a bag of pearl onions
2 carrots, quartered
3-4 bay leaves

In a large, heavy pot heat the olive oil and salt the roast. Sear all sides of the roast, about a minute on each side. Turn down heat and rest meat in pot. Place tomatoes, onions and carrots around the meat. Pour 2-4 cups of water into the pot, at least until the meat is half covered, and add the bay leaves. Cover and cook on very low heat for at least 3 hours, preferably 5, turning the meat over halfway through. If the broth seems to thin, remove the top and cook uncovered for the last half hour.

*To quickly peel fresh tomatoes wash the tomatoes, cut out the stem and score the top with an X. Place tomatoes top down in a large bowl or pot. Pour boiling water over tomatoes** and allow to sit for several minutes. Remove tomatoes and rinse with cold water if they are too hot to handle. Skins should slip right off.

**I like to save this water and use it to cook the roast in, that way I don't loose any of the tomato juices.

December 21, 2008

go ahead honey, it's gluten free! lucky foods

This month Heather at Life Gluten Free is hosting a new years lucky food edition of "Go ahead honey, it's gluten free". She wants us to prepare foods that are traditionally thought to bring luck in the year to come.

Now, when it comes to religious holidays and Western observances the Trainer and I are conscientious abstainers. We will be joining my parents and extended family on Thursday, but we will light the candles, bring in the evergreen bough and serve our lucky food today, on the shortest day of the year. The Winter Solstice.

Every native culture recognizes the winter solstice. Many Northern cultures display evergreens and burn lights to welcome back the sun and symbolize the eternal life of the sun. In the Trainer's country the Quechua, like their Inca forbears, are celebrating the inti rayme, a harvest festival celebrating the longest day of the year.

In ancient Rome both the Saturnalia and the festival of Sol Invictus fell on or near the shortest day of the year. They celebrated with a day or more of feasting and social role reversals. Decorating homes and cities with lights and evergreens. Customary gifts of good luck were dates, figs and nuts and the feast often centered around a stuffed suckling pig. The Romans were very fond of stuffing things, so this year we've prepared stuffed figs and dates.

Fructus Troianum*
Stuffed Fruits
1/2c. almonds
1/2tsp almond extract
1/2tsp cinnamon
20 dates
1/2c. walnuts
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15 figs

Soak the almonds and walnuts for several hours and then rinse well. In a blender, grind the almonds, almond extract and cinnamon, adding water a tablespoon at a time until a paste forms. Slice dates on one side only, remove pit at fill with almond paste. Make a paste with the walnuts in the same way. Steam the figs over boiling water for 5-6 minutes to plump them. Cut the stems from the figs and cut a cross in the top half to open them. Fill figs with walnut paste. If you want the fruit a little dryer heat the oven to 350° then turn it off and place the fruit inside for several hours.

*This is a whole other story, but the Romans believed that they were descended from Aeneas, a prince of Troy and a group of Torjan who escaped to Italy after the war. Romans called stuffed suckling pig porcum troianum as a reference to the Trojan Horse.

December 19, 2008

sugar free scd mint jelly

Have you ever prepared a meal for the sake of the condiments? I remember when I was little my used to say that fish sticks were just a vehicle for catsup. Thanksgiving was all about the cranberry sauce, on everything. I can't remember what Dad's lamb chops tasted like, but I sure remember that jar of bright green mint jelly! What treat for those rare occasions we did have lamb.

This past weekend boneless leg of lamb was on sale, and being one who can never pass up a good deal, I got one. No time like the present to learn how to roast a leg of lamb. I did my research and already knew pretty much how I would do that. That's not the exciting part.

