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Books for Gluten-Free Cooks

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I’ve been having fun reading and cooking from a few new cookbooks this fall. Although they aren’t specifically gluten-free, every one has plenty of recipes for the gluten-free cook, and every one would make a great gift for yourself, a gluten-free friend, or any friend who loves to cook. And that is the point. The recipes in these books, like on this blog, produce fresh, naturally gluten-free food. No one should say “Oh that’s good for a gluten-free dish,” instead the criterion is that this is delicious food! For anyone! 
 
With the exception of one of these books, they are written by food pros I know, mostly from my years as food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, so I was already familiar with the high quality of the recipes they create. Oh yes, one is my new book, Gluten-Free Baking, which will be available any day now.
 
 
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Gluten-Free Baking, by Kristine Kidd (me)
I took a long sabbatical from this blog to write a baking book, and it will be available by December 23. It can preordered now on Amazon.com and Barns & Noble.com, and should be in book stores by then too (just barely in time for the holidays). Hopefully it will show up a little earlier in Williams-Sonoma stores. 
 
I am not fond of most of the baked goods in stores or the recipes for goodies I find in books and magazines. They are all packed with nutritionally empty white starches that give an off flavor and dry texture. I preferred to go without, for a while. Eventually I started craving artisanal style gluten-free breads and homemade cookies. So I decided to create my own recipes using whole grain gluten-free flours and naturally gluten-free techniques. I am thrilled with the flavors and textures of the recipes I created, and hope you will be too.

Continue reading Books for Gluten-Free Cooks.

Creamy Microwave Polenta

microwave.polentaJPGI 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.

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Fresh Chestnuts

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I ordered fresh Italian Marroni chestnuts from a family orchard in the Sacramento valley for our Thanksgiving feast. The chestnuts arrived only a few days after I requested them from the website. I am happy to report that the chestnuts are sweet, tender, and moist. Roasted, they make an excellent winter treat for before dinner or while sitting around a cozy fire.

Correia Chestnut Farm still has some chestnuts available. Unfortunately, the next shipping date isn’t until January 3. However, I am about to order more of these delicacies, to have on hand for cheering up bitter, rainy, January nights. 

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Gluten-Free Events
Cooking Class and Expo

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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.

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Cooking Class and Expo
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Gluten-Free Pasta
Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus and Peas

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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.
 
Pasta Update: Since writing this post in 2013, I have discovered 2 new pastas. Barilla has developed excellent gluten-free pastas, made from corn flour and rice flour. They come the closest to traditional pasta in both flavor and texture. I am also a fan of Power Pasta, fashioned from red lentils. Although not as similar to wheat pasta as Barilla, this pasta is wonderfully satisfying because it is a whole food packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Read more about it here, where you will also find another recipe featuring asparagus.
 
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.

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Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus and Peas
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Last Minute Holiday Gifts Plus
Fudgy Ginger-Nut Meringues

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I have a few more gifts to tend to, but I’m determined to stay away from the malls during this last week before Christmas. Here are suggestions for three items that can be ordered to arrive in time and one extra special treat to prepare at home. 

 
Chocolate.Hazelnut.Ginger.Meringues.jpgFudgy Ginger-Nut Meringues
 
These naturally gluten-free goodies are crisp on the outside, gooey inside with a surprising hint of ginger. They are easy to make too. I’ve already baked one double batch; we took half to a dessert party, and stored the second half in a tin to serve to friends who stop in. Steve’s son was here the day I baked them, and many got eaten as we finished decorating our tree. The recipe is in my new book, Gluten-Free Baking, and I’ve included it at the end of this post. So keep reading.

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Fudgy Ginger-Nut Meringues
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Maple, Hazelnut and Amaranth Granola

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Here’s a super tasty, delightfully crunchy, and exceptionally nutritious granola to start off the day. One more selling point: amaranth, an ancient, gluten-free grain, will keep you feeling satisfied much longer than other cereals. I like to fill a bowl with fresh fruit (berries and peaches in summer, apples or bananas in winter), milk, soy milk, kefir, or yogurt and about ⅓ cup of this granola. And when I need a quick pick-me-up, like right now, I eat a big spoonful of the granola directly from its container.

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Market Inspirations

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.

germanbutterballs.jpgGerman 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.
 
chanterelles.jpgChanterelles Mushrooms: 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.

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Market Inspirations
Spaghetti with Romanesco Cauliflower

romanesco.cauliflower.jpgRomanesco 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. 

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Spaghetti with Romanesco Cauliflower
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My New Book
Chicken with Squash, Turnips, and Shiitakes

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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.

