Amy Fothergill teaches public and private cooking classes and offers consultations to individuals and families. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Amy has training from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, as well as gluten-free experience with her family. She adapts her technical cooking knowledge to teach others how to prepare healthy, easy and delicious food that is big on flavor but not on time. She blogs and is the author of The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.
July/August 2015 – When it comes to summer for those on a gluten-free diet, parties and barbecues can be daunting. Your best bet is to talk to your host in advance and explain your food requirements. Offer to bring a salad or side dish and maybe your own meat. If you are hosting your own party, you can use these ideas as well.
Salads are usually easy, unless of course they have pasta, grains or bread. Today it’s easy to make substitutions. When cooking gluten-free pasta for salad, use these tips:
- Make sure there is at least twice the amount of water as pasta; this helps to ensure the pasta cooks evenly and does not stick. Don’t add oil; it’s a waste of money. Make sure to use a cover so that the water boils quickly.
- Use a cover to bring the water to a boil quickly and most efficiently.
- Add A LOT of salt to any water you are boiling. I’ve come to use almost a tablespoon when I’m cooking a pound of pasta. Be careful when you add the salt because the water might spit a bit and burn you. It flavors the pasta and helps the sauce to be better absorbed.
- Once you add the pasta to the water, stir with a large spoon or spork. Continue to stir every 2-3 minutes or the pasta may stick to the bottom of the pan. This is one of the only times I’ll tell you to stay near the stove and use a timer for cooking.
- Test pasta after about 8 minutes, regardless of what the package says (test after less time if the pasta is small). If it’s not done, continue to test in 1-2 minute increments until pasta is cooked to your liking.
- Rinse pasta with water to stop the cooking (use cold water if you are going to be serving it in a salad).
- Once cooked, don’t over-stir or the pasta will break apart.
Two of my favorite pasta salads are what I call the basic American and the classic pesto. The base of the American is mayo, vinegar, and mustard. Everything else is optional. See the recipe below, as well as tips for hard boiling eggs. You can also use potatoes in place of pasta.
*For any of the recipes below, make sure all ingredients are gluten-free.
American Pasta Salad
1 lb gluten-free elbow or small pasta
1 cup regular mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 medium diced white or red onion (see Note)
1-2 medium celery ribs, diced
2-3 hard boiled eggs, chopped (see below for how to cook the perfect hard boiled egg)
Optional: 1 small can of chopped black olives, drained and/or 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
Note: to make onions less harsh-tasting, soak chopped onion in ice water for 5 minutes. Drain and add to recipe. Optionally, omit the onion.
- Cook pasta in a large pot with salted water. Be careful not to overcook it. Once done, place in strainer and rinse with cold water, trying not to mix too much or else the pasta will break apart. Pasta should still be a little wet/loose and should not be completely cold. Make sure to not wait too long before mixing with the other ingredients.
- Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the onion, celery, and eggs and mix with the mayonnaise. Add cooled cooked pasta, and mix gently, using care not to over-mix. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, mustard or vinegar if it tastes “flat.”
- Macaroni salad should be a little loose before being chilled. When it gets cold, it should be the correct texture. Otherwise, it will be sticky when it gets cold. Chill for at least one hour and serve.
Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
Less fresh eggs are best for hard-boiled so that they are easier to peel. Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Eggs at room temperature will be less likely to crack. Place a cover on the pot and bring up to a boil. Remove cover and turn off heat. Leave in hot water for 12 minutes. Drain water and chill immediately with ice water to stop any more cooking. A cold egg will be easier to peel.
Pesto Pasta Salad
For pesto salad, you can buy a pre-made pesto sauce or make your own. If you can’t have dairy, omit the cheese and add 1/2 of a teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead, as well as 1/4 cup more olive oil and more salt to taste.
For every cup of cooked gluten-free pasta, add about 1 tablespoon of pesto. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil or even mayonnaise to make it creamy. You can add to the salad cooked chicken cubes, small mozzarella balls, cherry or grape tomatoes, cut marinated artichoke hearts, and/or pitted Kalamata olives. This salad can also be made with potatoes.
I still remember the Food Sanitation class I took in college. I conducted a bacterial growth experiment where I compared how much bacteria grew in plain meat versus marinated meat. Really, this is what we did! What we learned was about how the introduction of acid (the marinade) can keep those nasty bacteria from making your tummy ache. So, marinate your meat; not only will it taste good, but it will be safer!
Asian: ¾ cup gluten-free soy sauce (or try coconut aminos for soy-free or Paleo), 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1-2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon minced ginger, and 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
All American: ½ cup water, ½ cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• Chimichurri: 2 cups chopped parsley, 1 cup olive oil, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 medium minced shallot or onion, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
• Greek: 1 cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
• Balsamic: use your favorite bottled balsamic or make your own using a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic and adding 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Any marinade that contains acid, alcohol or salt should not be used for very long, because it will chemically “cook” or denature the food in it. Marinate food in these marinades for less than 4 hours. Marinades that contain citrus juices, especially lemon or lime juice, should be used for only two hours or less. Marinades that contain no salt, acid or alcohol can be marinated overnight or, in some cases, longer.
- Although marinades thwart bacterial growth and help extend food’s life, remember that the food in them is still raw and must be treated as such.
- Do not reuse a marinade or use the marinade as a sauce. Make extra and reserve it before adding to the meat.