TRUTH. With a capital T.
On the way to saving your life there are moments that stir up a thousand kinds of trouble. Denial. Anger. Grief. Desire. The last one is the trouble I hear about the most here on Gluten-Free Goddess. The slow burn of longing. Comments and letters asking, sometimes pleading, pining, always hungry for some beloved recipe one can no longer consume. Due to evil gluten. Food is an emotional issue. Charged with hot spots and invisible buttons that can be pushed and engaged by a myriad of things. A scent. A circumstance. A holiday. Food can equal love. Evoke comfort. Mom. Or lack of Mom. Food can feel like self care and nourishment. But it can also be a fence. A barrier erected to survive. A way to numb. Escape. Live three feet from yourself.
Because some days it's hard to be a human being.
Sometimes I get tired of blogging about food. Sharing recipes. Because in all transparency, I don't feel like a foodie. I don't build my day around a meal or shopping for ingredients. Food is fuel. And often (in my house) food is an after thought. As in, Sweet Tap Dancing Bodhisattva, I'm starving. It's six PM. And I have nothing in the fridge except a jar of organic peanut butter.
The un-foodie truth is, I sometimes resent the fact that I have to stop what I am doing and eat. It interrupts my flow. My doing flow. My thinking flow. My reading flow. Cooking takes time. And energy. And a certain level of focus (if one wishes to avoid burning the last clove of garlic, anyway). Cooking takes planning. One has to remember to physically get to the market now and then (which requires driving, another activity preferably avoided, right up there with drafting grocery lists). Avoiding said planning, one can far too easily find oneself without a scrap of dark chocolate in the house.
Chocolate may be the primary reason I get to the grocery store at all.
Before I discovered I had celiac disease, I ate simply. I was a vegetarian. Food was no big whup. As long as I had a bag of brown rice in the pantry, I was golden. I stir-fried veggies. I bought French baguettes daily. I baked the occasional chocolate chip brownie. But I wasn't hyper-focused on every single morsel that went into my mouth. I was loose and free, and true, I cooked. But food was more of a natural expression of my life as an artist and a mother. Cooking was as organic as breathing, a creative thing that didn't require surgical precision. I cooked simple, down to earth food. The kids grew up well fed and acquainted with pasta and fresh basil, olive oil, pumpkin soup. And real mac and cheese. Today both sons are amazing, intuitive cooks.
But when celiac disease made its appearance (in vivid ways you don't want to know about, Sweetpea) it complicated everything. Spontaneity (my favorite trait) atrophied. My easy going relationship with food morphed into an anxious love-hate alliance. Yes, I rolled up my can-do sleeves and problem solved. I did. I was a good sport. I tackled gluten-free head on. And I've been churning out gluten-free recipes for ten years. And dairy-free for
four five years. I'm no slacker. But.
I wish I was "normal". As in, I wish I could grab a crusty bakery baguette and a salty wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano for dinner. Like I used to. When making art was romantic and love was new.
Which gets me nowhere.
Except back to the place I started.
Yesterday I craved an easy old favorite. Zucchini gratin. You know the one. Classic Italian comfort food, hot from the oven, bubbling with pan-tossed zucchini and garlic in a creamy cheesy sauce topped with Italian herbed bread crumbs. Zucchini gratin is the perfect marriage of tenderness and flavor. Melted gooey cheese and toasty crumbs. Gluten-free and dairy-free.
Wait. What? Seriously?
Yes, Darling. A gratin to love. Even if you aren't a foodie and need to avoid gluten and dairy like the plague, doesn't mean you have to give up a lovely, cheesy, comforting gratin.
It just means you have to plan a little.
And make a list.
And then. You can eat.
Because it's so freakin' tap-dancing good.
Karina's Gluten-Free Zucchini Gratin RecipeRecipe posted September 2011 by Karina Allrich.
Zucchini gratin is an easy home cooked side dish that will entice even veggie avoiders to indulge. If you don't need to be dairy-free, use milk and shredded mozzarella cheese.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, as needed
4 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
Sea salt, to taste
2 organic free range eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk or milk
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves
1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
2 tablespoons almond meal
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded vegan cheese or mozzarella
Fresh chopped Italian parsley, for serving
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Lightly oil an 8-inch square baking dish or two 8-inch oval gratin dishes. Set aside.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet, using medium-high heat, and add the zucchini slices and garlic. Season with sea salt. Shake and toss the zucchini to cook lightly- just until tender-crisp.
Spoon the zucchini into the baking/gratin dish.
Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil leaves.
In a large measuring cup, beat the eggs with a fork. Add in the soy milk and beat till combined.
Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini. Top with most of the vegan cheese.
In a small mixing bowl toss the gluten-free bread crumbs with the almond meal, dried Italian herbs, and one tablespoon olive oil.
Spoon the oiled bread crumbs on top.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Loosely tent the gratin with a piece of foil.
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes or so, until hot and bubbling. Remove the foil and cook for another 5 minutes if the top needs needs browning.
Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com
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To make your own gluten-free bread crumbs (highly, highly recommended), use two toasted plain waffles or two slices of your favorite gluten-free bread, processed into crumbs.
If you are avoiding nuts, replace the almond meal with more GF bread crumbs.
To replace the eggs, thicken the sauce with gluten-free flour: Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a saucepan. Add two tablespoons sweet rice flour; whisk to combine. Cook for a minute. Add the soy milk, stirring to warm through and thicken. Pour over the zucchini slices.
If you prefer to use milk and dairy based cheese, I think goat cheese or good Parmesan would be lovely, as would fresh mozzarella.
More gluten-free gratin recipes:
Andrea Meyers - Zucchini Tomato Gratin
Karina's Pesto Zucchini Tomato Gratin
Pinch My Salt - Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
Kalyn's Kitchen - Zucchini Bake with Feta and Thyme