Sweet, Spicy and Salty: Strawberry Jalepeño Salsa with Kettlecorn Popchips

Recently, Popchips contacted me and asked if I would be interested in sampling their products.  Since I am a big fan already, I was only too happy to oblige and come up with some ways to serve Popchips in your home.

I like Popchips because they are like potato popcorn.  They are light and low in fat and sugar.  All their varieties are certified gluten-free.  It’s an easy snack that I don’t feel guilty about grabbing when on the run.

My favorite flavor is Katy’s kettle corn.  They are lightly salty and sweet.  These are made with corn instead of potato.

I wanted to pair the salty / sweet combination with something spicy, healthy and a little quirky (like Popchips) so instead of a tomatoes, I made a salsa using a strawberry and jalapeño base.

At certain times of the year, strawberries are expensive.  You can keep costs down by using frozen strawberries.  Just let them defrost first.  I would reserve the juice that comes out as they defrost.

To make the salsa mild, use the seeds of about 1/2 a jalapeño and discard the rest.  For a medium salsa, use the seeds of 1 jalapeño.  I would recommend starting with the seeds of a jalapeño and reserving the rest of the seeds so you can add more to adjust the heat to your taste.

Zest of 3 limes

Juice of 3 limes

3 T strawberry jam P1010458 - 2014-02-02 at 18-33-42

1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1 t salt

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

2 jalapeños, roughly chopped, including seeds (to personal taste)

1 small onion, roughly chopped

3 green onions, roughly chopped, plus more for garnishing

P1010455 - 2014-02-02 at 18-31-301 pound strawberries, if fresh, hull and quarter the strawberries

1. In the bowl of a large food processor, combine all the ingredients.

2. Pulse the food processor in short bursts to achieve the desired consistency.  Taste for heat before removing from the bowl.  If you need to add more heat, add a few more seeds, pulse again and re-taste.  Repeat until you get the desired heat.

P1010461 - 2014-02-09 at 21-40-23

 

Perfect Picnic Fare: Sesame Mango Salad with Grilled Chicken

This is probably one my favorite dishes that I have come up with to date.  It has a great mix of flavors.  The dressing is tangy and a little nutty.  If you want to step up the spice, just add more sriracha sauce.

This is a flexible dish that travels well for picnics and keeps well for lunches / leftovers for days after. Though, I do love it best when you can have the hot chicken on top of the cold salad, it works just as well with all the elements cold.

It’s nice because there is only one item you may have to buy gluten-free (soy sauce), so it is easy for folks with gluten-free loved ones that don’t have a gluten-free kitchen.

This is also perfect for vegan families, just substitute tofu for the chicken (I wouldn’t marinade tofu for as long, but otherwise, it would work very well).

Makes 4-6 servings.  Takes about 40 minutes start to finish.  Marinade the chicken the night before (takes about 5 minutes).

Chicken:

1-1.5 lbs boneless chicken

3T rice wine vinegar

3T tamari or any type of gluten-free soy sauce

1t red curry paste

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 T sesame oil

1T sugar

dash of black pepper or chili flakes

1. Slice the chicken into thin cutlets or use chicken tenders.

2. Combine all the rest of the ingredients in a shallow dish.  Whisk together.

3. Add the chicken and toss it lightly with your fingers to ensure it is evenly coated.  Cover the dish and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.  Try to turn halfway through, but it isn’t the end of the world if you can’t.

You can also whisk the marinade together in a small bowl and then pour into a large Ziploc bag, add the chicken, zipper the top and then shake to coat the chicken.

The next day, make the salad and dressing and cook off the chicken:

Salad:

8 oz or 250 g of rice noodles

1/2 T sesame oil

8 oz or 250 g edamame

3-4 T sesame seeds

Small handful of basil

1/2 an English cucumber (or 1/2 of a regular cucumber, seeds removed)

2-3 green onions

1/2 mango or 1/4 of a pineapple

Dressing:

2T orange juice

3T tamari or any type of gluten-free soy sauce

dash of turmeric

1/2 t sriracha

1 t red curry paste

1 T sesame oil

1/4-1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Start by heating water in a medium saucepan to a roiling boil.  Add the sesame oil.  This will keep the noodles from getting sticky and clumpy.  Don’t worry about cutting the long threads down now; it’s easier to deal with that after the noodles are cooked.  Cook the rice noodles as directed.  During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking the noodles, add the edamame.

