For the past 20 years, my husband, Paul, and I have savored our time in the kitchen together, cooking first for ourselves and our friends, and now for our kiddos. As you might imagine, it was a huge blow when I was diagnosed with celiac disease six years ago. I worried that a doctor's decree to stop eating gluten would mean giving up the joy and ease I'd always found in our kitchen. Thanks to Paul's brilliant idea to replace our back lawn with a veggie patch, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to feel expansive about cooking again. Our space is not nearly big enough to grow all the food our family needs, but the garden is a constant source of inspiration in our kitchen and a beautiful reminder of all the deliciousness out there that's naturally gluten-free.
After I made a mental shift around my GF reality, and embraced the amazingly vast array of ingredients out there, I've become more inspired to cook than ever. In 2009, I started my blog, Yummy Supper, as a place to share simple, seasonal recipes I love, along with huge doses of food photography. Now I find myself with a whole new career as a cookbook author and photographer. I'm still stunned that a dietary restriction could be such a gift in my life, turning a lifelong personal passion for cooking into a dream job.
RN: How has cooking whole foods helped change your health?
ES: I've never been a huge fan of processed foods. My mom made most things from scratch and was committed to organic whole foods before they were cool. Oddly enough, when I was first diagnosed, I felt compelled to go to the market to buy everything I could that said "gluten-free" on the label. Like so many people out there, I mistakenly thought that safe gluten-free eating required a manufacturer's stamp of approval.
No surprise, I quickly found that most of these processed foods tasted empty and left my body craving nourishment. Once I had that light bulb moment where I remembered that most whole foods are naturally gluten free, we went back to cooking simple meals from scratch. I became totally inspired, experimenting with new-to-me ingredients such as amaranth, millet, and red rice. I began grinding nuts into flours, baked up a storm, and fell in love with cooking again. Eggs, meat, and seasonal veggies never tasted so good. By helping me to regain my health and reclaim a joy in the kitchen, whole foods saved me. (Check out Scott's top 11 foods every gluten-free pantry needs!)
RN: There are a lot of packaged gluten-free foods out there. Do you think it's easy for people to fall into the processed gluten-free food trap?
ES: Definitely! I should have known better. Farmer's markets are the cornerstone here in Berkeley, my food-obsessed town, and I grew up eating whole foods and simple, nourishing meals cooked from scratch. If I could fall so hard into the "gluten-free" marketing trap, you know it has a powerful pull.
RN: What are the biggest misconceptions out there about gluten-free food and cooking?
ES: It makes me so sad to hear people talk about gluten-free as grim or tasteless, but I completely understand where that notion finds its roots. If we ate only processed GF dreck, of course we'd feel deprived. If only we could all escape the packaged-food aisle and return to the produce section or farmer's market, the butcher shop, and the fishmonger—if we could see that living GF means removing only three ingredients (wheat, barley, and rye) from our diet—there's so much deliciousness to be had. I hope more folks see the delectable abundance that's ours for the taking, gluten-free or not.
RN: What are your top 5 go-to ingredients, and why do you love them so much?
ES: #1 Almond Flour
I'm completely hooked on the rich, buttery texture of baked goodies made with almond flour. And it's packed with nutty protein. I'm not sure if I would have ever discovered the deliciousness of almond flour if I hadn't had to go GF.
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#2. Meyer Lemons
Lemons give a great hit of acid to so many dishes—from rice to salad dressings to meats and even desserts. And they are wonderful preserved in sea salt. I particularly like that the acid in Meyer lemons is tempered by a gentle sweetness. We have a young tree growing in our backyard, and I can't wait until it hits its stride. I'm ready for a Meyer lemon bonanza!
I'm a serious fan of the little orbs, and we like to eat them every which way. In fact, I have an entire chapter in my new cookbook called "Egg" in which I share recipes for baked eggs, soft-boiled, savory custards, soft scrambles, omelets, and frittatas. Eggs are also key players in my baking world—they make a good binder for GF flours and make for a wonderfully moist texture. (Learn how to decode egg carton labels.)
#4. Parmesan cheese
The stuff is magic. A little Parm can transform a dish with its creamy, tangy, salty hit. I also love to save the rinds in the freezer so I can toss them into soups and broths.
I think avocados might be my desert island food. I'd be happy to eat them every day! All my life, my favorite way to eat an avo has been to slice it in half, take out the pit, squirt on some lemon juice and sprinkle on some nice sea salt. You don't even need a plate.
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