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.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Homemade chicken broth recipe

Often, when I see chef's on TV saying, "Oh, just make your own chicken broth; it's so easy", I think, do they have soccer games, birthday parties and laundry to do? But every once in a while, like after I have a rotisserie chicken, I will make my own broth. When it's all done, I realize it is worth it once in a while for two reasons: flavor and cost.

The flavor of freshly made chicken broth really can't compare to anything in a carton. It can be used to make chicken or bean soup, risotto, quinoa, rice or gravy. As I type, the house has a delicious smell of chicken wafting through it.

The other big advantage of homemade broth is that it's so economical. Earlier in the week, I brought home a $10 all-natural, no antibiotics rotisserie chicken. After 20 minutes of cooling, I removed all of the meat. I used the breast for 4 sandwiches over the next 2 days and the rest of the meat for a delicious chicken stew. I had leftover meat that we nibbled on the day after. I saved the carcass and bones to make the broth later. The veggies were cheap and I really look at the bones as being almost free since often they are thrown out anyway.

If you are looking to save some money or get a terrific broth, do like our moms did and make your own once in a while. You'll be glad you did.

Homemade Chicken Broth

1 chicken carcass (or bones from breast, leg and thigh)
Water to just cover carcass (I used about 12 cups)
2-3 tsp sea salt
1 tsp peppercorns (if you use ground pepper, use 1/2 tsp but your broth will have specks)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3-4 pieces
2 celery ribs, chopped into 3-4 pieces
1/2 onion, cut into 3-4 chunks
1 bay leaf (I didn't have one this time but I do prefer to use it; I suppose it makes it optional)

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot on the stove and cover. Heat to medium and cover. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook about 2 hours. Cool 1 hour. Pour through strainer.

Yield 3 qts (or about 3 containers for which you pay at least $2 each)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Polenta lasagna with roasted veggies and gorgonzola recipe

This went so quickly, there are no other pictures!

When I'm asked to create a recipe, I often have what I call a vision of a dish. I know it should work because I've done something similar before and I'm generally good at putting flavors together.

For a dish for the CUESA Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market Food Wise booth (Tuesdays at 12:30), the only requirement is to use something from the Tuesday Farmer's Market. That picture is from last month when I served a delicious strawberry tart.

In the summer, there's such a nice variety of vegetables from which to choose, it is a hard decision. Initially I was going to do a Polenta topped with Roasted Vegetables but it would be hard to serve in little cups. Then I thought to put the vegetables between the polenta to make it more of a lasagna. I've made something like this before, layering it with bleu cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

However, there's nothing like a strong cheese like gorgonzola with roasted vegetables so that became my inspiration. With Cow Girl Creamery located inside of the Ferry Building, the choice was easy. If you don't have access to a creamy gorgonzola or bleu, use any cheese that you like. As we were walking around the market, the basil looked so nice I thought to incorporate that as well. If you don't have fresh basil you can either skip it or use pesto.

Although I had tasted each of the components (an absolute must in cooking), after serving a tray of it, I realized I hadn't tried it all together. I was so happily surprised! I expected it to be good but it was really good. When we ran out at 45 minutes later, I knew it was a hit. People liked the fact that it was also vegetarian and gluten-free.

As always, I encourage you to try something new. Someone asked if you could use pre-made polenta. The look on my face must have been priceless. If you've never made polenta before I encourage you to try it. Follow the instructions below and you will see how simple it really is. And notice I don't label this dish with summer veggies. You can make it all year round. Enjoy!

Polenta Lasagna with Roasted Veggies and Creamy Gorgonzola

3-4 cups assorted vegetables, chopped in bite size pieces, for example: onion, pepper, zucchini, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, grape or cherry tomatoes (keep whole), eggplant, sweet potatoes, etc.
1-2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Seasonings like thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, and herbs de Provence (1/4 - 1/2 tsp of each)
2 cloves or minced fresh garlic

1. Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.

2. Place veggies on a bowl with oil and seasonings and toss. Taste one of the vegetables, for example zucchini, to make sure it's seasoned well.

