Musings by Leah Jorgensen

Archive for June, 2010

The Flavor Bible: An Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity

Cooking Gluten Free Doesn’t Have To Be Yucky.

Eating well takes some creativity.  While a large part of culinary creativity may be summoned at once by imagination, it is more important to understand how flavors work – or don’t work – together.  Once you begin to get a sense of how flavors work together, you won’t ever have to follow recipes again (of course, unless you want to).  You can stir up some amazing tastes while going with the flow.   That is when cooking stops feeling like a chore and evolves into a passion – and in some cases, an obsession!

Part of learning how to cook gluten free and retain flavor in foods that would otherwise go bland, I have relied on The Flavor Bible for inspiration and enlightenment.

The book is divided into three parts:  1 – Flavor = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + “The X Factor”: Learning to recognize the language of food; 2 – Great Cooking = Maximizing Flavor + Pleasure by Tapping Body + Heart + Mind + Spirit: Communicating via the language of food; and, 3 – Flavor Matchmaking: The Charts

Part 3 is my favorite section, because this is where the flavor categories are listed alphabetically.  An example is the pomelo (p. 271).  Here’s what The Flavor Bible mentions about pomelos:  

Pomelos (see also Grapefruit)
Taste:  sour, sweet
Weight:  light
Volume:  loud
Techniques:  broil, raw

chili powder
fish sauce
ginger, pickled

Flavor Affinities:
pomelo + pickled ginger + fish
pomelo + salt + chili powder

Now you have several options for what to do with those lovely pomelos you picked up at the farmer’s market.  Exotic and exciting!

The Flavor Bible is a James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner, and it makes perfect sense.  It’s arguably the most important food book to have in your kitchen library.

I have used this book on a number of occasions to match up ingredients for some of the best dishes I have ever conjured up – all gluten free, of course.  The book is for everyone – whether you hate to cook and need to learn the basics, or you love to cook but need a little inspiration.  I am especially advocating it for people with food restrictions who have either lost their confidence in the kitchen, or have become deflated by the challenges of having to rethink their cooking ways.

I especially dedicate this post to my sister, who admits she hates to cook and is now confronted with cooking gluten free for her family (she’s getting tested and her infant son is showing possible signs for celiac disease).  Kim, if you don’t pick up a copy of this book, I’ll drop one in the mail to you. I know this book will rouse for you a newfound love for cooking.  Your son will thank you!!  xoxo, your little sis



Chica’s Stuffed Artichoke

When I think of artichokes, I think of family dinners of my childhood and the excitement felt when my mother was preparing the earthy smelling vegetables in her Italian kitchen.  We loved artichokes! 

Mostly, I think of my selfless father at the dinner table cleaning our finished, leaf-plucked artichokes.  After having devoured the thick, outer green petals and the delicate, golden and purple-tipped inner petals, we passed our trimmed artichokes over to dad to remove the white-gold pelt-like choke that, once scraped away, revealed a green-gold heart – yum!  Even my mom hated to clean her own artichoke, so, dad would clean mine, my sister’s, my brother’s and my mother’s before getting to his own.  That’s my dad.  He always put us all first.  Coming off of Father’s Day weekend, I am reminded of what a loving, selfless father I have!

Back to the artichokes. 

Because I have celiac disease, I am always looking for gluten-free alternatives to the foods I love.  Instead of doing a traditional Italian-style stuffed artichoke, I made Latin American inspired stuffed artichokes, which I call Chica’s Stuffed Artichoke.

Chica’s Stuffed Artichoke

1 medium to large artichoke, trim ends of leaves, wash thoroughly
10 whole multi-grain, multi-seed tortilla chips, crushed (I prefer the ones with flax seeds)
1/2 TBSP cotija, shredded (substitute with grated cheese)
2 lime wedges
1 TBSP packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
5 generous drops of Cholula Hot Sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of sea salt (I use either Murray River from Australia or Himalayan – both pink)
Melted butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Steam the artichoke on the stove top for about 15 minutes.  Meantime, mix the crushed tortilla chips, cotija (or grated cheese), cilantro, Cholula Hot Sauce, red pepper, salt and squeeze one of the lime slices.   

