Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dear FoodVibe: Gluten Free Recipes

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Dear FoodVibe,

I’d appreciate if you could send me some gluten free recipes. This has been quite a lifestyle change for my family; it started with a horrible mystery illness and eventually turned into a diagnosis of celiac disease. So now I am trying to recreate our lifestyle; only thing, my family cooking background is PA Dutch! Needless to say, it’s been a difficult transition.




Hi Kelly,

Your story is familiar: first, the mystery symptoms; then, the life-changing diagnosis. I can empathize, having experienced this myself. When I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes I was also tested for celiacs disease. I tested negative, but I soon discovered that eschewing gluten improved my health immensely. I haven’t eaten wheat, rye, or barley for four years. Now, I only eat spelt.

I like what you say, though: you’re trying to “re-create” your lifestyle. Keep that in mind: change can be a creative venture; it doesn’t have to be a punishment. A diagnosis of celiac disease can seem devastating, I know—suddenly, you can’t eat any of the foods you had eaten before: no Cheerios, no coffee bread, no fastnacht, no pizza, no shoo-fly pie, no cookies!—but with this devastation you’re also granted a wonderful initiative: the need, and hopefully, the will, to explore.

I admire your explorer's attitude.

OK, so recipes?

First, let me say: I don’t go for substitutes. I can recommend some decent alternative products—Tinkyada Rice Pasta, for example; or Sakata Rice Crackers—but really I recommend good food: food that is first and foremost delicious, food that is culturally relevant, food that will make you feel like you’re part of the world.

It’s hard enough, I think, to live with an illness like celiac disease; so why make it harder trying to make up for what you’ve lost with inferior substitutes? People who do this, I sometimes think, are missing the point. A recent column in the magazine Living Without, for example, offers: “Perfect Pasta Salads: Your favorite summer dish is better than ever, without the gluten.”

Bullshit. Actually, it’s worse then ever. This is self-deception, plain and simple. I don't go for self deception. And I certainly don’t go for an attitude that defines a diet or a lifestyle as “living without.”

Why not living with?

Which makes me wonder: Do you eat rice?

There are a few Korean guys at my work, sushi chefs. I love, love watching them eat lunch; it’s always, always the same: a tremendous hunk of sushi rice and some sort of fish or meat. These guys relish their rice with infectious gusto; they make the simple act of eating lunch seem like a celebratory feast. And they do this everyday.

Rice is immensely satisfying, and can be immensely delicious, if properly prepared.

For breakfast: Coconut Rice Pudding (recipe below); or my favored breakfast: a bowl of brown rice, with honey and cinnamon.

For lunch: a hunk of rice (easy to re-heat at work) with, say, anything—meat, fish, beans, or vegetables. I like eating rice with a "sauce", like my Blackened Jalapeño and Avocado Sauce (recipe below).

Dinner: risotto; a perfect pot of rice with, say, Pan Roasted Tempeh with Mediterranean Charmoula (recipe below); Pad Thai; sushi.

Beyond rice, have you tried quinoa?

Or buckwheat? I eat kasha for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. How about Kasha and Chickpeas (recipe below), one of my all time favorites?

Or corn-flour? Polenta is utterly satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable; masa harina makes the best tortillas, perfect for re-heating for lunch.

All of these foods have rich cultural connections (quinoa was the ancient grain of the Incans; tempeh was first made in Indonesia in the mid 1600’s), maybe not your culture, but somewhere, some time, people have prepared, shared, and loved all of these foods. In an increasingly globalised world, I see no problem picking and borrowing from whatever cuisine entices us. We can shop locally; but we can always cook globally.

These foods are certainly gluten-free, but I find it much more healthier to think of them as rice-full, or quinoa-full, or polenta-full. Your diet doesn’t have to be about absence; it can be about utter abundance.

Which also makes me wonder: Have you heard of fruit? Every single fruit is gluten free.
Ditto, every single vegetable. I for one could eat potatoes every single night! And I have! And, fruit, oh now is the best, best, best time for fruit: I’d take fresh Jersey blueberries over a cookie anyday!

Think about this. Every single fruit, every single vegetable! (Not to mention, every single bean, fish, meat, chicken, and drug…just kidding about the last one; although marijuana is gluten-free!) Now that you know what it feels like to to live without certain foods, don’t you feel joyous knowing there’s so much you can live with?

Still, I know, it's tough, unimaginably tough to radically alter your diet. And I often think the hardest adaptation for new celiacs patients is saying goodbye to all the treats: cookies, cakes, pies.

When I was first diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, I'd to complain to my wife: Why me? Why can't I do what everyone else does? Why me?

And she'd do this strange thing: she'd mock me!

Boo hoo! She'd say. Boo-hoo!

And she'd keep saying it until I laughed.

So, no cookie?

Well, boo-hoo!

I say grow up; eat chocolate.


Coconut Rice Pudding

1 cup Forbidden Black Rice or arborio rice
4 cups full-fat coconut milk
2 cups water
½ cup raw honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, coconut milk, water raw honey, cinnamon, and sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is thoroughly cooked.

Chill the rice 1 hour before serving.

Avocado and Blackened Jalapeño Sauce

I originally published this recipe here. It's an adaptation of a wonderful recipe from my friend Obed's wife, Daniella. She served it with the warning: It's too hot for me. This recipe is the HOT version (follow the link for the WIMP version). Serve it with chips, or slathered over chicken, or as a sauce for a bowl of perfectly cooked rice.

