Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Low Iodine: Pasta!

One of the few bright spots of the low iodine diet is that it permits pasta within certain parameters. Fresh pasta with abundant egg yolks is, of course, off limits. Dried pasta containing nothing but semolina & durum flour is just fine, and makes a perfect backdrop for all sorts of fantastic flavors.

If you have the good fortune to be on the low-iodine diet during the summer, then get yourself to the local farmer's market for some field-grown tomatoes and fresh basil. A mix of tomato varieties like Purple Cherokee, Lemon Boy, Green Zebra and cherry tomatoes like Sungold make a vibrant-looking and -tasting dish. Cook up some orrichiette and toss it with this easy no-cook tomato sauce:

Italian Salsa Cruda

2 lb. ripe field grown tomatoes, cored and diced (about 4 cups) - do not seed the tomatoes!
1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. Red wine vinegar
1/3 cup roughly chopped basil
1 T. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; more to taste
1 lb. dried orrichiette, rigatoni, or other short ridged pasta that will hold the sauce.

Kosher salt for the finished dish. Adding salt to the sauce early will draw the moisture from the tomatoes and adversely affect the texture.

Combine all ingredients except salt in a large bowl and let stand for up to three hours to let the flavors combine. Taste and add more pepper if desired. Toss with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.

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Another summer favorite pasta is this herbed, lemony, garlicky pasta salad recipe by Joanne Weir, originally published in Fine Cooking magazine years ago. Perfectly low-iodine friendly and flavorful, this salad needs nothing more than a chilled glass of white wine to accompany it.

Herbed Farfalle with Grilled Chicken

Kosher salt
12 oz. dried farfalle pasta
10 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)
Freshly ground black pepper
7 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn
1 cup packed fresh arugula (tough stems removed)
6 lemon wedges


In a large pot, bring 6 qt. water and 2 Tbs. salt to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 min. Drain the pasta and toss it immediately with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Let the pasta cool completely in the refrigerator.

Heat a cast-iron ridged grill pan or an outdoor grill. Brush the chicken breasts with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Grill the chicken breasts until golden on one side, 4 to 5 min. Turn the breasts, season with salt and pepper, and continue to grill until golden and cooked through, another 6 to 8 min. Let the chicken cool and then cut it on the diagonal into thin strips. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 8 Tbs. olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the farfalle, sliced chicken, parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, and arugula and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the salad into a serving bowl and serve immediately, garnished with the lemon wedges.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Low Iodine: "Enchilada" casserole

One of my most irresistible cravings during the low-iodine diet is for enchiladas and tacos. Dairy-loaded and therefore forbidden on the diet. In an effort to combat those cravings, I came up with this improvised, veggie-loaded, non-dairy casserole.

Quick, homemade enchilada sauce: 

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 tomatillos, husked and washed
2 large poblano chiles
splash of cider vinegar
1-2 T cilantro leaves, washed and dried
2 C water or unsalted chicken stock
kosher salt to tast
freshly ground pepper, to taste
pinch of sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roast the onion, garlic, tomatillos and green chiles on a baking sheet until softened and slightly blackened. Put the chiles in a paper bag to soften the skins. Once they are cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins. 

 Stem and seed the chiles, then put all of the vegetables in the blender with the vinegar, cilantro, water or unsalted chicken stock, kosher salt, pepper, and sugar. Blend until it becomes a smooth, thin sauce, adding more water or stock if necessary. It can be used immediately, or simmered briefly on the stove top to further blend the flavors. Taste and correct the seasoning.

To make the casserole:

Preheat the oven to 350, brush a 9x13 pyrex dish with olive oil, then layer:

1/3 enchilada sauce
corn tortillas* torn to fit the dish, about 4-5
1/2 the "filling" (mix any shredded leftover meat, a can of unsalted black beans, 1-2 cups of veggies like corn, and diced zucchini, cumin, kosher salt, pepper, & a hit of cinnamon)
another layer of tortillas
1/3 sauce
the rest of the chicken mixture
another layer of tortillas
the rest of the sauce
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, and served it topped with chopped cilantro, minced onion, and a squeeze of lime. My doctor allows me a small amount of dairy every day, so I add a teaspoon of sour cream.

