Thursday, January 30, 2014

Arepas: The Ultimate Gluten-Free Sliders with South American Flair

I think it's time to bring arepas out from under the radar and into the spotlight. An arepa is a thick flat bread made from pre-cooked corn flour, and found ubiquitously in Venezuelan and Colombian cuisines. It has to be P.A.N. pre-cooked cornmeal, otherwise it will not work (if you're curious why - read this "production" section). (I find it locally at Von's in the Latino section. Kroger carries it, too.) I remember clearly the first time I had arepas. My Venezuelan roommate, Vivi, made them one night for dinner. She made about a dozen of the arepas and served them still piping hot with a variety of lunch meats, cheeses, butter, and salsa. I was in heaven. My new favorite comfort food, and naturally gluten-free.

I figured these would be perfect as "sliders" for the big game. Everyone can customize them with whatever ingredients you feel like supplying.  I felt more on the South American/exotic/whatever was easy side of ingredients with precooked BBQ pork from the grocery (one of those roasted chickens would work well, too), pepper jack cheese, queso freso, pan-seared plantains, avocados, black beans, and onions. Get creative, or keep it simple. It's your call. It's all about the arepas. My muse for arepas is Caracas Arepa Bar in New York City - I love this place! Just check it out and you will be inspired, too.

  • water, 2 1/2 cups
  • PAN precooked cornmeal flour, 2 cups
  • salt, 1 teaspoon
  • filling of choice: meats, cheeses, hot sauce, plantains, beans, avocado....
In a large bowl, using clean hands, mix together the water, PAN, and salt.  Work the dough well until it thickens a bit and comes together.  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Lightly oil the surface. Form the arepa cake using a handful of dough and shape it into a puck.  Place on heated surface and cook for about 12 minutes undisturbed.  Flip and cook for 12 minutes on the other side.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool slightly.  Serve immediately with your spread of choice. Makes about 10-12 arepa sliders.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Comfort Food Feast. Check out The FN Dish.  This week we're focusing on sliders.  On twitter, we're tagging #ComfortFoodFeast.  Here are other awesome sliders to try out:    

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole (Gluten-Free)

Casserole seems like such a broad term to me. It can essentially mean anything that is baked as a one-dish meal. In my mind, that consists of all of the basic food groups in one dish. Ideally that means potatoes, sausage, eggs, cheese, and some vegetables for good measure. One of my friends was mentioning how much he likes tater tot casserole. I was intrigued. I came up with a tater tot "breakfast" casserole that is perfect for any meal, any occasion. Warning, this is far from a "light" meal. Talk about gluttonous comfort food. However, it is gluten-free. That said, gluten-free is now considered healthy.... right?

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole
  • Tater Tots, 1/2 package (Ore-Ida's the best!)
  • Sausage, 1 tube, 8 ounces
  • Yellow onion, small/medium, diced medium
  • Green bell, diced medium
  • Eggs, 7, lightly scrambled
  • Shredded mild cheddar cheese, 2 cups
  • Salt, pepper, oregano (optional), and cayenne (optional) to taste
  1. Bake the tater tots according to directions on package. Make sure to get them extra crispy to hold up better in the casserole. Put aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium-heat. Break up and saute using a spatula. Cook until there is no more pink and is lightly browned. Keeping the grease in the skillet, transfer the cooked sausage into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the onions into the skillet with the rendered sausage grease. Saute over medium heat with occasional stirring until the onions are transparent. At that point, add in the green peppers. Saute until just cooked, another 5-7 minutes. Add in seasonings to taste. Transfer to that bowl with the sausage and allow to cool. At this point, make sure the oven is preheated to 350F.
  4. Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Stir into large bowl with the sausage, onions, and peppers. Add in most of the shredded cheese. But save some for the top. Slowly and very gently stir in the tots. They break very easily.
  5. Lightly grease/spray a casserole dish. Turn the mix into the casserole dish. Gently level out the top and evenly cover with the remaining shredded cheese. Place in oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cook for at least 15 minutes, otherwise it will ooze too much. Enjoy this ridiculousness. Serves 10ish.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Comfort Food Feast. Check out The FN Dish.  This week we're focusing on casseroles.  On twitter, we're tagging #ComfortFoodFeast.  Here are other awesome casseroles to try out:   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cauliflower 'N Cheese (Gluten-Free)

I spent a couple of days vacillating over how to make a mac 'n cheese that is delicious, somewhat sophisticated, decadent without being too heavy, and relatively healthy.  I find the gym is a good place to brainstorm recipe ideas, especially focusing on healthier and more nutritious options.  A younger, hip lady suggested replacing the pasta with cauliflower.  That was genius. I tend to be very stingy with my imported Italian gluten-free pasta and save it for dishes that are all about the pasta. Let's face it - macaroni and cheese is about the oozy cheese sauce (aka bechamel/mornay sauce) and the gratin topping.  What's on the inside acts as a carrier.

