Friday, February 27, 2009

Nothing Noodles aka Shirataki

Shirataki is Japanese yam noodle. It’s a little weird- it seems to have nothing in it if you look at the nutrition facts. 

This is good news! It is a blank canvas waiting for the cook to add any assortment of flavors and textures.

The low carb count is good for dieters and for people, like me, who do not tolerate the massive amount of refined carbs that can creep into a gluten free diet.

There are two kinds of Shirataki; the one pictured (JFC) is the variety most readily available to me. I get it at an Oriental Grocery Store. It contains water, yam flour and hydrated lime.

The other variety, “House Foods” is actually labeled “Gluten Free” on the package, and has more specific cooking instructions. Both varieties are vegan.

I avoided trying these for a while. I am suspicious of anything having an Internet advertising link to it titled something like “Miracle Noodle”. Being the geek-chef that I am, however, curiosity eventually won out and I researched them a little bit. That, and they looked pretty benign sitting next to the tofu at the Whole Foods Market.

There is a process to handling these- otherwise they smell like garbage can after you left a tuna can in it overnight. I have no idea why. When you open the package, rinse them thoroughly, then blanch them for 2-3 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain the water off, and continue as you would with any noodle. At this point, they really have no flavor or odor. Strangely, these do not easily get mushy, especially the House Foods variety.

These are great for making a noodle salad to pack in a lunch box. The recipe I have below is actually leftover curried chickpeas and tofu that had lots of “sauce”. I tossed the saucy curry with the blanched and cooled noodles, and topped with chopped cilantro.

Curry Noodle Salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side

Coconut milk- (1) standard can. You can use “lite”, but your sauce might curdle

Beans- your choice- if you use canned, rinse first- 1 cup

Tofu- firm or extra firm- 1 cup, diced (or cooked, diced chicken or shrimp)

Fish Sauce- check label for gluten- 1 teaspoon or to taste

Sugar- 1 tablespoon

Ginger, fresh, grated, 2 teaspoons

Green Curry Paste, 1 teaspoon, or to taste

Cilantro, fresh, chopped, 2 tablespoons, divided use

Shirataki Noodles (spaghetti shaped), 8 oz, rinsed, blanched and drained

Combine all ingredients except the noodles, scallions and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro in a large saute pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Taste and adjust flavor. Add noodles, scallions and rest of cilantro. This is best at room temperature or cool.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lovely Lunch and Field Trip to Ann Arbor

My hubby and I decided to get out of town a few days ago, and went to Ann Arbor, MI. While it is not the hottest of vacation destinations, it is a pretty cool town. It also has the all-important combo of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. 

Even though I was pretty much out of all of my “staples” (we live in a fairly rural area, so I do stock up on some of my favorites when I can), we really weren’t sure we wanted to do the two-hour drive. I’m glad we did.

Some chef friends of mine had raved about a restaurant called “Paesano’s”. I’m always excited to try a new place (chef side of me) but also leery (the celiac side- who hasn’t been glutened since last December!) As a last minute thought, I checked Paesano’s website. Guess what? They do gluten free. So off we went.

We had a knowledgeable server who was attentive and accommodating. The food was nice presented and full-flavored.  The pre-schooler was happy and well taken care of. I would definitely go again. When I do, I will order more food- I think portion sizes take into account the bread basket, which was off limits too me. It’s too bad I was going shopping for food afterwards...

Check out their website- and support your local independent restaurants. If we want choices, we need to work with local chefs when we can. As the slogan at one of my county’s indy restaurant goes, “Friends don’t let friends eat at chains!”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pretty Good Sandwich Loaf

Fresh from the Chef Silly Test Kitchen; a “Pretty Good Sandwich Loaf.” This is the grill-cheese-able loaf that Erin requested. It is loosely based on my Italian Daily Bread which is loosely based on a couple of other recipes.