3. Place in roasting pan and bake about 15-20 minutes or until softened and golden, stirring once. Taste one of the vegetables to make sure they are done.

Polenta and Lasagna Assembly
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 c polenta
1/2 c grated Italian cheese like Parmesan or Peccorino Romano
1/2 c milk or broth (vegetable or chicken)
2-3 Tbl unsalted butter
1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, couple of pinches of crushed red pepper.

Other ingredients: 8 oz creamy gorgonzola or bleu cheese
2-3 thinly sliced tomatoes (patted dry)
Few basil leaves, torn into pieces
Few pinches of salt
1/4 c grated parm cheese

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium to large pot. Add salt. While water is boiling, slowly add polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Lower heat.

2. Add cheese, milk, butter and seasonings. Simmer until thickened, whisking occasionally. If bubbling, lower the heat; polenta will be very hot and can burn you.

3. Continue to cook for about 15-20 minutes or until thick and pulling away from the sides. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the polenta tastes flat, add more salt, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese.

4. Pour half into a greased baking pan, no larger than 13"x 9", and spread with a spatula to make flat. Top with roasted vegetables and the gorgonzola or bleu cheese. Spread remaining polenta on top. Top with tomato slices, basil pieces and sprinkle salt on top.

5. Bake in a 375F oven for 25 minutes. Add more cheese. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes or more before cutting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gluten-free Margherita Pizza recipe

That's me, serving the GF Pizza while everyone waits patiently

Last month, I taught a Gluten-Free Baking class. It always gives me pleasure to see people get excited about good tasting food. I think this is especially the case with gluten-free because there is a lot gluten-free food out there that isn't good.

For this recipe, once you make the dough, the rest is easy. And now that it's summer with so many wonderful tomatoes and fresh basil, you can make this dish any night of the week. There are three things that I do think are important:
  • Pre-cook the crust for 5 minutes
  • Use tomato slices that aren't too juicy
  • Remove some of the moisture from the fresh mozzarella slices
Since the recipe is straight forward, let's get right to it. I have to say, it was one of my best creations. I hope you'll try it.

Gluten-Free Margherita Pizza

1 gluten-free pizza crust (recipe here)
2-3 fresh tomatoes, sliced (cut in half first, squeeze a little to remove some juice, then slice)
1 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into slices and placed on a plate with either a paper towel or kitchen towel to absorb moisture
2-3 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Handful of fresh basil

1. Prepare crust. If you don't have a pizza stone, use a round baking sheet. Make sure to use the parchment paper and the cornmeal. Also, if you prefer a thinner crust, divide the dough between two sheets.

2. After the dough has pre-cooked for 5 minutes, remove from the oven. First, layer the tomatoes on the dough, leaving space for the crust. Top with cheese and then drizzle olive oil all over. Sprinkle salt and then place basil leaves on top.

3. Bake another 7-10 minutes or until crust is brown and cheese is melted. For a crispier crust, slide dough directly onto oven rack for the last 3 minutes (place a baking sheet under to "catch" the cornmeal).

4. Cool about 3 minutes and then enjoy. You are welcome.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Easy Black Bean Soup recipe

Soups are economical and easy to prepare. Generally, the way I make it is the same. Sauté the vegetables with seasonings. Add broth and other pantry ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer. My soup recipes all have a pattern. Once you learn how to make soup, it’s so easy to change a few ingredients and have a new dish.

For example, instead of black beans, you can use white beans and change the seasonings from Mexican to Italian (use oregano instead of cumin, coriander and chile powder). Instead of cilantro, add chopped parlsey; instead of tortilla strips, add pasta; and instead of cheddar cheese, add grated Parmesan. It's all about the process.

I love this soup because it just tastes so good and it's easy to make. If you need an overview on soups, check my prior blog post "How to Make Soup" in which I go over some basics. Most of the ingredients can be kept in the pantry with the exception of the carrots and celery (and really, these keep a long time in the fridge).

