Posted tagged ‘Gluten free’

The One That Got Away

November 18, 2012

Tonight I made soup for a Thanksgiving starter, made of Jerusalem artichokes and celery root. It’s a very French soup, since topinambours and céleri rave are all the rage, but as I peeled and chopped I just couldn’t bring myself to cut this cute guy up, or it would have felt like cannibal soup.

Normally I’d make this soup with chicken broth, and you can too, but this time I need it to be vegetarian, so water’s the word.

The result is an ethereal little soup, savory, hinting of the dinner to come, but very light, almost a palate refresher. Which, when you think of it, is just what you want before the feast to come. That’s not to say that you can’t add some little crispy dice of pancetta, or a small dollop of crème fraîche if you wish, but keep it light, so that your guests will enjoy their dinner.

Not Cannibal Soup 
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes
1 lb celery root
filtered or excellent-tasting water
3 T butter
1/8 tsp ground coriander
tiny pinch of each: garlic powder and onion powder
ground sumac  (or substitute paprika)

Fill a pot halfway with water. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes with a small sharp knife, cut each one into 3-4 pieces, and drop them immediately into the water to prevent browning. I don’t kill myself peeling all of the little knobs, I just cut them off and go for the center of the tuber where it peels more easily. Peel, slice, then dice the celery root, again dropping the pieces immediately into the water to keep them white. When all the vegetables are in the water, either add or remove water so that your vegetables are covered with 2 inches of water. Boil them gently until tender, about 25 minutes, skimming foam as necessary.

Once the vegetables are tender, remove the pot from the heat and purée everything with an immersion blender to a fine velvety texture. If you’d like the soup a bit thicker, just simmer to reduce. If you’d like it thinner, add a little water. Now begin to season it carefully with salt, tasting as you go, until the celery flavor pops out at you. Add a very small amount of onion and garlic powders, and the coriander. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Now taste again. You want to be able to taste the vegetables, with the spices being just the merest hint of extra flavor. Adjust the seasonings to suit yourself. Serve with a little sprinkle of sumac, which adds just a whisper of tartness. Lemon doesn’t work the same way, so if you can’t get sumac, just use paprika for color, since this  soup is a very delicate celadon color and will thank you for giving it a little brightening up.


Romesco With Ñoras And Macadamias

February 1, 2012

“When you’re in Barcelona, be sure to buy ñoras” wrote my online friend Victor sometime last summer. Ñoras being a kind of dried chile pepper that I’d never seen before, and me being a pepper person, of course I followed his instructions. Speaking neither Spanish nor Catalan, a real handicap when in Barcelona, I walked up to a grocery clerk and pronounced only the word ñoras. He led me straight to a huge rack of dried peppers, and I, grateful for the universal language of food, bought two large packages. These ñoras then proceeded to cruise the Spanish coast with us before taking the train to France. While in France they languished in the cupboard for three months because the French don’t really eat anything even mildly spicy. So, luckily for me, the ñoras flew with us from Marseille to Amsterdam to Seattle, where I am now taking a real interest in them.

I Googled for recipes using ñoras and first up were dozens of references to Romesco sauce. Now Romesco is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s made with bread, not something I can eat anymore, and a lot of onions, which I also restrict severely. Ñoras being the traditional main ingredient, however, inspired me to make a low-carb Romesco sauce, and wow, am I ever glad I tried this. If you’re a low-carb or gluten-free eater, this will be a nice addition to your sauce repertoire. If you’re a traditional Spanish cook, please don’t laugh. This is amazingly like the real thing, even though it contains neither bread nor onions. Honest.

This sauce is rich and thick, warm but not at all hot, slightly sweet and tangy. We had it with roasted pork tenderloin with adobo spices and a sprinkle of chives and it was delicious. It would be lovely with roast chicken and if you’re a person who eats potatoes, that would be a dynamite combination too.

In the suitcase with the ñoras was also a bottle of sherry vinegar that we got when we visited a sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera. The sherry vinegar flavor is important here, so get the best one you can find. If you can’t find ñoras, and I’m pretty sure you can’t, (and if you can, please tell me where!), I’d use a mix of peppers. For the recipe given below you could use 3 California chiles, 2 Ancho chiles, and 1 Cascabel chile, for example.

Romesco With Ñoras and Macadamias

10 ñoras (or use pepper mix as above)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
12-14 macadamia nuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2-3 T sherry vinegar
water for thinning sauce

Place whole peppers in a large bowl and cover with very hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Remove peppers from water and shred them with your fingers right into the bowl of the food processor. You want to remove the stems and the seeds, while pulling the rest of the pepper into medium-sized pieces.

Add the nuts, garlic, and 2 T of the sherry vinegar to the peppers in the food processor, and whizz until the peppers are broken up. With the processor running, slowly add water through the feed tube. You may need 1/2 cup or more, but go slowly, adding it almost as if you were making mayonnaise. You’re looking for a thick, creamy sauce, and when you get there, remove the sauce to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the sauce is at all blah, add a little more sherry vinegar, that’s what makes it really pop.

This sauce keeps well in the fridge, and even tastes better the second day, so you might want to make it a day ahead. And buen provecho.

Bright Winter Stars Are Shining

December 12, 2008


One of the very best things about winter in the south of France is the fact that clémentines de Corse are everywhere.  They’re gorgeous, sweet, juicy, seedless, and appear in a fresh nest of leaves so you know they were just picked.  They’re so cool they have their own website, right here

They’re Algerian by ancestry, Corsican by birth, and I can’t resist them, so  the fruit bowl is always overflowing with their brilliant bounty.  Although it’s normally just a peel-and-play operation around here, recently I came across a recipe for using them in a cake.  I’m probably the umpteenth person (or as you say in French more elegantly, la énième personne) in the blogosphere to tout Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake but the cake deserves the attention.  At least, I’m sure that my version is fabulous, and I’ll bet her original is too.


This is a really moist, delectable, gluten-free cake that’s as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.  I used ground hazelnuts instead of Nigella’s ground almonds and I loved it like that, so if you can get ground hazelnuts, so much the better.  If not, ground almonds should be delicious too.  And because I have a lot of vanilla beans floating around the kitchen, having bought them super-cheap for the benefit of orphanages in Madagascar, I tossed the seeds of one in to the batter.

Use the most delicious clementines you can find, since they’re the key to the success of the recipe.

Hazelnut Clementine Cake

13 oz/375 gms clementines, preferably organic
6 eggs
8 oz/225 gms sugar
9 oz/250 gms finely ground hazelnuts
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 vanilla bean
hazelnut oil or butter for the pan

Put the whole clementines in a pan of cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours, replenishing the water as necessary.   Yep, two hours.  Drain them and when they’re cool, if your fruit isn’t seedless, cut them in half and remove any seeds.   Puree clementines, peel and all,  to a very fine and fluffy paste in the food processor. 

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190ºC.  Brush a 9″ cake pan with hazelnut oil or butter and add a round of parchment paper if you’re not using a nonstick pan.
Beat the eggs well with a whisk.  Whisk in the sugar, hazelnut flour and baking powder. Mix well and add the pureed fruit.  Split the vanilla bean in two and scrape the seeds into batter.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, still in the pan.  Remove from pan when cool.

This cake tastes great right away, better the day after baking, and even better than that on the third day.  If you’re the disciplined sort, wrap it well in foil and let it rest for a couple of days before you serve it.  It’s utterly delicious as is, but a little glaze doesn’t hurt it either.

And I know I promised to tell you about the Lyon Christmas market, but since tomorrow we’re off to Aix en Provence to visit their marche de Noël, we’ll have a marché-palooza when I get home.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor and bake that cake.

The Art Of The Apple

November 18, 2008


My favorite French cooking apples are the reine de reinettes, a queen of apples if ever there was one.  It’s an old European apple, one  that doesn’t have a real equivalent among its youthful American cousins.  It’s too soft to eat raw, hovers between sweet and slightly tart, and is meltingly luscious when cooked.  A tasty relative?  The reinettes de Vigan.  I hadn’t seen any Viganais apples here yet this year, so over the weekend when we were up in Le Vigan and I saw a little organic grocery selling them, I bought a sackful.


