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A great time for grain-free

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2008

T his week is Passover, a time when most Jews who are able will do something to celebrate. Many will forego most food containing grain products as well as leavening for eight long days. It can seem like forever, but it is no time at all for those people who need to avoid grain in their diet all the time.

All grain-free eaters among us can find an opportunity at Passover. Head to a supermarket with a selection of Passover foods and check labels. You should be able to find dairy- and grain-free versions of some items you might not have suspected of containing them in the first place. For example, many confectioners' sugars and baking powders contain small amounts of corn starch. Countless products contain grain-based sweeteners or added gluten.

Not so during Passover, for which the only acceptable grain comes in some form of matzoh (i.e. crackers which are pre-baked under special supervision) and is clearly indicated on the label. Passover products often feature potato as a versatile grain replacement too.

The holiday also provides fantastic tips for delicious grain-free and often dairy-free desserts that work anytime. Foremost is the Miracle of the Egg. Or perhaps that should be Miracles of the Eggs, since a recipe will likely call for many. Their whites whipped to perfection form a pillowy matrix for potato starch, finely ground nuts, chocolate, or almost anything flavorful that can be shredded finely enough to stay afloat. If you can settle for something less lofty, it is not always necessary to separate nor even whip all those eggs.

Try your hand at pumpkin-walnut potato gnocchi next time you feed a grain-free friend and you might make a friend forever, just by experimenting with potato starch. For dessert, let them eat cake!

Here's a delicious favorite, Pistachio Apricot Roll:

8 eggs, separated

12 Tbsp. sugar, divided in half

1¾ plus ⅛ cups unsalted, roasted, finely ground pistachio nuts

¼ cup potato starch

1 tsp. baking powder, optional

Apricot preserves, 1 cup, or pureed apricots

lemon juice and sugar to taste

Rosewater

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or oil a jelly roll pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Blend 1¾ cups pistachios, starch, and optional baking powder in a food processor or blender until mixed and fine.

Whisk egg yolks and 6 Tbsp. sugar to ribbon stage. Set aside.

Whisk egg whites to soft peaks with a clean whisk, then add remaining sugar gradually until the mixture forms firm, glossy peaks.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into yolk mixture, then half of nuts, half remaining whites, the rest of the nuts, and the rest of the whites.

Spread on prepared pan and bake 18-20 minutes until center springs back.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Turn out on a clean dish towel and roll cake with towel along short edge. Allow to cool.

Mix pureed apricots with one teaspoon of lemon juice and sugar to taste; or, gently heat apricot preserves until loose and spreadable. Add rosewater to apricots until mixture is aromatic and slightly rosey-tasting.

Gently unroll cake, spread with most of apricot filling, and re-roll.

Glaze with remaining filling and dust with extra ground nuts, super-fine sugar, cocoa powder, or cover with chocolate glaze. Enjoy!

• Andrea Mogil can be reached at PieintheSkyAK@aol.com.



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