Wednesday, September 22, 2010


About four years ago I became gluten free.  At the beginning of this journey, I started reading Shauna James’ blog, “Gluten-Free Girl.”   I became a fan.  I told a lot of people about her -- my doctors, strangers who were buying gluten-free foods at the market, and just about anyone who was interested in food.  For those not familiar with Shauna’s blog, followers have enjoyed the delight of accompanying her through dating The Chef (the amazingly talented Danny Ahern), their romance (only to be out-adored by Calvin and Alice Trillin), working together, marriage, and family, with the addition of daughter, Lucy.  Shauna may be a gluten-free girl but more importantly she’s a girl who has said yes to food and life in a way few can inspire.   

Shauna’s first book, Gluten-Free Girl, a memoir accompanied by recipes, chronicled her realization that she had celiac disease and how she dealt with it.  In the next installment,  GLUTEN-FREE GIRL AND THE CHEF (Wiley; $29.95; ISBN: 978-0-470-41971-7), Shauna is joined by Danny, giving this book a bit more of a professional cookbook veneer.   It is a wonderful story studded with mouth-watering photography and recipes.  There are many reasons people gravitate towards Shauna and Danny but for me, their approach to food encompasses so much more than gluten-free.  They are about high quality, fresh, fabulous food; sourced locally, when at all possible.  They delight in every aspect from the purchasing and the preparation, to pure enjoyment of the final product.  This book should appeal to either the gluten or non gluten- free. 

For most gluten-free people, pasta and bread products tend to be at the top of their really-missed-foods list.  I’ve always been tempted to make homemade pasta (and in fact had a long-ago-gift of a pasta maker tucked away in a cupboard) but have never done it.  I had faith that I could be successful here.  Out came the KitchenAid stand mixer, the pasta maker (with only Italian directions) and all the flours and ingredients needed for the pasta.  I defrosted some Bolognese sauce made from the end of a pork roast made earlier this summer, and had a good piece of Parmesan ready to grate. 

I had to feel my way through this recipe – but only because this was all so new to me.  The recipe itself is very straight-forward and easy to put together.   The result was lovely ribbons of summery yellow fettuccine graced with a slightly nutty flavor from the quinoa flour.  Quick to make (yes, even in my case with only Italian directions for the pasta maker) and cook (I found 3 ½ minutes to be just right), my friends and I were very happy with our dinner.  I will definitely make this pasta again.
I loved reading this book,  and I know I will use it a lot.  I hope in Shauna and Danny’s next book there is room for more of a traditional cookbook format, if only to make it easier to find recipes in specific categories.  I would also like to see more of their helpful notes such as the “go for a Play Dough feel consistency when mixing together the ingredients” that was part of the pasta recipe.  These are like a GPS guide for the cook especially when one is venturing into uncharted territory.  

Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta
     When you find out you cannot eat gluten, one of the first foods you worry about living without is pasta. There’s a certain mourning involved, imagining a trip to Italy without a mound of fresh fettuccine.  
     Guess what? The Italians make great gluten-free pasta, since many of their citizens have celiac sprue. You can buy a package of gluten-free pasta at the farmacia and take it to the best restaurant in town, where they will make the pasta of the day for you.
     When we first started making pasta, we tried our favorite gluten pasta recipes with gluten-free flours, without much success. It took us about fifteen different recipes and wranglings with flour combinations before we figured out the right ratio of flours to liquids. Now, at least once a week, when we want a quick meal, we pull out flours and make homemade pasta.
Feeds 4
2/3 cup (70g/2.5oz) corn flour
1/2 cup (70g/2.5oz) quinoa flour
1/2 cup (60g/2.125oz) potato starch
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
4 egg yolks from large eggs
Combining the flours
Sift the corn flour, quinoa flour, and potato starch into a large bowl. Add the xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt and stir. Sift the entire mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Forming the pasta dough
Put the eggs and egg yolks into the bowl of dry ingredients. Run the stand mixer on medium speed with a paddle attachment until the dough feels fully formed, about 3 minutes. The final dough should feel firm yet still pliable, a little like playdough.
Making the pasta
If you are using a pasta machine, cut the ball of dough into quarters and roll out each piece of dough to about a 1/2-inch thickness. We like to roll out each piece between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Lightly flour both sides of the dough with a bit more potato starch. Run the dough through the machine, increasing the setting each time, until the dough is paper-thin and long. If the pasta sheet starts to break, it is thin enough.
If you are making the dough by hand, we suggest you cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces, and then cut each of those pieces in half, so they are about the size of golf balls. Roll out each piece of dough as thin as you possibly can.
For fettuccine, use the fettuccine setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want ribbons of pasta, about 1/4-inch wide. For spaghetti, use the spaghetti setting on the pasta machine. If you are cutting the dough by hand, you want thin strings of pasta.
For ravioli, cut the rolled-out pasta into 2-inch-square pieces. Dollop the filling in the middle of a square of pasta. Brush the edges of the pasta with an egg wash. Place another pasta square on top and press down, crimping the edges. (Having a ravioli cutter on hand helps with this process.)
For lasagna, leave the pasta in long sheets.
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the pasta shape of your choice into the boiling water. When the pasta rises to the surface, take a little piece and taste it. You should be able to bite into it without it falling apart. (With gluten-free pasta, it’s a fine line. One moment it’s al dente, and the next it’s one big ball of mush, so watch the pot.) Cooking times will vary for the different shapes. Fettuccine generally takes 4 to 5 minutes, spaghetti 3 to 4 minutes. Ravioli takes a little longer, about 5 to 6 minutes. The cooking times will differ in each kitchen, depending on how thin you were able to roll out the dough. Let your taste be the judge.
You have some wiggle room with different flours here. Tapioca flour works as a replacement for the potato starch, as does cornstarch. You might try sorghum or brown rice if you cannot eat corn. However, be sure to substitute by weight instead of volume.
You can easily double or even triple this recipe for more pasta. Work with the pasta in batches if you do.
Tricia Gibney comes from a family where food is very important.  Since childhood the Gibney Girls were encouraged to read about, talk about, shop, make, eat, share, and enjoy great food.  According to Tricia, "this is a book that will make you want to do all of those things.  Or as my sister Mimi summed it up:  “It’s my favorite.  It’s exactly what I wanted.  It’s the best you ever made it.”  When not in the kitchen, Tricia is a top PR professional who has worked on many high-profile products and corporate brands. 

No comments:

Post a Comment