Monday, December 8, 2014

My Grandma's Lemon Chiffon Pie, Gluten-Free Version

 My maternal grandmother came of age in the 1930s, when ice-boxes were the norm in the kitchen, before refrigeration. She was always interested in cooking while growing up, and as the eldest child, was responsible for many domestic chores at the family home. I have many fond memories of cooking along with her during the annual summer vacations I would spend with her. We'd spend a day cooking and then bring picnic lunches along during our walks along the Hudson River Aqueduct, picking wildflower bouquets, stopping at the little library for our books, collecting shells and stones along the shores of the Hudson River and window shopping along the downtown of her historic village, Dobbs Ferry, New York.

One of the treats she taught me how to make was Lemon Chiffon Pie in a graham cracker crust. The vogue for gelatin desserts seems to have reached its crescendo during my grandma's youth, but we both loved its sweet and sour taste and light texture, which seemed just right for muggy summer days. My grandma's original recipe called for a graham cracker crust, which I needed to adjust for our gluten-free kitchen. We also used to use a whisk to beat the egg whites and heavy cream into submission, which required quite a bit of bicep strength. Thank goodness for my electric mixer!

I recently had a hankering for this pie and for savoring the memory of my delightful grandmother, so this recipe was trotted out and fiddled with to make a gluten-free version for my family's Thanksgiving feast. My kids were disappointed that this showed up in place of the traditional pumpkin pie, so I suppose I'll have to produce some when they are home visiting (ransacking) my house for Christmas. However, husband Dan and I loved this elegant dessert.

Grandma's Lemon Chiffon Pie (makes two 9 inch pies)


1 (8 oz.) pkg. gluten-free graham crackers, crushed into crumbs (I used Kinnikinnick's S'moreables, which are gluten-free but a bit grittier than wheaty graham crackers)
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. softened butter


1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (two large lemons)
1/2 tsp. salt
Grated rind of one lemon
1 pint heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Extra sugar for sweetening whipped cream

Make the crust first by crushing graham crackers into crumbs. You can use a paper bag and a rolling pin like grandma and I used to do or whizz them up in a food processor like I do now. Add 1/3 cup sugar and softened butter and mix well. Press into two glass 9 inch pie pans and bake in preheated 375 degree F  oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Dissolve gelatin in cold water and let soften 5 minutes.

Beat egg yolks well and add in 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice and salt. Beat until foamy. Place in top of a double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until they are thickened, about 5 minutes. Don't let the mixture go and return to have scrambled eggs instead. Vigilance is the key here. Let cool.

Add lemon rind and gelatin mixture to thickened egg yolks.

Beat reserved egg whites with remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into yolk mixture, taking care not to do so too vigorously so as to destroy fluffy egg white texture. When thoroughly mixed, fold into graham cracker crusts, cover with plastic wrap and let chill until set, about 2 hours.

Beat heavy cream with vanilla and extra sugar to taste. Serve each slice of pie with a generous dollop of whipped cream, or alternatively, spread whipped cream over each pie and chill another hour before serving.

Makes two pies.

As a final serving, I leave you with a vintage poem for this vintage dessert by Edgar Guest:

Lemon Pie

The world is full of gladness,
    There are joys of many kinds,
There's a cure for every sadness,
    That each troubled mortal finds.
And my little cares grow lighter
    And I cease to fret and sigh,
And my eyes with joy grow brighter
    When she makes a lemon pie.

When the bronze is on the filling
    That's one mass of shining gold,
And its molten joy is spilling
    On the plate, my heart grows bold
And the kids and I in chorus
    Raise one glad exultant cry
And we cheer the treat before us
    Which is mother's lemon pie.

Then the little troubles vanish,
    And the sorrows disappear,
Then we find the grit to banish
    All the cares that hovered near,
And we smack our lips in pleasure
    O'er a joy no coin can buy,
And we down the golden treasure
    Which is known as lemon pie.

