Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Deschutes Brewery Introduces the Gluten-free Crystal Weiss Beer

Deschutes Brewery in Portland, Oregon, out-does itself again with their new gluten-free beer, the Gluten-free Crystal Weiss. Deschutes is really perfecting their gluten-free beers - each one is better than the last. Each one also seems to come closer to traditional beers, and sidesteps some of the pitfalls of the typical gluten-free beer.

The Gluten-free Crystal Weiss is very drinkable. The ingredients of maple syrup and molasses come through in the flavor and aroma. This one is very pleasant and smooth, with none of the metallic aftertaste that is the signature of other gluten-free beers die to the sorghum malt.  It has a bit of a fruit quality to it but it holds back from being actually sweet.

The aroma is what really stood out for me with this beer. Gluten-free beers often have an unusual odor. While I could smell the sorghum in this beer, the scent was surprisingly pleasant.

They don't have it posted on their website yet, but the brew is listed on their beer menu:

Gluten-free Crystal Weiss
100% Gluten-free Ale! This beer is made with sorghum, brown rice, maple syrup, and molasses for a smooth gluten-free experience. We used German noble hops, Perle for bittering and Spalter and Hersbruckens hops for aroma.

IBU's: 25 Alcohol by Vol 4.8%

I had a gluten-eating friend try a sip. His response? "It's good!" and "It almost tastes like a cider!" This was a compliment, by the way. My friend was craving a cider. He ended up getting a Black Butte Porter, one of my old favorites from the gluten days. I'll try to get someone who has more authority and opinion to try it and give a thorough review here at the Gluten-free Gourmand.

This beer will only be available in their two pub locations - one is in the Pearl District in Portland, and the original location is in Bend. But as previously reported, my server again confirmed that the Deschutes Brewery will be coming out with new gluten-free beers year-round until they settle on a few recipes they really like.

I heard a rumor that they had both the Gluten-free ESB and the Gluten-free Weiss beers on tap at the same time, but by the time I got there they were out of the ESB. I consoled myself very reasonably with two pints of the Crystal Weiss, a burger with a gluten-free bun, fries, and a double-chocolate pot de creme.

That's right: as reported here last month on the Gluten-free Gourmand, the Deschutes Brewery has been working on their very own gluten-free bun. It is now available. It won't blow your mind, but it's serviceable. The dough has an unleavened look to it, but the flavor is good.

The fries have no flour in their seasoning, but ask your server if you are worried about cross-contamination; sometimes they don't cook them in a dedicated fryer.

Items on the menu that are able to be modified to be gluten-free are noted with a little symbol. Ask your server for details - they seem to know all about it. This would be a great place to bring people for a work function, as they are able to accommodate all sorts of diets. I'm definitely going to bring my dad here the next time he visits - he'd really be into the wood carvings, and I got him hooked on Black Butte Porter years ago.

Go try it out, and let me know what you think. Cheers!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garden Update

Gardening seems to be a hot topic among my friends and family these days. Everyone is comparing notes on how their vegetables are doing. I've had a few things just sort of fade away, but I consider my garden to be productive so far.
Here is one of my mustard plants:
Here is a little basil variety called Pistou Basil. It grows in a cute little bush, and it has tons of small leaves that are very aromatic:
I'm growing cilantro from seeds:
I bought this calendula (marigold) start at the farmer's market back in March or April and it became huge - about a foot and a half high! I couldn't believe it!My tomatoes seem to be doing well, and already have little green tomatoes on them. It's pretty exciting for me because last year my garden went in late and I had to wait forever until I had tomatoes. I'm growing a bunch of different varieties this year.The tag on this one says "Opalka." It's going to produce a dark red tomato with the shape of a chili.I bought way too many cherry tomato varieties. I'll have really colorful tomato salads this year with red, purple, and orange cherry tomatoes. I think these are the Sun Gold tomatoes that will be orange:The weather is getting hotter here. I hope the gardens keep thriving! How is yours doing?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Andean Dream Quinoa/Rice Pasta Review

You may know by now that I'm into pasta. I've done several reviews now, including Ener-G White Rice Spaghetti, Tinkyada White Rice Spaghetti, Tinkyada Brown Rice Fetucini, and a round-up of the Best and Worst of Gluten-free Pasta, in which I declare my favorite gluten-free pasta to be Ancient Harvest Quinoa and Corn pasta. This is still my favorite. However, I was glad to find a new quinoa pasta to try because I was pretty sure I'd like it.

I did. This is a very good pasta option, and perhaps the only quinoa pasta available for people who can't tolerate corn.

