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Monday, August 30, 2010

Hot and Sour Soup...

There are very few things I long for from my pre-gluten-free days. That is because I live a greatly satifying life of wonderful gluten free, amazing foods. But the other day, a fleeting memory of chinese restaurants, with the dim lighting, ancient looking wallpaper with the China landscapes motifs, and the tink of little chipped ceramic tea cups, and the smell of fried rice and egg rolls came over me. I recalled the Hot and Sour soup I used to love.
In my youth, I was so perplexed by the name...why is it called hot? because its spicey? or because it was scalding hot when it came to the table. Sour?...what made it sour? When I hear sour, I think lemons...but this was not that kind of sour. Yet, it was so overwhelmingly satisfying. It hit every tastebud in my mouth, and was rich, yet light, salty, yet not, sour, but not brashly so. (I would come to learn later this was Umami.) The soup was a culinary mystery to me.
Do you ever ask anyone, "What Chinese soup is your favorite?" and there are really just three answers, won-ton, egg-drop, or hot and sour. And everyone has their favorite. For me its the hot and sour all the way. And I decided I wanted to enjoy that favorite soup of my past.

So, I picked up some dried mushrooms at my local grocery and hit Google for a recipe. I found Tyler Florence' looked good, fairly I recalled from the Chinese restaurants. But there were some unusal ingredients, so it became a marathon of substitutions from my pantry.
Turns out they all worked brilliantly, and it tasted wonderful!
Here is my version inspired by Tyler's version.

Hot and Sour SoupI have provided some heat adjustments for those who do not like it hot.
  • Dried mushrooms , about 1 cup dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbs. powdered ginger
  • 2 sliced leeks, or use white onion (about 1 cup)
  • Red Chile paste, such as sambal oelek
    • ¼ tsp. red Chile paste (for mild)
    • 1 tablespoon (for hot)
  • 1/2 cup raw white beet, sliced into thin flat pieces (or use turnip, or celery! it all gives the same kind of texture and crunch)
  • 1/4 cup gluten free tamarind sauce (GF soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
    • ¼ tsp. (for mild)
    • 1 tsp. (for hot)
  • 1 quart GF beef broth, included in the quart the soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms
  • 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Chopped green onions and cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with warm tap water. Let stand for 10-minutes to soften. Then drain liquid and add to beef stock. Slice the mushrooms thin.
In a soup pot, add the oil and over medium-high heat sautee the ginger, leeks, chili paste, mushrooms, and beet, cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor. Then add to the pot GF soy sauce sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and broth, bring the soup to simmer and simmer for 5-minutes.
Add the cornstarch slurry to the soup and maintain a simmer until the soup thickens, stirring. Drizzle in the egg and turn off the heat. Stir to incorporate the egg.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tuscan bean salad...

This is a delicious, rustic bean salad that is very satisfying. The beans are full of fiber and protien. The flavors are bright and satisfying. The dish takes you to a place where just a few simple things put together is so delicious.
The play of textures is a pleasure. The beans are rich and creamy, and the arugula peppery which brings a warmth to your mouth. The onions have a satifying crunch, and the tomato flavor is super dense from roasting that they almost taste sun-dried. The fresh herbs bring that woodsy, bright, freshness to the dish that rounds it all out.

Use this for potlucks, picnics, work lunches, and Wednesday night dinners.
  • 2 cans white butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 5-8 small roma tomatoes, or 10-15 cherry, halved
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup very thinly sliced onion (I use pickled onions, which I always have on hand...non-pickled is fine. Or place them vinegar overnight to quick pickle).
  • 1 cup torn arugula pieces (or other green lettuce)
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, any kind

The dressing is simple and light:
  • 1 tbs mustard (any kind)
  • 2 tbs vinegar (any kind)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Shake in a jar and adjust for taste (add more oil, or more vinegar).

Roast the tomatoes in a high oven (425-degrees) for 15-20 minutes until they begin to look roasted. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Then, toss all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve with crusty-toasted GF bread.

This is great as a side dish, or with a piece of white fish, pork or chicken as a main.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pork tacos...

Sometimes the simplest of dishes are oh-so-good.
I don’t watch those “Network-Star” shows where everyone tries to compete in these crazy-outlandish competitions where they have you making beef stroganoff at a famous person’s house in like 4 minutes, with a bunch of malfunctioning equipment (ok—so I saw part of one episode). I know that is entertainment for many, and good clean entertainment I suppose, however it is not for me. Although I heard them say once, “What is your culinary point of view” and I thought…hmmm—what is mine? Why should I have one? But in all honesty, it can kind of define you in the kitchen a little.
So I thought about it—and I realized, that mine would be “Traditional, regional, international cuisine.” Now that is a mouthful. But I love to do a study on the particular way a community or group of people prepare their foods traditionally. I don’t know why this intrigues me, or inspires me. But it does, and always has.
As a result, I would return home from travels and recreate all the things I saw and ate…Mendiants from Paris, empanada, chimichuri, alfajore from Argentina, the Greek style salad from Santorini (there was no iceberg within a mile of it) and the Frappe’s from Athens.
This one, I cannot say that I ate in Mexico, but I watch my husband, who is of that culture, and how he eats the foods of his youth, of his Nana. He is 3rd generation American, but the culture, that is what comes forward among a people.

