Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Gluten-Free Italian a Contradiction?

Half of my genetic makeup originates in Southern Italia. I don't know if this necessarily predisposes me to enjoying carbs (pasta, bread...), but I definitely feel a strong Italian bond any time I spend time with a relative on that side of the family (of which I have regrettably few).

This weekend I bused up to Pittsburgh, PA to visit my mother's sister. We spent all of Saturday afternoon on friendly terms with food, wandering The Strip in downtown. We lunched at Enrico's Biscotti, where they sell giant (decidedly nonvegan) biscotti and offer monthly brick-oven-baked bread classes. Following this enjoyable munching, we popped into the Italian grocery, complete with olive bar, olive oil wall, and those gran cereale biscuits I've been craving since returning to America. After another hour or two of wandering shops and seeing a dwindling number of Steelers fans as game-time neared, we headed back to the 'burbs. With a little more crusty Italian bread, a comforting beans and greens soup, and a glass of wine, my Aunt and I retired to the living room to watch a movie with the cats.

The next morning found us making (soy) cappuccinos and coffee, going for a stroll on a nearby farm, and making a quick stop at the Heinz museum of Pittsburgh history. Needless to say, I enjoyed myself immensely! I've included a few lessons I learned, and a recipe I came across in one of the many Italian cookbooks/magazines around my Aunt's house (made-over, of course).

Things Italian (and Italian-American) People Like:
1. Food. Particularly garlic, bread, pasta, and olive oil.
2. Cats. Rome. Cinque Terre. Italian Women. They all have cats.
3. Cappuccino and espresso, particularly with biscotti.
4. Wine. Enough said.
5. Other Italian people. C'mon, we're family!

Crumbly Polenta Cake (GF/VG)
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup raw sugar + 1 tbs raw agave
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk
zest of one lemon, and juice of half
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs ground flax + 2 tbs water

1. Mix together all dry ingredients until well combined. Add sugar, as well.
2. Add all wet ingredients except for the lemon juice. Combine until the consistency of thick pancake batter.
3. Finally, pour in the lemon juice. Stir just until evenly distributed. Transfer batter to a greased loaf pan.
4. Bake 25-35 minutes at 350F until edges are browning and center set.

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea ... or a shot of limoncello?


Bean said...

I love polenta and I love cake, so I'm sure I would really like this! Thanks for sharing.

Brandi said...

This sounds delicious! I'll have to make some sugar substitutions, but I look forward to trying it. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. :)

Rachel said...

As far as sugar subs go, I would probably stick with a granulated substitution instead of liquid. If you use liquid stevia, compensate with additional tapioca starch and perhaps almond meal.

Brandi said...

Thank you for the recommendation, I will definitely keep it in mind. I just finished my first experiment with Zsweet and yacon syrup, which while not perfect, left me with lots of hope for future recipes like this one.