Monday, April 17, 2017

Loquats / Nesperas in Season and a Delicious Fruit

Loquat / Nespera Time is Here

Ripe Loquat (or Nespera), Spain / Portugal variety, about 5cm (1.75 inch)

A Lesser-Known Tasty Fruit, available nearly worldwide

I first encountered the Loquat, which grows on an evergreen shrub or tree, while in Houston, Texas.  There were plenty of the bushes growing around the neighborhoods, and it seemed like nearly everyone owned the plants just for the lovely sweet-smelling fragrant flowers — I only encountered one other person in the neighborhood that actually ate the fruit.

Since then, I have become quite a fan of a good loquat (or nespera, níspero, nespolo in  Porgugal, Spain, and Italy respectively), and the varieties grown in the southwest of the European Union region are just wonderful.  The Loquat cultivars I found in Texas produced fruit that were perhaps an inch in diameter, which didn't leave much actual fruit after removing the group of large seeds in the middle.  But, as pictured above, these Spanish and Portuguese varieties get quite substantial — nearly 2 inches in diameter — and, even more importantly, they may best be described as simply succulent.

Loquat Taste, Texture, Nutrition Profile

I quite enjoy the rather distinct flavor and texture of loquats.  I consume the thin outer skin along with the slightly tangy flesh, but I first cut them in half and remove the inner seed ovules and the thin membrane around the seeds.  The flesh has a mildly acidic, semi-citrus-like flavor profile — perhaps quite similar to a ripe mango — that combines with flavors of peach or even a hint of apple, or at least that is my opinion. The flavor is complex and enjoyable for its unique mix of characteristics.

Since the plants grow in many different regions of the world, you may be lucky enough to find them at your local grocery or simply growing on a tree nearby, and this would be the time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) when you should start seeing the lovely orange fruits ripening.

Another gluten-free treat that is healthy to eat!  The fruit have a fair amount of Vitamin-A, Vitamin B6, Potassium, and Manganese, as well as some other trace minerals and vitamins. Combine that with the enjoyable taste, and the loquat is an all around winner.  As for the loquat price: this depends quite a bit on where you are and whether any commercialization of the fruit even exists.  In Houston, TX, I never saw them in the stores and instead had to go looking for friends with the trees in their yards where I could pick some. In Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean region, they are quite easy to find at a grocery or fruit stand, and depending on the time of the picking-season, they may range from the USD ($) equivalent of $1-1.50 per pound, which is quite reasonable.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake Recipe: Yogurt, Mascarpone, Ricotta

Chocolate + Lemon = Tasty GF Recipe!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake
Gluten-Free Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake
I generally like the combination of citrus flavors and chocolate / cocoa.  And, since I had some extra cheeses and yogurt to put to use, as well as some lemons, I decided to assemble this super-simple cheesecake.

The Recipe / Directions

When baking for fun, I don't usually take time to measure ingredients or anything since I have a fairly good feel for what works and does not.   But, I did keep a mental note of what ingredients I used, the approximate measurements, and how I went about creating this chocolate-lemon cheesecake.  The recipe is accommodating enough to not require much exactness in measurements, from my experience.

The ingredients I used:
  • 750g (~1 quart) Yogurt
  • 500g (~1 pint) Mascarpone Cheese
  • 250g (~1 cup) Ricotta Cheese
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup (or slightly more) Cocoa
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • Lemons: the juice and zest of 3 lemons — if I had some lemon oil / lemon concentrate, I would have considered using a bit to boost the lemon flavor and impact
  • ½ Cup Sugar — you may like yours sweeter, but I was aiming for semi-sweet in my final product.
  • ¼ Molasses — I was using this to deepen the overall flavor profile and complexity a bit; you can certainly choose to use all white sugar, perhaps 1 cup, and omit this if you want.
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • [Optional, as shown] A pre-made gluten-free tart-base, a product which I will review here later.  Fact is, I could have just made this without the base and it would be just fine and bake nearly identically.
The mixing and baking process:
I simply placed all the ingredients listed above, except for the cocoa (and obviously not the tart-base either), into the mixer and blended until nice and smooth.  The next step is to add and mix in all the cocoa at a lower speed (so as not to throw cocoa all over the kitchen), then finally raised the mixer speed and mixed thoroughly for a minute or so.  That's it. Done.  This whole process is very quick.