The exciting part would be the mint jelly. In deference to my childhood memories, I simply could not have lamb with out mint jelly. The challenge was to make a mint jelly without using cups and cups of sugar or artificial food coloring. I recalled Dad frequently reminding me that we weren't having mint jelly, we were having mint flavored apple jelly. And then I saw Helen's verrines and she gave me the perfect starting place for my SCD, sugar free apple-mint jelly.
Mint Jelly
2 cups (1 bunch) fresh mint leaves
2 cups apple juice, 100% juice not from concentrate
1/2 cup cold water
1 packet (1 tbsp) gelatin
Pour the water into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatin over top to bloom, set aside. In the blender, mix the apple juice and mint in a few short bursts. Transfer mixture to a small sauce pan and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and cover to steep for about 1 hour. Pour mixture through a fine sieve or cheese cloth, pressing to get as much liquid as possible. Discard mint (or use it again for tea). Return mint infused apple juice to the sauce pan and heat, slowly mixing in the gelatin until it dissolves completely. Transfer to a glass jar for storage and allow to cool and set in the refrigerator.

December 16, 2008

creamy harvest mushrooms

It's finally winter! I miss the white, snowy winters of my childhood filled with lake effect snow. I don't know if it's global warming or living on an island in the Atlantic that makes New York winter weather so different from Michigan, but winters since I've moved here have just been icky. Warming up, cooling off, snow and then rain. Not pleasant at all.

As I looked up from my computer, thinking of lunch, I saw huge, fat snowball sized snowflakes bombarding fifth avenue with purpose I was glad I had some comfort food for lunch. A little dish of warm, creamy, mushroomy deliciousness.

Last more than one fellow blogger was bitten by the mushroom bug. I understand it's mushroom season, obviously not here in The City, although there is an impressive red shelf fungus growing on a tree near the elementary school park. I was inspired by Bea's mushroom risotto and spent a few days trying to figure out how I could make something similar, without rice or fresh cream. I trolled Whole Foods looking for the best mushrooms I could find and made my own version.

I am so pleased with how this turned out. Fresh out of the pan it was just plain creamy goodness. Eating it today with a seasoned hamburger it reminded be of stroganoff base. With a little more broth and some blending it would make a perfect cream of mushroom soup or gravy. But best of all, if I tweak the seasonings a little, I will get something similar to Pork Chop Surprise, one of the few 'specialties' that Dad used to cook once in a blue moon.

Creamy Harvest Mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 shallot, finely diced
1 1/2 Lb assorted mushrooms; crimini, trumpet and portobello, cut as desired
3 tbsp yogurt or cream, I used yogurt made from half and half
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 c. grated pecorino romano
1/4 c. grated parmesan regiano

In a large skillet slowly heat the olive oil and thyme while cutting the shallot and mushrooms. Brown the shallot in the olive oil and then add the mushrooms and cook on high heat for 5 or 6 minutes. Turn down the heat and stir in the yogurt, parsley and grated cheese. Turn off the heat and pick out the thyme sprigs.

December 14, 2008

scd carrot cake and cream cheese frosting

It's been such wicked weather here. All in all a very blah week. I've felt run down and tired all week. Something about the drastically changing temperatures and the constant clouds and rain just does not agree with me.

I'm tired and achy and my skin has not been it's happiest. Yesterday, rather than go to the gym, I decided to try to run a few errands. In the few blocks I had to travel from the subway to the store my tights were soaked from the knees down and I had submerged my right foot in a puddle. After getting what I needed I met the Trainer tat Grand Central so we could make the last leg of our trip home to Queens.

We bought a second umbrella at the station, and it was turned inside out and broken several blocks before we made it home. As I stood in the mercifully hot shower, contemplating my pruned toes, I knew just what would cheer us up. A big, fat slice of Mom's good old carrot cake. The one I finally figured out.

This version turned out nice and moist, not to sweet with rich cream cheese frosting. It's no wonder this is Dad's favorite, and I'm sure he'll approve of this version too. The Trainer had to agree that it was great, even after his initial disgust when he saw that I was putting celery in the cake.