2. While the noodles are cooking, toast the sesame seeds in small pan over low heat, until they smell nutty.   Dice the cucumber, green onions and mango (or pineapple). Image

3. Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves with the largest on the bottom.  Then roll the leaves together and thinly slice. Image

4. By now the rice noodles will be done, they cook fast.  Drain them into a large colander in the sink.  Rinse immediately with cold water.  Using a pair of tongs, start to pull the noodles up in clumps and cut with scissors to the desired length. Image

5. While the noodles finish cooling, make the dressing.  In a small bowl combine all the ingredients except for the oil.  Whisk together and then slowly stream in the oils.

6. Combine the sesame seeds, noodles, edamame, green onion, cucumber, mango and cucumber in a large bowl.  Toss together.  Then drizzle over the dressing and toss again.  I like to start by using half the dressing and seeing if that is enough and then add more as needed.  Taste for seasoning.

7. Put the salad in the fridge to cool further.  Heat a pan or grill and cook the chicken through, until no longer pink.  About 5-7 minutes per side, depending on how thick your chicken pieces are.  I like to slice the chicken before putting it on the salad.

8. Plate up the salad with the chicken on top.  You may want to add some additional green onions or basil, thinly sliced, for garnish.

Image

I didn’t cut the pineapple here as finely as I should have.  I would probably do much thinner slices next time so the flavors blend in more with the rest of the dish.

When I made this, I didn’t think any of the components needed more salt than what was in the tamari, which is naturally pretty salty, but everyone has different taste, so you may want to adjust the seasoning a bit more.

Sweet Chili Pork Sausages: Sweet and Spicy Goodness

Whenever we go back to the UK, Husband always wants British sausages.  They are different for a few reasons, the flavors are different, the British tend to favor pork sausages, while Americans tend to go to chicken or beef sausages.   The final thing is that British sausages frequently use breadcrumbs as a binder / filler.

Before my diagnosis, I used to love British sausages and we had one favorite in particular, Tesco’s Finest Sweet Chili Sausages.  Of course, after I was diagnosed, I had to stop eating many of the sausages I used to love and wasn’t sure how to replicate those flavors to make a gluten-free sausage on the same order.

Recently, on a whim, I looked up the Tesco’s Finest Sweet Chili Sausages online to see if I could get a list of ingredients and their ratios (British labeling includes the percentage of each ingredient).  From there I came up with an approximate recipe.  The most difficult thing to approximate is rusk, which is a hard dry biscuit or twice baked bread frequently used in sausage making.  I tried to replicate this by substituting gluten-free pretzels.  I think you could omit the binder full stop and not use any breadcrumbs or pretzels.  Just omit the ice water at the end.  There should be enough moisture from the tomato paste and chili sauce without the water.

If you don’t want to make sausages, you can use this to make burger patties.  Turkey or chicken would work well.  You can also forego grinding your own meat if you just want to make burger patties with pre-ground meat.  If you are making your own sausage, it is probably better to grind the meat yourself.

I buy my sausage casing at Savenor’s in Cambridge.  They are very helpful and have great ingredients.

Enough sausage casing for 6 lbs of sausage

5 lbs pork butt, boneless, you will need a little more if the bone is still in there

1 1/2 cup gluten-free pretzels

1/4 cup tomato paste

3/4 cup chili sauce

8 cloves of garlic

2 T sugar

1 T salt

1 t chili flakes

1 t white pepper

1 t ginger

1/2 t allspice

1/2 cup ice water

Cutting the meat into strips.

Cutting the meat into strips.

1. Cut the pork butt into 1-1 1/2 inch thick strips.  You want some fat, but not too much, so trim any large pieces of fat from the pork, but don’t go crazy.  Lay the pork strips out in a single layer on trays (you don’t want to over

Laying the meat out for freezing

Laying the meat out for freezing.

lap or the pork will freeze together).  Freeze for about 20-30 minutes, until the pork is firm but not frozen through.  Freezing the pork is critical because if the meat is too warm, it will just kind of gum up the grinder and push out meat that looks like sludge and not ground meat.

2. While the pork is chilling, fit your mixer with the grinder attachment. Sausage casing is kept fresh in salt water, so it is important to rinse several times.  I would start by removing it from its salt-water bath and putting it in a bowl of fresh, cold water.

Crushing the pretzels.

Crushing the pretzels.

3. Crush the gluten-free pretzels.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt and spices.  Grate the cloves of garlic using a Microplane.  In a separate small bowl, combine the garlic, sweet chili sauce, and tomato paste.

Microplaning the garlic.

Microplaning the garlic.

4. When the meat is suitably hard, pass it through the grinder one time.  The mixer will need to be on medium / high speed.

Make sure the meat that is coming through has definition, that it looks ground and not mushy.

Make sure the meat is defined and does not look mushy as it comes through the grinder.

