A traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert: Jewish apple cake.
I love this photo, taken in my living room!
Shanah Tovah! Best wishes for a happy Rosh Hashanah and a sweet new year. We’re getting this new year off to a tasty start, with a gluten-free version of traditional Jewish apple cake.
My mother is famous for her Jewish apple cake, laced with apples that she plucks from the trees in her back yard. I’ve always wondered, though, what makes the apple cake “Jewish.” Really, I didn’t know that cakes could have a religion. The answer seems to be that the cake is made with vegetable oil and orange juice, instead of butter and milk, thus making it pareve (neither dairy nor meat). Apple cake is also a favorite dessert for Rosh Hashanah, when we eat apples dipped in honey to symbolize hopes for a sweet new year.
Mom’s recipe worked surprisingly well in its gluten-free version. I substituted gluten-free flours, added xanthan gum (a binder for GF baking) and left the rest of the recipe intact. The cake is moist and bursts with the flavors of apples and cinnamon.
Click for the recipe for Gluten-Free Jewish Apple Cake
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble: Even Easier Than Pie
One of the best parts of summer is fruit that bursts with juice, dripping with sunshine. Or a fresh pie, with fruit that becomes even sweeter and more fragrant with baking. But, to tell you the truth, I’ve always been intimidated by pie crust, let alone gluten-free pie crust. So this summer I took a classic strawberry rhubarb pie and turned it into a gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crumble, with no crust and a sweet crisp topping that everyone loves. Plus, if you substitute margarine (I like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) instead of butter, it easily becomes a delicious, would-never-believe-it vegan, gluten-free dessert.
The crumble topping uses pure gluten-free oats. For a discussion on gluten-free oats, please see a story I wrote, Feel Your Oats, for Living Without magazine, a great magazine for people who are gluten-free or have food sensitivities.
Click for the recipe for Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Gluten-free, dairy-free hamantaschen
Name a Jewish holiday, and there’s usually a special food associated with it. That’s certainly the case with Purim, which is coming up this weekend. I made gluten-free, dairy-free hamantaschen — triangular, jelly-filled cookies — using the recipe I posted last year.
I found the recipe so easy to work with last year, but a bit more difficult to cut out the circles this year. It helped when I chilled the dough in the freezer then liberally sprinkled rice flour on the wax paper when I was rolling out the dough. Go figure. There is so much that goes into baking — the smallest changes in ingredients, temperature, etc., end up making a big difference.
My kids love shaping the hamantaschen and doing a “magic” trick: taking the circles of dough and turning them into triangular cookies. They also love thinking of crazy fillings to put in the hamantaschen. This year we tried marshmallows, white chocolate chips, Nutella and mint M&Ms, along with apricot and raspberry jam. I actually like the traditional prune and poppy seed fillings, but I did not have the ingredients on hand.
Check out this cute, short video of my older daughter shaping hamantaschen, and turning circles into triangles. Yes, she really does say to “gently, carefully, tenderly” fold up the dough!
The full recipe is posted here.
Kasha varnishkes: a satisfying Eastern European dish
Kasha varnishkes is a traditional Russian-Jewish dish of roasted buckwheat groats (kasha) tossed with bowtie noodles. Apparently, my grandfather hated kasha, as he had too many memories of eating it growing up. But we love it. To me, this earthy, satisfying dish typifies Old Country cooking. Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. Rather, it’s a nutritious, gluten-free whole grain from the rhubarb and sorrel family.
Until now, I had to make kasha varnishkes with gluten-free fusilli pasta, as there was no gluten-free bowtie or farfalle pasta available. I was thrilled when Le Veneziane, a superb corn pasta from Italy, recently released gluten-free farfalle.
I wish we had gluten-free farfalle pasta a few years ago, since some of my daughter’s preschool and kindergarten projects used bowtie pasta. Don’t get me started, though, on schools’ unnecessary use of food in the classroom.
Kasha varnishkes can be served as a side-dish for brisket or it can stand alone as a vegetarian entree.
Click for Gluten-Free Kasha Varnishkes recipe
Filed under pasta, Recipes
Chinese Corn Egg-Drop Soup
For celiacs, Chinese restaurants are big caution zones, since soy sauce is brewed with wheat. Also, most egg noodles, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, imitation crab and mock meat substitutes (like mock duck) contain gluten.
Some accommodating Chinese restaurants will prepare entrees without soy sauce, or they may agree to cook with gluten-free soy sauce that you bring in. But cross-contamination is still an issue, so make sure to ask the staff to prepare your food in a clean pan with clean utensils. Dining cards from Triumph Dining, written in Chinese (and other languages) and tailored to specific cuisines, provide an extra measure of safety.
Luckily, some gluten-free soy sauce substitutes are available. San-J wheat-free tamari, certified gluten-free, is the choice in our house. La Choy soy sauce is also gluten-free, though it does contain more processed ingredients.
In our old neighborhood, we were fortunate to find a Chinese restaurant that prepared food without soy sauce for us. We’d routinely order cashew chicken (cooked with a little chicken broth and salt) and corn egg-drop soup.
When we moved, I wanted to make gluten-free corn egg-drop soup that we could enjoy at home. I was surprised at how easy it was. Cream-style corn (which is non-dairy, despite the “cream” in its name) gives the soup body, and whole kernels of corn add to the texture. Silky threads of egg stream through the soup like ribbons. The result: a velvety egg drop soup, enhanced by sweet nuggets of corn, just like in our favorite Chinese restaurant.
Click for Chinese Corn Egg Drop Soup recipe
Gluten-Free Potato Latkes
Sorry that I’ve been neglecting this blog, but things have been busy and it seems there’s always something to do. In the past few months, we sold our condo (thankfully!), moved into a new (well, a rehabbed 100-year-old) house in Chicago, transitioned to a new neighborhood after 20 years in the old ‘hood, and changed our daughters to a new school.
Things are settling down now, and we are enjoying Hanukkah in our new home. And while Hanukkah may mean candles, dreidels and gifts to the kids, it means potato latkes to me.
Many homemade and store-bought latkes contain flour or matza meal. However, since the amount of flour is small, it’s pretty easy to adapt latkes to be gluten-free. If you’re looking to buy latkes, Kineret frozen potato latkes do not contain gluten.
This year, my family concurred that my latkes were the best ever. I used three russet potatoes and one sweet potato, which added a golden orange color and hint of sweetness. After I grated the potatoes, I let them sit in a colander to drain extra liquid. And I used potato starch instead of flour. Don’t listen to people who claim you have to hand-grate the potatoes; a food processor works just fine.
Even if your arteries harden at the sight of a thick layer of oil in a frying pan, don’t be stingy with the oil. To make the latkes brown and crisp, you need a generous layer of oil covering the bottom of the pan. Keep the pan hot to prevent the latkes from absorbing too much oil, but not so hot that you set off the smoke alarm.
Enjoy the remaining days of Hanukkah!
Click for Gluten-Free Potato Latkes recipe