Monday, August 27

goodbye, summer. hello, serious cooking.

It's almost Labor Day, this summer seems to have flown by particularly fast and I'm feeling slightly melancholy about it. I had big dreams for summer '07—visiting pools, swimming in oceans, hiking, river tubing, taking road trips with friends. But, instead, it was one of those periods of adult-life where work won out, AP was often away on business, and I spent many a sweaty Saturday sitting at my desk at home focussing on personal projects and stuff for my day job.
However, these things have a way of balancing themselves out. And while I made lots of delicious, oven-free dishes this summer and discovered a slew of wonderful places to dine gluten-free (especially the enchiladas here and the omakase here—just bring your own soy sauce), I'm also really missing the real, elaborate, cozy cooking that happens when it's brisk and windy and chilly outside. Sweater-weather cooking. I'm looking forward to baking more and trying out my new toys: the crock pot, waffle maker, and GF bread baker. But before this, I have one last summer hoorah: I'm going to Vegas. After that, I'm going to go on a week-long cleanse. Expect dispatches from both. Hope everyone enjoys these last days of summer. I look forward to sharing recipes in the fall. Be Well.

Tuesday, August 21

Pickles: from seed to jar

In June, among the tiny pots filled with herbs and flowers and jalapeƱos, I planted cucumber seeds on my fire escape. The fantasy was that by the end of the summer I would harvest and jar my own pickles, old-timey, back-to-the-land domestic style. Cucumber turned out to be a surprising low-maintenance and resilient plant. It sprouted within days and grew quickly into large, furry-prickly leaves and delicate yellow blossoms. While most of my herbs and flowers wilted, my cucumber pot withstood intense heat, squirrel attacks and even a water-less, neglectful week while I was away. Needless to say, I've developed a deep affection for this plant.
About three weeks ago I had my first, thrilling little harvest. I immediately heated up some white vinegar, a sprinkle of sugar and a tablespoon of salt and poured the mixture over a jar packed with the julienned cuke slivers, a few sprigs of dill, a half teaspoon of cumin, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and two garlic cloves. We ate the pickles this weekend. They turned out to be crisp and flavorful and a little spicy and taste like "real" fancy pickles—seriously one of the most satisfying culinary projects I've ever undertaken.
Everyone should pickle.

Monday, August 20

how I miss tabbouleh (and a g-free option)

Sometime in between my macaroni-and-cheese-on-a-hot-plate dorm stage and my I'm-a-burgeoning-real-cook-but-don't-know-what-I'm doing early 20s, I discovered tabbouleh. This was what I like to call my "Casbah period" where I bought expensive, exotic foods pre-cooked in boxes because I had no idea how to make them on my own. Casbah's tabbouleh-in-a-box was particularly gratifying. Extra-lemony, with parsley and nutty bulgur that tasted potent and fresh—even though it wasn't—all you added were two chopped tomatoes, perhaps a cucumber, and some olive oil. The entire thing took about 10 minutes. On weekdays after work or class, I ate mounds and mounds of the stuff.
Since finding out I have celiac, tabbouleh has become a food I really miss. It's just the perfect little summer salad: It's easy to make. It's great on an appetizer table. It's good as a side with simple chicken and fish recipes, and it's one of those dishes you can eat tons of and not feel a.) guilty or b.)sick.
I was missing it especially a few weeks ago when a friend admitted to having served Casbah at a dinner party ("It's actually awesome," he said, a bit embarrassed and more than a little surprised.)
After all this, I decided I needed to figure out a celiac-friendly substitution. Lo and behold:
Sure, it's lacking the the flaky-crumbly heartiness of wheat, but the quinoa (even more so when cooked in broth) adds a fluffy lightness that works well with all the hefty parsley and cucumber and tomato. This recipe makes a huge amount—we ate it for dinner and then had two days of leftovers—and would be good for a party.
**absolutely do not skip the mint. I did on my first try and it really wasn't the same.
One cup quinoa, rinsed (I used white, but this could also be incredible with red)
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups of parsley, finely chopped
3/4 cup of mint, finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, seeded, chopped (I used one from my fire escape garden!)
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup of olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients and place in a large bowl. Add the quinoa. Mix everything throughly and refrigerate for one hour. Serve with grilled fish or chicken breast or with hummus on gluten-free toast. It's also great as a snack, totally on its own.