Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

Although summer squash season has passed, there is a new mass-supplied crop from my CSA: potatoes. So, to help consume larger quantities of them, rather than slicing and dicing, stewing and stir-frying, I tried making gluten-free potato gnocchi. I also referenced ATK's wheat flour version for their convenient and quicker method of precooking the potatoes.

About to start rolling them out.

Pretty successful. Looks kinda like dduk, here. Sauce is an Italian meat sauce, but with pork belly.

CAVEAT: Serious Eats' recipe is no good, in my experience. The amount of sticky/rice flour they call for is nowhere near enough for the gnocchi to hold together when simmering. They mention that the dough should feel "firm", so I just kept adding...and adding...and adding. Finally I just decided to stop, but my gnocchi still disintegrated a little when cooking, and after I'd added more than twice the amount of flour they had as their max. As a consequence, my gnocchi tasted a little floury, but was otherwise light and fluffy--though I've never had potato gnocchi before. Or maybe even plain-ol' gnocchi, for that matter.

Conclusion: probably still need xanthan gum for gluten-free potato gnocchi.

I tried making another batch, limiting the sticky/rice flour to their max and it just completely fell apart in water. Fortunately, it was still good as mashed potatoes.

Speaking of mashed potatoes, that's a much simpler and quicker dish to prepare if you want to use up a lot of potatoes. I was also very pleased to learn that you actually don't need butter to make good mashed potatoes--though a little bit of oil is nice to add.

mashed potatoes with kale (not from the disintegrated gnocchi)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Paean to Toaster Ovens


I came to really appreciate toaster ovens over this summer; I now consider them one of my three essential kitchen appliances, along with rice cookers and food processors (microwave's a given, IMO, since they're so commonplace). They are just immensely convenient and versatile tools, or at least larger ones are, which can accommodate larger dishes like whole corn cobs, whole fish, or bread pans and casseroles.

They're very simple to operate (push some buttons and go), while generating far less excess heat than conventional ovens and needing to heat a much smaller space, and thus, I imagine, using much less energy.

Of course, sometimes you want more space, whether to get more room between your food and the heating elements (as my singed summer squash bread attests) or for better air circulation and drying. Though, the excellent model my roommate has also has a convention baking option....but I'm not sure if that helps evacuate moisture or not.

Most of all, I really appreciated being able to just clean up a potato or cob of corn and pop it in the toaster oven, and have a perfectly done bite to eat without having to put in much effort otherwise.

Above: broiled mackerel
Below: roasted brown rice. Yes, you can roast your own brown rice to add in with your green tea to have genmaicha! Though, I don't know if there are other things involved.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

Like a hot dog bun substitute! Or, I suppose, like a...stuffed pepper. Since I'm not putting hot dogs in them.

I've been getting these peppers for a while now from my CSA (or maybe they're Cubanelle? The CSA claimed banana peppers, but none of them have been yellow enough in hue, in my opinion) . As ever, stuffing vegetables is a fascination of mine, though I've come to the conclusion that it tends to be more for presentation than for flavor. I mean, you could save yourself some trouble and just chop up the pepper (or squash, as an example of another commonly stuffed food) and cook it with the filling. On the other hand, there is a nice textural novelty to stuff these long, narrow peppers, since you get to bite through the tender-crisp exterior to the soft interior as you eat.

For the stuffing, I had braised lamb on hand from another dish I'd made, so I just stir-fried it with some brown-rice and tomatoes, and added some salsa on top.

For the peppers, I just parboiled them quickly (30-60 seconds) in boiling water to soften them up a touch and make the seeding and stuffing operation smoother. You can't really put these peppers under a broiler for long, as they soften and turn mushy very quickly.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gluten-Free Dumplings, First Forays

Not being able to eat dumplings is one of the big losses of avoiding gluten/wheat. I'd pretty much written off trying to make my own dumpling skins/dumplings when I figured out my gluten issues. However, my recent success with xanthan gum and making gluten-free squash bread led me to consider taking a shot at gluten-free dumplings/potstickers.

Andrea Nguyen has blogged about her several attempts at making gluten-free dumplings with different flours + xanthan gum. I was just going to make an attempt with whatever gluten-free flour I had on hand, following her general method and proportions, but it turned out that the flour I was using (Bob's Red Mill) was the same as the flour Nguyen used in her first attempt.

You can see in her pictures and mine that the gluten-free flour is a little brittle, even with xanthan gum, compared to wheat dough. What's odd, though, is that her flour looks brittle even with the 30-minute resting time for the dough that she mentions in her instructions, whereas I found that between my first and second attempts, the resting time made all the difference in getting a more pliable dough (no resting time in my first trial). Hmm. Though, I did leave my dough for something like 1-1.5 hours. Maybe with Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour, you need more resting time than you do with Nguyen's second and third flour combinations.

I made the skins too thick in my first batch, especially the very first dumpling's. Though I definitely got better at it over the first trial, the somewhat brittle dough made proper rolling, pleating, and sealing more difficult. The too-thick, very "rustic" skins overwhelmed the flavor of the meat inside. My second batch went much better.

Huh, well, I got better at that pretty quickly. As mentioned above, the resting time made the dough much more pliable and moist.

Got better at this part pretty quickly, too. Though, even with xanthan gum, gluten-free flour doesn't have the stretch that gluten gives, so it's still easy to develop holes when folding the skins. You can't really pull the dough the way you can with wheat dough, so you need to make sure your dumpling skins are broad enough, or the filling little enough to fold the skin up without having to stretch it.

On the plus side, because there's no gluten to develop, you don't have to knead gluten-free dough

Boiled some (shui jiao) of the second batch, as well as pan-fried for better comparison against the first batch. Both worked out great. Pictured at the top of the post are the pan-fried dumplings (guo tie/potstickers) from the second batch.

If you get a proper seal and don't cook your dumplings too roughly or too long (such that they rupture), you should have delicious soup sealed in with the meat (watch out for the juicy explosion).

Next time I'm going to try Nguyen's third round recipe, which includes sticky rice flour for more stretchiness and a more refined mouth-feel. Even rolled out thinly, these dumplings using Bob's Red Mill were pretty rustic. I think it's the bean flours in the Red Mill mix.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Summer Squash Bread

Well, xanthan gum definitely works to give gluten-free dough the coherence and lift to be more bread-like, though it's rather expensive a solution at $10-$15 per half-pound. The egg in this recipe probably made a difference, too. For reference, my previous attempt at gluten- and dairy-free summer squash bread didn't have so much rise, and was much more like a crumbly cake in texture (not necessarily a bad thing):

As you may have noticed, the top of take-two was burnt. This is the hazard of baking bread in a toaster oven, even a relatively large one; as the bread rises, it gets too close to the top heating elements.

For my own bread, I referenced these two recipes. The bread will be only lightly sweet, so if you prefer your breads sweeter, add more sugar. After refrigeration and cooling, I found the sweetness to be just right, as the flavor came out more. Texture was definitely more bread-y, if a bit spongy. However, after a night in the refrigerator (which tends to dry things out), the bread lost the sponginess--though I would have preferred its keeping a little more of that texture than it did.

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Summer Squash Bread

2 cups gluten-free baking flour (I used King Arthur)
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cardamon

1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups grated summer squash
1/2 cup brown sugar or honey or mixture of both
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.    Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.    Brush loaf pan with oil.
3.    Chop and food-process summer squash (or grate).
4.    In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon. Mix well.
5.    In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: oil, eggs, sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
6.    Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir together until combined.
7.    Fold in the squash.
8.    Bake for 50–60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.