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Gluten-free Pizza á la greca: with spinach, feta, tomatoes, and dried olives


Mmmm… zaaaa.

Gluten-Free Pizza à la Greca: with Spinach, Feta, & Olives

  • One package Gillian’s Wheat, Gluten & Dairy Free Pizza Dough (available at Whole Paycheck)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chopped spinach
  • 2 oz. feta cheese
  • 1/4 c. pitted olives, coarsely chopped (try Penna’s Olivasecca – they’re amazing!)
  • 1-2 T steel cut oats or corn meal
  • oregano, salt & pepper to taste

This is a great quick meal if you have the foresight to thaw the pizza dough the night before. Of course, you can use a different pizza dough that doesn’t require thawing. Do a little exploring in the frozen foods section of your gross-hairy store and see what you can come up with.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice the onion and garlic and saute in olive oil until glassy-looking. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and let cook down until there is very little liquid left. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until their skins start to split – approximately 10 minutes on medium high heat. Add the spinach; saute another 5ish minutes.

Cut a large piece of parchment paper and set on a flat surface. Sprinkle 1-2 T steel cut oats or coarse corn meal (polenta works) in a circle about 6-8″ in diameter. Flatten the pizza dough into a 1″-thick disc and place on the oats/grits. Roll the dough out until it is 12-14″ in diameter. Pinch the edges so you have a little ridge all the way around. Spoon the tomato/spinach/onion mixture onto the crust and distribute evenly. Spread the crumbled feta cheese and chopped olives on top. Sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust turns golden brown. Ta-zaaa!

It’s been more than 10 days, but forgive me. I vacate. (Did I just turn vacation into a verb? Yes, I did. I kind of like it…) By now my little olivinas are brining happily and approaching deliciosity. But I have not revealed how they got from tasteless snoozefest to their current state of yum. So let me divulge.

Ingredients for Brining Homemade Olives

Ingredients for Brining Homemade Olives

Once the olives are cured of their bitter madness, it’s time to add back some flav-ah-flave. It starts with a basic brine that can be spruced up to your heart’s content with lemon, garlic, fresh herbs, dried herblinas, food coloring (what? ew – totally kidding), hot hot peppahs, gin, vodka, you name it. If you’re unhappy with what you come up with, the beauty of brine is that you can always change the flavor. Either add more of the same to bump up the flavor, add new spices to change the flavor, or if you’re totally disgusted by your first creation, dump the existing brine and start over. Brining is more of an art than a science, so if you feel moved to add 5 cloves of garlic rather than 3, by all means, knock yourself out.

Once brined, the olives need to be stored in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat in about two weeks. Typically, the longer they sit in the brine the better they taste, but let’s be honest; who can stand to wait longer than 2 weeks!?

Basic Olive Brining Recipe

  • 3 ¼ c. water
  • ¾ c. white vinegar
  • 5 T salt

Some of my creations in past years:

Homemade Olives A la Gioco:

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 T fennel seeds
  • 4 whole dried chili peppers
  • 2 star anise
  • rind of 1 orange
  • 1 T black peppercorns

Homemade Speecey-Espicy Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 10-20 whole dried chilis
  • 4 cloves garlic

Lemony Snicket Homemade Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 cloves garlic

Herbaceous Homemade Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 5ish sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 T black peppercorns

Where to buy fresh olives:
For the past five years, I have bought my olives from Penna, a family-run business in California. While you’re at it, check our their Olivasecca – amazing dried black olives the likes of which you’ve never tasted. You can also follow them on Facebook and they’ll keep you up-to-date on when olive season starts and ends.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go! (you are here)

Homemade Olives: The curing process

Homemade Olives: The curing process

Olive night came and went and the olives are now happily eating up all my available counter space, curing their little brains out. Why must they cure? Olives in their raw state are seriously bitter (try one! It’s shocking), so they must be cured to remove the ick. There are three ways to do this:

1. Salt-Drying: I don’t know much about this method other than it uses a shocking amount of salt. But suffice to say, at the end of the process you get shriveled little uber-olives. Power-packed with flavor. Not for the faint of heart or the fair-weather olive friend. I love them.

2. Curing with Lye: Commercial olives are typically cured with lye. It’s the lower-maintenance method (barely) and has therefore won the hearts of olive manufacturers eager to turn out this year’s batch of olives and make a buck. Any olives you see that have not been cracked have likely been lye-cured. But everything I’ve heard about lye tells me it’s a nasty thing to work with in your home, so we’ll be curing with…

2. Curing with Water: Oleuropein*, the substance that makes olives bitter, is soluble in water (how lucky). So an easy, albeit more labor intensive way to remove the bitterness is to soak the little olivinas in water. To do this, first you must crack the olives (really well) to allow the bitterness to leech out. Then put them in a jar and cover them completely with water. At this stage there is no need to refrigerate them. Change the water every day for 10 days. Over the course of the ten days, you’ll notice the water you dump each day gets less and less stinky yellow. At the end of this process, the olives will smell faintly olive-like but will be almost tasteless.

How do you crack an olive?

I’ve experimented with several ways; faced with 20-30 pounds of olives, I alternate between two to avoid sore hands or amputated limbs (you think I jest…) The first method involves placing one olive at a time on a cutting board and either leaning on it with the flat side of a cleaver (any wide, stiff knife will work. A second, smaller cutting board will work as well). This works better if you’re tall or like to cook in platforms or stilettos. The second method is similar; you rest the flat side of the knife on the olive, but instead of leaning on the knife, you give it a swift whack with the heel of your hand. Sometimes the knives get slippery from the olive goo (careful, it stains) and you get scared that you’ll slip and chop off a limb. When that happens, you might consider switching to smashing the olives with that second, smaller cutting board I mentioned instead of the slimy knives.

*This is priceless – Wikinerdia’s explanation for what oleuropein is: “tyrosol esters of elenolic acid that are further hydroxylated and glycosylated.” In case you were wondering.

Where to buy fresh olives:
For the past five years, I have bought my olives from Penna, a family-run business in California. While you’re at it, check our their Olivasecca – amazing dried black olives the likes of which you’ve never tasted. You can also follow them on Facebook and they’ll keep you up-to-date on when olive season starts and ends.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!) (you are here)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go!
Raw Olives, oh joy!

Raw Olives, oh joy!

The anticipation sets my little tastebugs atwitter. September is olive harvest month and I just got 40 (yes, 40) pounds of fresh green olives delivered to my doorstep. Saaaa-weeet! Bitter, actually, but we’ll fix that. Stay tuned for this three-part post:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies (you are here)
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go!

Stay tuned. Olive curing happens tonight.
YUM!

There’s a wonderful Tuscan restaurant in Chicago that has been around for ages called Gioco. It’s got the perfect combo of atmosphere (low-key & relaxed, but still elegant and oh-so-romantique!), food (deeeelish), price (reasonable enough to justify an impulse date night), and… and… I dunno. It’s just great.

Back in the day when I was naively mowing glutenglutengluten, I tried a soup special they were offering that was called Tomato Bread Soup. I had never heard of such a thing and was intrigued. I got it and it was a garlicky tomato soup thickened with bread. Oh man, was it good. They never featured it again, but I have been dreaming of it since.

Entirely by accident, in one of my buckwheat experiments, I came across a recipe that reminds me of that Gioco marvel. I’ll call it Tomato Kasha Soup b/c Tomato Bread Soup is too scary. But know that it’s really Tomato Bread Soup for Celiacs.

