Italian


Before I left on vacation, I meant to write a few posts and have them auto-publish. I didn’t quite manage to make it happen. Then, I thought I would post something while I was gone. Um, no. I also packed hazelnuts and flour to make my cake for the Daring Bakers, which also didn’t happen. But, I had a day and a half in Atlanta before the posting deadline, and my roommate’s boyfriend had a birthday, so I was sure I could and would pull off the cake. Enter, the flu. Needless to say, I didn’t bake anything for my roommate’s boyfriend’s birthday. So, it has been a couple of weeks without a post, and a month without Daring Bakers, which is sad. I wish I could say that this delinquent behavior is behind me. But I have my oral exams for my PhD rapidly approaching, and as a result I have been having trouble sleeping, which means that I have had trouble functioning, which means that I’m looking at a very rough month and a half. So, I will try to get some posts up, but it might be more like once a week. Think good thoughts for me. I will need them.

So, where were we, I believe we had just finished the fish course of my five course Italian dinner. Next up, was a meat course, in this case, lamb. We bought a beautiful piece of lamb tenderloin from Star Provisions and cut it into pieces and then batted those pieces into thin strips. We then coated the lamb with a flavorful rub, threaded our skewers, and threw these on the grill. They were amazingly good, and also pretty easy once the lamb was batted (beaten into thin sheets).

Recipe after the Jump

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The second course, of our extravagant Italian meal, was a salad course, featuring another dish from the Almalfi coast. Jamie says that the key to this salad is to slice everything very thin, the thinner the better. Unfortunately, my knife skills are a little lackluster and I don’t own a mandolin, but we persevered anyway. This salad was a nice fresh light contrast to some of the heavier dishes with a lovely combination of flavors and textures. The vegetables are very crunchy with a strong bite, the orange has a pleasant softness and sweetness, and the vinaigrette complements them both.

Recipe 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

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



About a year before I went gluten-free, my brother gave me a pasta maker. I used it twice, then put it away when I gave up wheat. But those two times were magical. The first time, Shannen was visiting from DC, and we invited Su over to help us make tortellini. We went grocery shopping together, bought appetizers to tide us over, and started cooking around 6. Unfortunately, I got a migraine, before we were even halfway done. I spent much of the evening lying on the couch, waiting for the imitrex to kick in, and listening to two of my best friends bond over the finicky pasta machine and the four different recipes they were trying to simultaneously follow (there was the pasta, the filling, the basic tomato sauce, and the tomato cream sauce). I felt better just in time to taste a little of their creation when they finally managed to pull it all together around 9:30 or 10. They were starving, I was nauseous, but the food was fabulous. It might not have been the smoothest evening ever, but that didn’t matter. My kitchen was filled with love, and I felt blessed to have two amazing friends who understood that I wanted to be near them, but couldn’t quite function. They kept cooking, with almost all the lights off, checked on me often, and each made a new friend that night. Lying on the couch, while they made me the dinner I had wanted to make with them, I felt content, and nurtured.

The second time I made homemade pasta was when my sister Kristen visited me. We made the fettuccine and again topped it with a tomato cream sauce. It was a little easier the second time. After all, I didn’t have a migraine. Kristen is nine years younger than me, and growing up fast. She paid for her plane ticket to fly to Atlanta, and held her own in the kitchen. Once again the kitchen was filled with love and laughter, and there were more than enough hands to move the pasta through the machine.

Tonight, though, was a different story. I made ravioli alone. Not only was nobody physically present, but I was feeling cut off from friends and family, sad, and angry. I thought maybe it would be therapeutic. Making pasta is involved, maybe, I thought, it will be distracting. Instead, I kept thinking about those other times, feeling sorry for myself, and wanting desperately to get away from Atlanta. My gluten-free ravioli wasn’t made with love, and I could taste the difference.

I’m not ready to give you a recipe for the ravioli yet, there are some kinks I want to work out, and I don’t know if I can face making pasta again without someone I love in the kitchen with me. But if you do want to make gluten-free ravioli, here are some great places to start:

Gluten Free Girl’s Homemade Ravioli – this recipe was the foundation of my attempt

Gluten Free Sox’s Homemade Mushroom Ravioli – this was a recipe I considered, but I’m not a fan of bean flours so I chose to go another direction, though I did stuff mine with a mushroom filling as well.

