May is Celiac Awareness Month, so gluten-free cooking was our recent theme in the Cooking Studio. Also, and coincidentally, we had a Dietetic Intern who has two children diagnosed with the disease. She guided the development of this program. With a passion for food and a promise of making real food with ingredients readily found in supermarkets, we sought gluten free recipes that would please the entire family.
Celiac disease (CD) is a lifelong, genetic disorder affecting children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten they have an autoimmune reaction that causes damage to the villi, tiny hair-like projections in the small intestine. This does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Gluten is the protein naturally found in the grains of wheat, barley, and rye. Because of frequent contamination during processing, oats are often removed from the diet as well. Even though they are gluten-free. Eliminating gluten from your diet is not recommended unless you have a diagnosis of CD, as avoiding wheat unnecessarily limits the intake of a healthy whole grain and its nutritional value.
We looked for recipes naturally free of gluten, not those using gluten substitutes. We prepared a Quinoa, Bean, and Roasted Corn salad with Avocado Dressing and Polenta with Roasted Tomato Compote. The Quinoa Salad, similar to last week’s Salad Nicoise, is a great example of a protein packed “main dish” salad due to the high protein content of quinoa. The accompanying avocado dressing was described by many of the tasters as “zippy,” likely due to the inclusion of Dijon mustard. Like many grains, quinoa is a blank slate in need of dressing up. This recipe was abundantly flavorful, but do take the time to roast the corn; it really makes a difference!
Polenta started humbly as a food that filled the bellies of poor Northern Italians. While it wasn’t always made from corn meal, it’s almost exclusively made from corn today. This makes it an excellent naturally gluten-free grain; like the quinoa, polenta takes its flavor from the sauces and ingredients it’s cooked in and served with. Our polenta was served soft, with a roasted tomato compote. The recipe is simple with few ingredients; but the “roasting” step is almost an ingredient in and of itself. Roasting the tomatoes caramelizes the natural sugar in the tomatoes and adds a fullness of flavor that really makes the dish. Finishing the polenta with a small amount of Parmesan cheese keeps the fat content low, but puts the tanginess of the cheese front and center.
Pam Stofberg RD and Robin McConnell, MS, RD, CSO