Mom’s Gluten-free Focaccia

Food has a funny history in my family, or families, I should say. My dad is a steak and potatoes kind of guy. He can and will eat anything. But I grew up with my mom. Our eating likes, dislikes, and allergies make for a more interesting endeavor at a meal. Lucky for me, my mom has always been a good, adventurous cook.

Mom eats meat. I stopped at 13. She won’t eat fish, so I never did. Call it a texture thing; I’m weird about segmented foods. Sis came along when I was nine and a half. When she started gnawing on teething biscuits, mom realized they were both allergic to gluten. We’re all okay with eggs, but I only accept them in baked goods. More recently, I’ve realized I’m allergic to dairy.

When we get together, we eat a lot of rice, avocado, corn, and beans. Mexican food is a forever favorite. We can all agree on chocolate, but it doesn’t exactly make a meal.

One of my favorite experiments from the early years was mom’s rice cake pizza, which later morphed into polenta pizza. A few years back, she topped herself with this recipe. You can make it plain or add toppings to it like any focaccia. If you eat cheese, tuck some of your favorite shreds or slices into this deliciousness before you pop it in the oven. Mom and sis chomp it that way. And holy moly, if you have Maldon salt, use it.

Gluten-free Focaccia

Serves 2–3

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened yogurt (soy’s fine)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups of your fave gf flour
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • a pinch of baking soda
  • spices and toppings
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 375°. Coat a half sheet pan with three generous glugs of olive oil. Have two large bowls ready.

Measure and mix the wet ingredients in one bowl. Then, measure and mix the dry ingredients in the other bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing just enough to combine.

Pour the dough into the oiled baking sheet and spread it out with a large spoon or spatula.

Dribble a bit more olive oil on the surface. Add your toppings and spices. We used roasted garlic, sliced roma tomatoes, oregano, olives, and macerated onions. Whatever sounds good.

Slide the bread into the hot oven. Let it bake for 20–30 minutes. When it’s done, it should be fluffy, golden brown, and cooked through.

Let it cool for a minute, slice it, and then go to town.

The Sweet in the Sour

Sliced Rhubarb

Although I’d like to say I fell madly and deeply in love with rhubarb right around the time I fell for friendlier fruits like blueberries and strawberries, I didn’t.

I fell in love with rhubarb about a year ago as my palate matured, when I started enjoying swiss chard and brussel sprouts. But unlike swiss chard and brussel sprouts, this tough, celery-like stalk does not improve with a little fresh garlic and olive oil. You have to play with rhubarb, coax it into submission, and draw out its sweet subtleties. This process finally came to fruition after about a year of dabbling in rhubarb muffins and upside down cakes. Although delicious, the flavors didn’t meld well. It was either undercooked, syrupy sweet, or just plain acerbic.

Rhubarb
Photos by Colin Price

Finding myself alone in the kitchen on a gray Saturday afternoon, I desperately diced, sprinkled, stirred, and taste tested, hoping for something warm, charming, and edible. Something I could store in mason jars, and for the next five Christmases, hand them out to family and friends amid “oohs,” “aaaahs,” and “just what I hoped fors.” And after about 25 minutes of stirring, adding, and breaking down, it happened.

At first, I burned my tongue and had a moment, but there it was: the perfect mix of soft fruit and warm syrup sitting on my little stovetop. I felt victorious, elated, and hungry. After years of enjoying others’ rhubarb pies, I had finally discovered the potential of this funny looking vegetable—and yes, it is a vegetable. I drizzled it over a slice of olive oil lemon cake, added some yogurt, was content, and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

I’m certain that I’ll never be able to recreate that flawlessness again. I have the memory of that day I was the executive chef for myself, a world explorer in my modest kitchen. I’d like to think that I learned a lesson: sticking with something that is bitter and coarse long enough, enveloping it with sweetness and warmth, and just waiting might draw out the comfort you’ve been looking for all along.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 2 long stalks of rhubarb
  • 12 fresh strawberries
  • sugar — 1 cup
  • honey — 1/4 cup
  • fresh lemon juice — 2 tbsp.
  • fresh orange juice — 1 cup

Method

Remove the stems from the strawberries. Then, slice the rhubarb into small, thin pieces.

Combine the ingredients in a small pot on medium high heat. Allow the mixture to boil for about 5 minutes, and then bring it down to a simmer. Reduce the compote for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

The compote’s done when the strawberries are completely soft and broken down, and the rhubarb is mostly broken down and slightly transparent. There should be plenty of red juice; the chunks of fruit give it a delicious texture.

Drizzle the compote over your favorite dessert or let it cool and use a bit of it in a cocktail.