Paradiso: Seasons

cookbooks by denis cotter

cookbooks by denis cotter

Oh, how I love this cookbook! Paradiso Seasons is a collection of recipes by Denis Cotter, chef and owner of Café Paradiso, located in Cork, Ireland. The Café has received international acclaim for its innovative, mouth-watering vegetarian dishes. I know many people don’t equate Irish food with haute cuisine, but I’m telling you—the Irish have stepped it up a notch in the past few years. I’ve lived in Ireland twice, and the last time I left this was a going away present. (Thanks Annajoy and Kristen!)  Paradiso Seasons is their second book, which focuses on using seasonal ingredients to make flavorful, beautiful meals. This cookbook won Best Vegetarian Cookbook of the Year in 2004.

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My favorite recipe is Summer stew of sweet peppers, new potatoes and sugar snaps with basil, garlic and olives, and goats’ cheese ciabatta. This is the perfect dish for the height of summer, when tomatoes and peppers are at their prime. It’s similar to a piperade or pepperonata; the broth is created by the juices in thinly sliced onions, succulent tomatoes, and ripe bell peppers, stewed with olives and thickly sliced garlic and finished off with fresh basil and sugar snap peas. It’s best served as the cookbook recommends, with pesto and goats’ cheese ciabatta. I’m lucky to have a gluten free bakery nearby that makes excellent focaccia, which holds up well to the pesto and goat cheese. Just be sure to use fully cooked bread, then coat the bread in pesto and goats’ cheese and bake it again at 400° until the goat cheese begins to brown and the bread is toasted. This protein-rich toast is a great accompaniment to many Fall and Winter soups as well. If you’re making a soup for dinner and you’re not sure if it’s quite filling enough for a main course, this will definitely tip it over the edge.

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This recipe is unfortunately not available online, but the cookbook is well worth purchasing. The cookbook is available for purchase at Powell’s Books. If you’re not ready to commit, you can find a somewhat similar version of the recipe here.

If you have a favorite cookbook, please share in the comments!

Overnight Steel-Cut Oats with Almond Butter and Honey

Since I avoid gluten and eggs, I’m often asked what I can have for breakfast. This recipe is one of my morning favorites. I’m not going to claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. All I know is that I feel best if I eat a small breakfast about half an hour after I get up. I have a habit of rushing, so my breakfast used to be a Van’s gluten free toaster waffle, devoured absentmindedly on my way to the dog park. Sometime during the past year I gave myself permission to sit down for breakfast. It’s not leisurely, maybe fifteen minutes at most, but it helps me start my day feeling grounded.

my breakfast essential

my breakfast essential

A friend of mine told me about this recipe for oatmeal made in a slow cooker. (Thanks, Deborah!) It takes me three minutes to prepare before I go to bed, then the slow cooker works its magic and it’s hot and perfectly cooked in the morning. Slow cooked oatmeal while you sleep—does it get any better?

steel-cut oats at night and the next morning

steel-cut oats at night and the next morning

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A few notes on the ingredients: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Steel-Cut Oats are perfect for this recipe. Oats don’t contain gluten inherently, but they are almost always cross-contaminated because they are cut with the same machines that process wheat. For this recipe, steel-cut is also essential—oat flakes will turn to mush overnight. Maranatha Organic Creamy Almond Butter and a flavorful local honey are the perfect finishing touches. Maple syrup is the ideal substitute for honey if you would like to make this recipe vegan. I try to limit my dairy intake, so I substitute Pacific Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk for the milk in this recipe. I prefer the unsweetened because I don’t like having cane syrup added to my almond milk.

This recipe makes more than enough for my partner and me to enjoy a bowlful. If you have unconventional additions to your morning oatmeal, please share in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas to spruce up my old favorites. I hope this starts your day off right!

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Overnight Steel-Cut Oats with Almond Butter and Honey via Food52.com

Marsala glazed Mushroom Risotto

On Saturday I brought lunch to some friends who just had a baby. Bringing a meal was my excuse to hold their son, only two weeks in this world, and congratulate them. He fell asleep in my arms, cocooned and warm and sighing.

Food is such a natural way to celebrate, and with new parents it’s a way to feel helpful despite entering into their rapidly transitioning world. The weather was a Portland Fall favorite—sudden torrential downpours that last about five minutes. Given the weather and the energy it takes to care for a newborn, I wanted to bring them something hearty, but simple.

That’s when I thought of risotto. This dish is a blend of my favorite recipes, and at this point has become my own. You will need:

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 Tbsp butter

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

1 pound mushrooms, thickly sliced (I use crimini)

2-4 shallots, chopped (depending on their size, about ½ cup chopped)

5-6 cups chicken or mushroom broth

¾ cup Marsala

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

½ cup grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

Start by heating your broth in a stockpot. Keep it warm.

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I learned about dry sautéing mushrooms a few years ago, and now it’s my favorite way to prepare them. Put the thickly sliced mushrooms in a large stockpot over high heat. Gently stir the mushrooms to keep them from sticking to the bottom. Just when you think they are going to burn, they will begin to squeak and give up their moisture. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt over them and stir to coat them in their own juice. Turn the heat down to medium. They will reabsorb their own juices, enhancing their earthy flavor.

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Once most of the mushroom liquid has been reabsorbed, add the oil and butter to the stockpot. Stir to coat the mushrooms then add the chopped shallot. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the shallot is tender.

Add the risotto and stir to coat in the butter and oil. Wait 1-2 minutes until the grains are translucent at their edges. Add the Marsala and cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about another 3-4 minutes. (Marsala is always my favorite wine in mushroom-based dishes. Its sweetness compliments the earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly. It is a fortified wine, which means alcohol has been added. Depending on your sensitivity to gluten, you may want to make sure the Marsala you’re using is fortified with brandy.)

Begin adding the broth in ¾ cup increments. I use a glass measuring cup to scoop up the broth. The trick to creamy risotto is constant attention. It doesn’t take a lot of skill—just a lot of stirring. Keep stirring until all of the broth has been absorbed, adding ¾ cup of broth each time. When you are getting low on broth, after about 15-20 minutes, taste the risotto to check the consistency. Five cups of broth will give you more of an al dente, firm texture, which I prefer. If you like really soft risotto, add the rest of the broth ½ a cup at a time.

Once the risotto is fully cooked, remove it from the heat. Add in a heaping ½ cup grated Parmesan and 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 generous portions.

A note about salt: the timing of adding salt to a dish impacts how much of it you taste. Salt can sneak into this dish through the butter, broth, and cheese. If you use unsalted butter and low-salt broth you will have more control and will achieve the same flavor with less salt.

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Enjoy!

Where should we go for dinner?

As a person with dietary restrictions, it took some practice to enjoy going out to eat. I am an accommodating person. I like to say yes, please, and thank you. Advocating for myself in a restaurant used to make me self-conscious. Do you remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally when Sally orders her meal with everything on the side? I can’t imagine being that person. And yet…

Sometimes it’s inevitable. I have to ask questions to know that what I’m ordering is safe for me to eat, and I’ve sent plates back to the kitchen when they arrived with bread on top. I still have the occasional pang of guilt when I tell a busy waitress that I can’t eat what she just served me, but on the whole I no longer feel responsible. I’m not being difficult—I just don’t want to get sick.

Even when something, by all logic and reason, should be gluten free, I still make it my practice to ask. I’ve found that gluten can sneak into the unlikeliest of places and it’s just not worth taking a risk. That’s why I focus on restaurants that know what they’re serving. Places that make their food from scratch are more likely to have gluten free options, and far more likely to know if what they’re serving isn’t safe for me to eat.

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Indian street food

If I haven’t been to a restaurant before, then I will call and ask if they can accommodate someone with celiac disease. If I make the reservations myself, I mention my dietary restrictions right away. That way I don’t feel like I’m surprising the wait staff or the chef. Sometimes when I ask if an item on the menu is safe, the waiter responds with “I think that’s gluten free.” That’s when I politely ask if they will check with the chef before placing my order. And if a waiter ensures my meal is safe, I respond with a generous tip. I’m also grateful for my partner, friends, and family who are supportive instead of embarrassed. Thank you!

The Barrs out for breakfast

The Barrs out for breakfast

The reality is that most commercial kitchens contain gluten, and some cross-contamination is likely. I do what I can—avoid foods fried in the same oil with wheat products, and not use jars of condiments that have probably experienced double dipping. Even so, if I eat out frequently cross-contamination adds up. Fortunately Portland is a fairly easy place to find good, gluten free food. I thought for my weekend post I would share a few of my favorites.

What are yours? Please post dining out tips, stories, and restaurant recommendations in the comments!

In the affordable category

Dick’s Kitchen

This is a haven for people with any dietary restrictions. Inspired by the paleo diet, Dick’s keeps salt and sugar contents low, and they make their sauces from scratch. The menu is easily labeled for vegan, dairy-free, and gluten free.

Retrolicious

This food cart is full of comfort food, revamped to be a little healthier and always made from scratch. The menu looks like it’s all sandwiches but the owner is happy to turn anything into a salad. Since they make all their own dressings, she knows they are gluten free.

Kenny and Zuke’s Deli

Who doesn’t love a Jewish deli? Especially when they can serve me a classic corned beef sandwich on gf bread!

Utopia Cafe

This is my favorite place to have breakfast. Without gluten or eggs, breakfast is rarely a treat. Utopia can make any scramble out of tofu instead of eggs, and they have gf bread and a separate toaster, so I even get to have toast! The cornmeal cakes are 100% cornmeal and safe for celiac consumption.

Dar Salam

The owners are from Northern Iraq, and everything from baba ghanoush to falafal to stuffed grape leaves is delicious. They also serve a date rolls for dessert that are gffriendly.

Porque No?

Porque no indeed! Serving Mexican brunch on the weekends, this place is a hands-down favorite. Their tortillas are all handmade corn, their tamales are safe, and everything just tastes fresh and delicious.

Mid-Range

Evoe

This is such a treat for lunch. It’s like dining in an open kitchen. The menu is on a blackboard and you can watch the chefs cook. Everything is fresh, seasonal, and delicious.

Bollywood Theater

Indian street food! Indian food relies more on chickpea and lentil flour than wheat, so it is often naturally gf.

Khun Pic’s Bahn Thai

This is easily my favorite restaurant in Portland. It’s a husband and wife team—she cooks, he serves. The menu is short and everything is made to order, so they can accommodate a variety of food restrictions. You will definitely need to be patient as service is slow, but the vegetable pad thai is so worth it.

Special occasion

Andina

Okay, this is my other favorite restaurant. Peruvian cuisine, perfectly prepared. Their gf menu is almost as long as their full menu, and they even have a gf drink menu and safe desserts. Plus everything is delicious.

Le Pigeon

I was surprised to learn that I could still eat French food, but as it turns out, it’s still delicious without gluten. The food here is superb and the staff is always kind about accommodating.

Toro Bravo

Everything. Just everything about this place is amazing.

My partner has some family coming to town this weekend and we are planning to drive the orchard loop by Mount Hood. Next weekend’s post may include some photos of the pear festival happening this weekend. Check back for recipes and ripe pears!

Thai-style grilled corn soup

During the summer my partner and I grill almost once a week, and when we do I always grill some extra vegetables. They are good all week long and can be added to almost any meal. To make this soup we grilled two extra ears of corn—the rest of the prep was quick and easy!

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This recipe comes from Fine Cooking. It’s convenient to find so many recipes online these days, but I also really love discovering my cooking magazine in the mail, sitting on the couch next to my dog Tulip, and marking the recipes that inspire me. You’ll soon learn that I’m a sucker for soup—so this recipe stood out as a summery way to indulge my obsession.

When it comes to broth, there’s nothing like homemade. That said I’ve never been the kind of cook who always keeps homemade broth in the freezer, ready to use. Instead I rely on Better than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base. It’s not low-salt, so keep that in mind when adding more salt to the broth. It’s the most flavorful gluten-free broth option I’ve found (and yes, even broth can contain gluten.) The instructions call for one teaspoon to make one cup of broth, and one tablespoon to make one quart, so it’s easy to make larger batches.

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For the curry paste I used Thai Kitchen’s Red Curry Paste. If you are feeling adventurous or are familiar with Thai cooking, you can certainly make your own. For me, using reliable ready-made ingredients made this a simple weeknight meal. You can enjoy the flavors of lemongrass, galangal, chilies, and lime even if you don’t make everything from scratch. Also, don’t skip the fish sauce! It’s a unique flavor that really can’t be replaced.

As you’ll see from the photo, I felt like something a little heartier so I cooked up some wide rice noodles to add to the soup. I cooked the noodles separately and added them to the finished soup so they wouldn’t thicken the broth. The fresh lime and cilantro at the end brightened the flavors up considerably—so be generous with them!

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Thai-style grilled corn soup via www.finecooking.com

Fine Cooking                        August/September 2013

Chicken with Stewed Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Olives

Thunderstorms have been rolling in and out of Portland the past few days. It’s still warm out, but the stormy weather has had me craving stew. This recipe is one that feels hearty and comforting without the heaviness or seasonal ingredients of some of my favorite fall and winter soups.

This recipe found its way into my life courtesy of my childhood friend, Sabrina. Sabrina attended The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, so she understands nutritious cooking. We met in the 5th grade and became instant friends. Now she lives in the Netherlands, and when I went to visit she made this dish as a warm welcome.

