gluten-free bruschetta

I don’t understand how anyone – least of all a uni student living on her own in a bubble of social narcissism – can be expected to remember such occurrences as Daylight Savings.

Just, what? No.

So of course I woke up at close to 11am after having set an alarm for 9:30, and am still recovering from the disorientation of having had an entire hour taken away from me. It’s a good mental justification for not being able to wanting to get work done. Like, that hour could have been spent writing one of the fourteen hundred papers I have due in a week, but, alas, no longer.

Guess I don’t have time for anything save for lying on the couch and writing this entry.

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Speaking of which, this hiatus has been glorious. And by ‘glorious’ I mean ‘I can’t believe it’s been a month.’ At least, now, I’ll have some time to think. Spring vacation begins tomorrow. I, of course, fully plan on spending the week catching up on sleep, books, and Mass Effect.

[And a thesis plus those fourteen hundred papers or something, but factoring that in makes me cripplingly depressed so I’ll refuse to think about them until I must.]

It’s been a busy four weeks, besides, so I think some time to myself will be well-earned. Between work, uni, and my cousins’ wedding, it’s been a blur of emotion. Most of all, I am beginning to feel as though I’m doing fourth year wrong. I should be taking 4 classes (none of which begin before noon, one of which is an African dance class), and spending my nights out at house parties and bars, making bad decisions all over the place. Or at least, that’s what all the fourth years told me as a second year: it would be the best semester of my life.

Uh, wrong. Not that it’s been a bad semester, per se. Well, some of it has. But I’ve been recovering from that. Now, it’s just, busy. Too busy, and too draining. I feel like that kid in Paperman, crafting paper planes until there are none left to make, and yet missing the window every single time.

But, I don’t like to complain. That takes up too much energy in and of itself. And things have been good, too. The weather’s finally improving, vacation means a week to sleep in, I got a free jar of fig jam from Whole Foods recently, and Sherlock begins filming its third season on March 18. My cousin got married a few weeks ago as well, which was hugely exciting. He’s the first on my mum’s side to do so, which means that all the marriage nagging will begin sooner than I’d like, but it was a really lovely event. Lots of family coming in from out of town, celebrating three enormous parties with too-much-food and brilliantly colorful outfits.

Nitya wasn’t able to make the wedding, so instead drove out to Cville for the weekend to catch up, eat, and berate me for my expanding, unworn shoe collection. But she brought a cheese-making kit and 9 cups of almond flour with her, so the least I could do is oblige and wear a pair today.

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Gluten-free bread
Adapted from elana’s pantry
Yields one loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp agave nectar

Method:

Preheat oven at 350F and thoroughly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine almond meal, arrowroot powder, ground flaxseed, salt, and baking powder. Whisk until well-blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs on medium-high speed until frothy. Pour in white vinegar and agave, and blend. Gently pour the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix until a batter forms. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 30-35 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into the center of the loaf.

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Mozzarella
Adapted from FOOD52
Yields 1 pound cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon non-homogenized full-fat milk
  • 1/4 vegetarian rennet enzyme tablet
  • 1/4 cup cold, filtered water (for rennet)
  • 1 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 1 cup cold, filtered water (for citric acid)
  • non-iodized coarse sea salt, to taste

Method:

In a small bowl, mix the rennet tablet with 1/4 cup water to dissolve. In another small bowl, mix the citric acid with 1 cup water to dissolve.

Pour the milk into a large stockpot and heat over a medium flame. After 8-10 mins (the temperature should be about 85F), add the citric acid solution. Use a slotted spoon to give the milk a few gentle stirs for about 20 seconds. Allow milk to heat for another 5 or so mins (temperature should be at 100F), and add the rennet solution. Gently stir the milk for about 30 seconds. Curds will begin to form, so be wary of breaking them apart.

Allow temperature to increase for another 2 mins or so (should be at 105F), then shut off the heat and cover the pot. Let milk sit for 10 mins. The curds should start coming together to form a solid mass, and the whey will have a yellowish tint. To gauge doneness, press the back of a teaspoon into the curds – if the indentation stays, then it’s ready. If not, cover, and let sit for another 3 or 4 mins.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Gently pour the curds and whey into the strainer and allow the whey to drain out of the curds into the bowl. Using a spoon, very gently press against the curds to release more whey. The curds should feel firm, to indicate that they’re ready for kneading.

Begin folding the curds over, using your hand or the back of a spoon if curds are still too hot. Once they’ve cooled enough to handle, knead and stretch the cheese. If the curds aren’t quite malleable enough, pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds. The more the cheese is stretched, the firmer it becomes, so keep in mind and stretch until cheese achieves the desired consistency. Wrap cheese in clingfilm and refrigerate until eating. Cheese will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Slice and eat with shredded basil and tomatoes, or layer over bread with pesto and chopped tomatoes.

Notes:

  • The recipe yields quite a few cups of leftover whey. Use for making ricotta, or keep in mason jars and use in smoothies.

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Nitya and I have quite a bit in common. Academic aspirations for professorship in political theory and philosophy (respectively), a 12-year friendship, a love for Supernatural and Arrested Development, and a penchant for DIY culinary projects. My brief bout of canning last summer was inspired by her Facebook-ing articles and images my way, and after joining Pinterest, we’ve both got an extensive collection of experiments to attempt. This weekend was gluten-free bread and homemade cheese.

I’ve always been a self-sufficient person. Independent to a fault – or so I’ve been told – and loathe to rely on someone else for anything other than removing stinkbugs from my apartment. One of my secret dreams (besides being a Renaissance Man and Leonardo da Vinci’s lover) is packing up everything I own, moving out to the countryside in Ireland, and living purely off the land in a cottage overlooking the sea. Romantic, I suppose, but also intense. I mean, I want the full package. An enormous vegetable garden, fruit and nut trees, cows and chickens for eggs and churning my own butter and yogurt, furniture made out of trees chopped down with my bare hands. [Nitya shares a similar dream.]

Still, knowing that I probably wouldn’t survive three months in such conditions, let alone the rest of my life, I’ll resort to little things here and there. Desires to grind my own nut flours, whisk together my own hair and facial products out of egg yolks and honeys, and culture my own yogurts, jams, and infused oils. I haven’t actually tried any of those yet, but they are dreams that, I think, are a bit more achievable than my Irish cottage-farm.

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And, you know, now that I’ve made my own cheese, I will never purchase a $10 ball of wholesale mozzarella again. Top priority on my Amazon wishlist is a 10-tablet pack of vegetarian Rennet enzyme, and I will be spending the entirety of my summer perfecting the mozzarella/whey ricotta technique. The homemade batch turned out unbelievably delicious, and Nitya, Noosh, and I managed to waste the entire loaf of bread and batch of cheese on bruschetta in what was, I kid you not, one of the most satisfying meals of my life. Reminiscent of Nitya’s and my picnic outside of a nondescript art museum in a nondescript city in Sicily, day-old buffalo mozzarella and Italian tomatoes running rivulets of juice through our teenage fingers.

Not quite the same as sitting on the floor in my tiny apartment living room, but the sheer contentedness took us back.

I have, since then, promised Nitya that I, along with wearing my shoes, will try – at least once a week – to cook up a recipe from one of the 100 cookbooks I own. I’ve succeeded on the shoe front for today, so here’s to hoping that I’ll update with a bit more frequency in future.

For now, it’s time to bake more bread and get started on those papers. Maybe this break won’t be totally stress-free, but it’s hard to complain when there’s a good meal to look forward to.

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