Sunday Lunch with Louie Abellera + Gluten-Free Almond Cake

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I have this photographer friend Louie. I met him through Becky, the friend who was with me the first time I met Tim, and I’ve been following his Tweets and Instagrams and blog ever since that one random afternoon sitting across from him at Burger King or McDonald’s, watching him eat chicken nuggets, before the three of us went someplace else. Louie’s a cool kid—I say kid because, people, Louie is all of 22, as in the age I was when I started grad school, the age at which the only things I’d ever published were local newspaper articles about book clubs and town meetings, the age when I didn’t know much about cooking, much less about cooking and writing about it on a food blog. But Louie’s 22 looks a lot different than mine did, and he’s a crazy-good photographer shooting, get this, upwards of 20 weddings a year. So when he came into town last week from Chicago, asking for some help expanding his food portfolio, we were only too happy to have him over for our regular Sunday lunch with friends.

(All shots in this post courtesy of Louie Abellera Photography.)

salads
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So let’s talk about Sunday lunches. Tim’s been keeping this tradition with the same group of friends since before I knew him. When we were long-distance dating, and I’d come into town for the weekend, Sunday afternoons would have us all gathered together, grilling and assembling a meal to share at a dining room table. When my family came to town in February, when friends have come to visit this year, if they’re here on a Sunday, they come to our shared Sunday meal. It’s a nice constant, one thing that is consistently the same, no matter who else joins or leaves or what the time of year. And while usually we do it at our friends’ home, this week, we moved things to our table, where the sunlight was especially nice around 3 PM and where the four kids gathered around a blanket in our spare bedroom to “picnic” while the adults shared salads and pizza on our flea market chairs and vintage wedding plates.

pizzasalad
salad
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Tim and I were talking recently about how every time we have people over for a meal, there’s a salad. He brought two giant salad bowls into our marriage and they get regular rotation in our eating and entertaining plans. A meal just doesn’t feel complete without a giant pile of leafy greens involved. This week, the salad couldn’t have been simpler: an arugula mix topped with sliced pluots, sliced red onions, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasonings, nothing else. We tossed it using my newest kitchen treasure, new Anthropologie servers, thanks to birthday gift cards from our family.

Sunday lunch
at the table

The pizza was just two batches of this thin and crunchy soaked crust recipe, decorated with four different choices of toppings. We baked them two by two before everyone arrived, trying to keep things as warm as we could, then placed them all on the table on cutting boards so people could serve themselves.

Then there was a quick zucchini-tomato salad, and water with lemon, and wine, gifted from Becky when she was in town a few weeks ago.

Last, for dessert, there was almond cake, a gluten-free, incredibly simply recipe my sister-in-law made for us while we were in Ohio and that wowed us so much, it was the first thing we thought of for Sunday’s meal. Light and sweet and with a nice crumb, the kind you expect cake flour, or at the very least all-purpose flour, to be necessary to achieve, this cake is made from a combination of almond flour and coconut flour, four eggs, butter, honey and a few other little things. It’s wonderful, especially topped by homemade whipped cream. (The cake and the whipped cream were made the day beforehand, and I put them together just before we ate.)

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After dinner, the kids joined us around the table for card games, and Tim and I cleaned up the kitchen, and my brother-in-law had the football game on TV. Once all the guests had left, Tim and I agreed about the rich pleasure of hosting, of getting to have people into your home, give them your food and watch them eat. It is the single best part of cooking, this sharing around the table, if you ask me.

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coconut flour pancakes (+ thoughts on the survey)

coconut flour pancakes

You guys are really something. Thank you so much for completing the survey yesterday—and for maxing out the limit of free responses within like 24 hours! The good news is we are all on the same page: I really love this place we have, as so many of you said you did. I love talking to you like old friends and dialoguing in the comment sections of posts, I love writing about my life here, I love getting to know so many of you while you get to know me. If anyone ever doubts the community of blogging, they need only read your survey responses, I mean it. Thank you.

And thank you, too, for giving me some great ideas with your constructive criticism—ideas which I think can make this site better. You hit on some of the very same flaws I see here, which is good because it means we both see them, and you also brought up some questions I didn’t know you had. I’d like to address as many of these issues as I can in this post, starting with a pretty big one: The new ingredients of 2010.

coconut flour pancakes on blue plate

At this point in our story, based on the title and the photos above, you’ve probably gathered that today’s recipe involves pancakes. Pancakes made with coconut flour. Coconut flour like we used in those cookies last month, coconut flour that doesn’t contain gluten and is high in protein and, I’m just going to guess for some 85% of you, coconut flour that is not sitting in your kitchen pantry at home.

While the survey said about 17% of you seem to be coming here actually looking for our new style of recipes focused on whole foods, the rest of you are either (a) feeling intimidated by new ingredients (it’s “a stretch” or a little “out there”) or (b) you don’t mind this new focus but you’re not that interested in it either.

coconut flour pancakes

Listen, I get it. I really, really get it. I’d never heard of coconut oil or spelt flour before the beginning of this year, and when I was first introduced to them, I saw mainly their price tags. Second, I sometimes take for granted that you can adapt a recipe to your own way of eating (from white spelt to all-purpose flour, for example, or from coconut oil to butter in a cookie recipe). I’ll try to explain that better in the future. Contrary to how it might seem, I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of eating. I do think 2010 has improved my health drastically, both in more energy/less weight and better digestion (which has been a huge issue for me), so I’m pretty happy to tell people about it. But you don’t have to eat this way to come here, not at all; you just have to be willing to hear about it (and thank you, again).

silver dollar coconut flour pancakes

One of you suggested I make a sort of pantry list, with links to distributors, so it would be easy to know what kind of ingredients I’m using on a regular basis. (No, I don’t have five kinds of flour in my pantry, those of you who wonder.) I think that’s a great idea, and I’m going to work on that.

A few of you are interested in gluten-free recipes—well, today’s your day! You GF types are more familiar with this ingredient already, I suppose; but for anyone looking for a new take on a pancake, not to mention one that will be easier to digest because it has no gluten, just pure coconut, this is a good one. It’s an example of a recipe that you kind of have to use the “stretch” ingredient for, but it’s nice to have in your back pocket, whether for gluten-free friends or your own willing-to-experiment lifestyle. Very simple in method, it yields doughy pillows of pancake slightly eggy in flavor (most coconut flour recipes are, I’ve noticed), lightly kissed with coconut and, the way I make them, beautifully browned around the edges. For added flavor value, I like mine covered in butter and pure maple syrup. They’re not the same as classic buttermilk pancakes, but I think what I’ve been learning these last few months—and what I’ve been wanting to communicate here—is that these new ingredients have a beauty all their own, the way most new things do.

I’m glad to share it with you.

(Didn’t see your question answered? Scroll all the way to the bottom, below the recipe!)

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Coconut Flour Cookies

coconut flour cookies

Turns out, the way I feel about coconut flour is pretty much the same way I feel about self-employment.

I mean, they both are kind of hard to get, in terms of effort and costs: about $6 per 16-ounce bag of coconut flour online; a variety of part-time freelancing gigs, two years of grad school and three years in a management-level desk job for the chance to work from home.

Compared with the costs, they both have a lot to offer in return: where self-employment promises to let you set your own schedule and own your life again, coconut flour is packed with protein, totally gluten-free and lightly kissed with the scent of the tropics.

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