Category Archives: Gluten and Dairy Free
I’m not gonna lie: Easter is not my favorite holiday.
I don’t mind it at all, but as a lapsed Catholic it always brings up conflict within me. Not that I feel a need to be talked or worked through it, mind you, because I’m very content with my personal beliefs and practices. But my family is very Catholic and our shared holidays are still about, primarily, faith.
I’m all cool with Jesus and Mary.
But here’s where the conflict comes in: homosexuality, abortion, gender inequality. There’s no need to even explain what the conflicts with those are.
I can’t take the good and leave the bad.
So, Easter conflicts me.
How’s that for a horrible introduction to some recipes?
There are moments here in New York City, when I feel like I’m living out a television episode or something. Yesterday, walking from Rockefeller Center to Times Square, I was hit in such a moment.
I’d just come from doing an infomercial at a salon a friend owns, three stories above where the big ol Christmas sits during the holidays. Now and then he treats me to a cut or color or, in this case, a treatment that makes my hair shiny and soft. It’s been just over a year since I’ve been on camera, and though I was put off at first by the much larger production scale than I’d expected (there’s money in beauty product advertising), I quickly fell back into the fun of it. And evidently the 4 years of drama school and 10 years of city living mean I actually can do what I’ve been trained to do, so it sorta kicked ass.
I then hoofed it to Times Square to pick up some tickets for my sister (the kitsch factor in that area is laughable now, and most readily avoided), and subway’d it down to Union Square. Being early for brunch with friends (2:30 is totally acceptable time for eggs on a Sunday), I sneaked into a single spot at the bar at Union Square Cafe and treated myself to half a dozen oysters and a killer Bloody Derby*.
There was something about the tone of my day – the color, the weather, the bustle of tourists, the quiet subway car, the packed bar, the good food – that reminded me why life in New York is so sweet, and generous, and rather sexy sometimes.
Now, I feel like this little ramble should connect to this recipe, because if I was a serious food blogger than all things in my daily life would connect to the things I bake and blog about, right? I’d have more of a shtick and more than 3 people who read this would know what a Bloody Derby** is because I’ve referenced it a few times now… I may have even recipe’d it.
Anyway, this recipe connects because my day yesterday and that gorgeous chocolatey thing above are both full of love and kismet… or something like that. The recipe came together because I got some samples in from Kitch+Table, who I’ve worked with for Easy Eats and wanted to try it out on non-gluten-freers my last week of private chef-ing. The adorably talented 13-year old in the family loves brownies, so I figured we might as well have some fun with them.
First off, the brownies are delicious. I followed the very simply recipe on the bag to a T and was a bit wary when the batter was sticky and thick, but they baked up fudgey yet firm, rich yet not heavy. They have that signature crumb on top that many gluten-free brownie recipes miss. The boss family had no idea they were gluten-free, and the brownie aficionado ate the scraps around our little cut-out hearts with relish, going nuts for them. So stellar product to begin with (and I tried out two bags of this with equally stellar results). Go to Kitch+Table for purchasing or try my boozy Beer Brownies for something totally by scratch.
To spruce them up (this was the week after Valentines day) we used cookie-cutter hearts and layered them with thinly cut strawberries, some dairy-free fudge sauce leftover from my Chocolate Mallow Layer Cake and some dairy-free coconut Creme Anglaise, definitely two staple recipes to have in your pastry book.
Since leaving this job I’ve felt much emotionally calmer and steadier, and I know soon my body will catch up. And until then I’ll be thankful for the little moments, the big ones, the good things people are producing, and a little Creme Anglaise.
Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise
This recipe sounds uber fancy but it’s relatively simple. Made with egg whites and just a little bit of sugar, it’s a delicately sweet addition for dressing up desserts.
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 tsp cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 vanilla bean, de-beaned (slice the vanilla bean down lengthwise and use the back of the knife to scrape the beans out)
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and starch.
In a small pot, whisk together sugar, vanilla and milk. Whisk constantly over medium-ish heat until steaming. Pour over the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until thoroughly combined.
Pour back into pot and return to stove. Whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes, until slightly thick, coating the whisk.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until cold.
*If you ever meet a guy in Denver with bright eyes who says he penned the name “Bloody Derby” for a Bloody Mary with bourbon in it, you have full permission to box his ears. I came up with it almost two years ago. This name has been pondered and considered. Do not trust this man. Then again, don’t box his ears, because he was in the army and is very able to kick your ass. Maybe just tickle him instead. I think he’s ticklish. Report back if you find out.