The next time you find yourself saying, "what should I make for dinner?", why not try this recipe? You will be happy you did!

Black Bean Soup

Bean Soup Base:
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
Seasonings: 1 Tbl mild chili powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, and oregano
1 c or 8 oz chopped ham (optional)

2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed or 4 cups of cooked beans
1 qt chicken or vegetable broth

Optional Ingredients: 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

Toppings: 1/2 c shredded cheddar, 2-3 Tbl chopped cilantro, 1/2 c sour cream, crushed tortilla chips

1. Heat pot to medium first. Add oil, then add onion, carrot, celery, and seasonings. Stir once and cook, stirring only occasionally, making sure vegetables don’t burn but that they are browning.

2. After a few minutes, add the ham and stir once. Continue cooking until ham has browned and vegetables are soft.

3. Add garlic and salt and cook for 1 more minute.

4. Add beans and broth. If you want something more like chili, add the can of diced tomatoes.

5. Simmer about 30 minutes. Top each bowl with cheddar, cilantro, sour cream and tortilla strips.

Gluten-Free Tip: Make sure the broth you use is gluten-free. Also, you might need to check the beans with the manufacturer to make sure they were not processed on machines that process foods with gluten. Everything else should be gluten-free as long as it has been handled appropriately, without any cross contamination issues (e.g. cutting the vegetables on a cutting board which has been used to cut regular bread).

How to Make Soup

For some people, soup can be a hard dish to make. My mother used to say if you didn't season it correctly, it would taste like dishwater (true, very true). So, this is where The Family Chef comes in.

I like to make soup for my family for a number of reasons: it's easy, economical, usually nutritious and tastes good. Just follow these easy steps and you are on your way.

Cook the Mirepoix (seen above)
A mirepoix is a French term and in it’s basic form is a combination of chopped onions, celery and carrots. It’s the base for many soups as well as stocks which are use for gravies and sauces. Try to keep these three vegetables on hand so that making a soup is a breeze any night of the week. When I make soup, I also add chopped ham or a ham hock for a wonderful smoky flavor. If you are vegetarian or don't have it, it's ok to leave it out.

When you cook the mirepoix, add the seasonings except salt and fresh garlic. Salt will extract the moisture and make the veggies sweat. I prefer a saute for nice browning. If the veggies are getting very dry, add a pinch of salt but no more. Otherwise, add the salt with the broth and then at the end if it's needed (or tastes like dishwater).

Fresh garlic will brown and turn bitter if overcooked. Add it right before you add the liquid.

Add the Main Ingredients
Once the mirepoix is cooked, the next step is easy; add broth and your main ingredients.

You can add any type of broth like chicken, vegetable or beef. I like two brands: Pacific organic chicken broth or Better Than Bouillon; the latter is a paste that is mixed with water. It enables you to make exactly the amount needed.

For the main ingredient, I usually use beans or legumes. I use canned beans when I'm in a hurry; lentils and split peas only take 30 minutes to cook. Dried beans can be cooked in 2-3 hours if you plan ahead (check this article on how to do it).

Other ingredients I usually add are diced, canned tomatoes, with their juice.

Simmer Away
Once all of your ingredients are in the pot, bring the soup to a boil and then lower to a simmer. For a thicker soup, leave the cover off. For a more brothy soup, keep covered but make sure the heat is turned to low so it's simmering and not boiling.

Cooking Grains in Soup
Towards the end of the cooking process, I like to add some type of grain to make it a complete meal. Unless I have leftovers in the fridge, I cook rice, quinoa or pasta in the soup itself. Here are some tips:
  1. Add broth or extra water to the soup, usually 2-3 times the amount of water as the grain. Return to a simmer.
  2. Add dry pasta, rice or a grain to the soup. For example, I would add 2 cups of extra water and 1 cup of pasta.
  3. Cook an additional 10-35 minutes. For example, brown rice or barley would need the longest cooking time.
So, that's it. Pretty simple right? There are many of you out there that want a recipe. Never fear, my Black Bean Soup will be posted next. Enjoy!