Anyone can be "the family chef". You just need good recipes and techniques! Chef Amy Fothergill shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.

Get information here about her cookbook, The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sauteed Chard with Parmesan Cream Sauce and Pasta

I went to our local farmer's market last week and was just...inspired. You might remember me writing about how farmer's markets used to be somewhat intimidating to me. I just didn't know what to do. This week, I walked around, stopping here and there and getting this and that. The children were with me, which has it challenges, but they soon made me proud. When we stopped at the Tunitas Creek Ranch booth which sells beautiful organic produce, I asked them to pick something out. I often refer to chard as spinach to keep it easy. My daughter liked the chard that was multi-colored; the bundle had red, yellow and white chard stalks. I must admit, it was pretty.

A few days went by and I slowly used up my strawberries, artichoke and raspberries that we had gotten from other vendors that day. I wanted to use the chard and my favorite way to make it is with sauteed onions. When I've added it to potatoes au gratin, I also add bacon. The children had asked for pasta so I opted for that instead of potatoes. Hey, if they are going to eat chard, I should give them some say in the preparation. I still had fresh, shelled peas from the market as well as parsley. I noticed a can of cannellini beans in the pantry and a small amount of half and half. That's how this dish was created; very off the cuff and spontaneously.

I didn't spend a lot of time measuring so I'll give you my best bet on the amounts. It's really about technique. And watching a 5 and 3 year old inhale this made me realize it's more about the flavor than what's in it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Sauteed Chard with Parmesan Cream Sauce and Pasta

1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 pieces of bacon, chopped (I had some turkey bacon in the freezer and used that)
Olive oil
Ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large bundle of chard, rinsed
8 oz pasta (I used gluten-free rice pasta tubes)
8 oz fresh shelled peas
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 Tbl half and half
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbl fresh parsley, torn into pieces
Salt to taste

1. Saute onion and bacon in olive oil until lightly browned. Add pepper.
2. Cut bottom of stalk of chard. Cut remaining stalk into slices. Cut chard in half and then cut across to get strips. Place in a bowl of water for 5 minutes to remove excess dirt.
3. Once onions are browned, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Take chard out of water and place in pan (do not pour out water or the dirt will remain on the leaves). Cover and cook about 5-10 minutes or until chard is wilted. Stir every few minutes.
4. Bring water to a boil while chard is cooking and cook pasta. Add peas to the boiling water for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
5. Add beans to chard and cook for a few minutes to heat up with the cover off. Add half and half, cheese, and parsley and stir.
6. Drain pasta and peas and toss with sauce. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Artichokes with Lemon Garlic Aioli

Artichokes with a Lemon Garlic Aioli

Growing up in an Italian household, we ate a lot of artichokes. My mom liked to stuff hers with seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese. I remember loving the breadcrumbs, tolerating the leaves and fighting over the heart.

Now, I live in the "heart" of artichoke country in California. How lucky for me! I was at our local farmer's market this weekend and these artichokes just called to me. I just had to have some. We are also fortunate to have access to Giusti Farms. This family has been growing artichokes out here for generations and are some of the only people that still grow the globe type.

I got some great information from my friend Erin, specifically about this vegetable. She told me that it:
used to be artichokes were a rather rare, seasonal plant, that over the years have been hybridized so that now you can grow then from seed. The resulting chokes went from bad to mediocre and back, as often happens: great flavor and dense rich hearts traded in for longer season and higher yield of larger chokes you could get year round. The pendulum has swung the other way, and now the seed chokes are better, but nothing but nothing can touch a globe type choke for flavor, nutrition and just plain beauty if you ask me - and the Giusti's still grow them.

Very interesting! I knew there was a reason I liked them so much.

Don't be intimidated by artichokes; the cooking process is easy. Start by preparing the artichoke. A long, sharp knife is necessary, though. Cut the bottom to make it flat, right above the bottom of the heart, cut the top off and then snip the sharp leaves with scissors to make them flat at the top of each leaf. Place as many artichokes as you have in a pot that will fit them sitting up. Place enough water so that the artichoke is sitting in about 1" or less of water. Add fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt (and garlic optionally). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until leaves and bottom are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Serve with the aioli below.

And although I've made artichokes my whole life, I haven't made homemade mayonnaise since college! Isn't that funny? I was looking through a cookbook and I thought to myself, this is easy, I should just make it.

I adapted this recipe from the book Julia's Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child. I made a few adjustments because I didn't want to use 3 eggs. Enjoy but remember there is always a risk of salmonella when eating raw eggs. I would not serve this to children, the elderly or anyone who has any immune deficiency issues. You could always add lemon juice and fresh garlic to commercial mayonnaise if you were worried.

Lemon Garlic Aioli
Makes about 2 cups

2 eggs
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2-1 tsp salt (start with 1/2 and increase, tasting in between)
1/8 tsp white pepper
1-1 1/2 c olive or vegetable oil (or a combination)
1-3 garlic cloves, minced

1. Have a food processor or blender ready. Break eggs over a bowl, crack and pour out about half of the egg white. Put the remaining white and all of the yolk into the processor or blender. Repeat with other egg. Reserve leftover white for another use.
2. Process 30-45 seconds. With machine running, add lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
3. Still with machine running, and by very small driplets at first, start adding 1/2 cup of oil, then add more until the desired consistency is reached.
4. Taste and add more lemon juice, mustard, and/or salt as needed.
5. If you don't want to make all of this garlic flavored, spoon out desired amount and add garlic to taste, starting with 1/2 minced garlic clove. The amount of garlic depends upon your taste and how much aioli you have reserved.
6. Make sure to refrigerate any leftover. This will keep about a week. Aioli can be used for other salads or dips.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wheat-Free Banana Muffins or Bread

Like most people, I don't like to throw out food. Most food, as it gets "older" just gets closer and closer to the garbage (or disposal or compost bin). But one food, bananas, can change from a mushy, smelly fruit to a delicious muffin or bread.