**The 4 of you who read this far down now know too. Between the 8 of us and the Denver guy and the guy I dated for five minutes when I came up with it and the bartender at the Ace hotel where we first ordered it I think we can make this Bloody Derby thing a thing. Just remember who started it. And I drank that Derby hours ago so there’s sadly not even a bourbon-infused reason for this rant.
I’ve been working with a new concept lately - “just enough”.
Go with me on this for a little bit.
I’ve never been a “just enough” person. I’m a workaholic who’s only just started admitting that maybe I’m “type A” when I consistently didn’t get the shocked expressions I’d expected after telling someone I’d been accused of being as such. I’m the kind of person who will think nothing of working 7-day weeks. I’m an adult who has dealt with active and repressed Lyme Disease cyclically for almost 20 years, and constantly feel I need to gain strengths to balance out my weakness so that I can be worthy of whatever or whomever is investing in me.
But here’s the thing. That way isn’t working.
Last week I left my job as a private chef, at a position I’ve had for only ten months. It was for a very wealthy, good family, of whom I have no drama to report. But it was too much work. I’d work 40 to 60 hour weeks, without having cut down on writing work and while still going to help my family business out now and then.
As the months passed things started slipping while I tried to sustain the ability to work at my job: I started taking interviews and not having the energy to finish the stories; I dated a man for about 6 months and I can count on both fingers how often we went “out” for anything other than a lazy meal; everything started hurting, so I started medicating to work. Not as badly as I have in the past, but a Percoset or two a day, and two or three muscle relaxers, and maybe some ibuprofen. Even drugged, it was important to me to not let the family I worked for know, and to be as good as my job as I could be. Possibly more than I even needed to be. I was tired, and depleted, and feeling horribly lethargic any time I didn’t have to be “on”.
I gave my notice in the beginning of January.
I came to New York City to be an actor on the stage. And while I’ve had relative success I couldn’t cut being an artist and independently making a living, physically or spiritually. Sometimes I feel like a quitter “retiring” to transfer my energy to writing a few years back. But it was a choice made to devote a little bit more to my health.
And now I’m taking one step further.
In January, I’d made a list of all I accomplished in 2012 – a testament to myself of how hard I’d worked and what I’d done, what I’d succeeded at. I’d made good money, good connections and produced a lot of good work. I’d traveled without concern for a budget or an agenda. I’d taken care of my dog and apartment and bought my family presents and helped out my lil sis when she needed some help and paid for my medical expenses. But was I any happier than I had been the year before? Any healthier?
During some healthy meditating with my life coach (yes), I realized that that is a list of misguided accomplishments.
I hadn’t gone to the park for no reason. I hadn’t kept my body healthy by doing the luxurious things it needs like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, saunas, massages. I had missed friends’ shows and family members’ weddings. I had been hurting my own body – the only one I get – by doing instead of being.
And in that way, I wasn’t being me.
So, now, the philosophy is “just enough”.
- I will work just enough to make a decent living.
- I will work just enough so that at the end of every year I’ll look back and will have completed one big project very well, in a way I’m proud of.
- I will work just enough so that I have time to do the things that make my body feel better.
- I will work just enough so that the next time I meet someone special, I’ll just be with him, and do more with him.
- I’ll do just enough so that going to the park for no reason is just a part of what I do.
Just enough sounds like so, so much…
Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake
This cake came about during my last week of work, when I was training my replacement and starting to accept the transition that was coming. It’s incredibly light and decadent – I love the magic that is angel food cake batter rising high in the pan.
The key to angel food cake is making sure that your whites are beaten to peaks strong enough to hold the amount of sugar and flour you’re adding, without it crystallizing on top (mine did a little in this version, but it was still divine). I made a batch “normally” with white cake flour for work, then remade it at home for myself with the gluten-free equivalent. Both versions are so good. Light, airy, and almost completely fat free as egg whites do the heavy lifting and no other fat is added. It’s naturally dairy free, and an excellent dessert to top of a big meal (I served this after brisket).
I love adding savory herbs to sweets – check out my Rosemary Mint Linzer Cookies and Rosewater Lavender Shortbread – and this combo won over the boss-fam. At home, I found out it was even better a day or two later, when the sticky lemon glaze had absorbed its way fully into the cake.
- 12 oz egg whites, at room temperature (1 1/2 cups, about 10 whites from large eggs)
- 12 oz white sugar (around 1 1/2 cups)
- 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
- pinch of fine salt
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced to around 4 Tbsp, separated for cake and glaze
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz high-starch gluten-free flour: I used 1.2 oz (around 3 Tbsp) millet flour, 1.3 oz (around 3 Tbsp) brown rice flour and 1.5 oz (around 5 Tbsp) arrowroot starch
- 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 Tbsp very finely chopped rosemary
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a small bowl, mix cream of tartar and salt. Have 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla extract nearby.
Whisk together the flours and xanthan gum in a medium bowl, then sift together.
Using a standing mixer with the whisk attachment or a metal bowl and hand mixer, beat egg whites on medium/high speed until foamy, around 1 minute. Add cream of tartar / salt mixture and beat until very foamy and opaque, around 30 seconds.
With the mixer on high speed, very slowly add all the sugar in a slow stream (this is most easily done with a standing mixer while you slowly shake the sugar on). Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and vanilla, and beat until the mixture forms a glossy, stiff meringue, forming a rounded but firm tip when you lift the beater. In a standing mixer this should take only about 3 minutes when the sugar has all been added, by hand it may take a bit longer.
Beat in the rosemary, quickly.
Sift 1/2 the flour mixture over the meringue and fold in with as few strokes as possible with a spatula, until almost all incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and fold until completely turned in.
Pour into un-greased angel food cake pan and bake for 30-50 minutes (yes, it will vary that greatly depending on how much your cake rises, exact oven temp etc), until slightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least one hour before removing from pan.
Meanwhile, whisk together 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until completely smooth. Whisk in lemon zest. Cover and set aside until ready to glaze.
To serve, invert cake onto a plate, drizzle with glaze, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy.
There’s a clam chowder made at a restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, that I start to think about a tad too much this time of year.
It’s cold and rainy in New York City but lacking the joy of fluffy snow that makes all the mushy street corners and sopping subway cars worth the mess. I’m dreaming of soup.
This time of year, along with the slush, I get Robert Frost poems stuck in my head (often sung by a madrigal choir) and daydream about the cookies I don’t have enough time to make (I think my neighbors are getting “Happy New Year” cookies this time around). I drag my computer to the living room so I can look at this while I work:
Snow and cookies and Robert Frost and wrapping presents may have to wait, but this soup I just couldn’t shake.
I’ve always been a fan of the lesser known Rhode Island version of clam chowder. The Manhattan version is too tomato-y and rather flat-tasting for my likes. And the New England take is obviously loaded in dairy, which I can’t eat. So when I stumbled into that restaurant in CT one day with a friend and found a variation that not only was allergy-friendly but that tasted just what I want a seafood soup to be, I was hooked. Now I make excuses to stop in there when I go see my family this time of year, and I often buy it by the 2-lb jug. Which is quite silly because, as you can see here, it’s incredibly easy to make myself.
Yesterday was a quiet private chef-fing day, and I wanted to provide something nourishing for my lady-boss, who’s a bit under the weather. There were already a few pureed soups in the fridge, but she needed something with a bit more sustenance. She loves veggies and corn and seafood, so it was the perfect combo to hit the spot.
This is an incredibly easy, quick, flavorful soup to make. In the minimal growing season you can completely get by with high-quality canned clams and corn. You don’t have to peel the potatoes. It only takes a few sprigs of thyme to get some amazing flavors outta it. You don’t even need butter! There are measurements here, of course, but you can eyeball things and taste as you go. Easy peasy.
Soon I’ll get to slow down, wrap those presents, make those cookies, and spend a day watching the Christmas movies I just bought to round out my collection. Until then, I’ll relish in the quiet moments at work where I get to make someone feel just a tiny bit better with a big mug of soup.
It’s the week before Christmas. I hope you’re not sweating the small stuff, that you’re relishing in the happy things you get to do, and that with the coming holidays you get to rest and recharge.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 small red potatoes, diced small
1 15-oz can corn, with juice
3 6.5-oz cans clams, with juice
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until almost brown, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, celery and remaining olive oil and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-6 minutes.
Add the potatoes, corn, clams, clam juice/broth and thyme. Fill with enough water to cover, and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to a simmer, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.