Endangered Species

I’m seriously considering printing t-shirts. SAVE THE ENDANGERED GLUTEN! I have this recurring nightmare that one morning I’ll wake to do my early bake, walk into my kitchen, and a gluten hating zombie horde, (there’s always a zombie horde in apocalyptic nightmares) has replaced all my gluten-filled flours with oat, brown rice, and, (oh my GAWD) millet. THE HORROR!!!!!

Why is it that gluten has suddenly become the bad guy? I’m half expecting to see its face on a poster in the Post Office as culinary public enemy number one, knocking carbohydrates off the top of the list. Menus, magazines, celebrity doc talk shows all preach the gluten-abstinence gospel, and ex-gluties will proudly tell you how they kicked the habit, then describe in detail the awful things gluten does to you as you stand in line waiting for your coffee and killer wheat breakfast. What did poor gluten do to deserve this?

Look, everyone is entitled to feed their body as they see fit. And I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate gluten allergy sufferers out there. I personally know those who’ve had to eschew all flakey doughy bliss for diagnosed health reasons, and my heart goes out to them. To be faced with the fate of no more crispy baguette, chewy soft pretzels, heavenly pasta and, gasp, BAGELS is a sentence I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I have a sneaking suspicion the genetically glutenless are a lot fewer than would appear based upon all the coverage “gluten-free” is getting. Actually, I know it for a fact.

I’ve been behind the apron when the request came in for gluten-free. And after making an entire separate menu to accommodate these 3 out of a party of 30 guests for 3 days, discovered that no, they weren’t medically mandated. They were on the gluten-free bandwagon and decided they’d give it a try. Yup. Gluten-less posers. These are the folks who give the legitimately gluten-free a bad name. And the irony is if I asked my medically gluten-free friends, not a one would choose to ban gluten if they didn’t have to! The problem as I see it is that we’ve become overrun with food faddists and evangelists. You’ve seen them before. The low carbers, paleo dieters, zoners, juicers, raw fooders, green fooders, raw green fooders! Every year another new way to eat comes along. And every year folks looking for a new fix become evangelized and go forth preaching their diet.

Hey, if it works for you, have at it. As for me, I think I’ll just stick to my old diet of loving food, all of it. Food isn’t evil or scary or “bad”, and providing you haven’t an allergy, food loves those who love it. Now I’d like my coffee and killer bagel please. And can I get a little extra gluten with that, on the side?;-)

2015-05-14 14.19.42So, why would I give you a recipe for something with no gluten in a post dedicated to saving the gluten? Well, two reasons. First, because I love my gluten-free gentle readers too, and second, this is just an awesome dessert and perfect for the holiday weekend. So hush up now and pay attention. Pavlova has been around for almost 100 years, and was first made in Australia or New Zealand (both claim it) in honor of a visit from the famous prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Basically it’s a big meringue, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I recently made it, topped with roasted rhubarb and fresh raspberries for my cooking class at the Hawks Ridge Assisted Living Facility, and not only did they love it, one of the women had actually seen Anna Pavlova perform when she was a little girl! So here’s Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb. And for the gluten lovers out there, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. Here’s something I’ll be making on the grill this Memorial Day – Feta Stuffed Flatbread.

Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb – (Adapted from The Kitchn and  Martha Stewart Living)

Makes one Pavlova that will easily serve 10

For the meringue base:2015-05-13 19.14.54

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the fruit:

  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 pint raspberries

2015-05-13 19.51.21Move rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 °F. Combine rhubarb,water,  3/4cup sugar, tablespoon lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Bake until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes, spooning juices over halfway through. Carefully transfer rhubarb pieces (they will be very soft) to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with a spatula; reserve juices. Let cool completely.

Turn down oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 9″ circle on the parchment using a cake pan or dinner plate as a guide. Flip the parchment over. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar together in a separate bowl.

Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no residual fat or grease. Pour the egg whites in to the bowl and begin beating at low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium. When the egg whites have reached soft peak consistency and the beaters leave trails in the whipped whites, begin adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that you are at maximum speed once all the sugar has been added.

2015-05-13 18.55.37Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Beat for another 20 seconds to fully mix. Use a spatula to scrape all the meringue onto the parchment in the center of the circle. Working from the inside out, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Smooth the sides if desired or leave it in billowy lumps.

2015-05-13 18.59.40 Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Make for 60-70 minutes. The pavlovas are done when the outsides are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. It’s 2015-05-13 19.39.31fine if cracks form in the crust.

Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight. At this point, the pavlova can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in an airtight container and kept for several days unless your house gets very humid (in which case, eat your pavlova right away!).

2015-05-14 14.21.52Just before you’re ready to serve, make the whipped cream. Combine the cream, vanilla, and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Spread the whipped cream over the pavlova, leaving a little bit of an edge. Top with fruit and serve within an hour or two. (Do not refrigerate; the meringue will quickly soften.)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and please give a thought of thanks to those this holiday is about.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

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4 thoughts on “Endangered Species

  1. I have pronounced myself Gluten Intolerant Intolerant. Like you, I want to do everything I can for my GF friends who cannot eat gluten for medical reasons. But just for the heck of it? I want to smack them and say, “Grow up!” When going to someone’s home, unless you have an allergy, just sit up, eat up, and stay shut up. It is hard enough when the host/ess has to deal with an allergy, but a silly preference?

    My other favorite is when someone tells me they are going GF because eating pasta makes them feel tired and heavy. Okay… ummm… try eating the amount prescribed on the box as a serving for one person! Two ounces of pasta! That won’t make you feel bad. Four, six or eight ounces? Yes!

    Ugh. Getting off soap box…

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