Gluten Free Paris: Bio Sphere Cafe

DSC05735In the 8th Arrondissement, just beyond Haussmann Boulevard and Place St. Augustin is Bio Sphère Café. Its charming owner Sylvie, opened the organic (Bio is french slang for organic) cafe in 2010, but at first it wasn’t 100% gluten free.

” From the beginning, I wanted to open an organic bakery. I wasn’t aware about coeliac decease. As I propose the galette bretonne with buckwheat flour which is gluten free, I have customers that were asking me for gluten free cakes. I did some research about the disease and recipes.  I started to make one cake : it was a success. Another one and so on. Then the baguettes & the pizza.”

 

Les Baguettes Sans Gluten
Les Baguettes Sans Gluten

 

 

Yes, you read that right…. Gluten-Free Baguettes. And can I tell you they are sublime? Just what you’d expect a baguette to be- crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. A slightly pliable crust that crunches when you squeeze it.

And I have to say, walking around Paris with a baguette in my bag like a real Parisian made me feel somehow like I…. belonged…..like the best of Paris was accessible to me too!

Zucchini Soup w/ Gluten Free Baguette
Zucchini Soup w/ Gluten Free Baguette

 

But there’s more to Bio Sphère Café than phenomenal baguettes. Oh yes, there are delicious galettes sarrasin (the buckwheat galettes mentioned above), creamy fresh soups, creative pastas, quiches, salads..and oh yes- pizza. According to the Kitchen Divas in Training (and I happen to agree) the best gluten free pizza crust they’ve enjoyed to date!

 

 

Gluten Free Pizza!
Gluten Free Pizza!

 

 

One of the big challenges in creating a gluten free pizza crust is keeping a consistent texture. Too often the crust is chewy on the outside, but mushy on the inside, and that’s just not enjoyable. Or, if it’s a good texture on the inside, it can be overcooked at the edge. Sylvie’s pizza crust was perfect! A lovely texture- not too thick, and evenly cooked from crust to center. The Kitchen Divas in Training simply could not get enough!

 

BioSphere Cafe

Lastly, there were the desserts! A whole case of gorgeous patisserie. In addition to singlehandedly running her restaurant, somehow Sylvie manages to have the time to make great patisserie too! We enjoyed creamy lemon tarts, an array of macarons (she learned from the fine folks at Laduree no less!) eclairs, little cakes, and lighter than air tiramisu! Seriously, it was like eating a cloud- I could have eaten 10! I did actually, by the time you count all the desserts we sampled!

 

 

Gluten Free DessertGluten Free Lemon TartGluten Free Raspberry CakeMore often than not, in commercial venues gluten-free=not so good. So to find an organic & certified gluten-free restaurant like Bio Sphère Café which also happens to offer delicious, excellently prepared meals, and pastries, and gluten free baguettes? Oh yes, let’s not forget a pretty tasty gluten-free beer to accompany your pizza!

C’est un miracle!

Merci Sylvie, pour votre généreuse hospitalité, votre charmant restaurant, et vos baguettes incroyables! Nous sommes très heureux de vous avoir rencontré!

If you don’t have time to enjoy a meal at the restaurant, but would like to try a baguette- they are available a emporter (for take away) by reservation. You may contact Sylvie via her website here.

Gluten Free Austin

Chef Erica's Shrimp & Grits (MAX's Wine Dive)
Chef Erica’s Shrimp & Grits (MAX’s Wine Dive)

Gluten-Free Paris posts will return soon, but today I want to tell you about what’s happening in the Austin food scene. I’ve been in Austin for the last 4 days at a conference and have had the chance to experience some great gluten-free food.

Like any city with a thriving local restaurant scene- Austin is pretty easy to navigate if you eat ‘sans gluten’. (Yes, I can’t help the French references at the moment!) Restaurants in Austin are committed to supporting their local growers. It has been absolutely delightful to repeatedly see long lists of growers whose food is used across the city. I was very fortunate to have a conversation about this with up and coming chef Erica Beneke- executive chef at MAX’s Wine Dive (207 San Jacinto Blvd.). Erica is super talented and after enjoying one of her creations- a flavor packed, fresh take on grits with spicy butter broth, shrimp, bacon, scallions, parsley and jalapenos- I know her career is going to rocket to the moon and beyond. Of Course, appearing on this Sunday’s episode of Chopped is going to help too! Chopped is on The Food Network, and will air tonight (June 2) at 7pm Central. I suggest tuning in to watch this talented young lady make food magic. You can watch online after its first airing- the episode is called Fry Fry Again.

