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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

Woohoo! I did it! Very respectable gluten-free hoisin sauce is mine, allllll mine. And yours, too. If you want it. Let me share.

Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce... one step closer to Gluten-free Mu Shu!

So some serious googling returned the results that hoisin is made from fermented soy bean paste, among other things. Armed with my new-found knowledge I hit Chinatown and found me some of this alleged fermented hoisin magic. The label said the only ingredient was fermented soy bean paste, but I was suspicious. Fermented with what? Wikipedia, oh great fountain of knowledge, says the soy beans are fermented using either wheat flour, pulverized mantou, rice, or sugar. Hmm… what are the odds… BAH! Until someone develops a quick and easy at-home gluten test, I’m going to avoid the sketchball Chinatown bean paste and go with what I know.

Luckily, what I know is pretty dern good.

Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce*

  • 1/4 c. sweet red bean paste (the smooth variety)**
  • 2 T wheat-free tamari
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • dash of white pepper
  • (optional) squirt of Sriracha chili (or “Freshred Chili” if you have it)

Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a week.

*Before you get all sassy and tell me that Premier Japan makes a gluten-free hoisin sauce, I want to save you the disappointment of buying and trying it. Honestly, it tastes like orange-flavored BBQ barf. Not even close to hoisin. I’m not trying to be snobby here – bleeeeve you me, my heart skipped a thousand beats when I saw it on the grocery store shelf. But it really tastes absorootly nothing like any hoisin I’ve ever had. Sad, but less so because of the above recipe.

**If you can’t find smooth red bean paste in Asian specialty markets, sweet red bean paste is easy-po-cheezy to make at home. has a recipe.

Folks, it don’t get much better than this. A dessert that you can whip up in 1 minute, 30 seconds. A dessert that doesn’t leave you lamenting the size of your thighs. A dessert to impress even the snob-von-snobbiest of gourmands. It’s chocolate mousse! And it’s easy as pie. Much easier, in fact.

Guilt-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Mousse

Eat your heart out, glutards! Guilt-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Mousse!

Gluten-Free, Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse

  • 16 oz. (one package) of silken tofu, at room temp
  • 4 oz. (one bar) semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Yep, that’s it!

Dump the contents of the silken tofu packet unceremoniously into a food processor. Giver ‘er a whirl. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Pour into the tofu and process on high for 30 seconds or so, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla. Split amongst four perty glasses and chill. Top with nuts or fresh berries or just down them straight-up. Huh, boy. That’s my kind of dessert!

Savory Pumpkin Sauce for your Fettucini Genies Delight

Savory Pumpkin Sauce for your Fettucini Genie's Delight

I went spelunking in my freezer yesterday and found all kinds of interesting dried, shriveled tidbits I’d squirreled away years ago. Among the finds? Five homemade pesto ravioli from my gluteny past life, several forgotten end slices of gluten free bread, three bags of New Mexico green chiles (hooray!) and one bag of peas (anyone who knows me realizes the significance of this. Bagged peas do not last more than 24 hours in my presence. Breakfast, mid-morning snack, late-morning snack… peas to me are what cereal is to adolescent boys.)

Anywhoo, among these identifiable treatsies, there were a few plastic containers of _____. That is to say, *****. And by that I mean, ??????

How to find out their true identity? Defrost them, of course! One of these delightful little surprises turned out to be about a 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree I’d saved from Joe Pumpkin two Octobers ago. Unlike the rest of the puree, this bit didn’t make it into the pumpkin pie and sat lonely and alone in the back of my freezer… until now!

Fettucini with a Savory Pumpkin Sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 heaping T tomato paste
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 T butter (replace with olive oil for vegan version)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • copious quantities of freshly ground pepper
  • parmesan cheese (omit for vegan version)

Coarsely chop your garlic and shallots and fry in a pan with the 2 T olive oil until garlic begins to turn a light golden brown and the shallots look glossy. Cut the mushrooms into strips and add them to the saute with the 2 T butter. Saute for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the finely chopped rosemary and fry for another minute or two. Add the white wine and let simmer for 5ish minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk with a fork until the paste is dissolved. Add the veggie broth and do the same with the tomato paste. Add cracked pepper, but no salt yet! Let simmer on medium low for 20ish minutes. Salt to taste. Serve on top of fettucini… all covered with cheese…

We have not had enough tomatoes and corn this summer. It’s a crime. Note to self: must remedy situation.

Naturally Gluten-Free: Sweet Summer Bean Salad

Naturally Gluten-Free: Sweet Summer Bean Salad

Sweet Summer Bean Salad

  • 5 ears of corn, grilled with husks on
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup dried white beans (canellini, navy or lima) or 2 1/2 c. canned white beans
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 7 cloves of garlic (woo!)
  • 1/4 c. hot giardiniera
  • 3 T. capers
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. oregano
  • freshly ground pepper

If you’re using dried beans, cook the beans with 1/4 t. salt and five cloves of peeled-but-still-whole garlic until soft, either using a pressure cooker (far superior, in my impatient opinion) or the slow cook method. Set aside.