I was exhausted last night, and heading to bed, when I thought “hey, if I make up a sponge, I can try making bread again tomorrow.” I’m sure that most people would just have gone to bed… but I did some quick recipe surfing, pulled out my flours, and then realized that all of my measuring cups were dirty, and I had just started the dishwasher, so I couldn’t wash any by hand. Again, most people probably would have just gone to bed, but I scrounged around and came up with a shaker that had liquid ounce measurements on it, and proceeded to use it to measure my flour and my water. It felt a little ridiculous to be measuring flour in a shaker covered with recipes for alcoholic drinks, but it worked. I added the flour and water to my yeast and sugar, and headed off to bed, only twenty minutes or so later than I had intended.

A sponge, or preferment, is a way to give flavor to your bread. Basically, you mix some of your flour with all of your liquid and yeast, and allow the mixture to sit, anywhere from 8 hours to 24, before making your bread. Since I started my sponge last night, when I woke up this morning, I had a happy bubbly bowl full of very liquid dough (which had sat 10 hours). My plan was to cook half of it in my cast iron dutch oven (which is supposed to help give the crust a nice crunch) and then use half of it to make pizza.

The recipe I was playing with was James Beard’s “French-Style” Bread, which my parents always used to make pizza crust when I was a child. The recipe is supposed to make baguettes, and my artisanal-style loaf didn’t rise much higher than a baguette, so no sandwiches. However, the bread is tasty and would be great dunked in olive oil, or as the base for bruschetta.

My version of this bread bears very little resemblance to Beard’s recipe. He does not use a preferment, and uses all-purpose flour. I had to substitute for the flour, add xanthan gum, and add a preferment step. Some things about Beard’s recipe could probably still use some tweaking in my adaptation. I used a tablespoon of yeast, but with the preferment, I could probably cut that back to 2 teaspoons, and possibly even further. Also, the tablespoon of salt seemed a little much as well. Still, I wouldn’t post this, if it wasn’t quite good as is. As bread, this recipe is not perfect, but good. As pizza crust, it is very, very good. Probably the best I’ve had, definitely the best I’ve made since going gluten-free. Maureen agrees. She thinks it tastes like real pizza.

Recipe after the jump

Yesterday I had pizza envy. I had dinner plans and wasn’t going to be home for dinner, so Maureen decided to have Katie over for dinner and order pizza. God, I miss pizza, and I was home while they were trying to figure out where to order it from and what toppings to get. I went to my dinner, had fabulous food, and came home still somehow jealous of the pizza. So I decided to try my hand at pizza today. But you have to realize, I’m nothing but an ambitious girl. Gluten-free pizza recipes don’t excite me. I’ve tried a few recipes, but nothing has come close to what I want. I’m convinced that to find a pizza crust I love, will require major innovations on my part, so I turned today, to the Sullivan Street Pizza recipe that the Baking Babes have been struggling with. I tried this particular recipe because it is a very wet dough, and you need an extremely wet dough in gluten-free bread making. So this recipe already bore a striking resemblance to gluten-free recipes, but with a few distinct differences. First, it used very little yeast, and second it had a very long rise time.

As I planned my attack, I realized that nothing I did was likely to approximate the recipe. For awhile I played with protein percentages in gluten-free flours, trying to match their 11.5%, only to realize that it wouldn’t really matter because gluten-free flours have the wrong type of protein. But, I decided to still go pretty high percentage on high-protein flours, using primarily sorghum and teff (at 10% and 11%). When I mixed the dough, mine quickly turned into that familiar looking batter that lies somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough, and no amount of mixing caused my batter to pull away from the edges of the bowl. At this point, I almost gave up, but I figured I might as well see what happened.

I let my batter rise for four hours, spooned it into a prepared pan (yes, spooned… no stretching was involved), scrambled to make the topping and settled in for failure. I hoped that it would be thin and crispy, but looking at the dough it really didn’t seem possible.

50 minutes later, I pulled this baby out of the oven, and immediately sawed into it with my knife. The crust was definitely crunchy, and the flavor was good, not exceptional but good. I wouldn’t make this the exact same way again, but I might try it again with an even split between teff, sorghum, and tapioca starch.

As far as the topping goes, the purple potatoes were fun, but the combination didn’t really satisfy my pizza craving. I also felt slightly guilty about the ridiculous carb overkill and the severe lack of protein. Still, with salt sprinkled on top, this would be amazing with eggs, and it was rather compelling even on its own.

Does anyone have a gluten-free pizza recipe that they think will revolutionize my understanding of the genre? I would love some help!


Recipe after the jump

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