Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Low-Sin, High-Pleasure Pizza: gluten-free, low sodium, and still tasty

Pizza. Philly cheese steak. Food of the gods.

My folks went away for a month, leaving me to clean out the deep freeze unit to the best of my abilities. Due to my having been hit with a little upper respiratory bug, though, the only thing I really made a dent in was the stock of stock -- chicken stock, that is. I have, for now, had my fill of chicken soup and its many variations on a theme. I arrived at that point long before I had recovered my energy and ability to cook again.

The trouble with reaching curative foods saturation point before you can get back to playing in the kitchen, and craving variety you don't have the strength to cook for yourself, is that you start thinking about establishments which deliver prepared foods to your home. In this town, the only foods available for delivery are pizza, pizza,, that's it. Two pizza places. Everything else you have to fetch for yourself.

What with my suddenly having to cut out wheat and aged cheeses, that's really not a great set of options. But it's a great way to develop a little obsession -- an undying craving. I needed pizza.

At last, my energy mostly returned, as did my accountant/personal shopper (the Bat). Also arriving, my mail-order shipment of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Biscuit AND Baking Mix.

Note: I like Bob's Red Mill products. They're versatile, as well as relatively affordable (as gf products go, they're almost dirt cheap!), and they taste quite nice, with a balance of flours so you don't suffer from too sweet or too beany an aftertaste, as many other brands I've tried in the past year. [If you prefer another brand of biscuit mix, though, go for it, and follow the package instructions for a single batch of basic rolled biscuit dough.] 

So anyway, I had my biscuit mix, and now I had other ingredients and a mommy to help me out in case of crisis, so it was PIZZA TIME!

I chose to combine a couple of cravings, too, to kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes. I went for the Philly Cheese-Steak toppings, to the best of my abilities.

Fair warning: this is not a throw-together-at-the-last-minute pizza. You need time for the meat to arrive at a workable state, even if you have a deli slicer. It helps if you get a nice lean roast of beef, cut it with the grain into 1 or 1 1/2 inch wide strips, then freeze the strips for an hour or two, until they are frozen firm, but not rock-hard. If they get too hard, you'll only have to allow them to start to thaw before applying a blade to them.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is how to make a gluten-free cheese-steak pizza.

Half of this one was without onions, for the sake of the digestion of somebody I love.

Gluten-Free Biscuit-Crust Philly Cheese Steak Pizza


2 lbs lean beef roast, cut with the grain into 1- to 2-inch thick strips, semi-frozen, and then sliced very thinly
5 Tablespoons butter, divided
12 ounces fresh mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thinly.
1 cup sweet onion, sliced as you prefer - rings or simple splinter-style
1/2 cup sweet bell pepper (optional), sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (4-6 ounce) ball fresh mozzarella*, sliced thinly into circles

2 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill GF Biscuit & Baking Mix, chilled
1/2 cup butter, chilled
3/4 cup cold water
Gluten-free flour of your choice for rolling out (about 1/3 cup)
Corn meal for pizza pan (about 1 Tablespoon)


Starting well-ahead of when you need your pizza, firm up your beef in the freezer. When it is quite stiff but not yet frozen solid (it will take a couple of hours, depending upon your freezer), take out a section at a time and shave it as thinly as you can, across the grain of the muscle (cutting with the grain will leave you with too chewy a strip when cooked. You want it to fall apart so you don't have to struggle to get it into your mouth). If you are not going to cook the pizza right away, toss the meat back in the freezer before it thaws, so the slices don't stick together. If you are going to make the pizza now, set the meat aside in the fridge until you have made the biscuit crust.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a medium bowl, with a pastry blender, combine biscuit mix and 1/2 cup chilled butter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add water, mix in by hand -- start with a wooden spoon, but finish literally with clean, bare hands, until it begins to hold together. While it is still in the bowl, lightly knead it into a ball.

Place out on flat, lightly-floured work surface and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.

Sprinkle 14-inch round pizza pan or flat cookie sheet with cornmeal. Gently place biscuit dough on top (I use the rolling pin to transfer it from the counter top to the pan, the same way I transfer pie crust to the dish). If you wish, crimp edges a little, to give crust a rim. With a fork, pierce the dough at intervals of about one inch, across the entire sheet of dough.

Bake at 375° F for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Reset oven to 425° F.

In a large frying pan or wok at high heat, place a Tablespoon of butter. As soon as it is melted, toss in sliced mushrooms and stir regularly to flash fry. When the mushrooms begin to turn golden-brown and slightly crisped, remove from pan and set aside. Add butter to the pan, flash-fry sliced onions until the edges begin to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Add another small amount of butter to the hot pan, lay in beef -- only enough at a time for a single layer to cover the bottom of the pan (a handful should do just fine). Cooking quickly, lightly brown each handful and then set aside, continuing to cook the next handful of meat.

When all the meat is cooked, generously spread butter over the top of the biscuit crust, including the edges. Sprinkle all 2 cups of shredded mozzarella over the top of that. Pile on the meat on top of that, then the onions, mushrooms, and raw sweet peppers (optional). Arrange sliced cheese over top.

Bake about 13-15 minutes, until top cheese is melted. Turn off oven and allow pizza to stand in cooling oven about 5 minutes.

Slice and serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

*you may choose to substitute cheddar, provolone, or Cheez Wiz for authenticity, both in the base layer of cheese and the topping, all or part, in your own choice of proportions. I use fresh mozzarella because I have an allergy/intolerance problem with aged cheeses, and because I think fresh mozzarella is just awesome on this. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Muffin Doin': cornmeal muffins

My young friend Asteroidae has, for the past couple weeks, been asking to make some muffins. (I guess I shouldn't have left the bright red silicone muffin pan on the table all this time, after using it to sort items for a Christmas project. It's too big a reminder.) Too often, when she arrives here after school, there is not quite enough time to do a serious project after she finishes with her homework, so her disappointment had been building. Finally, this time, we managed to work a little muffin up in the schedule…

At any rate, our households also have a serious weakness for cornbread, cornmeal, polenta, and the occasional bowl of grits, so we combined the two cravings into one solution. Today, we make cornbread muffins. And we make them blue.

If you don't have any blue cornmeal in your refrigerator (and, seriously, if you have it, it should be chilled unless you just bought it this afternoon), any other good quality cornmeal or non-quick-polenta will do, but the blue cornmeal lends its own subtle flavor to the bread. (If you are serious about making this gluten-free, though, remember to check the labels of your ingredients, first, to see that they are clearly marked as GF. Many corn flours and cornmeals are processed alongside wheat and other gluten sources, and cross-contamination may occur. I find Bob's Red Mill is always reliable.)

Also, a good gelatin-free, plain Greek yogurt is best, so check the ingredients in your preferred brand. I like the house brand from Aldi, but you may prefer somebody else's best (if you have none at all, skip it and raise the amount of buttermilk to 2 cups).

These muffins freeze fairly well, and can be stored in an aritight container for about two days – reheat to serve.

Beyond that, the real goal is to have a good time making muffins from maize.

Cornmeal Muffins* †


2 cups corn flour (masa harina)
1 1/2 cups corn meal (preferably blue)
4 Tablespoons sugar or honey
5 Tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5-8 Tablespoons butter for pan(s)
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2/3 cups Greek yogurt, plain
1/2 cup melted butter


Arrange racks in oven to accommodate two standard-sized 12-muffin tins, with as little overlap as possible. Preheat oven to 400ยบ F.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together, set aside.

Put a dot of butter (about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon) into each cup of the muffin tins. Place in oven to melt butter and heat the tins. When the butter is melted, swirl it around so it covers the bottoms of the cups.

In a medium bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, yogurt and 1/2 cup melted butter. Add into dry mixture all at once and stir until moistened (do NOT overmix – it should still be a little lumpy).

Scoop by 1/4 cup into the muffin tins, bake 11-15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Makes 2 dozen.

*You can make this into a standard corn cake in two cast-iron frying pans, other heavy-duty round pans, or a 12x16x2 cake pan, by reducing the amount of butter to be put into the pan by about half (about 2-3 Tablespoons per round pan, or about 4-5 per rectangle), and then by baking for 15-22 minutes.

†Update: If, for the sake of portion control, you want to make mini-muffins (as pictured below, using regular cornmeal – I made these much later, under the watchful eye of Asteroidae's younger brother, Ilex), this recipe will make about 4 dozen. Treat the same as regular muffins, but bake only 8 minutes, or until lightly golden-browned. Serve warm – with more butter, if you feel like living the decadent life.

They just look so darned cheerful, all in a row, don't they?

We like our cornbread accompanied by butter and a bowl of soup or chili.