This post was written along with my GFF Lisa Cantkier, the brains behind Gluten Free Find.
Last week we were invited to a gluten-free media dinner hosted by Italpasta at 7 Numbers on the Danforth in Toronto. That’s right, Italpasta—famous for its 100% pure durum semolina pasta (fancy talk for pure wheat)—now serves up pasta for the gluten-free set. Made in Italy! It’s a good thing we showed up hungry. Funnily, neither of us knew the other was attending this event, and we happened to arrive at the exact same moment. After months of attempted dinner plans, we finally got to break bread (so to speak!) courtesy of Italpasta. A GFF (gluten-free friend) reunion and a glass of red vino to kick off the night…what more could a gluten-free gal ask for?
While I’m partial to penne, my daughters are fusilli fans because it’s curly like their hair.
Italpasta has three kinds of gluten-free noodles—penne rigate, fusilli and spaghetti—made from a blend of rice and non-GMO corn. The company recently got a stamp of approval from the Canadian Celiac Association’s Gluten Free Certification Program, which will soon appear on all of its gluten-free packaging.
If only he could come over and cook dinner for my family every night…
The food was 100% vegetarian and, featuring four pasta dishes, an adventure in carbs—and we loved every bite. With the same colour and texture of “regular” pasta, you’d never guess that this pasta is gluten free. Each variety of noodle held its shape and the pasta was chewy, not gooey!
LISA: As someone who’s been following a gluten-free diet for more than three decades, I’ve seen many-a-mushy pasta come and go. But the science of gluten-free pasta has come a long way, baby! At the Italpasta dinner, I almost felt compelled to check with my server to verify the gluten-free status of the dishes! The noodles are firm and hold their own no matter what sauce is used. See below…and click on the links for recipes!
Quinoa Pizza Bites
Guest blog by the Mother of All Mavens (aka Carolyn Drebin)
I recently had the pleasure of participating in a Delicious Dish cooking class with occupational-therapist-turned-self-taught-chef Carolyn Cohen. I’d heard about her classes for years. The menus were hoarded secrets. Sharing recipes was considered to be horribly bad form. Verboten? Forbidden fruit? I wanted in! After managing to coax a few tidbits from some willing rule-benders, I tried a couple of recipes.
They were, indeed, delicious dishes.
It wasn’t long before I was on Carolyn’s email list. Schedules were listed, but menus were not. And while I debated whether to sign up, the classes would fill up and sell out within hours of being posted. Who was this Carolyn Cohen? And, more importantly, what was she dishing out? Finally, a friend asked if I wanted to join a private group she was organizing and I jumped at the chance.
The class was designed to be healthy, family friendly, good for entertaining and “gluten-free optional”—meaning, the recipes could be made either with or without gluten. I am not so healthy, though I try to start off the week that way. My family rarely eats the masterpieces I cook. And I am nothing if not a glutton for gluten. I was in.
A week before the event, the original organizer had to drop out, along with half of the class. After a mad scramble to collect a minimum of 10 bodies—10 $95 pre-paid bodies—we ended up with 13 rarin’ to go.
Carolyn called me to plan the menu. At her suggestion, we swapped some of the original planned mains and agreed to go completely gluten free because we had a celiac among us, as well as the founder of the Gluten Free Garage. Carolyn was used to all kinds of special dietary requests, so going GF didn’t faze her in the slightest.
The night of our class, we descended upon Carolyn’s kitchen, where she commandeered 13 of the chattiest ladies in town. Pouring glasses of red, to go with the Quinoa Pizza Bites she provided as a starter, Carolyn got right down to business. She was a mountain of information both healthy and practical. Onion goggles to stop the waterworks. Kevlar gloves to prevent slicing off fingers. A list of suppliers and shops—and salts. Kitchen scales. Dough scoopers. Slicers. Pine nuts. Olive oil. She had it all covered, right down to the gluten-free breadcrumbs! We all laughed, learned and ate. A lot.
No more tears: Delicious Dish’s Carolyn Cohen dons her onion goggles.
This is Lily, BC (before celiac), chillin’ with my Bubby Fran.
Bubby had a way with babies. After five kids and 10 grandkids, she was a real natural.
When it came to her role as great grandmother, Fran never phoned it in. She approached baking in the same way. You could taste the love in her cakes.
This is Bub’s famous banana chocolate chip cake—gluten-free style!
You might be thinking, “gluten-free banana cake, a dime a dozen.” Google it, and 9,990,000 recipes pop up on your screen.
Not this banana cake, oh no. I’ve perfected a gluten-free version of my Bubby Fran’s famous banana chocolate chip cake. It’s super moist (even on day two!) and full of flavour, with the same taste and texture as my Bub’s cake. Fresh out of the oven, you would NEVER know it’s gluten free (be careful not to devour the entire thing). Not only have my dad, aunts and uncle come back for seconds, they’ve also given me permission to share this beloved, slightly tweaked family recipe with you.
For the gluten-free makeover, I follow Fran’s recipe to a T, substituting either Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Flour or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour, depending on what’s in the cupboard. (If it’s the Bob’s Red Mill, I use xantham gum as well). It might also work with other gluten-free flour blends but I’ve only tried it with these so far. The other key difference is I don’t bake it for as long as the original recipe called for.
It may not be the healthiest banana cake recipe around, and I’m not claiming it is. There are plenty of those out there—go ahead, just google it. But this is my Bubby’s banana chocolate chip cake, gluten-free style. And Lily gets to enjoy it, the same banana cake that I grew up on. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Note: You can attempt to make this cake healthier by using low-fat sour cream instead of full fat, or coconut sugar instead of regular white sugar, but Fran would frown on this. And, trust me, your cake won’t taste as delicious. Besides, can’t a girl have her gluten-free cake and eat it too? more…
Tomato Burrata Salad = cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, fresh basil ribbons, black pepper, sea salt, glug of extra-virgin olive oil
Avocado Goat Cheese Toast = gluten-free toast (I’m a huge fan of Organic Works quinoa and honey bread), avocado, honey goat cheese, hemp seeds, black pepper, squeeze of fresh lime juice
Cornucopia = fresh corn niblets + feta cheese + paprika
Lemony Kale Salad = kale + pine nuts + pecorino + currants + vinaigrette
Both of these salads are like a fresh burst of summer (click here for the full Lemony Kale Salad recipe). They would be delicious anywhere but are especially so at a cottage (isn’t everything?).
Last week I got out of Dodge with my three nearest and dearest childhood girlfriends and headed up north for three peaceful days to a cottage by the lake. Here’s what happened, in the words of my bestie Bonnie: “Other than running, we did everything we wanted and then some. We ate, laughed, cried, danced, partied, ate some more, rested, laughed some more, perfected the fine art of selfies, and reaffirmed our deep and sustaining lifelong friendship.”
We practiced the fine art of selfies.
The photo above was taken after a few glasses of this bubbly pink concoction.
It wasn’t all so soulful. Happy hour began quite early (it was 5 o’clock somewhere!). We played Cards Against Humanity, a hilarious “party game for horrible people” that I highly recommend for some serious side-splitting laughs. And we took a quick trip to Target, where I bought this gorgeous woven tote!
My Target find.
But I digress: Seeing as the The Ex opens this week in Toronto, symbolizing the approach of the end of summer, I suggest that you savour these salads with a cold glass of Prosecco…stat!