For those who live with some level of sensitivity to gluten, the everyday world is becoming a much friendlier place. Even if people are not extremely well educated on gluten and the issues around it, they are at least aware of gluten and the fact that not everyone tolerates it.
As a chef, gluten has perhaps been on my radar longer than most, but it’s truly been as a home cook and a host that I’ve really learned the most about it. Of course, as soon as I learned that someone I loved had gluten sensitivities, I was laser focused on cooking to accommodate her.
Undoubtedly, I am learning more about gluten — how to cook with it, how to cook without it and how to adjust well-loved family recipes to avoid it — every single day. In the meantime, I stick to a trio of food categories when I am looking to serve a gluten-free meal. They’re simple, actually, and don’t even require any special detours at the grocery store.
So, here are three categories that have always been gluten-free and my best tips on how to select and prepare foods from those categories.
1. Proteins. In general, the easiest way to eat gluten-free is to cook with foods that have no added anything. That is, to start with stand-alone ingredients in their purest form and build recipes from there.
Proteins from the meat department make for a delicious star of the dinner plate and guarantee everyone leaves the table with his belly full. They can be expensive, though, so don’t be afraid to play with ground meats or tougher cuts .
Whole roasting chickens can yield days of meals when you take advantage of everything from the bones to the breasts. Canned fish packed in water can also be a good option. (Just be sure to read labels carefully, so there are no surprises).
2. Produce. Spend some time at the perimeter of your grocery store. It’s where the fresh produce is, and that is always gluten-free. It grows right out of the ground that way! Fruits and vegetables can be cost-efficient when selected in season, and they absolutely are the best way to bring color and flavor to any plate. From farmers markets to grocery chains, there are more options available than ever before, and the great news is that many of them are the perfect substitute for gluten-full ingredients. Spaghetti squash satisfies any pasta craving, and cauliflower tops chopped fine act as a yummy stand-in in this couscous dish. Fresh fruit always makes a delicious breakfast shake.
3. Beans. I’ve saved the best for last because beans, hands down, are my secret to crafting gluten-free recipes with the richness and texture all food fans crave. For their protein boost, natural starchiness and surprising creaminess, canned beans are a pantry staple for all types of cooking — especially gluten-free cooking. Try a delicious chicken chili recipe (using gluten-free chicken stock), or enjoy this quick, tasty portobello mushroom entrée.
Always Read the Labels
Always double-check food labels to make sure the ingredients you’re using are gluten-free. If you’re still unsure, ask your doctor.
Cooking gluten-free is not that different from the cooking you’ve done forever. While it does require attention to details like nutrition labels, it is really nothing more than a simple extension of the thoughtful food preparation you’ve always done. And a gluten-free meal is just as delectable as the ones you’ve always enjoyed.