Tag Archives: sauce

And Then There was Pizza

20 Jan

One of the things I asked Tre to think about early on was the Top 5 things he couldn’t live without despite dietary restrictions. Although this sounds like a tedious exercise geared at grimly reminding Tre of all the things he can’t have, it has really become a “to do list” for me in terms of finding viable substitutes for classic favorites. As mentioned before, positive thinking is highly encouraged when adapting to new dietary restrictions and I can say with confidence that in the 4 months since Tre’s official diagnosis, the bereavement process has somewhat stabilized. Nonetheless, the reality is that pizza made the Top 5 list a total of three times so it’s a challenge I’ve grappled with since the beginning.

Coming out of the oven, the grape flour pizza looked alright...

Early on, Tre and I were gifted with pizza crusts that were made by a vineyard in the Niagara region from the leftover grape debris of their fermentation process. The remaining grape skins, seeds, leaves, stems were dehydrated and ground into a stone colored flour and then pre-baked into neat little pizza crusts that were entirely gluten free. The concept was novel and I’d hoped beyond hope that these crusts would not have a strange nuance of fruitiness to them. Not to be brutal in my opinion, but the resulting dish may have been the anti-pizza. Although it looked attractive enough, the crust was flat, dense, and chewy and the overall experience had a pungent air of what I would describe as “footiness” (having to do with feet) both in smell and taste.

This was quite a blow to both my and Tre’s esteem, and having failed so miserably at a first attempt at pizza, I shelved the idea indefinitely.

Then one day while entertaining the organics section at my grocery store, I decided to take a closer look at a few of the “gluten free” flour options available. I’d almost entirely dismissed the gluten free section noting that the majority of these products used rice, soy, and corn as typical additives — all of which are on the “no fly” list for Tre — but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and recheck a few labels. To my surprise, the gluten free “all purpose flour” I’d grabbed was also free of corn, rice, and soy fillers and instead boasted potato starch, sorghum, bean flours, and tapioca among other things all on the clear list for Tre. I ended up buying a 2lb bag with the intent of finding some purpose for it in my cooking.

What I’d purchased was Bob’s Red Mill “Gluten Free All Purpose Flour” and despite lukewarm feelings towards Bob’s almond flour (it was not fun to work with, there, I said it) I decided to give this all purpose flour a shot. A quick visit to the Bob’s Red Mill site and I was able to uncover a myriad of recipes centered around this WCRS-free flour. What I stumbled upon amazed me, namely a recipe for a pizza crust. I couldn’t believe I’d found a crust recipe that was free of all the things Tre couldn’t have and I almost instantly went to work creating what would be his first pizza in over 3 months. The results were excellent and Tre and I were both happy to have a homemade pizza that stood up to the pizzas we used to enjoy.

This is a closeup of the pizza crust. It actually looks legit!

The whole pizza right out of the oven.

Gluten Free Pizza — Adapted from the recipe at Bob’s Red Mill

Pizza Toppings

  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce or other pizza sauce
  • 2 cups all natural mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Optional: pepperoni, onion, peppers, sausage, whatever you like to top your pizza with!

Directions: Be sure to use NON METAL bowls

Couldn't quite get it to spread all the way out on the pizza sheet but this ended up working well enough.

 

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and water and let stand about 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, and salt. Add egg, oil, and yeast mixture to dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. Use a hand mixer/blender/food processor or a spoon but be careful not to come into too much contact with the dough as xanthan gum will stick if you mix by hand. Add water by the tsp (no more than 3) to loosen mixture if needed. Allow the dough to sit and rise in a warm room for a half hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a pizza sheet. Scoop the dough onto the pizza sheet and using wet hands and a spoon, spread out into a disk shape and smooth. Patch any holes in the dough.
  4. Cover dough with sauce and toppings to your liking. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until cheese begins to look crispy.

