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Tag: gluten free

Demanding Desserts: Bolognese Torta di Riso

Torta di riso

Our friend Leona (so dubbed for his ever-so-slight similarities to the phone-flinging hotelier) invited us to dinner this past weekend and as I generally do, I offered to bring dessert. He is an accomplished cook, lovely friend, and one of the few people not afraid to invite us over for dinner (sigh…), so I am always happy to bring something along to Leona’s, particularly since he’s gluten-free and safe baked goods are generally few and far between. This time around, though, he went all-out “only the little people pay taxes” on me and specified a dessert that was not only gluten-free, but dairy-free as well. Lord.

Now, this isn’t nearly as complicated as it may seem, what with decent gluten-free all-purpose flour blends and various types of vegetable shortening. And yet… shortening? Blergh. I think not. So, a recipe with no gluten and no butter OR shortening. Pavlova? Ehh, with no whipped cream (CREAM) or fruit curd (BUTTER), it’d seem a bit spare. Daquoise? Same issue.

I was discussing this challenge with Dae Dae, our PassionFruits European correspondent, and she suggested a torta Bolognese, an Italian cake flavored with citrus and nuts, but mercifully sans flour and butter. Intrigued, I put my Google-ing hat on and got to it. Turns out  that torta Bolognese is a cheesey baked pasta dish… neither gluten-free, dairy-free, or even a dessert. Undaunted, I pressed on to figure out that she’d been talking about Bolognese torta di riso, which does indeed have candied citron and ground almonds and relies on rice for body. SOLD!

Four different “ricettas”, some iffy Google translating, a few adjustments, and voila, we have cake! It’s basically rice pudding that gets almond flour, egg yolks, and candied citrus peel mixed in and then lightened with beaten egg whites. Of course, I had to fudge a bit on the whole dairy thing, but I think using almond milk to cook the rice rather than cow’s milk is legit.

Legit, and delicious. Cake-y around the edges, pudding-y in the middle, and suffused throughout with the flavors of almond, citrus, and vanilla, this was a big winner. The starch from the rice held everything together, but the beaten egg whites kept it from being gluey or heavy, a common fault of gluten-free baked goods. Instead, it was lush and creamy–without, mind you, any actual cream. Perfect not just for the gluten-free or lactose-intolerant, but even for the most demanding of dessert divas!

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Menu Monday: A Few Hours in Provence, Salad & Socca

Welcome to Menu Monday! Woo! I’ve always wanted this site to be not just about individual kick-ass recipes, but also about how to put them together into a coherent whole that can be enjoyed by cook and guest alike. And now, a year and a half and nearly 250 posts later, there’s enough of those kick-ass recipes up for me to be able to knit them together into menus for you. I’ll also be hitting up some of my favorite bloggers to round out these posts to give you a taste of what other people are writing about and to help me fill in some gaps in my own archives.
And this week, it made sense to head down to Provence. The cuisine of Nice and the surrounding region has always been one of my favorites, with its reliance on olive oil, fresh seafood, and simple vegetable preparations amped up with powerful flavors like anchovy, garlic, and saffron.

My affinity for the cuisine was cemented during a VERY entertaining week and half spent trailing around Aix-en-Provence with the inimitable Grandma Neecie and her favorite opera tour group: listening to Verdi’s Requiem at the Roman amphitheatre in Orange, lunching on mysterious terrines and champagne cocktails at Michelin-starred restaurants nestled high in the Luberon valley, tackling boulliabaise on the corniche in Marseilles, and otherwise having a grand old time.

In ANY event, though, we can tackle terrines and boulliabaise some other day (I’ve drunk all the Pernod, anyway). For the inaugural Menu Monday, we keep it simple, no? Some really tasty, unique nibbles; a fabulous entree salad; and a simple, fresh dessert. Let’s get to it!

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Pavlovas: The Deliciously UN-Demanding Dessert Divas

Having been routinely thwarted in my attempts to cluster dinner guests based upon their bizarre food issues, I’ve been confronted with a growing need for gluten-free foodstuffs, particularly desserts. And while there are numerous excellent websites devoted to the topic, whose results I can only presume are quite palatable, the initial investment in GF baking can be somewhat daunting.

In place of regular wheat flour, whose gluten is literally responsible for keeping things from falling apart, a somewhat bewildering array of gums, starches, and ancient grains are pressed into service. This kind of complicated replacement seems totally worth it for people who are cooking GF all the time, but I don’t really want to have to track down and purchase xanthan gum and ground amaranth for one cake, you know?

SO. That leaves me with the more traditional GF dessert alternatives that depend on eggs or nut flour for body and structure. While I do have a store of lovely nut-based cakes, lately I’ve been utterly taken with the queen of desserts from Down Under, the pavlova. Allegedly named for the Russian ballet dancer on one of her Australian tours, the blowsily elegant combination of fruit, cream, and meringue is really just delightful in its airy deliciousness.

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