Category: Gluten Free

Striped Salad with Buttermilk Pesto Dressing

Striped Salad with Buttermilk Pesto Dressing

Striped Salad with Buttermilk Pesto Dressing

This explosive salad hails from the depths of a friend’s brain. I believe she had it somewhere and made the recipe her own, but I can attest that, while the salad itself is tasty, the buttermilk pesto dressing is incredible enough to warrant drinking a glass of it as a nightcap. This is a great recipe for using leftover grilled chicken (which I have a lot of in the summer) and is a fairly light salad as well. Substituting ingredients is also encouraged, and there are lots of items that would go well with this dressing. That said, this is how we made it and it turned out better than I wanted (no need to get into that).

All the following ingredients are to be chopped:
2 heads romaine lettuce, arugula, or mixed greens (the arugula is quite good)
Grilled chicken
1 cup cooked Israeli couscous
Cherry tomatoes (marinated in the dressing)
1/2 cup black currants,
pumpkin seeds
Asiago cheese (optional)

Buttermilk Pesto Dressing:
1/2 cup pesto
1 shallot chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Mix ingredients in a blender and chill.

Directions:
1. Dress the salad greens and place them in a salad bowl.

2. Place the chopped items in the bowl, one at a time, in wide stripes.

3. Present the salad to your guests, and after the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ toss the salad and serve.

OMG Mojito

mojito

mojito - lime, mint, and rum, yum!

On a warm summer day, when the kids are playing in the yard making themselves dizzy, I often join in the fun with the adult version of the trampoline, the mojito. It’s been so unusually hot here recently in the Great White North that I’ve gone through more limes in the past month than the previous year. The only way to beat the heat seems to be with limes and alcohol, as the Cubans have told me for years. The key is making the drinks one at a time rather than a whole pitcher at once. The sugar dissolves more easily, and the drink blends better, and mine will blow yours away if you dare make a lot all at once (actually it will blow anyone’s away, but that’s because I make them with love and sweat, and my sweat is very sweet and tastes a little like lime). Follow the leader to the best of the classic Cuban Mojito recipe (and leave the 7-up behind, restaurants don’t know how to make a good mojito, just a fast one).

Ingredients
1 tsp powdered sugar
the juice from 1 lime (or 2 ounces)
1 small handful mint leaves (to taste, I use about 6 leaves)
2 oz white rum
2 oz club soda
1 sprig of mint (for garnish)

Directions
1. Place the mint leaves in a glass with the lime juice and sugar and mash them together with a wooden spoon (for best results, or use whatever is handy).

2. Add ice to the glass, crushed is the most commonly used, then the rum.

3. Stir in the rum, then add the club soda and garnish with the sprig of mint. Feel free to add more or less club soda to taste.

N.B. Some people use simple syrup instead of powdered sugar as it dissolves very easily in cold liquids. There is no reason not to if you prefer, just play around with the proportions to suit your taste. There are some people who prefer a more dry mojito, and some who like it sweet. There is no rule but personal preference, and anyone who says otherwise needs to be high-fived in the face.

Mild or Wild Chili con Carne

chili con carne

Chili con carne

This is my favorite chili as it is simple to make yet has a varied mix of flavors that keep my brain busy. Prodigious use of tomatoes makes this a subtly sweet chili, though not so much as to overwhelm, and the combination of peppers adds layers of complexity to the dish. Personally, I prefer chili without beans, but they are easily added to this chili if you so choose. The same applies to the hot peppers, some prefer a milder chili and some a spicier, I like mine in the middle, hence just the few chili peppers. Whatever your choice, this is a rich, meaty chili with a lot of flavor, and I usually serve over rice with some grated cheddar and sour cream on top. Every day is a chili day for me.

Ingredients
1 1/4 pounds hamburger (give or take)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 chili peppers (e.g.  jalapeno peppers for light heat, habanero for heavy heat) – optional
4 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)

Directions

peppers and onion

Peppers and onion

1. Roughly chop the peppers, onion, and garlic and heat in a large pot with the oil. If you want a little heat (spicy heat) include the chili/jalapeno peppers with the white pith (the ribs inside the pepper).  Choose your chili peppers wisely, as jalapenos will give a moderate heat, while some types, such as habanero or scotch bonnet will make your chili very spicy. Did you know that botanically, peppers are berries? Yep, they are, although for culinary use they are considered vegetables. I’ll stop that kind of talk now.

2. When the vegetables have softened a little and the onions are translucent, add the ground beef. Break apart the beef while it is cooking to ensure it falls apart into pieces.

3. When the beef has cooked, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and thoroughly stir in. Once the tomatoes are incorporated add the chili powder and stir.

jalapeno

Jalapeno

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The key is to allow the chili to simmer for as long as you can to bring out the flavor of the chili powder. I cook my chili for a few hours, but if you are in a hurry, you may cook for as short a period of time as 30 minutes.