Carrot Cake

9 oz (3 cups) blanched almond meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs (or 5 whites)
1/2 c. coconut oil
1 1/2 c. grated carrot
1 c. finely chopped celery
8 oz crushed pineapple, well drained
12 dates, soaked, drained and pureed
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F, grease and flour a 9 inch spring form pan. In one bowl blend the dry ingredients, being sure to get rid of any lumps. In a second, large bowl beat the eggs until they are light yellow. Add the coconut oil, grated carrot, celery, pineapple, dates, vanilla and cider vineger and mix thoroughly. Mix in the dry ingredients and the then stir in the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, cake should appear dry on top and soild when pressed

SCD Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz strained yogurt, from 1 quart yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil
1 tsp almond extract
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Frost cake when it's cool.

December 11, 2008


I hit the jackpot last Friday. All the fruits came into alignment, you could say. The gentleman of indistinguishable yet decidedly ethnic background who often has his table on the corner of 42nd Street and 3rd Avenue had a fantastic selection.

I know that non of the fruit I bought was grown locally, but I also believe in supporting local business (or fruit stands, as the case may be). He knows me, and knows that I know my fruit. And since I buy so much from him, usually when he's getting ready to pack up, he always gives me a great deal, and extra fruit too.

So this is how I find myself sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by pomegranates, quinces, blueberries, pears and cherries. Almost banging my head to figure out what to do with all of this bounty before it goes bad. The blueberries get frozen, to go with my yogurt, and the pears and pomegranates can keep for a bit. But the cherries, those wine red fruits, won't last forever.

I remembered a dessert that I had seen posted several other places. One that I had never heard of, and probably don't even say correctly either. Clafoutis. I researched the clafoutis a while ago, and even had a tentative recipe in my note book. It seemed like my overfull bag of cherries were going to provide a perfect opportunity to try this new dessert.

According to my buddy wikpedia, clafouti is a custard like French dessert traditionally made with cherries. At The Joy of Baking it said that the original clafouti was baked with the cherry pits in, which gave the custard an almond-y flavor. This seemed like the perfect dessert to use almond flour in, since it would mimic the flavor of the cherry pits.

As I said, I've never had clafouti before, but what I got was a superb cherry custard that was a great dessert fresh and a great breakfast the next morning. And it looked an awful lot like the picture on wikipedia. The Trainer restrained himself from eating more than one piece because he insisted it was MY treat.

serves 8 or more
1/2 c. blanched almond meal
1 c. yogurt
3 eggs
2 T. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 Lb cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yogurt and honey until smooth, add the almond meal and beat some more. Evenly spread cherries in the bottom of a pie pan or 6inch square baking dish. Pour batter over cherries. Bake for about 55 minutes, it should be golden and a little puffed in the center.

December 7, 2008

roasted tomato soup

It's cold outside. And it snowed for the first time today! At least it snowed for a few minutes while I was out an a little expedition. Even after a short walk outside, I wanted something smooth and warm and comforting.

I don't even know what made me decide to make a tomato soup. I remember the Campbell's commercials with the tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, or goldfish crackers, or whatever. But we shunned tomato soup in our household. I always felt that tomato soup was just pasta sauce that wasn't trying hard enough. The fact that I don't think I've ever had a bowl of classic tomato soup before does seem kind of silly given my adoration of all things tomato.

So I set out to make my own version of tomato soup. And is absolutely hit the spot when I got home, rosy cheeked and pink nosed with my little bag of booty.

Roasted Tomato Soup
serves 4

6 vine ripe tomatoes
1 large red pepper
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 cups broth or stock
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
3 leaves sage
olive oil for sauteing
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut tomatoes and red pepper in half and arrange skin down on the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. While the tomatoes are cooling, chop the onion and garlic, saute in a large skillet on low heat with a little olive oil until onions are translucent. Place onions and broth in a medium size sauce pan. Carefully remove skins from roasted tomatoes and pepper, putting the meat into the saucepan with the broth and onions. Add spices and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Puree soup in a blender until smooth, being careful with the hot liquid. Return to pot and taste for salt and pepper.

Serve warm, garnish with creme fraiche, yogurt, pesto or croutons.