Soak the corn cobs with the husks on in water for 30 minutes. Place on a hot grill and cover, turning about every 10 minutes until the husks start to char and a peek in at the corn reveals the kernels have turned from a pale butter yellow to a more saturated buttercup yellow. Remove from grill, husk, and set aside to let cool.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-3/4″ cubes. Cut the shallot in half and thinly slice. Hold the corn cob on end against a cutting board and slice off the kernels close to the cob. Mince the 2 remaining cloves of garlic. Cut the avocado into 1/2″ cubes. Put shallots, tomatoes, corn, avocado, capers, and garlic into a large salad bowl. In a small bowl or jar, put the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon, salt, oregano and pepper and mix until smooth. Pour over the veggies. Eat hot or cold. Serves 4 as a main dish or 6-8 as a side.

Good old Chicago. You leave for a week and the season changes on you. I feel like we barely got a taste of the usual broiling hot sopping summer that it usually supplies and then suddenly, oops! The unmistakable crispness of fall is in the air. Ah well. Who needs molasses-muggy summers anyway?

Squash. Squash is the point, people. The time has come.

Naturally Gluten-Free: Butternut Squash in a Miso Ginger Broth

Naturally Gluten-Free: Butternut Squash in a Miso Ginger Broth

Butternut Squash in a Miso Ginger Broth

  • 8 c. water
  • 1 small butternut squash (~6″ long)
  • 1/4 c. grated frozen ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/2 c. miso paste
  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 1 leftover leek

Be a prep chef: Peel and seed the butternut squash. Dice into 1/4″ cubes. Slice your shallots as close to paper thin as you can. Open the package of silken tofu, slide a knife around the edges of the plastic bin and invert on a cutting board. Cut into 1/4″ cubes. I had the green part of a leek leftover in my fridge, so I used it in the recipe. It’s perfectly fine to use a whole leek, but find a small one. You don’t want it to be overly leeky. Remove the two or three outermost layers of the leek and discard. Remove each layer and carefully wash each one until you are into the tender, lime green leaves. Thinly slice (we’re talkin’ as close to paper thin as you can, again) the outer layers from the white part (if you have it – I didn’t) to the middle of the dark green part. Thinly slice the lime green core as well, reserving some for garnish. You are done with the prep.

Now the easy part: Put the water on to boil. When close, add the shallots and the squash. Biol until the squash is tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the miso, tofu, and lime green leek discs for garnish. Turn down to simmer. With a ladle, remove 2 c. of the soup and place in a large pyrex measuring cup or a bowl. Add the miso and mash with the back of a spoon until it’s totally dissolved. Return broth to pot. Divide your tofu among 4 large soup bowls. Pour the soup on top, garnish with the uncooked lime green leekies and enjoy a fall meal!

So many good lentil soup snippets… which one to share? Visual: One of the iconic pics from my childhood is me sitting with a bowl of lentil soup, spoon in the air and mouth agape as though I’m conducting my own ode to lentil soup… Auditory: My Greek grandmother couldn’t say “lentil” because Greek words just don’t end in l’s. So she said “lendin.” Lendin soup. Lendin soup. haha. Lendin… and finally, Sappy: I knew I’d found the man of my dreams when we sat down for a meal of homemade lentil soup and he got up to get the red wine vinegar. What? You do that too? I thought I was the only crackpot on the planet who won’t eat lentil soup without vinegar! Apparently not. And a long and fruitful relationship was born.

So lendin soup has a special place in my heart. It’s a comfort food, it’s gluten-free, it’s a one-dish wonder – it doesn’t get any better. Here’s the unofficial family recipe.

Lentil Soup

  • 8 cups veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 cups french lentils
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped spinach leaves
  • red wine vinegar

Directions: Choose the one dish for this wonder carefully. In a medium soup pot, saute your onions, garlic, carrots and celery in the olive oil until glassy. Add the lentils and stir with flair. Add the veggie broth and act like you’re really working hard while you wait for it to boil. Add the bay leaves, pepper, oregano and parsley. Turn down the heat, cover loosely, and simmer until the lentils are soft – 30ish minutes. Add the spinach and act totally spent from the effort. Simmer 10 more minutes and serve. Garnish with a 1/2 tsp of vinegar per bowl. Serves 4.

When in doubt, fry. That’s my motto for the tofu blahs. Try this tofu with cold noodles and sesame sauce. Yum yum.

Sesame Crusted Tofu

Directions: Drain the liquid from the tofu and slice into 1/4″ thick rectangles. Put the rectangles flat on the cutting board and cut diagonally to produce two triangles. Measure out the nutritional yeast and spread onto a large plate. Add salt and sesame seeds and mix with a fork until they are reasonably incorporated into the nutritional yeast. Pour veggie oil into a large fry pan – it should be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ deep. Heat the oil on high while you coat each tofu triangle in the yeast mix. Place in the hot oil (oil is ready when it sizzles when you put the tofu in) and brown on each side – approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

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…