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Pasta Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms and Gluten Free Fettucini, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

The other day, Whole Foods offered a great price on Shiitake mushrooms, and it made it into my shopping basket. The flu had already visited our family (an unwelcome visitor to say the least) and since so many health experts have credited shiitake mushrooms with immune strengthening abilities,  I wanted to include them in an easy to prepare dish. I also selected fresh thyme and oregano.

Before sharing this recipe, I should probably digress a little and share that I have not always been fond of mushrooms.  Raised in Germany, our family was not particularly familiar with mushrooms and certainly never collected any ourselves. To my knowledge, no one that I knew was very familiar with the types of mushrooms that would be safe to eat. During those days, mushrooms were not easily found in grocery stores. When talked about, mushrooms always seemed to have an air of danger attached to them. Probably too many images of toadstools in fairy tales.  A distant aunt apparently knew quite a bit about how to forage safely, but sadly, I never had an opportunity to go along on one of her forest walks. I would encourage anyone to take someone along that is very familiar with the varying types of fungi growing in the forests. This post will not teach you how to forage for mushrooms, since that lies beyond my level of expertise, but in researching this a little over the years there are quite a few valuable sites on the web that offer some interesting insights. You can even grown them yourselves, especially if you live in a moderate and relatively moist environment. Slightly more challenging, if not downright impossible, when you live in the High Desert of the Southwest. If mushroom cultivation is of interest to you, Rodale offers some interesting insights in how to go about it, and you can find additional information and even purchase growing medium kits at this Washington State site, as well as here. There is also a fun video on YouTube , created by Sergei Boutenko, showing how chantrelle mushrooms are collected in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. By the way, he also has a very useful Wild Edibles App on iTunes, demonstrating the safety of all Wild Edibles. Please note, that we have absolutely no affiliation with any of these sites and are mentioning them only because they caught our interest.

While living in the Pacific Northwest, we were introduced to many different and unfamiliar foods – shiitake mushrooms being one of them. A little time went by before I had the courage to try out these intriguing looking mushrooms for myself, after a Naturopathic Physician had suggested that they might be a valuable addition to our diet because of the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and generally immune strengthening properties.  After that initial slow and cautious  introduction, shiitake mushroom have become a staple in many of our dishes ranging from salads, quiches and pasta dishes to toppings for pizza. They are so versatile and easy to incorporate in so many dishes.

Pasta Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms and Gluten Free Fettucini, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

With this particular purchase of shiitake mushrooms, I decided to create just a simple rice pasta dish, since we already had some Tinkyada Fettuccini pasta in the pantry. You could, however, also serve this pasta sauce over some raw zucchini pasta, which is equally delicious. This dish is gluten, dairy, corn and soy free and makes about 4 good size servings.

You will need the following:

  • 6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms (you can use dried, just re-hydrate them ahead of them), thinly sliced.
  • 1 medium sized onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • pinch of Himalaya salt
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. of coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • several springs of thyme, stems removed
  • several springs of oregano, using the leaves only
  • 1 can (15 oz) of organic whole peeled tomatoes
  • a few watercress leaves to top each serving
  • 1 packet of Tinkyada gluten free rice fettuccini pasta

Directions:

Prepare the pasta according to the directions, adding a little extra salt to the cooking water. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil and add the onions and garlic cloves and cook until translucent. Add the shiitake mushrooms and combine with the onions. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the turmeric, salt and pepper. Add the peeled tomatoes to a separate bowl, and gently crush the tomatoes. Add all of this to the cooking mushrooms, together with the fresh oregano and thyme. Combine all the ingredients well, allowing for the herbs to infuse the sauce. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes on low heat.

Pasta Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms and Gluten Free Fettuccini, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, Al rights reserved

Meanwhile drain the pasta. This particular brand of pasta does not require rinsing, unlike some others that are quite starchy. Serve the sauce over the pasta and top with the watercress leaves.

Whether or not you are in a position to safely forage for mushrooms yourself, or, like us, take advantage of good price options at Whole Foods or your favorite market, mushrooms do offer us another alternative to meat, filled with goodness and immune strengthening qualities.  In our case, we chose it in addition to green smoothies, lots of fluids and soups to fight off and ward of the flu.  We are all on the mend now and very happy about that. This dish is one of our favorite ‘quick go to meals’  any time of year, that can be easily prepared after a long day’s work, when long preparations are impossible. It also makes for a very satisfying quick lunch. The shiitake mushrooms lend an almost meat-like texture to the sauce. It is truly delicious.

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In talking about Japanese food culture, we cannot just simply reduce everything to the discussion of food. Placement, harmony within the home and the entire experience surrounding the meal all play an important role.

In Japanese culture, orchids represent refinement. In the past, they were considered to be rare and generally reserved for the wealthy and privileged few, and therefore, even today, are considered a symbol of things that are rare and precious. White orchids are seen as being especially auspicious, because white is the color of purity and cleanliness, the color of the gods.

This is one of two orchids that hold a special place on our kitchen window sills. It has been in full bloom for several weeks and we wanted to share it with you.

Orchid

An evening Orchid

Hidden in its scent,

The flower’s whiteness.

A haiku by Yosa Buson (1716-1783), translated by R.H. Blythe

Since we introduced the principles of Washoku in our last post, we wanted to experiment with a couple of recipes, seeing how easy it would be to adhere to these guidelines. We do admit to loving most Asian foods, with the possible exception of raw fish and some seafoods, but do not lay claim to being experts in Japanese cuisine. As a result, this necessitated a trip to our local libraries, pretty much emptying all the resources available on anything Japanese. We found several treasures hidden among the stacks, but Harumi Kurihara’s book on Japanese Cooking (Harumi’s Japanese Cooking), stood out from the rest. We are told that in Japan, she is considered the national equivalent of  ‘Martha Stewart.’  She pretty much runs a cooking and lifestyle empire, appearing on television shows, owning house ware shops and a chain of restaurants throughout Japan.  She is a modern Japanese woman, but her cooking is rooted in traditional Japanese cuisine, with an an easy to duplicate method for anyone in the rest of the world.

We selected one of her recipes to share with all of you, since it appeared to us to include some of the Washoku guidelines. The recipe is for Steamed Chicken Salad with Sesame Sauce (Mushi Dori no Gomadare Salad), and is very easy to make. Don’t let the seemingly complicated references to Washoku scare you off.  Not only does it address  the five tastes of sweet (sugar), sour (rice wine vinegar), spicy (chili paste, ginger), salty (gluten free tamari), and bitter (garlic, daikon), but also the five colors of red (chili paste), yellow (ginger), green (green onions, cucumber), black (sesame seeds, peanut butter), and white (sesame seeds, garlic).

Three of the five ways of cooking are included in this recipe;  the raw element  by the inclusion of  fresh cucumbers and green onions,  simmering of the chicken, and boiling of the noodles, as well as the marinating of the chicken and green onions in the sauce.

The five senses involve the texture of  the noodles, the crunch of the raw cucumbers, the soft chewiness of the chicken, the harmonizing flavors and the nutty aroma of the sauce.

We should note, that we did make some changes to the recipe. Gomadare, means “dressed with a sesame sauce”  and is very common in Japanese cooking, used for both meat and vegetables. It can be made with either ready-made sesame paste, or more traditionally by grinding toasted sesame seeds to a rough paste in a suribachi (mortar and pestle). The author points out that the Greek-style sesame paste tahini can make a reasonably substitute, although it is not made from toasted sesame seeds, altering the flavor slightly. She also recommends the substitution of unsweetened peanut butter, if you are unable to find sesame paste, which we chose for our version of her recipe.

Traditionally, this recipe is served either as an appetizer, or over cold noodles, as part of a Bento-style lunch, or dinner. Since we prepared this for dinner, we included a recipe for Ginger Bok Choy, which was not included in the above-referenced book.