Kitchen Goddess Chef Erica of MAX's Wine Dive (& me..on the left, in awe..)
Kitchen Goddess Chef Erica of MAX’s Wine Dive (& me..on the left, in awe..)

Half of MAX’s menu is all about gourmet comfort food. Think pork stuffed piquillo peppers, burgers made from brisket, chuck and beef belly, and ‘Haute’ Dogs made from Wagyu beef. The other half of the menu is a celebration of seasonal, local ingredients and changes about 5 times a year. Right now you can find creative items like a raw kale, avocado, and beet salad; or seared scallops with sweet corn, purple potato and rainbow carrot succotash. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to eat my way through the whole menu!

Other delicious finds have been at Cedar Door, one block south of MAX’s. The quinoa salad came with an enormous hunk of peppered avocado, and a carrot habanero reduction. The pulled pork and green chile tacos they serve are easily the best outside of Albuquerque. I was also thrilled to see that they use beef that is antibiotic and hormone free, and that they grind their own beef in house for burgers etc., to keep the flavor as fresh as possible.

Quinoa Salad- Cedar Door
Quinoa Salad- Cedar Door
Pulled pork & green chile
Pulled pork & green chile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also really impressed with the kitchen staff at Old School Bar & Grill in the heart of 6th street. They cooked me up a salmon filet that was to die for. For those of you who’ve never been to Austin- 6th Street is lined with bars- all sporting their own band, hawker bouncers who shout out the evening’s specials, and signature drinks. It’s also the mecca for all things weird about Austin. Great fun- especially if you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone, or dive into local flavor!

Best Popcorn Ever at Moonshine
Best Popcorn Ever at Moonshine

Moonshine, immediately south of the Hilton Hotel on Red River, was also a great find. Housed in a building from the 1850’s, the site has been a domino parlor, saloon, and general store. They make an incredible popcorn appetizer that was so good I couldn’t stop eating it. I was ready to beg the chef for the recipe. Imagine popcorn with paprika, celery salt, a bit of cayenne, and a little bit of Texas Magic. I’ll be attempting to recreate this at home very soon. Like the other local restaurants mentioned, Moonshine held its own with green chile grits and super fresh salads.

Twin Liquors on 7th & Red River also has a great selection of gluten-free beers, as well as a knowledgeable wine staff.

Basically, if you’re gluten-free in Austin, throw a dart and wherever it lands- you’ll be golden. Everywhere I went,  I discovered waitstaff and chefs who were happy to work with my gluten-freeness! There were so many good choices, I didn’t begin to scratch the surface. If you go- you are certain to enjoy yourself, and eat well- what more could you ask for?

Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie

Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment
Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an epic meal? I can think of at least three such meals off the top of my head: The Inn At Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island where I spent an incredibly romantic evening on my honeymoon (pre gluten-free). Our meal here was so fantastic I was dizzy. And not from the wine! It was the first time I realized that a meal could be a full-on sensual experience. This realization inspired me to start actively pairing food and wine, and taking serious flavor risks in the kitchen. I wanted to recreate how I felt eating this meal all the time!

And yes, nearly 15 years later, I could tell you exactly what we ate!

The second such meal was at Q’s at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder. This was my first fancy gluten-free meal, and it was a revelation. I could still enjoy an incredible, flavorful, visually stimulating, and texturally interesting meal and feel great after! More recently, Salon Helene Darroze in Paris was another epic meal. It was also the first super fancy meal (not cooked by me) that the Kitchen Divas in Training got to enjoy. They savored every bite and commented on the dishes as if they were the Iron Chef judges. It was truly delightful.

What constitutes an epic meal? In my mind there are 3 things:

  • Company: A meal shared is a meal enjoyed. Food is meant to be shared, lingered over, experienced. The better the company, the better the meal- even if the food is average. Laughter can fill us up as much as the food.
  • Food that is prepared with heart and care: Notice I didn’t say super-snobby, fancy ingredients, fine crystal, etc. Often snobby-food meals like that are epic. But eat in a fine establishment with a rude waiter and your hopes for epic-ness are dashed. When you’re aware that you’re eating food that has been prepared with love, it’s transformative- no matter where you happen to eat it, or what the food is. I can think of a picnic I enjoyed in the middle of an ancient stone circle on a cool, sunny March day in the Cotswolds over a dozen years ago. We enjoyed freshly made local cheese and beer while we waited for the faeries to hop out and dance with us. Incredible. I can still remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper who told us what cheese and beer to buy and where to find the faerie circle.
  • Heightened Senses: Think about the meals you’ve had where you remember the minute details of smell, texture, music, taste…Those meals that engage all of our senses, or that sharpen them, are the ones we remember for years to come.
Whether it's a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.
Whether it’s a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.

The other day, my friend Rebekah, who is currently living in a tiny village in Southern France, excitedly skyped me to tell me about this epic meal she’d enjoyed the night before. By the end of our conversation not only was I dying of jealousy, but I wanted to recreate a tiny fraction of what she experienced. This recipe is a loose interpretation of one component of her host Rosalie’s epic meal, and is named in her honor. I hope I get to meet Rosalie someday. She sounds like my kind of fellow cook and food-lover.

Saumon en PapilloteI have never made Salmon en Papillote before, and was surprised at how easy it was. The prep time is more lengthy than just putting salmon in a ziplock to marinate, but the results are worth it. The salmon is juicy and the flavors are intense. Don’t be afraid to really pile on the flavors. Salmon is rich and if you’re too delicate with your seasonings you will be left wanting something more from the dish. I was surprised at how generous I needed to be with the herbes de provence I used.  When I daintily sprinkled the herbes over the first few pieces, we couldn’t even taste them! It took sprinkling the herbes through every layer before they stood out and really added something to the dish!

Poached egg with Saumon en PapilloteBecause this dish at its core is so simple, you have complete freedom to add or subtract flavors based on your own personal tastes. Food should be a reflection of who we are, and those personal touches are often what elevates a meal from sustenance to memorable. In fact, we added a poached egg to the leftovers for breakfast, along with more herbes de provence, lemon zest, and truffle salt. Ooh Lo Lo! I just wish I had a bottle of champagne on hand to accompany it.

So here’s a toast to the Rosalies of the world. The love you bring to others through your food is a gift indeed!

What epic meals have you experienced in your life? Share them in the comments!

Saumon Rosalie (Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie)

Saumon en PapilloteIngredients

Salmon Filets, sliced into little 3-inch squares. (we used 2 sizable filets and made 10 packets.)

Fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly

Fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly

Fresh basil leaves- enough for 1-3 leaves on each piece of salmon

olive oil

1 tsp Herbes de Provence for each salmon packet

salt

1 lemon for zesting

Directions

If your salmon does not come de-skinned, remove the skin. Slice filet into 3-inch squares. No need to be exact on this. I made the squares bigger on the thinner side of the filet, and some squares were more rectangular. Do what seems right for your meal.

Cut a length of parchment paper- about 8-10 inches wide. Fold it in 1/2 with the short sides touching. Then fold in 3rds- so it’s about the size of an envelope, and turn the paper so it’s long and skinny and fold in 3rd again so that it’s a rectangle that can fit in your hand. Unfold the 3rds, but leave so that it’s still folded in 1/2- you should see 9 sections. Pre folding helps once you’re folding the parchment around the filet. I learned this the hard way!

Place a filet in the center of a folded piece of parchment. Sprinkle a bit of salt and part of the herbes de provence. Add a piece of mozzarella (Cream cheese can also work as a substitute). Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Add a thin slice of tomato, or two. Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Top with a few basil leaves and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet
Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet

Fold the packet around the salmon and tie with a bit of string. You will notice in these pictures that I used kitchen string, satin ribbon, and a clothespin. I discovered just as I reached for the string that the Kitchen Divas in Training had absconded with my kitchen string and used it for a Mideval art project of epic proportions! Use what you’ve got on hand- the oven temperature is only 350, and will likely not damage anything you use to secure your packets.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 180 degrees Celsius) for 20-25 minutes. The thinner filets will be done at 20. The thicker ones need a little more time.

IF and only IF, you know your fishmonger and you can get superfresh salmon – we cannot here in the Midwest- you might cook your thicker filets to 20 minutes. This would be very tender in the center. Ideal, but only if you trust your food source. Otherwise, make sure your fish is opaque at the center.

