Archive for the ‘ Gluten-Free ’ Category

BABA GANOUSH

Sure, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and while I could offer you a few variations on classic Irish dishes like corned beef and colcannon, something has me craving Middle Eastern food instead.  So, this week I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes from Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, all culminating in a dish that will be able to take advantage of each flavorful offering in the group. How about a dip to start?

Like its cousin hummus, baba ganoush is now offered by a myriad of producers and can be found at almost any major grocery store.  While most of it is good, I’ve found that nothing quite compares with a batch of the homemade stuff.  An essential component of any good mezze platter or vegetarian plate at most restaurants, this eggplant dip is as healthy as it is flavorful. For those who’ve never tried it, imagine a smoky spread that is as at once creamy and light, tangy and sweet and as good with warm pita bread at is with crunchy crudite.

At its best, baba is always a contrast of flavors and textures, but the exact ratio of lemon juice to tahini, the consistency from rough chopped to food processor smooth, the addition of a lot or a little garlic, etc. is in the eye mouth of the beholder. And of course, there is no way quite as effective to ensure that a dish is made to your tastes than to make it yourself. So, while I’ve included a handful of measurements in the recipe, keep in mind that they are merely guidelines that can easily be adjusted to suit your own taste, and that technique is what’s most important in creating a outstanding eggplant dip.

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SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW

Sausage and Lentil Stew

Let’s be honest — this dish isn’t going to be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon.  With it’s reddish-brown color scheme and thick, chili-like texture, this isn’t the type of recipe that turns many heads on Foodgawker or Tastespotting.  So, like a friend who’s just set you up on a blind date with an aesthetically challenged individual, I implore you to move past its humble appearance and try to get to know the soul of this comforting dish.

For me, this is cold weather fare at its best.  A warm, stick-to-your-ribs type meal that’s like a hug from a loved one.  Creamy lentils and sausages combine to produce a dish that is both high in protein and rich in savory flavor.  The best part? It’s cheap and simple to make.  In fact, you probably already have everything to make it your kitchen.  All you really need is a handful of lentils, a few sausages from the fridge, a leftover glass of wine, and you can have a filling and satisfying meal at a moment’s notice.  This is hearty food that reheats well and makes great leftovers.

If looks don’t matter, you might have found your new soul mate.

Continue reading lentil stew recipe . . .

PANANG BEEF CURRY

Panang Beef Curry

Ah, the good ol’ days: when spending 30 bucks on Thai takeout was just your typical Wednesday night. Now, income-less, Thai food along with Chinese and pizza seems like quite the luxury. These days I’m making my own Thai food, and to be honest, not missing a thing.  At home, I make Thai food the way I like it.  Very spicy, fairly salty and just a little sweet. Such is the beauty of having curry pastes sitting in your freezer ready at your disposal.  What seems like an exotic and esoteric cuisine on the surface is actually fairly simple to prepare at home.

I like to think of panang as a great beginner curry for those that are new to Thai cuisine.  Reminiscent of everybody’s favorite peanut dipping sauce which accompanies the ubiquitous satay, panang is at once both bright and aromatic while at the same time, rich and comforting.

I’m lucky enough to live in San Francisco where I can find pretty much anything I need at any of the many Asian markets.  However, if you love Thai food and can’t find a store that stocks such items as palm sugar, lime leaves, or good Thai coconut milk, check out www.importfood.com for everything you need (and then some).

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PANANG CURRY PASTE

Panang Curry Paste

Maybe I watched too many episodes of The Naked Chef when I was younger, but in my mind, there are few kitchen activities more satisfying than giving a handful of aromatic herbs and spices a good pounding in a large, heavy mortar. Handmade pesto is great and whole-toasted spices don’t last a second in the bowl of a nice granite model, but for me, it’s in the act of making Thai curry paste that Iget the most out of one of my simplest kitchen tools.

Making curry paste the authentic way is a tactile and fragrant experience. In fact, things oftentimes get so aromatic that Lauren practically has to lock herself in our bedroom to avoid the pungent odor of toasted shrimp paste – an essential component of true Thai curry. Here I’ve included a recipe for a paste to create one of my all-time favorite curries: panang. Citrus notes dominate due to the heavy use of lime zest, lime leaves, coriander seeds and lemongrass.

While some of the key ingredients might be hard to track down and the overall process requires a fair amount of prep, as Victor Sodsook points out in his cookbook, True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking, curry pastes are “like money in the bank.” An hour of hard work will pay off with intense, complex flavor in future dishes. Couple this with the fact that many pastes last weeks in the refrigerator and several months in the freezer, and you have a culinary resource that lends completed dishes a taste that will seem like it’s taken hours to build.

Check back tomorrow for recipe that puts this amazing paste to good use; Panang Beef Curry.

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GINGER PORK LETTUCE CUPS

Ginger Pork Lettuce Cups

These lettuce cups might be a little too P.F. Chang’s for some people, but this is a recipe I’ve come back to time and time again for quick, delicious results.  Big on flavor and a cinch to prepare, ginger pork lettuce cups are an amazing start to an Asian-inspired menu and have even taken center stage on more than one dinner occasion.

Here, unctuous ground pork and umami-rich oyster sauce mingle with crunchy water chestnuts and finely diced red bell pepper to create a filling that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate. The contrast in texture between the hot, salty filling and the cool, crispy lettuce is a combination that has me coming back to this recipe over and over again.  The best part? Once you have all the necessary ingredients in your pantry, whipping this dish up on a weeknight is as easy as it gets.

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