So much of summer eating fits in great with being gluten-free: fresh vegetables from your garden or farmers market, a focus on light and refreshing salad-based meals, ice cream, and fresh summer fruit. At the same time, it’s important to keep some gluten-free safety tips in mind before you kick back and relax in the sunshine.
Grilling is an excellent excuse to stay outdoors even while cooking, and makes most anything taste better – whether meat, fish or chicken, vegetables, or even fruit. Heading for the grill keeps you out of a sweltering kitchen and makes for quick and simple clean-up. On your own backyard grill, have fun experimenting with simple seasonings, rubs, marinades and sauces on any or all parts of a meal. Get creative and elaborate, or keep it nice and simple: fresh summer vegetables are so tasty that just a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper is all you need. Always confirm gluten-free status of marinades, rubs and sauces.
When it comes to the perennial summer potluck or neighborhood BBQ, grilling has a lot to offer. If you are not sure what is being offered and whether or not it will be gluten-free, bring some foil and your own item to grill, and you’re all set – no worries about what was previously cooked on your host’s grill. Just explain your situation to your host or the “grill master,” make sure your food is placed on foil (or other disposable grill liner) to avoid cross-contamination, and similarly, ensure use of clean utensils (you may even want to bring your own along).
Marinades are often involved in the prep of grilled chicken, meat or fish, and sometimes vegetables too. Always confirm gluten-free status, since marinades may contain soy sauce, or other gluten-containing sauces or ingredients, such as black bean sauce or plum sauce.
If grilling at home, you know the gluten-free status of your grill. If yours is dedicated gluten-free, you are set. If not, be sure to thoroughly clean the surface, or grill your items on foil or another surface to prevent cross-contamination. If you are tempted to try to “burn off” anything that might cross-contaminate your gluten-free foods, it won’t work. Even at high grilling temperatures, any gluten protein on your grill will not be broken down. Thorough cleaning or a protective barrier is necessary.
Fresh greens and other vegetables are delicious and make a great base for summertime salads. Have a few slices of grilled zucchini leftover from last night’s grill-fest? Toss it right in – a mixture of cooked and raw textures only adds to a salad’s appeal.
Pay special attention to:
- Dressing. Confirm that dressings do not contain (gluten-containing) soy sauce or other gluten-containing ingredients. When in doubt, season with simple oil & vinegar or fresh lemon juice with salt & pepper.
- Croutons. If eating out, virtually all croutons contain gluten. Specify that simply taking croutons off your dish doesn’t work –confirm that your salad never had any crouton contact. Consider use of other add-ins for flavor variety and extra crunch: Crisped parmesan, or toasted hemp seeds (see recipes on p.10-11), sunflower seeds, or your favorite nuts.
The majority of basic ice creams are gluten-free, but always double check ingredients. Flavorings could contain gluten, and some ice cream “add-ins” are definitely not gluten-free (e.g. cookie pieces). Fruit flavored sorbets and sherbets are even more likely to be safe bets (the two are similar, except sherbets usually contain a little dairy, and sorbets do not). There are a few extra considerations when visiting an ice cream shop. Asking for a cup instead of a (gluten-containing) cone may not be enough. When previous cone orders were filled, the same scoop used on your ice cream may have been used to push a scoop onto a cone, possibly resulting in cross-contamination. Same goes for scoops used on cookie or brownie-based ice creams. If that same scoop goes back into the ice cream, so do those cone or cookie crumbs. Explain your situation to the server; there is nearly always product in the back which has not yet been tapped into, and which would therefore be free of potential cross-contamination. And ask that your ice cream be served with a clean scooper – not just one that’s been “rinsed” off in between scoops.
Along with summer BBQ’s often comes beer. Remember that only beers made from gluten-free grains (like sorghum) are safe to consume. Beers labeled “gluten-removed” may not be safe, and should be avoided. (www.gluten.org/branchnews/gigbeerstudy/). Hard ciders, made from apple or other fruit, are usually gluten-free and can make a satisfying substitute for beer. When it comes to cocktails, distilled alcohols are gluten-free, but confirm gluten-free status of any alcohols with flavorings added. Most mixers are gluten-free too, but always confirm ingredients. Wines, whether red, white or rose, are gluten-free.
Does your sunscreen need to be gluten-free? Not unless it gets into your digestive system. Gluten is too large a protein to be absorbed through the skin and in addition, substances absorbed through the skin do not have direct access to the gastrointestinal system. But if you are concerned about the sunscreen that remains on your hands getting onto the snack you pull out of the cooler on the beach (and from there into your mouth…), or about kids who always manage to get their fingers into their mouths, certified gluten-free sunscreens (and other skincare products) are available: www.gfco.org/certified-directory/manufacturersproviders-of-certified-products/ click on the PDF link (Use keyboard commands CTRL + F and type sunscreen in the search bar field.)