Market Musings Blog

reFRESHing spritzers

We all know sodas aren’t good for us, but sometimes a fizzy, fun beverage really hits the spot.  To make a fruity spritzer with much less sugar than soda (and no caffeine), pair together fruit juices with sparkling waterRead more …

A condiment that brings the heat – Giardiniera

Okay, I won’t lie, in my house, we’re a little less than patient for spring to really be here.  Thinking about warm weather makes me think of grilling, which in turn makes me think about condiments.  About a year ago, I discovered my new favorite: giardinieraRead more …

Kickin’ it with kimchi

Napa or Chinese cabbage is traditionally used for making Korean winter kimchi, but it’s far from the only vegetable you can use for that purpose. Read more …

Put hot sauce on it!

While Mississippi Market staff cannot come to a consensus over which hot sauce is the best (Cholula? Dave’s Prime? Sriracha?), we CAN agree on this list of our favorite foods to adorn with hot sauce when we’re feeling the need to spice things up. Read more …

Tea – finding the perfect mug

That great warming morning beverage, that iced and sun-brewed afternoon cup, or that mug at the end of the day to help the sleep come.  Mmmm, tea. Read more …

Snow days!

Looking out the window, watching the snow fall makes many of us at the co-op want to be home, curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.  Read more …

Hoppin’ John for good luck in the new year

New Year’s Day in the American South is celebrated in many families with Hoppin’ John, a stew made with black eyed peas. Some people add a penny or other small trinket to the beans when serving them. Whoever finds it is promised especially good luck in the new year. As many recipes can be found for Hoppin’ John as there are cooks who make it, so use this one as a foundation for creating your own version. Read more …

Warm breakfast ideas

I had a realization this week. I looked down at my staple summer breakfast -a bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola- and was no longer satisfied. It just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I wanted something heartier. I wanted something… warm.

Luckily I work here, where everyone is talking about (or eating) food, all the time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only craving something different for breakfast. As I strolled around the office, I noticed that Lauren had unpacked her Oatmeal-in-a-jar and Luke was eating a hot breakfast sandwich at his desk.

Beyond those two stand-bys around here, I was also pointed to these two recipes, both warm & hearty, yet satisfying in different ways. Read more …

Gluten Free Cooking & Eating

Would it surprise you to learn that throughout most of recorded history, only a small, though powerful, portion of humanity (currently about 35 percent) has eaten wheat? Those of you who are embarking on wheat-free diets should take heart from this: people have been cooking and living healthy lives without wheat bread, wheat pasta, and wheat cakes for a very long time, and their rich cooking traditions can serve you still.

no wheatWheat is a demanding crop. It cannot grow in the south because it is susceptible to blights under warm, humid conditions; it cannot grow in the far north, because it is too cold for it there. It cannot grow in wet or poor soils.  There’s a great deal of the world that cannot support wheat. In those regions where wheat is not easily grown, you will find wheat-free (and even gluten-free) food traditions that you can cook from and enjoy. Be assured that they are many, storied, and fine.

Of course, there’s a second route for people who cannot tolerate gluten-producing proteins, and that’s the one that food manufacturers want you to take: buying costly mixes that approximate the tastes and textures of wheat-containing foods. I have explored these, and while they’re convenient, most of them do not make terribly good substitutes for glutinous foods: they are expensive to buy, and some of them don’t taste much like the real thing. You will be far better off seeking out traditions that never involved wheat.

Several years ago, a woman recently diagnosed with celiac disease told me that her diagnosis came with an unexpected blessing: it prompted her to learn to cook. Before then, she had mostly eaten out, ordered in, and otherwise avoided cooking, thinking it was too time-consuming for someone with demanding professional work.

When I realized how much more expensive buying gluten-free foods was, I decided I was going to learn to cook for myself. I had expected nothing more than eating more economically, but I discovered that I loved cooking for its own sake—it was more soothing than I anticipated, and I could eat really well without worrying that there might be gluten in anything so long as I did the cooking myself.”

That is the alternative that cooking out of long-established gluten-free traditions offers you. Here’s what you’ll need to know in order to face this new challenge.

Shrimp & asparagus risotto. Click the photo for more gluten free recipes from "Cooking Light" Photo: Oxmoor House

Shrimp & asparagus risotto. Click the photo for more gluten free recipes from “Cooking Light” Photo: Oxmoor House

What Is Gluten?  Gluten is the largest protein molecule known to biochemistry. For our purposes as cooks and eaters, what’s important to understand about it is that some raw grains possess the potential to produce gluten. Gluten is not a protein that sits there, wholly formed: it must be produced through the combination of two precursor proteins, glutenin and gliadin, in the presence of oxygen and water, physical agitation (mixing, kneading), starch, and salt.

Some ingredients used in cooking—for example, sugars, fats, and eggs (which contain fat)—block the formation of gluten by preventing the two precursor protein molecules from attaching to each other. The kind of potentially glutinous grain also makes a difference: rye and barley, for example, contain less gliadin and glutenin than wheat. Hard winter wheats contain far more of these proteins than soft spring wheats and winter wheats grown in the South.

Celiac disease vs. Gluten Free
Many people are being told to try gluten-free diets as aids to digestion, clearing congestion, and a host of other health problems. Such changes in diet are voluntary and distinct from celiac disease, in which one’s own immune system attacks the presence of gluten in the gut and damages the gut’s lining. If you are not gluten-intolerant but simply want to minimize your exposure to it, you can minimize gluten production when baking by using low-protein wheat flours (White Lily; pastry flour; cake flour). If you have celiac disease, you probably need to entirely avoid the proteins that can form gluten and instead cook from traditions that never incorporated gluten-producing grains.