Edgar A. Guest, Just Folks (Chicago: Reilly and Lee Co., 1917)

I am sharing this post with Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads, where cooks gather to swap food-related -sometimes food-book-related- posts. Please stop by to see what others have written about this week.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pigs, Proulx and Pernil: A Cook the Books Review of That Old Ace in the Hole

The Shipping News, author Annie Proulx's most well known books, is one that I count among my top ten favorite novels. It's a book that I have bought multiple copies of to press into the hands of our bookshop customers and which I have read with gusto numerous times. I love the minutiae about Newfoundland weather, geography, history and maritime lore that Proulx packs into it and the characters are exquisitely drawn. I also have enjoyed Proulx's other works, including Postcards and Accordion Crimes, but somehow I hadn't yet prowled through That Old Ace in the Hole, so I was delighted when Simona of Briciole, the current host of this round of Cook the Books (the bimonthly foodie book club) picked this fun book.

That Old Ace in the Hole is one of Proulx's trademark intensive explorations of a region, in this case the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. I have not personally been to this part of the West, but after reading this book, I feel I have had an armchair tour of some of the dusty small towns, farms and landscapes that dot this sparsely populated area.

I have to say that I fell in love with the front jacket photo of the British edition I have (but not the high-acid paper content that makes the pages so browned already). The expression on the dude's face makes me laugh and seems to fit the central character, the hapless Bob Dollar, a young man who is abandoned by his parents at the doorstep of his uncle Tam, who runs a Denver thrift shop and is a fiend for Bakelite and other "art plastic". Bob finishes junior college and then is hired by a light bulb company from which he is fired after he recoils from massaging the owner's damp and fetid stockinged feet. He signs up as a front man for a hog farm conglomerate and is assigned to go undercover in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle to scout out possible locations for more pig farm-factories.

I also love that the book is positively festooned with ridiculous names: Sheriff Hugh Dough, Rope Butt, Tater Crouch, Red Poarch, Ribeye Cluke, Francis Scott Keister (aw, come on!) Hefran Wardrip, Jerky Baum, Freda Beautyrooms, and on and on.

WARNING The following paragraphs contain a spoiler alert or two, so don't read on if you plan to read the book, which I hope you do:

I am annoyed that Proulx did not wrap up the two ongoing mysteries that I thought would be explained at the end of the book. In fact the very last sentence of the book just mentions that Bob Dollar is going to ask his former landlady, LaVon Fronk, to finally tell the story behind a photo of her grandad with whip scars on his back that readers have been wondering about for 250 pages. And I thought Bob's wayward parents might show up in the pages to explain why they never scooped him back up or at least some resolution of that issue might be explained (their bones lying bleached on a dusty Texas arroyo). Perhaps a Bob Dollar sequel is in the can....?

At Cook the Books, we not only read and blog about our chosen book, but we cook up a dish that represents a scene or embodiment of our reading. In my case, I went for a porky meal, a nod to small-scale pig farming discussed so eloquently in the book. This Dominican-style Roast Pork Shoulder (Pernil) recipe is one we have been enamored of at our favorite restaurant in Albany, New York, Casa Dominicana. The owners, Hector and Maria, are the sweetest, friendliest couple and make you feel right at home in their cozy restaurant. They have a large menu, but somehow our family never makes it past the CRISPY-skinned roast pork steaming at the ordering counter. Hector and Maria make a spicy cilantro, garlic and jalapeno sauce to sprinkle over the pork, which we haven't as yet successfully reproduced. But the couple gave us basic instructions for pernil, which they cook in huge quantities in their restaurant oven, which we have tweaked a little to adjust to our home kitchen. The trick as Hector says, is a long, slow cooking time.

Pernil a la Hector and Maria (start recipe two days in advance)

1 pork shoulder (go for 10-12 lb. shoulder, since this is a somewhat time- and labor-intensive dish. That way you'll have plenty of delicious pork for several meals. And be sure to invite your friends over to help you eat it up)

1/2 cup orange juice (about 2 small oranges)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves, rough chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.  Slash into the skin and fat as much as you can to draw in the marinade.

Mix all ingredients except pork in a blender or food processor and whizz until smooth. Pour over pork shoulder and let marinate at least 24 hours in a covered glass bowl or baking dish in the fridge. Two days is better. Turn a couple of times during this period.

Remove pork from marinade and discard marinade. Place pork in heavy roasting pan, add in 1 cup water, and roast at 300 degrees F for 5-6 hours. Baste every half hour and add in additional water if needed. You should start out uncovered, but then, after turning the roast a couple of times, cover for last hour. Test for doneness by poking with a long fork. If roast is ready, it is now time to crisp up the skin. Sprinkle with a little extra kosher salt, turn up the heat to 375 and take off the cover. When skin is sizzling and crispy, take out roast and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Pernil is great served with rice and beans and a little salad on the side with a citrusy dressing.