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The recipe calls for couscous, which is actually wheat and hence, not gluten free. My go-to gf substitute for couscous is quinoa, but Sabrina served this stew with polenta instead. I’ve made it once with quinoa and the polenta is hands down a better pairing. My personal preference is to use the marjoram rather than the thyme, or a blend of the two. I rarely cook with marjoram, but I can honestly say it’s the perfect herb for this combination of flavors. I’m extremely generous with my use of garlic, marjoram, and hot paprika (mine is actually hot and smoked, which adds another layer of flavor.) This recipe is also flexible—you can change the balance of tomatoes to chicken broth by about ½ a cup and it will still be delicious.

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I usually prep all of the ingredients and get to the stewing-for-20-minutes stage before cooking the polenta. The stew will be done before the polenta, but if the chicken simmers a little longer it will just become more tender and absorb more of the herbs and spices. Just be sure to wait until the end to toss in the lemon zest and cilantro.

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For polenta nothing beats Bob’s Red Mill. In part because I know they understand gluten free, so they don’t process the corn with the same machinery they use to process wheat. You will also notice from the photos that my stockpot is deep and my wooden spoon is long. Polenta will spit at you, so these are reasonable precautions. If you use butter in lieu of oil in the polenta than this dish is also dairy free.

It keeps extremely well and even tastes better the second day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Chicken with Stewed Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Olives via www.food.com

Organic Style Magazine

A Spiraling Illness (and Recovery)

My parents are visiting from Southern California this weekend and it’s so good to see them! We share our love of food, so their trips to Portland always include some culinary adventures. When my father was growing up, he worked as the butcher in my grandfather’s grocery store. Nothing makes my Midwestern-born dad happier than tender, perfectly cooked meat with a side of potatoes. That said, my love of cooking—not just eating—definitely began with my mother. She indulged my quest to find the perfect lemon bar recipe and praised my brownies to anyone who would listen (my secret is olive oil.)

We were one of the few families that ate a home-cooked meal together every night when I was a kid. As I got older and my celiac symptoms worsened, our shared meals were layered with the anxiety of whether or not I would get sick. Now that I’m healthy we don’t spend too much time reliving my illness, but when we do it’s clear how traumatic the experience was for all of us. What I learned from my experience is that it’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. The people around me struggled in their own ways.

Without a diagnosis, it was hard to understand what was happening. It’s human nature to search for the cause of the problem and try to fix it. Because that wasn’t possible, the only thing left to do was be with me in my sickness. Unfortunately chronic illness is cyclical—I could identify the early symptoms that a severe period of illness was coming, but I didn’t know how to stop it. The repetition became familiar to those closest to me, but for me it became more and more terrifying.

Accepting that no one had control over my illness was difficult. When a doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me, he suggested I see a psychiatrist (and I did!) I’m not alone in this. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association conducted research that showed that “45 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases have been labeled chronic complainers in the earliest stages of their illness.”  The AARD attributes this to the fact that the majority of people with autoimmune disease are young, healthy looking women. Everyone agreed I should be healthy, so if I took the tests and the medications and followed my doctor’s orders but was still getting sick, I must be the one doing something wrong. Of course my family and friends knew I didn’t want to be sick, but sometimes their questions (“What did you eat?” “Did the doctor say you can do that?”) left me feeling responsible for my illness.

It was my naturopath, Dr. Hudson, who finally believed my experience of being sick. After hearing my story she suggested we test for celiac and food allergies, and so began the path to healing. Looking back, I am so grateful for the family and friends who supported me in a myriad of ways. It’s one thing to spend hours in an emergency room with an ill friend, and it’s another thing to do it every month like clockwork. And I hold a special place in my heart for those who could just be with me in my illness and watch me suffer. It takes courage to accept that we don’t have control, and that we can’t understand why this is happening. Those who could face that reality inspired me to be brave and to keep trying to get better.

Chronic illness doesn’t have a linear progression. Just as the cycle of my symptoms felt like a downward spiral, my experience of healing has been a gradual move from the dark center into the light. Now I feel healthy most of the time, and although setbacks are discouraging, at this point they are rare. I can linger over a meal with my parents as we watch the late summer evening turn to dusk. I can sit back in my chair full and satisfied, and suggest we go for ice cream.

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Our Saturday evening meal was Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Asparagus and Slivered Potatoes. Served with our friend Pat and Leigh’s Dominio IV Temperanillo and topped off with ice cream from Salt and Straw. There are no recipes for this post—the meat is seasoned with salt and pepper then grilled to medium rare. The asparagus is drizzled in olive oil and sea salt and grilled to a light char. The potatoes (red and yellow) are slivered with some yellow onion, drizzled in olive oil and doused liberally with salt and pepper, then grilled in a foil packet until done. This is Midwestern cooking, California style!

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Check back for two more recipe-focused posts this week!