Recently in Weeknight Dinners Category
I took my young friend Rebecca to Huckleberry Café in Santa Monica for brunch, and we couldn’t resist 2 items on the menu: the poached eggs smothered in a savory lentil and chard ragout, and fried eggs sitting atop quinoa tossed with market vegetables. Not wanting to waste a drop of the lentil stew, we spooned the last bits over the remaining quinoa, and the mixture was a winner. Rebecca, who is attending culinary school, was curious about what gave the lentil ragout its rich flavors, and we decided to try to recreate the recipe together.
I am a big fan of both quinoa and legumes as satisfying, gluten-free staples. Because of their complex tastes, intriguing textures, and superior nutritional values they make unexpected but excellent accompaniments to eggs. Quinoa creates a toothsome base for fried or poached eggs, and poached eggs nestled in legume stews have become a favorite Sunday breakfast.
My new book, Weeknight Gluten Free, is filled with recipes for luscious, naturally gluten-free sauces. One of my favorites is a vibrant pistachio and basil salsa verde. Salsa verde is an uncooked, fragrant mixture of olive oil and fresh herbs that takes only a few minutes to prepare. There are Italian, French, Spanish, Argentinian, and German versions. I use a full flavored extra-virgin olive oil, a little minced shallot, and lots of aromatic herbs as the base for many variations.
For the recipe in the book, I add a big handful of toasted pistachios and spoon the sauce over creamy buratta
cheese and asparagus stalks. The idea for this dish came from my birthday dinner last year at Farmshop
, a rustic yet sophisticated restaurant in Santa Monica that serves perfectly cooked, creative, farmers’ market inspired food.
The sauce is way too yummy to use only in this specific pairing. Like all the sauces in the book, this one can be served on lots of different items. We have enjoyed it over grilled Alaskan salmon, roasted arctic char, and sautéed
chicken breasts. Carie
at Wheatfree Mom
tweeted that she served it over ricotta cheese, and I am eager to try this as an appetizer with crackers.
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.
Quinoa started appearing in the Bon Appetit test kitchen during my last year or two at the magazine. I could see it was gaining in popularity, but I just didn’t like it much. I preferred orzo, couscous, and bulgur wheat. That was before my childhood celiac disease resurfaced and I had to give up all wheat products.
I decided to try quinoa again as I started focusing on satisfying, naturally gluten-free foods for my new diet. At first I was happy depending on potatoes, polenta, and brown Jasmine and basmati
rice as staples, but I wanted more variety. I am happy I chose to play around with quinoa. Not only is it super nutritious
, I found an easy technique to make it super delicious too, and it is a featured ingredient in my new book, Weeknight Gluten Free
Today is an exciting day for me. My new book Weeknight Gluten Free
is finally available at Williams-Sonoma stores. When my childhood celiac disease resurfaced, I was determined to eat as well as I always had. I continued to focus on healthful, fresh, farmers’ market inspired food as I learned to cook without wheat, barley, and rye. This book features my favorite recipes developed during a year of glorious experimenting in my kitchen, and I'm so happy to be able to share them with you.
Rather than offering disappointing versions of dishes that require wheat, I focus on food that is naturally gluten free. I didn’t get depressed about giving up crusty bread and semolina pasta, but instead came to truly appreciate the beauty of polenta, quinoa, and corn tortillas. The book highlights creative uses for gluten-free staples such as quinoa pilafs, creamy weeknight polenta, herbed egg crepes, socca (savory chickpea pancakes), legumes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I also created a crusty skillet cornbread that takes only minutes to prepare and competes with artisan breads for satisfaction.
You’ll find recipes for food to eat every night of the week, including meatless entrees, sustainable seafood, poultry, and meat. There are dishes like braised Moroccan flavored chickpeas and carrots with yogurt topping; crisp socca with burrata, greens, and olive dressing; polenta topped with fried eggs, kale, and blistered tomatoes; fish tacos with broccoli slaw and lime crema; turkey cutlets with green olives and lemon on quinoa; and quick Vietnamese beef and noodle soup.
Here is an easy, gluten-free dinner for this busy season: seafood simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and then spooned over quick, creamy polenta. Although we appreciated it on a busy weeknight, it is festive enough for the night you decorate your tree or an impromptu holiday gathering.
The seafood and the polenta are endlessly variable and indispensable dishes I return to over and over again. I gave you the recipe for my microwave polenta
a few days ago. Today I’m offering the seafood formula. The last time I made this satisfying meal, tender bay scallops were on sale, and the vibrant sauce enhanced their sweetness. However, I have made the same recipe with chunks of Alaskan halibut, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, shiny black mussels, large sea scallops, and briny calamari.
I find that almost anything is made even better with a big handful of fresh herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and sage grow in my garden year around, and any one of them is great here. When I use rosemary or sage, which are woodier than the other herbs, I add them earlier than the thyme and let them sauté with the onion. I also love this with marjoram, Italian parsley, or cilantro- any of these get added at the same juncture in the recipe as the thyme. The real point is to use what you have on hand, either in the fridge or growing. No need to buy an herb just for this dish.
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.
After cooking a feast for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t believe I needed to shop for food on Monday, but we were running out of a few staples. As I went through the store, gathering soy milk, yogurt, and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Mighty Hot Cereal
, I found myself drawn to the produce section, and I added a couple of bright red bell peppers, a sweet butternut squash, and some curly black kale to my cart before heading home.
I was craving vegetables, and relief from the rich holiday fare. As soon as I unloaded the groceries, I poured a little olive oil into a large pot and set it over medium heat, cut a big onion and one of the bell peppers into ½-inch cubes (faster than finely chopping), and got a cauldron of fragrant soup started.
I took the summer off from blogging to move. Steve and I had felt cramped in a small house along with 3 cats, my growing collection of kitchen props, and the expanding photo equipment we need for this blog and our work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With falling real estate prices, we could now afford a house with separate offices for each of us, space for the large oval dining table we inherited from Steve’s mom, and a nice big kitchen.
It was hot last Thursday, and I was tired after spending the day setting up my office and didn’t feel very creative. Hence, I fell back on an old favorite recipe for dinner: Spaghetti Carbonara
with Greens. It is such a favorite; I put it in my book, Weeknight Fresh and Fast
I love this dish because the egg and Parmesan cheese sauce is creamy and soothing. Also, it takes only minutes to prepare. But perhaps the main reason I make it over and over is that it never requires a trip to the market; it uses ingredients I always have on hand- farm fresh eggs, pasta, and cheese.
On Tuesday, June 7 at 6:30-9:30 PM I will be teaching a cooking class at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village where I will demonstrate 5 dishes from my book, Weeknight Fresh and Fast. I plan to offer lots of tips for putting together fresh, tasty, and healthful meals after a busy day at work.
During the many years I was the food editor for Bon Appetit magazine, I worked long hours, but wanted to eat well at home. I developed tactics for cooking quick and fresh food, inspired by my weekly visits to farmers’ markets. My book is filled with entrees featuring lots of veggies, and most make a complete meal.