Friday, December 26, 2014

Nonallergenic Pie Crust

     There are now excellent gluten-free pie crusts on the market.  If your only food issue is gluten, I highly recommend them. If you are allergic to the soy, corn or other additives that are used to give these crusts a good texture, you can try the following recipe. 

     This dough, while somewhat more fragile than a wheat dough, is cooperative enough that you can actually roll it out and get it into a pie plate, especially if you follow the suggestions given below. The flaxseed meal and sorghum flour, besides giving the dough a more workable texture than most gluten-free pie dough, give the crust a good texture and a mild grainy flavor, reminiscent of partially whole wheat crust. The recipe makes enough for two layers for a 9-inch pie plate.

      6 Tb. ground flaxseed meal
     ½ c. + 1 Tb. cold water
     2 c. sorghum flour or gluten-free oat flour
     1 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     2/3 c. palm oil shortening or lard 

     Mix the flaxseed meal with the water in a small pot. Stirring constantly, bring to a full boil. The mixture should now be thick and gluey.  Refrigerate it until it is cold. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the salt into the flour and cut the shortening into it until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the flaxseed mixture and knead it in until the dough forms a ball that mostly holds together. You can add a small amount of cold water if necessary to hold the dough together. Divide into two halves and roll each half out into one layer of pie crust following the suggestions given below, sprinkling it as needed with sorghum or oat flour to keep it from sticking.

Bottom Crust

     Preheat the oven (following the instructions for the pie filling) and grease the inside of your pie plate. (Unlike regular pie dough, this dough will stick if the pie plate is not greased.) Roll the crust out on the outside bottom of a large, flat skillet (or tray), making sure that the skillet is well-floured and the pie crust is not sticking to it anywhere.  If necessary, slide a spatula between the tray or skillet and the dough to unstick it all the way around. If you are not allergic to the corn, soy, or dairy products in the wax on waxed paper, you can use that instead.

     Do not try to pick your pie crust up by hand and pop it into a pie plate! Not being held together by gluten, it doesn’t have as firm an opinion about what shape it is. The downside to this is that it is more inclined to break when you try to move it.  The upside is that repairs are actually easier. 

     Center the pie plate upside down on top of the pie crust. Keeping one hand on the pie plate and holding the skillet with the other hand, flip them over together and lift off the skillet. 
     If your bottom crust breaks, you can reassemble the pieces inside the pie plate and just press them firmly together.  If you need to, collect all the pieces and roll the dough out again. “Overworking” a regular pie crust can cause it to become stiff and tough. This is because of the gluten bonding to itself. With a gluten-free crust, this is not a problem, so don’t worry about rolling your dough out or otherwise fiddling with it as much you need to.

     If you find this method intimidating, your only allergen is gluten, and you’re making a sweet pie (not chicken pot pie or something), get one package of Pamela’s Shortbread cookies, grind them all up in a food-processor, and press the result onto the bottom and sides of a pie plate. This is also an excellent crust for cheesecake (again, assuming your only food issue is gluten).

Top Crust

     With a top crust you don’t have the luxury of playing with the dough until you get it right.  Once it touches  the pie filling, you’re committed to proceeding forward. Your options are as follows.

1.  Roll the top crust out on the outside bottom of a large skillet or tray, as described above for the bottom crust. Put the filling on top of the bottom crust. With a wet finger, dampen the edge of the bottom crust all the way around. Make sure the dough is nowhere stuck to the skillet. Pick the skillet up by the handle, hold it next to the pie plate containing the bottom crust and the pie filling, and turn the skillet over so as to plop the top crust into place.  Use leftover dough to patch as needed. Use a knife to cut off the excess dough hanging over the rim of the pie plate. Use a fork to press the top crust against the bottom crust all the way around on the rim.  Prick the top crust in a few places with a fork so air can escape while the pie is cooking.

2. If your pie dough seems a bit crumbly or you just feel leery of trying to flip the top crust into place, make a lattice top:  slice the rolled out top crust into strips and use a spatula to pick them up one by one and put them in place. If a strip breaks, you can always patch it with another small bit of pie dough.

3. If you are making a fruit pie, you can skip the top crust altogether and put one recipe of Crumble Topping on top of it.

Baking and Refrigerating

     Bake the pie at 450 F for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown (or follow the instructions for the filling). Note that the bottom crust (and, most likely, the filling) will be firmer if the pie is thoroughly chilled before it is served.

Nonallergenic Crumble Topping for Pie


Most crumbles are made with either butter (dairy) or margarine (usually corn and soy). This is a problem if you're avoiding all three of these allergens. I use Spectrum palm oil shortening, which lists palm oil as the only ingredient. 

     The mellow flavor of rice flour is fine for a crumble, and in a crumble it doesn't matter that doughs made from rice flour have so little ability to rise or even adhere to themselves. Thus, there is no need to blend it with other flours. Superfine rice flour also does not give the nasty, gritty texture that is such a problem with regular rice flour.  

     Palm oil shortening and rice flour are both a bit bland, so I highly recommend using some brown sugar and/or adding a bit of cinnamon. I also recommend chilling the pie, as this allows the shortening in the crumble to firm back up.

     1/2 c. palm oil shortening
     1/2 c. white sugar or firmly packed brown sugar (See Sugar in the 
     (optional) sprinkle of cinnamon (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1 c. superfine rice flour

     Stir the cinnamon into the sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the shortening and cream it with the sugar. Gently cut the flour into the sugar mixture just until it resembles coarse crumbs. Top the pie and bake at 375 F for 45 minutes or as directed for the pie filling.


Yellow Coconut Rice

      This recipe, loosely inspired by Thai cooking, produces delicious rice that needs no butter or soy sauce.

     1 can (13.66 fl. oz.) coconut milk (See Coconut and Milk in the Glossary)
     2 c. chicken broth (See Broth in the Glossary)
     1 clove garlic, minced
     2 Tb. freshly squeezed lemon juice or lime juice (See Juice in the 
     1 tsp. cumin (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. turmeric (or a few strands of saffron if you prefer) See Spices in 
          the Glossary
     pinch of red pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     2 cups white jasmine rice (See Rice  in the Glossary

     Put the coconut milk, chicken stock, garlic, lemon juice and spices in a medium-sized pot (i.e., a pot that is not too much larger than the amount of rice it is going to contain). Taste the liquid and decide whether and how much salt to add (this will depend on the amount of salt in the stock). Bring the liquid to a boil and add the rice. Bring it back up to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until there is no unabsorbed liquid on the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the burner for another 10 minutes or so to steep. Garnish with sliced green onions, chives and/or chopped cilantro if you like.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rice Pilav

     Here is a classic Middle Eastern rice dish which involves neither butter nor soy sauce.
     5 cups boiling water, chicken broth or beef broth (See Broth in 
          the Glossary)
     (optional) 6 green onions, trimmed, washed and sliced
     ¼ cup pine nuts (See Pine Nuts in the Glossary)
     ¼ cup vegetable oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     2-1/2 cups rice (See Rice  in the Glossary

     Bring the water or broth to a boil.  Set aside. In a small pan, saute the green onions on medium heat with the salt and half of the vegetable oil, stirring constantly, until they soften and turn translucent.  Set aside. Saute the pine nuts on medium high heat in a medium pan with the remaining oil just until they turn golden brown. Add the rice and saute the mixture for a few seconds, stirring constantly. (Or, for a toastier flavor, saute a couple minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice just begins to brown. Be careful not to scorch the pine nuts.)  Add the boiling liquid and the onions. Cover and simmer until done, probably 20-25 minutes.

Variation: Replace the pine nuts with 1/4 cup small pieces of rice pasta and reduce the amount of rice to 2-1/4 cups. To obtain small pieces of rice pasta, break some rice spaghetti up enough to get it into a food-processor and run the food-processor until the spaghetti is cut down to the desired size.  This is a shockingly noisy business, but it works quite well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five-Minute Hypoallergenic Pizza

     Most pizza contains a plethora of allergens: wheat, yeast, corn, and dairy at the least. It is, though, entirely feasible to make a crisp, thin-crust pizza at home in a matter of minutes with your particular allergens either eliminated or dialed way back. 

Making a minimalist but tasty pizza with a crisp crust on the griddle: rice tortilla, griddle-roasted tomato, sprinkle of Italian seasoning, Applegate pepperoni and green onions

Step 1: Get your ingredients ready

The tortilla

     The only essential, irreplaceable ingredient for this recipe is a tortilla. (For an alternate pizza crust see
Pizza crust in the Glossary.) If you can find a tortilla that's sufficiently nonallergenic for you, you can make thin-crust pizza. Corn tortillas are generally gluten-free and yeast-free; most wheat tortillas contain some amount of yeast.  Right now I'm relying on Food for Life brown rice tortillas.  The one questionable ingredient these do contain is "vegetable gum (xanthan, cellulose)"; the xanthan probably came out of a vat of fermenting corn, and they don't specify what kind of plant the cellulose came from. I also wonder about the waxy stuff on the sheets of paper separating these tortillas (corn? soy? dairy?) 

The sauce

     The simplest pizza sauce is tomato sauce topped with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Most canned tomato sauce, though, contains citric acid (corn or soy). Homemade (corn-free, soy-free) tomato sauce is delicious, but there are quicker options:
 1.  Grilled tomato.  Peel one vine-ripened tomato (See Produce in the Glossary), slice it and grill it (both sides) on the griddle. The tomato quickly cooks down, gets very soft, and acquires a nice roasted flavor. It can then be smeared on the tortilla.

  2.  Pesto with Pecorino Romano or dairy-free pesto (click here).

  3.  Any other sauce you happen to like and aren't allergic to. Some people put "white sauce" on pizza, the French sometimes put an egg on it, and the Japanese make pizza with mayonnaise. Pizza is versatile: explore your options.


     Cheese is not absolutely essential to pizza:  it can be thought of as one of many possible toppings. Leave it off if you need to.  You can try soy mozzarella or rice mozzarella if you like (read the labels).  Personally I think they taste nasty and would rather just skip them. If you can eat sheep or goat's milk cheese, feta tastes amazing with a handful of chopped parsley leaves. To avoid yeast or mold, use a cheese that is not aged, such as fresh mozzarella. To use fresh mozzarella, slice it and squeeze it between a couple of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Note that pregrated aged mozzarella is likely to contain corn products to prevent clumping: grate your own if corn is an issue.


     Most of the meat products in the grocery store contain corn, soy and/or other allergens. Read the labels.  Applegate makes a variety of meat products (pepperoni, genoa salami, bacon, turkey, etc.) that don't contain the usual allergens.

     Pick out a veggie or two that you're not allergic to, and you're ready to assemble your pizza.

Step 2: Assemble and cook the pizza

     Plug in your griddle, set it to high, and let it heat up. Roast your tomato on the grill if that's what you're doing for sauce. Grease the griddle with a bit of butter or palm oil shortening if you want to. Put the tortilla on the griddle and immediately coat it with a bit of sauce, sprinkle on some Italian seasoning if you want (See Spices in the Glossary), then add the cheese if any. (Cheese needs to be under the other toppings to be close enough to the griddle to melt.)  Arrange the remaining toppings and cook until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is browned and crisp.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Quinoa Pilav

     This recipe is inspired by Turkish bulgur pilav, which is often enlivened by the addition of vegetables. Bulgur is a wheat product; quinoa is a good substitute for it.

     One reason for using tomatoes in this recipe rather than tomato paste or tomato sauce is to avoid the citric acid made from corn or soy that is found in most canned tomato products. The reason for peeling the tomatoes is to avoid the wax containing, corn, soy, or dairy products that is smeared on so much grocery store produce. "Vine-ripened tomatoes" have not been exposed to ethylene gas (made from corn). Note that grocery store peppers are often coated with wax too; fortunately, the pepper is not essential to this dish.

     2 c. quinoa
     ½ small onion, chopped
     (optional) 1/8 bell pepper, peeled and chopped (See Produce in the 
     ¼ c. vegetable oil you are not allergic to (See Oil in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     pinch of cumin (See Spices in the Glossary)
     2-1/2 c. peeled, food-processed vine-ripened tomatoes (See Produce in 
          the Glossary)
     3/4 c. water

     Rinse the quinoa; drain thoroughly and set aside. Saute the onion and pepper gently in the vegetable oil with the salt until they are soft and the onion is translucent; do not brown. Add the cumin, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. (You can start checking it after 20 minutes or so.)

Caramelized Onions

Getting started

     Caramelized onions are one way to dress up a steak or other piece of meat with amazing, intense flavors that does not involve a lot of potential allergens. Unlike steak sauce, caramelized onions can easily be made to contain no corn, soy or yeast. If you're not allergic to onions, the only concern is picking a variety of oil to which you're not allergic.  

     Caramelizing onions does take some time, so do this when you are going to be busy in the kitchen anyway.

A few minutes in
     8 c. thinly sliced onions 
          (I recommend a food-
           processor for this.)
     ¼ c. oil      
          (any that you are not 
          allergic to and that does 
          not scorch easily. I like  
          safflower oil for this. See 
         Oil in the Glossary
     2 tsp. salt (See Salt in the 

     Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan, add the onions and salt and set the burner to medium high.  Stir frequently. The goal is to brown, but not burn, the onions. Stirred constantly, they may not brown; left alone for too long, they may scorch. As time passes, you will need to stir the onions more frequently and to turn the heat down. You may need to add a little water occasionally to prevent scorching and to stir up browned bits stuck to the pan. Thoroughly cooking down and browning the onions should take 30-40 minutes.

Getting there

Ready to serve

Extra toasty

Lemon/Garlic Marinade for Chicken

     This is a classic Mediterranean marinade that does not contain corn or any of the major allergens.

     1/2 c.  freshly squeezed lemon juice (See Juice in the Glossary)
     1/4 c. olive oil
     6 cloves garlic, crushed
     1/2 Tb. savory (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1/2 tsp. black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1/2 Tb. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)

     Stir all ingredients together.  Makes enough to marinate 3-4 lb. of chicken pieces.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Coconut Aminos/Black Pepper Marinade

     With only two ingredients, coconut sap and sea salt, Coconut Secret coconut aminos is the kind of commercial food product that allergy sufferers would like to find more often. Note that coconut aminos is fermented, so it presumably contains some traces of yeast.   

     Coconut aminos tastes nothing like a coconut: instead it brings a certain intense, savory flavor to a dish. The label refers to it as "soy-free seasoning sauce," and indeed it is an excellent substitute for soy sauce. I find it is also an excellent corn-free substitute for steak sauce in recipes. Below is the recipe that has now replaced my old marinade that relied on steak sauce.

     1/2 c. coconut aminos
     1/4 c. oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)
     salt to taste (The coconut aminos is already salted. See Salt in 
          the Glossary)

     Stir all ingredients together. Makes enough for several steaks.

Marinated Brussels Sprouts

     Here is one brussel sprouts recipe that involves neither a dairy product nor vinegar. These sprouts are tart and well-seasoned, and the mustard accentuates their flavor.

     1 lb. brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut vertically in half  (so that each 
          half is held together by part of the stem)
     2 cloves garlic, crushed
     1/2 Tb. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     sprinkle of black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)
     2 Tb. oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     the leaves from a couple sprigs of dill, washed and chopped
     2 Tb. corn-free, yeast-free mustard  
     1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (See Juice in the Glossary)

     Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the brussel sprouts, bring back to a boil and simmer until the sprouts are tender but not mushy, about 10 min. Meanwhile,  mix all the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. When the sprouts are cooked, drain them and immediately stir them into the marinade.  Allow to marinate for half an hour, stirring every few minutes.  Chill.

Marinated Cauliflower

     Oh, those jars of pickled cauliflower at the grocery store: tasty, but fermented (yeast, mold) and packed in white vinegar (yeast, corn).  Try marinating cauliflower with lemon juice: you can make it as tart and as spicy as you like, and it will still keep a lively, fresh flavor.

     Note that grocery store peppers are often coated with wax containing corn, soy, or dairy derivatives. Fortunately, the peppers are not essential to this dish.

