Alleviate Allergy Concerns While Becoming a Better Cook

By Lisa Messinger

February 12, 2015 6 min read

"Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone" by Jenna Short (Taunton, $29.95).

The news about dark chocolate recently got a little darker. What could be questioned about the usually acclaimed food touted for its antioxidants and role as a good helper in controlling one's blood sugar? For those with allergies, the FDA recently scrutinized dark chocolate's mingling with milk.

Unlike milk chocolate or white chocolate, dark chocolate has often been touted as a milk-free alternative. However, the FDA recently found that a high percentage of dark chocolate products, including some of those labeled milk-free and others that included no mention of milk in their ingredients or on their labels, contained traces of milk (perhaps from being prepared on the same machinery as other chocolate products) at high enough levels to possibly cause a reaction in individuals with allergies to milk.

Jenna Short, with her blue symbol of a milk carton with a line through it, knows all about such pitfalls. In fact, Short has 11 colorful symbols, from wheat-free to nut-free to shellfish-free to gluten-free, that are meant to fill you up with information as much as food in her thoughtful "Cooking Allergy-Free: Simple Inspired Meals for Everyone."

Like those who would have recently taken note of the FDA's news about dark chocolate, Short's allergy to dairy, which she discovered years ago while eating her way through Europe, further prompted her formal food studies and business as a proprietor of a company featuring foods for special dietary needs, as well as this color photograph-filled conscientious cookbook.

Recipes are not only labeled according to what offenders they leave out, but many additionally give multiple variations depending on what result you are trying to achieve. "This means the recipes are adaptable, no matter who is joining your table," Short writes.

Her background as a formally trained chef, who worked as a sous chef for Bon Appetit magazine, and her desire to serve simple gourmet fresh food makes the book a further standout.

Roasted Lime Carrots will probably have you leaving behind past plainer alternatives, as will Sauteed (in olive oil) Kale with Pine Nuts. Grilled Chicken with Pistachio Pesto and Spicy Pulled Chicken Mole Tacos highlight Short's creativity. Her desserts and breads show off her longtime honed baking skills. A gourmet condiment section is a quick way to dress up any meal.

Cooking lessons and tips, full menus and dual indexes (one general and another divided by allergens) further prove Short's delicious commitment to the cause.

SAUTEED KALE WITH PINE NUTS

1 / 4 cup olive oil

1 / 2 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 pounds (about 4 cups) kale, washed, trimmed, and torn into bite-sized pieces (or spinach or other dark leafy green)

1 / 4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 1 / 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, saute until onions are soft, about 6 minutes. Add half of the kale and toss, cooking until it's just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining kale and half of the pine nuts. Toss until the kale is just wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, then season to taste with more if needed.

Transfer to a large serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and serve.

Note: Short has this recipe labeled as free of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, shellfish, fish, soy and corn and notes that it is vegan.

SWEET RED PEPPER JAM

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 lemon, juiced

2 teaspoons sugar

2 sprigs fresh marjoram, chopped (see Note)

1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped (see Note)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Yields 1 cup.

In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat; add the peppers and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, sugar and herbs and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the onions are caramelized, about another 15 minutes. Stir in the salt and season to taste with pepper.

Let the mixture cool completely, then transfer to an airtight jar, cover, and refrigerate. Use within 2 weeks.

Note: "Dried herbs are fine for some recipes," Short writes, "but not this one. It's important that you use fresh herbs to bring out the most flavor."

Short has this recipe labeled as free of wheat, gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, shellfish, fish, soy and corn and notes that it is vegan.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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