Saturday, October 20, 2018

Green Chutney

     This classic Indian condiment is spicy, herbal and delicious on grilled meats, vegetables, rice, and other foods. It is also notable for involving few ingredients and very few possible allergens. 

     Grocery store peppers are coated with wax which may contain corn, soy or dairy products, so you may need to mind where get your peppers. Alternatively, you can avoid the wax by roasting and peeling the peppers, but I don't think cooked peppers are quite as good in this sauce.

     If yogurt is a problem, the version with coconut milk is also authentic and just as good.

      3/4 c. fresh mint leaves (stems removed)
     1/2 c. cilantro leaves (stems removed)
     6 green chili peppers, seeds removed (You can use more or less peppers, 
          depending on how much heat you like) See Produce in the Glossary
     2 cloves of garlic
     1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
     1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice (See Juice in the 
     1/4 c. yogurt or coconut milk (See Coconut and Milk in the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)

     Put the mint, cilantro, chili peppers, garlic, ginger and lemon juice into a food processor and puree. Stir in the yogurt or coconut milk and salt to taste. Refrigerate.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


The pasta is Tinkyada rice shells. I left in the beans but skipped the kale.               
Note that one can could cook beans into some of the soup. Yes, that requires a second pot.

     Minestrone is a rich, complex soup in which many flavors are melded into something quite wonderful. It is also surprisingly flexible: with so many ingredients, you can certainly change a couple of them to accommodate allergies or dislikes. If every Italian cook can have their own minestrone recipe, so can you. Allergic to beans? Leave them out. Allergic to wheat? Use rice pasta. Serving a vegetarian? Skip the sausage and replace the broth with water. Prefer your kale as chips? No problem: it'll still be minestrone without it.

     It is possible to find Italian sausage that consists entirely of meat, salt and spices; be sure to read the labels.

     One reason for relying entirely on peeled fresh tomatoes rather than, say, cans of tomato sauce is to avoid corn. (See Tomato products, cannedin the Glossary.) Another is that they provide a much better flavor.

     8 c. peeled, chopped, vine-ripened tomatoes (See Produce in the 
          Glossary )
     1 Tb. oregano (See Spices in the Glossary)
     2 Tb. basil See Spices in the Glossary)
     1 tsp. black pepper See Spices in the Glossary)
     2 Tb. olive or other oil 
(See Oil in the Glossary)
     2 Tb. butter (or another 2 Tb. olive oil if butter is a problem)
     2 celery stalks, sliced
     1 carrot, sliced
     1 onion, chopped
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     oil for frying (See Oil in the Glossary)
     1 lb. Italian sausage, shaped into small balls (2/3 inch or so) (Check list 
          of ingredients.)
     1 cup chopped cabbage
     1 small zucchini, chopped
     1 medium potato, peeled and diced
     8 c. chicken broth (See Broth in the Glossary)
     (optional) 2 c. cooked beans
     (optional) 2 handfuls chopped kale (stems removed)
     cooked pasta (shells, elbows or other small pieces: see Pasta and Pasta, 
          Small  in the Glossary)

     Put the tomatoes, oregano, basil and black pepper in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally.

     Meanwhile, melt the butter in the olive oil in a skillet. Add the celery, carrot, onion and a good sprinkle of salt and saute gently on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and the onion is translucent. Set aside.

      Heat some oil in a skillet and fry the sausage balls on medium heat, rolling them around occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through. Discard oil and set aside.

     When the tomatoes are cooked, add the celery/carrot/onion mixture to the pot, along with the sausage, cabbage, zucchini, potato, chicken broth, beans and kale.  Simmer for half an hour or so, until the vegetables are all tender (but not mushy).
     You now have a big pot of soup. You can stir in some cooked pasta till it looks about right, heat it all just long enough to bring it back up to temperature, adjust salt to taste and serve.  However, if you anticipate that it will not all be eaten at one meal, you might prefer to add pasta only to the amount of soup you're actually going to eat immediately. Pasta continues to absorb liquid as it sits in soup in the fridge, so the broth disappears and is replaced by huge, overly soft noodles.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Corn-Free, Yeast-Free Marinated Roasted Peppers

     Marinated peppers are usually made with vinegar, which contains traces of yeast. White vinegar is made from corn, so it can also be a problem for someone with a corn allergy. The following recipe makes excellent marinated peppers using lemon juice and garlic.  Remember that grocery store peppers are coated with wax which may contain corn, soy or dairy products, so peel them meticulously after they're roasted.