Makes about 3 cups

2 large jalapeños
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 large Hass avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt to taste

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add jalapeños and garlic and cook, shaking the skillet often, until tender and blackened on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

Transfer the jalapeños to a blender along with garlic. Add avocados, lime juice and salt and puree until somewhat smooth. With blender still running, slowly drizzle in about 1/2 cup water. Continue to puree until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Pan Roasted Tempeh with Mediterranean Charmoula

Charmoula is a North African marinade typically made of oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cilantro and salt. Here, tempeh is layered in a pan, doused with a Mediterranean version of the classic Charmoula recipe, and roasted until perfectly browned. Serve with basmati rice, cucumber salad and a spicy Shiraz. I originally published this recipe here. This recipe was inspired and adapted from a Peter Berley recipe, from his masterpiece, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
4 whole garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 fresh basil, chopped
1 pound tempeh, cut into 2-inch squares

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare the charmoula in a small bowl by mixing together the oil, broth, lemon juice, zest, salt, garlic, parsley, and basil; whisk until emulsified.

Layer the tempeh squares in a 9-inch glass baking dish. Pour the charmoula mixture over the tempeh cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake for 35–40 minutes; remove the foil and bake for 5-10 more minutes until marinade is absorbed and tempeh is browned.

Kasha and Chickpeas with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

This recipe, too, I originally published elsewhere. To me, the smell of kasha cooking is the smell of my Jewish grandparent's house. I eat this dish to make myself feel more fully Jewish, if not religiously, then culturally.

For the Kasha:

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat groats)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

For the Onions and Mushrooms:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon water
8 ounces crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, chopped, more for garnish
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

Prepare the kasha: Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in kasha, salt and olive oil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the onions and mushrooms: Heat olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat. Add mirin and water, cover, and cook gently over medium-low heat until onions are soft and translucent, 12 to 14 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add parsley, garlic and chickpeas and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated.

Lightly fluff kasha with a fork and transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Spoon the chickpeas and vegetables over the kasha. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve.


Steve said...

I agree with the sentiment that dietary delusion is ridiculous. My mother just doesn't seem to get it though. Since being diagnosed with Celiac five years ago, she has scoured the globe looking for the perfect gluten-free pizza, bread, or beer. Everything she's brought home has tasted like shit. Yet still her search continues.

As one who keeps kosher, I never eat the imitation crab legs or ask for soy cheese on my burgers. What's the point?

It's about celebrating what you CAN have with creativity and style. Not bemoaning what you CAN"T have, always trying to find a substitute.

Stephanie said...

Such good advice and so thoughtfully put. Such loving and delicious recipes.

I grew up eating Kasha too (not to be mistaken with the breakfast cereal, "Kashi" - which has wheat and sugar, etc...). My grandmother made it exactly the same way, with mushrooms and onions, and that smell is forever permeated in my memory. We had the "varnishkas" as well but I guess I shouldn't mention that here...

Seth said...


Good. So we agree on that.


Kasha Varnishkas must be the all-time Jewish comfort food. I used to only eat it when I was depressed. Now I eat kasha in joy and depression, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I love it with chicken; kasha also seems very amenable to smaltz.

xysea said...


I tried the coconut rice pudding and it worked like a dream! Very tasty, too. Thanks for that recipe!


Seth said...

Wow xysea! You're quick!

Thanks for the positive feedback...

xysea said...

Well, the beauty of the recipe is that it is simple and I had all the ingredients all ready on hand.

:) You're very welcome!

Sarah said...

I love the sentiment of this entry. with, not feeling deprived, searching for equally, if not more, satisfying alternatives.

I think one of the reasons there are magazines like "Living Without" is because we live in a culture where everyone thinks he or she is entitled to... well, everything. And lots of it! Which is why any alteration to one's diet (for whatever reason -- health, fad diet, religion) is looked upon as negative, "Oh poor you, you can't eat... (fill in the blank.)" So thanks, Seth, for giving it a new perspective!

Suzanne said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Sarah, Steve and the general sentiment expressed in this post. Learning (and loving) to live with what we have is such an elusive goal in most Western cultures. Though reminders such as this blog you've written bring us a bit closer.

carrol said... has a large selection of organic and gluten free pastas.

Candace said...

i absolutely love this recipe. Its sexy, its simple, and its good for dessert, breakfast, or comforting lost wisdom teeth.

However I would request that the recipe be revised to recommend "extreme caution" when attempting to make it with the Forbidden Black Rice.

Forbidden Rice Coconut Pudding turned into an uncooked, completely reduced and mildly burnt disaster.

Diane said...

After learning I had celiac disease 9 years ago it was as though I had discovered food for the first time. I was shocked at the realization my diet was almost entirely bread up until that point. And I embraced my new diet because I finally felt well.
Somehow it all fell apart when I found out my 3 year old could not eat gluten. I have spent that last 2 years trying to make gluten free foods that are what "normal" kids eat. Feeling guilty that he can't eat what his friends eat and that somehow his childhood is being stolen from him. Your article brought me back to what I saw 9 years ago. That this so called normal american diet is crap and it's time to start my rediscovery of food all over again. Thank you. I am inspired.