I then selected a 12-inch cast iron skillet, which may not be as "normal" as a springform, but, I like cast iron a lot and it worked quite well.  I covered it with a light coating of cooking-spray and placed the tart-base in the pan.  Next, I poured my cheese, yogurt, cocoa, etc mix into the pan overtop my base.

Place this into a preheated 325-degree F oven, and give it 90 minutes bake time or so, then turn the oven off, allowing the cake to remain in the still-hot oven another 15-20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool down to near room temperature before placing in the fridge.  This will yield a reasonably firm, yet smooth-textured, cheesecake with a deep chocolate flavor.  If you prefer a softer texture, reducing the bake time 15 minutes may produce the result you desire.

I created this on a whim, and I liked the result.  This recipe demonstrates how multiple cheese varieties, and yogurt, can be combined to produce a lovely cheesecake in a hurry.  And, it would be quite simple to alter the accent-flavor to orange if you choose, or perhaps even berries of some variety.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gluten-Free Biscotti Recipe : Apple Cinnamon variety

Gluten-Free Biscotti Recipe

Apple and Cinnamon Flavors join Almond — delicious treat!

Gluten-Free Biscotti Recipe : Apple Cinnamon Variety
Gluten-Free Biscotti Recipe : Apple Cinnamon flavor
I finally got around to posting this delicious Apple-Cinnamon Gluten-Free Biscotti recipe (link to full recipe) on my recipes-library site.  This is a recipe that Kate came up with a while back, and it extends upon the basic Almond biscotti formula with some additional flavorful gluten-free ingredients that include:

  • Buckwheat
  • Coconut
  • Amaranth
  • Applesauce
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
Whether you want a nice hearty and crunchy gluten-free cookie / biscuit to go with your afternoon tea of coffee, or if you want to serve these twice-baked delights as a dessert, they are bound to please.  Hope you enjoy them!  These are created in much the same fashion as the other biscotti featured in my Gluten-Free Desserts cookbook: a standard Almond variety and a lovely Chocolate Orange Macadamia Biscotti too.


Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Buckwheat is Gluten-Free and Safe for people with Celiac Disease

Pure Buckwheat is Really Gluten-Free

I had an anonymous reply to an old Gluten-Free blog posting where I had used buckwheat in a gluten-free pumpkin and spice pancake recipe, and the anonymous poster made it clear that, even though they have Celiac Disease, they remain misinformed about buckwheat and still think it contains gluten.

I have tried repeatedly to get the word out about the fact that Buckwheat does not contain Gluten, but it seems there are still those who apparently think otherwise, most likely because of the grain's name (which sounds a lot like wheat). It almost seems that no amount of scientific evidence or proof will convince certain people that buckwheat is gluten-free.

Buckwheat, in its pure form, is gluten-free. It IS safe for Celiac Disease sufferers. It is not related to wheat in any way either.  In fact, it is not even related (genetically) to gluten-containing grains, but instead it is technically a fruit.  There is a lot of information available related to all this and the science of buckwheat. So, avoiding buckwheat as an ingredient is simply avoiding an otherwise SAFE and flavorful and healthy grain which can be included in a Celiac-safe diets.

So, if you are looking for a good supplier of buckwheat and want to purchase some CERTIFIED GLUTEN-FREE BUCKWHEAT try Birkett Mills (that has been my favorite source for where I get it). They sell their flours and related buckwheat products (groats, kasha, cream-of-buckwheat, and buckwheat pancake mixes) online.

For some gluten-free recipes using buckwheat, I have written previous gluten-free blog entries about Buckwheat in Gluten-Free Recipes, and some of the recipes on my free GF-recipes library use buckwheat also.

Buckwheat
As for buckwheat, it used to be that very few recipes use it [especially back when I wrote my cookbook; now, a decade later, it is much more widespread in its usage, both in America and Europe], because many people were rather scared by just the name "buckWHEAT" if you know what I mean. Pure buckwheat is gluten-free, and you can find it from a few sources that certify it as such.

If a particular Celiac sufferer was allergic to certified gluten-free buckwheat or otherwise intolerant to it, however unlikely that may be, I would probably recommend using Sorghum flour instead if I was to still want to make the few recipes that used buckwheat by performing a direct-substitution; or if you could tolerate Teff, perhaps use just a bit of Teff with mostly Sorghum to still get a bit of the deeper "grain" flavor that buckwheat would have otherwise added. Certainly buckwheat flour is not contributing any "binding power", since it does not contain gluten — just like other GF flours like Sorghum.

Recipes in my Gluten-Free Gourmet Desserts Cookbook that Use Buckwheat

There are only a handful or recipes in my book that use buckwheat, and where it is used, it is not a primary flour and should be quite simple to substitute out if you so desire. Here is a list of the only dessert recipes with Buckwheat in the ingredients list:
  • Buckwheat Chocolate Torte (the book's cover-image recipe actually) 
  • Peanut Butter Cookies2 Biscotti Recipes (easy substitution to remove this minor ingredient)
  • Ginger Bread 
  • The crust for the Rhubarb pie
Conclusion
I hope that this clarifies the use of Buckwheat in any recipes, and how simple it should be to perform a substitution if required. My objective with any gluten-free recipes is to deliver wonderful ways to deliver high-quality desserts and other GF menu items, and, while doing so, to also include recipes that make use of a couple more healthy (not just simple-starch type) gluten-free flours — healthier flours being things like buckwheat, sorghum, and even a bit of amaranth here and there.  


Many more gluten-free flour options are coming onto the market with time, and this will continue to improve the gluten-free ingredient options for all of us all, as well as the healthfulness of our foods.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sobreiro de Pegões Portuguese Red Wine Review

Sobreiro de Pegões Portuguese Red Wine Review


Simply put: Spectacular!

I rarely review alcoholic beverages here on The Gluten Free Blog. In fact, the last such product review was for Carolyns Irish Cream liquor in 2010, and before that some various gluten-free beer reviews.  But, my wife and I came across a wine that we think is absolutely fantastic, so I figured why not post a quick review?

Sobreiro de Pegões Red Wine from Portugal

To begin with, we are not generally wine drinkers, in fact, before now, I hardly ever finished more than 4 ounces of wine in one sitting, and rarely even drank wine... I just did not get into it.  Furthermore, I have tended to quickly tire of the taste of any particular wine. But, that has all changed, thanks to this fantastic Sobreiro de Pegões Vinho Tinto from Portugal — a lovely deep-bodied red wine that is just wonderful!

We now regularly consume a bottle of this Sobreiro de Pegões red wine per week, and on occasion, as much as two bottles. For wine drinking enthusiasts, this may still not sound like much wine, but for us it is truly quite a bit. And, having now consumed this particular wine (both the 2013 and 2014 vintages) for 6 months or more now, we still both enjoy it as much now as we did during the first tasting.    

Although my wine experience is somewhat limited, I have never tasted anything like this in the USA previously, and I have tried all sorts of wines from various regions of the world in hopes of sooner or later finding something I truly enjoy. My prior wine experiences have ranged from bargain-basement "Two-buck Chuck" (i.e., Trader Joe's Charles Shaw brand), to regional wines from across America, to some foreign ones from England, France, Italy, Australia, and Brazil to name a few. I have even tried some rather fancy wines that friends have served, and yet never really got into any of them. Along the way, I have found some to be "OK", but never anything I could really enjoy repeatedly over long periods of time.  But, my search for a truly repeatedly reliably delicious and satisfying red wine is over, with Sobreiro being my all time favorite.

