Appetizers


I can’t believe it has been a month since I last posted. Where have I been? Well, I’ve been studying for, stressing about, and taking my “preliminary PhD exams.” Basically, once I pass them, I will get to start writing my dissertation. Last weekend I took the written portion. I had 72 hours to answer 3 questions for a total of 30+ pages. Mine ended up at 33. I haven’t wanted to touch my computer, or write since. Even though I managed to sleep almost a full eight hours every night (okay the last night I only slept 6), even though I slipped out for yoga around noon on Saturday, the test was excruciating. I had no appetite, my shoulders and back hurt badly, and worst, by halfway through the second day I was exhausted mentally. Try writing ten pages when you are so tired you can’t put together coherent sentences. Not pretty.

Hopefully though, I will pass. A week from Monday I take the oral portion. That part only last two hours. I’m sure it will be challenging and intense, but I think I am ready. I am definitely ready for this to be over.

So, only the Daring Bakers could draw me back into the blogosphere in the middle of this test. But I am glad that they did. This month we made lavash, an Armenian flatbread. Better yet, the recipe was already gluten-free and vegan. We could top the crackers with whatever we wanted, as long as it was vegan. I made hummus for my Lavash. Yum. Thanks Natalie and Shel for a great challenge!

Recipes after the jump!

When my friend Shannen came to visit me last weekend, we had already spent months talking about what we would cook. The gamut ran from the aforementioned croissants, to another round of homemade pasta, to a particular fried chicken recipe we’ve both wanted to try for a long time. However, when she actually showed up, it was with an early birthday present in tow: Jamie’s Italy. Suddenly, all other cooking plans dissipated and we found ourself building a menu for an Italian five course dinner. Being certifiable, we crafted the menu around noon, spent the afternoon shopping for ingredients, started cooking around 4:30, and actually managed to start eating at 7:30. We were very impressed with ourselves.

The food was fabulous, the wine was plentiful, and the company was amazing. What more can you ask of from an impromptu dinner party? In the next week, I will slowly unfold our menu, course by course. First up was the antipasti course, which involved two dishes. The first was a meat platter, which we crafted from the bountiful selection of Star Provisions. We built the platter around three meats: hot sopressata, bresaola, and pancetta. With the help of the cheese monger, we paired the sopressata and the bresaola with very different pecorinos, and we had our first dish. I believe that the pecorino we used with the sopressata was a pecorino sardo, it was mild and creamy and played well off of the spiciness of the sopressata. With the bresaola we used a classic pecorino romano, sharp and salty, shaved over the meat.

Our second antipasti dish was limoni di amalfi cotti al forno or amalfi baked lemons. We all agreed that this dish was one of the best of the evening. The cheese really picks up a strong lemon flavor and the anchovies melt away, leaving only a feint nuttiness. I had some trepidations about using the anchovies, having had a bad experience in the past. But apparently the key is getting jarred instead of canned, and splurging on higher quality anchovies doesn’t hurt either. Basil, picked fresh from my garden, and organic cherry tomatoes from my CSA finished off the dish nicely.

Recipe after the jump

For about six months I’ve had a large container of dried chickpeas hanging out in my pantry. So the other day it seemed time to put them to good use. I needed something to take to a party on Friday, and thought hummus would be perfect. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that after soaking the chickpeas, I would still have to cook them for an hour or two. I made up some gluten-free french bread instead, which was very much appreciated by the hostess, who is also gluten-free. Of course, when I got home, there was still a giant pot full of chickpeas crying out for my attention. So on Saturday, I made hummus, and on a whim, some pita to go along with it. I didn’t even realize how much I had missed flat bread, until I took my first bite. In a year of being gluten-free, I’ve never tried to make any flat bread, probably because it is easier to just eat rice with Indian food or just put sandwich fixings over salad greens. But now, I can’t wait to make up another batch. The hummus was very good too, much better than the stuff you buy in tubs at the supermarket, but also a little less smooth and refined. Apparently if you peel the chickpeas you can make your homemade hummus extra smooth, but I didn’t have the patience.

Recipes after the Jump

calamari

Fried chicken, onion rings, fried shrimp, fried calamari… these are a few of the things that threaten to disappear when you go gluten-free. But, with a little hot oil, and a little practice, you can welcome these treats back into your life. Tonight I tried my hand at calamari. I had never cooked squid before or deep-fat fried anything so I was a little intimidated. Luckily, when you fry squid, you work in batches, which means that I was able to refine my technique. The first handful of squid absorbed too much oil (because the oil wasn’t hot enough), the second handful became rubbery (because I let them cook for the full 2 minutes suggested by the recipe). But the third batch was perfect. The key was, to make sure the oil was hot enough before adding the squid, and to cook for approximately 45 second. Now, I bought my squid already cleaned and cut into rings, which happened to be very small. For larger squid rings, 1-2 minutes is probably perfectly appropriate, so you might need to play a little with the timing.

Recipe after the jump