The hardest part of telling people about the goodness in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook is getting past the hot mess that is Gwyneth Paltrow and that rarified world of which she believes to be our reality. In Gwyneth’s world, we’re sporting $850 leather shorts, charring paper-thin pizzas in our outdoor ovens, and frolicking through reeds of grass whilst munching on Amagansett apples. Part of me hopes that Winona Ryder will resurface from her stupor and launch the anti-GOOP, a noir-hued website where a chain-smoking, cheeseburger-eating life is as good as it gets. However, this idyll is very much a Waiting for Godot situation, and I’ve admitted, albeit grudgingly, that Paltrow’s book is quite good. My friend Hitha has decided to ignore Paltrow and instead give credit to Paltrow’s co-writer, Julia Turshen.
I very much like this strategy.
To say that Hitha and I adore food is an understatement. Devoted followers of the gospel that is Michael Pollan, ardent believers in the notion that our body is the home in which we want to live rather than the apartment we’re renting, my sweet friend and I often get together and spend days cooking, eating, and photographing our food. You’ll find us standing on top of chairs, adjusting plates, contemplating linens and trying to find that shot, and I’m humbled to have found such a kindred spirit. So on a day that whispers spring, we decided to give a bunch of Gwynnie’s recipes a go.
On the menu? A virtuous verdant risotto, a kale salad dressed with seasoned turkey bacon (I hope my Twitter friend Michael isn’t reading this!), and a decadent two-layer chocolate cake with “buttercream.” Hitha made the killer risotto and salad, while I focused on dessert, and I have to say that we did a pretty fox job! We marveled over the rich, satiny texture of the risotto (sans cheese!) and the buttercream that had no dairy or butter, yet tasted very much like the real deal. Here’s to eating mindfully and a meal that left us satiated.
Risotto with Greens: Adapted from It’s All Good, with modifications
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
1 quart vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, throughly washed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
coarse sea salt
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups baby spinach (we didn’t have this on hand, but will definitely add this next time)
1/4 cup chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Warm the vegetable stock in a small pot and set it on the back burner over low heat. Using a Microplane grater or a zester, zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Cut the lemon in half, juice it and set the juice aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over high heat. Add the onion and leek, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme along with a big pinch of salt and cook until all the aromatics are, well, aromatic, another 2 minutes.
Turn the heat to high, add the rice and the reserved lemon juice and stir to combine all the ingredients. Cook until the lemon juice is just evaporated and then stir in a ladleful of the warm stock. Continue to stir the risotto until the stock is absorbed, then stir in another ladleful of stock.
Continue in this manner until the rice is cooked through and you’ve used all your stock, about 20 minutes. At this point your arm should feel as if it’s going to fall off and the rice should be luxuriously creamy and rich.
Stir in the reserved lemon zest, the greens (these will cook with the risotto’s residual heat), the basil and a few healthy grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.
Kale Salad with Gwyneth’s “Momo’s Special Turkey Bacon”
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
6 cups of mixed kale leaves, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz pack of turkey bacon (8 slices)
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
Mix the greens with the carrots and toss in the olive oil, salt + pepper to taste. Set aside.
Pre-heat the broiler (or oven to 450F). Lay the bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Whisk together the mustard and the syrup. Using a pastry brush (or spoon), “paint” half of it on the slices. Broil for one minute, then turn it and coat the other side of each slice with the remaining mixture. Broil for another 1-2 minutes, or until crispy. Break up the bacon into chunks and toss into the salad.
Chocolate Cake + Darleen’s Healthy Buttercream
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
For the Cake: Click here for the recipe. Instead of using a cupcake/muffin tin, grease two nine-inch cake pans. Bake for 18 minutes at 350F (the recipe calls for 20, but I thought the cake too done. I’d start checking after 15 minutes), and allow to completely cool for 20 minutes before icing with the buttercream. I like to layer some cream in the middle and on top. Since I like my cakes to be a little rough around the edges, I tend to not go in for the luxe side-sweep, allowing for you to see the contrast of cake and cream from all sides. A woman loves a little crumble on her plate.
One thing Hitha + I noticed that we should bring to your attention. This cake dough is incredibly delicate. I thought this was a result of my flubbed measurements in yesterday’s cupcakes, but since you don’t have egg as the binding agent, the cake will fall apart pretty easily, so handle with care.
Another point to make, the recipe notes that one could use 8 and 9 inch pans interchangeably without denoting the change in cooking times, which is a MAJOR MISS. The density is a marked difference, and I would venture that I’d need 20 minutes for an 8inch pan (as you have a denser cake) and 15-18 minutes for the 9 inch. Although I love the book, I’m starting to see minor errors that can affect the dishes. Not critical for cooking, but tantamount for baking.
For the Buttercream
2 cups Spectrum organic shortening (room temperature). This is a non-hydrogenated palm oil, available at speciality and health food stores, as well as Whole Foods.
1 cup tapioca starch (or tapioca flour, which is the same thing)
1 cup agave nectar (or Grade A light maple syrup)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric (or stand) mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. The frosting can be refrigerated for up to one month, but bring it back to room temperature and rewhip before using.
While this whipped cream doesn’t taste exactly like the buttercream to which we’ve been accustomed, my knee-jerk reaction was that it resembled whipped marshmallow or marshmallow fluff. The texture is spot-on and the taste light and sweet. Hitha brought her hubby over and this was definitely a crowd favorite.