It’s hard to believe my year abroad is over, but I’m so excited to be back in my own kitchen with all my toys, an oven I understand, and familiar ingredients readily available.
For my first baking adventure now that I’m home, I went decidedly simple but not very Christmas-y. It will be gone by then anyway! 🙂
Chocolate Chip Cake
I don’t remember eating dessert in Spain. It’s not that there aren’t any desserts, but usually, I was so full and it was so late at night, that if I had room left, I tended to ask for fruit, like oranges with cinnamon and honey. This tart fuses those flavors. Bright, citrussy, and not too sweet, it is the perfect finish to a sunny day.
Valencia Orange Tart
I’ve been living in the mideast for a month now, and I’m slowly starting to get my bearings in the kitchen. I’ve been able to find gluten free food pretty darn easily, but dairy free and egg free has been a nightmare, especially when I’ve got a craving for sweets. No problem. I’ll just bake. …Except, I’ve been to nearly every decent sized market within 25km of the capital, and I can’t find xanthan gum or guar gum to save my (baked goods’) life. And for some reason, the fact that I haven’t been able to bake (edible, non-disintegrating) cookies has made me miss my loved ones even more than usual.
I could just order xanthan gum online or have my parents ship some, but I need to bake now. My first attempts at baking without xanthan gum were tasty but otherwise disasters. I’m still trying substitutes like chia, but I need a lot more practice…and patience.
Then last night I remembered that peanut butter cookies don’t need flour, and if they don’t need gluten in the first place, then I wouldn’t need a substitute. And, since I’ve found peanut butter (and sugar) in every country I’ve ever been in, I may have just found a connection back home, regardless of where my oven is.
Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies
BTW, these make awesome sandwich cookies. Try layering them with strawberry jam or chocolate spread just before serving.
A dear friend of mine and I were talking about her Christmas vacation, and she told me about teaching her daughter their family’s tradition of making stuffed cabbage rolls.
If a 5 year old could learn, it was about time for me to. Of course, I made a few tweaks, like using brown rice and replacing half the rice with lentils.
Warning: Golabki (“little pigeons” in Polish) take a little time to assemble, so they’re really not a weeknight dish if you don’t have a couple of hours to cook. The good news is that they’re not labor intensive, and you’ll be rewarded by the flavor that develops. Oh, and if you think they’re good out of the oven, wait until you reheat them for a quick lunch.
Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
I recently visited a pub in Newport best known for its cheap beer and burger combo. The place was packed with locals of every stripe, and we could barely find room to squeeze our way up to the bar to order. It was a Wednesday night, and the waiting list for a table was over an hour long.
Once we finally sat down and started looking over the menu, I was beyond excited to find a few GF/DF/EF possibilities to choose from. Then, our waitress recited the specials. She had me at scallops and bacon. I’m not even sure what else she said. I certainly didn’t remember the words “mashed peas,” but now that I think of it, maybe putting an accompaniment generally thought of as “baby food” on the menu was somehow tied to the bar’s name. But, it wasn’t poor judgement after all. The mash was the perfect match for the scallops and bacon.
I’ve tried my own take on that dish here: Seared Scallops with Pancetta and Rustic Spring Pea Mash.
My mom used to love Garfield. I could never get past the incongruity of a cat who loved lasagna. But, maybe I had never had a really good lasagna.
I love the idea of lasagna. Pasta, sausage, cheese, tangy tomato sauce… an easy, filling meal perfect for low fuss entertaining.
Unfortunately, it is an immune system nightmare, with one land mine after another. I see it on menus and secretly pine for a dish with so many things I can’t have.
Then, one cold evening, I came across GF lasagna noodles at my neighborhood organic market, and I knew my lasagna-less days were over. This lasagna is more Italian-American inspired than it is Italian; I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional sugo alla bolognese and béchamel. Like most lasagne, it tastes even better after a day or two. Of course, Garfield would never let it sit that long!
It seems I’m on a bit of a breakfast kick lately. One thing I’ve noticed this last couple of months traveling is that no matter how nice the hotel, they generally don’t have many, if any, options for someone like me. If you have time, you could try to find a non-hotel restaurant open for breakfast, but good luck finding one with options that are gluten free and dairy free and egg free. How am I supposed to fuel up for a busy day on a cup of coffee, glass of OJ, a banana, and if I’m lucky, a rasher of bacon or a sausage link? Finding a tofu scramble on the menu in Philly was a huge win, but it was out of the way and I had to hunt for it.
I guess it bugs me, because I’ve learned how easy it can be to make breakfasts pastries that don’t contain all those off-limits ingredients. So easy, that today we’re taking the humble blueberry muffin up a notch. Ladies and gentleman, may I present the Blueberry Doughnut with Almond Crunch Streusel.
I know, it’s been a while… Let’s just say life has been a little crazier than usual this past two months.
Though I did get creative with a hotel room microwave and Lekue steamer, I missed my oven and the stress relief that baking brings.
And, what better way to celebrate my return to the kitchen than a little something chocolate (with a kick)!
Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts
I’ve never had a Cinnabon. I’ve never wanted one. But ever since passing the stand in the mall while Christmas shopping, I’ve had a craving for a light, pillowy cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, I’ve never had much luck with baking yeast breads and rolls since going gluten free. I always thought it was the flour… until now. Turns out that I just needed to tweak the way I was proofing them. Amazing!
Now, I’m not usually one for sweets at breakfast. I’d much rather have a savory and more substantial dish like a hash or tofu scramble or dinner leftovers, but I have to admit that once I smelled these babies baking, I knew I wasn’t waiting till the afternoon for a sweet.
When I moved to Pittsburgh for work over a decade ago, it was the middle of a blustery, bitterly cold winter, and having lived in more temperate climes for the preceding decade, I was not exactly in love. Then I learned the secret to loving the ‘Burgh – getting out of downtown and into the many neighborhoods that surround – and truly make up – this great American city.
I enjoyed many great meals during my two year assignment, but the one I remember most was one I made at home for friends. It was capped off by a dessert I’d cheated and picked up at the local bakery, because I’d been dying to try it myself. Search the internet for “burnt almond torte” and the first page of listings are either about Prantl’s Bakery’s delectable creation or one of many attempts to recreate it. I still crave it. When a friend and I visited Pittsburgh last Spring, I took him to Prantl’s hoping he would order something that I could enjoy by proxy now that half the ingredients are verboten.
Last week, though, inspired by seeing a dear friend who was headed home to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I decided to make my own attempt at hacking the recipe. If it didn’t work, I could just blame the lack of gluten, eggs, and dairy, and consign the idea to my dreams. But it did work, and beautifully at that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the gluten free, vegan, Burnt Almond Torte.
Three warnings: 1) That crunchy almond coating makes cutting it neatly tricky (Hope you’re either not a perfectionist or at least like a good challenge!); 2) It is sweet and decadent (Divide it in less than sixteen portions at your own risk!); and 3) This is not a quick endeavor. (It’s not laborious, but unless you’ve already pre-made the components, the start to finish time takes a couple of hours.)