A few years ago Shauna, the blogger aka Gluten-Free Girl, wrote about Eating Gluten-Free in Italy. She was amazed at how many gluten-free products she found there. It turns out celiac disease is the most common genetic disease in Europe and in Italy about 1 in 250 people suffer from it.
Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. Celiacs cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, commonly found in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats. The problem is, gluten can be very hard to avoid. It's not just in things made from flour but as an additive in things like bouillon, candy, cured meats, sauces, soups, soy sauce and even tortilla chips. The symptoms of celiac disease are many and include a whole host of gastrointestinal disorders, making it hard to diagnose.
Relatively few Americans are diagnosed with celiac disease, it's estimated most suffer unknowingly. Fortunately awareness is growing in no small part thanks to food blogs like Gluten-Free Girl, Karina's Kitchen and La Tartine Gourmande (mostly gluten-free). Each of these three blogs include plenty of recipes but are really about the love of food and how our experiences connect us all, written by passionate, funny women with unusually strong creative talents.
Celiac products are beginning to show up on shelves, and not surprisingly some of the best are from Italy like two newly introduced gluten-free organic pastas from Rustichella d'Abruzzo. One is made entirely from corn, the other from rice. If you are cooking for someone who is celiac, they are a great choice. Each are light and flavorful, but like conventional pasta they must not be overcooked or they become gummy. The rice noodles are particularly good with Asian style sauces and the corn noodles pair well with Southwestern flavors. Here are a couple more suggestions for how to use them, courtesy of Market Hall Foods, I think canned tomatoes would work in place of fresh too:
- Cook some loose Italian sausage with fresh tomatoes and garlic and toss with the Corn Fusili
- Stir together fresh tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and fresh parsley and mint. Let marinate for a few hours and toss with the Rice Spaghetti
Two good books for celiacs include Shauna's book, Gluten-Free Girl How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too and 1000 Gluten-Free Recipe. Shauna's book will be an inspiration to anyone who wants to enjoy food, not just tolerate it. While Gluten-Free Girl has some recipes in it, the real bible is 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes. It's what the Joy of Cooking is for the rest of us, a place to find a recipe for almost everything under the sun.