Ingredients

The list of ingredients will grow as I use ingredients that require some explanation.

CAPERS:  Capers are flower buds, grown on bushes in the around the Mediterranean.  Once picked, they are dried and pickled. They can be treated two ways, one is salting – which would make them gluten free the other is with vinegar and that puts us smack in the middle of the vinegar debate again.  If you find salted capers be sure to rinse them before chopping.  The capers pickled with vinegar are most commonly available, and again, trying them is a personal decision.

COCONUT AMINOS:   A paleo substitute for soy sauce.  The ingredients say:  Coconut sap aged and blended with salt.  The predominant flavor is salty sweet and mildly coconut.

EGGS:  There is so much to write about eggs I could fill a book about it, but for brevity here are some important facts I think you will find helpful:

     Raw Egg Hazard:  Many people (and probably government agencies as well) feel strongly that eating raw eggs is dangerous (I would guess the same would apply to sushi, steak tartar, any crudo, or any raw animal product – including milk – all of which I eat except the milk).  From the statistics I’ve read, there is a 1 in 10,000 chance you could get salmonella (really nasty and you don’t want it) from eating raw eggs.  The best way to avoid that is to not eat raw eggs.  If, like myself, are willing to take the chance, be sure to use the freshest eggs you can and wash the shells well before cracking them.  IMG_5671

     Size:  eggs can generally be purchased medium, large, extra-large, and jumbo.  Unless otherwise specified, recipes calling for eggs mean large eggs.

    Freshness:    Important points:  eggs will remain fresh 3 to 4 weeks after expiration date.  You can tell if an egg is fresh by submerging it in a bowl of water.  If it sinks to the bottom, it’s very fresh; if it floats on top, it should be discarded; if it stands on it’s end it’s okay.  If you shake the egg and hear the yolk moving around it’s less than fresh.

     Cooking methods:  eggs are very versatile, they can be fried, scrambled, poached, baked (you could broil them if you want to, thought I’ve never seen anyone do that), and boiled.  This link will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about Hard cooked eggs. For soft cooked eggs:  Pierce the wide end of the egg with a pin (this releases the air in the sac and prevents the eggs from cracking in the water), place in a pot of boiling water (enough to cover the eggs completely), cook 3 minutes for runny, 4 minutes for mostly hard white and liquid yolk, 5 minutes for completely hard white and yolk cooked around edges, and 6 minutes for very hard white and just a little liquid yolk.  Anything more than that is probably hard cooked.  To make poached eggs:  Fill a small saucepan 3/4 full with water; add 1/4 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Break the eggs into the boiling water and cook 2 minutes for runny yolks, longer for firmer yolks. Drain;  transfer to  serving plate or bowl.

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MILLET:  is a grain that is small, has a golden-yellow color, and looks a lot like yellow mustard seeds.

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At first taste, millet may seem a little bitter or just odd, but when prepared or eaten with ingredients that are either spicy, sour, salty, or sweet the millet flavor melds nicely and there is no hint of the bitterness.  When cooked by the method described below, the texture of cooked millet is somewhere between couscous and bulgur.  Like many grains, once refrigerated it becomes hard and somewhat starchy.  A little microwaving will restore millet to it’s lighter, fluffier texture.  Look for millet in markets that now carry Bob’s Red Mill products and in health food stores.

Millet can be cooked like long grain white rice (one cup of millet simmered in 2 cups of water for about 25 minutes) but the texture comes out very “wet” and heavy.  My preferred method of cooking millet is:

2 teaspoons of olive or vegetable oil

1/2 cup millet (rinsed and well drained)

1 1/4 cups boiling water

Salt to taste (1/4 teaspoon is what I use)

1.   Rinse the millet under cool water; drain

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2.  Heat oil in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, over medium high heat.  Add millet; cook, stirring, until some of the grains have browned.

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2.  Stir in boiling water and salt, it will bubble ferociously so stand back.  Cover and reduce heat; simmer 25 to 30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

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Makes:  2 cups

MUSTARD:  Is mustard gluten free?  Mustard has vinegar, and may or may not be okay.  Here’s an article that may help you decide about mustard:  http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/Gluten-Free-Condiments/a/Gluten-Free-Mustard.htm 

OATS:  Oats thrive in harsh climates, so it’s not surprising they are a staple in the Irish and Scottish diets.  They are valued for their high nutrition profile and filling and warming qualitites.  Here, in the U.S. they are used primarily as breakfast cereal or in dessert toppings.  Here, in this blog, they will be used extensively, in flour form, in cooking and baking.

