Summer Tomatoes Stuffed with Lemony Quinoa Salad

Tomatoes stuffed with salad, I know: very old school but I made a modern take on it the other week for company.  A gluten free version I might add! Everyone raved about the fresh flavor of the dish.  So I am posting it here so you can try it; one caveat; only use local tomatoes.  Do NOT make this with those pale imitation supermarket tomatoes. It is not possible to create something tasty if you start with bad ingredients and those plastic flavored “tomatoes” just will not work.

You can serve the filling as a side salad and I will give those directions after the tomato version. I served the salad style at a picnic last week and my sister Karen had seconds. She was not a big quinoa fan until she ate that salad!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa Salad

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

½ cup raw quinoa, plain pale yellow type (not red or black)

1 cup water

½ a veggie  bullion cube

4 medium to large tomatoes

2/3-3/4 cup small dice burpless or European cucumber

½ cup small dice zucchini

1/3 cup small dice red onion

2 tbsp. fresh mint or parsley, diced finely

1 lemon

3 tbsp.  EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Directions

Put the quinoa in the water.  If it doesn’t say rinsed you should put it in a strainer and rinse it for a minute to get off any coating which can be bitter.  Add the half bullion cube, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Using a sharp paring knife cut the top off of each tomato, reserve it for a lid.  Scoop out the tomato guts using a spoon. I like to use a serrated edged grapefruit spoon but almost any spoon will work.   You can use the insides for something else; in a soup, a salad or a stew?  I turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain briefly to be sure I got all the wet stuff out.

Place the cooled quinoa In a mixing bowl.  Top it with the finely chopped veggies.  You can use less veggies than I suggested; up to you. I like lots of veggies.  Make sure they are cut very small though.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top; even fresh chives chopped fine or basil will work great.   Use a zester or a very fine grater and get as much zest off the lemon (wash the lemon first); you can zest right into the quinoa mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl put the juice of that same lemon, the EVOL and red wine vinegar.  If you have more than 3 tbsp of lemon juice add a bit more EVOL and whisk to combine; add in up to ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper.  Pour ¾ of it over the quinoa and veggies and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add the rest of the dressing if it is needed.  Use a large spoon to fill the hollowed out tomatoes.  Top each one with the reserved lids.  I put mine finished tomatoes on a platter and refrigerated for a few minutes so I could make the rest of the meal; no more than 1 hour.  You can serve each on a bed of lettuce or just by itself.   stuffed tomato

This is a great side dish or, if you have a vegetarian visiting, it is a substantial main dish choice as quinoa has a lot of complete protein in it. I served it with some zucchini yeast bread and some gnudi dumplings as a delicious meal for my vegetarian god daughter.

The salad filling can be served all on its own as a salad; I added a bunch of cherry tomatoes halved to it and it was ready to go.  So simple but the combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and EVOL makes a great salad dressing.  If your filling seems wet; you added too much dressing.  Add more tomatoes and diced zuke and cuke.  Do not cook the zucchini – if it is fresh and tender it is fantastic raw in a salad.  If you can’t get one of those European cucumbers use a small regular one and peel the skin off it before dicing. If the seeds are large do not use the center with the seeds.  Your salad will not be as pretty if there are sloppy cucumber seeds in it.   I do cut the veggies larger for a salad; diced is fine.  But I suggest you keep the red onion bits very fine.  And start with a fresh red onion. Onion does not keep well; gets bitter so peel a new onion to make your salad if you want the best tasting results.

quinoa salad 8-14

Quinoa salad will keep a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long! Try it with different fresh herbs. I would never make this in the dead of winter as it just won’t taste the same without the fresh summer veggies.  I try to eat seasonally and this is definitely a summer treat!

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Bread Worth the Work; GF AND Tasty!

Baking tasty gluten free bread is sort of the Holy Grail for us folks with celiac disease.  I miss the flavor and texture of good quality bread.  I have tried many recipes that left me dissatisfied with the bread I baked.  In years past I used to make many different types of yummy wheaty bread.  The truth is that without the protein in wheat flour it is difficult to make satisfying gf bread.

Early this winter I discovered a website “Gluten Free on a Shoestring” by Nicole Hunn and bought the cookbook that had just come out “Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread.” I have made some of her recipes and had moderate success.  I will say that her breads are generally really good the first day you bake them.  I often freeze my leftovers before going to bed so they remain tasty.   I have made her pretzel rolls, lean crusty whole-grain bread and submarine rolls (from her website).  This week I made two of her recipes and I want to tell you about the bread.

