Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wild Rice and Cherry Salad

I realize that the days of cherries may have passed us by...but I did manage to score a lovely package of organic cherries the other day and tried this salad, inspired by a recipe from the lovely Heidi Swanson. When it's this hot outside (and by this hot I mean waaaay into the 100s), I cannot eat hot food. In fact, it's hard to eat any food at all. But I was inspired by the colors of the bright red cherries against the black wild rice. And the prospect of having plenty of leftovers for me for lunch.

It was everything I hoped for--full bodied and filling, but with a certain fresh tang from the crushed cherry dressing and arugula. I'd try it again with Santa Rosa plums which abound in the markets now. In fall, it would be excellent with dried cranberries, cherries, or fresh figs. In winter I would eat it with fresh mandarin oranges. And in the spring it would be excellent with strawberries. It's just the sort of salad that you can play around with. In fact, it may demand it. Switch out the nuts, the grain, the cheese or the greens to make it uniquely yours, and to suit the season. And guess what? It's gluten free.

Wild Rice and Cherry Salad
Loosely Adapted from Super Natural Every Day

This versatile grain salad will work in any season by simply swapping out whatever fruit is available at your farmers' market. It makes for a lovely lunch, or light main course.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: serves 4


1 cup uncooked wild rice
4 handfuls wild arugula
2/3 cup toasted pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1/2 cup toasted walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar, or white wine vinegar
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, or goat cheese


1. Rinse wild rice. Bring 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add wild rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat until rice is tender, about 40-45 minutes. Drain rice and set aside.

2. While rice is cooking mash 1/3 of the cherries in a jar with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon. Add walnut oil and vinegar, close lid tightly and shake until combined. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to season and taste.

3. Tear remaining cherries in half. Toss wild rice with the arugula, most of the pecans, and most of the remaining cherries until evenly combined. Add a generous splash of the dressing and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or dressing if necessary.

4. Top salad with remaining cherry halves and pecans, and crumbled cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gluten & Me

I thought I would be fine--after all, I've never been a huge fan of bread or other items made with wheat flour. And then, quite inexplicably to me, I found myself crying softly in the pasta aisle, mourning the loss of something I never really liked anyway.

My doctor told me she would call early this week if there was something really crazy in my blood work, otherwise, I'd get the results in the mail. So when I received a voicemail on my phone Tuesday afternoon, telling me to call the office immediately, my heart began to race, more than a little bit. My issues this summer had prompted me to go in and see a new doctor (new insurance) for what I fondly dubbed as "the works." It had been way too long.

When I described the symptoms I suffered throughout this summer, as well as the intermittent digestive issues I've experienced for more than a decade, the first thing the doctor wanted to know was if I had been tested for Celiac Disease. No, never. I had been "diagnosed," for lack of a better term, with Irritable Bowel Syndrome eleven years ago when I had diarrhea every day for the year following my parents' divorce. It was stress related, I was told, and during those times I was a faithful adherent to the BRAT diet-bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. It is a diet I've come to know very well and the diet I subsisted on this summer, accented with peppermint oil capsules, heavy duty acidophilous, and a hefty dose of loperamide.

My doctor ran a thorough blood panel, testing me for food allergies (due to my recent reactions to shellfish), gluten intolerance, inflammation, and essential vitamin and nutrient levels. When the nurse called me to advise me that I had an extensive gluten allergy and needed to call the GI doctor immediately, I was too shocked to ask questions. I hung up the phone, a stunned look on my face.

At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, I knew that this would change everything.

At the market, I pulled my sunglasses down over my red-rimmed eyes and carried on with my shopping, mentally noting the things that would soon be forbidden to me--cereals and grains, flour tortillas and crackers, pastas and cookies. Sure there are gluten-free versions of all of those things, but I've tried several different kinds and...was underwhelmed, to put it mildly. Frankly, I'd rather do without than suffer through a poor substitution of the real deal.

I am not the person with the food issues. Food issues are for other people--I am the one who will happily eat most everything. And though I'm not a bread girl...I do enjoy my artisan loaves of bread, and the occasional pastry. I am the person who gets star struck when Nancy Silverton pulls my pizza out of the oven and personally finishes it with a drizzle of olive oil. All that glutenous, carbtastic love was over with a single diagnosis...extensive gluten allergy.

Truth be told, I'm gorging myself on gluten now, devouring slices of homemade bread and cookies....fresh pasta and my favorite cereals. I'm not giving it up until I'm told to--and actually, I have read that going gluten free before testing can skew the results. Matt made reservations at Pizzeria Mozza for a last supper of Nancy's glorious, perfectly chewy and crisp pizza dough topped with a little bit of heaven. My stomach is protesting (heartily) and my head is throbbing (mightily), but I don't even care. If I'm going out, I'll do it with a bang!

I see the GI doctor on Tuesday. I suspect she will order an upper GI scope and sample of my small intestine to determine if I have full-blown Celiac Disease. I am so not looking forward to this procedure, but am secretly excited that this may be the answer to all the vague symptoms that have plagued me for so long--headaches, diarrhea, bloating and gas, mental fog and fatigue, strange blood test results, and irritability. All these things were caused by the stress of being a mother of three young children....or so I thought. Or so I had been told.

I'm standing here at the port, not quite ready to embark on this journey. I feel like I'm going through Elizabeth Kubler Ross' stages of death and dying, which is ridiculous--nobody's dying, forgodsakes. But I'm in mourning anyway. It's not easy to fathom a life without gluten, and yet so many live this life fully, and deliciously too. As usual, I feel like I'm late to the party. Like gluten allergy is so 2005. Like everyone who's anyone has been there, done that. I guess the plus side of that is that cookbooks abound and new flours and products are coming out every day to make my future life in the kitchen easier.

I still don't know what all this will entail, but there is some small comfort in the fact that I'm not alone, and that many have gone before me (and huge comfort in the fact that maybe soon I will begin to feel so. much. better.)

I will share the results of my testing as I receive them...please stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Season for Everything

Hello! Hope you all are enjoying these blissful (dog) days of summer. The weeks have flown by and we have returned home to California after a clustercuss of events that made life somewhat unbearable, even as we summered on the Cape. I was, unfortunately, crippled by a certain gastric distress that rendered me unable to eat most things for weeks, I discovered that I have a shellfish allergy (so far only to lobster and mussels), my two-year-old laptop crashed and burned, and to top it off, we left our wonderful SLR camera on a taxi in New York.

Under these conditions it is very difficult to blog...so I thank you for your patience. As of this week, I have resumed normal digestion of my food (you have no idea), unpacked all our boxes of clothes shipped home, attended to our garden, and resurrected my old (but still mostly functional camera)..

We've also adopted a stray kitten (whom we've named Bandit...but that's a story for another time).

So thankfully, I'm back in business--as long as my husband doesn't mind me using his desktop once in a while.

About dinner...How are your tomatoes doing? Mine are so-so and admittedly the Early Girls and Better Boys are outperforming my heirlooms about 10-1. But the farmers' market was bursting with incredible variety, and we've been eating them up until our mouths blister.

I firmly believe that summer meals should be simple and require as little cooking as possible, so as to not heat up an already hot kitchen. Tonight's meal, angel hair alla checca, fit that bill perfectly as I only needed to boil a pot of water and cook the pasta for 3 minutes and dinner was served. The sauce, if you want to call it that, is simply chopped tomatoes, marinated in a bit of garlic, olive oil, basil and balsamic vinegar. It's summer served on a platter.

This pasta is a perfect showcase for the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes available right now. As a bonus, this meal is equally good warm, at room temperature or cold. (And the chopped tomato mixture makes a killer bruschetta too.)

Angel Hair alla Checca
Printable recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: serves 3-4


2 cups chopped mixed tomatoes (heirloom is nice), cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, grated
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound angel hair pasta


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. Meanwhile, mix all ingredients, except the pasta in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature so the flavors will meld.

3. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Toss the pasta with the tomatoes in the bowl. Serve immediately, garnishing with additional basil leaves if desired.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hello dear blog readers! I just wanted to reassure you that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but I am experiencing some technical difficulties. As of now, we are lacking a camera (left it in a taxi in NY) and my laptop has breathed its last breath. Sigh.

Please hang tight until I figure things out.

In the meantime, I do hope you are having a beautiful summer.

Best wishes,