by Andrea Sperling


I'm rehashing this blog post from my old blog about Marcella Hazen, who died recently. Her Chickpea Soup With Arborio Rice is still one of my favorites, and I will honor her memory by making it again this week. When I became gluten-free, it was comforting to know that I could still eat this hearty and easy to prepare chickpea soup.

Marcella Hazan is my Julia Child. I’ve cooked and eaten my way through much of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and learned, as they say in the musical  Nine, how to “Be Italian,” from this 1992 classic cookbook.

Ever the groupie, years ago I even went to see Ms. Hazan give a lecture at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, which goes to prove that cooking Italian food is a fine art. I remember a man in the audience asked her what her favorite recipe was for clams. She looked at him like he was crazy for asking such a question and said, “It depends what you’re in the mood for at the time,” an answer that only an Italian could give. It made perfect sense to me, even though I’m not Italian. (Although having been to Italy at least a dozen times, I like to think of myself as an honorary Italian).

I love this cookbook because as a home cook who grew up on Poptarts and canned vegetables, it taught me that if you respect your ingredients – the best meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, cheeses and herbs you can afford, there’s not a lot of fancy cooking you have to do.

Now that the weather is finally turned a bit colder, I went right to my Marcella Hazan bible and opened it to the Chickpea Soup with Arborio Rice recipe, which tastes almost like a risotto.  It’s one of our winter staples, with a salad and it will always be remembered as the recipe that got my daughter to become a fan of chickpeas, a good source of protein and manganese.  It’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish that even Julia Child would love.


CHICKPEA SOUP  (from Marcella Hazan)

This is one of those really easy soups to make when there’s nothing to eat and you look through the pantry, and voila, there are all the ingredients. When I make this soup, I add a rind of parmesan cheese that’s usually in the refrigerator to act as a bone and give it some depth.

Serves 4 



4 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed or a small sprig of fresh rosemary

2/3 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

¾ cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked or 2 1/4 cups canned chickpeas, drained 

1 cup homemade meat broth or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water (I use a vegetable broth when I make it)




Put the garlic and olive oil in a pot that can subsequently accommodate all the ingredients and turn on the heat to medium.

Saute the garlic cloves until light brown, and then remove from the pan.

Add the crushed rosemary leaves or the sprig, stir, then put in the cut-up tomatoes with their juice.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the oil floats free from the tomatoes.

Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.                                             

Add the broth or bouillon, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.                                                   

Puree about half of the soup. If soup is too thick, add a little more water or broth.

Taste and correct for salt. Add pepper.




The Chickpea Soup made from the preceding recipe

3 cups (or more) basic meat broth, or 2 bouillon cubes dissolved with 3 cups water. (I use vegetable broth)

1 cup rice, preferably Italian Arborio rice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil



Puree all but a quarter cupful of the chickpea soup with an immersion blender or use a food processor. Add the rest of the soup or the dissolved bouillon, and bring to a steady, but moderate boil.

Add the rice, stir, cover the pot, and cook, letting the soup bubble steadily, but moderately, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite. Check after about 10-12 minutes to see if more liquid is needed. If the soup is becoming too dense, add more homemade broth or water. When the rice is done, swirl in the olive oil, then taste and correct for salt. Let the soup settle for two or three minutes before serving.



by Andrea Sperling


I confess, I've had acid reflux (GERD) for years. Some health practitioners feel that a gluten-free diet helps reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, as does a diet without a lot of acidic foods, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar and spicy foods.

If you're interested in food as medicine, one of the best remedies for acid reflux is miso soup. Miso has so many health properties – it's mineral rich,  antibacterial, high in antioxidants and it's alkaline. (Ladies, it's also good for hot flashes!)  I have a cup of miso broth many mornings when my throat is feeling sore from reflux, and it helps get me through the day.

At night, when I want to go all out, I'll make a big vegetable tofu miso soup.   It's just what the doctor ordered after I've been eating badly for awhile. I used to use barley miso in the winter, because with mushroom, it made such an earthy stock, but then I realized it wasn't gluten-free (duh, barley isn't gluten-free, so why would barley miso!), so now I use white, red or chickpea miso. I'll even mix them up. I add gluten-free rice vermicelli or mung bean thread noodles to the broth to make it more filling.  If you can find kelp noodles, they're a great gluten-free alternative to the rice noodles. If you're not gluten-free, try soba or udon noodles.

Do not boil the miso!  You should stir miso into a hot broth at the very end and take it off the flame. Boiling the miso destroys its healthy properties.



Serves 6

First,  make a vegetarian dashi with kombu. (You would use bonito flakes to make a non-veggie version). Kombu is a sea vegetable that is high in minerals and a good source of  iodine. Wakame is another delicious sea vegetable. Both are rich in antioxidants.

After you've made the dashi, the idea is to add whatever ingredients you want, and then add the miso at the end, right before you serve it.  (Since the miso paste is thick, it takes a while to dissolve in the dashi,  so it's a good idea to thin the miso in water first.)

You can use silken tofu or firm tofu, whatever your preference. You can substitute snow peas for the snap peas or add edamame or broccoli as your green. Bok choy would be wonderful, too.

Make the soup stronger, by adding more miso paste. A good rule of thumb is at least a tablespoon of miso per cup of water.  Some miso pastes are stronger than others so experiment and see what you like. In the warmer months, you might prefer a milder white miso. Also, the lighter the miso, the less salty it generally is. The lighter miso is  also less aged, so they will have less depth of flavor. You can even mix the white and red together. If you want to buy miso made from soybeans that are non-GMO, make sure you buy organically grown miso.

As a finishing touch, add a squirt of sesame oil, a handful of shiso leaves, scallions or cilantro. Be creative!


6 cups water

2-3 pieces  of kombu

¼ cup wakame, soaked 5 minutes

1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water

2 small .5 oz packages of rice vermicelli

½ block firm tofu

1 cup savoy cabbage or napa cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced

3/4-1 cup white miso paste (or more to taste)

Garnish with snap peas, diced on the diagonal

Optional: Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, gomasio, cilantro or shiso leaves

Optional: Squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving

Optional: A squirt of toasted sesame oil



Boil the kombu in the water very slowly or soak overnight at room temperature. This will be your dashi stock.  Remove the kombu when finishing the preparation of the broth.

Soak 1/4 cup wakame in hot water for 15 minutes.

Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 15 mintues.

Soak the rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles in hot water for about 15-20 minutes.

Cut a ½ block of tofu and dice it into  one inch cubes.

Rinse the reconstituted wakame and chop. Set aside.

Chop the mushrooms. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the dashi to a boil. Add the cabbage, carrot, ginger and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the wakame and mushrooms.

Put a spoonful of the miso into your bowl, add some of the broth and dissolve the miso, then add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl. Add the noodles (they will finish cooking in the hot broth), optional garnishes, and serve.




by Andrea Sperling

I don't really make desserts very often because they require too much precision and attention. But one thing I like to make are fruit crumbles or crisps, because you can improvise with whatever is in season and you don't have to follow a recipe too closely. They're a bit healthier than many other desserts, too.

Since this is a gluten-free version of a crumble, make sure you use gluten-free oatmeal. Oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, but since it's often processed in factories that process wheat and other grains, there can be cross-contamination.

Feel free to substitute blueberries or peaches for the cherries and apricots.



(Serves 4 to 6)



2 pounds apricots, pitted and sliced  

1 cup sweet cherries,  pitted          

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1 tablespoon arrowroot                                                                                            

½ teaspoon vanilla                                                                                                             

1 tablespoon lemon juice


1/2  cup almond meal        

1/4 cup oat flour      

3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats (not instant)          

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon      

Pinch of salt      

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces              

1/3 cup sliced almonds or walnuts



Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Butter a 1 ½ quart baking dish.

For the filling, combine apricots, cherries,  sugar,  arrowroot, vanilla and lemon juice in a large bowl. Toss to coat.

Place the filling in the prepared baking dish. Set aside.  

Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix the almond meal, flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl with a fork. Add the butter and using your fingertips, blend until it's coarse.   Add the nuts.    

 Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit mixture.

Bake, uncovered, until the fruit is bubbly and tender and the topping is lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.






by Andrea Sperling

I went to the Fancy Food Show today at the Jacob Javits Center.  Chocolate and shoes are two things that women like to indulge themselves with now and again, so well I guess someone had to come up with a chocolate shoe, right?

Chocolate shoe.jpg

There also were some healthier foods like peaches, plucrots and black apricots from California. They were all delicious but I had a big fight with the sales rep about conventional vs. organic produce. (He thought organic was just an advertising ploy).


I liked the idea of these tea popsicles, and I think I'll experiment and make my own frozen hibiscus pops in the next few days.


And I'm always happy to try new beautifully packaged teas.


I was inspired by combos I never thought of before like watermelon sprinkled with chilipowder and lime from Mexico. (Try it, it's good. Also a good popcorn combination.)


There were healthy foods with hemp seeds and chia but with funny names.


I was glad to see more artisinal gluten-free pasta.


I was also happy to see some of my favorite health food products like shoyu and umeboshi vinegar that have been used in macrobiotic cooking for years and years being sold.


But I think these gluten-free falafal chips were what I'm most looking forward to eating over and over again. I can see crumbling them up and using them like panko on fish or tofu. The packaging promised that it had more antioxidant value than what's found in green tea or vegetable juice. Well, I wouldn't substitute processed chips for vegetable juice, but I could see myself eating a lot of these with some hummus and being very happy.

falafal chips.jpg


by Andrea Sperling


Flash back to a trip to Greece a few years ago. It was so hot when I was there, that by necessity, we were on the Greek salad diet most of the time. Come July and August, when my father has a garden full of tomatoes,  I will be reminded of that lovely trip as I eat tomatoes chopped with cucumbers, olives, peppers, and feta, drizzled with olive oil, lemon and a sprinkling of oregano. If you need a recipe, Smitten Kitchen currently has one you'll love.


The one exception to cool summer salads I couldn't get enough of when island hopping through Greece was dandelion greens. I couldn't believe I had never eaten them before. 

They're one of the first greens to appear in the farmers' market in the spring. If you're trying to cook a bit more to improve your health, give them a try. Dandelion greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorous and Vitamin A. According to a recent article in The New York Times, "wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a 'superfood.'" Phytonutrients are natural chemicals in plant foods that may help prevent a variety of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.



Be prepared for a taste that's a little bitter. Traditionally, Greeks boil their wild greens or horta, but they're also delicious sauteed with garlic, olive oil and a bit of salt and lemon.    For a nice gluten-free vegetarian main course, add them to a summer rice salad. Use arborio or brown basmati rice. 



Sea salt

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch dandelion, rinsed and roughly chopped

1 bulb garlic, minced

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon capers

1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted

Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Black pepper



1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the rice and cook uncovered until tender but firm, about 18-20 minutes.

2. Drain and put the rice in a bowl and set aside.

3. Saute the chopped dandelion in olive oil. Add garlic towards the end.  Add to the bowl of rice along with the other ingredients.

4. Toss all the ingredients until the rice is thoroughly coated. Add more lemon juice and  salt and pepper to taste.

5. In the meantime, I'd do anything to be sitting under this tree by the beach again, eating my freshly caught fish, boiled dandelion greens and a mess of gigantes, and watching the sun set.



by Andrea Sperling

I've been redoing my kitchen so haven't been able to use an oven or a stove for over  two weeks.  It's very strange when you cook a lot to suddenly not be able to do a lot of cooking. Luckily, I still have my old, leaky refrigerator sitting on the sidelines, so I prepared several soups and stews and froze  them so I could just defrost and microwave them as needed. (Yes, I know I lose a lot of the nutrients but that's just the best solution for me right now). I also have a fabulous Zojirushi rice cooker so we've been making a lot of rice balls and assorted rice salads.

One thing I'm able to prepare a lot of are salads using everyday ingredients. Take carrots, for example, which we love in my house. Dishes with carrots are one of the things I still can prepare without having much of a kitchen available. In the winter, I love to roast them with olive oil and a little cumin. Without an oven, I'll julienne them with some daikon radish and add some rice wine vinegar, a little sugar or honey, a squeeze of lime and top them with perhaps a little cilantro, sesame seeds, and a couple of red chili pepper flakes. Trader Joe's starting selling those crunchy sugar snap peas again so I sliced a few of them and added them to the salad. Now, I've got a great side dish I can nibble on all week. Tomorrow it's going in a taco filled with black bean salad and then perhaps another day mixed with some roasted tofu. Who says you need a kitchen to cook?