Rice Pilaf

I live in a neighborhood filled with Armenian and Lebanese businesses. Or, as I like to think of it, filled with Armenian and Lebanese food. Falafel (sadly, not available to me as nobody around here makes a gluten-free version), kebabs, hummus (oh, the hummus!), and, of course, rice pilaf. Unfortunately, many of the establishments in my ‘hood cook their pilaf with wheat-based vermicelli, so finding tasty pilaf is a bit tougher than it should be.

Hence, making my own. This recipe is fairly simple, and you can make the rest of the meal while the rice is cooking and resting. I like doing this in the oven, but you can do it on the stovetop if you prefer. I was discussing the recipe via Facebook with a friend; she talked about how her mother made pilaf…and there was no skimping on the butter! I try to be a little more health conscious these days, but do sometimes increase the amount of butter when I make this dish.

Seriously, butter. Use it liberally!

Traditional Lasagna

I’m not a huge tomato sauce person, but lasagna is one of my weaknesses. How could I resist? Gooey cheese, layers of meat and noodles, that sauce pulling the whole thing together. And because I couldn’t find gluten-free lasagna noodles ahead of time, I bought 12 boxes from Amazon. That’s a whole lotta lasagna.

The way I figure it, I have enough noodles to last me several years!*

It takes about five minutes of Internet research to discover that everyone has a favorite lasagna recipe, ranging from quick to laborious. Or, there is no wrong way to make a lasagna. Take what works for you and don’t worry too much about doing it “right” — as long as it’s tasty, you’re good.

This recipe involves making your own Bolognese sauce, so it will take some time (think of a terrific sauce simmering on the stove all afternoon, that’s what we’re doing here). Letting the sauce simmer develops a rich flavor — one I find hard to replicate with store-bought sauces (which, of course, I use when time is working against me).

As you will see in the notes, you can skip steps 1 − 6 if you are pressed for time.

* — Okay, truth: those noodles will be gone in no time since I’m testing different lasagna styles.

Everything Gumbo

For the gluten-free eater, gumbo is one of those foods we will likely never enjoy in a restaurant. At the heart of this dish is the classic New Orleans-style roux — a mix of flour and oil cooked until it is a rich, deep brown. Roux is synonymous with gumbo.

But I love gumbo, and knew I could make an excellent dish using gluten-free flour, specifically, in my case, Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose GF flour. I also borrowed a trick from Alton Brown, using my oven to build my roux. This allowed me to do all my prep work while the roux turned a gorgeous shade of chocolate brown.

You can make chicken gumbo, shrimp gumbo, vegetarian gumbo, gumbo with okra, without okra. It’s your gumbo. This recipe has everything but the okra (which I prefer served on the side, lightly fried rather than in the stew itself). As a bonus, gumbo served over steamed rice makes an impressive they’ll-never-guess-it’s-GF party dish!

Sorta Chicken Pot Pie

Once, in a moment of weakness, I confessed my deepest, darkest secret to my former boss: at those times I really needed serious comfort food, I reached for frozen chicken pot pies served over rice. Ain’t nothing healthy about that, but so comforting.

Obviously, I never eat like this in front of my husband. At least, I hope I don’t.

My former boss has never forgotten this. Just like I know about her meatball sandwich cravings. Sometimes, you just need food that serves your soul. Food that reminds you of something…even if that memory is a formerly-frozen chicken pot pie made on an assembly line.

So one day, faced with leftover chicken and carrots and celery that needed to be used, I thought “pot pie”. Then I thought “do I really want to make gluten-free pot pie?” The answer was — and was based quite a bit on the time of day this craving hit — was no. However, I still had the chicken, carrots, and celery.

Something had to be done.

This is definitely not the stuff you remember from your childhood. I serve it over rice (score!). And — in another nod to my misspent youth — took advantage of GF Bisquik to make drop biscuits to serve as my “crust”.

Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya

Jambalaya is most strongly associated with Louisiana, though friends from Mississippi claim it as their own. Every person who makes jambalaya has his or her own secret recipe — and, if you spend about five minutes searching for recipes on Google, you will discover dozens of variations of this classic dish.

Put another way: this recipe is just a starting point for your own version of jambalaya. My recipe anticipates you will have plenty of time to cook this dish…but, as you will see, there are plenty of opportunities to speed up the meal if time is short.

There are two major types of jambalaya: Creole, which contains tomato and is often associated with New Orleans, Cajun, which relies upon browned veggies and meat for a wonderful smoky flavor. My recipe blends the best of both styles, featuring chicken, spicy andouille sausage, and, when it’s on sale, shrimp.

Needless to say, jambalaya is a great party dish because the recipe can easily be doubled. It’s also a great dish for crockpots.

Vegetable Stock

While I don’t make vegetable stocks as often as I make chicken stocks, I love the way different vegetables can make what seems like such a simple process taste so good. I like the rich flavor that comes from the right blend of veggies…without overpowering the rest of a recipe.

As with chicken stock, you can use leftover pieces from veggies you prepare. Just store them in an airtight freezer bag until you’re ready to make your stock. The proportions below are just guidelines.

Lentil Soup

When I get obsessed with a food, I get really obsessed. Like I’ll eat a particular food every day until my friends stage an intervention. I think the first time this happened was the summer I was nine. Ever wonder how many tiny tuna sandwiches a girl can make from a long, skinny loaf of French bread?

I know the answer. To say more is to tell you too much about me.

Luckily, I outgrew that obsession before it was taken away from me.

So, other foods that have inspired this level of devotion in me? Chopped salad. Oh, a good chopped salad is like heaven. This may be where I determined salads should be good or not offered at all.

And lentil soup. I think I was 28 or so when I first had lentil soup. I was wary, coming from a household where vegetables were regarded with suspicion. Of course, I was also trying to be totally cool with the fact that I tried a) hummus (OMG!) and b) lentil soup in the same meal.

Nothing was ever the same.

Making lentil soup is absurdly simple. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there is only one rule, and that is the addition of acid right before serving. Lemon juice or vinegar turns lentil soup into something one obsesses over. Don’t be shy, taste and taste, adjust.

Trust me. After all, I ate lentil soup every day for, oh man, a month!

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This soup can be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.[/box]

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