So…after an unannounced, unplanned, and to be quite honest, totally unnecessary hiatus (as well as a brief trip to Central America), Headline Foods is back with a vengeance. Well, back with a vengeance for as long as I can stand to be at my computer. Which resides in my room. My room that is currently without a working AC. And it’s like, 95 degrees. God I wish I could do this on the deck. And that my chair didn’t have a hole in it. Oh well, we’re back, the fan is a-blowing, and it’s time to get to some long-awaited features. So, only two and a half months later, I present: How the Other Half Lives: Or, I Went to California and All I Got Was This Aversion to Gluten: A Headline Foods Special Presentation.
I love San Diego. I really do. Spent many a childhood summer there, barbecuing on the beach, burning my hand on the Weber whilst toasting s’mores, buying Nerds at that weird little drug store/candy shop? in La Jolla Shores. So, it was pretty lucky for me when some friends decided to have post-collegiate Spring Break out in SoCal this year. I couldn’t wait to get out there, see the sun set on the ocean as it should, eat some authentic Comida Mexicana, and just generally bask in the gloriousness that is the hacienda at Rancho Santa Fe. We would squeeze fresh orange juice from the fruits of the local trees. We would take long hikes, maybe kayak, eat ice cream – it would be SoCal, SoCool. But then, as we rattled up Highway 5 from the airport in our gun-metal gray Chevy HHR (actual car not pictured), a vehicle second in looks only to a white convertible PT Cruiser, the news came. One of us, and names need not be mentioned, was not only maintaining his and/or her vegetarian diet, but was, wait for it, GLUTEN FREE (or at the very least gluten-lite). There went my fantasies of freshly baked brownies, morning French Toast, and all of those other yeasty baked goods for which I live and breathe. For four days we were living with a self-imposed silly yak (say it out loud a few times).
As we pulled into Von’s to load up on groceries, my mind raced, frantic with ideas about what we could possibly eat. Morning cinnamon rolls with bacon? Nope. Over-sized bowls of oatmeal, topped with cream, berries, and, just for kicks, more bacon? Fat chance. But wait. We had it. Guacamole. Everyone loves guacamole. And slice up some fresh peppers, throw them in there, maybe grab a rotisserie chicken to carve up for the non-veggies. And before you knew it, we had a welcome to California feast. Featuring my still-secret recipe of guac. And some homemade pico de gallo made with tomatoes, tomatillos (which, I will say without hesitation, are one of my favorite fruit/veggies (freggies?) ever), red onions (far superior to yellow), and some lime juice. As seen below.
After the rousing success of the first night, and a second night indulgence in Del Mar (at an Italian restaurant serving gluten-free pasta, no less), we were ready to head back to the kitchen for our final night. It would be vegetarian, gluten-free friendly, yet it would still be a goodbye feast of epic proportions. To start with, the quinoa. A complete protein with a remarkably full and satisfying flavor, quinoa serves as an excellent base for a variety of chopped veggies – tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and some steamed chard come to mind. Top it with a homemade balsamic (equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil, I usually do Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and, of course, salt and pepper, to taste), and maybe some crumbled feta, and you have yourself a festive and hearty side (or main, depending on portion size) dish. The quinoa was served alongside a butter lettuce salad. I like mixed baby greens as much as the next Bay Area native, and recognize the place of chopped romaine in a good Caesar salad, or an iceberg wedge in a steakhouse, but honestly, why would you ever eat any kind of lettuce other than butter? One, the name. ‘Nuff said. And two, YOU CAN BUY IT WHILE IT’S STILL ALIVE!!!!! How cool is that? You get a little plastic container, and the roots are still in a little clump of dirt – it’s living, breathing, growing, NOT wilting, and tasting delicious all at once. And, if you top it with some sliced red onion, sliced strawberries, chopped almonds, and a (full disclosure) store-bought poppy seed dressing, there really isn’t a better salad in the world. And, somehow, once dressed, it still lasts overnight, through an airport security line featuring Tyler Florence bending over and revealing his Calvin Klein undies, and onto a Continental flight back east, without getting soggy. Very impressive, butter lettuce, very impressive.
Oh, we also sliced some potatoes (sweet and regular), tossed with some olive oil and fresh rosemary (here’s the proof), and baked them for about thirty minutes in a 350 degree oven. Oh, and then we sauteed a bit of steak on the stove for good measure. I only mention that because of it’s obvious presence in the photo below. And that admitting we made steak for a vegetarian meal is somehow less embarrassing to me than claiming it was marinated seitan or something.
Oh, and then we found a box of Betty Crocker gluten-free brownie mix. Not bad, not bad at all. They served as the perfect dessert appetizer to s’mores. Because you can’t go to San Diego without making s’mores. It’s a rule. Look it up.