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Charles Barsotti, the creator of my all-time favorite New Yorker cartoon has come up with another hilarity. I just love his sense of humor:

The New York Times recently sang the praises of cabbage in their article The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating. Wow, ok, so I just checked the date and it was posted on June 30, 2008! Funny how time is compressed in my noggin…

Anywhooo, I found their suggestion for how to eat cabbage less than inspiring. As a crunchy topping for burgers? Enh. I have always loved cabbage and the Greeks have a particularly delicious way of preparing it in all it’s raw glory. It’s called lachanosalata (pronounced la-ha-no-sa-LAT-a). It’s simple as a pimple and delish as a knish. Here it be:

Naturally Gluten-Free! Lachanosalata: Greek Cabbage Salad

Naturally Gluten-Free! Lachanosalata: Greek Cabbage Salad

Lachanosalata: Greek Cabbage Salad

  • 1 head of green or red cabbage
  • juice of 1 lemon OR 3-4 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp salt
  • copious amounts of olive oil
  • Greek oregano

Slice the cabbage into thin, thin, thin, did-I-mention-thin? strips. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Pour the lemon or vinegar on & toss. Douse in olive oil and sprinkle oregano on top. The salad is great fresh. And as the leftovers marinate, the cabbage becomes translucent and reduces quite a bit – the second day is a different and equally delicious experience. Kali orexi!

My grandma was the first to teach me that you could actually *make* applesauce. It was one of those things, like doughnuts and yoghurt, that fell squarely in the Modern Food Marvels category — beyond the reach of the home cook. (Of course, I have since learned to make all three. Modern Food Marvels has now been relegated to the likes of Easy Cheese and Deep Fried Ice Cream.) But at the time, I thought, “Wow! What a revelation!” She put 2 cups of apples in with 2 cups of sugar, maybe some water, and boiled it down before finishing it off with… wait for it… aw, yeah…. an entire bag of Red Hots! Yeah, can you belieeeeff? The resulting sugary goo was spicy-red and artificial-delicious, but after I awoke from my sugar coma I think I heard my pancreas wimper.

The second time I learned to make applesauce was much more wholesome, and it’s the recipe I’m going to share with you now. It’s a variation on my mom’s recipe, actually, so thanks momma. Nice work. Yum-delish.

Homemade Applesauce

Homemade Applesauce

Mommayios’ Appley-Sauce

  • 10-12 apples of your choice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 c. water

Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Chop coarsely for chunky applesauce, dice finely for smooth (or you can blend it afterwards. I’m waaaaaaaay too lazy for that). Place in a medium pot with the water and spices and simmer, covered until it has cooked down into what can only be described as applesauce. Viola! Easy as pie and much sweeter (in the awesome sense, not the sugary one.) No sugah needed. Word.

I’ve been a closet salty-breakfast eater my whole life. And I’ve endured 30 years of ridicule for not liking jam and jelly on toast, raisins on anything, and sugar in my cereal. Sometimes I prefer my waffles with just butter, or *GASP* with Indian Lime Pickle instead. My breakfasts regularly consist of a bowl of peas, or an open-faced grilled cheese, or a fried egg on a corn tortilla with Death Sauce. And if I don’t have time to make any of that, bring on the cold pizza or the leftover Chinese food from last night! What a treat.

Apparently Mark Bittman has seen the light as well. Salty-breakfast eaters need not hide in the shadows anymore – we have a high profile food writer behind us! Rejoice! Now I can share my most recent salty breakfast revelation: creamy rice cereal with boatloads of freshly ground pepper and cashews. I’m tellin’ ya. It doesn’t get any better. WOO!

I call it Savory Rice Cereal for Salty-Breakfast-Eaters (and sometimes, Rice Gruel, Breakfast of Champions — ha!) There’s really nothing to it. Bob’s Red Mill makes a creamy rice cereal that is readily available at my local Whole Paycheck (read: Whole Foods). I follow the stovetop instructions on the back and add halved raw cashews while it’s cooking and then top it off with a pat of butter and a BOATLOAD of freshly ground black pepper. If I’m feely saucy, I’ll add a bit of parmesan cheese, but really, there’s no need to get nutty. It’s delish without. Give it a try! You’ll like it! And you’ll like the lack of sugar coma that follows.

