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QUICK: World’s worst place for a gluten-free veghead to park his butt for dinner? Think fast… mmm…KFCArbie’sPizzaHutWeber’sOutbackSteakhouseFogoDeChao…. That’s it! One of those ubiquitous Brazilian BBQ joints that seem to have become so popular in the last few years. Have you ever been? I went as a gluten-eating carnivore a long time ago and it’s quite the scene. Waiters walking around with huge skewers of meat, meat, meat. Pork sausage, chicken boob, beef butt, you name it – all sizzling hot, pulled from the fires of Mordor. Unlimited, all-you-can-gorge-yourself-on meat. It’s a lion’s dream and a vegetarian’s personal hell. Butt, butt, butt… there is one little unassuming gem that comes to your table which made quite an impression back then. Tasty little cheese breads that you just couldn’t get enough of (in case the brontosaurus burger they just slapped on your plate wasn’t filling you up). Little did I know how significant those cheesy goodballs would become after becoming gf…

Naturally GF: Tapioca Cheese Bread

Naturally GF: Tapioca Cheese Bread

I don’t know how I found it out, but those dang cheeseballs are GLUTEN FREE! NATURALLY! No substitutions necessary! It’s astonishing, I know, but dang it, it’s true. So spill the beans – Gimme the recipe, you say! Certainly. (And if anyone can tell me their proper name, I’d be much obliged.) Here it be:

Tapioca Cheese Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. tapioca flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk (soy milk works too)
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. cheese of your choice (try cheddar, parm, asiago)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Bring the milk and oil to a boil in a small pot. Turn the heat off and immediately add the tapioca flour, stirring until it’s all incorporated. It makes a sticky, messy mess, but let it cool and it’s easier to handle. When somewhat cool, transfer to a food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Pulse for a couple of minutes until the dough is somewhat smooth (it won’t ever be very smooth) and pulls up from the sides of the food processor. Form into golfballs and bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Try not to overeat. Ha! AS IF.

Fun variations to try:

  • For the glutton: stuff a cube of cheese in each golfball before baking.
  • For the adrenaline junkie: add fresh hot chilis to the dough
  • For the sophisticate: try using feta as your cheese and add chopped kalamata olives to the dough

I love having fresh herbs on hand to cook with, but you have to buy them in such quantity that you always end up throwing half of it away. Or at least I do, anyway. In the summer, I just chuck it in the worm composter and don’t feel too bad about it, but in the winter it makeh me saaaad! Luckily, I got this fabbydab cookbook called The Herbal Kitchen which has all kinds of great ideas of how to incorporate fresh herbs into your cooking. Inspired to pick it up by the ginormous bunch of parsley giving me the stink-eye in my fridge, I came across a recipe for Parsley Mint Soup. Eeeeenteresting. But lacking the exact ingredients they called for, I came up with this diddy instead:

Naturally Gluten-Free: Parsley Mint Soup

Naturally Gluten-Free: Parsley Mint Soup

Parsley Mint Soup

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 c. Italian flat parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 c. fresh mint leaves
  • 4 c. mushroom broth
  • 3 T potato flakes (can use a small red potato, too)
  • grated asiago or another hard cheese (omit for vegans)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt, if needed

Put the olive oil, butter, onion and garlic into a small soup pot and saute until the onions are glassy. Add the mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Add the parsley and mint, stir, and turn off. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. When cool, add the potato flakes (if you don’t have potato flakes, dice a small potato – we’re talking red or yukon gold size – and add to the boiling broth. Boil until the potatoes are soft. Then turn off and let cool.) Transfer the soup in four batches to a blender and puree until smooth. Put back in the soup pot and reheat. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated asiago and freshly ground pepper. Makes a light soup – good for an appetizer for 4 or light lunch for 2.

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…