Tender cubed meat, with little else, is tucked into a tortilla, curled around and enjoyed, with little embellishment and flare.
Tuck into this rustic pork taco, it is easy to make, and because there are so few ingredients, the delicious ingredients get to compliment each other in a way that is simply-delicious.

Make the pork the day before, or Saturday, or whenever you have a few hours (its in the crock pot and is no-maintenance). Then you can assemble these pork tacos in less than 10-minutes!
The pork only needs a swift two hour turn on high in the crock. It becomes juicy and succulent and moist…with just enough spice. The contrast of the cool, crisp cucumber with the juicy meat, and the cool creaminess of the sour cream really make this taco a symphony in your mouth! You will want to eat 4. Really.

  • 1.5-2.0 pound roast of pork
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp each cumin, chili powder, salt
Cube the meat into ½ inch cubes. Add all ingredients in the crock pot and put on high for 2-hours, or until the cubes are cooked through and tender.

  • Heat oven to 350-degrees.
  • Lay out corn tortillas on a cookie sheet.
  • Sprinkle with some cheddar.
  • Add a spoonful of pork meat.
  • Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, add 2 slices of thin cucumber (I used Armenian, use what you like)
  • Add 1 dollop of sour cream
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A new way with beets...

My fellow farm-share-ers were sitting around at lunch the other day, chatting about how we do love beets...but we were sad to say, that we were simply 'tired' of them. Well—what can one expect with nearly 6-8 beets a week for weeks on end in our summer farmers bounty. Not that we don't love them—we do—but sometimes, when you have lots to eat in a week—well recipes for them can become hard to find, especially something to do with them that is different than the usual (usual=roasted with salt and lemon in a high oven.)
We will of course, next year this time be awaiting them with anxiousness when the season comes back around, having all but forgotten our wearniess of them that we speak of now...but for was time to mix things up.
I was making my morning smoothie the other day, and had a jar of roasted beets in the fridge...I added a few to the blender as my husband walked in...uh-oh—I received a sideways look of "what the heck are you doing?" and then the cautious question.."Uh-what's that sweetie??" As if he knew that was going to have to be his breakfast. But luckily I am blessed with a husband who will try anything, at least once. So I explained that our morning smoothie would include roasted beets. So in the blender the beets stayed. He thought it was delicious!

Beet and Melon Smoothie
  • ¾ cup fresh-roasted beet, or canned (not pickled)
  • 2-3 cups cubed honeydew or cantaloupe melon
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 container (6-8oz) plain yogurt
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tbs agave nectar
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. It makes two large smoothies.

Monday, August 9, 2010 you remember...

BRAVO-LARRY-TANGO-- that is code in our house for BLTs for dinner!
Its tomato season, and our farmshare is not disappointing us! Juicy, lucious red-ripe tomatoes. Ok, I confess, every Monday night in our house during tomato season is BLT night. We have to get it in while it lasts you know. We are of the school of thought, that we only eat the veggies we get in the farmshare, we buy no vegetables at the grocery each week. We are true seasonal eaters. Therefore, when tomato season is over, its over--for us anyway. So its a bit of a BLT-palooza at our place right now.
And for the gluten-free-ers, the joy is the same as the days when you still ate good old fashioned bread. Why? Because of the GF english muffin recipe I have on this blog site. These english muffins/hamburger buns/sandwhich breads really are a revolution. Please understand that I am not boasting, I am sharing the joy of GF bread with those who should know about it!
If you make these for nothing else, make it for having a BLT. Its like you remembered, the tender crumb of fresh toasted bread, chewey and soft, not dense... but light and fluffy, just the right texture of crunch and chew.
If you haven't made these english muffins yet, you must. For BRAVO-LARRY-TANGO night in your house.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Zuccini relish...

I am still stuck on my theme of making new and different things with my summer basket full of our AZ summer harvest items! Squash are in season, and are they ever (I count 7, large and small, in my fridge crisper bin at the moment.) This recipe is a home run, with so many uses! Make a double batch...
It's crisp with tang, and just enough warmth to tingle your tastebuds. Delightful, stacked up on a rice cracker, or on a sandwhich, it can stand in for the tangy-zip without fat and little calories.
Don't be afraid to let other summer veggies join the party (eggplant, squash...)

Zucchini Relish
  • 2 medium squash-or about 3 cups (use green zucchini, or yellow crookneck–peel if using these, their skins get waxy…no need to peel the green ones) You can also use eggplant in with this if you like.
  • 1 cup olives, any kind-without the pits
  • 1 medium to large dill pickle-equivalent to ¼ cup
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp fennel seed or ground fennel
  • 1 tsp chili flake (less if you like less heat, this makes it a medium in heat)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs red wine vinegar
Put all the ingredients into a food processor. Using the pulse, start pulsing at intervals until it looks like a relish (like pickle reslish) processor took 9 pulses!

Pack it into jars! Here is how we use it--be creative!
  • Spoon it over romaine as a salad topping
  • Place a spoon on romain hearts as an appetizer
  • Add cooked shrimp for a cold-lettuce wrap dinner
  • Spooned onto crackers
  • On a sandwhich as a topping
  • Out of the jar with a spoon :)