To Plate: Unwrap the packets and slide each piece of fish onto a plate. Sprinkle with more herbes de provence, a tiny bit of salt (we like truffle salt for this) and a generous sprinkle of lemon zest. You could even squeeze a bit of lemon over the top.

Most importantly- enjoy with people you love!

Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.
Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.

Ground Breaker Brewing

** Harvester Brewing Company is now Ground Breaker Brewing! Still the same fabulous beer though! They just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign so look for their beer to appear in cans soon!

Happy Friday fellow Foodies! Thanks to my friend Tana Fryer- proprietor of an awesome new joint in Tuscon called Blu-a Wine & Cheese Stop– for introducing me to what is quite possibly the best gluten free beer anywhere.

Harvester Brewing Company– a dedicated GF craft beer company in Portland Oregon (how come Portland has all the best beer?) is setting the GF Beer-world on fire. I tend to  be pretty skeptical of GF Beers. Before being diagnosed with celiac I was a craft-beer drinker who especially appreciated a good, thick, creamy dark beer. Stouts, Porters- you name it. I am desperately waiting for some brewing genius to come up with a GF Oatmeal Stout that will make my dreams come true. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. And in the meantime, I will have to comfort myself with the fabulous beer that is being produced by Harvester Brewing.

Since I don’t live in Portland, the only way I can get this beer is via mail at Let’s Pour. (click on the link and then search for ‘Harvester Brewing’) And so in the spirit of Adventure, I took the plunge and ordered a couple of bottles of each beer they offer.

I have to say- shipping was almost as much as the beer itself- but was it ever worth it.

Here’s a brief rundown of what I got in the mail:

Harvest Brewing Experimental Ale

Harvester Brewing Experimental Ale

This Experimental Ale was a fall seasonal produced with squash and spices. Of all their beers, this was one of my favorites. I don’t know if I got a bottle from the first batch, or the second, stronger batch-but either way, it was great, and it worked beautifully with our family favorite Vegan Chile. I found the flavor to be smooth, and the squash and spices subtle.

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me. Unless it’s the middle of a God-Awful Sticky Kansas City Summer, I tend not to gravitate towards Pale Ale. Even then, my taste lies more in the Raspberry Ale land- like the one New Planet Beer makes. But this…. This pale ale was a delightful surprise. It’s not sour or overly hoppy. It’s light, balanced, and has a faint hit of citrus. I found myself gravitating to this repeatedly, and really enjoyed it- with or without food accompaniment.

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

It’s been ages since I’ve been able to enjoy a good Red Ale. I tend to gravitate to the more malty less hoppy beers, and no one in the GF Beer World has successfully managed to come up with a full-bodied Red Ale. Congrats to Harvesters for pulling this off.

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Can I just start out by saying this beer pairs perfectly with a brick of Comté?!? It was so good in fact, that neither cheese nor beer lasted long.

I was initially surprised at how light the beer was in terms of mouth-feel. To me it’s reminiscent of the German Black-Beers. There is a definite toast that comes across in the flavor that I really appreciate.

One of the things I admire and respect most about Harvester Brewing is their dedication to locally sourcing ingredients. In this era of factory farming, I firmly believe that local/regional sourcing helps rebuild, preserve and maintain our local economies.

But what’s a celiac to do when your local economy (like mine) has no immediate plans or desire to hatch a GF Brewery? Well, fling your net far and wide, and support those who support a local economy somewhere.

My hat goes off to the Brewmasters at Harvester Brewing. You are doing incredible, innovative work, and bringing hopes of decent beer to celiacs everywhere. Just please, please, please- consider distributing beyond the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest? Pretty Please? I know some great shops in Kansas City who will happily carry your beer!

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest- run- do not walk- to your nearest vendor and support these folks. For the record- Mr. Kitchen Diva, who can consume gluten at will, enjoyed these beers as much as I did.

In closing, I have one request for you folks at Harvesters- How about a Stout? Porter? Milk Stout, Coffee Stout, Chocolate Stout, Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrel aged Stout? If anyone can create something like this, I have faith it will be you!

Thanks for the great beer and keep brewing!

Red Onion Confit

New Year's Eve 2013“Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.” says Miss Stacey from Anne of Green Gables. I always feel that way at the beginning of a new year. The New Year is fresh, stretching out before us with hopes, dreams, and goals- just waiting for us to dive in.

