What is gluten?
What exactly is gluten and why would you NOT want to eat it? From the Celiac Disease Center: "Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and other grains and intolerance to it damages the small intestine, causing malabsorption of nutrients, which can lead to serious health consequences including Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, infertility, depression and cancer."
Cooking without gluten
After a cocktail hour and an introduction by world-renowned celiac disease expert, Dr. Peter Green, we split into teams of three or four that each worked with a personal chef.
Before the group started cooking, I spoke with Suzi, Chef and owner of Cooking by the Book about my food allergies (tree nuts and fish) and food intolerance (dairy, soy, sugar and wheat). She took great care of my needs, especially as the planned menu had tree-nuts in each course, save dessert. Explaining that Cooking by the Book deals with special dietary requests all the time, Suzi announced to all of the personal chefs to be aware that there was a nut-allergic person in the house, to be very aware of cross contamination and to set aside my portion before adding nuts to their dishes. Excellent!
The menu for the evening was as follows:
- Escarole & Radicchio with Sweet Roasted Pears
- Blue Cheese & Pecans
- Roasted Cornish Game Hens
- Kasha Pilaf with Spiced Caramelized Onions, Orange, Cranberries and Pistachio
- Wild Mushrooms with Chestnuts & Brussels Sprouts
- Chocolate Roll
My dishes were without nuts or dairy. There were other adjustments made for those in the group who were vegetarian, or dairy free or even Kosher (no pancetta for them!)
The dinner was delish and allergen-free. The conversation was fun and I think we all learned something about cooking gluten-free: truly it's not as difficult as one might imagine.
The recipes are below. They can of course be made without nuts or dairy and be tailored to your specific dietary needs.
Escarole & Radicchio with Sweet Roasted Pears, Blue Cheese & Pecans