It is richer than the Italian Daily Bread, but goes together just as quickly. If you are organized, you can have it out of the oven in about an hour. It doesn’t crumble, although  it is not fully “bendable”- I am not willing to suffer through a hearty amount of xanthan gum to attain that quality. I added the cardamom to give it a little of that “something” that   sometimes is missing in gluten-free bread- you don’t want to have it stand out.

I baked this in a wide bottomed, glass loaf pan. It would rise a slightly higher in a narrow metal pan. The texture is good either way. I wrapped it tightly in film wrap, and kept it in the fridge. It was tasty with butter the first day, and toasted off beautifully for several days after that.

Pretty Good Gluten-Free Sandwich Loaf

Yield: Two Standard Loaves


Yeast, active dry - 2 Tablespoons

Sugar- 1 Teaspoons

Milk; 2%- 1 1/4 cups (about 110*F)

Honey 2 Tablespoons

Eggs, large- 2 each (room temperature)

Potato Starch- 1 1/2 cup

Chebe Flour Blend 1 1/2 cup (you may sub other xanthan-free gf blend of your choice)

Xanthan Gum- 1/2 Teaspoon

Guar Gum- 1/2 Teaspoon

Baking Powder (GF)- 1/2 Teaspoon

Salt- 1 1/2 Teaspoon

Butter (soft)- 1/3 cup

Cardamom- 1/8  Teaspoon

Cider Vinegar- 2 Teaspoon

Butter, melted- to brush on top, optional

This bread goes into a cold oven: no need to pre-heat. Spray the bottom of your loaf pans with a flourless pan-spray, avoiding the sides to give your bread more “traction”.

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk; set aside. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle; add the eggs, butter and cardamom and turn the mixer on low. Add the milk/ yeast mixture and mix on medium until ingredients are barely combined. 

Add the vinegar. Turn the mixer up to a medium speed and mix for about a minute, stopping once to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Using a rubber spatula continually dipped in water, scrape the dough equally into the the two loaf pans. With the wet rubber spatula, or with a wet, small metal icing spatula, shape the top of the loaves with a slight mound on top, and put a shallow slit lengthwise in the top to give it that “butter top” look. You may brush with additional melted butter, if you wish.

Put immediately into the oven. Turn the oven on and bake at 425*F for 30-40 minutes until the center of the loaf reads 205*F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from pan and cool a bit before slicing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rainbows and Crustaseans

I have one of those husbands who can see beauty, and is quick to share it. Last night, while I was preparing dinner he phoned me and said, “Take a look outside!” It was a unusually warm, rainy day for a Midwestern February, so the preschooler and I went out to puddle stomp. 

My hubby’s “take a look” was a magnificent full-length double bow rainbow. And guess what? I could see the “end”. It came down in the field in front of the woods across the road from us. It seems a muddy field is at the end of the rainbow.

Anyhow, it was one of those nights where I decided to deviate from my pre-planned menu. Dinner tonight was stuffed portabella mushrooms, roasted shrimp and a “chop-chop” salad. The roasted shrimp was a take on a recipe I read somewhere earlier this week, and cannot find it again. “Splendid Table”?(hey- I am a chef I read a lot of recipes- ). So thank you to whomever I owe credit for the idea.

Roasted Shrimp

Peeled and deveined frozen, raw shrimp- any size

Extra Virgin Olive oil- as needed

Course salt- sea salt or kosher

Set oven at 350*F. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil and salt. Dump on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes. There is a lot of room for error- it is hard to over-cook these, but not impossible. When they turn evenly pink, and lose their translucent appearance they are ready.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Olive Oil

I admit to being a bit snarky about the Food Network occasionally. Not because it’s bad- it isn’t- but it really misses the basic commandments of cooking. I would say that I don’t watch it- but that would be misleading, since I don’t really have television. 

I shudder a bit when I hear those words, “I always watch the food network!” Often, they are followed by a comment based on shaky culinary theory. And don’t get me started on reality shows in the kitchen: meanness for sport isn’t anymore acceptable in professional kitchens these days than it is anyplace else. It’s too hard to get quality staff to abuse them after they arrive.

Today, while  teaching a just-for-fun continuing education class the topic of olive oil came up. “I just don’t like it, and they cook with it all over on TV.” 

Upon investigating, the programs in question were sautéing with copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil. There are couple of fundamental problems with this: first, saute is a high heat, less-fat cooking method. Second, extra virgin olive oil specifically, and all “colored” oils in general, should not be used in high heat applications. They have what is called a low “smoke point.” This, as it sounds, is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. Oils like peanut oil, canola oil and even the lighter colored, second press olive oils are better suited to hot cooking. When you cook at high temperatures with the more flavorful oils, it changes the flavor of it, making it taste almost rancid.

I do cook with extra-virgin olive oil, but not when I saute or pan fry- in fact, I use commercial pan spray for much of my sautéing. If I do want the flavor of olive oil in a pan-fry, I mix it with peanut oil.

From a health standpoint, I think olive oil probably is healthy, but we Americans eat too much of everything. Remember, olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon, just like any other fat. The savings comes in using less because it is so flavorful.

I don’t have a recipe today, as much as I have a shortcut.

I took this to what my hubby has dubbed my “geeky home-ec” party last week- a group of women who eat, stitch and solve all the worlds problems- but most of us are employed in higher education or other professional-level careers. We’re probably not conventional, but we had fun conversation.

Hummus in a Hurry

Tub o’ hummus (whatever commercially available Hummus you like)

Pine nuts (I actually bought hummus with pine-nuts, removed them and rinsed)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil- my standard household olive oil is the mild-tasting “Pompeian”

Marinated Artichoke Hearts (mine were from Trader Joe’s)

Jarred Red Peppers, sliced into strips

Assorted pre-cut veggies

Assorted GF crackers

Invert hummus into a pretty, shallow bowl. Put the package under something in the garbage, so no one knows your secret.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry saute pan on medium heat, tossing occasionally until they are golden brown. Nuts continue to cook after you remove them from the heat, so under-toast them a tad.

Arrange the artichoke hearts and red pepper strips around the edge of the bowl.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and just a tablespoon or so of the marinade from the artichokes. Top with the toasted pine nuts.

Serve with veggies, cracker or slices of Italian Daily Bread.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Winter Blues

I am very seasonal sort of person. I am sensitive to hot, cold, wet, gloom, humidity, and commuting 60 miles in an ice storm. I think the “commuting 60 miles to work” has a lot to do with it. Early every February, my gloomies and the Groundhog show up. While the Groundhog gets to go to back to bed for six more weeks, I just have to do the best I can.

I have discovered that anything right out of the oven helps to make it all better. Unfortunately, that usually contributes to my, uhm, “bottom line” as well. These Roasted Garbanzos satisfy the need for hot-from-the-oven without filling you out.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Canned garbanzos beans (also known as Chick Peas), drained, rinsed, and dumped onto a clean kitchen towel: 1 can

Extra Virgin Olive oil: about 1 Tablespoon

Curry Powder- any brand/ heat level you like: 1-2 teaspoons

Garlic Salt- to taste

Equipment: a zipper-topped bag, baking sheet, and parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 400*F. 

To remove the papery skin on the Garbanzos; dump the rinsed, drained garbanzos onto a clean kitchen towel. Use a second towel to gently rub the top of the beans. Pick over them to remove the skins.

Transfer the skinned beans into the zip-top bag. Season with the olive oil, curry powder and garlic salt. Zip bag and shake everything together. Arrange seasoned beans on parchment-lined sheet tray in a single layer. Roast for 40-45 minutes until a little crunchy. Watch to make sure they don’t burn the last few minutes they are roasting.

Remove from oven and cool. Store in zip-top bag for two to three days (I think- these never last that long at my house).