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Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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Looking for a moist and delicious banana bread that happens to be free of gluten? Look no further. Yet another gem from my favorite GF cookbook. I love to grab a slice or two for breakfast and have another with my afternoon cup of coffee.

The best bananas are black bananas. For maximum flavor, be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas. If you like, you can freeze overly ripe bananas, one at a time, and save them expressly for use in this recipe. Thawed frozen bananas will release their liquid without the need for microwaving, so you can skip that step and put them directly into the fine-mesh strainer, then continue as directed.

In case you’re wondering about the 3rd step: The liquid released from the bananas that is then cooked down acts as an intensely flavored syrup that packs a punch of banana flavor without adding extra watery liquid that would turn out a mushy loaf.

from: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
makes: 1 loaf

9 1/2 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) gluten-free flour blend
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 large very ripe bananas (about 1 3/4 pounds) I used 6 medium bananas for the same weight
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

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Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 or 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Whisk flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

Microwave bananas in a separate bowl, covered, until they have softened and released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. (you should have anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid).

Transfer the banana juice to a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Measure 1/4 cup of the reduced banana syrup and add to bowl with the bananas. Mash with a potato masher or fork until mostly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

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Using a rubber spatula, stir banana mixture into flour mixture until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Banana bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but bread can be cooled, immediately wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. To serve, warm in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

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Fregola with Green Peas, Mint, and Ricotta

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I have never cooked Fregola before, and I have to say it was a delightful experience. Fregola is a type of Sardinian pasta similar to Israeli (or pearl) couscous. It is made up of semolina dough that has been rolled into tiny, little balls and oven-toasted. If you can’t find fregola I think pearl couscous would work, but I’m not sure it would have that same toothsome bite. I felt this pasta was a nice transition from Winter to Spring. To me, the warm flavors of bacon and onion bring out the Winter flavors I love, and the peas and fresh mint usher in the first tastes of Spring. The dollops of ricotta provided a luxuriously creamy element. Spring must be here (finally!) because David and I enjoyed this meal on the patio with glasses of Pinot Gris. There is something about the first meal of the season eaten outside that brings me great happiness. To me, there is nothing quite like dining al fresco. Cheers, Bon Appetit, and here’s to some lovely Spring weather and cuisine!

serves: 4
adapted from: Bon Appetit

1 1/4 cup fregola
kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
2 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 lb. pods) or frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
4 ounces ricotta

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Cook fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water until very al dente (you can just barely bite through it-it will cook more later), 6-8 minutes. Drain pasta (do not rinse), reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

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Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon, stirring often until bacon is brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

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Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until skillet is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add fregola and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just al dente (tender, but still firm) and broth has thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add peas and chopped mint and cook, stirring, until peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta cooking liquid as needed to adjust consistency. (I didn’t end up needing any.)

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Serve fregola topped with dollops of ricotta, chopped mint, and cracked pepper, and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

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Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt and Cucumber

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For Easter I wanted to make lamb, but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do lamb chops or a lamb roast. I was flipping through April’s Bon Appetit and came across a gorgeous photo of lamb meatballs in a chile sauce on a bed of yogurt and cucumbers. Decision made!  I always like to do a flavorful spin on a traditional holiday recipes, and these spicy meatballs definitely surprised my palate. They are nicely browned on the exterior, unbelievably tender in the center, and bursting with salty, smoky, and spicy flavors. The yogurt and cucumbers provide a fresh and cooling contrast. However, I did think between the dressing for the cucumbers, the tartness of the yogurt, and the zippy chile sauce, there was a lot going on, maybe too much. Next time I make this, instead of the cucumbers in dressing and plain yogurt, I will substitute tzatziki sauce and plain, sliced cucumber for garnish.

Happy Easter!

adapted from: Bon Appetit
serves: 4

chile sauce

3 guajillo chiles (or pasilla chiles), seeds removed, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
kosher salt

meatballs & assembly

1/4 small onion, chopped
7 garlic cloves chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon rice flour or all-purpose flour
4-5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
a few splashes of vinegar (sherry, red or white wine)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain sheep’s milk or cow’s whole-milk yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
crushed red pepper flakes, for serving

special equipment: a spice (or spare coffee) grinder or a mortar & pestle

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Toast chiles, red pepper flakes, and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and cumin seeds are golden, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Working in batches, finely grind in spice mill, then transfer to a blender.