Serve with anything you like, grated cheese, sour cream, chopped parsley or cilantro.

Fiddleheads (Young Fern shoots)

fiddleheads

Fiddleheads with garlic

Would you ever think to eat a fern? I eat anything that won’t make me sick, so I sure have, but young fern shoots are not the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of spring. Oddly, they are the first thing that comes to my mind when someone says “spring.” Early spring is fiddlehead season, and these crunchy vegetables are one thing I look forward to when winter is ending. Fiddleheads are the young shoots of the ostrich fern, and I am surprised that they are not more popular than they are, the stem is crunchy, and the leafy spiral in the middle is soft and sweet. Plus, fiddleheads are cute, but not too cute to eat (like baby bunnies).

Fiddleheads

Fresh fiddleheads vs. old fiddleheads

Fiddleheads do not have a long shelf life. I generally cook them the day I buy them, or perhaps the next day. It is not that they go bad, but that they tend to oxidize quickly, which will make them look less appealing. You may want to cut off the dark, oxidized skin on the fiddleheads to prepare them for cooking, which is very easy as it is just the skin that oxidizes and turns brown. It is not required, though, as the oxidized skin will not contribute any off flavors to the fiddleheads.

One thing to keep in mind is that fiddleheads should not be eaten raw, they contain compounds that are both unpleasant, and could potentially make a person ill. But cooking them makes them entirely safe to eat, and tenderizes the shoot as well. Fiddleheads are also surprisingly high in anti-oxidants, much more so than even blueberries, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, making them both healthful and tasty. Fiddleheads are very high in fiber and vitamin A, and low in everything that you don’t want. They are an excellent spring treat, particularly for those who are watching what they eat (e.g. no fat, no cholesterol, almost no carbs, and very low in calories, only 35 per 1/2 cup serving). Many recipes call for boiling or steaming them, which works well and doesn’t add any fat or calories from oil, however I prefer to saute them with a little oil and garlic. That said, I have been known to steam my fiddleheads prior to a quick saute in order to speed the process and this can also reduce the potential for bitterness that may be found in them. They also go well in pasta and stir fry, but nothing beats a good old saute to bring out their own natural flavor. Fern shoots may not be an obvious star of a dish, but you would be surprised at their delicate and interesting flavor. Even my children find fiddleheads a fun and interesting diversion to the usual vegetable argument.

Ingredients
1/2 pound fiddleheads
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 -2 cloves of garlic, thickly cut

N.B. a few drops of lemon juice can bring out the flavor and help prevent darkening (oxidation) of the fern shoots.

garlicGarlic cut thickly

Directions
1. Cut off any black ends of the fiddleheads, and slice off any black/brown skin from the stems.

2. Wash the fiddleheads and pat dry.

3. Slice the garlic clove(s) into thick pieces, thick enough so that they won’t cook too quickly (they tend to become bitter if overcooked)

4. Put the garlic in the oil and turn heat to medium high.

5. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the fiddleheads. Turn the heat down to medium and saute fiddleheads until soft, about 10 minutes, then serve. Salt to taste.

Serves 1, but this recipe easily scales to as many servings as you need.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

It may seem odd to add vinegar to berries, but a surprisingly tasty combination is a very simple dish of strawberries with balsamic vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar brings out the sweetness of the berries, and the contrast of flavors allows the intensity of each to come out, enhancing the “berry-ness” of a simple strawberry. This is a great summer dessert when the strawberries are at their peak ripeness, but is a great dish any time of year (and a great way to enjoy so-so strawberries out of season).

There are two ways to make this, the inexpensive way, and the more expensive way. The inexpensive way (relatively speaking) is to add standard balsamic vinegar and sugar to the berries, while the latter method is to use a special type of balsamic vinegar that has been bottled with some of the concentrated must from the wine-making process. Must is what one calls the sweet grape juice prior to fermentation. This particular vinegar is thicker and sweeter than traditional vinegar, and a little goes a long way, but it is an incredible addition to any sweet dessert, and I keep a bottle around always for this very purpose. You will find it in specialty food stores, such as cheese shops and foofy high-end food shops.

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

If you have the sweetened, reduced balsamic vinegar you can leave out the sugar.

Directions
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve. Really. You don’t need any whipped cream (although you can add it if you wish), this dish is incredible on its own. Also, feel free to increase or reduce the vinegar to your taste. Some people prefer just a hint of vinegar, and some (like me) like soup. In fact, I’m seriously thinking of experimenting with this to make a smoothie, if I can find the proper mix of ingredients (and I will). Expect that post this summer.