Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mushroom Madness

I do like mushrooms and pastry crust so the combination of this spring tart really appealed to me. The problem is, I loathe eggs. The idea of taking this succulent mix of mushrooms and tossing them into a Gluten-free pastry tart and adding some eggs and cream, was almost too much for me. Once I had the mushrooms ready I just wanted to sit down and eat them and forget the tart altogether. I can't say I loved the tart like I loved the mushrooms but it was special and stylish, exactly what I was looking for as part of my vegetarian dinner Tuesday Evening.

I made my own Gluten-free tart shell, following a recipe from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. You will have to get their book if you want the recipe, I can't copy it here. It is a very nice, flaky pastry that won't disappoint. You could also get an ready made Gluten-free pie shell from Whole Foods, they are quite good.

Regardless these mushrooms are delish. I wouldn't hesitate to serve them as a stand alone side with a piece of grilled or roasted meat, atop crostini or lathered on a piece of toast.

Dried Porcini and Fresh mushroom tart

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine or dry sherry
9 inch tart shell
1 tablespoon olive oil plus a teaspoon
1/2 pound white or brown mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound portabella mushrooms, gills removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large white onion diced small
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons minced parsley and thyme
1 egg
2/3 cup cream

Preheat oven to 425. Prepare tart shell or pie shell and pre-bake
Put the porcini in a saucepan with the wine and half a cup of water, bring to a boil, turn off head, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer into a bowl and chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces. Reserve the soaking water.

Heat oil in a wide skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms. Raise heat to high, season with salt and pepper, tossing until they start to color, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and a few tablespoons of the mushroom-soaking liquid. Add the porcini and continue cooking, adding more mushroom liquid in small amounts until the mushrooms are tender and glazed about 15 minutes. Add half the herbs.

Scoop the mushrooms into your prepared tart pan or pie shell. Blead the egg with the cream and pour the custard over the mushrooms. Bake until the custard is set, about 30 minutes. When done, sprinkle with remaining herbs and dab some olive oil over the mushrooms to make them shine. Serve warm or at room temp.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My New Cookbook

I really try hard to not purchase new cookbooks! I have plenty already and we don't have shelf space. Besides, I am a mighty fine, creative cook with excellent resources. Considering how much is available on the Internet, it seems foolish to waste money buying cookbook after cookbook. I don't know about you but generally I find that a entire cookbook renders just a handful of recipes that I actually make. Eventually I make them so often I don't need the reference.

Recently we had Shabbat dinner at our friends Mara and Miryam's, two excellent cooks who totally get the Gluten-free issue. Their attention to detail arises out of their adherence to a strict Kosher diet and maintaining a Kosher kitchen. They are pros at calling food suppliers and asking questions about manufacturing practices, digging deeper into the ingredients listed on food labels and have an appreciation for cross contamination, safe utensils . . . I never worry about eating at their house, and I am always well cared for. That particular evening Mara made a broccoli dish with a mustard cream that literally made me swoon. You see I love mustard. Anyway, I am getting a little off track. Of course I wanted the recipe and Mara directed me to an online source providing the recipe which came from the one and only Deborah Madison. If you are vegetarian no doubt you know her, a total kitchen wizard. As I looked through some of her other recipes I decided I needed to actually see some of her cookbooks. I went off to Barnes and Nobel and came home with Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen.

Since Tina is out of town, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a vegetarian dinner over to Mara and Miryam's tonight. So I selected three different recipes from my new cookbook, all of them are worth a post! These stuffed peppers are colorful and flavorful. I hemmed and hawed about substituting gluten-free couscous for the quinoa, you see I am not a fan of quinoa. I stuck to the recipe as written as I am hopelessly trying to like quinoa. Couscous would be a great substitute no doubt but I found that I actually like the quinoa just fine. The tangy feta cheese is a real treat but leave it out if you want a dairy free dish! The original recipe is a great template for any number of variations, play around with it. Olives, black beans, tomato, all come to mind. This is somewhat labor intensive but they can be made ahead of time and heated at the last minute.

