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Petaluma cook co-authors cookbook with recipes for multiple diets

Audrey Marsh of Berkeley and Becky Madsen de la Rosa of Petaluma are the first to admit they’re not trained chefs.

But the two women, who met more than 25 years ago, grew up in families where food was paramount. Madsen’s father is Danish and a master pastry chef. Marsh’s parents are French and Croatian.

“We’re very good cooks ... and have lived, traveled and eaten around the world,” Marsh said. “It’s all about enjoyment and encouragement.”

Five years ago, however, Marsh found herself adrift from her culinary moorings. She was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a good friend who had become a vegan. The friend’s husband, who was allergic to gluten, required mostly paleo food.

“I’m an omnivore, so I didn’t know what to do,” Marsh said. “It was so stressful.”

So she threw down a plate of Brussels sprouts and hoped for the best. Over time, however, Marsh started to lean into the challenge, researching alternatives for guests who were vegan or vegetarian, gluten-free or paleo.

Last November, Marsh launched into writing a cookbook that would feed many mouths at the same table, rescuing home cooks like herself with substitutions to satisfy special diets. Her idea was to show how easy it is make a dish with variations so people around the table can eat (basically) the same dish.

“It’s an original concept, being able to make substitutions,” said Marsh, a university professor with a PhD in art history. “Many people want to adopt a vegan style of cooking once a week ... or families have their college kids home and now they’re vegan.”

Because she knew the cookbook was going to be challenging, she reached out to her old friend, Madsen, an artist and hairstylist, who added her own twist — simple, straightforward recipes and whimsical illustrations.

The result, “Rescue Recipes: 101 Flexible Recipes for Multiple Diets at the Same Table,” (HHF Press, 2020, $16.95) is packed with humor and creativity. Madsen’s illustrations are in black and white, so kids can color them in.

Her drawings also have been upcycled into a companion coloring book for kids, “All Hands on Deck!,” featuring Oskar the blue octopus on the cover. In addition, the authors have spun off a fun line of graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts, notebooks and stickers, pillows and posters featuring Madsen’s illustrations (hhfpress.net/ygt-1).

How to use the cookbook

“Rescue Recipes” provides symbols for each diet that suggest corresponding substitutions. There’s also a downloadable “cheat sheet” that shows how to make substitutions at a single glance. It suggests certain mushrooms, for example, in place of shrimp or clams, to make a seafood dish into a vegan or vegetarian dish.

The book also features recipes that simply highlight vegetables, such as Marsh’s Enchanted Forest Pie, filled with sauteed mushrooms, zucchini and fresh herbs and topped with mashed sweet potatoes or mashed turnips, depending on whether the guest is vegan or paleo.

“I am not into those vegan restaurants with the meat substitutes,” Marsh said. “Why not just take a beautiful dish and make it delicious and simple?”

In the opening of the book, the authors share some of their acquired kitchen wisdom, from the importance of using up leftovers (“reincarnation recipes”) to how to stock a pantry for different diets. They also define each special diet — vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo — and give general guidelines.

“It’s tricky figuring out what people can and cannot eat,” Marsh said. “Some vegans will eat honey, some won’t. Some paleos will eat sweet potatoes and quinoa, and some won’t. So it’s good to ask.”

Cooking for the pandemic

By coincidence, the book’s summer release coincided with the state’s shelter-in-place orders, which have created a growing demand for home-cooked meals that are easy, quick and accessible.

“This book is nonfussy,” Madsen said. “You can learn to cook with this book if you are a family, a brutal bachelor or just an adult needing to cook due to the coronavirus.”

The authors’ different cooking styles add diversity to the recipes which circle the globe, from Caribbean-style Shrimp and Salmon Teriyaki to South-of-the-Border Pork Roast to Fire-house Chicken, a beloved Slavic dish also known as Chicken Paprikash.

Marsh, who created most of the recipes, leans toward savory European dishes such as hearty vegetable soups and celery root salad, ratatouille and crepes.

