Great Gluten-Free Grains

If you’re avoiding gluten, you can still enjoy healthful whole grains once you’re on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet. Gluten-free grains may be found in mouthwatering breads and biscuits, delicious pasta dishes, and even tender pancakes. Here’s a guide to six of the most delicious, from amaranth to teff.

Amaranth: High in protein, fiber, and iron, this ancient grain was a staple of the Aztecs. Like quinoa, it cooks up quickly and makes a nice substitute for oatmeal in the morning when sprinkled with fresh fruit, chopped walnuts, and a little cinnamon. You can toast amaranth seeds in a hot skillet until they pop and use as a salad topper, or combine the grain with brown rice and veggies for a substantial side dish.

Brown Rice: Not only is its nutty, slightly chewy flavor very appealing in casseroles and stir-fries, but brown rice also ranks high in the nutrient department. It’s a good source of fiber, and contains thiamin, iron, and some vitamin E as well. Don’t have time to cook regular brown rice, which takes about 45 minutes? Buy quick-cooking brown rice or make a big batch of the regular on the weekend. Brown rice is also sold as a flour. It’s a key ingredient in this Osso Buco-Style Chicken, a delicious South Beach Diet take on a popular Italian classic, as well as in these Bacon-Pecan Breakfast Biscuits, which are split, toasted, and topped with a soft-boiled or poached egg.

Buckwheat: Its name belies the fact that this is not wheat at all. In fact, buckwheat, a relative of rhubarb, is a whole grain that, when ground into flour, makes fabulous pancakes and muffins. When buckwheat is roasted, it becomes kasha, which can also be used in a variety of ways. One of the best known kasha dishes is kasha varnishkes, in which the groats are simmered with onion and chicken broth before being mixed with bowtie pasta. Make an appealing variation of kasha varnishkes by using gluten-free pasta, and add in some extra cooked vegetables, such as chopped carrots and mushrooms for fiber and flavor.

Cornmeal: Made from ground dried corn, cornmeal is not just the central ingredient in the popular Italian dish known as polenta, but also a key ingredient in cornbread. Cornmeal comes in white, yellow, and even blue, and it’s fun to experiment with the various colors. In this moist, flavorful variation on traditional cornbread, called Three Sisters Bread, yellow cornmeal is combined with garbanzo-fava bean flour and puréed winter squash. Each square of bread contains 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, and would be delicious served with chili or vegetable soup.

Quinoa: High in protein as well as fiber, this “supergrain” comes in several colors, including white, red, and tricolor. The darker the color, the more antioxidant-rich beta-carotene the quinoa contains. Quinoa, delicious in a pilaf or as a breakfast cereal, also comes as a flour that you can use for baking, and it also is used as an ingredient (often with corn flour), in gluten-free pastas. Cook up some quinoa pasta for this colorful Quinoa Pasta Salad with Shrimp, which also contains and rinsed, drained chickpeas for extra protein. Quinoa also is delicious in our Warm Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Tarragon, in which the quinoa is toasted before cooking, then combined with edamame, lemon zest and juice, fresh tarragon, roasted sweet red peppers, and chopped walnuts for a richly textured entrée.

Teff: A staple of Ethiopian cooking, teff is an ancient grain with a mild, nutty flavor. High in protein, calcium and iron, teff packs a big nutritional punch. A very fine, round grain (it’s no bigger than a poppy seed), teff can be boiled or steamed for a side dish or combined with millet or brown rice and assorted vegetables in a casserole for a hearty meatless, gluten-free main course.

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