It took me 18 years to get up the guts to taste tapioca pudding. I couldn’t help but associate it with crusty cafeteria food – the only place I’d ever seen it was in a clear plastic cup next to similarly packaged red and green jello cubes. (Let’s take an extra moment to collectively gag over green jello. HUAGH!) But when I did it was a revelation. Now it’s a staple – a quick and easy dessert you can whip up in an hour. Here are two variations:

Classic Tapioca Pudding

  • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk (soy milk works, too, but rice milk is too watery)
  • 3/8 cup sugar, maple syrup, or honey
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Pumpkin Spice Tapioca Pudding

  • 3/4 cup small tapioca pearls
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk (soy milk works, too)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground ginger
  • 1/8 t. allspice

Directions for both versions: Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Soak tapioca in water for 30-40 minutes. In mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients and mix well. Drain tapioca and place in a 1-quart covered baking dish. Pour liquid ingredients on top. Cover and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and stir, making sure to break up any lumps of tapioca-ness. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Arg. I’ve been cooking a decent amount lately and coming up with some tasty treats but I’ve had no time to sit and write down what I’m making. It’s insanely frustrating to try and remember what I did three months ago – that tart was fabulous… “What did I put in it, raspberries? How many?” Arg… So I’m forcing myself to record my recipes now. But forget pictures for a while. That will put me over the top.

Champignon Bourguignon
Serves four

2 lbs button or baby Bella mushrooms, quartered
Porcinis or other hearty mushrooms
1 lb pearl onions
4 carrots, thickly sliced
6 cloves garlic
4 cups red wine
4 cups broth
3T butter
1T fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2T olive oil
2T sweet rice flour or another GF flour
Salt to taste

Serve with steamed new potatoes.

Prepare their pearl onions. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Plunk the pearl onions in, skins and all. Boil for three minutes and then plunge into cold water to stop cooking. Cut off the root end and squeeze to remove the skins. Careful not to squirt them across the room!

In a large saucepan, melt 3T of butter and brown the onions on high. Don’t worry about cooking them through – they’ll have plenty of time later. Once browned on at least one side, turn down the heat slightly and add the garlic and the carrots. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the wine, bay, thyme, and pepper and let cook down until the liquid is halved. Add the veggie broth and do the same. Salt to taste. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and sweet rice flour into a paste. Scoop out a 1/4 cup of liquid from the saucepan and whisk it into the flour and oil mixture. Add to the stew and stir. Simmer a few more minutes until sauce thickens. Serve over steamed new potatoes (tip: smash them with a wooden spoon to break the skins and let the bourgui-goodness in).

Ye-gads, it’s been a while since I posted a recipe here! It’s not for lack of effort. I have tons of food pics and recipes jotted down here and there… just no screen time. Sorry.

Well, summer is high in Chi-city and we are lovin’ life farmer’s market and CSA style. Tomatoes, cukes, peppers – each week our CSA fills our fridge with delicious bounty and we’re forced, like good Greek peasants, to eat what we have makings for. And what do we have makings for? Greek salad! WOOT!

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

It may not surprise you to hear that the Greek salad that is served in most restaurants is not the real deal. For one, Greeks don’t have lettuce – at least they didn’t for a long time. In fact, my grandmother used to use our lettuce in soups, thinking it was just another leafy green to cook, rather than using it in salads. Of course, this has most certainly changed these days, but the Greek salad of my youth was closer to the recipe below. When you are inundated with fresh garden tomatoes and cukes, this is the best treat in the world.

A note on ingredients: There is a variety of cucumber that I’ve never seen anywhere besides Greece. They are smaller (kirby sized), lighter skinned, kind of football-shaped, and crispier than anything we find here. The closest I have been able to find in texture is the Armenian Cucumber, a long, pale green, ribbed and slightly fuzzy cuke that is available at my farmer’s market. If you can get your hands on one of these, hubba-hubba. Also, the green peppers I’ve had in Greece are nowhere near the massive, watery bohemoths you find in our supermarkets. They are small, thin-walled and incredibly flavorful. Unfortunately, I have no clever tips on how to get your hands on something comparable here. Oh, well.

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata)

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in thick wedges or large chunks
  • 1/4-1/2 of an Armenian cucumber or 2 pickling cukes, sliced in rounds
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/4″ thick slice of feta cheese (please don’t waste your money on the pre-crumbled stuff!)
  • olive oil
  • kalamata olives or capers
  • salt
  • oregano

Directions in 30 words or less: Throw all the veggies into a serving bowl. Salt and toss. Drizzle with more olive oil than you think you’ll need. Place feta on top. Sprinkle with olives or capers, and top with oregano.

Dang! Four words over. It’s ok. You’ll forgive me.

So it was recently Passover, which I secretly call Celiac Appreciation Week. Of course, the two don’t exactly overlap (I guess it depends on how strict your views are on what is and is not acceptable fare during that time period) but anywhoo, I always listen smugly to my friends who kvetch heartily about how hard it is to cut bread out of their diet for a WHOLE WEEK. Mmm-hmmm. Yes, it is hard. Try it for life. But as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, they’re making everything gluten-free these days. We even found gluten-free matzohs at our regular grocery store! Who knew? Now, to the purist, they are not acceptable Passover fare but I’m a celiac shiksa, what do you want?

Gluten-Free Matzoh Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzoh Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzoh-ball Soup

for the matzoh-balls:
1 (10.5 ounce) package gluten-free matzoh
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

if you’re making your own vegetable broth:
1/2 an onion
2 stalks celery, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
4 cloves garlic, whole
2 bay leaves
handful of parsley, whole
1 tsp peppercorns
salt to taste

for the soup:
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic

Make broth: Use your favorite gluten-free vegetable broth, or throw 1/2 an onion (quartered), 2 stalks celery (cut in half), 2 carrots (cut in half), a handful of fresh parsley, 4-5 cloves of garlic (peeled, but not crushed), 1 t. peppercorns, and 2 bay leaves into a large pot of boiling water. Let boil while you prepare the matzoh-ball batter and chop the soup ingredients.

Make the matzoh-balls: In a food processor, grind the gluten-free matzoh until a pebbly consistency. Pour in a large bowl and sprinkle with water until just moist (start with 1/4 c. and add tablespoon by tablespoon until just a teeny bit of dry crumbs remain). Salt & Pepper to taste. Add 3 eggs, parsley, and melted butter and mix well. Set aside.

Put it all togethuh: Strain the vegetable broth if you’re making your own, saving the liquid and discarding the large vegetable chunks and spices. Return liquid to your soup pot and add your diced celery, onion, carrot and parsley. Bring to a rolling boil. With your hands, form the matzoh-ball batter (mush? I don’t know if it really qualifies as “batter”) into small golfballs and drop them into the boiling broth. They will float relatively quickly. Let them boil for a few more minutes and serve. Makes many, many delightful matzoh-balls. Mmmm…

I just came across this interesting resource for us celiacs. It’s a searchable database of restaurants around the country who have participated in a Celiac Awareness program run by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. I just searched Chicago and there are only a few restaurants listed. To make this resource really shine, I think we should band together and whenever we find a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, suggest that they visit this site and get their restaurant listed! Here’s how:

Directions for getting your restaurant listed in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program

As soon as I read this article in the NYTimes about a vegan publication using stock images that were decidedly NOT vegan, I immediately remembered several Living Without bread recipes that had accompanying images that I was sure were real bread. I am a pretty confident cook and I know a gluten-based bread when I see one. These images were definitely NOT gluten-free bread. And lookie here:

Living Without’s Best Gluten-Free Bagel Recipe.

And Getty Images’ “Basket of Bagels”. Real bagels. Gluteny bagels. Jerks.

Clearly, this is par for the course in publishing. Reader beware.

Could it be true?!? Have I discovered the answer to my four-year quest for gluten-free filo dough? This guy sounds legit, the video looks legit, and the baklava looks like it might just make my yiayia proud. Oh, nellie. You know what I’ll be up to this weekend!!!

So, like many celiacs, it took me a long time and buckets of perseverance to get diagnosed with celiac disease. Doctor after doctor told me they had no explanation for my debilitating symptoms and that I was perfectly healthy (How’s that for logic!?). Actually, the first thing that clued me into the fact that it might be gluten was that my mom had long insisted that she didn’t do very well on wheat.

So fast forward three hard years, a positive diagnosis, and then four more squeaky clean years and I’m now sharing gluten-free recipes back and forth with mom. She’s even starting up an intolerance support group in Ottawa, ON. So if you’re in the area and living without, comment on this post and I’ll get you in touch!

In the meantime, here’s a gf cookie recipe she sent me. I made them yesterday and the entire house smells like the most delectable chocolate brownie you’ve ever schnozzed. And the cookies are good, too! They remind me of a coconut-less macaroon. Delish.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cookies - feel free to experiment around with other nuts like walnuts and pecans

Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 3 C raw almonds (Mom says any nut will do)
  • 3 C icing sugar
  • ½ C plus 3T unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 oz (60grams) bittersweet chocolate, cut into pea-sized bits
    (I use Lindt 85% chocolate bars… ☺)
  • ¼ t salt
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread nuts on a baking sheet and roast until they begin to brown and smell divine.
Let cool, then chop very finely
Or process in food processor until mostly fine but with a few chunks remaining

Reset oven to 320 degrees
Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper
Mix almonds, icing sugar, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, and salt
Whip egg whites to stiff peaks in another bowl, then stir in vanilla
Fold half of the whites into the almond/chocolate mixture
Fold in the remaining whites and mix until just combined
Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets (they won’t spread so you can place them close to each other)
Bake 16-18 minutes, till tops begin to show cracks
Cool completely and store in airtight container
Mom says they’re better the second day
Thanks, Mom!

Sad to say, Mark Bittman is ending the Minimalist, after 13 years writing the weekly column for the New York Times. He has been a wealth of inspiration, and especially in recent years, as he has cut his meat intake down in favor of a “less-meatarian” approach. Big fan. Anywhoo, as part of his farewell, he has posted his favorite 25 recipes from the Minimalist over the years. Check out these naturally gluten-free ones!

Red Pepper Puree
Socca (chickpea pancake)
Parsley Herb Salad
Fennel & Celery Salad
Eggplant Curry (omit asafetida – not always gf)
More-Vegetable-Less-Egg Frittata
Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Ok, so it feels a little sacrilege posting this video to a gluten-free blog, but it’s just SO COOOOOL! Dang gluten for having such cool properties.

(note: for whatever reason, WordPress won’t let me embed this NYTimes noodle video. Humph! Or maybe I just don’t understand how to embed video. More likely.)

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