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This week was better by degrees, but only slightly. I pushed to appear lively and upbeat in this video since it was sponsored by Explore-Asian! It’s very exciting to have a sponsored video to share with you, and I do hope you give these noodles a try (details for how to purchase and find out more are in the video’s description box). I wouldn’t share a recipe or product with you that I myself didn’t love; my promise to you is that I’ll always give you the real scoop. (#KIR)
That said, when these noodles arrived, instead of being long and pasta-length, they were short and broken. Form needed to be considered for their grand finale—so I went with this napa cabbage, carrot, radish, brown jasmine rice pasta salad with pan seared salmon in a lemon ginger “soy” dressing. The recipe has been ever-so-slightly (but barely) adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks called “Raising The Salad Bar” by Catherine Walthers, an ode to salads in their every form. I went there for inspiration, and ended up tweaking one recipe that caught my eye to make it healthier and one hundred percent gluten free. If you’re paleo, omit the noodles altogether. If you’re vegan, (get with the program! Just kidding, kinda) omit the salmon. Whatever you are, enjoy!
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For reasons I do not know, my health is in the gutter. I’ve got full-blown flu symptoms without the flu. I’ve got an inkling of an idea about why (Herxheimer reaction) but cannot be sure. BLECH.
Times like these mean I pull from my “cooking with chronic illness” arsenal of tricks. Make one thing; use it in as many ways as possible.
Two weeks ago, I told the story of how I completely lost my grip on moderation and went haywire overdosing on carbohydrates during a trip to New York (years ago). I showed everyone how to make this incredible parsley pesto pizza; the main attraction was the crust (obvio) and the story. Today, I’m showing you the parsley pesto. It’s as easy as breathing, which is crucial, since even that is taking its toll on me these days.
I’ve omitted the cheese and garlic because the effort to add those two ingredients exceeds my current capacity, and it’s just as tasty without it. But if you have the energy to peel garlic and grate cheese, and your digestion tolerates it, do it!
As promised, there is a ten-long list of ways to use this one sauce. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sky is the limit. Tweak it ever so slightly each day to make it feel fresh and brand new.
Before I was gluten free, before my illness changed my life and my health and my diet and my priorities, I LIVED for pizza (and bagels, with lox, and cream cheese). As a native New Yorker fresh to Cali soil, I had sworn, and crossed my heart, that I would never, ever, not for as long as I lived in the state of California, eat a piece of pizza.
The gods immediately conspired to make me break this vow. After four hours spent roller skating in a poorly ventilated rink that smelled like hormonal teenagers and their days-on-end-non-showered-bodies, while 80′s and early 90′s music blared from speakers with old and broken wires, the staff decided that for lunch, we’d treat these severely unloved and abandoned children being raised by California’s social service system (us) to pizza.
My stomach drops. I’m thinking: ”Is that because I’m starving, or because I must keep my promise?”
Crammed into this tiny restaurant in Noe Valley SF, I remain stoic, and refuse. Just the sight of it offends me, and I let everyone know, too. The pies are not uniform in size, and they’re covered with all kinds of random things (what’s UP with the pineapples and chicken people? Pineapples are for fruit salad and smoothies. Chicken? Completely lawless and unequivocably inappropriate on pizza!), and the melted cheese looks uniform and smooth, instead of pock-marked with tomato sauce. No, no, no. It’s just wrong.
My co-workers, accustomed to counseling irrational teens on a daily basis, swooped in to address my child-like defiance.
“What if we don’t call it pizza?”
“That would be much better because it’s NOT pizza.”
“Okay, so would you eat this thing that’s not pizza if we called it Bob?” I mean, it’s Bob we’re all eating.”
“I could eat Bob. But not pizza.”
Vow: broken. (PS. The pizza was very very very very very very meh).
When I look at my feelings for pizza, the passion, the ire, the sheer intensity of what comes up, I can’t help but wonder what else it’s about. Why so fiery?
Pizza, for me, is dinner to celebrate middle school softball victories for games that were like climbing mountains to win; birthday parties in elementary school, the greasy boxes, carried in stacks, wafting their divine smell through the hallways; the lunch alone with my third teacher at the local joint as reward for whoever achieved the most amount of gold stars; the inevitable burn on the underside of your mouth because you can’t wait to take the first bite; the simple command, “gimme a slice,”; the ideal greasy glob to soak up too much friggin’ liquor late night; the perfect snack after a day spent on the beach.
I don’t think I could ever stay gluten free for more than a week if I lived in the same town as my beloved pizza. Five days would be my tops. Celiac disease? I’d save up to afford the hospital bills.
That’s why when it comes to pizza, especially in California, especially when you’re talking about a lady with a gluten sensitivity and an allergy to the very kind of cheese that makes up one third of pizza’s key ingredients (mozzarella), I don’t touch the stuff.
Thus, it’s a really.big.deal for me to have made this pizza for the show. And I gotta say: how good it was surprised me. As a kid, I often felt drawn to what we call “the white slice” which is ricotta based, with broccoli. I always loved it. Inspired by that memory, and the produce that’s freshest right now, I set about to create an allergy friendly, California version of that timeless classic.
When you’re using fresh ingredients like I am here with the farmer’s market fennel and garden-grown broccoli, and combining garlic, and high quality imported olive oil–it’s truly hard to have it NOT be delicious.
I can’t deny that California has shaped and changed me and that I consider the Bay Area a kind of home, but I will never, ever claim that this pizza is anything close to what I know and love, to what feels like a food that thrums in my veins with the memory of my ancestors (who were from Naples and Sicily). I can say that this pizza exceeded my expectations and I am pleased that I was able to overcome by aggressive denial of alternative pizza styles to make this recipe a reality. May its presence at your table grace you with the love with which it was made.
I wanted to tell you so many things for this recipes, and instead I ended up singing a terrible parody of the Disney song “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Many folks who follow me on YouTube don’t end up here, so I feel bad for failing them. But they can always check here if they want the deets.
As a rule, I don’t eat processed flour, gluten free or not. I find that where processed flour is involved, sugar is usually not far away. Pancakes are a perfect example. Syrup, whipped cream, chocolate chips, uber sweet fruits—these are the classic sugary toppings that accompany pancakes to the breakfast ball. As I’ve said before, unless you have severe health issues which completely prohibit the eating of any grains, there is the 10 percent time when eating a pancake or two is good for the soul. It never fails to remind me of how terrible I feel after a giant carb bomb explodes into my digestive system. Mitch Hedberg’s joke summarizes this perfectly: “Pancakes are all exciting at first. But by the end you’re f*cking sick of them.”
That said, if you’re gonna eat pancakes, you want them to be the bomb. Making gluten free pancakes taste just as fluffy and transcendent as their AP Flour couterpart is essential. I use my homemade flour blend for this recipe. Rigorous testing proved this to yield the best result. If you experiment with store bought mixes, just know that the chance of them coming out too grainy is likely.
Lastly, I want to talk about pancakes from a culinary point of view. Technically, pancakes derive from the quick bread family. A quick bread is a batter that is made by combining a ratio’d mix of wet and dry ingredients. If you know one ratio, you know thousands of recipes. The book that broadened my horizons in this area is called “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking” by Michael Ruhlman. Check it out if you’re looking to amp your recipe-less cooking game.
Without further ado, I give to you: “Let (Your Diet) Go” – my toasted coconut pancake “Frozen” homage.
I’m not naturally good at being balanced or taking the middle ground with things. It’s not enough to feel incredibly grateful on a daily basis for all that my life has and is. I need to NEVER TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED in order to pass the test of life. What’s really true, what I actually need, is a softer approach; a big-bosomed maternalistic voice, one that doesn’t use words like “never” and “anything” or “everything” in the same sentence; one that mellows out the Emperor who’s usually in charge up there in m’brain.
Easy enough to know what’s needed. But life is more complex than a grocery list. I can’t pick up a “Maternalistic Voice to Balance Out The Emperor” from Whole Foods on my way home from acupuncture or therapy. It’s more like something I set an internal radar gun to catch when it speeds through my mind. Except I’m not always sitting by the side of the freeway of my mind waiting. Sometimes the thoughts slip right on by, undetected.
Even though I know that the harsh voice in my head needs a little watering down, I also know that it’s a value of mine to live each day filled with gratitude; that taking things for granted feels like ignoring the overflow of blessings. As is so often the case, the best way to express what I’m getting at is with a song lyric (thanks Joni Mitchell): “Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you’ve got/till it’s gone.” Yes. Yes that’s it. I want to know what I’ve got before it’s gone. Because so many things are already gone.
Like my life before this illness they call CFS tornado’d the roof off, taking what it took! Pizza! Bagels! Burritos! Midnight-dark beer! Straightforward, cheap All Purpose Flour. All. Purpose.
All purpose is just that. And being able to eat it, let alone bake/cook with it, is something I took for granted. That was before the particular tangles of laboring over gluten free flour blends; before bulk orders of every imaginable flour you can dream up (brown rice, white rice, potato, ceci, arrowroot, tapioca, sorghum, millet, the list goes on), experimenting and failing gloriously at making just about everything that previously called for AP Flour.
Until… enough tinkering lead to my BINGO moment! This particular blend is perfect for quick breads (muffins), pancakes, fritters, popovers, biscuits, and as a thickening agent in custards. I very rarely eat processed foods, and I consider flour as one of them. There is only ONE video recipe that utilizes a jumbo sized amount of flour. Just because something is gluten free does mean that it’s healthy. It takes five different flours in a specific ratio to get the texture that most closely resembles the AP equivalent, but it’s worth it because I’m gung-ho about loving my gluten free life. Indulging my cravings when they occasionally arise is *key* to maintaining my lifestyle with real, whole foods.
Here’s the kicker: the fact of losing something DOES help you realize what you had (i.e., now we need five flours to make the texture of one). It also helps in heightening appreciation for what’s right here, in the now of this very. While I don’t yet know how to be gentler with myself about taking things for granted, I do know how to sub in this flour to fit my rare cravings to bake.
ERRRRBODY in the club wants a cracker? Not steril-ly. Only if they also happen to be standing next to a cheese plate with artisan olives and salumi. Then yes. And if they’re gluten free, no dice. An old fashioned real-deal cracker (made WITHOUT partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) is hard to come by in the gluten free world. Exit night…Enter LIIIIIGHT!
GF (Rosemary-Thyme Sea Salt Olive Oil) Water Crackers!
I use them as a vehicle for nutrient dense pâté ; the man-dude will indulge the cheese & salumi combo (I try not to be jealous). They are thin, crunchy, and exactly like real-deal water crackers. Excellent when paired with chicken soup (duh). The *KEY* is to roll the dough out as thin as you can get it. Which is NOT what happened in this video. Partially because I was filming, and partially because I made a big batch and should have cut the dough into two equal parts and rolled them separately.
In either case, I’m proud to present you with the easiest cracker recipe ever. You’ll feel like such a bad-ass eating your own handmade crackers. BUCKBUCK! (reggae ref. forgive me).