*Be sure to check the ingredients in the corn tortillas. Whole Foods brand tortillas include only corn and lime.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Low Iodine: Indian flavors

The cookbooks I turn to again and again on the low-iodine diet are almost all Indian. Many, many Indian recipes can be adapted for the low-iodine diet. Up until 2 years ago, when I really began researching gourmet recipes for the low-iodine regime, I had a picture in my mind of Indian food being full of dairy. Then a cursory page-through of one of my favorite books turned up a dozen recipes that could be made without substitutions. The complex spicing and fresh herbs wake up everything. 

"Indian cuisine" is a pretty generic phrase. "Cuisines" is more accurate, as modern India encompasses a huge area and over a billion people.

This recipe is truly satisfying, especially with a small portion of Basmati rice.

Masoor Dal

Ingredients:

1 cup whole red lentils
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
2 - 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup light olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger root, grated
2 green chilies (I use serrano) seeded and minced
1 bunch coriander, washed, spun dry, and roughly chopped
Water


Preparation:
  • Rinse the lentil thoroughly in several changes of water
  • Put the washed lentils into a large saucepan with 3-3.5 cups of water with the turmeric, garam masala, and kosher salt
  • Bring to a simmer, then turn down the flame and cook on low for 30 minutes, stirring often, adding more water as necessary to keep the texture creamy.
  • Heat oil in wok. When oil is hot, add onions and cook until tender and translucent but not browned.
  • Add garlic, ginger and chillies. Continue to saute until garlic is fully cooked. Add garam masala and chili powder.
  • Do not allow spices to burn. Keep stirring until mixture starts to stick. And immediately pour this over the cooked dal.
  • Stir and let simmer to blend in the flavors. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

On Rejection

The fantastic Warren Ellis, on being asked if he ever faces rejection, and if he's ever considered giving up writing:

Every writer faces rejection. There are two practical things to take from rejection. 1) the entity doing the rejecting is either stupid or didn’t need your thing. 2) you’re not good enough yet.
These are practical takeaways. Look at the thing you sent, a month after you sent it, and see how many flaws you can find in it. You can do better. I can do better. You might not be ready yet. Also, maybe you sent it to the wrong place. Perhaps it didn’t fit their editorial tone. Perhaps the humans there are just bloody idiots. That’s fine. At no point are you being officially declared Someone Who Should Not Write. Even if, as happened to me, an important editor does in fact tell you that you should consider another career. If this is what you want and you have something to say, keep going. Keep learning. Keep trying again. 
There are undoubtedly still things in this life to submit to, but some random person telling you that you may not speak through art is definitely not one of them. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Moussaka

From the Time-Life Foods of the World, Middle Eastern Cooking. Somewhat time-consuming but totally worth it.

3 medium-sized eggplants, about 1 pound each, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
salt
1 cup flour
1 to 2 cups olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 pounds lean ground lamb
3 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup canned tomato puree
1 teaspoon finely finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons freshly grated kefalotiri (or parmesan)

Sprinkle the eggplant slices lightly with salt, lay them side-by-side on paper towels, and weight them down with a large, heavy platter or casserole. Let them rest 20-30 minutes, then dry them thoroughly with fresh paper towels. Dip the slices in the cup of flourand shake them vigorously to remove the excess.

In a heavy 12-inch skillet, bring 1/2 cup of the olive oil almost to the smoking point over high heat. Add the eggplant a few slices at a time, and cook them, a minute or two on each side, regulating the heat so that they color quickly without burning. transfer to paper towels to drain and brown the remaining, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary.

Pour 1/2 more of the olive oil into the skillet, and heat it until a light haze forms above it. Add the onions and, stirring frequently, cook over moderate heat for 8-10 minutes , or until they are soft and lightly colored. Stir in the ground lamb and, mashing it with the back of a spoon to break up any lumps, cook until no traces of pink show. Add the fresh tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, oregano, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepperand bring to a boil over high heat. Stirring frequently, cook briskly until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates and the mixture is thinck wnough to to hold its shape almost solidly in the spoon. Taste for seasoning, and turn off the heat.

