Diet fads may come and go, but at a time when awareness of food allergies, digestive health and genetic modification keep growing, it’s safe to say that the gluten-free trend is here to stay.
Gluten intolerance can range from a mild sensitivity (a digestive response) to full-blown celiac disease (an immune response). According to a Mayo Clinic survey in 2012, about 1.8 million Americans have been found to have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. Over time, this reaction causes the inflammation of the small intestine’s lining and makes it harder for it to absorb nutrients the body requires. This can be dangerous if the brain, nervous system, and other organs are deprived of vital nourishment for too long.
However, an additional 18 million people, or about 6 percent of eaters are said to be gluten intolerant. This is when consuming gluten causes the body to display a stress response, different from the immunological response that occurs in those who have celiac disease. This differs from celiac disease as it does not cause lasting harm to body tissues.
Okay, so that’s where the trend comes from: an awful lot of people avoiding this gluten stuff. So, what is gluten? A protein found in wheat, rye, barley, or any of their crossbred varieties, gluten gives flour its doughy elastic consistency and helps food maintain its shape. It basically acts as glue to hold food molecules together, which is what makes bread chewy and cake crumbly.
Now imagine that you’re not gluten-intolerant, and thus not deeply briefed in the ins and outs of what the gluten-avoiding crowd can and cannot eat. And yet, you’ve invited over some friends who are. What should you make for your dinner party guests?
To find out, we consulted the Blue Apron Culinary Team for their expertise.
Q: Imagine you are hosting a dinner party and a close friend eats gluten free, what would that menu look like?
A: Why not make it a peach centric meal? A great complement to the summer! We could start with a Golden Beet Borscht served cold. Then follow with something super summery like this Spiced-Rubbed Pork Medallions with Cilantro Rice. After the meal, you can bring it all home with Grilled Peaches topped with Vanilla Ice Cream and a Walnut Crumble, which is in our upcoming cookbook. Just make sure to use gluten-free oatmeal and swap out the flour for almond meal. Delicious!
Q: What is your inspiration for this menu?
A: Peaches are arguably the best part of summer–plus they are great in sweet or savory applications. Why not show them off with this menu that features some other summer stunners like corn and green beans? Or try this marinated green tomato salad with sesame oil and red onions. I bet you’ve never had green tomatoes this like before! We pair the salad with rice and chicken satay to make it a complete meal.
Q: Last, but not least, can you offer our readers five simple tips to adapt any dish to make it gluten-free?
A: Adapting recipes isn’t always easy. Your biggest hurdle is going to be replacing flour in recipes and in order to do that properly, you need to know the function of the flour. For instance:
1. If you are dipping chicken breasts in flour to pan fry them you can substitute regular flour with rice flour (which is much better for this application anyway!).
2. If the flour is being used as a binder in say, meatballs or chicken patties, swap out the flour for an egg.
3. Swap out regular wheat pastas for gluten-free grain centric pastas .
4. Swap out couscous or bulgur wheat with other interesting grains such as multi-colored quinoa or for plain or black rice.
5. Omit buns and use lettuce leaves for burgers, buns and wraps instead.
There you have it! Friends with gluten-free diets can still come to your dinner parties. Tweaking your menu to their needs might just land you in extremely creative, and delicious territory. Yum!
You can see our favorite gluten-free recipes on this pinterest board.