The look, feel, and flavor of the Andean Dream quinoa pasta are all very neutral - even more natural than the Ancient Harvest, which tends to look a little yellow. The Andean Dream is almost semolina colored, but it may have a touch of gray to the color which I don't find overly noticeable. The flavor is surprisingly neutral without being bland.

The texture is the stand-out feature of this quinoa pasta. It is extremely flexible and firm, even a bit chewy. It has some bite to it. It wasn't at all sticky or excessively starchy, and the sauce of my Pasta Carbonara coated it easily. (The pasta looks a little yellower in this dish because of the egg in the sauce.)

As a bonus, I found the cooking instructions to be fairly accurate. It cooks for about 13 minutes.

This pasta is a little expensive, even by gluten-free pasta standards. Then again, it's imported from Bolivia. I found it at Whole Foods. You can order it online at www.adreamshopping.com I think it's worth a try, especially if you can't eat corn and have never tried a quinoa pasta. Let me know what you think, or if you've tried it!

This is a post for What's for Dinner? Wednesday. See Linda at the Gluten-free Homemaker for more gluten-free ideas.

Another Gluten-free Weekend

I haven't been posting as often lately. Summer is here, and I've been busy with projects and experiments. In lieu of a solid product review or recipe, I'll give you an idea of what's coming up.

I'm still working on some variations for the gluten-free pancake recipe I created. The next iteration will involve buckwheat, (like my waffles) one of my favorites. I'm almost there! I just have to eat all the reject batches of quinoa pancakes inhabiting my freezer, then get over being tired of pancakes, then I'll make a new batch and complete my recipe variation.

I added this tip to the post "Tips for beginners on the Gluten-free diet:"

Talk to everyone about being gluten-free. When I first started on the diet, I had a customer who would bribe my staff and me with these delicious-looking chocolate cookies. I wouldn't try them, assuming they were full of gluten. After weeks of constant bribing, I found out that the customer was on a wheat-free diet, and the cookies were gluten-free all along! He never brought them in again, and I really missed out. If I had just told him about my relationship to cookies early one, I could have enjoyed them and also made a new gluten-free friend. It pays to talk about it: everyone knows someone gluten-free, even if they aren't GF themselves. Treat your diet as a lifestyle, not a disease.

I've been trying some new (to me) gluten-free pastas, including Andean Dream, an organic quinoa and rice pasta that I really liked. I also tried the Tinkyada brown rice spinach spaghetti. Full reviews are coming soon.

I've been gardening. This spring has been good for plant life, which also means that the pollen count is particularly high. Ah, well. I might be switching to Zyrtec soon.

I've been making cheese.

This weekend I also made octopus.

A few weeks ago a reader asked me for a recipe for blondies. I haven't gotten to it yet, but tonight I'm making Brownies Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking (with modifications). Does that count?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe: Gluten-free, Vegetarian

I'm going to classify my Eggplant Parmesan (Eggplant Parmigiano) Recipe as kind of traditional and sort of easy. Here are the ways that I make this fairly labor-intensive dish easier:

1) I don't salt or otherwise prep the eggplant in any way. I just buy a fresh, firm-fleshed one and slice it just before battering.
2) I don't use bread crumbs; I just use flour. I was surprised to learn that this is how Italians do it.
3) I use jarred tomato sauce. Classico is my favorite. If I have frozen leftovers, I use some of my own marinara sauce.
4) I don't mix anything for the cheese filling. I just use mozzerella, usually fresh.

My former roommate who is from Naples made this for me once, and her boyfriend at the time (now her husband) also made me a gluten-free version. Both came out rather well. Paolo made his with rice flour, which was very crispy and light. For some reason I've found that gluten-free flour mixes don't work very well for deep-frying. A combination of glutinous rice flour and white rice flour gives a crispy outside and a soft, tender interior to the breading. If you don't have any glutinous rice flour, simply using white rice flour for both layers of breading works too. Chick pea (garbanzo bean) flour is the second-best thing I've tried. It has a much stronger flavor and browns nicely. I used two coats of chick pea flour for the eggplant parmesan in the photos, but here I'll give the rice option for the flour breading, which I think works best for my taste.

This is a naturally vegetarian dish. The only thing I'm changing to make it gluten-free is the type of flour I'm using to bread the eggplant. If you eat wheat, you can do two coats of all-purpose flour. For a vegan/dairy-free version, you can simply serve the fried eggplant on its own with sauce, or you can bake the casserole without cheese. It's still great!

Recipe for Eggplant Parmigiano

First prep the breading. Put in a bowl big enough to accommodate the eggplant slices one at a time:

3/4 cup glutinous rice flour 
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together in another bowl the same size:

3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp basil (optional)

Whisk in a third bowl the same size:

2-3 eggs
a dash of salt

Set the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat in your deep fryer or in a cast-iron skillet:

Olive oil (at least enough for the eggplant to float in, about an inch)

Cut into rounds about 1/2 inch thick:

1 large eggplant

Dip the eggplant slices, one at a time, into the egg and flour mixes in this order:
glutinous rice flour,
white rice flour.

Set them aside on a tray as you go, or fry as you go if the oil is hot enough. Fry the battered slices until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds per side. Set them aside on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain as you go. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds:

8-10 oz fresh mozzarella cheese

In a large casserole pan like this one, pour out enough of your tomato sauce to just cover the bottom of the pan, about:

3/4 cup tomato sauce

Place half of the fried eggplant slices in the bottom of the casserole dish in a single layer. Put most (or all) of the mozzarella slices on the eggplant slices. Put the rest of the eggplant slices on top of the mozzarella, and top everything with the rest of the tomato sauce. If you still have mozzarella slices, you may top the dish with those. Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the top:

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Cook the dish for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the parmesan cheese is melted and browning on top. Serve hot on top of (or next to) pasta. Bon apetito!

If you're interested in seeing another traditional Italian pasta recipe, see my Pasta Carbonara recipe. It's easy and delicious!

Need a casserole pan?  Search online at Sur La Table (affiliate).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Tips for Beginners on the Gluten-free Diet

A couple of weeks ago I was grilling a steak and making my roasted vegetables for a friend when he made a confession to me: his doctor suspected that he might have a wheat or gluten sensitivity and recommended that he go on a gluten-free diet.

I was overjoyed. I have to admit that I get a sense of schadenfreude when my friends have to go on a gluten-free diet. Selfishly, I want more people to commiserate with. More importantly, I want people to do what I did: to figure out what is making them feel bad, and find an elegant solution to their problem.

In honor of my friend, I immortalize a few of my tips for those who are just starting on the gluten-free diet.

Find a gluten-free friend. They will know where the safe places are to eat in your area, the good products to buy at your local store, and the the stuff to stay away from.

Take it easy at first. You may have to cut out additional foods - don' t let that get you down. You may be able to re-introduce them later. In the mean time, focus on clearing your system. When confronted with a bland recovery meal or a limited restaurant option, think about how your foods are going to make you feel in two hours and in two days as you're eating. You're going to feel good.

Inform yourself of the things you will need to stay away from. Fortunately there are fewer things on this list now; I told my friend the other day that blue cheese wasn't safe. It turns out that it often is. If you don't cook at home, you may need to take a crash-course in what ingredients you need to stay away from. Read labels religiously.

Figure out your new restaurant persona. You will no longer be the one to order quickly and be done with it. You will have to be the one to ask your server questions. Experiment with different methods for going about it and find what suits you best.

Get over the cost of gluten-free food. It's more expensive. It's worth it. The sooner you figure out how to fit that into the budget, the less stressful the change will be.

Make a list of foods you already like that are naturally gluten-free. When you're feeling sorry for yourself because you can't eat some silly pastry product, indulge in one of the foods on your list. My not-so-guilty pleasure is steak.

If you are into baking, you're in luck! Do you realize how much effort you have expended to avoid "developing the gluten" in your batters? You never have to worry about that again! Quick breads (muffins, scones) will be a cinch for you. You just get to spend some time familiarizing yourself with some new grains and flours. Get into it!

Read up. Your doctor may not know everything there is to know about your condition. Take responsibility for your care. Make your doctor visits count for all they can by being prepared to ask the most pertinent questions at the beginning.

Talk to everyone about being gluten-free. When I first started on the diet, I had this customer who would bribe my staff and me with these delicious chocolate cookies. I wouldn't try them, assuming they were full of gluten. After weeks of constant bribing, I found out that the customer was on a wheat-free diet, and the cookies were gluten-free all along! He never brought them in again, and I really missed out. If I had just told him about my relationship to cookies early on, I could have enjoyed them and also made a new gluten-free friend. It pays to talk about it: everyone knows someone gluten-free, even if they aren't GF themselves. Treat your diet as a lifestyle, not a disease.

Don't worry about it so much. You're going to be better than fine. If this diet really works for you, you're lucky. You've just figured out how to treat your condition without medication or surgery. Bon appetit! Your food is your cure.