Since I decided the best way to blanch the cauliflower was in the microwave, making the effort much less than cooking pasta to the perfect al dente. I like easy. I did add an extra step in this recipe, sauteing aromatics such as leeks, onions, shallots, and garlic to add in this dish. It adds so much depth, flavor, interest, personality... worth the effort. For the bechamel/mornay sauce I used good old-fashioned butter, potato starch (or any GF flour mix will work), 2% milk, and 2% sharp cheddar cheese which you can't tell. For the gratin topping - butter, instant mashed potato flakes, 2% sharp cheddar cheese, and salt. Yes, this dish requires more work than my usual recipes, but worth the extra effort, I'd like to think...

Cauliflower 'N Cheese with Leeks and Aromatics (Gluten-Free)
  • Cauliflower, 1 average head, washed and leaves removed
  • Butter, 45 grams (2 tablespoons) + more for gratin
  • Potato Starch, 45 grams (2 tablespoons), or any GF flour mix
  • Salt, White Pepper, Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper
  • Milk, 2%, 2 cups
  • Grated Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 2%, 2 cups, separated
  • Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Onion, 1/4, chopped fine
  • Leek, washed super well, chopped fine
  • Shallot, chopped fine
  • Garlic, 2-3 cloves, chopped fine
  • Instant mashed potato flakes, 1 cup
  1.  Microwave the head of cauliflower on high for 7 minutes in a large microwave-safe bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Allow to cool.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low/medium heat and add in aromatics: leeks, onion, shallot, garlic. Saute with some salt until transparent. Turn off heat.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the measured butter and potato starch, stirring with a whisk. Add in a dash of salt, white pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper. Stir for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add in the heated milk with vigorous whisking. Bring to a slight simmer. Add in about half of the cheese very slowly with thorough stirring. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Drain any water from the cauliflower and chop into small pieces.
  5. Stir in the sauteed aromatics and chopped cauliflower.
  6. In a small processor, mix together 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes + 1/2 cup of the cheese. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and add and mix again in processor with a little salt.
  7. Preheat oven to 375F. (I used my toaster over which heat up fast and is awesome!)
  8. Turn the cauliflower and cheese sauce into a 8x8 pan or medium size casserole dish. Level out. Evenly distribute the gratin topping on top. Bake fore about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to set up slightly before cutting and serving. Makes about 6-8 servings.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Comfort Food Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  This week we're focusing on macaroni and cheese dishes.  On twitter, we're tagging #ComfortFoodFest.  Here are other awesome macaroni and cheese dishes to try out:   

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Egg In The Hole" with Sauteed Spinach

My mother would make us, as she called them "one-eyed sailors," frequently as a child. They are also called "egg in the basket" or "egg in the hole;" simply an egg fried up in a whole within a slice of bread. Cooked up very much like a grilled cheese sandwich. "One-eyed sailors" still remain in my breakfast repertoire. Once I was diagnosed with Celiac, I just switched to gluten-free (GF) bread. That easy. As far as the hole in the bread, I use a butter knife to cut it out after thawing for a few seconds in the microwave. A cookie cutter of any shape or the rim of a glass will work, just make sure to keep the edges of the bread intact. I always have a tub on washed baby spinach in the fridge and like to add into my meals wherever possible. After cooking up my one-eyed sailor, there's all that good stuff in the skillet and in the amount of time it takes to saute up some spinach is the same time that it takes for the one-eyed sailor to cool to a bit. This favorite breakfast of mine takes 7 or 8 minutes tops to make. It takes longer to eat it than to cook it.

One-Eyed Sailor
  • butter, fat, or oil of your choice - 1 tablespoon
  • egg - 1
  • bread - 1 slice (Trader Joes whole grain GF is my fave)
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste
  • baby spinach - 2 handfuls

  1. Prepare the bread: if using frozen bread (like most GF breads), thaw in microwave for 20 seconds. Cut a hole in the center to accommodate for an egg using without cutting in to the edges a butter knife, the rim of a glass, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter.
  2. Heat a medium/large skillet over medium heat. Add in butter/fat/oil of your choice. (My personal favorite is rendered bacon fat, but anything will work.) Melt and swirl to cover entire surface of skillet.
  3. Place the cut-out bread and the bread hole in the center of the skillet. Press down the edges of the holed bread before cracking egg into it. This should prevent the egg white from running out of the edges. Sprinkle some garlic salt (or any salt or seasoning) onto the egg and bread pieces. Once it has set and white on the bottom of the egg, flip over both pieces. Cook the other side for the same amount of time. I prefer mine somewhere between over easy and over medium.
  4. Remove from skillet onto plate. Return skillet to heat and throw in spinach and saute until wilted with stirring. Add in salt, seasonings, pepper to taste. Should take no longer than 2-3 minutes. Serve on plate with the one-eyed sailor. Grind some black pepper on top, as desired. Eat immediately and enjoy.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Comfort Food Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  This week we're focusing on breakfast dishes.  On twitter, we're tagging #ComfortFoodFest.  Here are other awesome breakfast dishes to try out: