Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe: Braised White Beans from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern
Autumn brings relief. Sure, we miss those dog days of summer—the sprinklers, the popsicles, and the ribs on the grill. But when the heat recedes, we can finally do something that gives us great joy: turn on the stove. In our house, the fall means braising. Usually braising—a long slow simmer on the stove or the oven—means meat dishes. In this case, we take the rind of a good Parmesan cheese, white beans, and quality olive oil, then let them braise overnight on low heat. That slow simmer yields beans with a meaty, creamy tenderness and a little crunch on top. One bite of these and you’ll be happy it’s autumn again. --Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern
1 cup dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water
1 small nub Parmesan cheese rind (about the size of half a thumb)
3 cups olive oil (you want a mild to peppery oil, not fruity)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooking the beans
Drain the beans. Pour the beans into a large saucepan along with the Parmesan cheese rind. Cover the beans with the oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to bubble, turn the stove to its lowest possible setting. Allow the beans to simmer, with only the occasional bubble rising to the surface, until they are soft and tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Seasoning the beans
Throw the garlic, rosemary, and thyme into the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and stir everything in. Grab a spoon full of beans, drain the oil from the spoon, taste the beans, and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the herbs to mingle with the beans as the oil cools down. Allow the beans and oil to fully cool before you eat them, about 1 hour. When you serve the beans, drain them from the oil. Reserve the oil and store any uneaten beans in the oil in the refrigerator.
Combining tempting recipes with an authentic love story, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef is a narrative cookbook for anyone who loves food.
A must-have for those who need to eat gluten-free, this cookbook offers irresistible stories and plenty of mouth-watering meals. From the authors of the much-loved food blog, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, the book includes evocative photos, cooking techniques, and 100 chef-tested recipes that are sure to give joy in the belly.
- Illustrates the working day of a talented chef and what he does to put delicious food on the plate
- Contains great-tasting recipes that everyone can cook and eat
- Meant to be read cover to cover
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef inspires anyone who has to eat gluten-free to say yes to the food he or she can eat.
Recipe Excerpts from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Amazon Exclusive: Author One-on-One
Michael Ruhlman Interviews Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern about Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Michael Ruhlman is the author of twelve books, including Ratio and The French Laundry Cookbook. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, daughter, and son and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Gourmet.
You two and I know there are too many cookbooks already! There's only one reason to put a new cookbook out there: to say something that hasn't been said before. Why did you write this? What is it offering that hasn't been written before?
When Danny and I fell in love, he was the executive chef at a popular bistro in Seattle where he changed the menu every month to cook with seasonal foods. He was trained in classical French techniques, so he worked with roux and breadcrumbs. However, only a couple of months after we met, he started writing menus that did not contain any gluten. “I don’t want to cook anything that could make you sick,” he told me. Danny began playing with quinoa and teff, black rice flour for dredging fish, and sweet rice flour for making gravies. We began baking together.
I was a pretty competent cook when I met Danny, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable in the kitchen. Over the years, I've learned so much about food from him—cooking techniques, respect for fresh food, and flavor combinations. We wanted to share that experience with readers.
We wrote the book together, a true partnership. The essays are in my voice, with quotes from Danny. The headnotes and recipes, as well as the chef techniques interspersed throughout the book, are written in Danny’s voice. It’s a conversation, a back-and-forth. This is how chefs work on the line. This is how a good relationship works. This is a book about learning to fall in love with food, about a story still unfolding.
How important is it to know how to cook without gluten (something, frankly, that intimidates me)? Why should I know or want to get better at it?
1 out of 133 Americans has celiac sprue, an auto-immune disorder that requires a lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet. (Medical experts speculate that it’s more like 1 out of 100.) Countless more, perhaps millions, have gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergies, leading them to cut gluten out of their diets. Recently, Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s most famous doctor, stated, “It’s believed that as many as 1 in 7 people [in the United States] doesn’t tolerate gluten well.” That’s a lot of people.
Increasing numbers of people can no longer digest gluten, but most people have no problem with it. What's in this book for them? What's in this book generally for people who love to cook or want to be better cooks or want new ideas for meals for themselves and their families?
When I thought I could eat everything, I ate the same 8 to 10 meals over and over again. Most of us do. We worry about getting food on the table fast, rather than experiencing new tastes. Going gluten-free forced me to discover foods I never knew existed before: Tallegio cheese, gravlax, squash blossoms, Marcona almonds. Even if you can eat gluten, this cookbook might introduce you to foods that will become lifelong favorites.
Danny and I both focus on what I can eat, rather than what I cannot. When Danny cooked at the restaurant in Seattle, most of the diners had no idea they were eating “gluten-free” food. They just dug into their Umbrian lentils with duck confit and cabernet sauce. Finally, they finished the evening with chocolate mousse with apricot and vanilla bean jam, topped with crème fraiche. The gluten-free folks were grateful for every bite, but so were the other customers. This is not “special diet” food. It’s great food.
Daniel's a chef, a professional cook. I've spent much of my writing life trying to make the chef's world accessible to the home cook. What do you two think home cooks have to learn from professional cooks and restaurant chefs?
Home cooks have so much to learn from restaurant cooks! Danny taught me how to set up a mise en place before I start cooking, rather than having hot oil starting to smoke in the pan as I chop the onions. Chefs know how to choose great ingredients, in season, from people who care about the food they are producing.
Mostly, though, it comes down to something simple: chefs enjoy every step of the process. Danny must have chopped five hundred pounds of onions in his life. However, every time he picks up an onion and starts to remove the peel, he bends down over the board, his eyes focused, joy in his hands.
Most of us home cooks think of the preparation, and even the cooking, as a means to an end. We just want dinner on the table. Danny has taught me to slow down and enjoy the entire process.
Could you tell us about a couple of recipes that are representative of the book as a whole?
We’re proud of the homemade pasta because it’s pliable with a good bite and has its own taste. We have a fettuccine recipe in the book—a spaghetti—and a ravioli with smoked duck breast. You can make all of these with the pasta recipe. You should know it took us making pasta at least 58 different ways before we figured out the recipe you will see in the cookbook. We lived this book for three solid years. Each recipe is the product of early morning weighing out of flours and eating failed attempts and going back to the kitchen again to make it better.
We love the balance of more elaborate, “cheffy” recipes in the book—such as petrale sole with mushroom duxelle and cilantro-mustard sauce—and the less complex recipes like bean bake casserole and spiced walnuts. We wanted both our skills to be represented in the book, so people who are just learning how to cook will have plenty of recipes to learn from, and people who are confident cooks will still find challenges.
And last, and most important to me, a question that occupies me daily, a question with a million answers and no answers—tell me: why does cooking matter?
For us, cooking food is a way of offering love. When I first met Danny, I asked him why he is a chef. He said, “I like to give people joy in the belly.” The happy sighs that come from people when they see the food you have just put on the table are as lovely as the silence that accompanies the first few bites. You can feel people slowing down and enjoying themselves.
Cooking is a beautiful sensory experience. If you slow down and smell the fresh ginger just after you have sliced it, everything else stops for awhile. You’re simply alive. Somebody has to cook your food. It might as well be you.