A self-described “scrapper,” Madsen contributed comfort dishes such as Darn Good Deviled Eggs, a five-ingredient Carrot Salad (with love from Denmark) and an Emergency 5-Minute Pasta Salad.

“You can throw something together in five to 30 minutes,” Madsen said. “I have a Friday Night Bites section in the cookbook for busy people who come home on Friday night exhausted. There’s a build-a-taco bar and a build-a-burger bar.”

Despite their different cooking styles, the two authors agreed that all the ingredients in the cookbook needed to be available at local grocery stores.

“We’re keeping it simple, and you can find creative ways to shop,” Madsen said. “I just love Grocery Outlet. It is possible to eat healthy on a budget.”

By coming up with dishes that can be tweaked slightly for each person at the table, they hope no one feels left out or embarrassed about their dietary restrictions.

“Everyone is eating the same meal, so it’s about inclusivity,” Madsen said. “More than anything, I just want people to gather around the table again.”

The title of the book, “Rescue Recipes,” has multiple meanings for the two authors, former roommates who reconnected after the death of a mutual friend.

“(The cookbook) rescued our friendship, and it rescued our unemployment,” Madsen said. “We’re two women in our 50s reinventing ourselves.”

Marsh, who wrote “The New Dutch Oven Cookbook” (HHF Press, 2019), already has plans to write a French cookbook as a tribute to her mother.

In homage to her father the baker, Madsen plans to write a cookbook of one-bowl baking recipes for young adults 10 to 15 years old.

“It would have staples like a rock-solid banana cake, dinner rolls and a carrot cake with cream cheese,” she said. “A lot of kids are baking now, and this would be a great introduction.”

“Rescue Recipes” and “All Hands on Deck!” are available at amazon.com

“If you want extra-fluffy pancakes with the same lovely zing of buttermilk, try using kefir instead,” Marsh writes. “You will get the fluffiest pancakes on the planet, plus extra little probiotics for your belly.”

High-Culture Kefir Pancakes

Serves 4 to 6

2 eggs

2 cups plain kefir

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Honey or maple syrup

Banana slices and blueberries

For vegans:

2 eggs = ¼ cup vegan egg substitute or 2 extra tablespoons oil

2 cups plain kefir = 2 cups plain almond kefir plus ½ cup almond yogurt, mixed

4 tablespoons melted butter = 2 tablespoons melted vegan butter or coconut oil

Honey or maple syrup = maple syrup

For paleos:

2 cups flour = 2 cups almond flour

2 cups plain kefir = 2 cups plain almond kefir plus ½ cup almond yogurt mixed

4 tablespoons melted butter = 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Optional: 2 tablespoons sugar = 2 tablespoons coconut sugar

For gluten-free:

2 cups flour = 2 cups almond flour or the same amount of gluten-free flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and put aside. Whisk eggs, kefir and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Make a large hole in the flour mixture and pour in the egg/kefir mixture. Blend until just smooth, with no lumps. Do not overmix or pancakes will not be fluffy. Let sit for a few minutes.

Vegan, paleo and gluten-free: adjust thickness with added almond milk or wheat flour or nut flour you are using.

Pour batter onto oiled or buttered skillet or griddle and brown on both sides over medium heat, turning once and cooking about 3 minutes each side.

Pour honey or maple syrup over pancakes, add some banana slices and blueberries and enjoy!

“One of the most refreshing ways to start off just about any meal is with a delicious salad made from ripe, seasonal tomatoes,” Marsh writes. “It can be eaten on its own or paired with warm bread and extra virgin olive oil.”

Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Fresh Basil

Serves 4 to 6

4 ripe, large tomatoes, cut into very thin slices

1 bunch fresh basil

1 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

2 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

For vegan or paleo:

1 cup fresh mozzarella = thin slices of radish

Arrange tomato slices on a serving plate so they fan out in a spiral. Place slices of mozzarella inserted regularly throughout the tomato spiral for a decorative effect.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil (mixed with garlic, if using) evenly over the tomato salad. Add black pepper and sea salt to taste.