It is zucchini yeast bread. Unusual because it is a savory bread, not a sweet dessert bread. Plus it has to chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours! I made the dough up Friday night and put it in a greased bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  This chilled resting period allows for better texture and ease in forming the bread dough.  I shaped it Sunday afternoon, let it rise a bit more than an hour and popped it in the oven. Forty minutes later it was done, golden brown, raised a bit and smelled spectacular.  I took it to my mom’s for Sunday supper along with my best friend Bernie who was my college roomie and my goddaughter Danielle, her firstborn.  We had slices with our vegetarian dinner as Danielle doesn’t eat meat.

It was spectacular, fragrant, moist, crisp crust.  I could almost swear it had cheese in it and I knew it didn’t!  Second slices were had and I was so proud of a gf bread which hasn’t happened very often.

Her flour mixes are a bit complicated and some of the ingredients are pricey but if you just want the best bread I would say her recipes are a must have so you can treat yourself to the tastiest gf bread I have ever enjoyed.

Nicole Hunn’s website is “Gluten Free on a Shoestring.”  Check it out as it is chock full of her latest recipes.  She tries them out and showcases them on her blog before they appear in her books.  I believe she is about to bring out a cookbook where she re-creates gf a favorite commercial treat like the cookies and breads of Starbucks and the like.  It will be at least her fourth cookbook.

This bread alone is worth the effort of making up her special flour mixes; first you make her basic gf flour and then you use it to make her bread flour.  She uses whey protein powder to give the protein boast gf bread recipes need to allow for best flavor and texture.   There is also pectin powder in the flour mix.  These unusual ingredients allow her breads to be shaped and formed, even braided!   The doughs are tricky sometimes to work with but I am glad I am trying and I get to eat the tasty results!

Check out her website, http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/ and try a recipe.  The zucchini yeast bread recipe is on it.  If you long for yummy tasting, fine textured bread Nicole Hunn is your baker to follow.  I use several gf cookbooks but for bread, her information is revolutionary and worth investigating.  Good baking!

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Delicate Cheesy Quiche To Enjoy This Summer

Okay, if you are an ardent quiche hater you might be thinking that over again.  This quiche recipe may change your mind. It is not heavy or goopy and the light cheesey taste will win you over.

I like to use fresh veggies in it and my favorite versions always have bacon. If you dislike any of my chosen veggies or the bacon; change them.  Cubed ham will work very well too or make it just vegetarian.  Quiche is a nice summer supper; you can make it the day before and re-warm the slice slightly before serving.  It goes well with a salad or some fruity yogurt or a cup of soup.

This recipe has a rather unusual and easy crust. If you prefer something else just sub in your favorite non-sweet crust.  I have made it with my basic gf brown rice flour mixture pie crust but this is so easy and a different taste you may find growing on you.  Very healthy too!

Angie’s Quiche

Crust

1 tbsp butter

¾ cup toasted buckwheat grouts

 

Filling

4-6 slices bacon cut in to ½ inch chunks

1 onion sliced into medium width rings

1 cup zucchini slices; I cut the rounds in half

1 small 4 oz can mushroom pieces, drained

1 ¼ cup 1 percent plain cottage cheese

1/3 cup whole milk or half and half

3 large eggs

¼ tsp dried thyme

½ cup 1/3 inch cubes of swiss, Monterey jack or mild cheddar cheese

A sprinkle of paprika

Directions:

Cook the bacon until it is very close to done.  I like to use a cast iron pan.  Stir the bits often so they don’t stick or burn.  Turn off and decant on to a paper towel, leaving the bacon grease in the pan as much as possible.  I turn the heat back on, med high and sauté the onions for at least 5 minutes, until they soften.  I steam the zucchini slices until almost soft 3-5 minutes. Drain the zucchini slices well.  Put the onion slices/pieces on a paper towel to drain.

Rub the butter around the entire bottom and sides of a 9 inch metal pie pan.  Gently tip in the grouts and roll the loose ones so they stick all over the buttered pan.  Let the excess ones cover the bottom with a thicker layer.  I don’t always use all ¾ cup; sometimes I use a tad less.

Put the cottage cheese, milk, thyme and eggs in the blender.  Blend 30 seconds until smooth.

Gently, layer the bacon in the grouted pan, then the mushrooms, onions and zuke.  Sprinkle with the cheese cubes.  Carefully pour in the blended filling and sprinkle with paprika. Sometimes I don’t use zuke (the winter time when it isn’t as tasty) and sometimes I skip the cheese topping.  Occasionally I used smoked paprika for my sprinkling.

Bake 35 min at 325 degrees; maybe 5 extra minutes if it seems really squishy. It shouldn’t be too firm.  As it bakes the buckwheat swells up and forms a crust.  Let stand a minimum of 30 minutes before slicing.  I definitely use a knife around the edge and a pie server for loosening the bottom crust.

It keeps several days in the fridge if any is left over!  Cover it tightly with plastic wrap.  You can swap out the ingredients as you wish and as to your fridge can provide for fillings.  Just the blender ingredients should stay the same although I have used different milks; please do not use skim milk though because it is too thin and your quiche will not be as yummy as whole milk or half and half can make it.

FYI: buckwheat is not wheat, it is a seed and is somewhat related to rhubarb.  It has no gluten.  Some of you people may be familiar with buckwheat pancakes.  I make buckwheat gnocchi pasta which is yummy.  It is a good ingredient to add to your grain arsenal.

Do try this when the heat cools off a bit.  It only bakes 35 minutes so the oven isn’t running all that long.  Enjoy!

Cheese Filled Fried Zucchini Blossoms….Yes Flowers Fried With Cheese!

Zucchini season is here.  The blossoms, at least, are plentiful and I am expecting many zucchini in a few days.  While no squash are ready to pick I was thinking about the blossoms.  I used to make stuffed blossoms with beer batter.  I hadn’t tried to make them GF yet.  Why not tonight.

I looked up my recipe in the Joy of Cooking; the batter recipe that is.  I was surprised to see it said flour or rice flour.  So I said, why not! No need for a fancy flour blend. I used plain white rice flour in my batter.

I usually use Monterey Jack cheese to fill them but in a pinch some extra sharp cheddar made do.  Or whatever cheese floats your boat; can use almost anything that is not too dry or is runny.

There was some GF Redbridge beer chilling in my fridge. So I cracked a beer and whipped up the batter.  It is supposed to sit for 3 hours, I left it go for about one hour.  I drank the rest of the beer with supper! Why not?

No need to deep fry in a quart of oil, I fried mine in a non stick pan with a good coating of light olive oil.  I like to turn them twice; resulting in a sort of three sided fritter. They are best consumed right away the same day they are made, eaten warm with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.  My two and a half year old grandson ate one and seemed to enjoy it!  They have a mild squash taste but I think the beer batter is the predominate flavor. My GF version was pretty much identical to the old wheat version and they tasted fantastic! I ate 4 of them and had to restrain myself from any more….

Squash Fritters with Cheese Filling

Ingredients

1 egg

2/3 cup white rice flour

Sprinkle sea salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper

1 ½ tsp light olive oil plus more for frying

3 ounces GF beer; I measure it midway between ½ and 2/3 cup

Approx 1 inch chunk of cheddar cheese cut into small rectangles

¼ a fresh lemon

Separate the egg and put the yolk in a medium bowl, ditto for the white.  Add the oil, salt, pepper and white rice flour to the yolk.  Then add the beer.  Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let stand an hour or two.  Beat that reserved egg white until fairly stiff. Add to the batter and stir gently but thoroughly. It will loose some loft but don’t over beat; should be thick and rather puffy in texture.

Slit open the side of each squash blossom and break off the pollen stamen.  Insert a 1 inch by ½ inch chunk of cheddar cheese.

Heat a 10 inch non-stick skillet; add about 2 or 3 tbsp light olive oil.  Take 2-3 blossoms and gently roll in the batter making sure the cheese doesn’t fall out.  Lightly lay them in the hot olive oil and fry until golden, turn twice; about 5 or 6 minutes total. Do not keep turning; maximum of two turns.  Lay on a couple paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Plate, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

They are a lovely appetizer. I made 9 of them; that was how many blossoms I had; the batter should do at least 12 to 15 of them.  Even the bit of stem will taste good so don’t worry if you have ½ inch or so of stem.  The blossoms are best if you pick them yourself that day. I did notice that Lehigh Valley Produce had squash blossoms for sale last week so they are the first place I suggest you look for some if you don’t have access to a few squash plants.  I have even used pumpkin or butternut squash blossoms in the past; they taste fine

Do try them; a real conversation starter, not that hard to make and really delicious.