Joni Woolf: Gluten-free cooking easier with summer vegetable markets
Published 9:37 am Monday, July 23, 2018
Cooking for my family has been a relatively easy task, with the notable exception of an occasional finicky eater. But none have had allergies to consider and meal preparation could be a little careless sometimes (and sometimes even a bit slapdash — like a hot-dog on the run to a child’s ballgame). So my cooking methods, learned from my mother, have been home-grown and informed by tradition, with an occasional sojourn into lovely cookbooks.
So when I was faced with preparing a gluten-free meal for a friend, someone I really wanted to visit with around the dining table, I had to think a bit. I had to cook with a bit of intelligence, not merely instinct or habit. Of course I try new recipes all the time (I write about food every week, so I make attempts at being informed). But adding a gluten-free requirement meant actually thinking.
It did not take long. Returning from Macon the other day, I stopped in Montezuma at Brown’s Farm Market, looking for the famous Elberta peach (which still has not arrived). But before my eyes were vegetables of every color and description, and not a bit of gluten in any of them. Butterbeans, creamer peas, okra, tomatoes — all fresh and clean and shelled — ready for cooking. Then I stopped by Chase Farms corn stand and picked up two dozen ears of their current variety (which always means 26 ears — the famous Baker’s Dozen), and I had a meal ready for cooking.
I was disappointed that the Elbertas had not arrived. But there was a new peach, one called August Prince, which looked enough like an Elberta to fool me for a moment, so I bought a box of those — most for making preserves, but a few for the perfect gluten-free dessert: the Australian delight called Pavlova. I have written about this dessert before, but it’s been a couple of years, so it bears repeating — first, because it is easy and delicious, and second, because it is reasonably healthy for most of us, if you don’t count the whipped cream. (I don’t count it; I just eat it and enjoy.) It combines an easy meringue with whipped cream and fruit, and though it can be enjoyed throughout the year, it is especially delicious — and beautiful — when topped with a fruit arrangement that includes a Georgia peach. You almost cannot go wrong with this one. So try it while peaches are abundant, and delight family and friends.
5 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg whites in electric mixer until foamy, add sugar slowly, beating until stiff peaks form. In separate bowl, mix together vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth. Pour cornstarch mixture into egg white mixture and beat until thick and glossy, about 4 minutes. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper and draw an 8-inch circle in the center (I do this in my mind’s eye, not literally. And though the recipe does not require it, I spray the parchment paper with a little PAM, just to be sure I can remove the Pavlova without breaking it). Spoon mixture inside the circle. Place in preheated oven, reduce temperature to 200 degrees F. and bake 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave Pavlova inside to cool. If you are making this in the evening for the next day, you can leave it overnight. To serve, move the Pavlova to a plate-size serving dish. Whip 1 pint whipping cream to which you have added 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover the Pavlova with the whipping cream. Then top it off with a mixture of your favorite fruits. I will serve this one with a mixture of fresh peaches, sliced; strawberries, sliced; and blueberries. Bananas are also good with this dessert, but if you use them, save them until the last minute. After slicing them, sprinkle them all over with lemon juice to prevent them turning brown.
This is an easy dessert — make ahead, whip the cream the day before, slice the fruits and put in air-tight containers, and all you need to do on the day of your luncheon (or dinner) is put it all together. It never fails to impress, and you needn’t confess how easy it was to prepare.
And there’s no gluten anywhere.
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at email@example.com