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Add vinegar, paprika, and garlic to blender and blend until smooth. With motor running, gradually stream in oil and blend until combined. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt.

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Do ahead: chile sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

meatballs and assembly

Pulse onion, chopped garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, fennel seeds, coriander, cumin and 1 tablespoon salt in a food processor, scraping down sides as needed, until finely chopped. Add egg, lamb, and flour and pulse until evenly combined. Form lamb mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls.

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Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches and adding another 1 tablespoon oil to skillet if needed, cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through, 5-8 minutes. (If they are well browned but not cooked through, you can throw them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until cooked through.) Transfer meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Transfer all meatballs to bowl with chile sauce and toss to coat.

Toss cucumber in a medium bowl with lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon yogurt into bowls. Evenly divide meatballs among bowls; top with dressed cucumber and mint and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Do ahead: meatball mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

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The Slope

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The Slope boasts a nice blend of bitter and sweet and I used my own brandied cherries for garnish. (recipe coming soon!)

from: Craft Cocktails
makes: 1 cocktail

2 dashes angostura bitters
1/4 ounce apricot brandy
1 ounce Punt e Mes sweet vermouth
2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
garnish- brandy-soaked cherries

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Place all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add large ice cubes and stir thoroughly. Taste for balance. Single-strain into a martini glass, taking care not to aerate. Garnish with speared brandied-cherries and serve.

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Roasted Ginger Salmon with Pomegranate Salsa

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This gorgeous salmon was a breath of fresh air in a kitchen (and for a cook) that is weary of cooking heavy winter foods. David and I just got back from a week’s vacation in Florida and we were missing the fresh fish and seafood, so this salmon recipe caught my eye. The pomegranate olive mint salsa was so delicious I could have eaten the whole bowl’s worth as a salad. The jewel-like pomegranate seeds bright against the green herbs and fennel made this dish almost too pretty to eat. The chopped olives added a bit of salty brine that brought it all together, but you know I love olives! I let the salmon and salsa be the star of the show and served it alongside brown rice simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

tip-If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they sell pomegranate seeds in their refrigerated produce department. This was a great discovery for me, as I love pomegranate seeds in salads, fruit salsas, and my morning yogurt.

from: The Healthy Mind Cookbook
serves: 4

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zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 (6 oz.) salmon fillets, pinbones removed, and skin removed if desired
sea salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup pomegranate olive mint salsa

Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa

1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1/2 cup kalamata or green olives, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fennel
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sea salt

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In a small bowl, whisk together citrus zest and juices, olive oil, ginger, and cayenne. Place salmon in an 8 inch square www.tbaking dish; season each piece with a pinch of salt. pour half of the marinade over the salmon; turn to coat well. Cover baking dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl and stir gently to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Remove salmon from the refrigerator, uncover, and add 2 tablespoons of water to the dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until tender and opaque and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the fillet registers 120 F.

While salmon is cooking, combine reserved marinade and mustard in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour over fillets. Spoon 1/4 cup of the salsa over each fillet; serve immediately.

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Kale and Chorizo Soup

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Want to know what meal I made the most this Fall & Winter? This easy and flavorful soup.

adapted from: Emeril Lagasse
servings: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds chorizo sausage, sliced in 1/2-inch slices*

1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
3 quarts of chicken stock
4 cups kale, rinsed, stemmed, and cut into 1-inch strips
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh mint
Small loaf of crusty bread

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Raspberry Streusel Bars

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These raspberry bars are pretty amazing. David said they are the best dessert bars he’s ever had, and they just so happen to be gluten-free. Fresh raspberries mixed with raspberry jam makes a yummy fruit center, and the streusel topping is buttery, nutty deliciousness.

from: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
makes: 16 bars

6 ounces (1 1/3 cup) Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 1/3 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine
1/4 cup gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
6 ounces (1/2 cup) raspberry preserves
2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh raspberries
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

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