5. Add the spices, chili sauce blend and pretzels.  Mix by hand.  Add the water, mix a little more.  I usually cook a tiny test patty here to check that the seasonings are correct.  Once you have tested the meat, freeze again for 10-15 minutes.

Make sure you have seasoned the meat correctly with a test patty.

Make sure you have seasoned the meat correctly with a test patty.

6. While the meat is in the freezer, change your grinder attachment over to the sausage stuffing attachment.  Drain the water from the sausage casing.  Rinse the casing under cold water a few times.  Then fit the casing over the sausage stuffer nozzle.

Putting the casing onto the sausage stuffing nozzle.

Putting the casing onto the sausage stuffing nozzle.

7. Remove the meat from the freezer and begin to pass the meat through the sausage stuffer attachment into the casing.  Pinch the casing at regular intervals and then twist to make each link.   You may need to freeze the meat again about half way through.

Pinch and twist whenever you would like to start a new link.

Pinch and twist whenever you would like to start a new link.

Husband likes this served with caramelized onions, mashed potatoes and green beans.

When you are ready to cook this up, make sure you cook thoroughly, this is pork sausage after all.

I trim the excess casing from each end of the links and freeze what we are not going to eat that week.  This should keep in the freezer for a few months.  Depending on how large you make your links, this can make about 20 links of sausage.

The finished sausages can be easily trimmed and frozen.

The finished sausages can be easily trimmed and frozen.

Rustic Onion and Ham Soup with Pancetta Polenta Croutons

The inspiration for this recipe was a leftover ham bone.  The only recipe I could find that used ham bone was split pea soup.  I am not a huge fan of split pea soup, so I decided to start with Julia Child’s pork stock as a guide (if you have her books, look up the split pea soup, the stock recipe is in there).

I wanted something crunchy and a little rich to go with this light soup.  The easy solution is toasted baguette, but I wanted to try something different.  The pancetta polenta crouton I settled on goes well is versatile enough to top salads or stand alone as an appetizer.  For my next dinner party, I plan to serve the polenta croutons topped with fig butter.

Fresh broth is really different to the canned / boxed broth at the supermarket.  I am not against bouillon cubes and boxed stock; those are staples in my pantry.  It’s just nice to experience the difference between store bought and fresh.

If you just don’t have time to make your own broth, just substitute in chicken or vegetable stock.  I haven’t been able to find a place that carries ready-made, gluten-free pork broth.

If you can’t make your stock within a few days and are worried about freshness of the pork bone (who wants Botulism with their soup), wrap the bones well in parchment paper and a Ziploc bag and stick them in the freezer for up to three weeks.

The Stock:

Ham bone

Onion, quartered

2 stalks of celery, chopped into 3 inch lengths

2 carrots, chopped into 3 inch lengths

herb bouquet: 5 sprigs each rosemary, thyme and parsley

1 large bay leaf

10 cups water

Image

1. Tie the rosemary, thyme and parsley together in a thin layer of cheesecloth.  (If you are using a fine strainer at the end, you don’t have to do this, you can toss the herbs into the pot without wrapping them up.)

2. Put the first 6 ingredients in a large stock pot.  Add 8-10 cups water.  The water should completely or mostly cover the ham bone.

3. Bring to a boil.  Stir.  Reduce heat to a medium low and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Image4. Remove from heat.  Using a strainer ladle, begin to remove the ham bone, herb bouquet and vegetables.  Strain the broth to catch any smaller bits of bone, etc.  I normally balance a strainer, lined with cheesecloth on top of another large pot and pour from one pot to another.

5. Allow to cool.  Skim fat from top with ladle.

Voila!  Fresh pork broth.

Soup:

4 cups pork, veggie or chicken broth

2 large onions, thinly sliced

3 small carrots, peeled and diced

1 can cannelloni beans, drained

3 cloves of garlic, diced

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

Pancetta Polenta Croutons:

4 -5 strips of pancetta

1 cup polenta meal

3 cups chicken broth or water

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

2 stems of rosemary, tough stems discarded and finely chopped

Image

1. In a large soup pot, start to sweat the onions and garlic in butter over medium low heat.  After 5 minutes, or when the onions become translucent, add the sugar, chili flakes and a little salt and pepper.  Allow the onions to caramelize, about 20 minutes.  They should be brown and soft.

2. While the onions are caramelizing, crisp up the pancetta. Over a medium high heat in a dry pan, fry up the pancetta.  It should have enough fat that you will not need to add any oil to the pan.  When the pancetta is crispy, remove from heat and finely chop.

