Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quinoa Pizza Crust

I've always loved pizza. Pizza for sleepovers. Pizza for end-of-season elementary school basketball team parties. Pizza nearly every night in college (remember someone knocking on doors around 11 or 12 trying to get together enough people to buy pizza at $1/slice?).

I grew up on Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's, usually on Friday nights. Those days, after my ballet lessons, we'd pick up a pizza and eat the breadsticks on the car ride home. That pizza was always much more edible hot than the day after. I remember discovering "gourmet" wood oven pizzas in high school with "exotic" toppings, like BBQ chicken, and the idea that everyone could order their own.

When I moved to Vermont, I discovered American Flatbread. My favorite was the Punctuated Equilibrium, a combo of red sauce, mozzarella, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and local goat cheese. When I was in graduate school, the Science Teacher and I had weekly date nights at Flatbread after my late seminar. We'd order pizza--half with sausage half without--split a salad of local greens and talk about Slavoj Zizek. Then came my diagnosis...

The first gluten-free bread I made post-diagnosis was a pizza crust. As bummed as I was never to eat another Moonshadow (red sauce, mozzarella, feta, artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red peppers, and walnuts) at Positive Pie, I was comforted to know I didn't have to give up pizza altogether. I've tweaked the first recipe I ever tried here and there, subbing quinoa flour for some of the brown rice flour and starch, but having found a recipe that worked, I didn't really experiment with other recipes.

Until this week. We had plans for dinner and Euchre with friends on Friday. Our friend asked the Science Teacher whether we could order pizza. "Great," the Science Teacher said, "except Kara won't be able to eat it. How about we'll bring the crust and you supply the toppings?" I was feeling a little experimental so I looked through some cookbooks for inspiration. I ended up perusing Jane Brody's Good Food Book. She's a science writer for The New York Times, and her cookbooks all revolve around the premise that whole grains are good for you and sugar/refined grains aren't. She's also the anti-Atkins--you should read her praising the nutritional qualities of the potato. The Good Food Book also is half nutritional information, making it a great cookbook for people who love to read about the food you're eating. I've been cooking and eating from her cookbooks since I was a kid.

She gives a recipe for a brown rice pizza crust. Not brown rice flour, the whole grain, mixed with mozzarella. I thought it sounded somewhat strange, but I'm used to weird ingredients turning into phenomenally tasty food (my chickpea brownies come to mind) by now. I googled the recipe to see whether others had tried it and came up with a few hits describing a similar-sounding crust in Veganomicon. In fact, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen just used a brown-rice crust in a quiche. Sounded promising.

Here's the two mini-pizzas from brown rice I made for lunch to try out the recipe. I mixed shredded mozzarella into one crust and a parmesan/nutritional yeast combo into the other. I liked the parm/nutritional yeast crust though the Science Teacher thought the mozzarella crust had a better texture. Neither particularly tasted ricey, which I found surprising. The crust was also solid with a nice crunch--you could pick it up without fear of disintegration. I made a rice crust and a "regular" crust for our Euchre night--both were a hit (well, at least they were all eaten)!

Last night, when we were having a take-out food night (a very rare occasion in our house) with friends, I decided to make myself a quinoa crust using the same technique instead of ordering out. If you're new to quinoa, definitely give it a try. It has a ton of protein, a nutty flavor, and a consistency similar to that of couscous--and it cooks up in about 15 min.

I liked the quinoa crust as much as the rice version though it took a bit more egg to make the grains stick together. The crust was crunchy with no detectable sogginess and substantial--I could pick it up and eat it. I topped my pizza with red sauce, mozzarella, feta, walnuts, chicken sausage, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut. Yum!

Quinoa Pizza Crust
This recipe could easily work with any whole grain. If the grain is sufficiently glutinous (i.e. a sticker rice), I think you could omit the eggs (and cheese) for a vegan crust.

