Gluten-Free Shopping in Ethnic Grocery Stores

My local grocery store has made a strong commitment to gluten-free foods, and I am hoping this is a serious change in corporate thinking versus a short-term fad. I certainly do my best to make sure their investment is worthwhile, and, based on my regular perusal of the dedicated GF section, I’m not alone.

However, sometimes mainstream stores charge crazy prices for foods just because they’re labelled “gluten-free”. Very often, these same foods are available at ethnic grocery stores at a far more reasonable price. Continue reading “Gluten-Free Shopping in Ethnic Grocery Stores”

Your GF Pantry: Chicken or Vegetable Stock

Many of my recipes — heck, many of the recipes of great chefs! — call for the addition of chicken or vegetable stock. I use a lot of stock (mostly chicken) in my cooking. It’s a great way to add flavor to rice dishes, such as pilaf, potatoes, sauces, soups, and, well, just about everything. A few years ago, I realized I needed a) buy stock (ha!) in the companies that make these fine products, or b) start making my own stock.

Needless to say, I went with option B.

I’m a gluten-free cook, and my goal is to make everything as delicious as possible. Using a richly flavored stock in lieu of plain water adds another layer of flavor to any dish. Making my own allows me to control flavors and salt levels. I find commercial stocks to be overly salty, especially when I’m using them in recipes that already have lots of flavor.

Making stock is pretty simple: bring some water with your stock base in it to a boil, lower heat, simmer for a while. Easy, no?

Seriously, it is that easy. I generally keep two bags in the freezer to make my stock base: one to collect chicken carcasses for chicken stock (I use the roasted bones from a rotisserie chicken most often; roasted bones tend to give the stock a richer golden color). The bag holds vegetable trimmings for vegetable stock. When stock-making day rolls around, I set a big pot of water a on the back burner and let my stock base do its thing. I then ladle my stock into one-cup size freezer containers.

When it comes to active work time, I’m spending about a half hour. The rest happens on my stove. Best of all? I never find myself in a panic because the recipe I’m making calls for stock…and my pantry is empty.

Of course, every Thanksgiving, I toss the turkey carcass into my stockpot. This help replenish my freezer since I use a lot of chicken stock while making the main meal. To be honest, “checking” on the stock also gives me a bit of a respite from family after a long day. They say a watched pot never boils, but it sure does simmer just fine.

I also love using a light shrimp stock in dishes — when you’re peeling your uncooked shrimp, set the shells aside, toss them in about two cups of water and let simmer for up to an hour. For added flavor, toast your shrimp shells in a bit of olive oil, add some onions and celery, and let simmer until reduced by half. You can freeze what’s left over.

So tell me about your favorite recipes incorporating stock — and some of your favorite types of stock (other, ahem, than the kind that make you lots of money!).

Gluten-Free Shopping: Asian Grocery Stores

I use Asian ingredients a lot in my gluten-free cooking. Many are inherently gluten-free, making meals so much easier. Sure, my local grocery store has an Asian foods section, but it is largely geared toward the basics like soy sauce (sometimes they stock GF tamari, sometimes they don’t), other sauces, and various noodles and pre-packaged meals (including — thank you! — some great gluten-free meals from Taste of Thai).

But I like to keep my pantry well-stocked with other ingredients I use on a regular basis, so I make regular trips to one of the local grocery stores that caters to the large Asian population in my neighborhood. One store, 99 Ranch Market, is a mix of familiar products and interesting items such as whole Durian fruits. Another is geared more toward Chinese foods, with what seems to be an entire aisle devoted just to soy sauce.

Yes, you have to be very diligent about label-reading. I am still hunting for fresh rice flour noodles that don’t have wheat flour. While items must be labeled in accordance with U.S. Laws, you do need to be aware that other nations have different regulatory standards (some may be tighter, some may be laxer).

Below you can see the results of what I thought was a quick trip to buy chile paste. I went to buy this.

Chile paste
I don’t know the brand name of this product, but I love it in many dishes. It’s spicy, but not overwhelming. Lots of flavor. We use it so often, I bought two jars.

