Free of Gluten and Dairy, But Always Full of Flavor

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deep-dish pizza

Meal Makeovers A131110 Silvana's Kitchen 2014

Deep Dish Pizza Supreme Beauty A131110 Silvana's Kitchen 2014

Photo by: John Kernick ©John Kernick 2013

John Kernick, John Kernick 2013

When Silvana Nardone's son Isaiah was ten, he was diagnosed with an allergy to gluten and dairy. His first reaction was, "What am I going to eat?" But lucky for him, his mom was more than up to the challenge. "He told me the one thing he really wanted to be able to eat was cornbread, so I spent the next two months trying -- and failing -- to mimic the exact taste and texture of gluten-full cornbread," says Nardone, who is also a contributor to Healthy Eats. Eventually, she nailed it and was inspired to keep finding ways to make Isaiah gluten- and dairy-free versions of all his favorite foods. In her latest cookbook, Silvana’s Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Kitchen, she shares what she has learned.

book cover
When you're experimenting with a new gluten-free recipe, what are you trying to accomplish?

My model for every recipe is that it has to be as good or better than what I used to make. I’m not going to be satisfied by anything that's "good for gluten-free." I want people to have no idea it's gluten-free and just think it's delicious. And if I can't nail it, I won't bother. A lot of my recipes ended up in the trash because they didn't meet those standards.

What was the hardest thing for you to make gluten-free?

Sandwich bread. I tried unsuccessfully for years to make one that was light and chewy and had the right texture and taste. Every day, my son would come home from school and toss a loaf into the air to test it out. Too many came down with a thud like a brick on the counter. But one day he threw one up, caught it and said it felt really light. That turned out to be the winning recipe.

What’s your favorite secret gluten-free ingredient?

I love using gluten-free rice cereal, like Rice Krispies or an organic version, as a substitute for bread crumbs. I take some, put it in a Ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to roll it into crumbs. I use it to coat anything I'm going to fry -- chicken, fish, shrimp -- and I also use it in meatballs and meatloaf.

What’s the biggest misconception about gluten-free cooking?

That is has to be healthy. I took a lot of heat when I first started talking about the gluten-free flour blend I created, which includes rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum and salt. People were saying, "But it's all white starches; it’s not healthy." And my thought was, why does it have to be healthy? I wanted to make donuts and brownies and birthday cakes for my kids!

As a mom and a cookbook author, what is it about this new book that gives you the most satisfaction?

I'm giving people back not only their favorite foods, but a lifestyle they had before being diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. Things people thought they had to say goodbye to -- I'm able to help them enjoy them again. I've tried to re-create gluten-free versions of things like ice cream cones, fried rice and the frozen snacks -- like jalapeno poppers and pizza bites -- that my teen-aged son and his friends love.

Deep-Dish Pizza Supreme

Makes 2 dairy-free and gluten-free 9-inch pizzas 
Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus rising)
Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 recipe My Gluten-Free Sandwich Loaf Bread and Pizza Mix (recipe below), plus more for dusting

1¾ cups lukewarm water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
8 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup store-bought or homemade pizza sauce
1½ cups shredded dairy-free mozzarella-style cheese
2 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
12 small slices gluten-free pepperoni
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained, for sprinkling

Place the bread mix in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment and with the motor on low speed, add the water, eggs and 2 tablespoons of the oil until combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with a rack in the middle.

Divide the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil between two 9-inch round cake pans. On a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, roll each dough piece out to a 9-inch circle. Place in the pans, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.

Dollop each pizza round with half of the sauce, sprinkle with half of the mozzarella and top with half of the toppings.

Bake the pizzas until golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Remove each pizza to a cutting board and, using a pizza cutter or serrated knife, cut into 4 to 6 pieces and serve.

My Gluten-Free Sandwich Loaf Bread and Pizza Mix

Makes about 3 ½ cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yes, the ingredient list is long, but you won’t regret making this mix the second you slice into the just-baked bread. So what are my secrets? To make a high-protein bread flour, which helps with overall texture, I added rice protein powder. The vitamin C and baking powder give the bread a nice boost in height when the bread is baking, and the flaxseed meal and psyllium husk powder add body and contribute structure.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (160 g) cornstarch
½ cup (90 g) potato starch
½ cup (80 g) rice flour
½ cup (70 g) millet flour
¼ cup (53 g) golden flaxseed meal

¼ cup (27 g) raw organic rice protein powder, such as Growing Naturals

2 tablespoons (18 g) psyllium husk powder
2 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1½ teaspoons (9 g) salt
1 teaspoon (3 g) xanthan gum
2 tablespoons (30 g) granulated sugar
1¼-ounce (8.75 g) package active dry yeast
¼ teaspoon (500 mg) vitamin C powder

In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Transfer to an airtight storage container. (The mix keeps in a cool, dry place or refrigerated for up to 6 months.)

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

Recipes and photos excerpted from Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen© 2014 by Silvana Nardone. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Photos by John Kernick

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