4. Start the polenta by bringing the broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Slowly add the polenta meal, stirring constantly.  Allow the polenta to thicken, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.  When the polenta is thick, add the Parmesan, pancetta and rosemary.  Pour into a 9×9 inch-square pan (I suggest lining the pan with wax paper or saran wrap).  The polenta will firm up as it cools.

5. When the onions are well caramelized, add the carrots and cannelloni beans.  Turn the heat up to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes.

6. Add the broth and bring to a boil.  When the soup reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer at least 20 minutes.

7. While the soup is simmering, un-mold the polenta.  Cut into square or rectangles.  I suggest cutting them on the smaller side so you have more crispiness, but then it takes a while to fry off all those squares.

8. Pour grapeseed oil into a medium skillet over high heat.  The oil should come up about ¼ inch or so up the side of the skillet. You can tell the oil is hot enough to fry in when a drop of water sizzles in the oil.  When the oil is hot, starting add polenta, a few squares at a time.  Cook about 2 minutes on a side or until the square is golden brown and crispy.

9. Serve the squares along side the soup, lightly garnished with a little Parmesan.  Garnish the soup with finely minced parsley to add some color.

Enjoy!Image

Gluten-Free Apple Cake with All Spice Glaze: Posted by Popular Demand

After picking too many apples, I was getting tired of the standard crisps and applesauce, so I started exploring some of my old, pre-gluten-free cookbooks looking for alternatives.  For a long time I didn’t have the confidence to write my own baking recipes or convert old favorites into gluten-free alternatives, but there are ratios and patterns that make it easier to start re-inventing old favorites to fit a gluten-free diet.

One of my favorite wedding gifts was a cookbook from my grandmother.  Her copy of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook sits on my kitchen shelves just like it did on hers.  I always found the book intimidating because its recipes don’t lay everything out for you, such as cooking times or pan sizes or indications of when things are done (I think you were just expected to know that).
Fannie Farmer’s book was revolutionary when it was released because it treated cooking like a science and not an art.  She used measuring cups and leveled them off, bringing precision to baking and cooking.  She also explains a lot about nutrition in this book (I love that her recipes for buckwheat pancakes suggest adding corn because buckwheat makes you constipated).

As I started paging through the book, I was inspired by a “lightening cake” recipe that seemed to have a better balance of flour and other ingredients than many other recipes.  I used that recipe as a starting point for this one.

When I brought the test batches into my office or shared with friends, even the non-gluten-free people wanted a copy of this recipe.  For them, I would say, if you are going to use regular, gluten flour, omit the guar gum and use 3 cups of regular flour instead of the almond, millet, tapioca and rice flours I use below.

If you don’t like the all spice I used in the glaze, it is easily substituted for cinnamon.

Slice the apples to about 1/4 inch thick, they don’t have to be uniform by any means, but they should be thin slices that will layer well on top of the cake.

For the Cake:

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup millet

1/2 cup sweet rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1 t salt

2 t guar gum

3 t baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, just leave the butter on the counter overnight

3/4 cup milk

2 t vanilla extract

1 t lemon extract

1/2 cup brown sugar (optional, I recommend using the brown sugar if you don’t want to use the glaze)

3-4 medium apples

Icing the cake.

For the Glaze:  

4 oz of cream cheese

1 t lemon extract

1/4 t all spice

1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Lightly oil a 9×9 inch square pan and line with parchment paper.  Let the parchment paper hang over the edges of the pan so you can easily lift the baked cake out of the pan.

2. Using a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs.  Slowly stream in the sugar.

3.  Whisk together in a separate bowl: almond flour, millet, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, salt, guar gum and baking powder.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer (reduce the speed so your flour doesn’t go flying all over the kitchen).

The finished batter. Notice how the batter isn’t streaming off the beater.

4. Add in the butter, milk and extracts.  Whisk on high speed two minutes more until the mixture has pulled together. The batter should not be too runny. If the batter thickens before the two minutes are up, don’t stop!  The mixer is aerating the batter, which makes a huge difference between a brick and a light fluffy cake.

I have layered the apples on top, you can make fun patterns with the apples, I just worked in rows and sprinkled with the brown sugar (optional).

5. Peel and thinly slice 3-4 medium apples.  Layer on top of cake.  Top with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

6. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

7. After the cake cools completely, lift it out of the pan using the parchment paper.

8. Whisk together the glaze ingredients and spread over cake.

The finished product. It’s sweet, chewy and covered with a glaze that reminds me of something you would find on a cinnamon roll. I hope you like it!

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Bagels

Bagels are one of my favorite foods.  I love the smell, the delicate chewy exterior and soft interior.   So when I moved to London, I was disappointed by the dry, unappealing bagels I found in most shops throughout the city.

