A gluten-free (GF) diet is free of wheat (in all its varieties), rye, barley, triticale, and oats. That is all there is to it, and that is a liberating thought. Think of all the things that are allowed: corn, rice and other grains except those listed above; every vegetable under the sun; all varieties of meat and fish; dairy and eggs; fruits and nuts. To turn this plenty into veritable feasts you probably won’t even have to change your cooking methods.
The rub—and it’s a big one—is that most baked goods, pastas and even beers, contain gluten. Of all of these, bread is the biggest problem. No matter how you slice it, GF bread cannot take the place of wheat or rye bread. GF eaters I know agree that Udi’s GF bread is the best. In my experience, the GF Rustic White Loaf, made by President’s Choice is the best and freshest at a reasonable price; it is available at Loblaw’s and elsewhere.
The good news is that starchy foods don’t have to be wheat-based to satisfy.
Most supermarkets stock Glutino GF English muffins in a freezer somewhere; they have excellent texture. Toasted on the grill, they make very good hamburger rolls.
GF pasta made of 100% corn, especially the Le Veneziane brand (available at Cedars on Bank and Nicastro’s on Merivale, among others), is just as good as wheat pasta.
Nutty wild or brown rice makes a good side for a roast or a stuffing for fowl. Coarsely mashed, overcooked rice instead of breadcrumbs makes for a moist and tender meatloaf. Brown or white rice flour is a good thickener for cream soups. Asian rice noodles add interesting textures to entrees and soups.
One hundred per cent corn polenta (made with coarse cornmeal), with or without added aged cheeses, fried or not, makes a wonderful side for stews, particularly Italian ones. Pre-baked, it makes a good pie-crust for savoury pies. Deep-fried polenta sticks dipped in chipotle-flavoured mayonnaise are a terrific appetizer.
Potatoes mashed with carrots, parsnips, or celery root makes a nice change. Mashed potatoes also are a good topping for a meat pie; grate a little cheese on top, slip it under the grill, et voilà—crust! Or turn potatoes into a gratin—no need for gravy.
Speaking of gravy, instead of thickening it with wheat flour, use a 50/50 mixture of corn or potato starch and instant mashed potatoes. It will look and taste like the real thing.
As for desserts, GF cake mixes are surprisingly good. President’s Choice GF Mini Brownies are superb. For a delicious GF chocolate chip cookie recipe (and tips for the best wheat flour substitutes), see the IMAGE April/May issue. Sponge cake made with corn or potato starch is excellent. And there’s always ice cream splashed with your favourite liqueur.
Happy gluten-free eating!