Dinosaur Ratatouille: Add a Little Heat

20 Dec

Growing up, there was a definitive point in the year when my mom’s cooking would switch from light summer fair to warmer, more substantial late fall dishes — a trend that would carry into the coldest days of New York winters. November, December, and January were met with large pots of beefy stews, steamy oxtail soup, aromatic chili, roasted root vegetables, and hearty cassoulet all served piping hot in the comfort of our small city home. It was the quintessence of winter, warm and robust meals, meaty, saucy, and spicy all to take the chill out of the air with snow falling as early as October.

My countertop, the garden. All my vegetables, laid out and ready to be prepped for my favorite winter-dish.

Of all the foods my mom prepared, one vegetable dish — made popular by the Disney movie whose name it shares — was my favorite. Ratatouille, made traditionally in the vegetarian paradigm of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, is the perfect marriage of spices and vegetables that never comes off as bland or uninteresting. While ratatouille runs in the same vein as chili, with its fragrant seasoning and twang of spicy heat, this dish is both meatless and beanless.

My tower of eggplant.

I don’t typically cook all-vegetarian meals, at least not entrees themselves. I reserve my veggies for side dishes or light snacks and let the noble meats pull the weight in my cooking. What makes ratatouille so special though is that there are so many different types of vegetables involved that this dish is interesting enough to stand on its own. Eggplant, a vegetable favorite of mine with its meaty texture and ability to take on just about any flavor, is the ingredient that really helps pull this dish into the realm of hearty and filling.

While my Moosewood Cookbook recipe for ratatouille has served me well for a number of years, I really wanted to spice this dish up for Tre’s inaugural tasting. Naturally gluten-free  and free of corn, rice, and soy I knew that ratatouille would be good for a few dinners and lunches. But I wanted a taste that was unique from the recipe I’d grown to love. Looking to my culinary inspiration, the Dinosaur BBQ, and their smoky, tangy arsenal of sauces, I decided to create a little twist on this old favorite.

Dinosaur Ratatouille

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium size onions, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 3 small vine tomatoes, diced (or one 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1/3 cup Dinosaur Sensual Slathering Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dinosaur Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce

This calls for a LARGE pot!

 

Directions

  1. In a a large stockpot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and bay leaf and cook until onion begins to go transparent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggplant. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant begins to soften.
  3. Add zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and both sauces. Stir to combine well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until bell peppers and zucchini have softened.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs

1 Dec

In a pleasant turn of evens last night, Tre insisted on cooking for me when we got home from the grocery store. I’ll admit it was nice to have pre-dinner time off, not that I was any less domestic. I took the time to work on a scarf I’ve been knitting for Tre and to tidy up the kitchen. I know how that sounds and I swear I’m not undermining the last 50 years of feminist advancement. By day I’m an office worker in Information Technology at the local University. By night, I’m a Business School grad student. That leaves me a total of maybe 2 hours an evening to accomplish anything else I might have to do. With all the hectic running around, problem solving, and teamwork, I consider cooking, cleaning, light hobbies, even the gym to be a welcome mental break.

Having taken an adequate hiatus from red meat, plus celebrating a holiday that is centered around poultry, we decided to pick up some steak for a quick meal. Generally, I think that people perceive steak as being difficult to cook since it’s usually a top dollar menu item in restaurants. Having perfected my own brand of steak preparation, I’ve found that steak is not only quick and easy to prepare, it’s also very filling in smaller portions and, depending on the cut, still budget friendly. I will do a dedicated steak post to get into all that though. Stay tuned.

I admire Tre’s cooking in the sense that he keeps the dishes very simple, but he’s not afraid to try new things and experiment with spices and sauces. He also pays particular attention to pairing meats with veggies and entrees with sides. With three ingredients and a sauce, he was able to pull together a quick and delicious entree paired with a potato side that couldn’t have been easier for a Tuesday night. It reminded me fondly of summery beef kebabs, with a tangy marinade and chunks of pepper and onion cooked al-dente, minus the skewer and the grill. At some point I acquired one of those lean-cooking counter top grills that both robs you of flavor and is a pain in the ass to clean. Not to mention, it leaves anything you possibly cook on it with a distinct rubbery texture. Rather than bust out my only kitchen electric that I’m ashamed to own, we opted to cook over the stove for an autumn twist on kebabs. This recipe would also work well with boneless chicken.