     1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (See Juice in the Glossary)
     1/4 c. water
     1/4 c. oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
     2 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     1 tsp.  dried mint (See Spices in the Glossary)
     (optional) 2 jalapenos, halved, seeded and sliced thin (See Produce in 
          the Glossary)
     1 large cauliflower, cut into chunks
     2 carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices

     Combine the lemon juice, water, oil, garlic, salt, mint and jalapeno in a large mixing bowl.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cauliflower. Bring back to a boil and simmer until the cauliflower is tender. Do not overcook: the cauliflower should still be crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and stir into the lemon juice mixture.  Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook them just until until they are tender. Drain the carrots and stir them into the lemon juice mixture too. Give the mixture a stir every few minutes for 20-30 minutes. Refrigerate.

Marinated Carrots

     Pickles are delicious; sometimes they are truly the condiment that makes the meal. Unfortunately, they are fermented (yeast, mold) and packed in vinegar (yeast, corn), which means they are taboo for some of us. Fortunately, many vegetables can be marinated using citrus or other fruit juice to be as tart, as spicy and as pickle-like as you would like. I wouldn't use these marinated carrots in a cheeseburger, but that's mostly because I can't eat cheeseburgers.

     1/3 c. freshly squeezed lime juice (See Juice in the Glossary)
     1/4 c. water
     2 tsp. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     2 tsp. coriander (See Spices in the Glossary)
     2 sprigs of peppermint (See Produce in the Glossary)
     4 sprigs of cilantro (See Produce in the Glossary)
     2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices

     Mix the lime juice, water, salt, and coriander together. Add the mint and cilantro. Pour the carrots into a pot of boiling water, bring back to a boil and simmer until the carrots are tender but still crisp, probably 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and immediately stir into the lime juice mixture. Give them a stir every few minutes for 20-30 minutes. Remove the mint and cilantro. Refrigerate.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Corn-Free, Yeast-Free Horseradish Sauce

     Horseradish sauce usually contains a good dose of white vinegar (corn, yeast). Fortunately, it is surprisingly easy to make your own with lemon juice.

     You may be tempted to chop up some horseradish root and use a food-processor to mix it up with the other ingredients.  Don’t do this: I tried it and found it pretty much impossible to get the lumps out of the  sauce after that. Also, do not attempt to grate horseradish straight from the freezer in your food-processor: I tried that too, and broke a couple of food-processor attachments in the process.

     fresh horseradish root
     equal parts cold water and freshly squeezed lemon juice (See Juice in 
          the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)

     First peel and grate the horseradish. Mix to a thick paste with a little water and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes while the heat develops. Then add the same amount of lemon juice as water. Add more water and lemon juice as needed to get the desired consistency. Salt to taste. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Corn-Free, Bean-Free Chili

     The reason for using tomatoes in this recipe instead of the more usual tomato paste is to avoid the citric acid made from corn or soy that is found in most canned tomato products. The reason for peeling the tomatoes is to avoid the wax containing corn, soy or dairy products that is smeared on so much grocery store produce. "Vine-ripened tomatoes" have not been exposed to ethylene gas (made from corn).

     Part of making chili is a good, long simmer to tenderize the meat; in this recipe the tomatoes cook down at the same time. 

     3 lb. chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
     ¼ c. oil, any you are not allergic to (See Oil in the Glossary)
     4 c. chopped onions
     10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
     12 c. peeled, chopped vine-ripened tomatoes (See Produce in 
          the Glossary)
     3 Tb. chili powder (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. oregano (See Spices in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. cumin (See Spices in the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)

     Heat a couple tablespoons of the oil in a large pot and use it to brown the meat.  In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil and gently saute the onions until they are translucent.  Add the garlic to the onions and continue cooking for one minute.  Add the onions and garlic to the meat. Add the tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 or 3 hours, uncovered, until the chili has cooked down to the right consistency and the meat is tender. Salt to taste.

     This is the point where you would add 4 cups of cooked red beans, if you were going to do that, and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Other options are to 1) simply ignore that idea, since not all chili has beans in it anyway; 2) substitute some diced veggies for the beans and simmer just until they are done; or 3) divide the chili into two pots and cook beans into one of them.