When the artichoke has finished steaming, use a tong to shake out the excess water.  Sit the artichoke in a small baking pan.  Hold the artichoke up and start stuffing the mixture between the leaves.  When you’re finished add about a 1/2 inch of water at the bottom of the pan (to prevent the artichoke from drying out).  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (check on it that it cooks thoroughly, without drying out – you may want to pull a leaf to test).

When you remove it from the oven, douse with the second lime wedge and serve with melted butter.


Food As Medicine

I get frequent stomach aches – part of living with celiac disease.  I tend to crave comfort food to settle my stomach and to provide essential nutrients that aid in healing and soothing the digestive tract.

One of my stand-by recipes is my Ginger-Garlic Chicken Soup for the digestive disordered soul.  This is actually really great for any kind of stomach ache or virus – add or eliminate vegetables, based on what you are feeling able to eat.  If you’re really sick, and even vomiting, I would suggest just making the broth.

So, why is this food medicine? 

According to Bastyr Center for Natural Health, “ginger (Zingiber officinale) is popular as a culinary spice and as a medicinal herb. It is used all over the world to treat indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome.  A well-known remedy for nausea during pregnancy and motion sickness, ginger has also has anti-inflammatory effects that make it a good choice for treating arthritis.”

“Since low gastric motility has been associated with the digestive symptoms for which ginger is frequently used, if ginger improves the movement of food through the upper digestive tract in people with digestive problems, this could help to explain how it exerts its benefits,” said Dr. Rebecca Chollet, a naturopathic doctor who practices in New Hampshire and Vermont.

And what about the garlic?  Garlic aids digestion and helps keep the stomach lining healthy.  It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties.

We already know that chicken soup is the classic feel better food.  It contains several ingredients that affect the body’s immune system, a team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found.  Specifically, it has anti-inflammatory properties that could explain why it soothes sore throats and eases the misery of colds and flu, according to Dr. Stephen Rennard and colleagues.  Dr. Rennard’s research explains that chicken soup and many of its ingredients helped stop the movement of neutrophils — white blood cells that eat up bacteria and cellular debris and which are released in great numbers by viral infections like colds.

How about the kale?  New research is revealing that phytonutrients in crucifers, such as kale, work at a much deeper level. These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds, and can significantly reduce the risk of cancer.  Okay,  not a digestive solution, but a big health benefit!  In fact, there are tons of health benefits from kale – learn more here.

Carrots, onions, olive oil – everything in this soup delivers wholesome goodness.  Always prepare with fresh ingredients.  Get to your farmer’s markets or a whole foods grocery store or market.  It’s so important to approach all food as medicine – preventative and healing.  This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor!  It’s quite the opposite.

Enjoy and be well!

Ginger-Garlic Chicken Soup
for the digestive disordered soul

Choose local and organic when you can!

1/2 box organic free range chicken broth (or vegetable, if you don’t eat meat)
8 cups of water
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of celery (with leaves), chopped
1 small bunch of kale, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 TBSP fresh ginger root, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small bunch of carrots (or 3-4 large carrots)
salt and pepper, to taste (I like to use sel gris)

Start the broth in a large soup pot, add the water, and heat on med-low.  And in all of the ingredients (I usually put the garlic, onion and carrots in first).  Simmer to low heat.  Then prepare your gluten-free fusilli noodles separately.  I like to boil my gluten-free noodles in water with a dash of salt and a small douse of olive oil.  After they boil, drain and rinse with warm water (you need to do this with gluten-free noodles to prevent starch build up). 

My favorite brands of gluten-free brown rice noodles are Tinkyada and Goldbaum’s.

Add the pasta to a bowl and ladle in your soup.  Enjoy and feel better soon!