When putting together a dinner party menu that accommodates a gluten-free diet, the most important thing to remember is to avoid all food that contains wheat:
- Wheat bran
- Wheat germ
- Wheat starch
- Cracked wheat
- Barley, including malt
- Triticale (a wheat/rye hybrid)
All other foods are fair game.
Gluten can be a tricky ingredient to eliminate. Avoid all foods that contain all-purpose flour, enriched flour, bromated flour, durum flour (semolina), graham flour, phosphated flour, self-rising flour and white flour. It's important to understand that wheat-free foods aren't the same as gluten-free foods. Wheat-free foods may still contain gluten proteins. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, for example, is a flavor enhancer that is often derived from wheat.
Many processed foods are not gluten-free foods. For example, while rice is a gluten-free food, many prepared rice mixes are not. Ingredients that are used as binders, fillers and extenders such as in prepared sauces, seasonings, cold cuts and baked goods are often gluten-derived, or aren't from easily identifiable sources on the nutritional label. If you can't be sure the food you're considering for your menu is gluten-free, err on the side of caution and avoid it. Drop processed foods from your dinner menu, and you'll be off to a good start.
Now that you know what to avoid, what should you serve?
Fresh meats (beef, pork and poultry), fish and shellfish, fruits, vegetables, rice, corn and potatoes are all part of a healthy diet, including a healthy and naturally gluten-free diet. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream and cheese are also gluten-free (although double-check labels to be 100 percent certain a gluten additive hasn't found its way in).
If you want to include grain-based foods such as breads and pastas, look for products with nutritious nonglutenous grains such as buckwheat, flax, millet, quinoa and teff. If your menu leans Italian, replace wheat-based pastas with those made with corn or rice flour, or consider a flavorful risotto rich with mushrooms or vegetables, or a hearty polenta. Thinking Mexican? Substitute corn tortillas for flour tortillas. As long as you avoid the three big culprits -- wheat, rye and barley -- your menu options are boundless.