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22 March 2008

having a chef around the house

pounding open the coconut

I have to admit — sometimes it’s awfully fun having a chef around the house.

Now, before you start worrying that the word “sometimes” means that we aren’t enjoying each other’s company constantly, let me allay your fears. It’s always lovely to have my husband around the house. I have yet to experience a moment with him in which I wish he were in another room. We are always laughing. Just this morning, I said something so ridiculously silly to him that he threw his head back on the couch and started wheezing into this silent laugh he has, his eyes closed, his head shaking the couch cushions, the newspaper in his hand rattling from the spasms that splashed through his body. This lasted for at least two minutes, during which time I nearly spit out my coffee laughing at his laughter. Little Bean started dancing in my belly soon after, and I’m sure LB was saying, “Hey, let me out! That sounds like a good time.”

Simply, by “sometimes” I mean that he’s not always the Chef around the house. I call him that here, because I did at first, and it just stuck. When I first started dating him, I didn’t want to say his name to my friends until I thought he might be a more permanent presence in my life. (My dear friend Sharon has started dating someone with interesting possibilities, but I only refer to him as “the boy” with her, so far.) By the time he had become the love of my life, I wanted to hide him from the internet for awhile. And when we announced, together, his presence in my gluten-free home, we decided, together, to call him the Chef. It was a bit of a play, the thinnest gauze curtain of privacy, and a moniker that pleased him no end. After all this time, it fits him. When I walk into the restaurant in the afternoon, his coffee in my hand, I call out to the kitchen, “Hey Chef!” He always comes around the corner grinning.

But at home, he is, much of the time, not a chef. He’s a husband, in love with his wife, talking to his child through her belly. He’s a doting son, tearing up as he talks with his parents on the phone. He’s a sleepy fellow, yawning as he rises, scratching his stomach, and stretching into the living room to say hello. He’s a goofball, strange noises emitting from his lips in perfectly timed moments. He’s the morning dispenser of food to the rooster and hen who hang out beneath our bedroom window. He’s a tender lovely man, who takes photographs of the pink azaleas blooming on the bush outside our living room window and sends them to my phone throughout the day to remind me, “Hey, it’s spring!”

And in the morning, he’s a hungry man, saying, “What’s for breakfast?”

You see, even though I live with this loving, tender goofball of a man, it’s not all days of fabulous meals he whips up in the kitchen while I lie on the couch, waiting to be fed. Every once in a while, I receive an email from someone, slightly irate that I make living gluten-free sound so positive. “Yeah, if we could all have a chef around the house, I’m sure life would be fine.” But you see, the irony is, I’m the one doing most of the cooking. And I love it that way.

The first three months of our relationship, he cooked nearly every meal. After a long day of cooking in his kitchen, ten hours on his feet, he came up the stairs of my house and started cooking again. When I weakly protested — not that much — that he must have been tired, and he really didn’t need to, he turned to me as he flipped something in the skillet and said: “This isn’t work. I’m cooking for the woman I love.”

But after three or four months, he would start calling me from the restaurant during a break in dinner service, and say, “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

Some might say the magic had died. I just know he had relaxed and stopped trying to impress me. We were living together and loving each other. And how was it fair that he prepared all the food? How was it fair to me?

I had missed cooking. For the first year I was gluten-free (well-documented on this site), I created something new at the stove every night. Fearless, I tossed ingredients into a pan, broiled or sautéed them, concocted recipes, and danced with my food. When the Chef and I started dancing in our kitchen, I let him take over. After a time, I thought, “No, thank you.” I let go of my intimidation of cooking for him, cranked up the music loud, and started back into that sweet spot of making up dishes and working on old recipes.

ready to make coconut ice cream

So the irony is — the Chef may be in the house, but I’m the chef at home. Our food at home is far simpler than at his restaurant, but we both prefer it that way. (If I had gone too much longer eating rich sauces, buttery mashed potatoes, and beautiful hunks of meat every night, I might have exploded anyway.) A few weeks ago, I had a terrible craving for macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. So that’s what we had for dinner. He loved it.