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Chicken with Squash, Turnips, and Shiitakes
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New Finds
Tahoe Gold Mandarins

tahoegoldmandarins.jpgI 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.

Olive Oil Brownies (Gluten Free) For Valentines

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Why, you might ask, is there an olive sprig in this photo? Extra-virgin olive oil is the first of two unique ingredients in these intense, dark chocolate brownies. Not something normally associated with desserts, but the oil’s depth of flavor accentuates the chocolate, and the results are less cloying than treats made with butter. These brownies are worthy of serving to a Valentine (and the preparation is easy).

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Pasta with Asparagus, Chard, and Pine Nuts
Power Pasta

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Here’s a simple and easy-to-put-together dish that gets its great taste from fresh vegetables and basil, snappy extra-virgin olive oil, and truly delectable pasta. Barilla is one of my favorite gluten-free pastas, but I recently discovered Power Pasta at a gluten-free festival in Austin, and I developed this recipe to show it off. 

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Power Pasta
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Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Mini Peppers

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I created this lusty dish last week when my stepson, Ethan Peck, squeezed in a dinner with us before heading to Milan. He stars in a 2 minute video for the luxury fashion company Ferragamo, and he was invited to make an appearance at Italian fashion week. Having little warning about his visit with us, I looked in my fridge and cupboards for inspiration, and this recipe was born. 

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Pomegranate, Cherry, and Rosemary Sorbet

pomegranate-cherry-rosemary-sorbet.jpgLeeAnn was excited about the pomegranate tart cherry juice she discovered at Whole Foods. It is 100% fresh-pressed organic juice, not reconstituted from concentrate, no sugar added. However, the bottle she gave me sat on the kitchen counter for a week because I like eating fresh fruit more than drinking juice.
 
When I returned home after brunch with girlfriends on Sunday, I found the path leading to our house covered with trimmed branches from our rosemary bushes, and my beau Steve in the kitchen, stirring rosemary syrup into the pomegranate cherry juice.
 
Steve is not a cook; he provides takeout sushi on my yoga nights, and grills anything that I have readied for the fire. I create our meals, and this is my preference. For dinner parties, I like to serve make-ahead desserts, thus four summers ago I purchased an ice cream maker to churn old fashioned peach ice cream. Steve was intrigued. Sorbets and lime pops are his favorite sweets, and he wondered if the machine would freeze sorbets. With a lemon sorbetto recipe from my files, he launched into his first culinary project.
 

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Roasted Vegetables with California
Olive Oil and Shallot Mayonnaise

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Have you ever tasted roasted vegetables dipped in homemade mayonnaise, crafted with an exquisite extra-virgin olive oil? If not, get shopping and cooking right now for a delectable experience. Please don’t conjure jarred mayo when you imagine this recipe, the homemade version is an opulent sauce, and the better the oil the tastier the results. I’ve been experimenting with several outstanding California extra-virgin oils lately, and in the process this became my favorite way to enjoy them. 

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Olive Oil and Shallot Mayonnaise
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Salmon with Salsa Verde and Lima Bean Puree

salmon-limapuree.JPGTender, fresh lima beans are available right now at the McGrath Family Farms stand at several farmers’ markets. Because the beans are already removed from their pods, it takes only a few minutes to get them ready to use, and I am having fun fooling around with them. I have braised them with peppers, zucchini, and green beans; tossed them with spaghetti and fresh pesto; created a fresh succotash; and fashioned a hearty soup with the limas, fingerling potatoes, winter squash, and greens.

I discovered that the fresh limas develop a rich, earthy flavor and silky texture when simmered with sautéed shallot or onion and a few herbs until tender, and then left to cool in the salted liquid for at least 20 minutes. The first time I prepared the fresh limas, the process felt a little awkward, because I am accustomed to simply boiling frozen limas in water for about 15 minutes. Now I cook the limas when I get them home from the market, and store them in the refrigerator to use over the next few days.

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The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen

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I’ve been having lots of fun cooking from my friend Amelia Saltsman’s new cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen. This is a warm, personal book, filled with Amelia’s spins on Jewish recipes, often influenced by the intense flavors of Middle Eastern fare. It is organized by the seasons, features fresh produce, and offers fascinating history and family stories. You might remember Amelia from her wonderful The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook

Continue reading The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen.

Try This!
Mont Enebro Cheese

spanishchurch.JPGI 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. 
 
tastingplate.jpgI 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.

Win a Copy of Weeknight Gluten Free

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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.

Continue reading Win a Copy of Weeknight Gluten Free.

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