The next book we will be reading for Cook the Books is Sustenance and Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor, edited and illustrated with paintings by Bascove, one of my favorite book jacket illustrators. Readers may be familiar with her luminous jacket art for the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters or the novels by Robertson Davies, but she has done many, many more. I will be hosting this next round of Cook the Books and hope you will join us in reading and cooking from this tasty book. Submissions for the next round are due Feb. 2nd, 2015.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"It's the Sicilian version of Ratatouille; trust me, it's good."

Our newest Cook the Books Club hostess, Debra of Eliot's Eats, picked a very sensual book for us to read, Marlena de Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Venice".  It's a lushly written memoir about the American author's visit to Venice during which her future husband, Fernando, (aka The Venetian, the Man with the Blueberry Eyes, the Stranger, the Technicolor Anchovy, among other endearments) pronounces that she is the love that he has been waiting for his whole life. There are some language and cultural barriers to hurdle over, but Marlena accepts her fate and moves to Venice to become his bride, after first selling her share of her St. Louis, Missouri cafe and her opulently appointed new house.

I enjoyed this tale very much. Marlena seems a larger-than-life character and has a bit of bravado, after suffering a tortuous first marriage and a "grim childhood, scattered here and there with the hideous". As a fellow romantic, I rooted for her to make things work with Fernando and sighed with pleasure when they did. It was not a shudderingly violent sort of love affair, but one that was quiet and sure: "Now all the doors are open, and there is a warm yellow light behind them." Ah.

At Cook the Books, I and my fellow readers not only read and comment on our bimonthly foodie book selections, but we cook up a dish (sometimes a whole feast) that embodies our literary selection. While de Blasi's book provided some great recipes (Fresh Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce, Traditional Tuscan Tomato Porridge, Lemon Gelato with Vodka and Sparkling Wine, among others), I went to my late summer garden to gather up ingredients for a Caponata, that great eggplant concoction from Southern Italy. My harvest of tender white eggplants, parsley, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil just needed a few pantry ingredients to come together for a party dish to share with some friends.

My host had not ever tried caponata and I tried to describe the recipe to him to his ever-furrowing brow. Finally, I just said "It's the Sicilian version of Ratatouille; trust me, it's good." and that did the trick. I took my bowl back home in a scraped-clean state.

Here's my contribution to this month's Cook the Book Feast:


2-3 small, tender eggplants, chopped (if they are small and fresh-picked, you do not need to peel them or salt and drain them in a colander first)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (can use canned, but drain first)
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
Handful each of fresh Italian parsley and basil, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
Salt and pepper to taste

Give all of the vegetables a rough, but uniform chop.

Heat olive oil in large frying pan.  Add onions and garlic first and lightly cook 1-2 minutes. Add eggplant and celery and cook, stirring often, another 10 minutes, until soft. Remove vegetables from pan and reserve.

In same pan, add tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and cook down about 10 minutes. Add olives and raisins and cook another 5 minutes. Add in reserved cooked vegetables and cook until everything is heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add parsley and basil and remove from heat.

Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Caponata is great served at room temperature or chilled. It is wonderful on crackers or served in small endive or bell pepper "cups".

Please join us in the next week back at Cook the Books for the complete roundup of all the posts and recipes celebrating A Thousand Days in Venice. Our next book selection is "That Old Ace in the Hole" by Annie Proulx, and new participants are always welcome. The deadline for the next round of Cook the Books is December 2, 2014, so there is plenty of time to buy or borrow Proulx's book and read and cook along with us.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Send Me Gluten Free Products Box and Giveaway

Interested in trying out new gluten-free products? A fun new monthly gluten-free products subscription service is now live. Send Me Gluten Free is an opportunity to sample full-size and trial-size gluten-free foods and household products inaugurated by the Gluten Free Marketing Group. The monthly service has a flexible subscription service. You can sign up for a month to month, three-month, six-month, or one-year subscription and receive eight to twelve gluten-free goodies to test drive, plus coupons and recipe cards. Depending on the subscription type you choose, the monthly cost will range from $20-$30 (free shipping is included).

I am also able to offer Crispy Cook readers a discount code for 20% off any subscription length with the code BLOG20.

I received a complimentary September Send Me Gluten Free box full of delicious items. First to disappear was the bag of Beanfield's barbeque bean and rice chips. We were also pleasantly surprised to receive a bag of Pamela's GF pancake and baking mix, which, while not a new product, is one that is tried and true. That got incorporated into some breakfast muffins. Another great product that I have reviewed before here at the Crispy Cook, Kelapo Coconut Oil, was included in the Send Me Gluten Free box and was used to saute up some of our bumper crop of garden eggplants.

The other products included in the September Send Me Gluten Free included:

-Go Picnic Turkey Pepperoni and Cheese Meal (includes crackers, cheese, fruit and nut mix and a caramel lollipop)
-Virtuous Living Spice Blends (the Hope Spice blend is really delicious on roast pork)
-Giddy Up and Go Granola
-Soy Joy blueberry bar
-Lovely candy
-Soapbox Mandarin soap
-Schar Honey Grams
-Savory Choice Chicken Pho Broth Concentrate (and a pair of chopsticks)

Thanks to Send Me Gluten Free, I am also able to offer one of my Crispy Cook readers a giveaway opportunity to receive the October Send Me Gluten Free box. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below. You can receive an additional giveaway entry by liking the Crispy Cook on Facebook.

The giveaway deadline is Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014,  midnight Eastern Standard Time. I will pick a randomly generated winner from the received entries. Please make sure that I have an email or other way to contact you. Winners are limited to addresses within the United States.

**I received a free Send Me Gluten Free box and giveaway opportunity from The Gluten Free Marketing Group, but as always, I was not obligated to post a review and my thoughts and comments are completely my own.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gluten Free in Denver and Colorado Springs and Giveaway Winner Announcement

I just returned from a short trip to Colorado, visiting the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs.  My vacation was filled with lashings of green chile, that wonderful sauce/stew that is a Colorado/New Mexico food specialty made from roasted green chiles cooked down with onions, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, and a pork bone. I just wanted a bowl of that mildly spicy awesomeness for every meal, but sadly, it is considered a condiment and not a main course.

Green chile adorned two of my breakfasts, a ginormous breakfast burrito that my Denver hotel offered, and then Chilaquiles (pronounced chill-uh-killez), eggs scrambled up with broken corn tortillas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and whatever other appropriate leftovers you might have handy. That's my over-exposed photo of Chilaquiles (and some avocado Eggs Benedict) from Cozy Cottage, 4263 Tennyson Street in Denver, which is a terrific breakfast restaurant. Lots of gluten-free options available, including pancakes.

I also had a Green Chili Burger for dinner at Mead Street Station, 3625 West 32nd Avenue, Denver, which was amazingly good. The restaurant also had gluten-free bread upon request for its menu items and carries GF New Planet beer, so they get double points for that.

I spent much of the week eating cafeteria food while attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, (where they had some green chile available for breakfast one morning!), so I only had a few outside dining opportunities. In general, I found Denver and Colorado Springs to be very gluten-free friendly eating cities. And I am now obsessed with green chile. Somebody send me or point me to a great green chile recipe so I can recreate here in upstate New York.

I did want to also mention the Everest Nepal Restaurant, 28 E. Bijou Street, in Colorado Springs, where a large party of Book Seminarians descended quite late at night after book hunting at two used bookstores. The owners were quite kind to agree to serve us at such a late hour and both carnivores and vegans found lots of great fare. I tried out some yak (tastes like beef) dumplings, not gluten-free, but a first for me. There were many other items on the menu which would be naturally GF, as is the case with many other Indian-Nepali-Tibetan restaurants, but it would be wise to discuss this with the server in detail before ordering.

And now to announce the winner of the recent Vegetti giveaway here at the Crispy Cook. 

I had previously reviewed the Vegetti, a handy little gadget that takes zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, squash and other vegetables, and spins them into thin strands that are perfect for fresh salads and to be cooked as vegetable pasta. The randomly generated winner of the Vegetti Gift Package Giveaway, which includes a Vegetti and $25 gift card from Ontel, is Amanda. Congratulations Amanda, and thank you to all who entered.