Still, there are days when he becomes the Chef at home again. The first three months of my being pregnant, when I couldn’t handle much from the nausea, he wrassled up breakfast and rounded up food from the restaurant for late at night. When he’s particularly proud of his fish special for the night (like the seafood stew he made yesterday, with a bouillabaisse made of fish stock, Pernod, fennel, and saffron, filled with fresh halibut, clams, mussels, prawns, and Ling cod), he might sneak a little home for me to taste.

And mostly, on our Mondays off together, sometimes he can’t resist making something up on the spot. Away from the restaurant for a day, his hands start to itch to be back in the food, to feed us.

Like this past Monday, when we were preparing to visit our friends Karen and Shawn. Spontaneously, they invited us over. She was making arepas (Venezuelan cornmeal cakes, which I will share with you another time, because they’re a gift for gluten-free folks), spiced black beans, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Of course we said yes. Could we bring anything?
“How about a pint of that Snoqualmie coconut ice cream?” Karen asked me over the phone.
“Oh yeah. I love that stuff,” I exulted.
“Well, I think coconut would go really well with these cookies.”
When I hung up the phone, I looked over at the Chef, and said, “Hey listen, since we’re going to the store anyway, we just need to pick up a pint of ice cream.”
He shook his head, that sly grin on his face. “No, we’re not.”
I should be used to this. I should know that dart in his eyes, the sudden silence, the little glee dancing in there — he had an idea. But I fell for it again. “Why not?”
“We’re making coconut ice cream, instead.”

You see, this is where being a chef makes him handy. He is completely fearless, and he also has the sense memory in his hands of making thousands of meals. Nothing in food scares him. He is only delighted by the challenge of making something from scratch.

This is how we found ourselves in the kitchen, me taking pictures, as he cracked open a hairy coconut to let the juices spill out. (I wouldn’t suggest actually taking a hammer to one. We staged that photo.) Rich cream, thick egg yolks, shreds of fresh coconut meat, and an extra can of coconut milk for taste — they all fell into his hands and tumbled into a saucepan. I went to the other end of the house to finish another task, and when I had come back, the custard was done.

How does he do that?

It turns out that life intruded on our finishing the ice cream on time. When he’s not in the restaurant kitchen, nothing like that fazes him. We simply took the chilled base and the ice cream maker over to Karen and Shawn’s. Since that puppy runs loud, he put it in the bathroom and let it whirl up in there with the door closed.

“No one has ever brought homemade ice cream to my home!” Karen exclaimed.

I grinned. I’m still thrilled.

After a full meal of soulful Venezuelan food, and hilarity over a highly competitive card game, we all roused ourselves for ice cream. Sweet jesus, as the Chef likes to say sometimes. Dense creamy sweetness, with a mild intensity. Real coconut has a dark taste to it, something slightly unexpected. It all mixed and swirled on the spoon and landed on the roof of my mouth, darting there for a moment, then slid away in taunting surprise. Plump coconut macaroons from Paris, sweet coconut baked treats from my favorite bakeries, and the whiff of coconut suntan lotion from my Southern California teen years —- they have nothing on this. Nothing like a cold swirl of a spoon of ice cream made that afternoon by my husband, the Chef.

On these days, I must admit, it’s awfully fun to have a chef in the house.


Why wasn't this up on Thursday? Those of you who read closely will have noticed that I have switched this site to a fixed schedule: posts on Monday and Thursday, with plenty of room for comments. And yet, this piece did not appear on Thursday. Thank you to those of you who worried at my silence. Little Bean is fine! We just lost our internet for two days, due to the service provider woes. At first, I felt flustered. And then, I realized what a gift this was. Having the chance to disconnect, and simply spend time together, was a blessing for the three of us. But the internets is up and running now. Hello!

Check out Urban Spoon. The lovely men at Urban Spoon really are quite the team. Not only have they created this ever-changing, oh-so-cool city search restaurant guide, but they have also added a feature for gluten-free friendly restaurants in every city they cover. We met many months ago, talked animatedly about babies and food, and laughed all afternoon. They told me yesterday that I inspired this part of their website. So here's your chance, everyone.

Go to Urban Spoon. Find the city of your choice. Under Special Features in that city, you'll find a "gluten-free friendly" category. There you'll find a list of restaurants where readers have eaten safely and received conscious treatment by servers and chefs. You can use that list to make dining choices. But more importantly, add restaurants where you eat. With this, we can create an enormous index of restaurants where everyone can eat well.

In the end, that's what all this is about: eating well.

coconut ice cream


Look, I know how lucky I am to have a chef in the house. But that's why we post recipes like this one, here. I shouldn't be the only one sharing this food with him. And his expertise means that these recipes work. (In fact, anything on this site published after May 2006 is much better than the recipes before I met him!)

That serving of ice cream awoke in me the slumbering need for ice cream while I’m pregnant. I’m thinking there’s much more in my future, soon. Since this recipe is adapted from one by David Lebovitz, I have a feeling I'll be raiding his brilliant book, The Perfect Scoop, all spring and summer, until Little Bean appears.

1/2 fresh coconut, split in half
10 ounces coconut milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half
5 large egg yolks

Strip the cut-open coconut half of its fresh meat. (You can extract it with a small paring knife, but be careful not to cut yourself.) Grate the coconut meat with a cheese grater or microplaner. (Watch out the knuckles!) Set aside.

Pour the coconut milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar, and salt into a medium saucepan. Add the grated coconut meat. Bring this mixture to a small simmer, not a boil. As the mixture is coming to heat, cut a long line down the middle of the vanilla bean, lengthwise. Scrape all the seeds into the creamy mixture, and then throw in the spent pod, as well. Let it all come to a simmer together, and then take it off the heat.

Allow this to steep at room temperature for at least one hour.

Find another medium saucepan in the cupboard and put that in the stove. Fish around for a fine-mesh sieve, next. Pour the steeped liquid through the sieve into the new saucepan. Press down on the coconut and vanilla bean pieces to squeeze out all the flavor you can.

Turn toward the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the egg yolks. Pour the warm coconut-cream mixture into the eggs, making sure that you whisk constantly. (This may seem like it requires more pairs of hands than you have, but you can do it.) Push this new mixture into the saucepan.

Turn up the heat again -- no higher than medium -- and warm the custard, stirring with a rubber spatula. Be sure to stir the bottom as well. When the custard coats the back of the spatula, it is done. Pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve into the remaining cup of heavy cream. Stir it all up.

Leave the custard out to cool for a few moments, and then place it in the refrigerator. When the custard has completely chilled, turn it into ice cream in your ice cream maker.

Makes 1 pint.


At 8:37 PM, Blogger kerrie said...

thanks for all of the great recipes! i actually have an arepa maker :), it is a cross between a waffle machine and a sandwich press, and it is the best way to make them. i will have to get it out again!

At 9:05 PM, Blogger hungryandfrozen said...

Hi there, am a new reader of your blog and absolutely love it. Your writing is as moreish as the food you write about. I'm not gluten-free myself but one of my flatmates is celiac, and as I tend to bake for everyone it is interesting finding out alternatives to glutinous things - and also food that is no mere alternative but indeed, the first choice, if that makes sense. I look forward to reading through your archive :)

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Kitt said...

Sweet. All of it.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger House of Jules said...

This recipe (and the accompanying story!) is making me woozy. I am putting this with the coconut cake recipe I've had earmarked to make for my friend's birthday. Maybe to some people coconut cake AND coconut ice cream is too much coconut, but she will be thrilled beyond belief. Thanks!
House of Jules

At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coconut ice cream is the best! Did that recipe really make only a pint? Was some of the liquid evaporated during the simmering? Surely you made a double batch so that each of you could have a cup of the marvelous stuff?

I recently bought a case of organic coconut milk to facilitate cooking for a gluten-free, dairy-free friend. It's fabulous in curried butternut squash soup with apples and raisins. But what was really fun was making ice cream (her first in a LONG time) with coconut milk. I used the VitaMix recipe, making a base with homemade chocolate sauce and the coconut milk, (plus a couple egg yolks - from free-range hens only, please!) and blending with ice cubes just before serving. (Yes, it's loud, but only for 30 seconds.) The texture is different from a frozen custard, more like a smoothie with the tiny ice bits, but the flavor was better than anything I'd ever made before! Needless to say, my friend was thrilled.


At 5:07 AM, Blogger thisrequiresthought said...

oh, yum to the highest degree!