Tomato Kasha Soup - A Gluten-Free version of Pappa al Pomodoro

Tomato Kasha Soup - A Gluten-Free version of Pappa al Pomodoro

Tomato Kasha Soup

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. buckwheat
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 c. water or vegetable broth
  • 2 17-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 poorly measured (read: heaping?) T tomato paste
  • small bunch of fresh sage (10-15ish leaves or 3 t. dried)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pot. Add garlic and buckwheat and saute for 2-ish minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. When buckwheat is cooked, add remaining ingredients and simmer until ready to eat. The longer you simmer, the more the buckwheat plumps up and thickens, so you may need to adjust water and tomato paste amounts to accommodate this. But don’t thin it out too much – the soup should be quite thick – almost like a chili or a stew.

Makes a great, hearty lunch for those cold February Sundays. Oh wait – it’s MARCH! Ah well. Still cold. And snowing currently…

Many restaurants are getting hip to their gluten-free customers and printing special gluten-free menus, just for us. I guess enough people are spending 20 minutes grilling the waiters and waitresses about hidden sources of the wheat-beast that the big chains are thinking about ways to preempt our long line of questioning… That’s ducky, and I fully plan on sampling these places, although, truth be told, I’m more of a small mom-&-pop restaurant kind of gal… BUT-T-T! This is not the reason for this post! The reason for this post is because I have found Mecca. A mom&pop restaurant that has a gf menu like no other. And it is in my very own city, the City of Big Shoulders: Chicago.

Ok, fine. It’s not technically in Chicago. Bravo, you called my bluff. It’s in River Grove, IL, but it’s oh so close to Chicago that I’m taking the liberty of adopting it. It’s almost too good to be true. Their story? A family-run biz running an Italian ‘straunt. Four of six kids are suddenly diagnosed with celiac. Not deterred, they adapt their traditional wheat-filled recipes to work with our world of wacky flours. The result? A FULL menu of normally depressing-for-the-celiac dishes (fried calamari, tiramisu, eggplant parmigiana, pasta and pizza) that are 100% risk-free for wheat-tards like you and me.

It’s called DaLuciano’s. I dined there last night and let me tell you, it took some getting used to – to have an entire menu not only labeled gluten-free, but made by celiacs who understand the insidious nature of gluten? B L I S S ! They also offer a selection of their fresh pastas, desserts, breads, etc. frozen so you can take the bliss home with you. Hot dig von dog!

I was too overwhelmed with joy to have the sense to photograph the cannoli we ordered for dessert, but let me tell you, I will be dreaming about it for years to come. There is a special place in heaven for you (and your gluten-free cannolis), Libreri family!

Back when I lived on lentil soup and hotdogs (kids are weird) my dad used to make me fettucini carbonara. It’s a fond childhood taste-memory that I haven’t thought to duplicate since living pig-free. But I was hit with a craving for it again and sought a way to make it both wheat-free and meat-free*. I think the results are quite tasty. See what you think:

*Disclaimer: I am not a fan, and have never been, of strange veggie substitutes for meat like fake-on (veggie bacon? Does it exist? It must), not-dogs, tofurkey, etc. Either eat meat or don’t, if you ask me. Besides, those weird fakes usually have gluten in them.

Gluten-Free, Bacon-Free Fettucini Carbonara (with umph!)

Gluten-Free, Bacon-Free Fettucini Carbonara (with umph!)

Fettucini Carbonara for Gluten-Free Rabbits

  • 1 package of rice fettucini (I like De Boles or Tinkyada)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 3.5 oz. baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of broccolini
  • 1 c. of veggie broth
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. chipotle chili flakes (depending on the size of your cojones)
  • gads of freshly ground black pepper
  • hefty chunk of pecorino romano

I’m just going to assume you can cook pasta without my help. Honk if you can’t. Right. So.

For the sauce: Mince onions, mushrooms, and garlic and saute in olive oil & butter. Add broth and cream cheese. Wisk so cream cheese dissolves in the broth and makes a thin, creamy sauce. Add wine, chipotle chili flakes and the freshly ground pepper and simmer. When the pasta is almost done, chop up the broccolini and put on top of the simmering sauce. Cover and steam until just tender. Pour over the pasta and serve with GADS of grated romano. Ah, memories!

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