It may seem daunting to make dinner for a friend who is gluten free. What can you make? How can you do that in your kitchen? I want to give you some basic advice for such a situation so you won’t feel too stressed out about it. I wrote this for my sisters and a friend who wanted to cook a meal for me last summer.
First, I suggest you make sure your pots/pans/cutting boards/knives/baking dishes are very clean; if you have a dishwasher run them through. Any small bit of wheat flour can be a problem so scrub up good! Especially colanders that had wheat pasta in; it sticks in the tiny holes. If you are planning on cooking GF often you should have a colander dedicated for GF usage.
Planning is everything when you are entertaining. Good menu choices for sides: anything with potatoes or rice or corn as the star is generally okay. You should check that your GF friend doesn’t have any other allergies -like to corn or dairy. Unfortunately, that is fairly common for GF individuals. So ask before you plan a menu. Also acceptable for sides are quinoa, a wide variety of beans or polenta which is made with corn. There are lots of GF pastas out there; you can make enough for everyone or just enough GF for the person who must have it. In the summer you can serve a variety of tasty salads or picnic side dishes: rice salad, potato salad, baked beans, pickled eggs and deviled eggs. If you grill do clean the grill well in advance just in case something wheaty was on it (some bbq sauces have wheat in them as a thickener). If you buy a rice mix at the supermarket check it for a GF label; a lot of seasoning packets have wheat in them. Zatarians marks which of their mixes are GF.
If your recipe for scalloped potatoes has flour in it; replace it with white rice flour, it works fairly interchangeably for thickening sauces, flouring fish fillets or meat, or for making gravy. You can buy GF bread crumbs although I personally prefer to grind up left over GF bread and freeze the crumbs. You can buy rice flour in most supermarkets and health food stores these days. Chinese grocery stores sell it too. Supermarkets have a GF area where you can find crackers, hamburger buns and a decent variety of foods to help create your meal.
Some on line resources you can check out while planning a GF meal include: http://glutenfreeresourcedirectory.com/uid/4df6c6a2-2750-4966-a17d-540b30b115c5 Also, http://celiaccentral.wordpress.com/ or: http://www.celiac.com/. There are lots of sites with GF recipes; even food.com and foodnetwork.com have gluten free recipes you can chose from.
For desserts you can always serve fresh fruit, puddings, ice cream (no cookies with cream or cookie dough ice cream!), sorbet or ices. If you want to bake a dessert there are lots of great GF recipes out there; cookies and cakes translate well to GF, sometimes tasting even better than their wheat counterparts. I put up a pie recipe a few weeks ago; the crust and crumb portions from that recipe will make a great fruit pie; just use tapioca, cornstarch or white rice flour for thickening the fruit filling of your choice. The grocery stores GF section carries cake mixes and cookie mixes so you can make a quick and tasty dessert. There are lots of recipes for flourless chocolate cake which is a chocoholics dream! And you can get GF graham crackers to make a cheese cake crust that is safe for us celiacs. Use the above mentioned flour alternatives if any wheat flour is in your cheesecake recipe as a thickener. I just got some ice cream cones that are GF. Great snack choice if your company includes little kids. There are many tasty GF dessert choices for a minimum of effort.
Honestly, you can easily make a lovely tasting meal that will be safe for your celiac friend(s). It just takes some planning and extra care in the kitchen. Step one is planning a tasty GF meal, two is purchasing GF ingredients, three is making sure the utensils and surfaces are really cleaned up well so no wheat clings anywhere, four is cooking your meal components safely in a wheat free environment and step five is relaxing with friends enjoying the delicious GF meal you lovingly prepared for your company. So, don’t hesitate when you find out someone you love is now GF. You can make a great meal without totally stressing out about how to make your food all GF. It’s as easy as one, two, three, four, five!
Originally posted in July 2013.