I was invited to attend a gluten-free cooking event hosted by the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and held at Cooking by the Book here in New York City.
What is gluten?
What exactly is gluten and why would you NOT want to eat it? From the Celiac Disease Center: "Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and other grains and intolerance to it damages the small intestine, causing malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to serious health consequences including Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, infertility, depression and cancer."
After a cocktail hour and an introduction by world-renowned celiac disease expert, Dr. Peter Green, we split into teams of three or four that each worked with a personal chef.
Before the group started cooking, I spoke with Suzi, Chef and owner of Cooking by the Book about my food allergies (tree nuts and fish) and food intolerance (dairy, soy, sugar and wheat). She took great care of my needs, especially as the planned menu had tree-nuts in each course, save dessert. Explaining that Cooking by the Book deals with special dietary requests all the time, Suzi announced to all of the personal chefs to be aware that there was a nut-allergic person in the house, to be very aware of cross contamination and to set aside my portion before adding nuts to their dishes. Excellent!
The menu for the evening was as follows:
- Escarole & Radicchio with Sweet Roasted Pears
- Blue Cheese & Pecans
- Roasted Cornish Game Hens
- Kasha Pilaf with Spiced Caramelized Onions, Orange, Cranberries and Pistachio
- Wild Mushrooms with Chestnuts & Brussels Sprouts
- Chocolate Roll
My dishes were without nuts or dairy. There were other adjustments made for those in the group who were vegetarian, or dairy free or even Kosher (no pancetta for them!)
The dinner was delish and allergen-free. The conversation was fun and I think we all learned something about cooking gluten-free: truly it's not as difficult as one might imagine.
The recipes are below. They can of course be made without nuts or dairy and be tailored to your specific dietary needs.
Escarole & Radicchio with Sweet Roasted Pears, Blue Cheese & Pecans6 firm ripe Bosc pears (4 lbs), peeled, cored, and each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
1 1⁄2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small head chicory
1 small head escarole
1 small head radicchio
1 bunch watercress, coarse stems discarded
1 bunch field greens
1 small head romaine lettuce
For the Dressing:
1 tbs finely chopped shallot
2 1⁄2 tbs cider vinegar
1⁄2 tsp honey
1⁄4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1⁄4 cup, plus 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup lightly toasted pecans
1⁄2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the pears with the oil and spread in 1 layer in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast pears, stirring and turning over twice, until pears are tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes, then cool about 15 minutes.
2. While the pears are roasting and cooling, tear enough tender chicory and escarole leaves (discard ribs) into bite-size pieces to measure 6 cups total. Tear enough radicchio, watercress, field greens, and romaine into bite-size pieces to measure 10 cups.
3. Whisk together shallot, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper, then add the oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
4. Just before serving add the roasted pears, and dress the greens. Garnish with pecans and blue cheese.
Yield: 10-12 Servings
Kasha Pilaf with Spiced Caramelized Onions, Orange, Cranberries and Pistachio
For the Kasha
1 cup coarse or medium Kasha (or buckwheat)
2 cups water, or broth
1 to 2 tbs butter or olive oil
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp salt
For the Pilaf
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1⁄4 tsp allspice
1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large orange, zest finely grated and juiced (about 6 tablespoons)
3⁄4 cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup pistachios, shelled, toasted and roughly chopped
1. In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter, add kasha, and stir until grains are toasted, about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in liquid and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender, about 8 to 11 minutes. Reserve.
1. In a 12-inch heavy skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and lightly caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Add the allspice, cinnamon and cloves and stir well. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the onion to absorb the flavors of the spices and caramelize a bit more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Pour the orange juice over the cranberries in a small bowl to hydrate them, if necessary, adding enough water to cover completely.
4. Remove the lid from the Kasha and fluff with a fork. Strain the cranberries and discard the juice. Using the fork, gently fold in the cranberries, caramelized onions, pistachios, and orange zest. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Wild Mushrooms with Chestnuts & Brussels Sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbs unsalted butter
3 tbs finely diced shallots
3/4 pound wild mushrooms (such as oyster, chanterelle or shitake), cleaned, trimmed, cut into uniform pieces, either halved or quartered
2 inch piece celery, sliced
4 sprigs thyme
3/4 cup light chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water
1 cup fresh chestnuts (about 6 ounces), peeled, frozen or canned
1 cup water
2 tbs pancetta (optional), cut into small pieces (otherwise, use olive oil)
12 Brussels sprouts, sliced thinly on a mandoline or by hand
freshly ground black pepper
splash freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Pour 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter into a 12-inch sauté pan and heat it over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté until softened but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms release their juices, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with the lemon juice, mix and set aside.
2. Put the celery, thyme, stock, chestnuts, remaining butter, and water in a heavy-bottomed, 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove chestnuts from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, covered to keep warm.
3. Put the pancetta in the same 12-inch pan and heat it over medium-high heat until it gives off enough fat to coat the bottom of pan, Add the Brussels sprout slices and cook until lightly browned, approximately 2 minutes, shaking the pan. Add the mushrooms and the chestnuts and toss to warm through. Season with salt and pepper to taste
Yield: 4 Servings
4 small Cornish Game Hens
1 1⁄2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tbs melted butter or olive oil
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet or a shallow roasting pan large enough to allow several inches of space between the birds. Remove the neck and giblets.
2. Arrange the birds breast side up on the pan. Mix together the thyme, salt and pepper. Rub half of the mixture into the body cavities of the hens. Brush the skin with the oil or butter and sprinkle the remaining mixture over the birds.
3. Roast until the thickest part of the thigh releases clear juices when pricked and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 35 minutes for small hens, 40 to 50 minutes for larger ones. Remove the birds to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes.
1 1⁄2 tsp cooking oil
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 1/3 tbs strong coffee
8 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 tsp vanilla
1 1⁄2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs sugar
confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the oven rack in the upper part of the oven.
2. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a jelly roll pan. Place a piece of parchment paper in the pan and lightly oil the paper.
3. Combine the chocolate and coffee in a medium saucepan. Cook, over low heat, until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and slightly cool.
4. Beat the egg yolks until thick and light yellow. Add the sugar, vanilla and chocolate mixture and beat until well combined.
5. In a separate clean bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture. Spread in the pan and bake for 15 minutes.
6. Cover with a lightly damp dish cloth and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Remove cloth and sift cocoa over the top of the cake.
7. Cover the cake with parchment paper and a cookie sheet. Flip the cake out onto the parchment lined cookie sheet, and remove the parchment paper.
8. Whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly over the cake and gently roll. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
Yield: 18" x 13" jelly roll
ALL RECIPES REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM COOKING BY THE BOOK. ALL PHOTOS CREDITED TO THE CELIAC DISEASE CENTER.