Vinaigrette Marinade — Yields 1-1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Whisk ingredients together until combined. Store in a large jar and keep refrigerated.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs — Serves 4

  • 2lb sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large red onion, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 12-ounce package whole white or small portabella mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 cup vinaigrette marinade (see above)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Cooking up our skewer-less kebabs. I popped into the kitchen long enough to snap a photo. Disclaimer: We used yellow onion instead of red and only one pepper. They also were not cut into squares as recommended in the recipe... but still the same general concept.

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine sirloin cubes with peppers, onion, and mushrooms. Toss with vinaigrette marinade and transfer to two large ziplock bags. On plates, flatten the bags to allow the ingredients to all sit in the marinade. Refrigerate the bags for no less than 2 hours and as long as over night.
  2. After the ingredients have finished marinading, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer the meat and vegetables to the skillet by spooning them out of the bags. Do not dump the entire contents of the bag into the skillet. Save 1/3 cup of marinade from the bags and pour over the cooking vegetables and meat.
  3. Allow the meat and vegetables to cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through to desired doneness, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

If you’re feeling particularly Mediterranean, you could crumble some feta cheese on top and serve over greens (or over a pita if you are not gluten-intolerent).

Enter Fish into the Rotation: Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

18 Nov

Filets getting ready to be put into the oven. Love that even through the pecan coating, you can still see the bright coloring of the fish.

Aside from the fresh produce section of my local grocery store, I consider the seafood counter to be the most colorful and interesting spot to shop. With cuts of fish ranging in color from snow white to deep scarlet on silvery scales, rocky displays of oysters, thick and gnarled king crab legs, and pastry-like scallops, seafood has a diverse spectrum of flavors and textures that makes for an intriguing choice in the kitchen. Although I am limited by my allergy to shellfish, I love the experience of choosing cuts of fresh fish and preparing them in ways that help them to express the flavors and nuances that make them so pleasantly different from typical meats.

Tre and I are fortunate to have a pescadería to call our own with an expansive and colorful selection of fresh fish as well as a frozen section with ample stock and prepared meals that put some of my creations to shame. Although my local grocery store (a behemoth in the north east that somehow also manages to be personal and superb in quality) has a wonderful spread, I love going to specialty stores especially when it comes to buying fish. I prefer to buy fresh, but frozen fish is a viable sub when you want to buy in large quantities or don’t know exactly when you’ll be able to prepare it.

This week, Tre and I opted for salmon and cod; two mild yet meaty fish that cook quickly and with little effort into phenomenal entrees.  Salmon especially is one of my personal favorites, from small tastes in sushi to whole fish cooked on the grill. With its bold coloring and rich texture, salmon makes a great substitute for red meats while still being filling and maintaing its own unique flavor. Salmon also boasts health benefits being high in protein, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Finished! We paired our salmon filets with sweet potatoes.

Unlike chicken and beef which are typically seasoned, marinated, or incorporated into other recipes, I think people struggle with exactly how to prepare fish in interesting ways. For a long time, this deterred me from entering fish into the culinary rotation for fear that I’d end up with something bland or, god forbid, fishy. However, after trying a few unexpected recipes, I began to discover that fish is not only very easy to prepare, but also, with the right treatment, quite a delicacy. One of my first-attempt salmon recipes — which also happens to be wheat, corn, rice, and soy free — quickly became a midweek favorite and has served as a reminder as to why I love cooking with fish.

Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

  • 2 medium sized fresh salmon filets, or thawed frozen filets
  • 1/2 cup shelled pecans
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp mustard (regular/dijon/spicy whichever you prefer)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon sliced for garnish

Honey is so pretty. It's also a fabulous sweetener with its unique flavor.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon filets in a greased baking dish and set aside.
  2. Combine pecans, garlic powder, and white pepper in a food processor and pulse to a medium coarse powder. If you do not have a food processor, crush pecans in a mortar and pestal a small amount at a time until powdered and combine with garlic and white pepper. You can also place pecans in a plastic bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Whatever gets the job done.
  3. In a small bowl, heat honey for about 15 seconds in the microwave to make it more workable. Be careful not to burn the honey. Combine with mustard. Using a spoon, glaze the salmon filets with the honey mustard mixture then cover with the crushed pecans.
  4. Garnish filets with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon slices and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes per inch of filet thickness. Switch oven to broil and broil filets for about 2 minutes to crisp the topping. Remove and serve.

This recipe also works very well with chicken. If you have skinned cuts of salmon, you can also glaze and pecan-coat the entire filet instead of just the tops for an all around flavor. Paired with mild veggies like green beans or broccoli, this makes for a wonderful and filling dinner.

Slow Cooker Series: Pulled Chicken

9 Nov

One of my only complaints in this diet adjustment process has been that the cooking required is somewhat hindered by the amount of personal time tied up by the Simon School. It’s close to impossible to scrounge up a meal at a fast food place or cafe that Tre can feasibly eat since almost everything is contaminated with wheat, corn, rice, and/or soy in some capacity. As a result, we need to cook almost everything ourselves or run the risk of simply not eating. With grad school constantly monopolizing our time and energy, it’s a relief to once and a while hand the cooking almost entirely over to an appliance such as my crock pot.

It’s difficult to argue against the merits of slow cooker dishes as they are usually very low maintenance in terms of preparation and cooking and they create strong, aromatic flavors that just don’t express themselves in dishes that are cooked for short periods of time. In my experience, I’ve had to do little more than combine ingredients in the pot and let it cook overnight for pungent and flavorful meals that span a week of lunches or dinners without becoming boring.

This was one such week where after an exhaustive meal planning session, complete with consideration for when we actually have the time to cook, Tre and I settled on a basic crock pot recipe. This time around, it was my allergy dictating the dish and we opted for a basic BBQ pulled chicken recipe — since I am allergic to pork — to be served similar to a stew.

This is my pulled chicken after shredding it and returning it to the crock pot.

Tre and I are both huge BBQ fans, more so in the Autumn I think than in the Summer. The smoky, spicy flavors from slow cooked meat in BBQ sauce brings about a comfort food warmth necessary to fend off the early Winter chill. For those of you who are lucky enough to have access to Dinosaur sauce in stores (online here also), this is my go-to for everything BBQ. The sauce has a flavor quality unlike any BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted. As the signature sauce of a NY BBQ Mecca, Dino sauce is bright and tangy and has a flavor I’d describe as being more fresh and hot than the run-of-the-mill hickory BBQ sauces that are indistinguishable from one another. I could go on all day about the aroma’s and nuances of Dino. If you’ve had it, you know. If haven’t, treat yourself and nab some at the store or online. I promise it will be worth it. For Tre and I, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Dino is gluten free and in fact, I can count all of its all natural ingredients on two hands.

With a bottle of Dino and some frozen chicken breasts, it was clear that this recipe couldn’t be any simpler. Yet despite its simplicity, it’s received high marks as being very filling and very flavorful.

Shredding the chicken after cooking

Pulled Chicken

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 19oz bottle of Dinosaur BBQ’s “Sensual Slathering” sauce OR 2-1/4 cups BBQ sauce of choice
  • Directions

    1. Combine ingredients in a slow cooker. Set the cooker on low and cook for 6-8 hours until chicken is tender.
    2. Turn off the slow cooker. Remove chicken breasts and place in a large bowl. Using two forks, shred the chicken to desired consistency.
    3. Return chicken to the slow cooker with the remaining sauce and combine.

    Tre and I literally box this up in tupperware, heat it, and eat it like a stew for lunch. Just today I was heating mine up and a coworker from down the hall stopped in to tell me my office smelled like Court Street, where Dinosaur BBQ’s restaurant is located. Like its pork counterpart though, pulled chicken can also be served on a bun as a sandwich which I also recommend highly for the non-gluten intolerant.