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Chef Patti Anastasia
Serving Southern New Hampshire since 2003
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Table Talk » Gluten-free culinary heaven (part 1)
I had the pleasure of attending two days of the Gluten-Free Culinary Summit this past weekend. I couldn't attend all three days because on Friday I was flying home from vacation.
Suzanne Bowland of GF Culinary Productions did an outstanding job of organizing and running the summit. For her, it is truly a labor of love. The summit presentations focused on an abundance of delicious gluten-free food. The presenters and attendees offered delicious recipes and tips. The room was always abuzz with positive energy and excitement about good food.
Saturday started with Jacqueline Mallorca, author of The Wheat-Free Cook, presenting an overview of the future of gluten-free gastromony, then headed right into cooking demos complete with tastings.
In a session titled Paradise Found Celebrating the Art of Gluten-Free Desserts, Chef Dean Lavornia demonstrated a Honey Pecan Tart with a Gingerbread Crust. It would be a perfect Thanksgiving dessert. Like pecan pie, only better. It was very sweet, but delicious. The gingerbread crust was perfect. Chef Lavornia told us how to use the crust recipe to make graham crackers, gingerbread house parts, and gingerbread cookies. Pecan pie and similar desserts are too sweet for me to eat more than a bite or two. Our tasting pieces were 1 1/2 inch squares and that was perfect for me. I know that I'm going to be using the gingerbread crust recipe.
Next, Chef Joel Schaefer, Manager of Product Development & Special Diets for Walt Disney World, presented a session called Much Ado About Dumplings! When I think of dumplings, I think of Chinese dumplings, dim sum, etc. But Chef Shaefer's demonstration was for Chicken and Dumpling Soup. It wasn't Chinese dumplings, but it was delicious. The dumplings were gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free. Perfect comfort food. I wanted a bowl of this for lunch.
Chef Robert Landolphi, Director of Culinary Operations at UCONN, presented Brave New Bisques and Breadings. Chef Landolphi made Creamy Shrimp Bisque, which used rice rather than a roux to thicken the bisque. I was really happy when I saw this soup on the lunch buffet. While the soup was simmering, he demoed Tri-Spiced Onion Rings with Horseradish Dipping Sauce. The room was buzzing with excitement about the onion rings. Many of the attendees had not had onion rings in years and were delighted to have an onion ring recipe that they could eat. The batter used gluten-free beer. The breading was spiked with chili powder and cumin. The dipping sauce sour cream, ketchup, seasoned salt, horseradish, cayenne, and paprika. It could easily be made dairy-free by using soy sour cream. When the samples were passed out, there was silence in the room, then a collective sigh of contentment. I know a lot of people will be making onion rings at home this week. Chef Landolphi talked a lot about the special diet operations at UCONN. It was impressive. Every cafeteria provides gluten-free options so students are not limited to eating in just one cafeteria. Every item in the cafeteria is labeled with potential allergens so that students don't have to ask about every item. Gluten-free snacks and cereals are available in a special case at all times. UCONN works hard to make students with special diet needs feel normal.
Lori Sobelson of Bob's Red Mill walked us through many recipes in a 30-page booklet of gluten-free recipes provided by her company. One recipe that she talked about, a hazelnut quinoa salad, was one of the dishes included in our lunch on Sunday. Quinoa, hazelnuts, red grapes, and green onions with a strawberry-balsamic dressing. It was light and refreshing.
The last session on Sunday was presented by Chef Walter Potenza. Chef Potenza demoed three dishes: Castagnaccio (flat chestnut cake), farinata (similar to polenta, but made using chickpea flour), and Tortino di cioccolato et bieta rossa (chocolate and red beets molten tart). The tart was made with Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake mix. The only "added" sugar in the cake was in the bittersweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons of strawberry spreadable fruit. The recipe makes 12 servings and includes 1/2 cup beet puree. I love beets, but you would never know that there are beets in this cake. This was the recipe we tasted in this session. It was the hit of the day. I'm making plans to make this cake for some of my clients.
At the end of these sessions, there was a question and answer time with all of the presenters. Any questions that didn't get answered during the sessions were answered. Presenters and attendees offered lots of advice during this session.
And that was just the beginning. Saturday ended with a four-course gluten-free dinner. More about that in Part 2.
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