BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Italian

Gluten-Free Goodness

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Rebecka sinks her teeth into these chewy, sweet hazelnut and coconut (flourless) wafers.

I’ve fallen in love with a simple gluten-free cookie recipe just in time for a visit from my sister Elaine, who unsuccessfully tried to get me on the bandwagon when we visited her in Atlanta in January. My gluten-free friend George (the man behind Corvallis Local Foods) had a birthday party coming up, and I had bags of ground hazelnut and also almond flour to burn through. So I turned to this simple Piedmontese recipe for Italian Hazelnut Cookies from Eating Well magazine. I didn’t bother to skin the hazelnuts, because mine, from our local Hazelnut Hill farm, were already ground into a meal. Plus, I like the color, texture (fiber?) and flavor the thin skins provide anyway. All you do is beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and then mix that fluffiness in with the combined sugar and ground nuts and then bake. I added some coconut and cardamom to the mix to spice things up. The results are quite addictive. With no added oil or starchy carbs, one can almost be convinced these cookies are good for you.

This is a recipe to return to again and again, with endless possible variations. They’re really almost like roughed up tops of macaroons in a way. This weekend, I made the cookies with the almond flour I love from Trader Joe’s, coconut and chunks of chocolate in some. I was thrilled to finally have a use for the containers of long-forgotten egg whites I had frozen away. The key is to find a use for the whites and yolks at about the same time. Stay tuned for my mention of yolks in the aioli I made for a steamed version of stuffed artichokes last week.

Written by baltimoregon

May 10, 2010 at 1:19 am

Pick a Pepper (Chiles, too)

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Local peppers galore: polbanos, anaheims, sweet Italian reds.

Local peppers galore: polbanos, anaheims, sweet Italian reds.

This time of year, what you see at the market dictates what food you will prepare. At closing time Saturday, for the first time I noticed a vendor selling nothing but peppers. Deep green poblanos. Fiery anaheims. Bright red and yellow Italian (long and skinnier but just as sweet as bell) peppers. It was a pepper farmer from Coburg I hadn’t seen there before. To woo us, the stand fresh-roasted the peppers right there on the grill.

But I took them home to do myself. Some right on the gas burner, some under the broiler. Until they blister and turn black, then into a paper bag to steam for 10 minutes before slipping off the skins. It’s hard to get the timing just right. But better to overdue it slightly, to get that smokey roasted flavor, if you don’t mind them falling apart.

And fall apart they did as I tried to stuff the poblanos for Chiles Rellenos. Mark Bittman inspired the stuffing: grated Monterey Jack cheese, mixed with some fresh sweet corn and pumpkin seeds. Bittman also gave good tips for the batter: whip egg whites until stiff, then add flour and some beer to keep it airy. Ours didn’t quite have the right consistency because my husband is still learning how to separate the egg whites from the yolk. (Never-mind, I’ll just do it myself). But it was less eggy/omelette-like than the Rellenos my father, who worked in a Mexican restaurant throughout college, always makes.

Tomatillos simmering into salsa verde.

Tomatillos simmering into salsa verde.

His Mexican recipes are some of the most treasured in our family, as if that were our ancestry (oh wait: we do have Mexican cousins, stemming from the forty years my explorer-archaeologist-adventurer-cultural pirate great-great grandfather spent there). Most beloved is Dad’s famous Salsa Verde (green sauce). Here’s the recipe:

1 large onion

1 can green chiles (or roast your own anaheims or poblanos, of course)

1 jalapeno

2 cups chicken stock

1 lb. tomatillos

sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic, Mexican oregano, oil, cilantro is optional.

Saute the onions until translucent. Add all the other remaining ingredients except the sour cream. Simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender blender. Add sour cream to taste and blend til smooth.

And it freezes well to boot. I spooned the sauce over Chiles Rellenos but it is also excellent with camerones: just take steamed shrimp and place them atop a bed of Mexican rice and lettuce and top with the hot salsa verde.

A naked chile relleno, baked instead of battered or fried.

A naked chile relleno, baked instead of battered or fried.

Which roasting method do you use? Gas-burner, broiler or grill?

Which roasting method do you use? Gas-burner, broiler or grill?

Written by baltimoregon

September 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Clemenza’s: Some of the Best Italian Food Around

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Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a hepaing serving)

Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a heaping serving)

After last week’s disappointing trip to local-chain Pastini Pastaria (overcooked pasta, ridiculous waits), we were thrilled to finally make it to Clemenza’s Italian American Cafe in neighboring Albany. Hands-down it has to be the best Italian place in this area, especially when you consider the quantity and quality you get for the price.

I had the Rigatoni Clemenza, with a unique spicy-sweet tomato sauce fortified with with pureed broccoli and shreds of the stalk, cubes of dried salami, a dusting of Italian bacon and baked cheese. Pictured is a more than ample “medium” portion. For just dollars more, Clemenza’s lets the big eaters order a larger plate of the entree. Dan took that route, happily feasting on baked spaghetti with a rich three meat (beef, turkey and pork) sauce. Clemenza’s is his Platonic ideal of a restaurant: homestyle, unpretentious pastas and simple sauces that speak for themselves. With two small cups of the house red, the bill came to only $26. Move over, Mamma Zu.

Restaurants like Clemenza are slowly revitalizing blue-collar downtown Albany, which unjustly plays step-sister to tonier Corvallis, though both small cities have similar sized-populations. Leading the progress are restauranteurs Matt and Janel Bennett. They’ve run the more upscale Sybaris in Albany for several years. That’s where we had that magical mushroom dinner this fall. Then the Bennetts opened Clemenza’s just down the main street in June. Chef Matt Bennett is a rising culinary star here, especially since he cooked at the Beard House in NYC.

Albany could use a third spot with his magic touch. Let’s hope a rumor suggesting that was in the cards comes true!

Written by baltimoregon

January 19, 2009 at 2:07 am

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