Recently in New Finds Category
I will be demonstrating a recipe and signing books on May 4 & 5 at the Celiac Disease Foundation’s National Conference and Gluten-Free Expo. The conference is taking place in Pasadena, and is a great opportunity to learn up-to-date information about gluten intolerance from doctors, researchers, and dieticians. You will also have the opportunity to sample the best and newest products from over 100 gluten-free exhibitors. I attended last year, and the experience inspired me to write my new book, Weeknight Gluten Free.
Today is the official publication date for my new book, Weeknight Gluten Free. It is now available not only at Williams-Sonoma stores, but also at many bookstores nationwide, and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I am thrilled with the stunning photography and the entire package.
In the book, I offer 100 of my favorite gluten-free recipes developed during a year of glorious experimentation. I was the food editor at Bon Appetit magazine for over 20 years and got to taste all of the great recipes we showcased. When my childhood celiac disease recently resurfaced, I was determined to continue to eat as well as I always had. I learned to cook the simple, healthful, fresh food I love, but without wheat, rye, or barley. I focus on items that are naturally gluten-free, and my inspiration comes from the gorgeous produce I find at farmers’ markets. My friends and family never realize anything is missing when they eat my new cooking.
I was not going to give up pasta when I had to stop eating wheat, so I went on a search for a tasty, firm, nutritious, gluten-free product. Most gluten-free pastas are made from rice. The texture and flavor of rice-based noodles are great in Asian cooking, but they don’t work for me in Italian food—they don’t have enough body, easily overcook to a limp mess, and the flavor is wrong. In addition, it is now suggested we cut back on rice consumption, because of high arsenic levels in some rice products.
Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta
and Schar Gluten-Free Pasta
are two happy discoveries. They are both a semolina-like yellow from the corn in their formula, taste pleasantly nutty, and are resilient in texture if not overcooked. Ancient Harvest is organic and adds quinoa for rich flavor, high quality protein, iron, and B vitamins. Schar
incorporates pea protein and rice flour for a more complex taste and extra protein.
I love pasta carbonara
almost as much as the New Yorker writer and food enthusiast Calvin Trillin
does. While I don’t follow his suggestion to serve it for Thanksgiving dinner, I make it frequently, and in many guises. Inspired by the fresh asparagus and peas appearing now in farmers’ markets and grocery stores, I prepared the recipe here for lunch this past weekend. To compliment the spring vegetables, I added lemon zest and fresh basil to the egg, pancetta
, and Parmesan cheese sauce.
I was fascinated by polenta when I first tasted it at a rustic cabin restaurant in the Italian Alps. I ate forkful after forkful of the molten layering of cornmeal, mountain cheese, local sausage, and tomato sauce, trying to figure out how it was made. Soon after, polenta made its way into restaurants in the US, and during my long tenure as food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, I got to sample polenta in many different recipes.
But, I didn’t fully appreciate the versatility of polenta until I began experimenting with my newly imposed gluten-free diet. It was then that I realized polenta makes a great replacement for many wheat-based staples- bread, pasta, croutons, crostini, and even pizza crust. This discovery added new satisfaction to my meals.
The recipe here is my quick twist on traditional polenta, which can take up to 45 minutes of almost constant stirring to prepare. I was determined to find a way to make polenta effortlessly so I could enjoy it frequently. I played around until I came up with this creamy, microwave version. The key is using medium-grind cornmeal, rather than coarser ground polenta, which requires more than three times as long to cook.
I am recently home from speaking on a culinary cruise along the Atlantic coast of Europe. Thomas P. Gohagan & Company put together the tour for alumni organizations and cultural institutions. Like all of Gohagan’s adventures, the voyage was intimate, with only 230 passengers on a small, luxurious ship. My job was to give lectures about food along our route and host meals at distinctive venues in the countries we visited- Portugal, Spain, and France.
My first presentation on the cruise was a tasting of Spanish olive oils, Jamons (Spain’s incomparable cured hams), and cheeses. To prepare, I sampled Spanish food products during the month before the trip.
I tasted some excellent Spanish cheeses, all purchased at Andrew’s Cheese Shop
in Santa Monica. Andrew introduced me to Mont Enebro, a real discovery! It is oblong shaped, soft ripened goat’s milk cheese that is covered with a layer of what appears to be ash but is actually penicillium roquefort mold, the same that is used to make exquisite blue cheeses. However, Mont Enebro is not a blue cheese, but has a creamy white center with an earthy flavor punctuated by peppercorn-like spiciness. It is dense when young, but ripens to a plush creaminess. It is the creation of legendary cheese makers, who are part of an artisanal cheese movement in Spain. Its taste is so complex, I like it best on its own with crusty bread or atop a simple tossed salad. If you don’t live near Santa Monica, the cheese can be ordered from Murray’s Cheese
Tasting plate photo from Thomas P. Gohagan & Co.
I heard that Ethridge Organics was selling very special tangerines, so I went straight to their stand at the Topanga farmers’ market Friday morning. Aaron Ethridge cut a wedge of the deep orange fruit, releasing its fresh floral aroma- I could almost taste its intense sweet-sour tang before he handed it to me. This is a fruit to seek out.
Mandarins, tangerines, Satsuma, Clementine- the names can be confusing. All of these thin-skinned citrus fruits are mandarins, but we used to call them tangerines, because they were imported from Tangier. Satsuma and Clementine are varieties of mandarins, and the variety I was introduced to on Friday is Tahoe Gold. Some are filled with seeds, some have no seeds. I am happy to report that I have come across only an occasional seed in the Tahoe Golds.
To select the freshest fruits, look for reddish-orange color, firm skin with no soft spots, and a bright flowery perfume. They make a beautiful display in a bowl on the kitchen counter, but don’t leave them out for more than a day or two. Because their thin skins don’t offer much protection, they last longer when placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
What am I doing with this new find? Eating them out of hand. I cannot imagine any preparation that will improve on their outstanding, natural taste. They make a bright start to the day, great for nibbling while preparing breakfast, or a refreshing finish to lunch or dinner.
Aaron says the Tahoe Gold mandarins should be around for another month or so. Ethridge Organic citrus fruit can be found at several farmers’ markets around LA: Wednesday in Ventura; Thursday evenings in South Pasadena; Friday mornings at the Topanga market; Saturday at the Santa Monica market on Arizona and 3rd, and the Calabasas market; Sunday in Pacific Palisades and Studio City.
Romanesco Cauliflower: Found at Weiser Family Farms stands at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: Choose regular cauliflower.
I have been curious about this fantastical looking vegetable ever since I first noticed it at a street market in Rome, about 5 years ago. Now it is available in Los Angeles, but so far I have only seen it at farmers’ markets. Its wondrous shape, reminding me of a bouquet of tiny cones, is described mathematically as a fractal
, but I like to think of it as a natural art form. The flavor is more delicate than regular cauliflower, with slightly nutty nuances, and it has a more tender texture.
Roasted, this highly nutritious vegetable makes a satisfying side dish, or, as in the recipe below, can be the star of a pasta creation. Simply cut off the florets, starting at the base and working up towards the tip, and then toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a hot oven until brown in spots, crispy on the outside yet yielding in the center.
The just picked fruit, vegetables, and herbs I find at local farmers’ markets are loaded with flavor, and therefore it takes very little effort in the kitchen to create marvelous, healthy dishes when using them. They are what inspire my cooking. I intend to frequently highlight produce I bring home from the markets, and tell you about the easy preparations I make. These dishes are simple to prepare without complete recipes, they are more ideas than formulas.
German Butterball Potatoes
: Found at Weiser Family Farms
stand, at many Los Angeles farmers’ markets. From the grocery store: choose Yukon gold potatoes instead.
The season will soon be over for these buttery tasting heirloom potatoes, but they are so outstanding, I encourage you to try them before they disappear. They are round to oblong in shape, with light brown smooth skin, and yellow flesh.
Their flavor is intense; therefore little butter is needed to make divine mashed potatoes. I cut them into 1-2” pieces with the skin still attached, and cook in boiling salted water until tender. After draining, I mash them with a little olive oil and chicken broth or milk, and season with salt and pepper, occasionally adding a small pat of butter- but the butter really isn’t necessary. Topped with sautéed mushrooms, and served alongside simply roasted or sautéed chicken, fish, or meat, they make an easy meal memorable. For an even simpler preparation, cut the potatoes into wedges about 1-inch thick at the widest part, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast them at 450°F until crispy and brown on the outside and yielding inside, for about 35 minutes. These are addictive, and great with almost anything.
: Found at several stands at local farmers’ markets. I have been purchasing them from Mello AG, at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and Vital Zuman Farms at the Topanga farmers’ market. From the grocery store: Gelson’s and Whole Foods Markets carry chanterelles, but they are costlier than at farmers’ markets. Button mushrooms or shiitakes can be used in the suggestions below; they will be tasty, but won’t offer the same woodsy flavor or substantial texture.
I’m happy to announce that my new cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, is now available. It can be found exclusively at Williams-Sonoma stores this month and February, and then in March it will also be in bookstores. It can be preordered on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for March shipment.
The recipes are inspired by my weekly trips to farmers' markets, and reflect the way I cook at home: lots of fresh veggies, small amounts of olive oil, vivid flavor. Many of the recipes are for complete meals, or I offer suggestions for quick ways to round out the plate. I had great fun creating the food for the book, and we ate well during the months I worked on it.
As a preview, here is a recipe for a robust chicken braise. It makes a perfect dinner during the cold snap we are experiencing. I created the dish last winter, with produce I found at the Topanga farmers’ market. Of course, the squash and turnips are also available at every grocery store. I spooned the lusty chicken and vegetables over rice, and then enjoyed the leftovers on another night with crusty bread, to soak up the richly flavored juices.
The rain this morning forced me to cancel a hike with friends, and so I baked cookies for them instead. I was eager to taste the organic, reduced sugar fruit spreads Crofter's had given me, and knew that thumbprint cookies, their indentations designed to be filled with jam or jelly, would be a yummy way to try the preserves.
These cookies are a variation on the first thing I learned to bake. I was 6 years old, my grandmother was visiting, and I begged her to make her brown sugar thumbprint cookies- our name for them was Grandmother Cookies. She showed me how to mix the simple dough by hand, roll spoonfuls of it into rounds, and stick my finger into each to form an indentation- all great fun for a kid’s first attempt at baking. I now form the dough in an electric mixer, but still call these delightful morsels Grandmother Cookies.