Clara Gluten Free

Blog Update

So, I've been working on adding more information to the information pages, which means that I'd like to introduce the About Me pages and the Recipe List page. The About Me, is well, all about me and the Recipe List page is a index of all the recipes that I have blogged, listed by type of food. I'm still working on getting everything there, but that should be current very soon. In the meantime- is the layout of the blog good? Is there anything you would like to see?

Since I have no food photograph to share today, I thought I'd show a picture of the scene that often greets me when I go to blog or work on my computer....  :)



Sauteed Polenta + Brussel Sprouts

The plan was to make something hearty and comforting without being either macaroni and cheese or tuna melts or peanut butter and jelly, which is a tall order in my house. So I decided to go the polenta-and-brussel-sprouts -and fried tomato- route. Of course. 


I've found that brussel sprouts taste like mini-cabbages if you eat them raw, but are remarkably rich and filling and savory if they are sauteed brown and drizzled with a bit of butter and salt/pepper. I'd make them everyday, if I hadn't promised to introduce new veggies to the menu slowly. As for the polenta, I found quinoa polenta (because in my book, there is no such thing as too much quinoa) at the store, in one of those nifty tubes. I sliced it moderately thin (about 1/4") and topped with lightly fried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Torched, to melt the cheese of course. The richness of the polenta and cheese with the acid of the tomatoes worked remarkably well together- not so heavy as to feel like I needed a steak knife to eat it, but still hearty. This went very well with the brussel sprouts, which means that I have figured out a new comfort-food meal. Definitely an achievement. However, one observation, well actually two: First- I fried the tomatoes in only a little bit of oil to soften them up and deepen/brown the flavor, but I've found that this only works if I dry out the tomatoes first. Otherwise they end up really slimy. And second- slimy is not comforting. Its, uhh, slimy. 

Polenta with Fried Tomatoes and Mozzarella- makes about 15 pieces 

Polenta (from a tube), sliced into 1/4" pieces
3 medium tomatoes
approx 1 1/2 cups fresh, sliced or shredded mozzarella

1- slice the tomatoes into 1/4 slices, cover a plate with paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Lay the tomatoes on top, sprinkle with salt, and cover with more paper towels. Lay a flat cutting board on top and weigh down (the toaster works well). Let stand for 30 minutes

2- Heat medium non-stick or cast iron frying pan or saute pan to medium heat. Brown both slices of polenta, being sure to flip them carefully. 

3- Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan to high heat and cover the bottom of the pan with a tablespoon or two of oil. Place the tomatoes in- and be sure to a splatter screen, as burning bits of oil or tomato juice will be apt to escape. After 2-3 minutes (or when sufficiently brown), carefully flip the tomatoes.

4- Lay out the polenta slices on a glass cutting board, top each with tomato and mozzarella. Torch to melt the mozzarella. Alternatively, do this on a broiler-safe pan and broil for a bout 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and melty. Serve once the cheese has cooled and set a bit. 


Sauteed Brussel Sprouts- serves 6

About 4 cups of brussel sprouts
High-temperature oil
2 tbs butter, melted
salt + pepper

1- Wash the sprouts, trim the stems and ugly leaves off and quarter.

2- In a pan preheated to high-heat, saute the sprouts, with the lid on the pan (this will make the sprouts steam  and cook softer) for about 15 minutes or until almost sufficiently brown. Remove the top to crisp up the sprouts. 

3- Combine the butter, salt and pepper. Remove the sprouts from heat, and place in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with butter mixture and serve immediately. 





Torched Tuna Melts

Just to be crystal clear...I love my blow torch. I think I use it about as frequently as my 10" non-stick fry pan, which is about 3-5 times a week. No, I do not make creme brulee or sear tuna 3-5 times a week (I wish!!), but I do use the torch a lot. Honestly, mostly to melt cheese onto things, or anything else I would use the broiler for. Instead of blanching-and-shocking tomatoes to remove the skin (or peaches, I bet) you can torch the skin and it will peel off. Or you can crisp up the skin of a roast chicken in a few minutes, or you can blacken the edges of just about anything in a second or two (you can even do that intentionally if you want!), or you can roast peppers or do anything else that might require high, direct heat. It's not unlike using the flame of a single gas grill burner inside, in the kitchen. Or you can melt cheese.


There is really not much to this tuna melt recipe...except it gives me another reason to turn on my torch. So, I won't include a recipe other than to say- cover slices of bread (defrosted or toasted) with tuna salad and top with cheese, then torch until brown; serve once the cheese sets and follow up with blowtorch-made s'mores. 

Pesto

I've been on the look out for a good pesto recipe, partly because I like herbs, mostly because I like basil, certainly because I like green food (or green anything), and of course, because I love pasta, and the GF glass-noodles I like really need a sauce. Last summer, we got lots of basil from the CSA, so making pesto has been floating around in my neurons for a while now, but I hadn't found anything I liked. So, when an Italian-cooking friend sent me a fantastic recipe, that was, well, pretty fantastic. 


Of course, the first thing I did was confuse the recipe (as in I put in tablespoons of oil, not 1 1/2 cups), but I can say, that even that worked. Huzzah for yummy and adaptable! But more importantly, what's so great about this recipe is it's flavors, especially the lemon juice. I noticed that it balanced out the richness of the nuts and the olive oil and brightened everything up. Pesto can be surprisingly dark and heavy, which has been the main strike I have against it. Instead, the lemon really brought out the flavor of the basil and the parsley. It even got me wondering about making a version with other herbs. Cilantro? Mint? Sage? Something else? In the meantime- fantastic basil pesto anyone?

Tay Tay's Pesto- makes about 4 cups

1- combine in a large food processor or blender: 



2 cups of fresh italian (flat leaf) parsley

1 1/2 cups of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic (best if sautéed a bit)
1 cup of grated romano cheese
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/2 cup of pine nuts.



2- After processing until smooth, add in:  


3 firmly packed cups of fresh basil
 Salt +  pepper

3- Process again, serve immediately. Or refrigerate until needed or freeze for a couple of days. 


*My notes:

If you can't find gluten-free romano cheese, Parmesan can work too. It's more savory and a bit saltier (so you can drop the salt from the recipe) but often easier to find. In any case, the freshness of the herbs and the quality of the cheese and the olive oil will make the pesto. 

You can toast the pine nuts- this will darken the flavor and increase the nuttiness, but it is nice variation. 

Also, if you use only about 3-5 tbs of oil, you will get a very fluffy paste. I've been thinking I'll do that again, and serve it on top of fresh mozzarella or tomatoes or both.