December 3, 2008

savory carrot muffins

In preparation for this month's "Go ahead honey, it's gluten free!" I wanted to make an SCD version of Mom's carrot cake. Actually, Heather just adopted me and made the original recipe for her family's Thanksgiving dessert. I am just tickled pink!

In my experimentation I have not yet acheived the elusive carrot cake, but I did manage to make some really good savory muffins. I loved them from the first little pick I took when they came out of the oven but the Trainer needed more convincing. He tried these twice and turned up his nose. Then, Sunday morning he asked for a piece of one and decided that they really were good, just not what he was expecting the first few times he tried them.

I've been having these for breakfast, pan toasted with a little sliver of cheddar cheese melted on top. The sharp cheddar really compliments the carrot undertones. They'd also be great with cream cheese, farmer cheese or home made yogurt cheese.

Savory Carrot Muffins
makes 12 muffins
9 oz (3 cups) blanched almond meal
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
6 oz (1 1/2 cup) grated carrot
8 oz apple sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350° F and prepare a muffin pan with liners. In one bowl mix the almond meal, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a second bowl, mix carrot, apple sauce and vinegar. Add dry ingredients and then stir in pecans. Evenly fill 12 muffin cups and bake for 30-40 minutes.

December 1, 2008

go head's gluten free! veal scaloppini

A vandal, or as I prefer to think, a guerrilla artist, has put electrical tape 'Hitler' mustaches on all the advertisements around Time Square. A man in suite weaves by on a kick scooter with a tennis racket around his neck. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Or, in my case, Ann Arbor, MI.

Which is good because this month 'Go ahead honey, it's gluten free!' is being hosted by Nooshin at For The Love of Food and she choose Foods From Our Childhood as our theme. She wanted us to recreate something special from our childhood. Something that makes us feel warm and fuzzy and think of home.

We always had a home cooked meal (or 'planned overs') but when I think back I can only remember a few of Mom's stand-bys. I have already made her chicken soup, and I make Nonna's pasta sauce all the time. Grilled chicken is, frankly, fairly boring, and though I haven't had a comforting pot roast or stew in a while these I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to fix a truly special meal from my childhood. A special occasion meal.

Mom had a meal that she prepared she prepared once or twice a year, if that. A recipe that she learned from her Nonnie, my great-grandmother and namesake. Another family recipes passed down from the Old World. We had veal scaloppini for Christmas, and for my birthday when I asked for it.

I remember going to the butcher in Kerry Town, still surrounded by the original red brick paving, the old world feel of the shop. The butcher there was the only one who cut the veal thinly enough to please Mom. I loved the whole process of visiting the butcher, working in the kitchen with Mom: mixing the milk and egg, dipping the veal in the bread crumbs, and the crisp golden crust on the veal, the whole event, not just the meal, was a special occasion for me.

Once, when the Trainer and I were first dating and I lived in Brooklyn I made this for him with gluten free bread crumbs, egg and milk and he really liked it. My challenge this time was to try to replicate the flavor with out the standard bread crumbs. So, with my thinking cap on, I served the Trainer his second plate of veal scaloppini and it tasted just the way I hoped.

Veal Scaloppini
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup blanched almond meal
1 Lb veal scaloppini
2 egg whites
olive oil
lemon wedges

Quickly grind pine nuts in a blender until they form a course meal, being careful not to over grind and create a 'butter'. Mix ground pine nuts and almond meal in a shallow bowl or deep plate. I a second bowl quickly beat eggs whites. Line a baking sheet with brown paper and paper towel. Heat a large skillet and pour in enough olive oil to well coat the bottom. While oil is heating prepare the veal: dip each piece of veal first in the egg whites and then into the nut meal, making sure both sides are coated. Lay veal in a single layer in the skillet. Cook on on side until golden brown and then flip. When first batch of veal is cooked lay it on the paper towel in the prepared baking sheet. Add more olive oil to pan as needed and cook the remaining veal

Serve with a squeeze of lemon

If you have a problem with nuts, use gluten free bread crumbs. If you can't do eggs, use egg replacement for two eggs.