Take one best friend from sixth grade on, add an amazing woman who writes about food and being gluten-free. Mix vigorously during a Food Network shoot in Seattle, and deliver the delicious results to my life. Oh, and save my husband in the process.
Readers of Gluten-Free Girl, you may recognize me as Nina, or La Niña, or the other half of Nina and Booth. I have been blessed by Shauna, Danny, and now Lucy entering my life. By trade, I am a childrens book author and illustrator (you can visit my site here), but this is a different sort of story I am about to tell and yes, there is a recipe, too.
The back story:
In a nutshell, I grew up in the New York City metro area. My parents were both artists: creative, cultured, and volatile. When I was eleven years old we moved from Rego Park, Queens, in New York City, to a two hundred year old farmstead in Rockland County, about thirty miles north up the west side of the Hudson River. My father never moved in. He ran off with my brothers first grade teacher, leaving my mother, brother, a menagerie of animals, and me to fend for ourselves. I was an outcast in many ways, and I had to enter sixth grade, the last year in elementary school, when friendships were already formed, protected and locked with a clique.
Enter Judy Korin. Tall, redhead, also an artist. A friendship sprouted.
Judys and my friendship blossomed, grew, and we have remained friends through all these years, through relationships that have come and gone, through moves all over the country (me) and the world (her), and weve shared not only our artistic quests and accomplishments, but weve always shared a love, a passion, an obsession for food. (And were both Capricorns goat girls all the way)
You may have read in Shaunas archives about her being filmed for the Food Network. Judys company, Seesaw Studios, did a wonderful series for the Food Network called The Power of Food, and Shauna was featured in May of 2006. Judy lives in Los Angeles and she flew to Seattle to film. Of course she stayed with me. Judy did part of her shoot at the Seattle University District Farmers Market, and I used to shop there every Saturday, so I did my shopping, watched Judy filming, and briefly met Shauna, who had just started dating The Chef.
After Judy wrapped her shoot, she did something she had never done before: she played matchmaker. Not in the conventional sense, mind you. Ive been happily married and with Booth for almost twenty years. Judy had just spent days with Shauna, and she had decided that we both were writers, we both loved food, and we both lived in Seattle. It was a recipe for friendship.
Shauna and I hit it off immediately. We walked, talked, rollerbladed, and ate. We had dinners at our home in Seattle, and at our cottage on the island. I was, like most people, completely ignorant of celiac disease, but Shauna educated me, and Booth and I (both of us cook) carefully prepared gluten-free food when we hosted Shauna and The Chef. At this point, the extent of our knowledge of wheat and gluten allergies were superficial, but the proverbial yeast was in the dough, and it was about to rise.
My husband, Booth, has always been a very physically active man. He loves the outdoors, and he loves taking in life in huge gulps. He also shares a similar affection for hoppy microbrews, crusty bread, my baked goods, pastas with pesto, and food on gourmet gustatory levels. For most of his life, with me, and before me, he was healthy. Robust, you might say. But something had shifted, and a few years ago he started having a mystifying set of symptoms some of which had always been a part of his life, but he chose to ignore them. I have a very active system, hed tell me. Our doctor diagnosed him with arthritis because of his joint pain, and she said his rash was psoriasis. She was wrong.
Last Thanksgiving, November of 2007, things came to a head. After the feast that I had spent three days cooking and baking, Booth broke down and cried. He was in so much pain, and though he had tried to diagnose himself on the internet, he just could not figure out what was wrong. He did not want to live like this, and I was desperate to get him healthy again.
Shauna and I met for coffee in a little café in Queen Anne, a lovely neighborhood in Seattle that I get lost in easily. This was two days after Thanksgiving, and I was totally at a loss for what to do about Booth. I told her all of his strange symptoms, and when I mentioned his active system, she looked at me seriously and said, He has Celiac. Get him tested.
Long story short:
Booth has celiac. Shauna saved his life. Judy brought us together. There is no better cure than friendship. We all add so much to each others lives.
Its not about the food, its about the love.
Ninas Gluten-Free Berry Custard Tart
I have baked since I was in junior high. The first pie I made was a French apple crumb affair that my brother tried to steal before we had dinner. I whacked him in the back with a kitchen chair to keep him from eating it too soon. Im very protective of my desserts. However Im not protective of the recipes. My biggest challenge when we went gluten-free was baking. Baking is in my blood. My Russian grandmother taught me to make her chocolate chip cookies as a child. My most proud moment was figuring out how to make the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I could. Shauna featured them on this site.
Two weeks ago Judy and her friend John came to visit us on the island. We bought eleven (yes, eleven) pounds of blueberries from a local farm, and I made a gluten-free blueberry custard tart. Judy took the photo. We all ate it like wolves
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup almond flour (Trader Joes sells this)
½ cup Teff Ivory flour
¼ cup flax seed meal (Bobs Red Mill)
¼ cup sweet rice flour (Mochi)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
butter for parchment paper
pie weights or raw rice
Process the sugar, flours, meal and salt in a food processor briefly so they are combined. Then add butter and process until it has a crumbly cornmeal texture. Add the egg and process just until the dough comes together.
Put a 9 tart pan with removable bottom on top of a baking sheet. (I use a non-stick tart pan.) Cut a circle of parchment paper with scissors to match the bottom of the tart pan. Save this for later. Plop the dough into the middle of the tart pan and using your hands, form it against the sides, and then the bottom of the pan so you have an even layer. If the dough sticks to your hands, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. Most recipes say to let the crust sit in the fridge for an hour before baking, but Im not that patient.
Preheat the oven to 400ºf. Take your saved circular piece of parchment paper and butter it generously on one side. Flip the buttered side down on the raw crust dough. Put pie weights or a pile of raw rice on top. This will keep your tart dough from rising while baking. Bake until the top edge is lightly browned, 16 minutes or so. Reduce oven heat to 350ºf. Remove the tart shell from oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Take out pie weights or rice, then carefully lift out parchment paper with any remaining rice on it. Repair any damage in crust by pressing, then bake the crust 8 to 10 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Let cool.
1 cup milk (I use ½ cream and ½ 1% milk)
½ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons sweet rice flour (Mochi)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until hot, but not boiling. Mix sugar, rice flour and salt in a bowl, stir in the hot milk and whisk until well-blended. Pour back into pan and keep stirring over low heat for 4-5 minutes until thick and smooth. Add egg yolks, stir until well-combined and cook a few more minutes. Cool, stirring occasionally, and add vanilla and mix.
Berries and finishing
1-2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a mix)
Spatula custard into cooled tart shell. Artistically place, or dump berries on top of custard. Remove outer ring from tart pan carefully cut and serve!