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Elegant Simplicity for Dinner

OUR NEW FOOD MANTRA FOR THE SPRING IS ELEGANT SIMPLICITY AT ITS
most nourishing. We want to start with the freshest and best ingredients (and local whenever possible), prepare them easily and effortlessly, and then serve and enjoy the delicious, nutritious fare with people we care about.

Olive Bacon Wraps
Sautéed Shrimp with Artichokes
Roasted Ratatouille
Fresh Mozzarella and Basil on Arugula
Rustic Flat Bread (Focaccia)
Red Velvet Cake

Our springtime dinner menu is bursting with flavor, nutrition, and fun. Start the evening with our Olive Bacon Wraps, a twist on the traditional stuffed date wrapped in bacon. These simple gems are small mouthfuls of delightful salty flavor. Use your favorite olives and pair them with a dry wine. The main course is an informal meal of sautéed shrimp with artichokes, roasted ratatouille, and a platter of arugula topped with fresh mozzarella and basil, served with home-made, gluten-free focaccia. The shrimp recipe is one of countless variations of the classic dish, Shrimp Provençal. The ingredients are different, but the foundation remains the same: quickly sautéed shrimp in a richly-flavored sauce. Other than the shrimp, this is a dish you can throw together in minutes if you have a well-stocked pantry and a large skillet.

Cubes of fresh eggplant, onions, peppers, and squash are caramelized in a hot oven and then combined with tomatoes and spices to form the Roasted Ratatouille. It is perfect for entertaining because it is most flavorful when cooked the day ahead, making for less hectic meal preparation as guests arrive. This hearty vegetable stew is filled with both color and nutrition. Not only is it low in calories, but ratatouille is high in fiber, vitamins A, B6, and C, and the alkalizing minerals calcium and magnesium (see the current Health and Nutrition column for more information). Also adding to the delicious and nutritious quotient is the arugula with fresh mozzarella and basil. Arugula is rich in many essential vitamins and minerals, as well as important phytochemicals. It, too, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. This pepper-flavored green is also a very good source of potassium, iron, zinc, riboflavin, and copper. As an extra bonus, arugula and other cruciferous vegetables contain a group of anticancer compounds known as glucosinolates. These phytochemical compounds exert antioxidant activity and are potent stimulators of natural detoxifying enzymes in the body.

Homemade, gluten-free foccacia heads up the fun factor. Rustic flat breads can be found in cultures and cuisines around the globe. This one is more European in style, like the foccacia you find in Italian restaurants, specialty shops, and even grocery stores. It is seasoned in the classic way, with olive oil, fresh rosemary, and sea salt. Try it topped with some ratatouille, fresh mozzarella (from a local cheese maker if possible), basil, and arugula. It is addicting, warm or cold.

Turn heads with our delicious red velvet cake for dessert. This gluten-free version of that much-loved, legendary cake is as tender and flavorful as the original (and if you prefer, you can omit the red food coloring without affecting the end result).

 

OLIVE BACON WRAPS

Makes 12 wraps

12 large pitted olives (black or green)
4 slices smoked bacon (humanely raised), each cut crosswise into 3 pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Wrap a slice of bacon around each olive and insert a toothpick to hold bacon.
  2. Arrange olives evenly space on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake 6 minutes and then turn olives and bake another 6 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.
  3. Transfer to plate and serve warm.

© 2009 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


SAUTÉED SHRIMP with ARTICHOKES

Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and de-veined
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté until pink on both sides. Remove shrimp from pan.
  2. Add shallots and garlic to the pan and sauté over low heat until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and add wine. Turn on heat to medium-high; stir to deglaze pan and cook until almost evaporated. Add artichokes, lemon juice, and thyme and bring to a boil. Add shrimp back to pan and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

© 2009 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


ROASTED RATATOUILLE

Serves 8-10

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1-pound eggplant, peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion (such as a Vidalia or Texas sweet), peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 6-inch zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 6-inch yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (to taste)
Non-stick vegetable oil spray

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spray 2 large non-stick baking sheets with non-stick spray.
  2. In large bowl, whisk oil with garlic, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and honey. Add eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and zucchini. Toss to coat. Spread half of the mixture on each baking sheet and arrange in single layer.
  3. Roast vegetables for 10 minutes and then turn. Continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a large saucepan. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil, and oregano. Bring ratatouille to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste and adjust fresh herb seasonings.
  5. Serve warm, room temperature or cold with more fresh chopped basil as garnish.

Cook's Note: Ratatouille can be made up to two days in advance. Refrigerate until needed.

© 2009 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


FRESH MOZZARELLA and BASIL on ARUGULA

Serves 4

4 cups young arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
8 to 12 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar, to taste

  1. Arrange arugula on a serving platter. Top decoratively with cheese and sprinkle with basil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; serve immediately.

© 2009 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


RUSTIC FLAT BREAD (FOCACCIA)

Makes one 8 or 9-inch round bread.
Recipe can be doubled.

1½ cup Bread Flour Mix A*
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 packet (¼ oz.) of dry, quick-rise yeast granules
1 teaspoon olive oil
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon water, heated to 110°F
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary
Sea salt

  1. Spray an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray and lightly dust with rice flour or sprinkle with cornmeal.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl of electric mixer. Pour warm water (110°F) and olive oil into mixing bowl; mix until just blended. Scrape bowl and beaters, and then beat at high speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Spoon dough into prepared pan and spread it out to the sides with a spatula. Cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place (about 80°F) for about 40 minutes. Bread should be approximately double in height.
  4. Place rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 400°F while bread is rising.
  5. Sprinkle olive oil over top and carefully spread it into a thin film over the entire surface of the bread (use your fingers to do this for best results). Sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt (or other toppings of your choice).
  6. Bake 8-inch bread for 20-25 minutes, 15-20 minutes for 9-inch bread. Bread should be medium golden in color and cooked through. Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack for 15 minutes; slice and serve.

Cook's Notes:
Bread can be prepared in advance; bake according to directions. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack. Wrap well in plastic wrap and then foil. Bread can be stored in refrigerator for up to three days or freezer for up to three weeks; wrap well in plastic wrap and then foil. Defrost in plastic wrap. Rewarm in 350°F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes; sprinkle bread with a bit of water and wrap in foil, but open the foil for the last five minutes.

Dry ingredients can be mixed ahead and stored in plastic containers for future use. Do not add yeast until just ready to bake bread.

* This recipe makes 3 cups of Bread Flour Mix A: 1 cup millet flour, ½ cup sorghum flour, ½ cup corn starch, ½ cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch), ½ cup potato starch (not potato flour). Find directions for mixing and measuring gluten-free flours in our column Our Gluten-Free Philosophy, 6/03 in the gluten-free archive on this Website.

© 2009 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


Food Philosopher’s® Gluten–Free

RED VELVET CAKE

See this month's Gluten-Free Column.