2 1/2-3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup raw quinoa--I like to toast my quinoa before adding water)
1 whole egg plus 1 white
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup parmasan
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast.
(or try a 1 cup of shredded mozzarella instead of the parm/nutritional yeast combo)

Preheat the oven to 450. Mix all of the ingredients into the quinoa thoroughly. Oil a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Press the quinoa into a pizza-like shape on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 min. Create your dream pizza--don't forget the walnuts--and bake for about more 10 min.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: March 24

Thanks, food bloggers, for the fabulous food we made last week! I didn't post my menus so I'll let you know how they turned out:
  • The Science Teacher made Ginger-Lemon Girl's Cheddar Baked Hominy (see photo above). We added 10 oz. of spinach and some cottage cheese and used Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar to great success!
  • I cooked up Gluten-Free Bay's Spicy Black-Eyed Peas and Collards with some brown rice (I first sauteed it with a little olive oil and some spices before adding water).
  • On Saturday, we tried Book of Yum's pesto-buckwheat fries (except that we used Bob Red Mill's Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal)...they sort of melted into a flat pile of pesto-corn goo in the oven (I think we didn't cool the cereal long enough). Tasted fantastic, though the aesthetics were lacking. We'll try again this week.
  • Lastly, I jumped out of bed on Easter morning to bake some of Gluten A Go Go's Irish soda bread. As always when a bread calls for lots of starch, I subbed in some more protein- and fiber-rich flours. I used 1 c. GF oat flour, 2/3 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. corn flour, 1/4 c. sorhgum flour, 6 tbsp. tapioca flour, 2 tbsp. white rice flour. Lovely!
Here's what we're eating this week...

Sunday: pulled pork, slaw, cornbread
Monday: Turkey-Quinoa Balls (subbing quinoa for the couscous), polenta fries, salad
Tuesday: beer-marinated tempeh tacos (inspired by Sea's menu last week), slaw
Wednesday: stuffed mushrooms, kimchi, buckwheat pilaf
Thursday: Wednesday redux
Friday: Tacos redux
Saturday: out to dinner!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homemade Kimchi

Kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish, is a staple of Korean cooking. "Staple" might be a bit of a misnomer since when I think of staples, I think of eggs, cheese, raisins, and oatmeal--all ingredients that show up fairly regularly in the foods I eat each week. But I don't include all of them in most meals, which seems to be how kimchi figures into the Korean diet. The only analogous food I can think of for myself is peanut butter.

Kimchi's importance to the Korean diet has recently propelled it into the world of big media. (As a political aside, I find it absurd that The New York Times covers the kimchi beat but has ignored the testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Winter Soldier II.) Kimchi, which on Earth is a live food teeming with good bacteria, could apparently turn evil in space. Sort of like Spawn infesting Spidey. Yes, scientists are worried about mutant kimchi (taking over the space station?) and exploding kimchi (getting all over the equipment). The last point I understand: only last week I was making sauerkraut-apple-millet soup when I opened a fresh jar of sauerkraut and suddenly had bubbling, fermented cabbage juice spewing all over me.

I recently attended a kimchi workshop at our local co-op. Cramped into the small conference room that barely passes for a workshop space, we talked a lot about the friendly bacteria in fermented, "live" foods and how healthy they are for your digestion. What a bonus for those of us with sensitive innards! She had already completed steps 1-3 (see below) so we were left to add our choice of spices and pack it all into our jars. I went home with a happy little jar of kimchi ready to do its thing on my counter.

I put it into the fridge after about a week. I was worried that I hadn't let it ferment enough because it didn't particularly smell bad to me. It turns out my concerns were groundless: the Science Teacher took some in his bento dinner to his weekly snowboarding trip with his middle school students. Their comment? "Woah, it smells like my locker..." Sounds (smells?) like kimchi success to me!

Homemade Kimchi
This recipe was adapted by Sandra Lory, a Vermont herbalist, from Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation.

Makes: 1 quart
Prep Time: 20 min.
Fermentation Time: 1 week or more, depending on room temp and how fermented you want it

4-5 tbsp. sea salt (not iodized table salt)
non-chlorinated water (boiled and cooled water)

1 lb. green cabbage (any kind)
1 med. daikon radish, sliced or grated
1 med. carrot, sliced or grated

1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 bulb garlic, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. ginger, minced
fresh and minced hot pepper or cayenne, to taste

1. Make a brine: mix 3-4 tbsp. sea salt with 3-4 c. non-chlorinated water until dissolved.

2. Mix the veggies together and pour the brine over them. Cover with a plate (or something with a little weight) and leave for a few hours or overnight. This step allows the veggies to soften by themselves.