We all have New Year’s rituals. For some it may be writing resolutions, staying up until midnight to watch the New York City ball drop, or having a champagne toast New Year’s morning. For me- it involves cleaning like a madwoman. For years now, I have spent the final days of the year cleaning out, organizing, and decluttering. It’s been my way of making room for whatever might come to me in the new year. I firmly believe you have to make space for the things you want in your life. And for me, New Year’s cleaning is an act of creating space for new opportunities, new relationships, and new outlooks (not to mention, I really do enjoy a clean house!)

There will be some changes coming to The Adventuresome Kitchen this year; changes that I’m very excited about. For starters- this month I’ve created a specific challenge around the GF baking that intimidates me the most.

January’s challenge? Le Macaron!

My first and so far-only attempt! Beginner's luck is good!
Le Macaron: my first and so far-only attempt- I Love Beginner’s Luck!

I’ve had pretty good beginner’s luck with Macarons, but always shy away from them when it comes to baking. Why? Basically, I’m a big chicken. No Longer! 2013 is the year of facing down fears in the name of Adventuresome Cooking!

I invite you to join me in this month’s challenge. Let this be a forum for ideas and help to your fellow GF bakers. At the end of this month, I will post about the experience. Send me your photos and input, and I’ll post those too!

There will be other changes as well- more restaurant and product reviews, an update to Gluten-Free Paris (!), and a few other surprises you’ll just have to wait for.

A fast, easy, and deliciously elegant accompaniment to any cheese board.
Red Onion Confit: A fast, easy, and deliciously elegant accompaniment to any cheese board.

 

In the meantime- if you’re looking for something quick and elegant to bring to a New Year’s dinner or bowl-watching party- look no further. This red onion confit is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and a lovely addition to a baked brie. Instead of spending twelve dollars or more on snobby jelly, why not spend a dollar or two at the most for a red onion, a little sugar and red wine, a few figs and some fresh rosemary?

Happy New Year fellow GF Foodies! I wish you all the best in this fresh, unblemished New Year. May your wildest dreams- in the kitchen and beyond- come true in 2013!

 

 

 

Red Onion Confit

IngredientsFreshly Chopped Red Onion

1 med-large red onion, diced

1 cup diced figs (I like the mission or turkish ones)

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbs salted butter (unsalted is okay, but add a dash of salt)

2 tsp fresh, finely chopped rosemary + a sprig for garnish

a few twists of fresh cracked pepper

 

Directions

Fig, Sugar, & Red Wine mixture.
Fig, Sugar, & Red Wine mixture.

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Remember to always heat the pan first, then add the fat when the pan is hot. Add the onions and stir occasionally.

In a separate bowl, combine figs, sugar, and wine. A word about red wine– I believe you should use wine you would actually drink- i.e. a decent bottle. Others say two-buck chuck is fine since you’re boiling it. While the subtleties of a nicer bottle may be erased with the heat, the overall character of the wine will remain. If you start with vinegar, you will end with vinegar. Otherwise, why cook with red wine at all, and  just use cheap vinegar?

When the onions are soft- in about 10 minutes- add the bowl of figs/sugar/wine. Stir until the liquid has reduced by half, and has thickened- about 10 more minutes.

To serve: Place several spoonfuls over a warmed brie wheel and garnish with chopped rosemary, a few twists of the pepper mill and a fresh rosemary sprig.  OR: Place in a decorative bowl and garnish with the herbs/pepper.

Once cooled, you may place in a jar or tupperware. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week- if it lasts that long. We polished ours off in two days!

 

Gluten Free Albuquerque

I’m continually amazed at the exploding world of gluten-free awareness. This past week I was down in Albuquerque to do Thanksgiving with my relatives- a gluten-full bunch, but who always make me and the Kitchen Divas in Training feel welcome at the table. While I didn’t have much time to hit the streets in search of new and exotic green-chile culinary delights, I did manage to stop by a few new places in my favorite Nob Hill neighborhood.

Slice Parlor– a newish establishment with tasty GF Pizza has a great sports-bar vibe and great pizza by the slice. If you’re GF you still have to order a small pizza, but the ingredients are great, and they have hard cider on tap- another bonus.