Aren’t they beautiful?  To my eye they look like the golden apples of Atalanta must have looked, before transnational shipping practices and standards of conformity for beauty and size dictated the look of our fruit bowl.  Before I even had time to think about what to do with them, the daily paper’s recipe appeared before my eyes.


I’ve already written here about the daily recipe offerings to be found in the Midi Libre, but this recipe looked more intriguing than most.  A sort of apple mosaic with cinnamon, a layered baked applesauce, a chilled flourless apple cake, what?  It was difficult to visualize the results by reading the recipe, but it looked satisfyingly fussy to prepare, and containing only apples, cinnamon, sugar, and butter, it was bound to highlight my special fruit.  It called for layering thinly sliced Royal Gala apples in a caramel-coated pan with cinnamon sugar and a little butter, then baking it for 3 hours, then chilling it overnight.  However, I was bound and determined to use my reinettes de Vigan, in defiance of the instructions.  It’s not my best characteristic, but sometimes I just don’t want to do what I’m told.

So I sliced up my apples, too thinly as it turns out.  I made the caramel and coated the bottom of the pan; although the recipe called for coating the sides as well there wasn’t enough caramel, so in the recipe below I’ve doubled the caramel for you.  I layered the apples as prettily as I could.  The pan called for, a moule à cake,  is like a bread pan, only narrower, use a silicone terrine mold if you have one.  The hardest part turned out to be finding a weight that could sit on the pan in the oven.  Cans were out, since the temperature would go over boiling.    What to use for the weights?


I settled on dishes filled with lentils.  I love these little dishes, originally used in the mid-1840’s to hold pigments in a pottery factory.  I baked the terrine for three hours, during which time it went from filling a pan about 4″ deep to being only an inch and a half high, while the juices went, you guessed it, all over the oven rack.  I chilled it overnight.  This morning I unmolded it and had some for breakfast. Was it all worth it?  Judge for yourself.


Is it gorgeous?  Not really, although it is interesting to look at.  I think slicing the apples thicker would better emphasize the mosaic effect, or perhaps using the Royal Gala apples the recipe calls for would have made a huge difference.  But was it delicious?  Yes, in an understated chilled apple compote way.  In fairness, the recipe suggests serving it with crème anglaise, and I ate it with only a splash of fresh cream.  It’s not life-changing, but it’s very good.  It has the additional advantage of being gluten-free, for those who care about that.  I’m going to try it again with a firmer apple, the Royal Galas, or maybe even Golden Delicious, which are highly prized here for making tarte tatin.  It you make it and find an apple that looks as beautiful after being baked as it does beforehand, please tell us what you used.  If yours is prettier than mine, send me a picture and I’ll post it here.

Chilled Apple Terrine

1.5 kilos/3.3 lbs apples, peeled, quartered, seeded, and sliced
170 gms/6 oz sugar, divided use
4 T water
1 tsp cinnamon
30 gms/1 oz butter, cut into tiny pieces

Place 100 gms/3.5 ounces of the sugar with the water in a small saucepan.  Let simmer until you have a caramel of a deep amber color.  Pour this caramel very carefully into your pan or mold and swirl to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.  You won’t be able to cover it completely, but it’s all going to melt back down anyway, so don’t worry.

Preheat the oven to 130°C/265°F.  Mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Make one beautiful layer of the sliced apples on top of the caramel.  This will be the top when you turn out the dessert, so make it as pretty as possible.  Sprinkle the layer with cinnamon sugar and little bits of butter.  Repeat until you’ve used up all of the ingredients.  I made 7 layers in all – just be sure to come out even with the apples, cinnamon sugar, and butter.  Press the fruit down firmly in the pan, cover the top with parchment paper, and set oven-proof weights on top of the pan.  Place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 3 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven, leaving the weights in place, and let cool for an hour.  Remove weights and parchment and unmold the apple terrine onto a platter.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To serve, slice into thick slices and plate on a pool of with crème anglaise or fresh cream.