At 8:30 AM, Blogger A G. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the Bean!!
You think you're in love now, just wait!!
Okay, so I used to be a pastry chef and make coconut sorbet a lot.
Tips for those dealing with a coconut.
Use a corkscrew and poke holes in the 3 dark spots on top of the coconut, drain out the liquid.
Place whole coconut over a open flame, like your range or a grill.
turn with tongs occasionally.
You want it to crack open and burn the outside off.
Toss in a bowl of ice water so you don't burn yourself.
Then peel the brown skin off.
So good and easy!

At 9:45 AM, Blogger fairydogmother said...

If I had an ice cream maker I would be making that for breakfast and calling it a new Easter/Spring tradition. YUM!

At 11:14 AM, Blogger I Am Gluten Free said...

Hi Shauna,

This comment is long overdue - please accept my gratitude to you for writing your thoroughly awesome and spectacular book. I am so proud of you for contributing so eloquently to not only the world of culinary literature, but especially to gluten free cooking. Kudos to you!

Second, your post reminded me of a restaurant we went to a few months ago, in Philadelphia. It is called Sazon and is Venezuelan and vegetarian and fantastic. The dish I ordered included homemade arepas and they were just beyond delicious. I can't wait to try my hand at them. So please, hurry and post a recipe for them! And I will go to your friends' restaurant website and add Sazon to the list - they served my gluten free needs most deliciously!

Your gluten free friend,

At 11:50 AM, Blogger The Peanut Butter Boy said...

Oooh, I want the recipe for arepas. I've been getting addicted to corn and all corn based products recently. I'll be trying out hominy for the first time next week in a recipe and also making some lightly fried corn flatbreads. Now I'll need to make these arepas whenever you reveal them!

Coconut ice cream sounds wonderful. I just bought some coconut flour as well that I'll be experimenting with in the coming weeks. What a lucky little kid you've got.

- The Peanut Butter Boy

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looooove icecreams, and I made recently a similar one, but without the coconut meat (just coconut milk).It was great, but I suppose that your version must be better. Ummm.
I write a blog about the Seignalet diet (which is suitable for celiacs, as it is gluten-free and milk-free). It´s written in spanish. I will continue reading your site looking for nice recipes.
Congratulations for your site.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Melinda said...

Oh Yum, Yum, Yum!!!!!! I just need to wait for a warmer day to try that ice cream! Thanks for posting that!

At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never liked coconut, but I think it was partially due to the texture. Maybe I would like that ice cream, though. I am not even that fond of macaroons, and Passover is coming up. But those little chocolate ice cubes, that (I think) were flavored with a hint of coconut to make them taste icy, they were something else!

At 6:10 PM, Blogger neels said...

mmm love coconut and ice cream..however along with having to eat gluten free i'm also lactose intolerant...but man do i have a love for sobet..i'm thinking a quick trip to whole foods for some coconut sobet fixings!

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Lola said...

Thanks for the reminder of how much fun it is to hang out with Karen and Shawn! :) We miss them here in Chicago. Your ice cream sounded fab!
Laura and Joe

At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things that maybe you can't answer but I'll try. We actually have a couple of palm trees and have collected a bunch of ripe coconuts we don't know what to do with. I am a celiac and always terrified of buying ice-cream (you just never know) so this recipe is perfect. Question #1 - how do you open the cocounuts! #2 - Can you make this without an ice-cream maker?

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the cost of wheat being so high these days, do you think more chefs will start to go the gluten-free route? Curious to see what you guys think.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooh, coconuts. While in Maui last November we rented a motorcycle. When we got caught in a rainstorm we pulled to the side of the road beside an honor fruit stand. On a low shelf I found a HUGE coconut along with a paring knife and bendy straws. I paid the 2 dollars into the box and punctured the yielding eye. The vacuum inside released with a slight "whoosh" and we waited out the storm drinking the quart of coconut milk under the lean to of "Uncle Harry's Fruit Stand". I tucked the empty coconut into the saddle bag and later had a local where we were staying split it with a machete. We munched on that coconut sliced over yogurt and mixed into drinks over the next 3 days.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to run around the house saying arepas! arepas! arepas! Such a rolling off the tongue kind of word.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Shannon B. said...

Ohh, I'd love to see a recipe like this for Ginger Ice Cream. This coconut looks amazing!

At 2:52 PM, Blogger CatherineMarie said...