I used to travel to Golder’s Green (one of London’s Jewish neighborhoods) for bagels and matzoball soup, but at one point, the Tube station was closed for several months and I didn’t fancy taking 3 buses for bagels.  There is a great bialy place on Brick Lane, but their bagels are lackluster.

So one Friday night after I got off work late at night, husband told me to meet him at Liverpool Station.  I thought we were going to visit his parents for the weekend, but as soon as we arrived at their house, he ushered me into the car and drove to Hainault.  About a block away from our destination, he let the cat out of the bag and smiling widely told me he had found a great bagel place from a colleague at work.

We turned the corner and pulled up in front of a dark bagel shop in a row of closed shops advertising Kosher products.  Alan was irked: his friend had told him the bakery was open until midnight.  I said it’s Friday night; of course it is closed.  He gave me a confused look.  That is when I realized that there really are very few Jewish people in England and that might be why their bagels are so bad.

Since being diagnosed with Celiac, a decent bagel has been one of the things I have really missed.  Glutino bagels are ok, but they take a lot of jaw power to chew through.  Udi’s bagels have great taste and texture, but the options are to limited plain or whole grain, which doesn’t have a ton of fiber and tastes like the plain.

Of all the options on the gluten-free aisle, I can’t find a great multi-grain, sesame or poppy seed bagel.   As with most of my foods, I am obsessed with finding gluten-free products with taste, protein and fiber.

Many of the mass-produced gluten-free products are delicious, but tend to use lower cost, lower fiber / less nutrious flours, such as tapioca, corn, potato and rice starches / flours.  It’s kind of like the Wonder Bread of the gluten-free world.  There are other options to help boost your protein and fiber intake, however, these flours tend to be more expensive (i.e. – quinoa, amaranth, chestnut or almond flours to name a few).

This recipe is easily changed around to accommodate your tastes, cupboard and budget.  I have starred the flours that I think are the most “swappable”.  That is also why I have used both grams and cups for each measurement.  Some of these flours weigh more than others and therefore may dry out the recipe if added just by volume rather than weight.

The starred flours below may be swapped with any of the following (I do not recommend replacing all the different flours with just one kind): amaranth, chickpea, buckwheat, almond, chestnut or brown rice.

Flour blend:

Quinoa*                       1/4 cup or 35 grams

Teff*                             1/4 cup or 40 grams

Millet*                           1/2 cup or 70 grams

Sorghum                      1/2 cup or 60 grams

Tapioca                         1/2 cup or 60 grams

Potato Starch                1/2 cup or 80 grams

Corn Starch                   1/2 cup or 70 grams

Other ingredients:

2 T flax seeds

2 T sugar

1 t salt

2 t guar gum

1 packet dry yeast

2 T molasses

3 large eggs

2 T grapeseed oil (vegetable oil is fine too)

3/4 cup water heated to 110°F / 43°C (a little cooler is ok, but hotter will kill the yeast)

You will also need:

Tapioca flour, about 1/2 cup to dust work surfaces

Water for boiling, about 8 cups or enough to fill a large pot halfway

1 T sugar for the boiling water

1 beaten egg

poppy seeds and flax seeds, about 3 T each (optional)

1. Combine the dry ingredients (flours and other ingredients through and including dry yeast) in the bowl of a stand mixer.

2. In another small bowl, beat together the eggs, molasses and grapeseed oil. The batter should look like this: elastic, smooth and kind of like a cookie batter.

3. Add the egg mixture and water to the dry ingredients.  Start on a low speed to combine and quickly raise the speed to high.  Mix for about 3 minutes until the batter is smooth and elastic.

4. Dust a clean counter with about 1/4 cup tapioca flour.  Pour the batter onto the tapioca flour.  Dust a little more flour on top of the batter.  Coat your hands in flour.  Gently roll the dough into a log.  Cut into 8 pieces.

Use really soft hands for shaping the bagel: the dough is sticky and delicate.  If you over work it, you will end up with a tougher end product.5.One piece at a time, shape the dough into a circle and then poke a hole in the center with your thumb.  Gently massage the opening until you have an opening about 1 inch across.

6. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Leave at least 2 inches between each bagel to allow them room to rise.  Cover with a kitchen towel.  Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

7. Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Pre-heat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.

8. Fill a large pot about half full of water.  Boil the water and add the tablespoon of sugar.

9. Boil the bagels, 2-3 at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pot), 2 minutes per side.  Use either chop sticks or a slotted turner to flip / remove from the water. And onto a clean towel to absorb the excess water.  Move quickly back to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper / Silpat.  Left: the bagels after they have risen.  Right: boiling the bagels.

