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Correct me if I’m wrong here, but the best translation for “keftedes” is meatballs. That said, the Greeks make more kinds of meatballs without meat than with meat. I can think of patatokeftedes (potato meatballs), kolokithokeftedes (zucchini meatballs), kremidokeftedes (onion meatballs), and taramokeftedes (fish roe meatballs – amazing, by the way) for starters. And although I’ve never heard of them (outside of falafels), I’m betting that somewhere, sometime, some Greek made chickpea keftedes. I channeled this anonymous Greek the other day and came up with my own version. Husband’s review: “visionary.”

Chickpea Keftedes, why not?

Chickpea Keftedes, why not?

Chickpea Keftedes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

  • 3 c. cooked chickpeas (approx. 1 c. dry)
  • 2 c. diced potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. gluten-free nutritional yeast
  • 1 shot of ouzo
  • 3 T chopped fresh mint
  • salt to taste
  • gluten-free flour for dredging
  • 2 c. grapeseed oil for frying

Make the batter: Cook the chickpeas in a pressure cooker, covered with 2 inches of salted water (1/2 a teaspoon or so). If you’re using regular brown potatoes, peel them. If you’re using a thin-skinned potato like yukon gold, don’t bother. Dice them into 1-2″ cubes and steam or boil until a fork can be stuck into them smoothly. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork or a potato masher if you have one. Add the potatoes and mash further. Don’t try to get a smooth paste – these are better with some chunky morsels in them. Add the mint, cheese, nutritional yeast, ouzo and olive oil and mix until combined. Taste for salt. Add the egg. Get ready for fryin’.

Fry ’em up good: Heat 1 c. of the grapeseed oil in a large frying pan. (I know grapeseed oil is a random ingredient – veggie oil works fine too, but I have been very impressed with grapeseed oil for frying. Apparently it has a higher smoking temperature which means it won’t evaporate at frying temps and gunk up your pan and kitchen with that nasty, hard-to-clean oily grawp.) Put 1/4 c. of gf flour on a large plate. Spoon out a golf ball-sized blob of the chickpea batter onto the plate and roll in flour. When the oil is hot, plop it in and flatten slightly. Fry on each side until a light golden brown. Serves 4.

Yogurt Dill Sauce

  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill
  • 1 t. chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 t. salt

Directions: Mix von mix. Serve cold. Can be made a day in advance, but it’s so quick and easy, why bother?

When it’s hot sometimes all you can stand to do in the kitchen is boil some eggs. Better yet if you got the egg-boiling over with on one of those 50-degree days earlier in the month and you can just snag a few eggses out of the ol’ fridgidaire (by the way, check out the wacky double-yolked eggs we had! Wacky.) Anywhoo, here’s a quick and tasty salad we whipped up and paired with breadsticks made from gf pizza dough. They weren’t spectacular enough to write about yet… next time I do them, if they’re worth posting, I will. But the salad made the cut.

Summer Salad with Spinach, Napa, and Beets

Summer Salad with Spinach, Napa, and Beets

Here’s the recipe:

Summer Salad with Spinach, Napa, and Beets

  • 2.5 oz of baby spinach (half of one of those boxes you get)
  • 1/2 a small napa cabbage
  • 1 small beet, uncooked
  • 1/2 a jar of marinated artichoke hearts
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs

Directions: Wash and dry the spinach and napa cabbage leaves. Slice the napa leaves into 1/4-1/8″ shreds. Peel the raw beet and discard the peels. Now use the peeler to make thin beet slices. Toss the spinach and napa together in a large bowl. Top with artichokes, beet slices and hardboiled eggs (quartered, lengthwise). Serve with a basic vinaigrette.

Basic Vinaigrette

Mix the following in a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid:

  • 1/4 c. good olive oil
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 heaping tsp dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Here in Chicago we had our first 90 degree day after a June in the 50s and 60s. I guess that means it’s summer. And summer means excess zucchini in the garden (not that I have a garden…) What to do with all those extra zukes? Here’s one idea. Ratatouille. Only yesterday I lacked onions and had some cilantro that needed to get used. So my take is a Mexi-version. Call it Mexitouille. Pretty dern good, methinks. Husboy, a card-carrying zucchini-hater, calls it “ground-breaking.” We ate it with some Trader Joe’s green chile and cheese tamales, but you can make it a main dish with rice or polenta if you want.

Mexi-inspired Ratatouille

Mexi-inspired Ratatouille

Mexitouille

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 small summer squash
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 T fresh cilantro leaves

Cut the zucchini and squash in half length-wise and slice into 1/8-1/4″ pieces (half-moons). In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Mince or crush the garlic in a garlic crusher and saute in the oil. When it starts to turn golden brown, add the zucchini. Dice the jalapeno and add to the mix. Stir off-and-on until the zucchini starts to turn translucent. Add the wine and let some of the alcohol burn off. Add the canned tomatoes and fresh pepper (not the salt!) and turn down the heat to medium. Let simmer until all the zucchini and squash is translucent and the seedy centers begin to fall apart, approximately 30-ish minutes. While you’re waiting, you can pull the cilantro leaves off the stems and chop them roughly. Throw a few in for kicks and save the rest for garnish. Before serving, salt to taste. If you’re feeling saucy, you can top with grated parm and some more fresh pepper. Is goooood, no?

Fried cheeeeeeeeeeese. La-laa!!!!

Saganaki. Oh, hells yeah!

Saganaki. Oh, hells yeah!