Taste and Profile

Smooth and balanced is an understatement. It is not overly sweet nor overly dry, it is somewhere in the middle, and at just the right point on that scale in my opinion. And, it is so complex in its tones and finish, all in a desirable way. It has a finish of caramelized sugar and vanilla or such. Fabulous. And, the initial hit is very much fresh red and dark berries, with a middle tone sequence of, heck, I dunno, tobacco or spices or something (I need a real wine snob to come up with a good description) but incredibly mild and wonderful with the deep tones of ripe berries among the grapes. It is just really good! 

Now, keep in mind, I am not a real wine critic by any means.  I just know that we are really enjoying this wine a lot.  Though, I have also noted that other reviewers have given it rather high marks. If you want to read how the producer describes their wine, click this Google-Translate of that Sobreiro de Pegões webpage in order to come pretty close in English (the original site is in Portuguese).

Note: I am assuming this is gluten-free, as most wines should be, having not found anything to indicate otherwise and having not had any reaction at all to it after repeated exposure.

Price

This is where the wine becomes even more amazing.  We have been paying approximately USD $3.00/bottle when we purchase the Sobreiro de Pegões wine on sale. Local sellers have shown list prices of up to $10-$11 USD per bottle, but there have been some truly deep-discount sales on this wine: twice in the past 6 months we have encountered these sales at the Continente Hipermercados stores.  So, when it goes on sale, we stock up.

The price alone makes the quality of the product even more incredibly hard to believe.  I have tasted $40 wines in the USA that can't match this $3.00 wine. Sadly, the one thing I do not know is whether this wine can be purchased anywhere in the United States. I have seen it sold throughout the EU, Hong Kong, and even New Zealand per my online searches, but I cannot determine if any United States dealers are carrying it. If you know of any, post a link here.  But, maybe you can get together with a few friends an import a pallet of 420 bottles at a time directly from the company (I noticed their packaging details on that same web page)... it only weighs 555Kg! (a mere 1200 pounds).

Enjoy!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Easy Gluten-Free Fig-Paste Recipe

Homemade Gluten-Free Fig-Paste Recipe

Last week, I posted a blog entry about how fresh figs are now in season along with some recommended preparations and uses for these figs, one of which was to create your own fig paste.  After harvesting some 20 pounds or more of figs in the past week, it became quite clear that I had to get busy...

Step 1: Wash the Figs, Cut in Half, place in Vitamixer with cinnamon...

After rinsing them off, I cut each fig in half just to make sure there are not any invasive bugs (e.g., worms) in any of the figs.  Luckily, bugs were very rare, and I only found one fig among my entire harvest into which a bug managed to burrow, and it may have been a fig I picked up off the ground instead of directly off the tree.  I could fit perhaps 3 pounds of halved figs in the blender at a time.

I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon onto the figs at this point, just to make sure it mixed in well. Do this only to your personal preference.  I will add additional ingredients later...

With my blender container loaded with figs, I added between 4 and 6 ounces of water to assist the blending along, and...

Fresh Figs, halved, in blender.

Step 2: Blend, but don't fully liquefy

Although the resulting fig mixture is not the best looking, here is a picture of it.  I didn't quite fully liquefy or fully puree the figs, as there are still some discernible bits of the green outer portion of the figs, and all the fig-seeds are quite noticeable.   I blended on a somewhat low speed until I was satisfied with the consistency...

Blended Fresh Figs, ready for cooking.

Step 3: Place blended figs in pot, add other ingredients, and cook it down

I had a very large batch of figs, of which I used perhaps 8 or 10 pounds of figs, and had performed step 2 (above) three times, creating just over a gallon and a half of blended fig liquid that I would next cook down.

To my pot full of blended figs, I added (do to taste, with each being optional) a bit of vanilla, some fresh-squeezed lemon juice, a few tablespoons of molasses, and a few tablespoons of plain white sugar.  The figs have quite a bit of natural sweetness already, depending on how ripe they are, and my goal was primarily to just enhance the flavors slightly using the citrus and molasses tones.