     3 lb. peppers (any variety) (See Produce in the Glossary)
     4 cloves garlic
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     1/2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice (See Juice in the Glossary)
     1/4 c. water
     1/4 cup olive or other vegetable oil (See Oil in the Glossary)

     The first step is to roast the peppers on all sides until their peels are very dark and bubbling up without overcooking the flesh. I recommend doing this on a barbecue or a few inches under a broiler. Leaving the oven door ajar can help prevent peppers from getting overcooked (because they cook entirely from direct heat rather than getting baked). Obviously this is a safety hazard, so kick any pets or small children out of the kitchen while you do this. Put the peppers on a roasting pan and place a few inches under the broiler. Keep an eye on the peppers and rotate them when the tops turn black and the peel bubbles up. Once the peppers are cooked on all sides, take them out of the oven and cover them with a lid or a damp cloth: steam from the peppers will help further loosen the peels. Once they cool down, pull off the peels, discard any seeds and slice the peppers into strips.

Meanwhile, crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press, put the crushed garlic in a large bowl with 2 tsp. of salt and pulverize thoroughly with the back of a spoon (or use a mortar and pestle if you have one).  Add the lemon juice, water and oil and stir.  Stir the sliced peppers directly into the marinating mixture.  Adjust salt to taste. Stir periodically for half an hour or so, until marinated. Refrigerate.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mushroom Spread (Duxelles) and Eggplant Spread

Mushroom Spread

Minimalist canapes of mushroom spread and cress on rice crackers

     Here is a classic, simple recipe that delivers an intense, savory flavor. This spread contains no common allergens; if you're not allergic to mushrooms or onions you should be able to enjoy it. It is good spread on bread, on canapes, on pasta, or in omelettes.

     1/2 lb. finely minced fresh mushrooms
     2 Tb. finely minced shallots
     2 Tb. oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)

     In 2 or 3 batches, place minced mushrooms in a cloth, then twist and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the mushrooms and shallots in the oil on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until the mushroom bits have separated and browned slightly. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Eggplant Spread

     A similarly intense, savory spread can be made using eggplant.  It turns out somewhat more crumbly than duxelles. 

     I think this is a particularly good condiment for dressing up a baked potato with or without sour cream.

     1 lb. peeled, finely minced eggplant
     1/4 c. finely minced shallots
     1/4 c. oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)

     Place minced eggplant in a cloth, a handful at a time, then twist and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the eggplant and shallots in the oil on medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant bits are nicely browned and have lost that "raw eggplant" taste. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Yeast-Free Onion Soup

     The conventional recipe for onion soup includes a good dose of wine, which of course contains traces of yeast. This recipe relies on pomegranate juice for the rich, slightly tart, fruity flavors that would usually be provided by the wine. Note that juice freshly squeezed from a pomegranate is likely to contain less yeast than bottled juice (See Juice in the Glossary). Fresh juice and bottled juice both contain a lot less yeast than wine.

     Pomegranate works well with a variety of herbs; I like bay leaf and thyme in this soup, with maybe a little parsley for a garnish. 
     The usual garnish for onion soup is a toasted piece of good, crusty bread with melted  cheese. Bread and cheese both being serious sources of yeast and other allergens, it is time to consider alternative garnishes--or rediscover what a good soup this is without all that stuff on top of it.

     8 c. sliced onions
     1/4 c. oil (See Oil in the Glossary.)
     salt (See Salt in the Glossary.)
     6 c. beef broth (See Broth in the Glossary.)
     1/2 c. pomegranate juice (See Juice in the Glossary)
     good sprinkle of black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary.)
     1 bay leaf
     small pinch of thyme (See Spices in the Glossary)
     (optional) handful of washed fresh Italian parsley
     Thoroughly caramelize the onions with the oil and 2 tsp. of salt. Add all the remaining ingredients except the parsley, bring to a boil, and simmer for half an hour.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

     Garnish with chopped fresh parsley leaves if you like.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Herbed Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Yukon gold potatoes.  Russets
are starchier and crisp up more easily,
but this batch came out perfect anyway.

     This recipe produces potatoes with intense flavor and perfect texturewithout help from common allergens such as dairy (milk, cream, butter, cheese) or flour. 

     2 lb. potatoes, washed 
and peeled
     1 Tb. salt
     1/4 tsp. baking soda
     1/2 c. fresh Italian 
parsley (See Produce in the Glossary)
     1/4 c. fresh basil leaves (See Produce in the Glossary)
     1 Tb. fresh rosemary leaves (See Produce in the Glossary)
     1 Tb. fresh thyme leaves (See Produce in the Glossary)
      2 cloves garlic, minced
     1/4 c. olive oil or other oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
     Wash and dry the herbs, and chop them fine. Cut the potatoes into large chunks (4 to 8 chunks per potato, depending on the size of the potato).

     Preheat oven to 450 F. 

     Bring 1 quart of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt, baking soda and potatoes. Bring back to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are pretty much softened up. Drain.

     Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet. Add the herbs and garlic and saute gently until the garlic is cooked but not browned. Put in a strainer over a small bowl. Apply pressure with the back of a spoon; you should retrieve a couple tablespoons or so of the oil. Refrigerate the sauteed herbs. Toss the potato chunks vigorously with the oil. The potatoes will have an odd gooey appearance. Do not be alarmed: this means that the baking soda has done its job and the potato chunks are coated with starch and ready to crisp up. 

     Spread the potato chunks out on a cooky sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Scrape them off the cooky sheet with a spatula and flip them over. Continue baking until nicely browned and crisp, another 30-40 minutes, occasionally tossing with a spatula. Toss with the herbs and serve hot.

     Note that if you toss raw herbs and garlic with potatoes and roast them in the oven together, it is likely that the herbs and garlic will scorch before the potatoes are done, giving your dish a nasty, acrid flavor. Don't do that.

Variations:  You can, of course, give your roasted potatoes different flavors by varying your choice of herbs. For plain roasted potatoes, just toss the boiled potato chunks with 2-3 Tb. of oil.

     Deep-frying the treated potato chunks works well too.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tomato Sauce and Tomato Paste

 Tomato Sauce

A few more minutes of simmering, and this sauce will be perfect.
Actually, if the plan is to simmer it further inside, say, spaghetti sauce,
it's ready to go right now.

    Commercially canned tomato products generally contain citric acid made from corn or soy and may contain traces of yeast or mold (see Tomato Products, Canned in the Glossary). If you are so severely allergic to any of these that commercial tomato products are a problem, you might consider making your own. Garden tomatoes picked ripe are the best for this, both because they have the best flavor and because they are not coated with wax containing corn, soy or dairy products and have not been gassed with ethylene gas made from corn. Roma tomatoes have more pulp, which makes them excellent for making tomato sauce or tomato paste. 

     4 lbs. vine-ripened  tomatoes, peeled (see Produce in the Glossary). 
     4 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (See Juice  in the Glossary)

     Cut each tomato into a few pieces. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan with a small splash of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for half an hour. At this point the tomato pieces should be coming apart and the seeds should be softened up so that a blender can break them up. Process the tomatoes, in batches, in a blender. If there are still too many visible seeds to suit you, you can strain them out using a food mill or a sieve with a fine enough mesh. (Remember that any remaining seeds will become more apparent as you reduce the tomatoes.) Put the tomatoes back in the saucepan and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered until they reach the tomato sauce consistency you like, probably when their volume is reduced by about half. Add the lemon juice. Do not skip this step if you are planning to can your sauce: one purpose of the lemon juice is to ensure the sauce is acidic enough that you can safely can it at home. Refrigerate or can the sauce.


Simmered for 1/2 hour, blended, and brought back to a boil.
In another hour or two this will look like the sauce shown above.

 Tomato Paste

     To turn your tomato sauce into tomato paste, just keep simmering it uncovered until it reaches the tomato paste consistency you like, probably when its volume is reduced by about half again. Note that as it becomes thicker it will require more attention to keep it from sticking and burning. Near the end you will need to keep it at the lowest boil possible and stir frequently. Refrigerate or can the paste.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Roasted Yams/Sweet Potatoes

The yellow ones are sweet potatoes, and the orange ones
are yams. Yams are just sweet potatoes that have been bred
to be orange.

     Discovering you're allergic to most bread, whether the problem is wheat or yeast, is a good reason for brushing up your skills on cooking alternate carbs such as yams and sweet potatoes. These can be perplexing: they're good baked, but they don't mash as smooth as regular potatoes and they tend not to crisp up as easily as regular potatoes.

     This recipe produces excellent roasted rounds of sweet potato or yam, soft on the inside and browned and crisp on the outside.

     2 yams or sweet potatoes
     1 quart of water
     *1/4 c. rice syrup 
     1 Tb. salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
     1/4 tsp. baking soda
     oil (See Oil in the Glossary)

     Preheat oven to 425 F. Add the rice syrup, salt and baking soda to the water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the yams and slice them into 1" rounds. Add the yams to the boiling water (which should cover the yams), bring it back up to a boil and simmer until the yams are softened, up to 8 minutes. Drain, and stir the yams gently with a big spoon. At this point they will have a questionable-looking, gooey texture. Do not be alarmed: this means the baking soda and syrup have done their job and the yams are ready to crisp up. Resist any temptation to add spices at this point: they would scorch and leave nasty, bitter flavors.

      Spread out on a thoroughly greased cooky sheet and bake until mostly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Spray the tops with oil. Remove from oven; separate each round from the cooky sheet with a spatula and flip it over. Bake another 15-20 minutes, until browned on both sides.

     Alternatively, once the rounds have been boiled as described above, they can be fried on both sides in a bit of oil at medium high heat.

*Note that some rice syrup is not gluten-free, as the processing involves enzymes which may have been derived from barley. Watch for gluten-free syrup if this is an issue.