Saltsa Besamel
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat 1 1/2 cups of the milk and the butter in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the rim. Remove from the heat. In a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan, beat the eggs, the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, the flour, and salt together until smooth. Place this saucepan over moderate heat and, stirring constantly with a whisk or large spoon, slowly add the milk and melted butter mixture in a thin stream. Still stirring, cook until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens heavily. Set aside off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 325. To assemble the moussaka, spread half of the eggplant slices in overlapping rows in the bottom of a 14-by-9-by-3-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the slices evenly with 2 tablespoons of grated cheese and pour in the lamb and tomato mixture, spreading it into the corners of the dish with a rubber spatula. Arrange the rest of the eggplant on top and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cheese. Pour the saltsa besamel evenly over the eggplant and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 400 and bake for 15 minutes longer, or until the top is golden brown. Remove the dish from the oven and let the moussaka rest at room temperature for 5 or 10 minutes before serving it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Low Iodine: Tomatoes

The low-iodine diet allows fresh fruit & vegetables in unlimited quantities. My prior scans have all been in March or April, not terrible for produce, but not the cornucopia of deliciousness that is late summer. Corn, peaches, peppers, cucumbers, and beautiful, ripe tomatoes all make sticking to this diet much easier. Here are two recipes for summer produce that punch up the flavor. The first is from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking. Get the best quality tomatoes you can afford from the farmer's market. I like sun gold cherry tomatoes paired with green and yellow zucchini.

Broiled Tomatoes

2 servings

2 very large, ripe tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (I use Penzey's)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and set on a baking sheet. Mix the salt, pepper, and spices together, then sprinkle over the cut sides of the tomatoes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the tomato halves, and rub the spices in. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and place the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully, until the tops of the tomatoes are browned. Delicious served hot or at room temperature.

Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes

1 - 1 1/2 pounds of mixed zucchini, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
1/2 lemon
Small bunch fresh basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons olive oil

Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook until slightly softened. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the zucchini and tomatoes and lower the heat to medium. Cook the vegetables until brown in places, stirring frequently. Taste and add salt and fresh pepper. Turn out into a serving dish, squeeze the lemon over it and sprinkle with basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tomatoes and onions, farmer's market, St-Remy-de-Provence

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Low Iodine: Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive...

On a very restrictive diet, it's easy to fixate on what you can't have, on all the verboten treats and favorites you've given up. Right now, I'm turning my frown upside-down, finding the silver lining in the cloud, making a silk purse out of the sow's ear, ac-cent-tu-ate-ing the positive...OK, I'm out of cliches. Sometimes, it's good to get jolted out of your cooking rut, is all. I'm pulling cookbooks out that have languished for a couple of years, learning to bake decent bread, and refocusing on canning and preserving.  I'm cooking again and feeling more confident, after giving up on it and myself for a couple of years.

All the cookbook searching is paying off, yielding recipes that I will continue making post-scan. Last night's dinner was a riff on Swiss Steak, that old cafeteria favorite, using Moroccan/Middle Eastern spicing from the cuisines I've been researching. I had made it before, using a recipe from my trusty Fannie Farmer cookbook (12th edition, 1979). Onions, garlic, stewed tomatoes...it was OK.  This time, inspired by a box of couscous, I thought of adding warm spices like coriander & cinnamon, and a splash of honey to round the flavors. It was delicious, and the kids scarfed it up and asked for seconds. It's earned a spot in the dinner rotation.

Heather's low-iodine Swiss Steak

1 1/2 lb. cubed steak
1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground coriander
2 t honey
2 15-oz cans whole tomatoes, no salt added, crushed & juice reserved
1/4 c. red wine
flour & kosher salt for dredging meat
1 T Olive oil or canola oil
Chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet or electric frying pan over medium heat. Lightly salt the cubed steak, let stand for a minute, then dredge in flour. Add steaks to the pan, and let sit undisturbed for at least 4 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side.

Remove meat from the pan to a large plate. Lower heat to medium-low, and add onions. Cook until softened slightly, then add garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant. Sprinkle in cinnamon, coriander, and ginger, stir to coat the onions in the spices. Pour in red wine and honey and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and their juice, and mix everything together. Add the steaks back into the pan, nestling them in the sauce and scooping some of the tomato mixture on each. Turn heat to low, cover the pan, and let everything simmer gently until the meat is fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes. Stir the sauce, turn meat over once, and watch it carefully to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Taste for seasoning, and add more kosher salt and pepper if needed.

Serve over plain couscous prepared with kosher salt & olive oil, and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro