Erin Scott

Maker of delicious dishes, no caveats attached

By Sarah Henry • Photos by Erin Scott

erinscott_yummysupper_bioshot-8244Here’s what you need to know about Erin Scott up front. She loves eating, cooking, and photographing food. Period. Sure, she has this pesky (okay, more than pesky) problem called celiac disease, a chronic digestive disorder that can damage the small intestine. So she’s gluten free because she needs to be. And her two children are gluten-intolerant, so theirs is a gluten-free home.

Beyond that, she doesn’t want people to get hung up on the GF next to her name. Got it?

Scott is understandably sensitive. Gluten-free folks have been taking some hits lately. Is it a medical necessity for a minority? A food fad for those who just want to cut carbs and shed some pounds? A bona fide culinary trend? Or all three?

While a band of consumers is embracing a gluten-free life, others find the new wave of gluten shunners an irritation. Case in point: A New Yorker cartoon this year with the caption, “I’ve only been gluten-free for a week, but I’m already really annoying.” Mocking GFers has become a punch line on late-night TV too. Watch Jimmy Kimmel’s skit asking health-obsessed Southern Californians who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon to describe what gluten is. They’re all hilariously clueless. For the record: Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley, and rye that gives dough its elasticity.

So how many people really need to skip gluten-filled foods? Celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition, impacts only about 1% of the population. People with gluten intolerance experience varying degrees of discomfort from consuming gluten and make up about 6% of the population. Those simply shying away from the stuff because they believe they feel better without it: No one really knows how many they number, but it’s a large and growing group.

But let’s get back to Scott. Rodale Books has just published her first cookbook, Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious & Honest Recipes from a {Gluten-Free} Omnivore. The book’s title is a nod to Scott’s popular blog of the same name, and offers the kind of seasonal, simple, ingredient-driven local fare that you’d expect to find from an unabashed disciple of Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver.

About those brackets on her book cover: They’re intentional. Scott is adamant that she doesn’t want to be a mouthpiece for the gluten-free lifestyle. “I have mixed feelings about identifying as gluten free. I want to be seen as someone who just likes good food,” she explains. “That label is such a turnoff for some. Gluten is a gross word. And gluten-free doesn’t sound delicious.”

Thankfully, Scott puts a refreshing spin on gluten-free eating sans drama or righteousness. Chapters such as “Slurp,” “Veg,” “Nut,” “Egg,” and “Sea” are her whimsical way of telegraphing what’s in store for home cooks hankering for, well, a yummy supper. Period. And the book, which she also photographed, is so saturated with color it practically demands that you make any given recipe. Right. Now.

Her dishes embrace a modern playbook. Think Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios, and Kumquats; Fish Tacos Topped with Pomegranate Salsa; Hanger Steak with Gremolata; Quail with Zesty Turnips + Wilted Dandelion Greens; Quinoa Tabbouleh with Tomatoes, Scallions, Parsley Leaves, and Blossoms; Pears Poached in Lillet. Hungry yet?
The recipes in these pages are like a song on an album, says Scott. It’s the version recorded for posterity, but there are a zillion variations on a theme, and she encourages home cooks to play with tastes, textures, layers of flavors, and substitute ingredients to adapt as they see fit.

Parmesan-PolentaAs readers might have guessed, Scott wrote her cookbook with all kinds of eaters in mind. “This is a resource for home cooks who want to be able to make dishes for their gluten-free friends and family without having to modify or adapt a recipe,” she says. “But I hope that people cook from these pages just because their appetites are whetted by these recipes, whether or not they’re gluten free,” adds Scott as she and this writer make Baked Eggs on a Bed of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (see recipe next page), in her large and light-filled open kitchen that overlooks a thriving produce garden. It’s a pretty idyllic North Berkeley tableau. And those eggs? Just the kind of no-fuss, satisfying food she favors.

Scott’s easy Northern California elegance suggests her previous career in fashion and design. (She briefly co-owned a clothing store in Rockridge.) She’s gone on to use her keen eye for style in her photography, both on her visually driven blog and in her business as a food, portrait, and lifestyle shooter.

