Adding the Yum Factor to Gluten-Free Cooking

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Six years ago, Erin Scott was the happy, food-loving owner of a lifestyle boutique in Oakland, Calif., when she discovered she had celiac disease. The diagnosis transformed her life -- not just her eating habits but her career. Instead of wallowing in the downsides of a newfound gluten-free existence, she launched the (now-popular) blog Yummy Supper, spending her days tinkering in the kitchen and taking vibrant photos of the concoctions she made for her family, which includes two gluten-intolerant children.

That passion for creative cooking, and her determination to make "flavorful, seasonal, food that just tastes good," has spawned the just-arrived Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious & Honest Recipes from a {Gluten-Free} Omnivore, with dishes like quinoa tabbouleh (recipe below) and zucchini ribbon "pasta" -- not to mention sweets such as pluot parfaits with sunflower seeds.

yummy table
When you first learned of your celiac diagnosis, what went through your mind?

I was baffled and pretty depressed. We live in Berkeley. We love food. I thought, how am I going to have joy around food again? It took a little while for me to come to terms with what it all meant. But then I got excited about the challenge of making my own food, food that would be so irresistibly good -- even for friends used to eating out at great restaurants.

Was it this journey that inspired you to create Yummy Supper?

Initially the blog started as a place where friends and I could share recipes, and then I got really into it. It became an excuse for making new dishes. When you cook, it's hard not to have just five or six things on regular rotation, so this was motivation to find something new.

How significant was the adjustment to a gluten-free kitchen?

It was more my attitude than anything that shifted. A lot of what I cooked before my diagnosis was already gluten-free, but somehow I felt having celiac meant I could only eat packaged food that was marked as gluten-free. When I stopped overthinking and started cooking all these things I already loved from scratch again, I realized I wasn't deprived.

What have been some of the challenges?

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can’t have good food when you are diagnosed. Going out to eat is tricky. I have an obsession with bread and pizza, but it only pushes me to try new grains.

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

It’s always about the ingredient for me. It starts with one thing, like beautiful asparagus, and then I start thinking how it would be good with lemon, or maybe an egg. So then I riff on it and have fun.

Farmers market visits must be instrumental to your repertoire, especially being in northern California.

I like playing around in the kitchen. I buy a bunch of in-season produce at the farmers market and then scrap them together. Often these combinations will turn into something good. I also love recipes from chefs like David Tanis and Deborah Madison, and mix them with my own experiments.

Since your diagnosis, is there an ingredient you have fallen for that you might never have tried?

Almond flour. It’s rich, moist, delicious and revolutionary. Then I started experimenting with other nuts, grinding up pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts. It’s a great way to get proteins. These sugar cookies I make with pistachio flour are some of my favorites. They are crunchy, extra-buttery and have a hint of orange from the zest and blossom water.

Is there a go-to dish you make when you’re craving something simple?

Salad is my fallback. I'll take arugula, or some other green, and pair it with a poached egg for extra flavor and texture. I'm a protein girl, so cheese and nuts often go into my salads.

What's your current in-season favorite?

This time of year, it's baked eggs on a bed of cherry tomatoes. Sometimes I’ll even do it for lunch if I have a little extra time because it only takes 20 minutes. It’s not a big production. Nothing I make is very hard.

Is there one myth about gluten-free eating you hope to shatter with your book?

There's a lot of backlash about gluten-free food not being healthy or tasty. If you fall into the packaged goods myth and eat processed food all day, yes, it will be unhealthy. But there's a lot to eat out there that’s both nourishing and delicious. I hope the book will help normalize gluten-free eating. With vegetarianism there was once a lot of confusion over fake imitation meats and nut loafs. Now I want people to realize that we don’t even need to eat gluten-free bread; we can just eat other things instead. Look at the way [Yotam] Ottolenghi cooks. Gluten-free food simply isn't fringe anymore.

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Tomatoes, Scallions, Parsley Leaves and Blossoms

Serves 6 to 8

When the weather is warm, the last thing anyone wants for dinner is a hot meal. This quinoa is filling while still being light, refreshing and full of herby, lemony zing. It's easy to forget that traditional tabbouleh is made with bulgur -- quinoa is so good here that it feels made for this Mediterranean classic. This dish is best made at least an hour ahead of time so all the flavors can mingle and the quinoa can soak up all the goodness.

1½ cups quinoa
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups chopped tomatoes (bite-size pieces)
1½ cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ to ½ cup finely chopped scallions
¼ to 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is my favorite)
Parsley blossoms, for garnish (optional)

First, rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer under running tap water. Place the rinsed quinoa in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and let the grains soak for at least 15 minutes. Bring to a boil. Add the kosher salt to the pot.

Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy and tender, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, toss the quinoa with the tomatoes, parsley, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil and mint. Add salt and additional lemon juice to your liking, and you've got your tabbouleh.

Serve the quinoa at room temp. Feel free to add a little more flaky sea salt and an extra drizzle of nice olive oil at serving time, and top with the blossoms, if you have 'em.

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern. 

Recipe and photos reprinted from “Yummy Supper” by Erin Scott. Copyright (c) 2014 by Erin Scott. By permission of Rodale Books.

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