The fig mixture is surprisingly thick before boiling, thanks to all the natural fiber in the figs. But, for my fig paste to be ideal, I want it to be even thicker.  So, I carefully bring the mixture to a low boil and maintain the boil for up to half an hour or so, stirring regularly enough to prevent any burning.  The mixture will thicken considerably as steam escapes.


Cooked Gluten-Free Fig Paste
The fig mixture will not reach a consistency of being a "paste" while on the stovetop, due to the heat... but, once it cools, it should set up in the refrigerator quite nicely.  This full pot of cooked figs took most of the day (8 hours) to cool down to the point where I then placed it into various jars that I keep in the fridge, as well as into some containers that I froze for use later in the year.

This fig paste recipe may be a bit different than some other alternative recipes, but this is the fastest and most efficient way I have found to process large batches of fresh figs into fig paste.  I will use this paste in other recipes (I even used it in my gluten-free pancake batter the other day) as well as an accent added to other foods and desserts.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Fresh Figs in season, and delicious gluten-free recipes using them...

Figs, fresh-picked from the trees

I really enjoy this time of year when figs are ripening on the trees and plentiful.  Yesterday I came across a small cluster of fig trees growing wild on a tiny strip of public land where a couple streets meet at an intersection (barely a 2-foot wide area between an alley and a larger road). These trees, which are approximately 15 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter must each literally have a thousand figs on them right now!

I only noticed the trees because so many figs had fallen to the ground that they caught my attention when I accidentally stepped on one and it squished everywhere. It only took a few minutes to harvest some five pounds (2-3 Kg) of fresh figs...
Fresh Figs from the tree
Although these figs look rather green in color yet, the ones that were just slightly more yellow in color than some others were quite soft and ripe already, and their inner seeds are already turning a brown-sugar brown color...
Fresh Fig : center showing ripeness
Of course figs are safe for a gluten-free diet,... they are just a fruit, and a really tasty fruit at that.  And, figs are quite versatile and can be included in a wide range of gluten-free recipes in addition to being consumed fresh.  These figs have a wonderful natural sweetness, and are naturally high in fiber (~14% by weight, raw).

The only thing that may take a bit of getting use to is the rather light, fluffy texture of a fresh fig.  If for any reason you do not care for the texture of fresh figs, simply consider frying them or baking them, or cooking them down into a lovely fig jam or paste.  Since I will have more figs than I can possibly consume fresh (they tend to quickly ripen!), I will certainly be cooking some of them.

Recommended Preparations / Uses for Figs

You can dry / dehydrate the figs for longer term storage, if you have a way to do so.  I generally purchase my dried figs from the store.  I really like dried figs in my morning granola or for simple snacking.  But, I also like to prepare fig paste: simply cook the whole figs down in a sauce pan, add just a touch of cinnamon and vanilla, and keep a jar of this around, like jam, to add to greek yogurt, use as a spread to accompany various cheeses, or even place on top of a square of nice dark chocolate!  This fig preparation can even add a nice tone to some salad dressings.

Next, try baking or frying some fresh figs.  I typically do this in a cast-iron pan either on the stove top or in the oven.  Split the figs in half, vertically, place them cut-side down in a pan that has been lightly sprayed or coated with oil, and sprinkle just a light dusting of cinnamon over them.  Fry or roast until the sugars in the figs caramelize nicely.  If for some reason the natural sweetness of the figs is not sufficient for your liking, just add a slight bit of brown-sugar.  Optionally, instead of a light coating of cooking spray, use a bit of butter to enrich and enhance the flavors.  The end result (the lovely baked / fried figs) can be served as is, for a dessert item, or provide the finishing touch to fancier and more complex desserts or dishes — perhaps over ice-cream, on top of your favorite gluten-free cake, or even as a salad accent.

For pricing purposes, if you cannot find fresh figs just growing wild, I have seen them in the local grocery stores in the area lately for between EUR 3 and EUR 5 per Kilogram (i.e., in US Dollar terms, that is essentially $1.50 - 2.50 per pound), and keep in mind that the figs are not terribly heavy. They are delicate when ripe, so remember not to pile other groceries on top of them unless you want raw-fig-paste accidentally.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.