Saturday, March 23, 2013

The beginning of something new...

In last week's blog post I posted in black and white that I was setting out on a 'cooking quest' of sorts, to create a new meal each week using a different recipe(s) from my plethora of lovely cookbooks that sit in my kitchen looking so pretty and collecting dust. I realized after I posted that lofty statement this could be quite a commitment and one that might be challenging to live up to, however, a great chance to be inspired and learn some new "moves" in the kitchen!

I decided on Wednesday that I was going to cook something from Cristina Ceccatelli Cook's third and newest cookbook titled, "Cristina's of Sun Valley - Con Gusto!" It's a beautiful book loaded with her native Italian recipes and beautiful photos. In this book she's also includes many gluten free recipes, which I'd like to think were written just for me considering I'm a loyal customer of hers, but I'm seriously doubting that I was her inspiration. The irony of choosing one of her recipes, having only received her new book in the mail the week prior, was that Cristina actually called me this same day! It's not often that your phone rings and the caller ID states, "Cristina - Sun Valley" calling. Ironically, I had called her restaurant the day before to place an order of gluten free focaccia bread and a few other items. (If I haven't mentioned before, Cristina's in Sun Valley makes the best GF bread I've ever eaten!) Because Cristina is an amazing business woman and fastidious over attention to detail, she personally called me back to double-check my order and chat about a possible gluten free article I'd interviewed her for a while back. It's always such a pleasure to speak with her. She has a vivacious personality backed with kindness and yes, amazing talents in the kitchen. During our phone conversation I was also able to congratulate her on such a beautiful third cookbook telling her that I'd be preparing one of her dishes for my blog post.

The choice for this post was easy - it's the first week of spring and I wanted to create a meal that was lighter yet loaded with nutrition, flavors, and color. I was stopped in my tracks on page 125 when I saw this gorgeous photo of black cod in a salsa verde - perfectly seared and resting on the most lovely white plate. That's it, I proclaimed! Then I moved onto find a typical Italian recipe for sautéed spinach, chard and kale...three of my absolute leafy greens. And finally, who can resist the nutty and rich flavor of quinoa with chopped green onions for a zip and some color.

There it is menu for this week's spring blog post!

I really wanted to do Cristina's beautiful recipes only shortfall came in the cooking of the cod. Why is it that cod prepared in a restaurant always stays in ONE PIECE, never falling to pieces as it does every time I've cooked it at home?! Can someone please answer this for me? Sorry Cristina...I did my best, but the flavors were terrific.

Black Cod in Salsa Verde ~
Serves 6 (feel free to modify depending upon needed servings)

- 2 Pounds black cod, cut in 6 pieces

- 2 Cups Italian parsley leaves

- 2 Cloves garlic

- 1 Tbsp. capers, plus 1 tsp. caper juice

- 1 Oil-packed anchovy

- 2 Tsp. red wine vinegar

- 1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

- 6 lemon wedges

Rince the cod and set aside to dry while you make the salsa verde.

On a cutting board, finely chop the parsley with the garlic, capers and anchovy. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the caper juice and vinegar. Stir in 7 tablespoons of the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In bowl, toss the cod with 2 tablespoons of salsa verde.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the cod, skin up, and cook over high heat 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the fish and cook 3 minutes, or until the cod flakes.

Transfer the cod to a warm serving plate, spoon a little salsa verde over the fish, and sprinkle the lemon zest. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sautéed Spinach, Chard & Kale ~ 
Serves 4

- 2 Pounds spinach, chard or kale (I cooked all three)

- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

- 1 Clove garlic, thinly sliced

- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Blanch greens in boiling, salted water 2 to 3 minutes for spinach, 8 to 10 minutes for chard and kale. Drain and squeeze out water, and sauté with olive oil and garlic 1 minute. Add a little lemon juice before serving.

If you are not going to use all of your greens immediately, squeeze into balls and refrigerate until later...but I'm betting that you'll eat them all.

The finished product was really lovely and the flavors all worked well together. Though the fish prep seems a big lengthy, it's really an easy meal to put together. For more amazing recipes that you will absolutely devour, pick up one of Cristina's beautiful cookbooks - you'll be very pleased that you did.

Con Gusto!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The last winter recipe...

As these long and dark winter days quickly slip by making way for spring that's just around the corner...literally, I've decided to post one final winter recipe that's perfect for a cozy night in.

Lentils always conjure up the idea of flavorful, heartier meals and they are so darn versatile. I love them...almost as much as quinoa...not that they are in competition, however. They actually go quite well together in colder salads, but that's another recipe. For this dish I decided to utilize everything I had in my fridge that would compliment lentils and add some good flavors. I found some fresh, organic zucchini, some red peppers, a shallot and ohhhh  yum, some delicious sausages that added just the right amount of smokey flavor and some robustness to the dish. This is how I cook most days...always keeping fresh essentials stocked in the 'crisper' but usually making dishes up on the fly, seasoning as I go along and experimenting with flavors. Of course, this adds to the risk factor of cooking something that could turn out to be disastrous or mis-measured, etc. but I kind of enjoy taking my chances. However, with that statement made...I have some new news!

Beginning next week my blog is going to become the "testing ground" and post for a recipe a week...meaning, I'm going to do my best to choose a new recipe every Thursday or Friday evening from the plethora of cookbooks I have in my library (that look so pretty, yet are rarely utilized!), and feature the results here...along with photos and discussion around the cookbooks themselves! Fun and a big undertaking, but as I was trekking my way around the reservoir this afternoon the idea hit me...and it's sticking. I'm excited!

Back to the lentil and sausage with sautéed veggies...I ended up cooking an insane amount of lentils which lasted me for several days, but you can certainly cut down or add to this recipe very easily.

- 2 cups freshly cooked French lentils, 1 cup cooking liquid reserved

- 2 organic spiced sausage (of your choice - pre-cooked) 

- 1/2 cup organic gluten-free vegetarian broth 

- 2 organice medium zucchini 

- 1 cup red and yellow peppers (marinated are best)

- 1 medium shallot, minced

- 2 Tbsp. feta cheese

- 2 Tbsp. olive oil 

- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

- 1 tsp. organic garlic salt

- sea salt and pepper to taste

Keep lentils warming in a separate pot (add the broth in with the lentils) while you sauté the shallots in olive oil until tender. Then add in thinly sliced zucchini and peppers. Sauté all ingredients until al dente, then add in the sliced sausages adding with them the red pepper, garlic salt along with salt and pepper (to taste). Cook all for 6-8 minutes on medium flame to meld flavors.

Serve cooked lentils on bottom of the plate and then gently add the sausage and vegetable mix over the lentils, as desired. Allow to cool for a minute then add the feta cheese. Given the heartiness of this dish, I chose to forgo any starches and instead, paired with a lovely glass of merlot. A sliced pear was the perfect dessert.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

London Calling - Gluten Free Dining

I was asked by Karen Broussard, Founder of to review restaurants in London, while meeting up there with my best friend, to be featured on her amazingly unique and resourceful website. Have a read and definitely try these terrific restaurants when you're visiting one of the world's most international AND gluten-free friendly cities!

(As published on

Dining Gluten Free in LONDON

If you're an American looking for a fun international travel destination -- where there's no language barrier (except for the great accents!) -- and where maintaining a gluten free diet is relatively easy, you'll want to consider London
As our Featured Reviewer on GlutenFreeTravelSite this month will attest, shopping for gluten free grocery items is easy (items are well-labeled so you can readily tell what's gluten free). And dining out during her recent trip to London over New Year's went even better than Aimee anticipated. She found that many restaurants had Gluten Free Menus, and others were knowledgeable and able to communicate exactly which menu items were safe too eat -- and tailor certain offerings to make them gluten free, if needed. 
Daphne's-gluten-free-londonAimee shares three of her favorite "gluten free friendly" restaurant discoveries in our Featured Review this month, starting with an elegant restaurant between Chelsea and South Kensington (and not far from great shopping in Knightsbridge or on King's Road). Whether you dine there for lunch or dinner, you'll find the wait staff friendly and their knowledge of gluten free options impressive. Aimee enjoyed a perfect Italian dinner consisting of a wonderful endive, pear and Gorgonzola salad, followed by an exquisite rissotto, and capped off with a decadent panna cotta. 
Aimee found two other restaurants particularly noteworthy on her trip: a restaurant well-known by locals and named after Princess Margaret, who used to be a frequent guest. This West London restaurant evokes the feeling of a farmhouse kitchen in the English countryside. Huge wooden tables display candles dripping wax down old wine bottle candelabras, and the atmosphere, food, service, and affordable prices left Aimee wanting to return. 
Gluten-free-beirut-street-food-londonSince no trip to London is complete without seeking out some of the wide variety of cuisines from around the world, Aimee highlighted a particular favorite find of hers: a small Lebanese restaurant that was packed at lunchtime...but worth the wait for one of the tables. Located on a tiny cobblestone street, this unexpected discovery was one of the culinary highlights of Aimee's trip. The fresh, flavorful food -- most of which was gluten free to cater to the restaurant's many GF diners -- was an absolute delight. (You can read more details about all three of these restaurants on our Featured Review page.)
Aimee left London feeling great about her gluten free experiences -- and happy to confirm that this exciting, vibrant city can be a very safe place for Celiacs to travel and dine like Kings or Queens!
Have you been to London? What were some of your favorite restaurants? Feel free to click the Comments button below and share your recommendations -- or submit a quick review to GlutenFreeTravelSite so that others visiting or living in London can benefit from your recommendations! 
Have another favorite "gluten free friendly" destination -- in Europe or someplace else around the globe? We'd love to hear about your experience!