The most wonderful time of the year is here – gardening season! With the spring rains settled into the soil and the warmth of the June sun upon us, we are about to have an explosion of fresh fruits and vegetables. This is good news for everyone, not just the gluten free community.
Anyone reading this “Food for Thought” column over this past year will know that fruits and vegetables are gluten free. The public is so used to hearing how important whole grains are to our diet – especially because they contain fiber. Well, guess what else contains fiber? You guessed it – fruits and vegetables.
Here’s the double bonus: it’s not just gardening season, it’s picnic season, too. The first thing that comes to my mind during the summer months is the smell of a charcoal grill, or if your patient enough, a wood smoker. Luckily, the traditional grilling options are easily found gluten free; you just have to read the labels. Gluten free hot dogs are out there – in fact you don’t have to look too hard to find them, several well-known brands are gluten free. Now, the burgers: pre-made patties found in the frozen section often contain “fillers” (a.k.a: gluten), but this is easily solved by purchasing 100% “un-fooled around with” ground beef. If you’re feeling extra gourmet and have the equipment, grind your own meat fresh. Add whatever seasonings you like: sage, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and you have a delicious gourmet burger. What about the bun? No bun? You can certainly wrap these grilled delights in a large leaf of romaine lettuce and call it good, or you can buy gluten free hot dog and hamburger buns at most grocery stores.
Let’s talk chicken. Read the label. Gluten free chicken is readily available at most supermarkets. There are some bottled BBQ sauces out there that are pretty tasty; just make sure you read the labels. Or…make your own BBQ sauce from scratch.
Homemade BBQ Sauce
Equal parts of:
Apple cider vinegar
Whisk it together and, wow, a super tangy-sweet sauce.
How about these ideas for some stunning picnic sides:
• Fresh, marinated grilled vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, asparagus)
• Tomato, cucumber and onion salad
• Marinated sugar snap peas with mushrooms and bell peppers
• Spinach salad with olives and feta cheese
• Classic garden salad with romaine, red oak, or butter crunch lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms…go crazy with the veggies!
• Whole cut up watermelon
• Fresh fruit salad with berries
• Potato salad with fresh dill and garden chives – made with gluten free mayonnaise and sour cream, of course.
Serves 6-8 people
1/2 head of green cabbage small dice, or shredded
2-3 large carrots, shredded
2 tsp. sugar
2 TBS. apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup gluten free mayonnaise
3/4 cup gluten free sour cream
Some people like their coleslaw a little more saucy than others so adjust the recipe to suit your taste.
Have you considered planting an herb garden so that you can add fresh herbs to your summer salads? Rosemary, thyme, chives and sage are perennials, so they will return next year for a repeat performance.
Try some oregano in the garden this season.
Last, but definitely not least, while you are savoring your summer picnic fare, give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve made it gluten free!
Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering and have started a new business: Rootin’ Tootin’ No Gluten Foods. They have four children, of which three are Gluten Intolerant. The family also lives with two severe nut allergies and a fish/shellfish allergy. Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.