Eating Gluten-Free: Tips from an Iron Chef

Written by: on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
Gluten-Free Red Kidney Beans

Beans are a great, protein-rich, gluten-free food.

It’s not hard these days to come across “gluten-free” labels—in your grocery store and in delis and restaurants around the country. And with the recent standardization of gluten-free labeling by the Food & Drug Administration, you’re sure to see even more products being labeled gluten-free moving forward.

Why it matters: almost 30 percent of Americans are avoiding or eliminating gluten from their diet—many because it just makes them feel better and many others for medical reasons.

An estimated three million Americans suffer from something called Celiac Disease—a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine, and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, and rye) is eaten. (If you suspect you might have problems digesting gluten, ask your doctor to be tested.)

AliceBlastChefMehta

Alice Blast, of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, discusses gluten-free eating at Chef Mehta’s restaurant in Tribeca.

For those with Celiac Disease—just like those who have a nut allergy—flours, doughs, pastas, and any products containing gluten, can’t touch (or even mix with) gluten-free foods because it would cross contaminate them. Some people even suffer from airborne Celiac Disease, which can be particularly dangerous if food—particularly in a restaurant—isn’t prepared properly.

And therein lies the problem, says Alice Blast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Many chefs and foodservice providers remain unprepared and uneducated on how to provide gluten-free food that’s safe, says Blast, who has Celiac Disease herself. (Blast did not find out she had Celiac Disease until she was trying to get pregnant—one reason she wrote the article, “Celiac Disease and Reproductive Health Issues.”)

That’s the reason Blast has spearheaded a Great Kitchens‘ 10-City Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour , which recently kicked off in NYC at Iron Chef finalist Jehangir Mehta’s restaurant, Mehtaphor, located in TriBeca. The aim of this tour: to educate people, the media, and restaurants about what exactly gluten free is—and the importance of having gluten-free options available to those with Celiac Disease.

We got a chance to catch up with Chef Mehta, who is passionate about the importance of having gluten-free options on the menu. Here are his tips on eating gluten free:

Gluten-FreeHamburger

Eating simply is often best: a beef burger and simple salad are gluten free.

1) Eat foods naturally gluten free. “One of my core beliefs as a chef is that your health and your diet are inextricably tied,” says Mehta, who adds that naturally gluten-free foods are a great option. Many ethnic dishes, he says, are naturally gluten free because places such as Mumbai, where he grew up, use a lot of rices, beans, and spices, in place of the more expensive wheat and flour.

Other foods naturally gluten free are those that are healthier for you than processed foods. These include fresh fruits (like apples, oranges, berries, and pomegranates) and vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, carrots, and cauliflower). Keep in mind that canned fruits and vegetables aren’t always gluten free; you have to check the labels. (The more ingredients, the greater risk one of them contains gluten.) Single-ingredient frozen fruits and vegetables (and simple mixes, sans sauces) are also gluten free.

Also, just because the lettuce you’re eating is gluten free doesn’t mean the dressing is, particularly if it’s bottled dressing. Be safe, and make your own with extra virgin olive oil and wine or rice vinegar (both are gluten free)—but skip distilled white vinegar and malt vinegar, which are not gluten free.

PurpleCauliflower

Fresh cauliflower (no matter what color), as well as other fresh fruits and veggies, is gluten free.

Fresh meat and fish are also typically gluten free, but be aware of meats and fish that are ready-to-cook or in ready-to-eat side dishes. These may not be safe to consume as the store may use sauces or even bread crumbs with gluten. Also be careful around processed meats like hot dogs. Many brands, like Applegate, carry the gluten-free label—but never assume if you don’t see the label.

2. Make your own. Can’t get what you want from your grocery store or local restaurant, make it. If you’re motivated to make your own gluten-free pasta, Meta recommends using chickpea flour, water, and grapeseed oil along with eggs (and an extra yolk to give taste and texture).

The best pre-made gluten-free mixed flours include Domata Living Flour, Bob’s Red Mill, and Jules Gluten Free  (which makes great cut-out cookies).

For a list of gluten-free recipes you can make at home, click here and check out this Holiday Pinterest Board, too. Also download the Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking Essentials Checklist. (Also, check out this great gluten-free website with recipes from author Elana Amsterdam.)

Mehtaphor in Tribeca

Mehta’s restaurant is located in the Duane St. Hotel in New York City’s TriBeca.

3. Become a label reader—and stay educated. Know which brands produce gluten-free (and even dairy- and nut-free) products. (Click here, for a list of manufacturers.)

4. Frequent restaurants that take gluten-free seriously. There are plenty of restaurants like Mehta’s Mehtaphor that offer plenty of gluten-free options. Click here to search for local restaurants with gluten-free menus.

For a sampling of what we tried at Mehta’s Mehtaphor, as part of the Chef’s Table Tour, scroll below (all recipes are gluten free—and delicious!).

Mustard Foie gras crostini with raspberry (using gluten-free bread)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oysters with tapioca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled tofu with green chutney, topped with a chickpea-crusted onion ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sliced Duck served over portobello mushroom with spicy goat cheese and tomato with a mustard and onion chutney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mehtaphor sundae, including vanilla rum ice cream with Kahlua, rum raisins and lentil chip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things I’m Grateful For Today (and Every Day)

Written by: on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

We’re all accustomed to so much complaining these days (I’m no exception) that I decided to put out this list today (not in any particular order).

1.) The sunshine on my shoulders. John Denver knew what he was talking about in his song of the same name; if you’re ever feeling in a bad mood, go to iTunes and download this and listen to it (preferably while you’re outside).

2.) Dandelions.Americans spend so much money on toxic weedkillers to get rid of these “weeds” but to give it a whole new perspective: I was walking outside with my 3-year-old daughter who told me “Don’t step on the beautiful flowers [dandelions] mommy. They’re so beautiful.” And I thought: Darn, they are kind of nice: bright bursts of sunshine. (We don’t use any weed-killers on our yard so we have plenty of dandelions!)

Dandelions-Field of Dandelions

Not sure why people spend so much money getting rid of these flowers (not to mention polluting our environment with toxic chemicals), but I'm realizing just how beautiful these "flowers" are!

3.) My health. We take our health for granted until something serious happens and we can’t enjoy life the same way anymore. For anyone who has yet another excuse for why they can’t get out and exercise (so important for staying healthy), think about all the people who would give anything to be in your position.

4.) My small but cozy home. We live in the age of knockdowns: this house doesn’t have everything I need, so I’ll knock it down and build something even bigger and better. And I think: we have so much more in this country than so many people, yet people always want more and more and more. I’m thankful for my home; it’s everything I need.

5.) A cell-phone-free day. I’ve shut it off today and I don’t care what calls I miss. I’m tired of being connected (almost like by IV!) to this darned thing!!!

6.) An ice cold glass of water. When was the last time you reached for this instead of a bottled ice tea, sugary drink or something else? Try it…you’ll remember how good it really is. And when you think about people around the world who don’t have access to it, you’ll appreciate it even more. (To do something this Earth Month, log on to www.avedawalkforwater.com/find-a-walk-US.php: Aveda is celebrating Earth Month [this month], by encouraging people around the country to participate in Walks for Water. Get out, get some exercise, and do something good for the earth.)

7.) A much-needed vacation. You don’t have to go anywhere…just don’t go to work. It could just be for the day. What are you saving all those days for anyway? (You might just lose them, too…I speak from experience. Over the past 5 years, I have lost more than 80 days of vacation!!!! NOT GOOD!) Oh, and shut off your cell phone and BlackBerry as all the people back at the office won’t hesitate to contact you if they need you.

8.) A nap. When was the last time you took one; I took one this past weekend on a horribly rainy day and it was the best thing ever. Two hours of uninterrupted bliss.

9.) My kids. Who else would tell you that “I love you more than everything in the whole wide world” (my 7-year-old son tells me this) or “Mommy, you are SO beautiful” (my 3-year-old daughter tells me this as she’s brushing my not-so-beautiful hair).

10.) Long-term friendships. There’s an old saying that friends are those people who know everything about you but love you anyway. Enough said!

When I’m feeling the need to complain, I’m going to pull out this list to realize everything I have to appreciate…

How do you react when you “wobble” in life?

Written by: on Friday, February 11th, 2011

When things aren’t going your way, when your boss doesn’t like the project you’re doing, when you get into a fight with your significant other, when your diet backfires and you gain 5 pounds: how do you respond? How does your body react?

I can tell you how I respond: I get panicked, I don’t breathe, and I don’t sleep—which worsens the problem tenfold. In a nutshell: my whole life goes into stress mode. And all the research out there, shows us that this kind of response triggers long-term health problems like cancer, autoimmune diseases, and more.

But asking yourself that question—and bringing awareness to your body’s knee-jerk reactions in times of stress—is the first step to change.

Spinning top as metaphor for life

Does your life ever feel like it's spinning out of control? You CAN learn to control that by controlling your body's reaction.

For years, I’ve realized that you can’t change the world and people around you (no matter how crazy and irrational they may be!): what you can change is how you respond to craziness around you. But I couldn’t alter my own response as I was stuck literally in the day-to-day grind: exercise, go to work, work all day, come home, put the kids to bed, go to bed, wake up and do it all again the next day and the next day and the next.

It’s only after leaving my job—and now taking up yoga—that I’m starting to become more aware of my body and how it reacts. And I’m learning—albeit very, very slowly—to control that reaction.

As my yoga teacher, Ellen, says—as I’m in a very wobbly tree pose, flailing my arms trying not to topple over (and not breathing, which is typical for me): “The point is not to NOT wobble; it’s to control your reaction to the wobbling.” Ground your feet, pull your shoulders back, lift your spine, and take deep breaths in and out. Putting your body in a position of strength gives you strength to face the world. Now I just have to remember that every single time I get stressed!