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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.

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.

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

My mother-in-law makes a killer granola – better than any store-bought variety, mainly because it’s not Chocolate Frosted Sugarbombs (Calvin & Hobbes reference, anyone???) masquerading as health food. Plus, it’s quick, massively inexpensive, and smells ridonkulously good baking in the oven. Hummenah.

Here’s my version of her deliciousness.

Gluten-Free Granola

  • 6 cups gluten-free oats
  • 2 cups “crunch” (any combination of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, pumpkin seeds, chopped almonds, chopped pecan, chopped walnuts, gluten-free steel cut oats, or pine nuts)
  • 1/8-1/4 c. freshly ground flax meal
  • 1/2 c. honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 2 T molasses
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat wet ingredients together with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup (or something else equally easy to pour from). Pour wet over dry. Mix until all the oats and other goodies are well coated with goo. Bake in two pyrex dishes or cookie sheets at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, removing from oven every 10-15 minutes to stir. Keep a close eye on it – if you see the oats on the edges of the pan begin to brown, it’s time to give it a good stir. After 30 minutes, the granola should be lightly golden brown, but it may still be soft. Give it a good stir, let it stand for 10 minutes, and remove from cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Ugh. I don’t mean no disrespect to carnivores, but they honestly have no inkling of how you can possibly make a meal without flesh. I can’t tell you the number of people who asked me last month whether we were cooking a tofurkey for Thanksgiving. Listen, meat-tards. If you would care to look up from your mountain of over-fattened, top-heavy, saline-injected Butterball bird, you might notice that pretty much every other dish on your table is vegetarian. HELLO! Thanksgiving is MADE for vegheads, and besides, anyone who eats fake meat should just man up and accept the fact that they crave hamburger.

Anywhoo, all this to say that whenever I go outside the confines of my carefully crafted gluten-free, veghead world for more than a day or two, I come home craving leafy greens and flave-tastic vegetarian food. In other words, give me Indian food or give me death.

With a little direction from my favorite veghead muse, Madhur Jaffries, I came up with the following version of Saag Aloo. Spinach. Dandelion greens. Inspiration.

Saag Aloo

Serves 2-3

  • 3 medium potatoes (about a pound and three quarters)
  • 1.5 lbs spinach (frozen or fresh), finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. dandelion greens, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (ok to omit)
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1″ square fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 fresh green chile (serrano or jalapeno)
  • 2 tsp roasted, ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 T ghee
  • 1/4 c. milk or cream
  • vegetable oil

Cube the potatoes and fry with salt and garam masala in a deep-sided fry pan until translucent. Remove from pan. In a food processor, puree the garlic, onion, ginger and green chile with 1/4 cup of water. Place into the frying pan and saute for 1 minute. Add the cumin and saute another minute. Add the spinach, dandelion greens, and dried fenugreek leaves and cover. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a tablespoon or two of water if it begins to scorch on the bottom. Add the potatoes back into the mix and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Add the cream and butter at the last minute. Salt to taste and serve over rice.

Obsessed. With. Mango Sticky Rice.

AAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!

Lucky for me, it’s easy as one, two, tree. (okay, four.)

Naturally Gluten-Free: Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice

  • 3 cups sticky rice
  • 1 13.5-oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ripe mangos

Directions: Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with water so the water comes up at least two inches from the rice. Soak overnight.

Fill a large steamer with 3 inches of water. Place the rice in the top part of the steamer and steam for 30-40 minutes until the rice is still chewy but cooked. Scoop the rice from the steamer into a large bowl. Add the coconut milk and sugar and stir to combine. Return to the steamer (check to see if it needs more water) and steam for another 30ish minutes. The longer you cook it, the stickier it gets. Just keep testing it until you likey. Serve warm and garnish with sweetened coconut milk and fresh mango slices.

Matcha powder (image courtesy of FCartegnie thru Wikimedia Commons)

I was at the coffee shop last week and someone in front of me ordered a Green Tea Latte with no syrup. I was feeling sick of the black sludge I throw down daily, so I decided to give it a try. Hummennah-hummenah! Now that’s a-tasty, people! I ordered it without the syrup, fyi, and it was plenty sweet. Sounds like their base is matcha powder with a mildly sweet honeydew syrup. Interesting. Anywhoo, no need for the extra sugar they normally throw in. Deeelish.

Frozen Blubberies, oh my

Quick! Best snack in the world?!?!?! Ok, I’m going to bet a lot of money you didn’t say frozen blueberries. Dangit. But they’re right up there in my book with the all-time greats:

  • olives
  • cheese
  • pickles
  • popcorn
  • peanut butter and hot sauce (seriously! Try it)

Honestly, I’d never had frozen blueberries before but Stanley’s, oh, great fountain of produce, from time to time rocks these absurd sales on organic produce, and when they do, I lose all self-control and let my inner hunter-gatherer go bonkers filling up the shopping cart. Of course, then I get home and my husband looks at me like I’m a total loony bin so I have to think quick. What was I planning on doing with all those blueberries? Well, obviously, I say in my most authoritative tone, they’re amazing frozen. You’ll see. Trust me on this one.

Luckily I was right. Frozen blueberries are delicious. Just buy them fresh when they’re cheap and in season. Wash them in their plastic houses, drain, and pop in the freezer. Before chowing, take them out and let them sit for 5ish minutes to soften ever so slightly. Dang, mother nature knows how to make ’em!

I’ve mentioned before that there are several wacky bean companies I order from online. Here is a recipe that utilizes Native Seeds SEARCH’s runner cannellini beans; large, white beans that are reminiscent of dried limas but about twice as big. If you don’t have these on hand, large limas or another white bean will work just fine.

Balsamic White Bean Dip

White Bean Dip

  • 2 c. cooked white beans
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 T lemon
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder or 1/2 a small garlic clove, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine the above ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth. Alternatively, for a chunkier dip, you can mash the beans with a fork or potato masher in a bowl, then add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Serve with a rustic gluten-free bread, some fresh vegetables, cheese, and homemade olives for a fabulous lunch.

I love this line from the executive chef at New York’s Ilili:

It’s a poor man’s dinner, eaten with eggs, or with tomatoes and scallions…

He’s referring to a dish he makes called Lebanese Potatoes with Cilantro Sauce, which may or may not appeal to you given the centrality of cilantro to the dish. Being a reformed cilantro-hater, I’m psyched to try it. And we just got potatoes from the stupormarket on Saturday. Woo.