They’re right across the street from Albuquerque institution Il Vicino, which I’ve heard has caught up to the times and is now also offering GF Pizza crust! I haven’t eaten there in years, (because of the lack of GF crust) and will definitely hit them the next time I’m in town.

Lastly- I ducked into Zacatecas, a new taqueria and tequila establishment run by Chef Mark Kiffin who also owns and operates The Compound in Santa Fe, known for its elegance and outstanding cuisine. I was pleased to learn that practically the whole menu is gluten-free. Passionate about chile rellenos, I grabbed a duck confit and goat cheese to go. It was dipped in a cornmeal batter and fried crispy. The combination of texture and taste did not disappoint- although I personally would have used slightly less goat cheese so as not to disguise the chile and duck flavors.  That said- I’ll definitely be making an evening out of Zacatecas the next time I visit Albuquerque.

No road trip would be complete without coffee. This gem of a find right by Old Town, Coffee and Tiles de Santa Fe, not only brews great espresso, but they make a full compliment of pie- including pie with gluten-free crust! While they were out of the GF crust the morning I stopped by, my husband enjoyed a delicious quiche, and a green-chile apple pie that I am going to have to try to create here at home. Green chile truly makes everything better!

If you’re looking for a decent cup of coffee East of Albuquerque, look no further than Kix on 66 in Tucumcari. This funky diner serves a full compliment of espresso, teas, juices, and of course breakfast food- every day. I can’t tell you how happy I was to have a hot cup of non-truckstop coffee for the long drive back to Kansas City.

Wherever you find yourself traveling this holiday season- remember to support your local economies, and don’t hesitate to ask about gluten-free. You may just be surprised at the deliciousness waiting for you!

Cafe Gratitude

There’s a new restaurant in town that has captured my heart and my imagination. Cafe Gratitude is a new restaurant in Kansas City that is vegan, has a mission to use locally sourced ingredients, and is almost entirely Gluten-Free! I went there for lunch a few weeks ago when my Mother-in-law was out for a visit and was blown away. One of the most impressive parts of my experience there was reading the menu- every menu item is a personal affirmation! How lovely to sit and read a menu of “I Am Fabulous”, “I Am Trusting”, “I Am Extraordinary”- how can you not love food that makes you feel so loved and beautiful?!?

And the food was good, too. So good, in fact that I forgot to take pictures! We don’t eat out very much anymore- in part, because as the kids have grown and we’ve tried to preserve our budget, we’ve discovered we’re a lot more picky about where we spend our dollars. It’s disappointing to spend 40 or 60 dollars on a meal that’s not as good as what you can create at home- for less than 1/2 of the cost. However, Cafe Gratitude will be a place we return to when we can- the food and flavor combinations were delightful, reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was uplifting. Another touch I loved was that the waitstaff posed a question of the day- one we could answer or not, but it was posed to get us thinking. Our question: Who are you in love with today? Lastly- I was impressed that there was a selection on the menu that was priced as donation only, with the understanding that you may pay what you choose, and that no one will be turned away. In this day of increasing food insecurity for the poorest among us, it’s nice to know that anyone can come to Cafe Gratitude and be fed a wholesome, nourishing meal. I’ll be supporting them again for this reason alone. Check out their inspirational menu here.

The photos included in today’s post are a riff on the meal I enjoyed at Cafe Gratitude- I Am Whole. I didn’t have sea vegetables to add to mine, so I used zucchini noodles (made by using my carrot peeler) gently warmed with a little olive oil and ginger. The kimchi was homemade (napa cabbage, radishes, onions and poblano peppers mashed into a quart jar, salted and left to ferment for a week on the counter- YUM!), as was the tahini (process sesame seeds in your food processor until smooth, slowly add sesame oil until you create a paste. For this post I added the juice of one lemon and a heaping spoonful of herbed garlic powder.) Serve over quinoa with shredded kale, carrots, chopped tomato, avocado, and a sprinkling of almonds. It tastes best when you mash it all together. We’ve also tried the leftovers with a fried egg on top!

Pisco Sours, Gluten Free Huancaina Sauce, & Lomo Saltado

Themed nights seem to be turning into a regularity around here. And although our Peruvian night meal was more of a celebration and send-off, we definitely learned a few things.