Ginger Bok Choy and Steamed Chicken Salad with Sesame Sauce

You will need the following ingredients to make these recipes:

  • 1 packet of gluten free brown rice spaghetti (Peacock brand). You can also use gluten free glass noodles.
  • 5 green onions
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • approx. 1 inch. piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
 For the sauce, you will need:
  • 1/4 cup cooking liquid from the chicken
  • 4 Tbsp. of unsweetened peanut butter, or tahini (we used peanut butter)
  • 2 Tbsp. gluten free tamari
  • 1 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped green onions
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 medium-sized Persian cucumbers
For the Ginger Bok Choy recipe, you will need:
  • 2 bunches organic bok choy
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. tamari sauce
Preparation:
  1. Finely chop the green onions, diagonally, setting aside the green parts to be cooked with the chicken. The white parts will  be included in the dressing.
  2. Finely chop the ginger and garlic, setting aside 2 tsp. of ginger for the sauce, the rest to be used for the chicken.
  3. In a frying pan, heat 2 tsp. of toasted sesame oil, add the ginger and the chicken breasts and top with the finely chopped green onions. Brown on both sides. Add 1/4 cup of water. Cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes, or until fully cooked. Once the chicken is done, cut into bite-size pieces and set aside to cool.
  4. Cook the pasts according to package directions, and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce, as well as the  the chicken, green onions and the remaining cooking liquid. Mix well and allow to marinate for a few minutes.
  6. Wash the cucumbers and cut into thin spears, sprinkling them lightly with salt.
  7. Rinse the bok choy, and cut into diagonal strips. Heat the sesame oil in a pan. Add the ginger and top wit the bok choy, sauteing both for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are just wilted. Remove from heat and add the tamari sauce. Toss to coat.
  8. Serve the chicken over the cooled pasta, accompanied by the cucumber spears and the Ginger Bok Choy.

Steamed Chicken Salad with Sesame Sauce


We loved these recipes. They were simple and easy to make, full of flavor and very tasty. Give these a try and let us know how you enjoy them. These dishes have inspired us to include the ideas of Washoku in future recipes, and we will definitely make these recipes many more times in the future. 
Sayonara for now.

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DSCN1294

This is a simple and very easy to make vegetarian lunch, or dinner.  Especially, when you are in a hurry. It can be made in less than half an hour, and fits the bill for a quick bite of lunch,  during one of our very busy days here at home.  You could use any number of vegetables for this dish, so don’t let a lack of a particular vegetable stop you from making this dish. We used the following:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces

6 stalks of baby broccoli, stems cut into small pieces

7 sprigs of thyme, cut into smaller pieces

1 large heirloom tomato, cut into small pieces

About 15 small cherry, or heirloom tomatoes

A couple of handfuls of spinach

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

olive oil

1/2 tsp. Himalaya salt

Black pepper, to taste

Seaweed Gomasio Seasoning, optional

1 packet of Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta

Prepare the pasta following the directions on the package.

Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Spaghetti

Add the pasta to the already boiling water, and stir it frequently while it is cooking to prevent the pasta from sticking together. This pasta turns out really nice, but, once cooked, be sure to rinse it with lots of water to remove the starchy residue. Set aside. This holds true not just for the spaghetti, but all the other rice pasta alternatives. (I am sure that some of you have given up on this particular gluten free pasta, because it leaves such a starchy residue in the cooking water.)

Cut Veggies

In a large frying pan, or wok, heat the coconut oil and add the chopped onions and garlic. Turn down the heat slightly to prevent any excess browning. The onions and garlic should be translucent and golden in color. Add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes,  and broccoli. Drizzle with some olive oil and let cook, turning frequently, for a couple of minutes. Then add the spinach, tomato and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Tomato with Thyme

Incorporate all the ingredients well and add a little more olive oil. Let cook for another couple of minutes. The vegetables need to stay fresh, and not overcooked.

Veggies with Spinach

Then add the prepared and well rinsed pasta to the vegetables, mixing all the ingredients well. Again, cook for another couple of minutes to let the pasta be infused with the wonderful flavors of the vegetables.

Cooked Rice Spaghetti with Vegetables

Enjoy this simple Mediterranean-inspired meal for lunch, or dinner.

Mediterranean-style Rice Pasta

What is your favorite gluten free pasta?

If you are exploring raw food options, another great way to serve this same dish is to use kelp noodles (prepared according to package directions),  served with the same vegetables, but fresh and raw.  Seaweed Gomasio seasoning  ingredients: sesame seeds, sea salt, kombu, dulse and nori) makes a great addition to either version of this meal.

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