It could all feel a tad precious, except that there’s nothing pretentious about Scott, who is charmingly down-to-earth. She’s also frankly grateful just to feel well, after decades of struggling with an undiagnosed illness. Still, she was dismayed when doctors told her she had celiac disease; chronic conditions can be isolating experiences.

Scott admits to having a pity party post diagnosis, six years ago now. But this accomplished home cook eventually rediscovered the pleasures of the kitchen. Initially, she found herself buying packaged and processed gluten-free foods from the grocery aisle. Mostly, she says, they tasted awful. Her husband’s suggestion that the family plant an edible garden proved a light-bulb moment for Scott. “I realized that I could eat everything I grow. When I stripped back my diet to raw ingredients, then it felt expansive and inspiring, and I liked the challenge of it. It made me a much more creative cook.”
Many home cooks, Scott believes, will come around to her way of thinking. “I compare gluten-free cooking now to vegetarianism in the ‘60s and ‘70s when it first emerged as a phenomenon and there was a lot of negativity towards it,” she explains. “I think it was because of that fake nut meat which was not appetizing or appealing to look at. It was just about health. The first gluten-free foods were like that.”

For her part, Scott isn’t opposed to putting a little glamour into gluten-free cuisine. “My cooking isn’t about trying to replace gluten with something else, it’s just about eating everything else. It’s really important to me that my food meets my gluten-eating friends’ standards for a delicious meal. I don’t want anyone to come to dinner and feel deprived.”

And for those stumped at the thought of cooking for GFers, she has this advice: “People have a mental block and panic about feeding someone who is gluten free, and they really don’t need to,” she says. “If you cook from scratch, it’s not that hard to accommodate.” Scott adds that it’s a different story when cooking for someone with celiac disease. Not a single crumb of gluten can find its way into the food. Cutting boards, sponges, grills, toasters, and so on should be spotless.

Once seated to eat, though, don’t try to engage Scott about her dietary needs. “I have other things I want to relate to people about; I don’t want to bore them or myself with my medical condition. Let’s talk about what tastes great and get excited about that… I’m an omnivore by nature and gluten-free by necessity. The fact that there isn’t a trace of gluten in our house doesn’t define us or our dinner table.”

 

Baked Eggs on a Bed of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

From Yummy Supper by Erin Scott

Juicy hot cherry tomatoes pop in your mouth. There’s just a hint of basil for sweetness. When both mingle with creamy baked eggs, it’s an amazing combination of texture and flavor that makes for very happy tastebuds.
These baked eggs are a hearty meal—even one egg, with its tomato companions, is surprisingly filling. You can easily increase or decrease the recipe depending on how many people you want to serve: Think 1 egg to ¾ cup tomatoes, and you’re good to go.

Baked-EggsServes 4

3 cups sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Scatter the tomato halves into a medium ceramic baking dish or cast-iron skillet. Bake the tomatoes in the hot oven for 12 minutes, then take the dish out. (If a lot of liquid has cooked out of the tomatoes, carefully pour off a little liquid now.) Top the tomatoes with the Parmesan, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons basil and the salt and pepper. Then crack the eggs gently onto the bed of hot tomatoes. You want to keep the yolks intact, but don’t worry when the egg whites spill down around the sides of the tomatoes.

Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. You’ll know you’re done when the egg whites have set but the yolks are still soft. Sprinkle the cooked eggs with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon basil.
Serve right away in shallow bowls. [Erin recommends serving with her Polenta Fries.]

Copyright © 2014 by Erin Scott. Reprinted by permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold. Photo by Erin Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Scott’s book launch party will be held Sunday, September 7, 2–4pm at the Edible Schoolyard, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School,
1781 Rose Street, Berkeley. An adult-child cooking-class benefit featuring recipes from the book is slated for October 11, 10:30am–1:30pm. Tickets (at $265 a pair for one kid/one adult) are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/774157. All proceeds go to Edible Schoolyard.

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