Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pancetta Chocolate Chip Cookies

Due to popular demand, I am now revealing my new Pancetta Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Actually, I only had one vote on the matter in my last post, and it was from a fellow cookie-lover, Jenn from Cinnamon Quill. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, or if you just love chocolate, please go straight to her vegan World Peace Cookie Recipe which looks amazing. If you're really into pancetta, stick around for this post or see my recipe for Pasta Carbonara or Pancetta-wrapped Scallops.

As you can probably guess, I'm on a bit of a pancetta kick. While the rest of Portland is devouring bacon by the pound, I'm getting into the more subtle flavor that pancetta lends to a recipe. For something more intense, check out Pete's Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies. He candies the bacon before using. I went a different route with this recipe. I left the pancetta uncooked. Half of it I whipped into the butter to infuse the pancetta flavor throughout the batter. The other half of the pancetta goes in with the chocolate chips at the end. The result is a soft, subtle, and almost savory cookie.

A note about softness and texture: it took me a while to develop the right technique for making cookies come out really soft and stay that way after cooling. There are three tricks to employ if softness is your goal. Firstly, when softening your butter let it get so warm that a little bit of it starts to melt. This is a good temperature to whip it at, and will help the sugar integrate into the butter. Second, whip the butter until it's extremely fluffy. This can take quite a while; be patient and persistent. Keep checking the texture until it's just right. The sugar shouldn't have a granulated texture anymore, but should melt into the butter a bit. Thirdly, don't cook them too long. The cookies should just be browned around the edges but with a soft center.

Pancetta Chocolate Chip Cookies

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Blend together in a small bowl:

1 Cup + 2 TBSP Gluten-free Deluxe Pastry Flour (1 1/4 Cup for cakey-er cookies)
1/2 tsp baking soda
(add: 1/8 tsp xanthan gum if your gluten-free flour mix doesn't have it already)

In a large bowl, beat until very fluffy, about 7 minutes:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup bakers sugar, or up to a 50:50 ratio of brown and granulated sugar
4 thin slices pancetta, cut into pieces (about 1.5 oz)

When optimal fluffiness is achieved, add in:

1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat until smooth. Add in your flour mixture and stir until well-combined. Stir in:

4 more thin slices of pancetta, cut into pieces (about 1.5 oz)
1/2 cup high-quality dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
Drop the dough onto a cookie sheet in rounded lumps. I use about 2 Tbsp of dough per cookie. Space them two inches apart. Cook one sheet at a time for 8 minutes, or until they are done on the outer edge and still doughy in the center. Serve warm when possible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

Today I bring you news that has nothing to do with gluten-free cooking. Today I am simply using my blog here at Gluten-free Gourmand as a platform to promote my brand-new blog, Still Life With Bicycle. Here you will find all sorts of interesting fine art and travel photographs taken by yours truly. If you think the photos on this blog are amazing, or especially if you think they are terrible, you will be pleasantly surprised to see the fine art photography I do while I'm not cooking!

Stay tuned for my next Gluten-free Gourmand post, which may feature one of the following things:

Pancetta chocolate chip cookies,
Pork roast stuffed with Porcini mushrooms,
Oxtail soup,
Buckwheat Pancakes, or
Trout stuffed with leeks

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gluten-free Disasters

I'm writing today to confess that gluten-free cooking is not always easy. In fact, regular cooking is not always easy. Sometimes, mistakes are made.

Take, for example, the recipe variation for the quinoa pancakes that I promised you five months ago. So far, my revisions look much like my first attempts - that is, disastrous:
There have been some really humorous moments, such as when I discovered that a food processor should never be filled this full of liquid:Seconds after taking this photo, tomato was sprayed over three walls. I was too embarrassed to take photos of the damage, but I assure you it was extensive. The batch of my tomato sauce turned out anyway, although I might have had more if I didn't spill so much.

There were also little things, like when I tried to duplicate my Gluten-free Tempura Recipe with a slight modification, but put the tempura bowl on the hot burner, thereby cooking the batter before the vegetables were dipped in it. I had to make a new batch. You can also see where I spilled soy sauce all over the stove. On top of all that, I kept taking blurry pictures!Then there was the cheese.
I told you all at one point that I was making cheese from scratch with my cooking partner. We had to throw it away. It grew a mysterious mold which smelled like rotting pumpkin. Other than that, it seemed to go pretty well.

Do you remember when I said I made Pulpo a la Gallega? It was the same time that I said I was making cheese. The first time, it turned out perfectly and took about half an hour.
The second time, I bought a bigger octopus for a Spanish-themed party I was throwing.
It turns out that the bigger ones take about an hour and a half - or longer - to cook. It's a good thing I had other food to serve.

There were other Spanish recipe flops. On this one, I saved some for the next day just to take a picture, which ended up looking like this:
Did I mention that I'm a professional photographer? Oh, well. The paella wasn't that good, anyway. Next time!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recipe for My Grandmother's Marinara Sauce

To my faithful readers who have been patient with me, I'll finally explain why I took a long break from blogging. My grandfather recently died and my life has been in a bit of a frenzy with work, love, family, and a funeral. In memory of my grandfather, who loved this tomato sauce recipe so much, I am going to share with you my version of my grandmother's spaghetti sauce.

My grandmother usually used a mixture of stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato puree from a can to make this. However, I have multitudes of fresh tomatoes from my garden to use for this. I have adapted the recipe to call for fresh tomatoes, which was probably the origin of the recipe anyway.

You can use a food mill (pictured right) or tomatoes concasse as explained in my gazpacho recipe to make this. For ideal texture, use both. I chose to essentially juice my tomatoes this time, since most of my harvest was made up of small tomatoes which don't produce much flesh after skinning and de-seeding. The method of getting the tomatoes into the pot is less important than simply reducing the sauce for a long time. It should be very rich, dark, and thick when it's ready.

Grandma's Marinara Sauce

In a large non-aluminum stock pot, saute:

4 Tbsp olive oil  
1 small onion, chopped  
4 cloves garlic

When the onions are starting to brown, add:

2 tsp dry or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
2 tsp dry or 1/3 cup fresh basil
1 tsp salt (if your tomato liquid is already salted, add less salt)
1/2 tsp black pepper

Saute everything for another minute. Add:

8-10 cups tomatoes concasse and/or juiced tomatoes

Simmer for several hours, stirring every half hour until the sauce thickens and becomes dark and rich. Taste it and adjust seasonings as desired. You can add water at any time if it's too thick. If desired, add some browned meat balls and/or sausage 1/2 hour before you are done cooking. Serve over your favorite gluten-free pasta.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today was one of those glorious days. I woke up to sun and a blue sky, but when I stepped out to go to the farmer's market the sky turned black. It dumped rain for hours. I never made it to the farmer's market.

Around 3:30 the rain came with renewed vigor. The sky was again dark as though the sun were going down. Then, all of a sudden, it was sunny and warm.

I made pesto.

I started taking out my garden once it warmed up today. My basil had never done as well as I wished, but there was enough of it today to make one last batch of my favorite sauce.I never measure anything for this recipe, but if it's your first time making it, or you just like measuring things, you can start with this recipe:

2 C fresh basil from your garden
1/3 C pine nuts or walnuts

1 clove garlic

1/4 C grated Parmesan
(if you can't do dairy, I've subbed pancetta to get that full flavor, or a little bit of dry gluten-free bread for texture)
1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

ground white pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend with the blade until smooth. Scrape down the sides as necessary and blend some more.

Before you serve, be sure to taste it and add anything that you think it lacks. It shouldn't feel dry in the mouth - this means it needs more oil. If it feels oily in the mouth, it may need more Parmesan or basil. You can add another clove of garlic if you think it needs some extra zing, but be sure to process it thoroughly.

Cook your favorite gluten-free pasta, rinse with hot water, and serve the pesto on top at room temperature.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Autumn Garden

After an entire summer of bountiful tomato harvesting, things have suddenly slowed down. We're really lucky to be having such a beautiful summer here in Portland, but the extended sunny days may end soon and the weather has cooled enough to discourage my tomatoes. Here is my harvest today - literally a handful of produce:
How is your garden faring in the autumn weather?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A recipe for Pancetta-wrapped Scallops

I love pancetta. It adds so much to any dish that you make with it. The rich, savory flavor of it compliments and intensifies any food that it's cooked with.

This recipe for pancetta-wrapped scallops is incredibly simple, but very impressive. There are only three ingredients in it. I serve it as an appetizer either on its own or over a bed of sauteed greens. This recipe serves two or four.

Pancetta-wrapped Scallops

Rinse and pat dry:

4 large scallops

Leaving the flat ends open, wrap the scallops with:

4 slices pancetta (one slice per scallop)

You can use any style of pancetta. I uncurl it if I'm using a rolled pancetta. If sliced thin, the pancetta will stick to itself at the end of the wrapping process.

Heat a cast-iron pan or another pan that can sear your scallops nicely (not a non-stick pan) on medium-high. When it's hot enough to make a splash of water sizzle, add:

1-2 Tbsp olive oil or butter

The fat should heat up right away and become a thin liquid in the pan. Tilt the pan to spread it around. Place your wrapped scallops in the pan, flat side down. Sear for about 2 minutes, or until well-browned. With tongs, carefully turn each scallop over to sear the other side. Once all scallops are flipped, turn off the heat on the burner. let the scallops cook on the second side for 1-2 minutes, or just until they start to firm up slightly. Serve.

For other recipes involving beautiful pancetta, see my recipe for Traditional Italian Pasta Carbonara and Pancetta Rolls Stuffed With Goat Cheese.

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