This post is for anyone with multiple food allergies, but especially for Karina the Gluten Free Goddess.
A few days ago the topic of nutritional yeast in un-cheese recipes came up. Joanne Stepaniak is the reigning queen of vegan cheese substitute recipes, and has many excellent cookbooks, including her The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook: Recipes Using Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula, The Uncheese Cookbook: Creating Amazing Dairy-Free Cheese Substitutes and Classic “Uncheese” Dishes, Vegan Deli,Vegan Vittles: Recipes Inspired by the Critters of Farm Sanctuary. However, the question was- how useful are these cookbooks for someone with multiple allergies? First of course, you have to screen the books for gluten- there are a few recipes with gluten, but overall these books are an excellent resource for the gluten free, lactose intolerant chef. If you are intolerant to soy, a few more recipes have to be screened out, still leaving a decent amount of recipes based on nuts, beans, oats (I use quinoa) and nutritional yeast. But, if you happen to be allergic to gluten, most nuts, soy, and lemon juices, probably your best bet is to scour the internet for nutritional yeast based recipes and start experimenting.
This conversation reminded me of my days as a gluten free vegan, cooking at my friend’s college lodging commercial kitchen late at night. (Yes, it was way cool.) My friend was the original genius behind one of my favorite holiday recipes, spinach pie. You met one incarnation of this recipe with my chebe tartlets . At that time we were both vegan, and vegans that didn’t like nasty processed un-cheese, at that. So, we decided to vegan-ize our favorite recipe and created a very tasty vegan spinach pie. The gluten free vegan diet rules out eggs and dairy, making it ideal for anyone who is both gluten intolerant and has multiple allergies. Many vegan recipes use soy as the base of their dairy substitutions- but you absolutely don’t have to rely on soy anymore, with the prevalence of rice, almond, and even hemp milks on the market. (Which reminds me, I’ve never tried hemp milk- is it good???) So, with those happy vegan memories floating in my head, the other day I set out to create a spinach pie that used nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor without any allergenic ingredients.
I made a white roux with lots of garlic powder, and added some nutritional yeast for added flavor. I also made a dairy version for DH, who is skeptical about spinach in general and not the biggest fan of a pie centering on spinach. I followed the same basic recipe for his, but used dairy milk and 4 oz. cheddar and 2 oz feta cheese, just for variety’s sake. To my surprise, I found that I rather preferred the dairy free version, although here’s a big tip- IF you only have vanilla flavored unsweetened rice milk in your house and want to avoid using soy milk to make sure the recipe really works- go to the store and buy unsweetened PLAIN rice milk, because otherwise, no matter how much garlic powder you add to the recipe, you will still taste the ever so mild, ever so insidious flavor of vanilla. Another thing- when the pie first comes out of the oven, it won’t be firm. I don’t mind, myself, and am greedy enough to eat it right then. However, if you want it to be firmer in texture, consider adding xanthan gum or some other thickener- or even more flour. It will become firm after cooling, and especially after refrigeration. It tastes good cold OR hot, making it a good bento box (lunch box) candidate, especially if you have access to a refrigerator. It was VERY yummy with a sliced heirloom tomato (hippie zebra, if you were wondering…) sprinkled delicately with black salt. YUM! So, next time you’re wishing for something cheesy, why not make a cheezy spinach pie with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast doesn’t taste JUST like cheese, but it does add a salty, cheesy note to recipes that I personally find very, very tasty. Note: If you are new to nutritional yeast, ease into it by trying it on popcorn or in my famous Southern Tofu Recipe or Baked Nutritional Yeast Tofu Recipe, both brought to you by Joanne Stepaniak. You could also try my favorite recipe for vegetarian gravy or explore my entire collection of recipes using nutritional yeast.
And, here’s a visual test. Can you tell which one is the dairy free version, and which contains dairy? Maybe you can- but, they’re both darned similar!
Dairy Free Spinach Pie Recipe
Gluten Free Pastry Shell:
One GF pastry recipe (I used Bette Hagman’s dream pastry, which makes 3+ pastry shells- Gluten Free Pantry perfect pie crust is another favorite option)
Cheeze like Sauce Recipe:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Prepare pie shell: If using Bette Hagman dream pastry mix, combine ingredients and form a ball, kneading if desired. Chill for specified time (an hour?) and then roll out inside a lightly floured gallon sized freezer ziploc bag with the sides cut open. IF you have two pie pans that are the same size, place the ziploc bag over the bottom of one of the inverted pie pans. Peel off one side of the freezer bag (the side facing up) and gently place your second pie pan over the naked dough so you have a layer of: Inverted pie pan. Ziploc Bag sheet. Naked Pie Crust. Inverted pie pan.
Quickly turn over the stacks of pie pans in one motion so they are facing right side up but are still stacked together. Remove the pie pan that was on the bottom. You should be looking at a ziploc bag sheet covering the pastry dough. Carefully fiddle with the ziploc bag and pastry so it is centered on your remaining pie pan. It has occurred to me that it might be desirable to chill or even lightly freeze the whole thing at this point, but I’m usually too impatient. Carefully peel off the ziploc bag sheet. You should be looking at a pie pan draped in pastry dough, sans plastic. Fix any holes in the pastry. Sprinkle your pastry with garlic powder. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Reserve.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. if needed.
Prepare Spinach by cooking lightly in a pan with a small amount of water. Rinse with cold water, drain, and chop into bite sized pieces. Reserve.
Make cheez sauce by melting margarine in saucepan. When melted add garlic and white rice flour. Combine. Add rice milk, slowly, stirring and letting thicken. If you need more rice milk, don’t be shy. Just try to get it all to thicken nicely. When you have a nice white sauce, add your Southern Roux and seasonings and blend. Sprinkle in your nutritional yeast, stirring. Taste. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add your drained, chopped spinach and stir until thoroughly combined.
Fill your pastry shell with your spinach cheez filling. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until top is slightly browned. Pie may not be firm if you try to cut it now. It SHOULD firm up as it cools, especially if chilled in refrigerator. However, regardless, it should taste good at any point. Enjoy!