A good friend and fellow foodie, who lived in Peru the better part of last year, offered to share a few things he’d learned how to cook there before jetting off on his next adventure. These recipes come straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak- right from the kitchen of some delicious and unknown restaurant in Cusco, and straight into your stomach!

I have found that while traveling, food can be the great equalizer and ice-breaker. Ask anyone to show you a favorite recipe and you have an instant rapport- not to mention an insight into their culture and a shared experience of enjoying a meal together. There are days when I think that if our world leaders just duked it out in the kitchen, we’d be a lot better off.

We began our evening with the traditional Peruvian cocktail- Pisco Sours. Pisco is a liquor native to Peru, made from grapes. It is not like Grappa- which is made from pomace- the pulp, seeds, and stems of leftover wine grapes. It’s more like vodka made with grapes.

Pisco Sours- 4-5 servings (about 1/2 pitcher)

3 parts (Shots) pisco

2 tbs sugar or simple syrup

juice from 1 lime (2 parts/shots)

1 egg white

handful of ice-cubes

Directions: throw all ingredients into a blender and mix until the egg-white gets frothy. Serve with a dash of bitters. We used Peychaud’s, but angostura bitters are more traditional.

I think this recipe is delicious-and has the potential for tons of variation. Add a flavored simple syrup, muddle with herbs…make your own version- you can’t really go wrong with good bones like this.

Next up on our list of Peruvian delights was the famous spicy-cheese sauce Huancaina, served traditionally over cold potatoes. This was flipping delicious and the sauce, downright addictive. I think it’s going to have to be my new nacho sauce. The leftovers were great on everything. It had never occurred to me that one could make a cheese sauce without melting the cheese, but that is exactly what we did, thanks to the addition of evaporated milk. My favorite flavor in this dish comes from the traditional Peruvian chile paste, Aji Molido. It ranks right up there with good New Mexican chile, and I will be ordering it in bulk. Of note: Traditional Huancaina is made with Saltines- and therefore, one of the few things in Peru that celiacs must avoid. Keep that in mind should you decide to travel there.  We all liked this dish so much that it may have to make an appearance at our annual 4th of July Picnic!

 

Gluten-Free Huancaina Sauce (or Papas con Huancaina)

8oz queso fresco (any farmer’s cheese will do, or even a pressed ricotta)

1 bag Aji Molido (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1 can evaporated milk

6-10 gluten-free crackers depending on how thick you like the sauce. We used Glutino

splash of olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Throw all the ingredients in the food processor and run until thick and smooth- about 1 minute. Add more crackers to get the desired thickness. For a traditional presentation, serve over cold potatoes. Can be used over rice, as a sauce to anything- stirfry, eggs, for nachos- you name it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, we enjoyed the traditional street-fare Lomo Saltado – literally translated as “jumped loin”. This is basically South American beef stir-fry served over rice and with french fries. I was surprised to learn that populations from Southeast Asia began migrating across the Pacific and settling in Peru in the mid-19th century. With them came their food, and an early version of East meets West Food Mash-Up! The beef in this dish is traditionally marinated in soy sauce, so again- be aware should you travel to Peru- this dish is likely not for you. Again- I was surprised and delighted by the flavor in this dish. Spicy warm chiles meets soy sauce, garlic and vinegar. You could even add ginger!

Lomo Saltado- serves 8


1.5 lbs beef (Strip or skirt steak will work nicely here)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

3 red bell peppers (we used multi-colors)

1 large tomato

1 bag of frozen french-fries

1 bag Aji Molido or 1/2 a bag of its spicier counterpart Rojo Cojido

gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), vinegar, salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook french-fries in the oven according to instructions. While they’re cooking…..

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper cover with a combination of soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Chop onion & garlic, set aside. Chop peppers, set aside. Chop tomato, set aside.

In a large bottomed medium-hot pan (ideally a wok), sear beef to desired doneness, set aside. Drain pan, add a splash of oil, then add the onion. Briefly saute until softened (you can cook these down further if you prefer). Remove from pan, add peppers. Saute until softened (again- you can cook these to whatever level of doneness you prefer). Slice beef on the diagonal, replace all ingredients in the pan, give a quick stir and add the tomatoes. Turn off the heat- the residual heat from the pan and food will cook the tomatoes. Add the Aji Molido or the Rojo Cojido. Serve over rice, add the potatoes to the top, garnish with more spicy goodness if you so choose, and enjoy!!!