Local and Naturally Gluten-Free

By Rachel Begun, MS, RD, CDN

I find it fascinating that the local food and gluten-free trends have simultaneously gone mainstream. The former is my passion and the latter my necessity (and expertise).

As a dietitian specializing in the gluten-free lifestyle, I particularly love the emphasis on local harvest because it is a food trend that the gluten-free community can participate in. While we have to observe from afar the latest in designer cupcakes, gourmet macaroni and cheese, and (most) food trucks, we can dive right into fresh fruits and vegetables and locally raised beef.

Two Eating Trends That
Have Gone Mainstream

My livelihood is in teaching the gluten-free how to eat healthfully and safely, while simultaneously working with the food industry to make the away-from-home food environment more accessible. On the one hand, I work with manufacturers and food service providers to inspire them to offer gluten-free options at restaurants, hotels, spas, ballparks and food trucks. On the other, I educate consumers about how to take the proper precautions to ensure that the options at these venues are truly safe. In both scenarios I enforce the need for constant vigilance and caution.

I think that’s what is so attractive about the local harvest for myself and the gluten-free community. The likelihood of gluten contamination is dramatically reduced – though not completely eliminated – when consuming farm-fresh produce, meat and dairy, taking the fear out of eating and making meals much more enjoyable. In addition, the variety of flavors, colors and textures as fruits and vegetables come in and out of season keeps food fun and exciting, which is an important consideration for those with dietary restrictions.

As I unload my baskets of farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats each week, I envision the delicious meals I will prepare and how best to share them with the gluten-free community. I know most are not as interested or able as me to make a trip to the farmer’s market or invest in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, but I hope my passion does rub off on a few and they can reap the benefits of a tip here and a fresh recipe there.

Here is a list of the items from one of my CSA deliveries, along with easy ideas and recipes for incorporating them into meals:

Apples
Slice paper-thin and mix with your favorite greens, walnuts, shaved red onion and vinaigrette.

Pears
Poach them for a delicious and healthful dessert. Or, caramelize and use as topping for honey and spice cakes. Or, slice thinly and incorporate into a ham and cheese panini.

Cippolini onions
Caramelize and use to add flavor to everything from burgers to roasted vegetables.

Broccoli
Steam and serve. Or, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the heads in an oven set to 425° for about 10 to15 minutes. And save the stalks! Julienne them for use in a raw broccoli slaw.

Patty pan squash
Slice in half and roast for 15 to 20 minutes at 350°.

Fairytale eggplant
Slice lengthwise, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill or roast for 15 to 20 minutes at 400°.

Boston lettuce
Try my recipe below!

Boston lettuce with avocado, herbs and lime dressing
(Recipe by Rachel Begun, adapted from Mike Geller of Mike’s Organic Delivery)

Ingredients
Salad
1 head Boston lettuce, stems cut and leaves washed and dried
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
Bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
Bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

Dressing
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
¼ tsp, ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard

Instructions
Arrange the lettuce leaves on plates and top with the sliced avocado, scallions and cilantro. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad greens.

Rachel Begun, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). She provides education, communications and consulting services to health organizations and the food industry and educates the public via speaking opportunities, online activities and writing for publications, including her own blog, The Gluten-RD. For more information, please visit http://www.rachelbegun.com

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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