Friday, October 22, 2010

The Gluten-Free Girl, the Chef and Some Fresh GF Pasta

It is time to celebrate.

There's a new gluten-free cookbook just published and it is not antiseptic looking, or written by a dietician or full of revamped versions of traditional, wheat-laden baked goods. No, no, and no.

Instead, blogger diva Shauna James Ahern and her chef husband Daniel Ahern have given the gluten-free community a sophisticated, sensual and smoking hot new book: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: a Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes (NY: Wiley, 2010) and the publishers were kind enough to provide me with a review copy to review here.

Fans of the Gluten Free Girl will enjoy the anecdotes that fill in the details of how she embraced her new GF lifestyle after being diagnosed with celiac disease that healed years of health problems. Shauna then found love and marriage with her husband and she shares the recipes for the fabulous dishes they feed to each other (he has years of classical chef training but revels in her comfort cooking). And then there are the fantastic, imaginative recipes: Shiso-Cranberry Sorbet, Blue Cheese Cheesecake with a Fig Crust, Rosemary-Apple Muffins, and Smoked Salmon Profiteroles.

The book is not geared for the novice cook, though there are plenty of tips on kitchen techniques, shopping for impeccable ingredients and advice on flavor combinations. Rather, this is a book for foodies, those food-obsessed individuals who revel in grocery shopping and think about dinner plans immediately upon finishing lunch. Foodies who have a good kitchen repertoire and love to seek out exotic ingredients or try new cooking techniques will really enjoy poring over this book and making notes about which recipes to try first.

There are gorgeous photographs throughout the book showing people laughing and cooking and plenty of food still life shots that made me want to pick up my sketchbook. But first, I had to try out the Ahern's Fresh Pasta recipe, which uses a blend of corn flour, quinoa flour, and potato starch. Corn flour, not to be confused with corn starch or masa harina, is a yellow, whole grain flour milled from dried corn that I found in my local health food store. The quinoa flour and potato starch can be found in some grocery stores with large gluten-free sections, but you might have to seek them out at the health food store too.

It's been a long while since I used my heavy pasta maker but it was with fond memories of the red and green fresh pasta that we used to make on Christmas Eve in our pre-celiac days that I dusted it off and attempted to clamp it down to our new kitchen counter. I think our counters got a lot thicker in the interim, because my clamp kept coming undone, and I definitely needed a third arm to keep the pasta make from jiggling while I passed the fragile pasta sheets through the rollers. I had my left elbow holding down the pasta maker, while I ambidextrously held the pasta aloft in and out of the machine, but as you can see from the above photo, things got a little raggedy, but I wanted to surprise the GF hubby with a fresh pasta supper, so I kept on.

The end result was stumpier than I would have liked, but my effort resembled the pasta photo in the Aherns' book, so I gave it all a little rest in a large bowl with a dusting of brown rice flour to keep them from sticking. When one's counters are skinnier and one has done this fresh GF pasta, I sure this whole procedure is much faster, but it took me a lot of wrangling and about an hour to get this far in the fresh pasta process and that was before boiling and saucing. I had to laugh when I saw the introduction to the recipe, which noted that the authors make this up when the want a quick meal, but again, things no doubt proceed much more smoothly when you've practised this a few times.

I brought a big pot of salted water to a boil, dropped in my pasta lovelies, and waited for them to rise to the surface. This part is important, as noted in the book. There seems to be only a short burst in between an al dente GF pasta and a mouth of mush, so taste the cooked pasta as soon as a bunch rises to the top. The pasta will cook a little bit longer in your colander, so err on the side of chewiness.

I was a Kitchen Hero that night as I served Dan a lovely, aromatic batch of fresh batch of pasta tossed with oven-roasted tomatoes, basil, garlic, sauteed peppers and olive oil. So what if my pasta looked more like spaetzle than fettuccine? This was a great recipe and I am already planning another round of this "quick dinner" when the high school soccer season is over. Not to mention getting around to all those bookmarked recipes in this gorgeous new cookbook. Congratulations to Shauna and Daniel for publishing this wonderful treasure of recipes that make gluten-free dining as stylish and seasonal as any other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shauna's recipes are useless - she's not a real cook and it's obvious when you try her recipes.