Every year come Passover there is the great dessert dilemma. Do I try to fake the cake using matzo meal, or forgo carbs and make meringues? A few years back I put out fruit with a dark chocolate fondue, but you can really pull that rabbit out of the hat just once. Invariably, I would pause on almonds, which are delicious, protein filled, fragrant, and fraught with biblical meaning. Many scholars believe that Moses’ rod was an almond branch, as was Aaron’s. It is also believed by some that the staff of the messiah will be an almond branch.
But until recently, almonds eluded me, having found scant recipe resources and remaining confused about how to prepare them. Enter Elana Amsterdam, her blog (Elana’s Pantry), and her book, the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. Amsterdam follows a year round gluten free diet to help her and her son manage their celiac disease. She has done extensive research on gluten alternatives and emerges a triumphant advocate of the almond. I reached out to Elana for some more details on her research, choices, and best practices. She writes, ”I am one of those people that has a lot of fun researching food, products and issues. While I had always been curious and inquisitive, I truly learned the crafts of research, analysis and writing when I attended Columbia College at Columbia University (I was in the 3rd co-ed class!). I like almond flour because it is tasty, easy to use and super nutritious. It didn’t take long for me to take a real shine to this product.”
The proof is in the pudding. And matzo balls. And vegan pastry cream. And parve coconut cream frosting (no shortening!). And pancakes. And banana bread. Amsterdam has come up with amazing, gluten free, generally parve, delicious recipes for year round, but of course are especially useful for Passover. Amsterdam is Jewish, and describes her food philosophy as ‘eco-kosher’. She admires the work of Arthur Wasko, and tries to maintain an even handed, open approach to food and eating. ”I think eating is a very personal choice and do not find it to be part of my process to judge how other people eat –it is so very individual. I do have quite a few different types of people with an affinity for my website –whole food advocates, vegans, etc. My eating choices are shaped by my idea that we are all bio-chemical individuals and there is no “one size fits all” eating plan. Therefore, I have done a lot of experimentation in terms of eating and my own constitution. In my 20′s I taught yoga and studied Ayurveda which had a tremendous impact on my views surrounding health and healing.”
When you read her recipes, there are a few common ingredients including almond flour, grape seed oil, agave, baking soda, and dark chocolate. You will see eggs, but very little dairy. Occasionally she experiments with coconut flour. ”All of my cookie recipes are dairy and egg free. I do this so that more people can partake in the recipes I create –my goal is to make delicious food tasty enough for everyone and for people on restricted eating plans to be able to break bread with family and friends again. I especially limit the use of dairy in my recipes because many people that are gluten intolerant cannot digest dairy either.”
Elana also advocates for more careful shopping and food choices. ”I purchase organic produce, wild sea food and organic poultry. When it comes to poultry, “natural” is really not so great. ”Natural” livestock is fed pesticide laden food, I do not view this as natural.” All of this comes together in her home kitchen, where she, “make(s) a delicious Shabbos dinner every Friday and we have huge feasts at the Jewish holidays with friends and family. Recently my son’s Hebrew class came over for Purim and we made Hamantaschen and Shaloch Manos.” Imagine what this woman can do for her seder, and yours.
Want to win a copy of the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook? Leave a comment below about your Passover cooking adventures below. Last date for entries is April 4th. Winner will be notified by email on April 5th.
Recipe – Double Chocolate Orange Torte
Courtesy of Elana Amsterdam
½ cup dark chocolate 73%
½ cup blanched almond flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ cup agave nectar
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ cup dark chocolate 73%
- Place ½ cup chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground to the texture of gravel
- Pulse in almond flour, cacao powder and salt and process until well combined, about 10 seconds
- Add eggs to food processor and pulse again, then add in agave, grapeseed oil and orange zest
- Pulse all ingredients together until smooth
- Remove “bowl” from food processor and stir in second ½ cup of chocolate chips using a spoon or spatula
- Transfer batter into a well oiled 10 inch springform pan
- Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean