Chef’s Corner: Sometimes it’s not only a Matter of Taste

As a private chef I have prepared meals for many different clients. Invariably within a group there are at least one or two people with different dietary needs. There are always “the skinny girls” (I call them), who are watching their weight and won’t eat anything fried or remotely fattening. Ingredients like goat cheese, truffle oil or raw fish may be excluded from the menu for people who just don’t like the taste. A client’s aversion to being served offal, wild game or out of the ordinary feathered fowl is quite common. For some, what they choose to eat is merely a matter of taste, but for others it can be a matter of life or death.

Dietary restrictions are more prevalent than ever. The foods I avoid serving my family are mostly a matter of taste rather than fear of allergy or physical discomfort. We all know vegetarians, vegans or those who avoid red meat. But allergies to gluten, dairy, eggs or nuts can cause serious repercussions ranging from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to death. Gone are the days when a child is sent to school with a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because just a miniscule amount of peanut butter cross-contaminated to a child with a severe nut allergy could result in a serious medical emergency.

Stores now have plenty of options for people on restricted diets. Mainstream grocery stores carry an assortment of gluten-free breads, buns, crackers and cookies. Egg-free mayonnaise, vegetable-based meat substitutes and dairy-free alternatives to milk and ice cream can be found almost anywhere conventional products are sold. Internet sites like Yummly.com are flooded with recipes for folks who want mainstream fare suited to their dietary needs. Kosher stabilizers like guar gum, xanthan gum and agar agar can be obtained easily online or at specialty food stores. A small amount of these plant-based thickeners used in place of eggs or gelatin can create luxurious texture in salad dressings, ice cream, gelato and sorbets. Bob’s Red Mill produces an array of useful products ranging from packaged TVP (textured vegetable protein) to gluten-free flours and baking mixes. Home-baked, gluten-free breads, cakes and cookies are made easier with Bob’s large selection of gluten-free flours such as rice, amaranth, potato and oats (make sure oats are certified gluten-free).

Readymade 100% gluten-free baked goods are easily found in grocery store bakery sections or at specialty bakeries like Kyra’s Bake Shop in downtown Lake Oswego. Kyra’s will even ship their incredible assortment of breads, rolls, cookies and award-winning cupcakes and tarts right to your front door. They even do wedding cakes! (Kyra’s: 599 Avenue A, Lake Oswego, OR 97034 503-212-2979, kyrasbakeshop.com)

Gluten-Free Mocha Hazelnut Ice Cream Pie
For the crust:
1 box     Annie’s gluten-free cocoa
and vanilla bunny cookies*
1 cup     peeled roasted hazelnuts**
2 tablespoons     granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ cup     melted unsalted butter or margarine
For the mocha filling:
2 tablespoons     instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon     unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons     water
1 can     sweetened condensed milk
1 pint     heavy whipping cream, very cold (divided)
1 tablespoon     confectioner’s sugar***
1 teaspoon     vanilla

Shaved bittersweet chocolate for garnish

Put cookies, hazelnuts, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until ground to a medium crumb, scraping the sides if necessary. Add melted butter and pulse a few more times to combine. Press crumbs into a 10-inch pie plate and press up sides and bottom. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

Put espresso powder, cocoa and water in a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside. Put sweetened condensed milk and ½ pint of whipping cream in a chilled bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Turn machine to high speed and whip until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Add espresso mixture and mix to blend. Pour mixture into cooled crust and spread to even. Clean out bowl of mixer (make sure it is still cold). Add remaining ½ pint of whipping cream and whip to soft peaks. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and whip a few seconds more. Top mocha layer with sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Freeze pie for at least 8 hours or overnight.

* For a kosher alternative to Annie’s gluten free cookies, try Gratify kosher gluten-free vanilla cookies.  One package is close to the same size as Annie’s.

**Hazelnuts can be purchased roasted and peeled, or you can make them by placing nuts in a 375-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. When nuts are toasted, the skins will begin to crack and peel from the nuts. Allow to cool slightly and roll gently in a towel to remove skins.

**Some confectioner’s sugars contain gluten. Check ingredients.

Vegan Chocolate Coconut “Ice Cream”

Once you gather the ingredients, this incredibly creamy “ice cream” comes together in just minutes. Even without churning in an ice cream maker, it’s a smooth creamy treat. It can even be substituted for the mocha filling in the above recipe to create a gluten-free vegan dessert – without the whipped cream of course.

1 can     coconut milk (not lite)
1/3 cup     agave nectar
1/8 cup     unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon     vanilla bean powder
(like you would sprinkle on a coffee)
1 teaspoon     vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon     salt
½ teaspoon     xanthan gum (Bob’s Red Mill carries a kosher version)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Chill mixture in freezer for 20 minutes, or churn in ice cream maker until smooth and creamy.

Lisa Glickman is a private chef and teacher who lives in Portland. She has made TV appearances on COTV in Central Oregon and appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “The Perfect Three.” She can be reached at
lisa@lisaglickman.com.

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