May is right around the corner, bringing all its flowers (though we’re still falling short in our April showers in this part of the country). Perhaps less-well known is this month’s designation as Gluten-Free Awareness Month. Even if you do not have celiac disease or deal with a gluten intolerance, you most likely know someone who does or are even responsible for feeding someone with these eating sensitivities.
As a means of helping people who are not themselves unable to eat gluten to better understand —and enjoy!— the wide variety of gluten-free food choices available, the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and Pamela’s Products have set up the Gluten-Free Challenge Weekend. This year, the weekend of May 21 and 22 is designated the challenge weekend, and I decided I would sign myself up to participate. (If you’d like to participate, sign up now to receive the free recipes!) I also decided, why wait? Cooking without glutinous grains sounds like a fun way to spice up the dinner menu around the house. In honor of the challenge, here is the beginning of what I hope will be a short series of self-trialed tips and loose recipes, all gluten-free of course, leading up to the challenge weekend.
One food category I have always thought would be sad to miss out on by not being able to eat wheat is pizza. And quiche. And any other “crusted” recipe. The whole idea of not eating any meal that comes served on a grainy crust is one of those that’s-not-going-to-happen-for-me kind of ideas. (I've experimented with other flours, but never really enjoyed the results as well as I'd hoped.) But, I’ve realized there are many whole-grain alternatives that are just as tasty, if not even more flavorful, and provide a unique texture and character to many well-loved, traditional dishes.
Cooking up polenta and spreading it onto the bottom of a pizza pan makes your pizza take on a whole new, old school Italian feel (plus a Mexican-themed pizza has never been so corny and wonderful). Millet works in a similar way, as it tends to gum up and stick to itself when cooked and then left to sit and cool, so try spreading it in a pie pan as a crust for any number of fillings.
For the photos in this blog, I made a quiche using a whole-grain, brown rice crust (although you could use quinoa in the same manner). After cooking 1 cup of short-grain brown rice, I made up one “flax egg” by combining 2 tablespoons of flax meal with 3 tablespoons of just-boiling water (a beaten egg white would also work). After letting the “egg” set for about 5 minutes, I added it to my rice, along with salt and chopped herbs. I spread this mixture into a greased pie pan, and let it bake in a 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. I mixed up a standard quiche filling (this one with steamed chard, topped with the season’s first lightly steamed asparagus), poured the mixture into the warm, pre-baked rice crust, and let it bake in a 350-degree oven for nearly 45 minutes. I may never go back to normal crusts again: The whole-grain and low-fat benefits aside, the change in texture and flavor alone was well worth the switch.
Have any gluten-free crust ideas or recipes? Share them in the comments section below!