Generally, Greek restaurants are a good place to load up on wheat-free meat-free delectables if you know what to look for. Sadly, the saganaki isn’t one of them. That’s why we have kitchens in our homes, though. Here’s how to make this delicious treat. Locating the right cheese might be the hardest part. It’s made with Kefalograviera, a semi-hard salty cheese that is reminiscent of an aged manchego… in other words, GOOD. In Chicago, we get ours from an Indian market on Devon of all places (Patel Bros. just west of Western on the north side of the street). Cypriots make it with Halloumi, which you can sometimes find in specialty markets. It’s a weird cheese, though – kind of squeaky when warm.

Saganaki

  • Kefalograviera cheese
  • 2-4 T gluten-free flour (I use brown rice flour, but any flour or gf mix will do)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • veggie oil

Directions: Slice the kefalograviera into large 1/4″ thick slices. Put a couple tablespoons of flour onto a plate. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. While waiting for it to get hot, wet the cheese slices with water and coat with flour. When the oil is hot, put the cheese in and fry a couple minutes on each side, until the flour is a golden brown. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top and serve immediately.

Gluten-Free Cold Noodles & Sesame Sauce

Gluten-Free Cold Noodles & Sesame Sauce

As a kid, I adored Stouffer’s frozen mac and cheese. I would pull up a stool in front of the toaster oven and watch it bake, anticipating the melted cheesy goodness that would ensue if only I could hold out for the 25 minutes it instructed me to wait. So naturally, when I got out of college and went wheeling down the grocery aisles like a kid in a candy store (woohooo! I can get anything I want!) I picked up a couple of packages. Brought home, immediately stuck in oven. Waited excruciating 25 minutes til done. Pulled out and took in a triumphant whiff. Fork dove in from 3 feet high. First taste of a childhood comfort food in 10ish years… could it be happening? Oh so delightfff-uhh-glauuuuuugh!? Gross! What the? This shite is pasty narsty mushiness! How did I eat this crap?

There are many childhood treatsies that have similarly fallen from grace: McDonald’s chicken nuggets, fruit loops, bubblegum ice cream, lunchables. Cold Noodles and Sesame Sauce was another one I luh-uh-uhved, but it might be the only such dish that has managed to maintain its allure into adulthood (ok, ramen noodles and kraft mac & cheese are survivors, too). There seem to be several ideas of what constitutes CNSS (given my experience ordering it at restaurants over the last 20-odd years), but in my mind, the gold standard is set by Empire Szechuan in Manhattan. Most restaurants make a sesame-oily imposter. I’ve tested it out at enough spots to know it’s not worth ordering. But Empire Szechuan’s noodles are divine and remain so to this day.

Sadly, Empire Szechuan doesn’t deliver to Chicago, so I have had to search for recipes that could recreate their magic. Where did I hit gold? Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook empire. Her recipes, if you’re not already familiar with them, are not watered down for whiteys (as far as I can tell, of course, being a whitey myself) and obviously, that’s a good thing. And does she have a recipe for cold noodles? YES! And hubba is it tasty. Just like I remember good old Empire Szechuan’s. I don’t have all the wacky ingredients she calls for… plus, like most Chinese food, t’ain’t gluten-free. Sew-hew-hew, here is my take on Madhur’s masterful mimicry of Empire Szechuan’s delight. To make it slightly more nutritious so it can stand as a main course and provide some vitamins for this veghead, I’ve added extra veggies. If you’re a purist or could care less about the nutrition (power to ya), stick to noodles, the sauce, and julienned cucumbers. If you’re interested in her original recipe, it’s on page 246 of World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

  • 1 package of rice noodles
  • veggie oil
  • sesame oil
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • 5ish scallions
  • 5ish leaves of napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tub of extra firm tofu
  • julienned cucumber (1 pickling cuke works best b/c you don’t have to seed it and it’s the perfect size. Plus, they’re super crunchy)
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1 T black sesame seeds (for fun, if you have them)
    For the sauce:

  • 1/2 c. tahini
  • 1/4 c. tamari
  • 2 T Chinese black vinegar* (sub. balsamic if you can’t find GF black vinegar)
  • 1 tsp sugar (omit if using balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 T veggie oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili oil
  • 2 T water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

Diiiiirec-shons: Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Put noodles in a large serving bowl and drizzle with 1-2 T of sesame oil and toss to coat. Set aside.

Grate the zucchini and saute in a pan with a tablespoon each of sesame oil and veggie oil. Add the chopped scallions and saute until wilted. Dump on top of the noodles. Add napa cabbage. Mix von mix. Cut the tofu into 1/4-inch thick rectangles. Cut the rectangles in half diagonally so you end up with large triangles. Brown the triangles on both sides with a couple tablespoons of sesame oil in a fry pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients for the sesame sauce until smooth and pasty. The sauce will seem too thick, but have faith – it’ll be buttah. Pour the sauce onto the veggies and noodles and toss. Top with tofu, julienned cuke, and sesame seeds. Serve at room temp.

Gluten-free brand of Chinese Black Vinegar

Gluten-free brand of Chinese Black Vinegar

*A note on this wacky ingredient: The first bottle of Chinese black vinegar I picked up at the Asian food mart and used for years was sadly not gluten-free. I was devastated when I actually read the label. But, since then I have found that there are many brands that do not use barley (the offending ingredient) in their recipe. This brand of Chinkiang Vinegar is one of them. And hey, according to Wikipedia, this is considered the best. What a deal.