3. After the veggies have softened, drain off and save the brine. The veggies should taste salty. If they don't, add some salt--up to a spoonful (note: adding too much salt will slow down the fermentation).

4. Mix together the onions, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper in a separate bowl. Add to the softened veggies. Use your hands to crush them, which will help release the juices.

5. Pack the kimchi tightly into a quart jar with a wide mouth. Press down on the kimchi and try to get all of the air bubbles to rise to the top. The brined juices should cover the veggies when you're done. Add a little brine if necessary.

6. Place a small jar filled with water on top of the kimchi (which is left open to the air) to weight it down and make sure the brine continues to cover the veggies. This step prevents spoiling.

7. Allow the mixture to sit for at least a week unrefrigerated. Press the kimchi down each day to make sure it stays submerged in the brine. You can adjust the seasonings at any point. The longer the kimchi ferments, the sourer it becomes. The more salt, the slower it ferments. You'll smell it beginning to ferment. Allow it to ferment until you achieve the flavor you like (1-3 weeks).

8. Cap the jar and place it in the fridge. It will last for months if kept cool. Mold and discoloration on the top is normal; just skim it off. Don't tighten the jar too much or you'll end up with an exciting kimchi eruption.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gluten-Free Vacation: South Carolina and Beyond

I love to travel. After I finished my MA in English a few years ago, the Science Teacher and I took off for 5 weeks of sightseeing, training, swimming, and eating through the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia. We had a blast. One of our more amusing post-trip jokes came when we realized that in practically every picture I'm toting a little plastic bag that carried yogurt, fruit, and muesli. Ahh, muesli. Muesli was my travel staple before I went gluten-free. Either it or the ingredients for it have been available practically everywhere I've traveled. I carried bags of it around that summer and ate it for breakfast with yogurt practically every morning. Now that I'm gluten-free, though, most commercial muesli is out. What's a gluten-free girl to do for food when she can't carry it all with her?

I mentioned previously that my first gluten-free trip took us to Istanbul and that I was somewhat disheartened at the large suitcase of food I ended up taking. In the past, I have prided myself on my ability to pack light. For our previous 5-week trip, I schlepped all my stuff in a daypack. My 22 in. suitcase felt like a Louis Vuitton trunk set.

In hopes of lightening my load, I've come up with some gluten-free travel tips. As my bits of advice are completely dependent on the kind of trip you're taking, check out Book of Yum's account of her recent Florida trip for another take on gluten-free travel. I take lots of road trips and pack tons of food. For such a trip, the challenge is in eating out, not figuring out what to eat for breakfast. And my South Carolina trip was a hybrid--I definitely made room for some unnecessary favorites. It's the I'm-carrying-my-life-in-my-backpack travel that's more challenging for the gluten-free packer. So before thinking, "but I want my GF pancakes in the morning," consider whether you're taking:
  • a car trip (i.e. you're taking the Subaru wagon and the big coolers): read my advice and laugh as you enjoy your Cardamon-Date Muffins (aka Not-Too-Sweet Midnight Muffins), your sandwiches on millet-oatmeal bread, and your Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • a plane trip to single destination (i.e. you're taking a suitcase and won't have to carry it around except in the airport): read and decide how much of your suitcase will go to clothes and how much to food. You might find you don't have to fill it half with food...
  • a plane trip to multiple destinations (i.e. you may have to run 1/4 mile with your luggage to make your train): I'm really talking to you!
I've realized that successful gluten-free travel for light packers depends on a few points:

1. Don't rely on specialty GF products for most meals. I'm not saying don't bring your Bumble Bars or homemade granola bars or GF chocolate. Those are more for treats and emergencies than for providing regular meals. But do figure out what you would be happy eating for breakfast that doesn't involve access to Bob's Red Mill products. Rice porridge? Millet? Kasha? Baked sweet potato? Eggs? Yogurt? Choose food that can be purchased at your run-of-the-mill Food Lion where maybe you'll find a new GF product to try (the Food Lion on Lady's Island, SC, had a surprising GF shelf--I wouldn't call it abundant, but there was cereal, flour, and snacks). Choose staples to take that use space efficiently: a bag of cooked cereal, some fruit and nuts, energy bars, etc. (Did I really need those rice cakes that took up so much room in suitcase on our Turkey trip?)

Staples I Packed for SC:
Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (I'm addicted...)
6 Cardamom-Date Muffins
natural peanut butter
energy bars
Dagoba's dark chocolate
roasted almonds
dried figs

Light Packer Rating (1-5): 3 (I definitely took several space-suckers, but the muffins were great!)

2. Do your research. Where are the grocery stores? Are there natural foods stores? Visit the local celiac association website and/or email a contact for advice. Be confident: if you can find a grocery store, you will be able to buy rice, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, etc. There are worse things than eating a lot of stir fries.
Research for SC:
My research turned up Whole Foods in SC but none in the areas where we'd be. A few web searches turned up a chain called Earth Fare. I found Bob's Red Mill GF Gluten-Free Oats, which I thought were sold out all over the country, and millet flour. My aunt also recommended a store in Columbia called The Fresh Market. Other web searches for restaurants turned up your regular chain restaurants with GF menus (sorry, but I'm not an Outback Steakhouse girl) but nothing that sounds interesting enough to check out.

Light Packer Rating: 5 (I knew exactly where I needed to go to find my food the day after we arrived.)

3. Make sure you have food for the plane, for when you first arrive, and for emergencies. There's nothing worse than looking for a grocery store in a country where you don't speak the language when you're hungry and jetlagged. Traveling light on food requires energy for foraging.

Food I Took For Traveling:
The Science Teacher and I stopped by our local co-op on the way out of town for lunch and dinner supplies, though after reading Biggie's post on airplane bentos, I can't believe I didn't pack bentos for the both of us.

1/8 lb. nitrate-free smoked turkey
small chunk of asiago cheese
1/8 lb. nitrate-free roast beef
small chunk of provolone
Mary's Gone Crackers crackers
1 container Greek-style yogurt
1 banana
1 apple

Light Packer Rating: 3 (The food took up a lot of space in my backpack. A bento would have allowed me to condense everything much more with the added aesthetically-pleasing factor.)

4. Find a kitchen. Surprisingly, this usually means staying either high or low on the room rate scale. "High" might mean condo, suite, or house. "Low" probably means friends/relatives or hostels. It's hard to cook that rice if you don't have a heating implement.

Our SC Kitchens:
Our aunt and uncle's kitchen in Columbia, and the family beach house kitchen in the low country. The Science Teacher made paella and pasta arrabiatta....mmmm.

Light Packer Rating: 5 (We always had a place to cook...)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: March 10

It's taken me longer to get back in the real-life groove than I thought. We had a great off-line, trip to South Carolina: no computers, no iPods, no blogs (for me), no video games (for the Science Teacher). We played the Settlers of Catan Card Game, and the Science Teacher cooked up lots of gluten-free seafood dishes (think: paella and pasta arrabbiata). I'll be up with a debrief soon.

One of the reasons I've had a hard time getting back online is our new attempt at convincing our almost six-month-old to fall sleep without nursing. Breastfeeding is one thing (and I'm in no way weaning him), but using me as a human pacifier is quite another. It's been more emotionally exhausting than I would have thought. First, there's been the crying (yes, we are pursuing the controversial cry-it-out strategy). Second, there's the realization that my baby's taking little steps away from being completely dependent on me. Both have been hard for me, but as I see our kiddo be more well-rested, I'm feeling less emotional (and more able to blog!).

The good things that have come from our new sleeping plan? I get to see a beautiful new relationship evolving between the Science Teacher and the pottamus as he gets to take an equal role in the putting-to-bed of the baby. The Science Teacher and I have reclaimed our bed and room. And the pottamus is learning to comfort himself and be okay playing by himself a bit in his crib. He's gone from waking up every 2-3 hrs. to sleeping 8:30 p.m.-7 a.m. with maybe one feeding. Everyone's sleeping better!

Here are my menus for the week sans any 5 a.m. experimental baking:

Sunday: mushroom-onion pizza, baked sweet potatoes
Monday:Chicken Cacciatore, polenta, sauteed asparagus
Tuesday:falafel, pita, veggies, olives
Wednesday:baked beans and sauerkraut-apple casserole
Thursday: the Science Teacher's off snowboarding, and the pottamus and I will have dinner with friends
Friday: more beans and kraut...yum
Saturday: still up for grabs...