Strip basil leaves off stems. Decorate the salad with basil leaves, placing a large bunch in the center.

“This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare either a large fish or a couple of fish fillets,” Marsh writes. “It’s delicious over rice.”

Tender Baked Fish with Aromatic Vegetables

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1½ 2 to 2 pounds whole fish or fish fillets

2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large shallot, minced

Fresh juice of one lime

2 zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds

1 leek, chopped into thin rounds

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon chili

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Dash of black pepper

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Wedges of lemons or limes, for garnish

For vegans and vegetarians:

1½ to 2 pounds fish = 1 pound firm tofu, sliced 1 inch thick, or four potatoes, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place fish fillet in the center and turn several times in the oil to cover completely. Squeeze the lime juice over it.

Mix the spices together in a bowl, then shake the spices over the fish to cover all sides completely.

Place the chopped shallots and 1 cup of the tomatoes directly on top. Surround with the sliced zucchini, leeks and remainder of the tomatoes. Drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables to coat.

Broil or bake on very high, about 425 degrees, for 10 minutes or until beginning to brown slightly.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees, cover with a lid and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Remove from heat, check to make sure everything is tender and let sit, covered, on stove or table for 5 minutes. Serve topped with parsley and lemon or lime sections on the side.

“The traditional French method of preparing the humble green bean is the tastiest by far,” Marsh writes. “It is also very easy to make.”

Green Beans with Butter and Shallots

Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 pound French green beans

4 shallots, sliced thinly

1 tablespoon sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Dash sea salt flakes

For vegan:

4 tablespoons salted butter = vegan butter substitute

For paleo:

4 tablespoons salted butter = olive or coconut oil

Fill a pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and add the green beans to the pot, parboiling them for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat butter for 30 seconds on medium heat in sauté pan, add shallots and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes until shallots begin to soften.

Throw in parboiled green beans, cover and sauté on medium heat, mixing often, until just tender (about 10 minutes).

Remove from heat and let sit, covered, a few minutes before serving. Add fresh ground pepper and salt flakes, as desired.

“If you love lemon, then this is your jam!” Madsen writes. “It is an easy recipe that kids love to help with, and since the flavor is so fresh and intense, small servings are the norm.”

Lewis’ Lemon Bars

Serves 8

For shortbread crust:

¼ cup creamery butter, softened, plus extra to grease pan

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

⅓ teaspoon mineral salt

For vegan:

¼ cup creamery butter = vegan butter or coconut oil

For paleo:

¼ cup creamery butter = coconut oil

1½ cups all-purpose flour = 1½ cups almond flour

½ cup granulated sugar = ½ cup coconut sugar

Gluten-free:

1½ cups all-purpose flour = 1 1/2 cups almond flour

For lemon custard topping:

¾ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Yellow part of rind from one lemon, chopped finely

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

5 tablespoons regular or almond flour

For vegan:

4 eggs = 2 cups soft tofu

For paleo:

2 cups white sugar = 2 cups coconut sugar

5 tablespoons regular flour = 5 tablespoons almond flour

For gluten-free:

5 tablespoons regular flour = 5 tablespoons almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, have middle rack ready and grease a 12-by-12-inch (or similar size) ovenproof dish.

Mix butter, flour and sugar until combined and press mixture into greased glass dish.

Bake until shortbread starts to turn brown at the edges, about 20 minutes, and remove from oven. While shortbread is baking, whisk eggs and prepare lemon rind and juice.

In a separate bowl, mix flour and sugar together and add the whisked eggs and lemon rind. (For vegan, blend tofu mixture above and let chill.)

After removing the shortbread from the oven, add lemon juice to the egg mixture, mix well and pour over shortbread.

Return to the oven and bake until firm when jiggled, about another 20 minutes. (Vegan: do not bake filling. Pour into crust and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.)

Allow to cool fully. Serve alone or with vanilla gelato and fresh raspberries.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

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