Posts Tagged 'gluten-free'

insalata, insalatón

roasted squash and pomegranate salad

Here’s the sort of salad I imagined we’d be eating as we rode our bikes through the hills of Tuscany: plates of field greens piled with herbs, fruit, roasted vegetables, cured meats, mozarella di bufala – everything local and in season. Peppery vinaigrettes. New olive oil. Verrry old balsamic.

The reality looked more like this: a glass bowl of green leaf lettuce, wedges of anemic tomato, and perhaps a few rounds of carrot or cucumber. Sometimes, an arugula salad, composed just of arugula. Accompanying the salad was not a vinaigrette – remember, vinaigrette is a french word – or, even ‘italian dressing’ (this may be an american invention), but the same four things that arrive with any contorno: olive oil, ordinary vinegar, salt, and pepper.

If you hail from the U.S., where the number of words a server uses to describe your entree seems directly proportional to the ‘fineness’ of the restaurant, the food of Tuscany requires a mental shift. Tuscan food is defined by a simplicity that verges on ascetic: antipasto is a plate of thinly shaved prosciutto, the primo piatto, a plate of hand-rolled pasta with olive oil, pecorino and black pepper, the secondo piatto, a perfectly grilled pork chop.

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soup rut

In my early days as an earnest young lesbo, I did not consider myself to be good at making soup. The three we cooked when I was growing up were two pages out of my grandmother’s book, and one out of my mother’s.

Chicken and noodles was just as it sounds. I’d get home from school to a boiled chicken, cooling in its broth. It was for me to pick the meat off the bones, and then return it to the pot  with a bag of wide egg noodles. Just three ingredients: water, chicken, noodles. And heavy use of the salt shaker at the table. My sister does not remember it now, but she hated that soup.

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overfull with summer

polenta with mascarpone and tomato salad

No photo. That’s one big thing that stands between what happens in our kitchen and what happens on lesbo-kitchen. After all, there has been a lot of cooking and eating in these past months. But I can’t seem to get the photographing part right: because I don’t have time, or don’t want the food to get cold, or we have guests. Or I don’t like the photos I took. At least half the time it’s that we don’t eat until after dark, even in summer. And I still have a lot to learn about low-light photography, which – skills aside – doesn’t necessarily flatter food, anyway. My newest reason, and I can’t really complain about this because it is by design, is that the kitchen in our new house doesn’t have west-facing windows. All those btus of afternoon sun blasting through western windows = poor house design = huge air conditioning load = gorgeous, tasty, photogenic light. (Remember those peanut butter cookies ?) Golden afternoon light from the sun slung low: Will never fail to send me running for the camera.

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the backyard harvest

by wickenden on flickr.com

I am not a good gardener, but the backyard does produce a small spring harvest, without our attention, year after year. Long before the wisteria was even thinking about making leaves, catmint was pressing up into plump mounds. A widening patch of lawn has turned green – no thanks to the blue grama, its blond eyelashes still curved shut. Shin-deep garlic chives and oregano have jumped their borders in order to bring the idea of ‘pizza’ to the act of mowing the lawn. You can hear the rosemary buzzing from across the yard, lying prone under its load of flowers and bees.

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cold comfort

penne arrabiata

The cupboards are bare of vegetables. Not even a bunch of wilty kale to be found – only a sad bundle of chard stems that started accumulating the day that I came across Alice Waters’ recipe for chard stem gratin. (I hate throwing those meaty stems away. One day, when it once again sounds appealing to pour heavy cream over vegetables and throw them into a hot oven to gratinee, the poor chard stems will make it onto the menu rather than into the compost.)

The vegetable drought is entirely my fault. I am the one who canceled our CSA box for last week, but I just didn’t feel like another round of romaine lettuce, winter carrots and sweet potatoes. And call me ungrateful, but the baby celery and navel oranges just weren’t going to cheer me up. This week I’m looking forward to mangoes and leeks and mushrooms, but I can’t help but feel a little cranky about the winter carrots again, and the potatoes – again. Even the Cameo apples, which are passably crisp and tasty considering how long they’ve been in cold storage, serve as a reminder that, even though we are wearing flip flops, and the bees are making rosemary honey, and the trees are making their canopy of fresh green, it’s going to be weeks and weeks before the only nightshade on our dinner table isn’t a potato.

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lesbo breakfast #1

The breakfast that I love, so much so that it causes me to exclaim about its deliciousness at least once a week, is kind of hard to explain. It starts out with an egg, which is obvious enough. Soft-boiling is where the complication begins. There aren’t many people I know who eat soft-boiled eggs anymore. Or ever did, for that matter. My mom occasionally cooked them for us when we were kids, spooning firm whites and liquid yolks into a teacup with butter and salt.

I’ve never tried to order a soft-boiled egg in an American restaurant, but given my hard luck with restaurant poached eggs, I think it best to stick with over-easy. Mexico, however, has the soft-boiled egg down to an art. You’ll find them on menus as huevos tibios, served with a basket of bolillos and a squeeze of lime.

So, soft-boiled eggs: uncommon, but intelligible. It’s with what’s next that things get more difficult, because instead of bread with these eggs, there is brown rice. Totally logical to most of Asia, and even Hawaii, but for now, rice remains quite outside the standard American breakfast lexicon.

How Kathy and I came to the rice and egg breakfast is a bit of a mystery to me. I think I heard about it from a friend who was raised on a free-loving, sometimes macrobiotic commune in Humboldt county, California: The hippies recommend steamed brown rice with egg and gomashio, a toasted sesame salt.

This, and variations of it, have become such fixtures in our daily routine, that I don’t remember the first time we tried it, or even when it was new to us. It just showed up at our breakfast table one day and shoved every other breakfast food into ancient history. Really. I can’t remember anything I used to eat for breakfast during the first decade of my adult life.

While remaining faithful to the basic concept of egg-rice-sesame, we began changing things up, working our way through the ancient grains, as lesbians are wont to do. As alternatives to rice, we steamed through millet, barley, amaranth and spelt, and settled on quinoa, brown rice’s only serious contender. At some point, the sesame salt became just salt and sesame seeds. And then, (this is embarrassing to admit), during a time when we were following a body builder’s diet and exercise routine, we started adding a couple of teaspoons of Udo’s oil. Which stuck. And has since crept up to a couple of tablespoons.

I sat down the other morning to our breakfast of red quinoa with soft boiled eggs, sesame, and Udo’s oil, and told Kathy, in all seriousness, that we were perhaps the only two people in the universe eating this particular breakfast on this particular day. I don’t know. Maybe, somewhere out there in a parallel universe, there are a couple of beings out there eating exactly the same thing. But I’d wager that they’re lesbians.

Brown Rice with Egg and Sesame

Brown Rice with Soft-Boiled Egg and Sesame Seeds

The thing that makes this breakfast so easy is our trusty rice cooker. We add the rice and water the night before, plug it into the ‘timed bake’ outlet on our 1950’s stove, and wake up to the smell of cooking rice in the morning. If you have a fancy rice cooker with a built in timer, all the better.

Keep in mind that free range eggs, while being the best choice for lots of other reasons, are the best for this recipe because their thicker shells make them less prone to cracking. In Albuquerque, our co-op has quite a few options for local free-range eggs, including Beneficial Farms, and my favorite, Ann’s Girls.

The Udo’s oil is optional, but it lends a delicious nutty richness and lots of trendy omega 3s. It has to stay cold, like flax seed oil, so look for it in a refrigerated case, usually somewhere near the supplements section in your natural foods grocery store.

2 free range eggs
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (or quinoa, or other ancient grain of choice)
unhulled sesame seeds, optionally toasted
Udo’s oil (optional)
kosher salt

Boil several inches of water in a small sauce pan. Using a large spoon, carefully lower eggs into the boiling water. Set a timer for four minutes if you’re in Albuquerque, or about three minutes if you are at sea level. Depending on elevation, you may need to experiment some to find the perfect amount of time for your soft-boiled eggs, but keep in mind that you want the whites to be just barely set, and the yolks liquid. If they’re too cooked, the eggs won’t melt into the rice like they should.

Divide the hot rice between two bowls. Crack open each egg: Place it in the palm of your open hand, and then give it a good whack in the middle with a butter knife. The knife should cut cleanly through the egg. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the egg onto the rice. Pour on the Udo’s oil, sprinkle with a teaspoon of sesame seeds and a pinch or two of kosher salt.

Serves 2 lesbians.

make that buffalo squeal

For a decade’s worth of Tuesdays, my grandmother has volunteered at her church to provide meals for homeless people in her community. In the past, she did a lot of the cooking, but lately, she spends most of her time talking with the people who come to eat. “Don’t let anyone ever put you down,” she tells them, “you are a good person.” Some of the food, most of which is donated by local grocery stores, can’t legally be served at these lunches. In California, state law prohibits the church kitchen from using any canned goods that don’t have labels.

Therefore, Grandma has an entire cupboard full of label-less canned foods, each with a small yellow post-it note attached. Because no one on that side of the family can bear to see good food go to waste, she brings the cans home, stacks them on her kitchen table, and from the 28 digit code on the bottom of the can, parses them into beets and beef broth, corn and corned beef hash. Then into the cupboard they go, teetering lego towers of gleaming steel. She can’t eat them as fast as they accumulate, so they are filling her attic, too.

One summer the overstock of unlabeled canned goods grew to a point where even Grandma acknowledged that some of them had to go. All those cans were weighing on her, making her feel guilty for spending money at the grocery store when she already had so much free food to eat. We packed hundreds of cans ( “No – not the pickled beets”!) into brown paper bags, locked them into the trunk of my rental car, then surreptitiously unloaded them in Marin near where the anchor-outs come ashore, and fled like criminals from the scene of a crime.

A few years back, grandma and I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. Whenever I’m in Mill Valley, it’s our habit to see what’s playing at the Sequoia — usually something very political or something very gay (Quinceanera, Brokeback Mountain, etc.). Whatever the film, it’s guaranteed that her catholic church friends will have been talking against it for weeks. In this case, the secret transgression of seeing Michael Moore’s much-maligned film had grandma feeling very extravagant indeed, and after we were seated, she handed me a $20 for popcorn and drinks. I went out to the lobby, where after a brief paralysis ($15 for popcorn and two drinks?), I walked right out the theater doors and across the street to the Mill Valley Market, where I bought popcorn and drinks for $4.

Not so noteworthy, right? Who among us isn’t outraged by movie concession prices? But from my grandmother’s perspective, this is the very best thing I have ever done. Better than when I first said ‘gra-ma wa-wa’ or got educated or any of the other grandchild milestones you can think up. This act was evidence of my legacy, a pure expression of her bloodline. She tells the story whenever my name comes up. She even tells it to me. “You’re a real Cuevas”, she laughs, “You can really pinch a penny – you know how to make that buffalo squeal!”

In honor of my hereditary cheap gene, I offer you one of the cheapest, easiest and best things that I ever cook, which also makes very good use of canned food. Its appeal is nearly universal. The story of how I landed on its culinary map is a lesbo-kitchen story for another day, but lest you question my culinary credentials for this dish, suffice it to say that I learned to love it during my childhood in Puerto Rico, that I learned to make it from my Puerto Rican vegetarian stepmother who didn’t have time to cook from scratch, and that I have cooked it hundreds, perhaps thousands of times in my life, including almost every single night when I was in college.

Arroz y habichuelas

Arroz con Habichuelas
Puertorican Rice and Beans

Most puertoricans eat this as a side dish to some kind of meat, but I think it’s great as a main course. I like to serve it with a salad of sliced tomatoes and avocados drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

olive oil
salt
1 1/2 cups medium or short-grain white rice
3 tablespoons alcaparrado (a mix of olives, capers and pimientos)
3 tablespoons recaito (a paste of garlic, onions, cilantro and sweet peppers)
1/2 envelope of Sazon con culantro y achiote (make sure you get the kind with annato and coriander)
1-2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 small peeled and cubed potato (optional)
1 can Goya beans, undrained (I like gandules, garbanzos, and pink beans the best)

In a medium pot, combine the rice with several tablespoons of olive oil. The more olive oil you add, the tastier the rice will be. ‘Fry’ the raw rice for a few minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Don’t allow it to brown. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and cook until done, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, heat another 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the recaito, alcaparrado, tomato sauce and Sazon. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

If you are using the potato, add it now, along with about 1/2 cup water, then cover and cook over medium heat until the potato is almost done, about 7-10 minutes. Add more water to the pan if it dries out.

Add the can of beans, including its juices. Stir, cover, and simmer gently over low heat until the rice is done.

Note: The recaito, alcaparrado, Goya beans and Sazon are generally available at markets that carry mexican and latin american foods. If you live in Albuquerque, all of these ingredients are available at Ta Lin market, but they can also be found at many of the mexican markets around town. While you can use any canned beans for this recipe, I do suggest that you try the Goya brand for their excellent texture and flavor.

lesbo-warning: The Sazon contains MSG. If you think that you are sensitive to it, leave it out and add a little salt to the beans. The dish won’t have it’s signature orangey hue, but it will still taste good. If you really want the beans to be orange and are feeling ambitious, you can buy achiote (annato) seeds, simmer them in olive oil, and then use this achiote oil in place of the olive oil in the beans.


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