I’ve been lucky, food-wise. I didn’t have any food allergies growing up, and don’t seem to have developed any as an adult. Just the usual stuff about getting older and being more careful about what I eat -- the results of a recent cholesterol test suggest that perhaps I be a bit more restrained on my intake of pork belly and foie gras -- but otherwise I’ve been able to amble quite happily through all kinds of eating. I haven’t had to structure my choices around shouldn’t or can’t; more likely it’s “I tried the tripe pho and it just really wasn’t my thing.”
Interesting, then, that within the last several weeks I’ve been spending time with two people for whom gluten intolerance is a real issue. My first thought was: Horrors! No bread or pasta? (and as a big baker…) No baked goods!? My first reaction was shouldn’t and can’t, when really it just means thinking a little bit more about what you’re eating -- not a bad thing for any of us. That might include seeking out restaurants with good wheat-free options, and as you might expect this is a task that I plan to embrace with great enthusiasm. Already we’ve had a great meal from the gluten-free menu at Tango on lower Capitol Hill. And I was impressed to learn, during dinner at Volterra in Ballard, that they have started making gluten-free pasta and you just need to let them know when making your reservation that you’re interested in said pasta. I also hear tell of a fantastic little spot in Greenwood called Wheatless in Seattle, though I have yet to check it out…
With my gluten antennae firmly in place, last week I moved to a more advanced level of food awareness when I, along with my visiting mother, moved in with my nieces for the week. I knew that the youngest had recently been put on a diet that excluded the broad categories of gluten and dairy, but when I arrived and read through the list of can’ts there were also things like onion and garlic. So I went back through the recipes I had carefully amassed to see what could work with these new restrictions and sure enough, I had to shift my thinking once again. It’s good for me, this business of eating mindfully. Or at least mindfully in a way that doesn’t just include appreciating fresh ingredients and careful preparation, but also the specific components of each meal.
I am pleased to report that this meal of marinated flank steak, roasted asparagus and red potatoes that look suspiciously Yukon Gold-y was a big hit, and was delicious (if I do say so myself) while meeting all dietary requirements. Luckily the hectic schedules of two very busy girls meant that someone else preparing the food was sometimes the better option, so the chicken teriyaki at Himitsu and gluten- and dairy-free pizza from Garlic Jim’s also figured prominently in my week.
Remember my initial reaction and the horror at no longer being able to bake if gluten-restricted? I had been doing some research over the last few weeks, reading about all of the ways to replace wheat flour in various recipes. While I may eventually make my own flour mixture, for the moment I’m using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour with great results. One square of these Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars is about all my youngest niece can have for the moment, until dairy is less of an issue, but the successful substitution of the non-wheat-y flour means that they are good to go for the gluten intolerant of the world. And quite delicious, if I do say so myself.
Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350°. Use cooking spray to coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line it with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into 32 bars.
[Thanks to Real Simple for the original, wheat-y version of this recipe]