10. Brush each bagel on both sides with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle with the poppy and flax seeds.

Brush with egg regardless of whether or not you want to top with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.  The egg will help the bagels to brown.11. Bake for 10 minutes.  Flip bagels and reduce heat to 400°F / 200°C.  Bake for another 15 minutes or until the bagels are well-browned.

12. Cool before storing / serving.  These bagels freeze well.

The finished product. Grab some lox, capers and cream cheese!

Planning Ahead, Chili for the Big Game

My husband is from the U.K., so he has only recently become familiar with Superbowl Sunday and the grad tradition of eating like a jerk while watching others exert themselves on the field.  He loves it.  This Superbowl Sunday, I will be making him this hearty and flavorful chili.

Chili is one of my favorite foods and the hotter the better.  Husband is not a big fan of spice, so this recipe is intended to be on the mild side.

Since I have a very different definition of what is “spicy” or “hot”, I ask husband to taste it before adding the next round of spice/pepper.  If he tells me his max heat has been achieved, I stop adding to the chili and just adding some sriracha sauce to my bowl at the end.

Some tips for controlling the heat in your chili dish: peppers hold their heat in the seeds (it’s called capsaicin), so if you have spice adverse folks in your house, make sure you add the seeds in batches rather than one at a time, to give you a chance to taste for the heat. I normally start with the seeds of one jalapeño and reserve the other seeds until it has cooked for some time and husband has pronounced a verdict on its spiciness.

Try wearing rubber gloves when handling jalapeños; this will ensure that you don’t accidently end up with capsaicin all over your hands and irritating your skin.

If you want to add more smoky flavors, try adding smoked paprika and/or harissa.

If you want to make this vegan, substitute one pound extra soft tofu for the ground meat.  Vegan andouille is available at Whole Foods, but I am pretty sure it contains gluten.  You can try making your own, but many of the recipes I found online did have gluten, like this one.

I got my rubber gloves at the grocery store!

2 jalapeños, finely chopped, seeds reserved

2 links Andouille sausage, casing removed and finely chopped

1 bell pepper or half of each of a red and green pepper, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 lb. ground turkey (for a lean dish of course beef will also be awesome)

1 t onion powder

1 t smoked paprika

1 t coriander

1 T tomato paste

1 ½ cans chopped tomatoes (about 42 oz. total)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (if you like a lot of beans in your chili, add a second can of beans, the type doesn’t matter and increase the canned tomatoes from 1½ to 2 cans)

1/3 cup BBQ sauce, I recommend the Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil

dash of each:

all spice

curry powder

cayenne

crushed red pepper

chili powder or harissa

1. Make a shallow cut into the flesh of the sausage and peel off the casing and chop.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion, sausage and peppers.  Cook 5 minutes or until onions and garlic are soft and translucent.

Remember to let it simmer before you taste for heat.

3. Add ground meat and the jalapeños, including seeds (if you are going for mild, remember to hold some seeds to the side).  Cook through, about 5 minutes.  While the meat is cooking, break it up with a wooden spoon.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir together.

4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer about 1 hour or more, stirring occasionally.

5. Taste for heat and adjust seasoning (add more jalapeño seeds if it is too mild).  Serve in bowls, top with avocado, cheddar, etc.

I recommend slicing some avocado on top and squeezing a little lime over it.  If you are in the mood for cheese, try putting the chili in heatproof crocks, like these Staub ones, which come in tons of colors.   Top each serving with cheddar and smoked Gouda and put under the broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Some folks like to add cilantro, but Husband is one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap.  It’s a medical fact, to some folks, cilantro tastes like soap.  So if we want a fresh herby boost on our chili, I use arugula.

My finished dish is topped avocado with fresh lime. Avocado is fatty, but its monounsaturated fat, in moderation, will fill you up and not take a toll on your heart.

Benevento’s: Finally, My Family and I Can Eat In the North End Again

When one of my friends came to town for a visit, I wanted to take him somewhere great, so of course I went for the atmosphere and history of the North End.  Recently, a friend mentioned that she had seen gluten-free pizza signs in the North End, so I Googled a few options and went with the one with the best rating: Benevento’s.

Boston’s North End is famous for its rich history and incredible Italian food.  Nothing makes for a better night on the town than a good meal and then a walk through the narrow, lively streets, maybe to the nearby Improv Asylum.  I really want to see their homage to the MBTA.

Before my diagnosis, I used to love exploring the restaurants and bakeries in the area, my favorite being Bova’s Bakery (in my opinion, ten times better than Mike’s Pastry, but that doesn’t matter for my gluten-free readers, as neither venue stocks g/f fare).  For the past three years, I had thought that because of the gluten-y nature of much Boston-area Italian food, that the North End was a dietary no-fly zone.

While their website doesn’t say anything about gluten-free options, Beneventos is listed on Yelp as offering gluten-free options.  When I called to make the reservation, I was able to confirm with the hostess that they offer gluten-free pasta, pizza and beer.    When we arrived, I noticed a street placard proudly touting their gluten-free options.  The venue next door also has gluten-free options.

The restaurant is lively.  The wood-fired ovens are staged next to the bar.  Diners can watch the chefs toss, stretch and roll the dough.  Because of the size and location of the pizza area and bar, the rest of the space is relatively narrow.  The décor is simple, but interesting with pressed tin ceilings and a marble bar.  The restaurant is casual, with pizzas served on tin plates atop tomato cans.

There were a few muted TVs throughout the restaurant tuned to various sports games.  It still escapes me why so many non-sports bar/restaurants have these silent mood killers.  If the venue is not a sports bar: it just brings down the atmosphere by distracting half the diners from their companions.

Unless, for all intents and purposes, I want to be dining alone, I have to ask Husband to sit with his back to the TV.  Even when the sport is NASCAR, which he dislikes, he still gets so distracted, I could be talking about horrible things, like decorating our whole house in pink lame and he just smiles and nods.  It’s worse than going to Hooters.  At least there I have the amusement of wondering if they are real or fake.

Anyway, aside from the silent intrusion, the atmosphere in the restaurant was low key.  Our waitress came by and read the specials, all of which sounded great, but I skipped through the rest of the huge menu of salads, pasta and meats to the pizza.

I mentioned my gluten allergy and the waitress seemed very comfortable answering questions about the menu.  I went with the Vodka Classic Pizza.  Husband ordered the regular dough Richie’s Favorite Pizza and my friend ordered gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce.

When our food arrived, my pizza was on an individual, disposable tin, which ensured that it did not touch the reusable pizza pans, which was great and really signaled to me that they are very conscious about potential cross-contamination.  My pizza was fantastic.  The cheese was all brown and bubbly.  The prosciutto was crispy around the edges and the sauce was really flavorful.

My friend really enjoyed his gnocchi.  He said it was well-executed.  Husband loved his pizza.  Husband and I were only able to eat about half of our pizzas.  We were able to put them in the same box, since mine had the little tin to keep it safe and separate from Husband’s slices.

One thing I didn’t realize when booking our reservation, is that Benevento’s does not serve dessert.   In the end we went next door to an extremely mediocre gelato joint.

I would definitely recommend Beneventos for a casual, quick meal in the North End.

Henrietta’s Table: a Great Place to Celebrate Special Occasions

Husband’s birthday is only five days before mine and our anniversary is sandwiched right in the middle. So we had a nice celebratory dinner with our family at one of our favorite restaurants, Henrietta’s Table in Harvard Square. Henrietta’s Table is famous for their brunch, but it is an equally appealing dinner option too. This is another great Cambridge restaurant that celebrates local produce, like T.W.Food.

Henrietta’s Table is unpretentious and inviting and the food is great. The dining room is rustic yet modern and simple. As you enter the restaurant, there is a bar on the left and on the right is a little gift shop featuring toys, books and other fun things related to barnyard animals, especially the pig. The dining area is spacious and I especially appreciate that the tables are not on top of one another. 

We started with drinks and a cheese plate. I was really surprised that they don’t have any hard ciders on offer. The only cider-like drinks they have are apple ice wines (very syrupy and sweet dessert wine). Instead, I had a fall foliage martini, which was fantastic. Despite the maple liqueur, the drink was dry rather than sweet. The pumpkin seed rim was a nice touch.

The cheese menu is great and a nice alternative to ordering the standard appetizers of salads or soup. All the cheeses are locally sourced. I ordered cheddar and a firm goat cheese. These cheeses were served with apricots, local jam, toast, almonds and grapes, so there was a lot to pick at. I was surprised to see that the cheeses on the menu were mostly harder, milder cheeses. Maybe that is just the kind of cheese we make in this area?

I have been to Henrietta’s Table several times and have always found the staff to be accommodating and helpful with my food allergy.  This trip was no different.  The staff is always willing to go back and check on various items. Many of their menu items are naturally gluten-free.  When I informed my waiter of my allergy and he immediately knew what I was talking about and said to order away, that almost everything on the menu was ok (except the lamb) and if it wasn’t, the dish could be modified to make it suitable.