This sounds heavenly. Its just a tad too cold in CT for ice cream, but mmmmmmmm.

I love the idea of coconut cake with coconut ice cream. Or maybe a coconut flan?

"you put the lime in the coconut"

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may seem like a silly question, but here goes. In the recipe, you call for 10 oz of coconut milk. That is traditional canned coconut milk, yes? Not the watery substance that comes out of the coconut that is truly the coconut's own milk... am I thinking about this too much?

How about coconut ice cream with hot fudge sauce and roasted almonds... Almond Joy!

At 9:20 PM, Blogger themigrainegirl said...

My jaw continued to drop more and more as I read through this blog entry. My almost-live-in boyfriend is a stellar cook and our pattern (my giving up cooking while he took over and continually wowed me for months with his creations and words of love) is nearly identical! We're not married with a kid yet, and I have taken over only about 1/2 the cooking duties. But the similarities (minus the marriage and kid) are uncanny!

Thanks for putting a big smile on my face--and for making me hungry again.

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this amazing blogspot. You are a godsend to newly diagnosed celiacs in search of good food. Please, please, please post your recipe for arepas! After reading about them in this post, I made some based on a very simple recipe I found online. They were good, but I have a feeling your version would be fantastic. Thank you!

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, everyone. I know it's cold for ice cream -- really, it is even too cold here -- but it helps us to think about spring and summer...

Anonymous, thanks for that fabulous tip on how to open the coconut. Even the Chef raised an eyebrow at that one, which means he's going to try it soon.

Ellen, thank you so much for your eloquence. And thanks for the restaurant tip! We can all guide each other in one central place, thanks to Urban Spoon.

Bahama mama, I don't know how to make this without an ice cream maker, sadly. Someone in the comments said she made her own version in her blender. And even coconut frozen yogurt would be good, and you don't need an ice cream maker for that.

Cindc, That's a good question. Perhaps some bakers will be inspired to try gluten-free baking because of the high price of wheat, but probably more because of the demand for it now. As expensive as wheat is, it's still far cheaper than sorghum or teff, sadly.

La Nina, yes! Coconut milk from the can. The thin white juice from the coconut is packed with flavor, but there's usually not much of it. Using part of a can of coconut milk seemed to have given this heft. And I'll come have hot fudge sundaes with you anytime!

And for everyone who asked, arepa recipe is on the way soon.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger a kelly said...

"’s not all days of fabulous meals he whips up in the kitchen while I lie on the couch, waiting to be fed."
Thanks for the reality check! I was really jealous...wait...I'm still a little jealous!!

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

beautiful, as always.

I know urbanspoon! I mean, not personally, but the site. coolness.

A few weeks ago, I had a terrible craving for macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. So that’s what we had for dinner. He loved it.

that makes me smile. it's not all gourmet 24/7 after all hahaha. but it's not like I should have assumed any different. ;)

hope all is well with the bean. hee. :D

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Misa said...

That ice cream sounds delicious! I love coconut.

I have to tell you... when I first saw the Snoqualmie ice cream, I literally stopped in my tracks. What caught my eye were two words: Frozen Custard. You just don't find that around here very often (although... if you know of a frozen custard shop here in Seattle and I have somehow missed it, please let me know!). I've tried several varieties, but the one we have around our house most often is the Lemon variety. Tasty.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna, this is a delicious post! It brought me back to when I was living in Nicaragua and a friend gave me a fresh coconut, right off the tree. I used it to make helado de coco (coconut ice cream, but different from what we have here in the U.S.) that was SO delicious and refreshing! I can't wait to try out this recipe of yours this summer!

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Tea said...

I can't tell you how much I am craving coconut ice cream right now.

How many hours does it take to freeze that darned ice cream maker tub?

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, what's sorghum flour?


At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, if you were here, or I were there, I would give you the biggest hug right now. My life have not been as full since not being able to have coconut ice cream at my local paleta shop. I found out I was gluten and lactose intolerant about the same time! I AM SO HAPPY!...that you posted this yummy dairy free coconut ice cream recipe, yummy!

I too have been lurking quite a while, this one brought me out! I love your blog, bought you book and love it, and love the way you write about your life and food. Thank you!

BTW...Congrats on the baby to be too! Children are the greatest things in the world, next to wonderful husbands of course. :-)


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