Peppers stuffed with quinoa, corn and feta cheese on a bed of red onions

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well several times (I used pale quinoa but thinking about it, red would be beautiful)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including 2 inches of the greens, sliced on the diagonal into rounds
1 fresh jalapeno chili, finely diced (remove seeds if you don't want the dish too hot)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups or so of fresh corn from 2 ears of corn (you can use frozen but fresh is so much better)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 pound feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 large red onions, sliced into rounds, about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup white wine
4 bell peppers
1/2 pound of spinach leaves

Bring two cups of water to a boil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and then the quinoa. Give it a stir, cover and simmer over lowish heat until the grains are tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Warm half the oil in a wide skillet. Add the scallions and chilies, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, add garlic, cumin, corn and spinach along with 2 tablespoons water. When the spinach is wilted, add the cilantro, quinoa and feta, tossing everything together.

Heat remaining oil in a clean wide skillet. When hot, add the onions and saute, stirring until they start to color around the edges. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, season with salt and pepper and distribute the onions on the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the peppers.

Slice the peppers in half lengthwise without removing the stems, cut out the membranes and remove the seeds. Brush with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill over hot coals for 8 minutes, turning once. If you don't want to grill the peppers simmer them in salted water until tender to the touch of a knife but not overly soft, about 4 minutes.

Place the peppers cut side up in the baking dish with the onions. Fill them with the quinoa mixture.

Preheat the oven to 400, bake until heated through, about 15 minutes, then switch the oven heat to broil and brown the tops. Serve hot, warm or at room temp.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chickpeas with Chard and a Kitchen Kitten

We have a kitchen kitten. Actually we have two kittens but one of them is a kitchen rat like me. Thabo Lama and Ziva Jane joined us the end of January, not even a month after our little Sophie passed away. I have to say, I don't remember the kitten stage very well, it has been 12 years since we had a pair kittens running amuck in the house. Needless to say, we are in love and we are tired. Ziva Jane has come into her own, almost a cat, healthy, sleek and already she has carved out her spot as Alpha cat. Thabo Lama on the other hand is beyond lovable, and thank goodness for that because he has been a challenge.

The little guy loves food and stakes out his position in the kitchen when ever I am cooking. The only problem, he doesn't love his food. No, left to his own devices Thabo Lama would sit at the table, in a chair and eat what we are eating. He clamors for any thing Tina is eating, grabbing bites of popcorn, peanut butter and banana bread literally right out of her mouth. He makes a bee line for her morning oatmeal and just today he was crying over a pan of braised chard and chickpeas. He is crazy for people food.

We have struggled, daily for the past month to get him to eat. You see he lost about 8 ounces after he arrived and really gave us a scare. We spent two weeks making trips to the vet three times a week, then another two weeks going twice a week. He even spent three full days at the vet, getting hand fed and monitored to see if something more serious was going on. We seem to be on the other side of the scare, he has gained back all he lost and then some but not without some vigilance. Sometimes I wish we could just feed him a human diet and I will admit, it is somewhat amusing to watch him clamor for the things we eat. However, kittens need an essential amino acid called taurine, without it they go blind and develop serious cardiac and neurological problems. We don't need a blind kitten with an enlarged heart having seizures around here. There isn't anything other than cat food that will give Thabo Lama enough taurine. He can't afford bites of oatmeal here and there, or anything else for that matter.

So no Chickpeas and Chard for Thabo Lama but I assure you these are good.

Chickpeas and Chard

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, two sliced thin and two smashed
sea salt and ground pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste
2 teaspoons tomato paste
two bunches chard leaves
1 can chickpeas, liquid reserved or 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in wide, deep skillet. Brown the sliced garlic. Add onions and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, till soft. Meanwhile, pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cilantro, parsley, and cumin to make a rough paste. When the onions are golden and soft, ad the paste to the pan along with the tomato paste and work it into the onions and garlic.

Slice the chard leaves off their stems and put them in a pot filled with boiling water. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes, strain in a colander.

Add the chickpeas to the onions with their liquid, or a cup of chicken stock or vegetable stock, simmer about 10 minutes.