Alas, the heaven that is gluten, the source of lofty loafs, crusty crusts, perfect pizzas, doughy delights, this panacea of palette pleasing pleasure (and inspiration for unending alliteration, too, apparently), is my private digestive hell. I confess here and now that I am gluten intolerant. Yes. So sad.
For me eating gluten creates a combination of symptoms that have no business being described in a food blog, so I won't, but it is not pretty, I can tell you that. The "opportunity" now, (this is the word we use when we screw up our optimism and decide that lemonade must indeed be made from all the lemons that are raining down on us) yes, the opportunity, is to research, test, adapt and create amazing food that is gluten-free, and share it with you here. I'll still be offering recipes that contain grains. As a chef and culinary instructor who has to constantly develop new and fun menus for my clients to explore, I can't stop playing with all kinds of food, so this is NOT going to be a gluten and grain free site. But, in truth, I've been exploring a lot of grain-free cooking lately because my husband, Dr. Doug, has been teaching and personally following a diet and lifestyle plan he calls Quantum Paleo (new website under construction, but you can link to his old one, The Health Fixer). He teaches it as an online seminar and corporate team and health building workshop (groups in an office setting competing against each other to lose weight) and the diet is largely grain-free. He lost 28 pounds doing it, so who am I to complain if this is how he expresses his mid-life crises! I took this of him at a family bbq with an app on my iphone called Hipstamatic, that takes pics in a cool retro 80's style in black and white or color.
I'll be launching a page on this site about Paleo cooking and eating...called Paleo-licious, to give a more detailed description of this philosophy for anyone interested, but in the meanwhile, let's get back to these addictive crackers, shall we?
You see, they are delicious. And crunchy. And satisfying. And you can pile stuff on them, just like a regular cracker, but no grains, no gluten. Just tons of flavor and only five ingredients. Almond meal, olive oil, grated parm/pecorino, water and herbs. All protein and good-for-you fats. I love these so much I've turned this "dough" into a pie crust for a variation on a savory Zucchini Tart which is a whole other story. (Next post, I promise!)
Almond meal may be a challenge to find in a regular grocery store, but you can always make it at home by finely grinding blanched almonds in a food processor. I've found it at Whole Foods, Fairway (NYC). Find it online at Bob's Red Mill.
herb and almond cheese crackers
adapted from Primal BluePrint Cookbook, Mark Sisson
Makes approximately 15-18 crackers
2 cups fine almond meal
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or thyme, oregano, parsley, herbs de provence or any combination you like. Using dried herbs in a pinch will do, but fresh, of course, will pack more flavor.)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (please, no grocery store kind in the big green cylander. Good grated versions are usually available in your supermarket's deli or specialty cheese section.)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cold water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and combine to form a moist, sticky mass of "dough." If it seems too dry to come together, you can add more water or oil as needed.
2. Transfer the dough to a SilPat or parchement lined, or lightly grease baking sheet. With damp fingers, flatten the dough out into a thin rectangle measuring about 10x8 inches or so. It does not have to be perfect...but around that size will five you thin, crispy crackers.
3. Sprinkle the dough with sea salt or kosher salt on top if desired (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, caraway, can all work nicely here too for more crunch and added flavor.). I like to score the dough into strips or squares (scoring means cutting a shallow line across the dough, but not cutting all the way through the dough.) It makes it easier to break up into neat little crackers or any size. Or I have also used a pastry cutter, (round, scalloped or square) to cut shapes out of the dough before baking.
4. Place the sheet of scored or cut dough in the heated oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the dough looks dry and golden in appearance. The edges will brown darker than the middle, so pull them out when the edges are deep golden and the middle is lighter, but still has color. If you didn't score or cut the dough before baking, wait until the dough has cooled to do so. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut up into cracker-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container, if making ahead. Will last up to a week or longer, if refrigerated, but trust me, you won't have these hanging around that long.
Note to Paleo dieters: some of you consume dairy, some don't, so these may or may not fit into your everyday diet. But as a treat, eaten in moderation, they are fantastic, high protein and grain-free.
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