It’s so nice to look at a menu and see options rather than restrictions. I found it hard to make my choice with so many great options, but I eventually decided on a special: grilled swordfish with butternut squash puree and parsnip chips. Actually, I think most of the table chose this dish. Husband ordered a barbequed lamb shank. I think I tried a bite before tasting the ale that must have been used to make it, so after that I kept to stealing his mashed potatoes.

The swordfish was amazing. The fish was perfectly cooked. I like that they keep the seasoning simple with just salt and pepper, but I would have liked a little spice to contrast with the sweetness of the butternut squash puree and the earthy parsnip chips. I loved the dish and would like to make something like it again here at home. We had a bottle of Riesling with dinner, which was great, very crisp and clean.

After dinner we ordered some dessert. My brother and sister in law had the pumpkin whoopee pies, which looked amazing. My parents had a root beer float which was fantastic. Husband and I opted to share a lemon sorbet, which was super tart. I liked it a bit more than Husband did.

For gluten-free diners, your options at dessert are more limited than dinner, but that is to be expected. The good news is that they do have a nice range of dessert wines and ice creams and sorbets to offer.

It was a fantastic meal. I would really recommend Henrietta’s Table to any gluten-free diner.

This is 5 star for both taste/quality and gluten-free friendliness!

Fresh Polenta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Haddock

I had always supposed that fresh corn polenta would be a pain in the ass to make on my own, however, I learned otherwise while reading Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (finally available over here in the U.S., my wonderful sister-in-law sent it over from the U.K. last year for Christmas).  The recipe for the polenta was so simple and the result so delicious; it has become a new family favorite.  While I liked the eggplant sauce Ottolenghi pairs with the polenta, I found the preparation a little involved for regular, weeknight cooking.
The polenta part of this recipe is adapted from Plenty; the rest is my own recipe based on what looked good at the store that day.   This makes a great meal for a casual weeknight dinner party, especially since it is easy to prep the polenta days in advance.

If you are looking to get a head start on the week, make the polenta through step 5 and just stick the polenta in the fridge until you need it.  This will reduce the overall cooking time from about 1 hour to about ½ hour.  The polenta should keep 3-5 days.

I broke out the polenta preparation from the tomatoes and haddock, just to make it easy to take the polenta and combine it with whatever suits your fancy.

If you are looking for a vegan interpretation, the polenta is delicious and flavorful without the cheese or butter.  Grilled portabella mushrooms would be a perfect substitute for the haddock.

Polenta:

6 ears of corn, husk and silk removed, washed and dried

½ – ¾ cup goat cheese or feta cheese

2 Tbsp butter

salt and pepper to taste

Haddock:

2 lbs haddock

olive oil

smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce:

1 lb cherry tomatoes

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

olive oil

paprika, salt and pepper, to taste

if you have it, fresh basil, a few leaves roughly shredded

Polenta Preparation:

 

1. Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water.  Place on stove on high heat and bring to a boil.  Salt the water and turn the heat down to a rolling simmer.

2. Cut the kernels off the six ears of corn.  Rachel Ray suggests putting a small bowl upside down inside another bowl.  I think this sounds like a recipe for knife-ruining disaster, but hey, different strokes, right?  I have also seen folks securing the ear of corn in the center of a bundt pan.  That looks really easy; too bad I don’t own a bundt pan!

3. Once you have all the kernels cut off, put them in the simmering water.  Cook for 10 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, move the corn into a food processor.  Keep a cup of the starchy cooking water in case you need to thin the polenta.  Discard the rest of the liquid.

Left: cutting the corn off the cob Right: this is what the polenta will look like after processing

5. Process the corn for about 3-4 minutes.  If the corn is not blending easily, add a little of that starchy cooking liquid, a few tablespoons at a time.  The polenta will not become smooth; you just want to break down the kernels into a more batter-like consistency.  When the polenta reminds you of chunky yellow cake mix; you’ve got fresh polenta.

6. Return the polenta to the large saucepan.  Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the polenta thickens slightly.  Add the cheese and butter.  Cook another 2 minutes, or until the cheese and butter are melted and incorporated.  Season to taste.

Haddock and Tomato Sauce Preparation:

You can just see the tomatoes bursting; the sauce is ready!

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil.  Add the tomato paste.  Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic.  Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will be done when the tomatoes begin to burst and the onions and garlic are soft.  Season with paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Heat another skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil.

3. Dry the haddock with a paper towel.  Season with the paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness.

4. Spoon some polenta into the bottom of the bowl.  Top with a piece of haddock and some of the sauce.  If you have some handy, shred a little fresh basil on top of each dish.

Yum!