Poor gluten is getting a bad rap. Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s The G-Free Diet is featured at every bookstore. Top Chef Masters included a challenge to create a gluten-free meal. Over fifty blogs on the Foodie BlogRoll are devoted entirely to gluten-free cooking. Gluten-free diets are nothing new. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It gives dough its stretch. Those with a gluten allergy, diagnosed as celiac disease in less than 1% of Americans, may experience stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fatigue after eating gluten. The recent spotlight on eating gluten-free may be more from the numerous personal accounts of symptom relief from conditions like chronic fatigue and autism. Although there isn't a lot of published research linking the diet to these conditions, I don't have a problem with people following the diet as long as healthful foods are included. The diet cuts out a big American staple¾bread and pasta¾but you won’t starve. In fact, you’ll probably end up eating more healthfully as fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, rice, and meats are allowed, but you may have to discover unusual grains like quinoa, amaranth, and bulgar. Natural food markets like Whole Foods, Wild Harvest, and Trader Joe’s readily offer these nutrient-rich grains, as well as pasta, cracker, and bread lookalikes made with these grains. Even restaurants are going gluten-free.
I was intrigued to try Nebo Restaurant’s new gluten-free menu because this is a North End Italian pasta-based eatery! The owners, sisters Christine and Carla, were inspired to produce 90% of their regular menu in a gluten-free form after learning two close friends had celiac disease. My Zucca Pizza (zucchini, carmelized onions, goat cheese) was perfectly yummy although my taste buds were focused on the dough, made with rice flour. It almost had the texture of cornmeal, which made a nice crunchy crust. My husband noted nothing unusual about his rotini in the Aglio Olio (shrimp, pei mussels, evoo), although I thought it tasted lighter in texture than regular pasta. My two-year-old gobbled it up, without one spit-up which he often does with new foods. The Christoforo (a dessert pizza topped with Nutella and hazelnuts) was such pure delight, I easily inhaled it! Although Nebo has a slick modern feel, pizza is the big draw, which automatically makes it kid-friendly (there were many large families sitting around us). Prices are moderate with most entrees between $13-20; the gluten-free option costs a few dollars more. Visit Nebo Restaurant for more details. Also visit the Foodie BlogRoll to find gluten-free cooking blogs.