A Conversation With … Jacqueline Mallorca

Gourmet and gluten-free? We were skeptical until Morrow Cookbooks author of The Wheat-Free Cook, Jacqueline Mallorca, set us straight. Here’s our Q&A with Jacqueline, who generously shares a recipe and a chance to win a free download of her gluten-free app for your Apple device.

1. You already had about a dozen cookbooks to your credit, as an author, co-author, or editor—including one on breads and another on French pastry—so what made you switch to writing about cooking without gluten? And what is gluten, anyway?

Much to my surprise, I discovered—after years of writing about food and cookware—that I was gluten-intolerant. Gluten is part of the protein that occurs in just three grains: wheat, rye, and barley. Not many people would miss rye or barley much (except in the form of beer!), but wheat flour is in everything. So I set to work and re-invented my cooking style using alternative flours and grains.

2. Both your gluten-free cookbooks made it onto mainstream “best cookbooks of the year” lists (The Wheat-Free Cook was lauded by Sara Moulton on Good Morning America in 2007 and Gluten-Free Italian appeared in The Washington Post’s holiday selections in 2009.) Isn’t that rather unusual for a special diet book?

Um, perhaps it’s because I believe that you shouldn’t have to apologize for gluten-free food! After all, people who must avoid wheat don’t cook in a vacuum. Families and friends need nourishing too. So it makes sense to present a quick, healthful meal—or chocolate chip cookies, or a birthday cake—that everyone at the table will eat with enthusiasm.

3. So how do you pull that off? It sounds like a steep learning curve.

It’s really all about good nutrition and thinking out of the box. Literally. I visualize the gluten-free diet as the Mediterranean diet, but without wheat. One that’s rich in vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, olive oil, and gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, teff, millet, brown rice, corn, and buckwheat (kasha). Go to a farmer’s market or a natural foods supermarket for inspiration and start from there. Even kids will eat caramelized oven-roasted, bite-size veggies — think browned, sweet, and slightly crispy onion, fennel, bell peppers, potatoes, and carrots. And I’ve yet to have anyone turn up their nose at a feather-light lemon cake made with almond meal instead of white flour.

4. But wait. Who has time to cook everything from scratch?

The food industry has done a brilliant job of selling us “convenience foods,” but maybe it’s time to mount a counter-movement. Having to avoid gluten makes you stop and think about what’s important: optimum health and energy, or the alternative? Fast food, whether take-out or highly processed and ready to eat, inexorably leads to slow people!

Besides, most of my casual, bistro-style gluten-free recipes can be prepped and on the table in well under half an hour. Most of the time, I prepare weeknight dinners in minutes and bake at the weekends (gluten-free breads, cakes, and cookies all freeze beautifully). It’s much kinder to your health, your wallet and your waistline than buying what the Brits call “ready meals” and endless packaged snacks to fill the gaps.

Speaking of the Brits, there’s something about the ritual of sitting down with a proper cup of tea—teapot, milk jug, cup and saucer and all—that offers real relaxation. In the same way, having a “proper” meal, however simple, is much more satisfying that grazing on the run. You appreciate it more and actually eat less.

5. So what are you cooking up now?

I’m always looking for ways to make the gluten-free lifestyle easy for people, so aside from working on my third GF cookbook, I just created 24 new recipes for a cutting-edge iPhone app. The Gluten-Free Kitchen with Jacqueline Mallorca provides help right where it’s needed most: first at the supermarket, and then in the kitchen. And it’s all in the palm of your hand. Each recipe (one follows)  is accompanied by an inspiring photo, and as I prepared all the food myself for the photographs, what you see is what you get!

GF Pepper & Zucchini Frittata
Serves 2 to 4

Serve this appetizing frittata for breakfast, lunch or supper: it’s packed with healthful ingredients, quick to make, and always popular.

  • 1/4 pound fingerling or halved small new potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion, white and pale green part only
  • 1/4 cup sliced roasted red bell pepper (from a jar)
  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1. Boil the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft but not colored, about 6 minutes. Add the zucchini and green onion, and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the sliced pepper and potatoes, and turn off the heat

3. Preheat the broiler. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and add the warm vegetable mixture.

4. Warm the remaining olive oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat.

5. Pour in the egg-vegetable mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, until set around the edges. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top, then put the pan under the broiler until the frittata is just set, 3 to 4 minutes

The recipes in the Gluten-Free app are a complementary addition to those in my cookbooks, and cover a lot of culinary ground. Even the artisanal-style multigrain flatbread is quick to produce; other simple but stylish recipes include a foolproof way to enjoy fish, off-the-shelf minestrone, almost instant but elegant almond-sage chicken, lunchbox cookies with class, and a velvety chocolate-orange cake. For a quick look, go online to the iTunes store.

The first 10 readers to make a comment on this blog entry will receive a free download of this GF app!

*All photographs courtesy of Michael Grassia

4 Responses to “A Conversation With … Jacqueline Mallorca”
  1. daf156 says:

    I have noticed that in my family those who have problems with gluten also have a lactose/lactase intolerance. Can hardly wait for the download for the app. Thank you. Also trying the recipe this week when I buy some salsa to go with it….yummm!!!

  2. knittingrunner says:

    I recently found out I needed to go gluten free, it’s not the most fun! However, eating gluten doesn’t seem to agree with me either so it’s a new lifestyle.

  3. I am curious about gluten-free recipes and would love to have that app.

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