 

And maybe this.

White miso paste for soups and salad dressings.
White miso paste — perfect for soups and salad dressings.

 

Was hoping to find a large bag of rice flour. Ended up buying six one-pound bags. Pretty good deal, if a bit less convenient than a single bag. We use rice flour constantly in savory pancakes.

White rice flour
I bought six one-pound bags of this since we frequently use rice flour for savory pancakes.

 

Tapioca starch. Because, well, why not?

Tapioca starch
Glad to finally have tapioca starch on hand. Perfect for thickening gluten-free dishes.

 

I love making sandwich roll-ups with rice paper wrappers, so I stocked up on the large size. They are perfect for lunches. I couldn’t resist these triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers. Going to try to make some sort of dumpling/dim sum with these.

Triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers.
These were inexpensive enough that I can experiment with fillings for these triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers.

 

I am excited about finding millet. Have been Googling recipes all afternoon.

Millet
Millet, ready for me to decide what to make.

 

Oh, and after trying many stores, I finally found gluten-free Korean rice cakes (dduk). So many brands carried by local stores have wheat flour mixed in. I’m eager to create a spicy dish with these chewy, flavor-absorbing babies.

Sliced rice cake and gnocchi-style rice cakes.
Two styles of Korean rice cake: sliced and thick balls. Can’t wait to make a stir fry with these! They are labeled gluten-free.

 

Grabbed some black sesame seeds. They’ll be beautiful on crispy rice with spicy tuna or salmon. I also picked up some tofu. Because, well, it freezes well so I can have it on hand for quick stir fries or other meals.

Tofu
I am pro-tofu, and a bit weirded out the by cross-promotion for the movie “The Croods”. Just not sure how tofu fits with the movie theme.

 

The only thing I resisted purchasing — and I know I’m going to regret this — was the plus-sized bottle of fish sauce. I told myself I had a fresh new bottle at in the refrigerator. Since I use fish sauce a lot, I suspect I’ll be going back. I didn’t buy any dried rice noodles because I have plenty on hand. I went a bit wild the last time I shopped.

I couldn’t find any GF soy sauce, but I admit I didn’t look too hard since I have a good supply (and it’s easy enough to purchase locally).

Gluten-Free Pantry: Mise en Place

Mise en place is basically French for “set in place” or “put in place” or just about any way you want to say “make sure you have everything lined up and ready to go” before you start major cooking projects. Mise en place is the trick to making sure your cooking life goes as planned.

What this means is quite simple: before you start cooking, make sure you have everything ready to go. Utensils, check. Various ingredients measured and ready to use, check. Oven preheated, check. Pre-cooked or par-cooked items pre-cooked or par-cooked, check.
Continue reading “Gluten-Free Pantry: Mise en Place”

Your Gluten-Free Pantry: Basic Chicken Stock

A few years ago, I realized I was wasting a lot of money buying chicken stock. I go through so much of it when cooking, and spending a couple of dollars per container (on the high, I’m going to go organic and all that, end) was insane, especially since making good stock is so easy. I throw everything into the stock pot and let it simmer while I’m doing my other Sunday chores.

It’s good, it’s rich, and not too salty. Plus, I always have stock on hand — no more coming home, starting a meal, and discovering I forgot to buy stock.

Depending on what I’m doing, I make fresh stock every three to four weeks.
What makes this easier for me is assiduous collecting of bones and vegetable scraps throughout the month. I’m a big consumer of rotisserie chicken (nothing makes for faster on-the-go meals), so I freeze the bones after I pull off all the meat. I also toss leftover onions, carrots, and celery into my freezer bag for added flavor.

Roasted chicken bones tend to produce a richer flavor, so I prefer this route over cooking a whole hen…mostly because the resulting meat is so bland, it’s hard to imagine using it in any recipe. Plus stock from a boiled chicken doesn’t have the right golden color. It is pale and insipid, especially when compared to a stock made from roasted bones.

It probably should go without saying, but this process also works incredibly well for making turkey stock.