Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sweet Potato Night

I have come a long way in the past nine months.

Back in February, Eliot and I hosted a dinner party for two of my friends. Our meal surrounded a bottle of vintage port I bought in Portugal while I studied abroad in Spain. I chose several tapas dishes and paella. Our friends would be bringing the dinner wine and dessert. I threw all of my energy into planning this (not that I had much energy at that point) and poured over Spanish recipes and made a shopping list in excel. The night before, I bought a loaf of bread, since many tapas are served on top of bread or the bread soaks up the sauce. The next morning, the bread was hard and I panicked. Chicago winters are bitterly cold and I lacked the energy to run to a grocery store. So I made some bread and even took pictures of it as it over doubled in size. With a whole Saturday to prepare for dinner, I even took pictures of some of the “presets” of the food. (Now, photographing my food is routine.) At the last minute, Eliot had to work until time to start cooking dinner so I needed to do some the prep work myself. We were both concerned about my ability to smash garlic gloves and marinate steak at the time. (I am pretty sure I managed to do it successfully; my cooking ability skyrocketed these past months.) During the dinner party, after eating some of my freshly baked bread and some other delicious food, I snuck away from the dinner table and vomited.

This past Friday, we hosted the same couple at my house. Eliot and I have become a huge fan of secret ingredient nights, where we focus on one food. (Remember tofu night where almost everything had to marinate or chill for an hour or two?) Our friends eagerly jumped at the idea and suggested sweet potatoes! The perfect fall dish! They would be bringing an appetizer and wine, Eliot would make the main course and I would handle dessert. And for fun, bread. This time around, things were done much more leisurely and the stove was not a flurry of activity (and dirty pots and pans.) They brought delicious spice-filled sweet potato latkes made with corn starch: finger foods that were quickly consumed. Eliot made a sweet potato shepherd’s pie that was smothered in goat cheese (two of us are lactose-intolerant but we can handle goat cheese without any problems). To make this safe for all, we used my frozen chicken stock, dairy-free butter and tablespoons of my gf baking flour mix for the recipe.

And me? I baked bread that used 1/3 cup of sweet potato puree and was garbanzo bean and brown rice flour based. The bread is very hearty. The first time I made it, I kneaded it one more time than recommended and had a very crumbly bread. This time, I followed instructions and the consistency was much better! I was not embarrassed to serve it to my gluten-loving guests. After all, I cannot imagine any sweet potato filled bread being considered light or fluffy.

When baking gluten free, there are two options: follow gf recipes or try a wheat-flour recipe and cross your fingers that your gf flours easily substitute. Because I unfortunately like challenges, I went with the later option and made this one:

I made the dough two nights before so I could bake a few test cookies and throw together another dessert if it turned out to be an epic failure. Thankfully, I was pleasantly shocked when the cookies turned out very well (and were fluffy – as cookies are supposed to be!) when I substituted my gf flour mix (as found in Cooking for Isaiah) one-for-one. They are very easy to make and the dough keeps well in the refrigerator. While we were sitting around chatting after dinner, I was able to sneak away to my kitchen and scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet. These cookies were winners! Everyone loved them.

Cooking with food intolerances or allergies can be challenging. I’m always impressed and amazed that my friends can be so accommodating and willing to try new foods. Our lactose-intolerant friend said he nearly forgot that he did not need to take a pill before eating (he is one of those lucky people who can take Lactaid before eating dairy) since everything would be dairy-free. Eliot was amazed that he could still have a cookie. And me? I was thrilled that I could eat everything in front of me worry-free. And keep it all in my stomach this time!

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