I’ve always had a soft spot for whole foods cooking. Not the packaged, half white, trying to be conventional food kind of whole foods, but the old school way. The kind of cooking that involves a pot of whole grains and a pile of chopped veggies, and maybe some tofu, or beans that you actually soaked and cooked yourself.
I recently connected with a kindred spirit, Leslie Cerier, the author of Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, A Seasonal Vegetarian Cookbook (New Harbinger Publications, $17.95.) Cerier has the crazy idea that basing a gluten free diet on whole grains can be really diverse and good for you, and good for the planet.
Says Cerier: “Eat as much local, seasonal and organic food as possible, and cook for health, vitality and pleasure.”
Cerier has packed the book with plenty of gluten free recipes, as well as recipe templates that allow you to improvise with what’s in season. Both celebrate whole grains that don’t contain gluten. “Four of the gluten free grains, quinoa, teff, amaranth and oats are complete proteins and very quick-cooking. They make a great meal, and you can mix and match, and try different methods of cooking them, for infinite variety.”
To show you how, she has cooking charts and measures for cooking grains, and several recipe templates, and suggestions for varying and subsituting. “If you take a creative approach to what’s in season you can have great variety. If you are cooking like an artist, and your plate is really colorful, you have great nutrition on the plate. A meal of brown rice, tofu, and cauliflower is not as exciting as a plate of black rice with red lentil curry, which is full of antioxidants.”
Cerier prefers to teach people in her classes and books, to make foods their own. “It’s really fun when people who take my classes come back and say they used my recipe as a jumping off point. Then I know I have done my job.”
Don’t expect recipes for breads just like the wheat flour ones you grew up with. “Alot of gluten free books use xanthan gum and potato starch and make refined products that are gluten free. These are foods that I eat for energy and vitality. They are nutrient dense.”
Using all real food, Cerier gives you tasty recipes for breakfasts, mains, sides, sauces and dressings, and desserts. If you have ever wanted a good recipe to try teff, definitely check out this book, even if you are not gluten-free. In fact, Cerier has no gluten intolerances herself.
“I eat gluten free because it expands my choices, and the nutrients are just off the charts. I’m a whole food vegetarian, so I’m not looking for ways to make gluten free hot dog buns or pizza, because I don’t eat those things.”
So if you love whole foods and eating seasonally, this is a good book for you, and if you need to avoid gluten, give these whole foods vegetarian recipes a try. You can shrink your carbon footprint and reap the benefits of ancient grains. You will feel so much better when you eat real food!
Scrambled Tofu with Sweet Corn and Collard Greens
I admit that I was drawn to this dish by a rush of nostalgia for the many tofu scrambles I have prepared and eaten in now-defunct vegetarian restaurants. That and my obsession with eating leafy greens. Turmeric is a brilliant anti-inflammatory, and nutritional yeast is loaded with B12 that vegetarians may need.
Serves 3 or 4
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped collard greens
1 cup green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped scallions
2/3 cups fresh corn kernels, steamed
1 teaspoon turmeric
14-16 ounces soft tofu, 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tamari
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the collard greens, green beans, scallions, corn and turmeric and stir. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until the veggies brighten in color and become fragrant. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes, until the tofu takes on the golden hue of the turmeric. Stir in the cliantro and cook for a minute more. Take off the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and tamari. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. (Variations below)
Substitute other greens, like spinach, tatsoi, chard or even broccoli, whatever is freshest and most vibrant.
Substitute mushrooms, summer squash, zucchini, or asparagus for the greens and green beans.
To take the flavor in a different direction, add a few cloves of chopped garlic when you saute the vegetables, and substitute basil for cilantro.
Cerier has a website, where you can see what she is up to:
Here is a gluten free vegetarian recipe for amaranth (not by Cerier):