Let me start by saying that oats are gluten-free.  There is some debate or maybe much debate on the subject, but the fact remains that oats do not contain gluten.  Here are the two problems:  1.  Some people are allergic or sensitive to oats  in addition to wheat.  This is something one tends to learn by trial and error.  2.  Contamination.  Oat fields are usually planted near wheat fields and due to weather, harvesting, and production practices, it is not uncommon for some wheat to get mixed in with the oats – and that is why people who cannot tolerate wheat may have reactions to oats.   The good news is that some producers (most notable Bob’s Red Mill) do isolate oat crops from wheat and process them separately, making it possible to buy gluten-free oat products.

Graphic WARNING:  if you are not used to eating quantities of oats, it is highly possible you will have room clearing gas after doing so.  This problem will go away if you eat oats regularly.

OAT FLOUR is just ground up oats.  If you have oatmeal, a blender or food processor, and a strainer in your  house, you have all you need to make oat flour.   I use oat flour for baking and cooking instead of “gluten-free all purpose flour” because I love the fact that it is just one ingredient, has no added starches or gums, and is made of something I heard of before I became wheat-free.

OLIVE OIL:  is so confusing.  You go into a store and there are tons of brands – how do you decide which to buy?  One way is to ask what brand was used when you taste one you like at a restaurant or someone’s home.  Or ask a friend what they use.  The prices can vary greatly between brands and, frankly, a higher price does not guarantee a flavor you will like. Olive oils vary greatly in flavor from fruity to bitter to bland.  A good olive oil should have a very slight peppery after-bite and a flavor you like.   Unlike general vegetable oils that contribute mostly mouth feel, olive oil contributes it’s flavor to everything it is in so you should like or even better, love the one you use.  For everyday cooking I generally use cold pressed Colavita extra virgin olive oil; it has a pleasant but not overwhelming flavor and is not overly expensive.  Olive oils come in varing grades: from extra virgin olive oil to light olive oilExtra virgin olive oil is the first pressing of the olives; it is a very flavorful oil.  Virgin olive oil is also from the first pressing but it has a slightly higher acidity than the extra virgin; it’s good, but not rated quite as high as the extra-virgin pressing.  Then come the plain old olive oil the acidity of which his higher than the virgin olive oil and the flavor tends to be blander.  Further down the list are the light olive oilsThese have been filtered to remove much of the olive oil flavor or can be refined (sometimes treated with chemicals) olive oil with some extra virgin oil thrown in to up the flavor.  The “light” in light olive oil refers to it’s flavor – or lack thereof – not the calorie count.  Light olive oil has the same calorie count as extra virgin olive oil or any other oil, for that matter. For a deeper explanation you may want to check out this site: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/how-olive-oil-works2.htm

QUINOA  is an ancient grain originally grown in South America; it was a sacred grain to the Incas.  Because it was not “discovered” by the general public until relatively recently, it has not been genetically altered.  Technically it is not a true grain but  an herb.  It’s gluten free and relatively quick cooking (15 minutes).  The texture is very light and fluffy and the taste has a hint of bitterness.  The bitterness if from saponin a naturally occurring substance that acts as an insect repellent for the plant.  For cooking it is important to rinse the quinoa well before cooking it to remove as much of the saponin as possible.

Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of boiling water.   Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with fork (makes 3 1/2 cups)

RADISHES:

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All radishes are crunchy (as long as stored properly), more or less bitter, and have a peppery bite to them. Once dressed or cooked the bitterness and peppery-ness (is that a word? spell check is telling me “NO!” no matter how I try to spell it but you know what I mean).

Every bunch of radishes you buy is going to vary in bitterness and bite…however here’s a list of common and slightly uncommon radishes in order from mildest to sharpest:

watermelon radish, daikon radish, icle radish, red radish (bigger radishes are usually milder and smaller ones are sharper), black radish

I’m sure there must be hundreds of other types of radishes but these are the ones I’m familiar with.

To peel or not to peel – that is the question. For reasons unknown even to myself, I choose to peel all radishes except for the red ones. The skins of all radishes are perfectly edible but you should wash them thoroughly – or, even better – use a scrub brush if you are not going to peel them.

For proper storage I remove the leaves (as they tend to rot long before the radish itself), scrub the radishes, put them in a plastic bag (Debby Meyer green bags are my preferred storage method for produce) and place them in the refrigerator. They will remain good for weeks
VINEGAR:   Is vinegar gluten free?  Vinegars derived from fruits (like wine vinegar and cider vinegar) are gluten-free.  Some distilled white vinegar is made from wheat, others (like Heinz) is made from corn therefore gluten free.  There are mixed opinions of white vinegar derived from grains with gluten.  Some claim that during the process of making distilled white vinegar the gluten is eliminated.  Some gluten-free people can tolerate it, others can’t.  It’s up to you whether you want to try it or not (or stick to Heinz which should be okay).

For a discussion of vinegar and Passover this site offers a pretty complete guide http://oukosher.org/passover/articles/which-foods-are-chametz-2/

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