For three weeks, Steve and I went completely gluten free. It was meant to be a test, to see if gluten is the source of my joint problems that I’ve had for the last twenty years or so. It’s become almost a joke with my friends. “What’s hurting this week?” I seem to develop tendonitis at the drop of a hat, and in some cases it takes years to go away (or never has, like with my shoulder). I’ve had various blood tests that haven’t shown any severe allergies or auto immune disorders, but we thought that maybe I have an intolerance for gluten that isn’t full blown celiac disease. A friend of ours who does have celiac was a very good source of information on going gluten free. So, we both gave it a try. Here’s what happened in those three weeks:
- A blood vessel burst in Steve’s right eye (nothing serious, but it did fill the inside of his eye’s white with red blood)
- I developed a weird rash on my upper body and started getting itchy at night
- The pain in my hip that I’ve been trying to treat for two years and which had been getting a little better started getting worse
- I developed a persistent heartburn
You get the idea. We didn’t feel any different or better by giving up gluten, so we ruled out gluten as a source of problems for me. Though we did joke that all of the things that happened to us during those three weeks were due to a severe gluten deficiency.
Here’s what I did learn by going gluten free for three weeks:
- In some ways, it’s relatively easy. You can eat almost everything, except wheat, barley, and rye, which can hide themselves in foods without you realizing it. But because of the gluten free craze, everything is well labeled and most restaurants indicate gluten free dishes on their menus
- You also don’t have to give up cake or pancakes or any baked goods like that because there is a fantastic gluten free flour called Cup 4 Cup that works incredibly well. I made a few cakes with it and we couldn’t tell the difference.
- I some ways it’s also very hard. If you have celiac disease, then you have to worry about gluten cross-contamination. If someone uses the same knife to cut bread that they use to cut your meat, depending on the severity of your allergy you can get very sick. That’s very hard to control, especially when eating out in restaurants.
- Bread is virtually impossible to replicate without gluten. So is pizza crust. All of a sudden, because we couldn’t eat them, bread and pizza because something we craved endlessly. There are gluten free pizzas and breads, but none that we tried came close to the original.
- Pasta is a different deal. There are some great pastas made with non-wheat flours (like corn and quinoa) that taste fantastic and even have that pasta chewiness. And since most recipes for pasta (like the one here) use ingredients that are gluten free, you can eat pasta to your heart’s content.
Our gluten free experiment ended last Sunday with white bread toast, slathered with butter and apricot jam. We are considering going off sugar for three weeks next but that’s much tougher. For now, we’ll replenish the gluten in our body and go from there.
Pasta with Peas and Pine Nuts in Minted Yogurt Sauce – Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
3/4 cup (7 oz; 200 g) whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil
1 small clove garlic, pressed or grated on microplane
10-12 mint leaves
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
10 oz fresh or thawed frozen peas
6 oz pasta shapes of your liking
1/4 cup (30 g) pine nuts
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
4 oz (120 g) feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the yogurt, 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of the olive oil, the garlic, the mint leaves, the lemon zest, and 2 oz (about 1/3 cup) of the peas. Process to a uniform pale green sauce, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until it is al dente. While the pasta cooks, warm the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and Aleppo pepper or chile flakes, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the pine nuts are golden and the oil is deep red. Also, warm the remaining peas in some boiling water (you could use some of the pasta water for this) and drain them.
Drain the cooked pasta into a colander, and shake it well to get rid of excess water that may have settled into the pasta’s crevices. Add the pasta gradually to the yogurt sauce; adding it all at once may cause the yogurt to separate. Add the warm peas and feta. Toss gently. Taste and adjust salt. Serve immediately, with pine nuts and chile oil spooned over each serving.