Industrial foods regularly include gluten-containing ingredients in places you wouldn’t expect to find them: tomato-based pasta sauces, soy sauces, canned vegetable sauces, salad dressings. That’s why learning to cook and bake instead of depending on processed food is so important to your health.

Here are the world’s most common grains that do not contain gluten:

amaranth

buckwheat

corn

millet

oats*

quinoa

rice

sorghum

teff

legume flours (not derived from grain but made into flours)

quinoa

Quinoa is a versatile grain that is high in protein.

As a cook or potential cook, this list should tell you that you can freely cook polentas (corn), stir-fries and risottos (rice), grain salads (quinoa, amaranth), flatbreads (buckwheat, millet, oats, teff, rice)—a range of possible explorations that’s almost unlimited! The traditional foods of central & southern Mexico and equatorial Central & South America; those of western, sub-saharan Africa; those of southern China and southeast Asia; those of southern Europe and the Horn of Africa can offer you more than a lifetime of pleasurable cooking and eating, most of it gluten-free.

*While oats themselves do not contain the precursor proteins to gluten, they are usually processed in plants that also process wheat; this is why oats are sometimes listed among gluten-producing grains. Certain brands of milled oats (such as Bobs Red Mill GF Oats) are made on equipment that has not processed gluten-producing grains.

Extreme Local – Wild Foraging

Before I start: wild foraging can be very dangerous. The amount of mushrooms that are fatally poisonous are relatively small, but there are a great many that will make you wish you were dead and cause serious illness. You should never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% confident in identifying it. There are a great many resources if you would like to get into wild foraging, but it should be approached with a healthy respect and only after much study. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS ON A WHIM.

Chicken of the woods on tree

Chicken of the Woods, too old, but still pretty cool.

I am an outdoors person. I love hunting and camping, and when morel season hits in spring I am in the woods nearly every weekend. This year, I have decided to enjoy some of the local foraging that can be had in mid-summer months.

Ok, morel season is easy: little undergrowth, very distinctive mushrooms, little to no mosquitos and hardly any ticks. All of these things have made it a trendy thing to do, amateurs beating down trails to every dead elm tree in state parks around Minnesota. And with good reason, morels are delicious.

Mid-summer mushroom hunting has been about as far from that as possible. Minnesota mixed hardwood forests are hot, full of bugs, poison ivy, buckthorn, wild berries, stinging nettle, and a fair amount of other hidden pitfalls. I have found mushrooms that I have picked, learned to do a spore print, and identified them with some confidence. Only then to throw them out because doubt about my knowledge crept in (this is normal and a healthy thing). I have worn poison ivy rashes with pride for a good portion of the summer. I have invested in what I call a hippie basket, a bandaloo (which I have already lost), spent a small fortune on gas driving to state parks, and shirked some responsibilities.

Chicken gnocci with chicken of the woods

Chicken gnocci without the kale, subbing thyme in its place, and with whole wheat gnocci

Despite this, the exhilaration that I felt when I saw my first mass of orange Chicken of the Woods* was just as exciting as any morel patch I have found. Finding lobster mushrooms buried in leaves was worth the mosquito bites (technically my lovely wife found our first lobster). And wild mushroom gnocchi shared with friends and family? Good grief.

*Mississippi Market carries wild, foraged mushrooms from time to time, so it is possible to cook with them without foraging. Call ahead before making a special trip.

Here is the recipe:
Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, serves 2-3

ingredients
1 med onion, diced ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
A large mass of wild mushroom, your choice on variety, all have been excellent – usually around .5 lbs, or you could use button, but the earthy flavor of the wild mushroom is what makes this dish. Tear/cut/break the mushroom into bite size pieces. Be sure to clean the mushroom, ideally using a brush of some kind, not in water. Mushrooms really soak up liquid and it is ok to wash them in water, but it will alter how this dish cooks and you may need to cut the rest of the water out of the recipe entirely.
2T Olive oil – you may need a little more if you are frying a large amount of mushroom, they tend to soak up liquids
1 package of Cucina Viva gnocchi
1 half of a bunch of dino kale, or a sautéing green of your choice, rough shred/julienne
1 table spoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
1.5 cups water

Equipment:
1 14” sauce pan, with 1.5 inch sides, or some equivalent
1 stock pot to boil gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, mushroom together stirring often on medium high heat until your onion just starts to become translucent. Dissolve the Better Than in 1.5 cups of water and pour that mixture into your sauce pan. Cook until reduced, but not dry. There should be some liquid left in pan to provide a ‘sauce’ for the dish.

At this time add the gnocchi to the water. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top it is done. Add your kale to your frying pan and stir it in. The gnocchi will cook quickly in a rolling boil (4-5 minutes tops) and will overcook just as fast. Scoop out the gnocchi leaving as much water as possible behind and put it right into your mushroom mix. Stir and serve.

At this time I like to shred a little Pecorino Romano on top, but that is completely optional. There are gluten free gnocchi’s in some grocery stores, so it is possible to make this dish gluten free as well.
Eat and enjoy.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

James Talbot is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As the grocery manager at Selby, you’ll find him in the ailes stocking the shelves, answering questions and figuring out how to make space for more awesome products.