Hubba hubba. Sweet onion goodness. Check it:

Caramelized Onion Tart

Caramelized Onion Tart

Gluten-Free Caramelized Onion Tart

For the Filling

  • 3 large red onions
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T milk
  • 2 T grated parmesan cheese
  • grated gruyere

For the crust

  • 1/4 c. sorghum flour
  • 1/4 c. teff flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca flour
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T sweet rice flour
  • 6 T butter, room temp
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T cider vinegar

Start the onions: Thinly slice the onions and garlic and put in a pan with olive oil and butter. Saute on medium high, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes until onions start to caramelize. Make the crust while you’re waiting for the magic to happen.

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the dry ingredients for the crust into a bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and with your fingertips, smush it into the flour until the butter pieces are pea-sized or smaller and the whole mixture is evenly crumbly. Make a well in the middle and add the egg and vinegar. Scramble gently with a fork to break the yolk and incorporate the vinegar. Slowly incorporate the flour until uniformly wet. Dough will still be lump-crumbly. Get your hands dirty and form into a ball. Roll out between two pieces of wax paper and place in an 8″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Pinch up the sides. Prebake for 10 minutes.

Back to the filling: When onions are uniformly brown and well on their way to caramelizing, add the balsamic vinegar. Add the thyme & salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until they have reduced in size to about half what they were raw and have obtained a deep caramel color.

Remove the tart crust from the oven and spread onions evenly over the crust. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 2T of milk and 2 T of parmesan or romano cheese. Pour over onions in tart. Top with grated gruyere or another stinky semi-hard cheese. Return to the 400 degree oven and bake for another 20 minutes. Eat. Groan. Good.

Fantastic.

The End.

Kidding! But for any celiacs in Chicago, Venus is a hot destination. A little visited restaurant in Greektown (little visited b/c it’s off the main strip on Halsted, but only by a half block), they serve Greek-Cypriot food. And, I just discovered they have an extensive gluten-free menu (two full pages!). Woo!

I first discovered their menu online and was skeptical because it did have some suspicious listings. For example, they had patates tiganites (french fries) listed which any savvy gf diner knows is bad news b/c it is fried in the same oil as the breaded Everything, etc. But, when the waiter handed me the gf menu, all of the suspicious items were blacked out – evidently someone showed them the errors in their ways. Being familiar with Greek food, however, I must say that they left off some great gluten-free dishes that do appear on their regular menu, so it’s worth a shot to look at the regular menu and ask. Two great vegetarian dishes to ask for are the pantzarosalata (marinated beets served cold with olive oil and herbs) which goes great with skordalia and talatouri, and lahanika scharas (grilled veggies served with balsamic vinegar and oil). On that happy note, I leave you to dream of gluten-free Greek food. I need my zzzs.

Not deterred by the lead-loaf of last week, I kept my starter alive by continuing to feed it 1 c. of water and 1 c. gluten-free flour (some combination of brown rice, teff and sorghum, depending on how I was feeling each day). This time I decided to be guided by Living Without’s recipe for gluten-free French Baguette, which is the tastiest gf bread I’ve come across to date. On a scale of 1 to successful, I’d say it’s successful. Definitely no lead-loaf. Next time I’ll bake it in a smaller dutch oven b/c mine is too big and the bread flattens as it bakes – kind of like a pancake for the BFG. But other than that, it’s lovely, light, luscious and sour. Yum.

Second Gluten-Free Sourdough Attempt... Less leaden but more vertically challenged...

Second Gluten-Free Sourdough Attempt... Less leaden but more vertically challenged...

Gluten-Free Sourdough, Take 2… Closer

  • 2 c. sourdough starter
  • 2 1/2 c. Living Without’s GF High Protein Flour Blend
  • 2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 T active dry yeast
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water
  • Special equipment: Dutch oven (4 Qt. size should work – mine is too big, and I think it’s a 6 Qt.)

Scoop sourdough starter into large bowl (apparently contact with metal inhibits the yeast, so make sure to use plastic measuring cups and a glass or plastic bowl.) In a separate bowl, mix together the high-protein flour, xanthan gum, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add to the sourdough starter. Add luke warm water and oil and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Oil and flour your dutch oven and spoon the dough into a mound in the center. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place covered Dutch oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown. Leftovers make for great focaccia sandwiches.

Next-time-notes: I may try less yeast next time and a longer rising time. I read in this fab gf baking book, Gluten-Free Baking Classics, that a shorter rise time leads to a loaf more likely to collapse. This is indeed what mine did b/c it had risen nicely when I put it in the oven but turned into the horizontal loaf above by the time I took it out. Wohn wohn. Oh well. Something to fiddle with next time.

Buckwh**t or kasha. Aint it perty?

Buckwh**t or kasha. Ain't it perty?

Buckwheat. Buck w h e a t. Bu… WHEAT!?! What the heck are you trying to feed me?!

Despite it’s evil-sounding name, buckwheat (also known as kasha) is harmless for us celiacs. Good thing, too, because it’s nutrish and delish.It took me a while to figure out how to cook the grain because it can have a kind of sandy texture if cooked like rice and eaten plain (ew). But with some doctoring, I’ve found a few recipes that are worthy of gfvegheads, and the experimentation continues. Below is numero uno (not the best necessarily, just the first I’m sharing):

Asparagus Buckwheat Soup and the GF Sourdough Bread Attempt II

Asparagus Buckwheat Soup and the GF Sourdough Bread Attempt II

Asparagus Soup with Buckwheat and Lemon

  • 6 c veggie broth
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/8 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat
  • 1 c. water
  • pepper to taste
  • juice of one lemon

Put veggie broth in a large pot to boil. Mince your onion and put in the broth. Let simmer while buckweat cooks. In a small pot, heat the oil until hot. Add the buckwheat and fry for a couple of minutes, swirling so it doesn’t burn. Add the cup of water and cover. Let simmer 30 min. until tender. Add to the soup pot. Slice up your asparagus into 1/2″ logs (diagonally, if you’re feeling sassy) and “bung ’em in the pot,” as my mom says. When just tender, add the lemon juice and serve. Grind some fresh pepper on top and call it a meal.

Inspired by the uber-gluteny loaf I made my main squeeze the other day (using Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread Recipe made famous by Mark Bittman… it’s a stroke of genius, that recipe is, though I’ve never had the pleasure of actually sampling it…) I’ve opened up the quest for the ideal gluten-free rustic loaf once again. I’ve had decent results with Gluten-Free Girl’s artisan bread in the past, but I want sourdough.

So gluten-free sourdough starter is pretty straightforward. Start with a large glass jar and add 1/2 c. water and mix in a 1/2 c. gf flour (any combination of teff, sorghum, brown rice). Cover the jar with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band and leave in a humid, somewhat warmish place (our laundry closet fits the bill). Each day, add 1 part water to 1 part flour and watch as the natural yeasty-beasties in the environment find and colonize your floury gloop. After 3-5 days, your starter will rise between feedings and start to smell sour. Mine went through a funky spell where it smelled like feet, then olives, then sourdough. Don’t be deterred by the initial stink. It’ll mellow into sour goodness.

I won’t waste your time by sharing the first recipe I tried to make the bread. It was pretty pathetic. I still have the lead-loaf sitting half-eaten in my fridge. The flavor was worthy, but the density was abominable. Here you can see what it looked like next to the LeahyWonderLoaf. Back to the drawing board I go.

Lead-loaf left, Lahey WonderLoaf right

Lead-loaf left, Lahey WonderLoaf right

PS. For all you wheat-eaters out there, you MUST MUST MUST try the Lahey/Bitman No-Knead Bread recipe. It is nothing short of miraculous:

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!