For whatever reason, last week, I bought too many bananas. Today I had 5, gold in color with brown spots. I figured I could use 3 for muffins. I have also been trying to go gluten free for the last 2 weeks and doing very well. However, the last 2 days I have re-introduced barley and have had some oats. My system seems to think this is ok, so I decided to try the muffins made with these flours instead of traditional white (which is derived from wheat) flour. I have been hearing more and more that our bodies, especially when we (ahem) get older, can have a hard time digesting wheat. It also means I have to be more creative with other grains, fruits and veggies.

The other part of the story is the topping. I meant to put some chopped walnuts in the batter and realized right after I had portioned the muffins, I had left it out. I put about 1 tsp of nuts on each muffin along with maybe 1/2 tsp of brown sugar. I gave it a little stir and hoped for the best. That was a good mistake!

Anyway, I hope you'll give these a try. Of course, you can use wheat flour (white or whole wheat) if you don't have barley or oat.

**Please note: these are NOT gluten-free; only wheat-free. I made them while I was experimenting with a wheat-free diet. I have learned I cannot tolerate barley.

Wheat-Free Banana Muffins or Bread

1 cup Barley flour
1 cup Oat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle of cinnamon (to taste)

2 large eggs
1/3 cup melted butter or veg oil
2/3 cup milk or yogurt (I had used sweetened yogurt, therefore only used 1/2 cup sugar)
1/2 – 3/4 cup sweetener like sugar, brown sugar, succanat, etc
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 ripe, mashed bananas

Optional: add ½ cup chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans to the wet ingredients.

1. Pre-heat oven (see Temperature Guidelines below) and get pans ready.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (first 6 ingredients).
3. In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, then add the butter or oil, milk or yogurt, sugar, vanilla and banana.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently.
5. Portion out muffins or loaf.

Tip: If using a muffin tin, try using an ice cream scoop. If you don’t have one, go to a restaurant supply store that sells many different sizes; these are the best ones.

Temperature Guidelines:
1 loaf pan: Bake at 350° F for 45-55 minutes.
Regular muffin pan: Bake at 375° F for 20-25 minutes, yield 12-16 muffins
Mini muffin pan: Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes, yield 40 mini muffins

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why Gluten Free?

I recently (12 days to be exact) decided to try a gluten free diet. I teach gluten free classes. I cooked gluten free for my daughter for a year. There are people who don't have a choice, like those who have celiac disease. Some people have been told by their doctor to cut out gluten based on tests. Others have done elimination diets and found when gluten was reintroduced, their bodies rebelled. We hear about it more and more.

There is one story in particular that I always remembered in the back of my mind. A friend of a friend went gluten free (possibly by the recommendation of a doctor or she might have just done it on her own; that part I can't recall). She found that she felt much better. She had lived with her stomach being upset almost every day, thinking it was normal; until she cut out the gluten.

I have never had stomach pain to the point of needing a doctor, just a mild inconvenience/unsettling. Again, if I thought about it, I might notice it but most of the time, I didn't. It was enough to make me curious. Plus, I wanted to live in the shoes of someone who wasn't eating gluten.

During my gluten free classes, I have met so many people that have this condition or cook for someone who does. I wanted to try it and felt I had nothing to lose. So that's why I'm doing it. You might be wondering what has happened in those 12 days.

I have lost 3 lbs. I feel lighter. I notice less "gurgling" going on. Of course, this makes sense. I'm eating less carbs. I have to be more creative when I eat and cook. I'm eating more fruits, vegetables and protein (that seems like a good idea!). Although one friend couldn't understand why I was doing it, I think "why not"?

If you are considering it, you do need to do your research. Gluten is inherently in wheat, rye, barley and a few other grains (although I've been reading that the gluten in things like kamut and spelt is not as harsh as wheat). Because malt is derived from barley, it often has gluten. Check the labels of Rice Krispies and a few other cereals; they have gluten in them. Gluten is not in oats but, because oats are often processed on machines with wheat, rye and barley, it picks up the gluten. If you want oats, look for oats that are specifically gluten free.

If you have celiac, please consult a doctor or dietitian. You don't want to take any chances. And if you have an intolerance, you will soon learn whether that's a 100% intolerance or not. It all depends upon the side effects.

For now, I'm going to do this for another 3 weeks. After that time, I might try to reintroduce barley or kamut. Maybe it's just wheat that my body is sensitive to. Either way, I'm happy to feel better and maybe lose a few pounds along the way.


Now it's been almost a month and I'm still feeling good. I feel like I have more energy and just feel "level" most of the time. It's so hard to describe the before and after feeling.

I have eaten muffins with barley and oat flour. Although I felt a slight change in my gastric health, it was nothing serious. But I do think I know what the connection for me and gluten. It's nothing I can't live with but I'm still choosing to avoid it. Last night I did allow myself to have one piece of flatbread pizza and breaded calamari. I went to bed not feeling great but woke up with no adverse affects.

I'll continue to do updates and try my best to be mostly GF. For the cookbook, I'm including both regular recipes as well as the gluten free variation.

I'm teaching an Introduction to Gluten Free Eating and Cooking workshop in Half Moon Bay on May 30 from 10:00am - 12:00pm. If you are interested in learning more, visit my website. Thanks for listening!