Simple Asian Eggplant

The grill was used nearly every night while I was home.

This is Celiac Awareness Month and while I have always said I have self-diagnosed gluten intolerance, I do believe I have Celiac instead.  The more reading I do and the more I see the symptoms lined up with my own, they fit more with Celiac, than non-Celiac gluten intolerance.  The main distinguishing symptom being diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder.  I lay wide awake last night, attempting to sleep but mentally writing out this blog post.  Then, I woke up to this post about a scam geared towards people with Celiac Disease.  Thanks to Denise O’Deen SanFilippo for sharing Gluten Dude’s emphatic post.  And thanks to Gluten Dude for sharing about the false claims of the product, twice.

There is nothing those of us with Celiac or non-Celiac gluten-intolerance, or any autoimmune disorder, or food intolerance/allergy, want more than to not be afflicted.  It takes us or our loved ones out of the realm of normalcyand into the realm of the unknown.  Okay, me being normal was never normal to begin with.  You get my drift.  Handling social situations gets easier and easier, especially when I can plan for them.  Traveling home last Fall for my cousin’s wedding was easier than I thought it would be.  Traveling home last month and being with family nearly 24/7, not so easy.

Me with my siblings, some of my cousins, and my nieces and nephews.

I have a rather large family when you add in all the grandmas, grandpas, aunties, uncles, and cousins in the entire extended family.  Not just my Dad’s brothers and sisters and their kids, but my Dad’s aunties, uncles, cousins, and their kids.  After almost 14 years of marriage, Chaz still says something like, “How the hell should I know? Your family is HUGE!” when I’m trying to get him to remember who is who when I talk about them.  I grew up with my aunties, uncles, and Dad’s cousins, whom are also aunties and uncles to me.  I babysat some of my cousins when they were little.  We are close which means we stand closer together than most people would.  And, we steal food off each other’s plates.  Well, maybe steal is too harsh.  We share liberally.  It’s nothing for one of the kids to ask for food off your plate.  When Cuz Mooch was a toddler, she’d walk up to you with her mouth open.

Cuz Mooch and her boyfriend, Grill Master

I had to be on my guard constantly.  I had my own snacks.  Dried fruit.  Trail mix.  If I happened to pull some out in the afternoon because I needed something to get me through until dinner, someone wanted some.  I couldn’t just let them stick their hands in my food like I used to.  I had to either pull out the dried fruit for them or pour the trail mix into their hand.  Some of them (*ahem* Dad) gave me momentary funny looks, that disappeared as fast as it appeared.  But I noticed.  A few asked and I simply said, “I don’t know where your hand was.”  That was that.

Cuz Mooch’s boyfriend, Grill Master (I only call him that because he manned the grill every night they were there), did a great job helping out and even problem solving grilling me a steak on the grill, but keeping cross-contact from occurring.  I already knew foil would need to be laid out on the grill for my steak, but when it came to using different utensils, instead of using two sets of tongs, he grilled my steak first so it wouldn’t touch the others until mine was already off the grill.  He’s genius!  Or I was just really tired and jet lagged.  Or both.  I thanked him multiple times for that.  I was able to squirrel the leftovers away to a covered plate in the fridge and put my name on the foil so no one would take it.

It would be nice to not be afflicted and not have to be vigilant of what is going on when I’m with my family in order to prevent an accidental glutening.  But, nothing I can take will make my body accept gluten as a food.  It’s not fun to be on my guard as much as I was, but I did it and I communicated my needs when it came to communal food.  No gluten in my diet means a healthier and happier Debi.  I think most of you would rather have a happy Debi than a miserable Debi any day.

I wasn’t missing a lot of food that I couldn’t have that others were eating until it came to Grill Master putting some kal-bi (Korean short ribs) on the grill.  I love me some kal-bi.  I love it so much that I had to make my gluten-free kal-biversion when I got back to Cincinnati.

Simple Asian Eggplant

I normally make my version of the Korean bean sprout and cabbage side dishes when I make kal-bi.  I love the sprouts, but along with them, I wanted something else.  Eggplant.  I came up with this and even Chaz was happy with it.  I think “really like” was his word choice.

Simple Asian Eggplant – serves 4-6 (depending on other side dish sizes)

1 long Asian eggplant, quartered and sliced

1/4 cup gluten-free tamari

1/2 cup mirin

toasted sesame oil

Heat a wok or large skillet to medium.  While it warms up, mix together the gf tamari and mirin.  Once the wok/skillet is heated, drizzle a little (no more than 2 teaspoons) toasted sesame oil and let it warm.  Add the eggplant and stir fry until eggplant is almost done.  Add your sauce once the eggplant is almost done and make sure to continue to stir while adding the sauce.  You will not use all the sauce.  Use just enough to get the eggplant coated well.  Refrigerate the leftover sauce.  Once your eggplant is fork tender, take it off the heat.  You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

Leftover Makeover

Basil Chiffonade

My friend, Ninette (not her real name), loves food like I do.  A couple of years ago, she mentioned using leftover meatloaf in spaghetti sauce to make a meat sauce.  Brilliant!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  I did just that Friday night with the leftover gluten-free meatloaf I made 2 weeks ago and the last of my husband’s tomato sauce.

Gluten-free Pasta with Meat Sauce and Roasted Garlic Eggplant (serves 4)

1 medium eggplant, large dice

3 cloves garlic, pressed (or minced)

6 T olive oil (or more)

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

2 pieces leftover gluten-free meatloaf

4 tablespoons basil, chiffonade

8 oz gluten-free pasta cooked according to package directions

Roasted Garlic Eggplant

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together eggplant, garlic and olive oil.  Use more olive oil if needed to give the eggplant a good coat.  Spread out onto a jelly roll sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Stir well and spread out again.  Bake for 10 more minutes.  In a small saucepan combine the tomato sauce and meatloaf and simmer on medium-low to low.  Let it warm up before trying to break up the meatloaf.  Keep simmering on low until well heated and meatloaf is evenly distributed through the sauce.   Dish cooked pasta onto plates or bowls, top with sauce, garlic eggplant, and basil.   I didn’t salt anything because it tasted well seasoned to me.  However, if you like things salty like my husband, by all means, add some salt.

Gluten-free Meat Sauce

Dinner was rather easy to fix since the only real prep work went into the eggplant and basil.  I want to take you through how I did a few things though.  I didn’t want to make the directions too long with it.  So consider this a “tip” section.

If you aren’t familiar with a chiffonade, it is the style of the cut used on fresh herbs like basil or leafy greens like spinach.  You stack up the leaves, roll them and then slice them into long strips.  I first learned this technique from Jamie Oliver when he was still doing his show, The Naked Chef.   I roll my basil from side to side so that when I do the chiffonade, my strips are widthwise.  The basil I used for this dish was still pretty young off my basil plant in my Aerogarden.  I used so much of it, I couldn’t actually roll it first.

Quinoa Pasta with Gluten-free Meat Sauce, Roasted Garlic Eggplant, and Basil

I dumped the eggplant as I was dicing onto my jelly roll pan.   Then, I pressed the garlic cloves over the pile of eggplant so the juices would drizzle onto the eggplant.  I poured the olive oil over the eggplant in a circular motion to start the spread of the oil.  I did not grease the pan.  I knew I would have enough olive oil that would seep back out of the eggplant to help keep it from sticking.  I mixed it all together with my hands so I could feel the distribution of the oil.  I had to add more (I started with 4 tablespoons and wound up with the total I put in the recipe).  I like to get a good coat of oil on the eggplant so it is nice and moist, rather than dry and chewy.  Trust me, you don’t want dry, chewy eggplant.  When I added the additional olive oil, I kept mixing it and spreading it out at the same time.  (Stick, I had memories of shuffling mah jong tiles with you while I was doing this.)

I used a quinoa pasta that I’ve had in the pantry.  It is made by Ancient Harvest and it’s my go to brand for quinoa products.  With gluten-free pasta, I tend to cook it for the minimum time on the package directions and stir frequently, because gluten-free pasta will stick together if you don’t stir it.  I’ll test it as it gets close to that minimum time.  For example, the package for the Rotelle said to cook 6-9 minutes.  I set my microwave timer for 6 minutes.  When it was down to 30 seconds left, I tested a piece I fished out.  It was still a little tough, so I set the time for 1 minute, 30 seconds.  I tested it 30 seconds into that time, and again after another 30 seconds.  The reason I did so is quinoa pasta will fall apart and turn to mush if it is cook just a tad too long.  I like quinoa pasta now and then because it tastes similar to regular pasta, but I stick to brown rice pasta for the most part.  Quinoa is a healthy gluten-free grain high in iron.  There is 6 grams of protein in 1/2 cup of the dried whole grain.  The corn flour that is mixed with the quinoa flour in the Ancient Harvest quinoa pastas is made from non-GMO corn.  For more information about quinoa and Ancient Harvest, check out their FAQ page.