Chocolate Quinoa Cake from Italy

Yesterday, I ran into a woman who had been told by doctors that she needs to eat gluten-free. The person introducing us said, "Oh, Shauna has this website about gluten-free food. You should ask her for recipes."

Always eager to help people eat well, I had plenty of ideas for her. But before I could begin, she said: "Oh, I gave that up already. I just couldn't do it. Too hard." She talked about how different gluten-free bread tasted from regular bread. She said she felt she could only eat salads in restaurants. She couldn't find the energy to cook. So she had gone back to her old way of eating.

I didn't know this woman, but I saw the exhaustion in her eyes, the flush across her face, the extra strain she was carrying on her body. And all I could think was, "A slice of bread is worth this?"

At first, it can be hard to go gluten-free. Wheat is ubiquitous in this culture. American culture seems, at times, to be made of hamburgers, fast food, and pastries. That means bleached white flour (plus a lot of sugar). But what I have realized, over and over again, is that going gluten-free can be a gift. There is so much more to American cuisine than wheat. And then there's the rest of the world. Fabulous foods wait for us, foods that naturally contain no gluten. It just takes a little widening of the mind.

Who could feel deprived on this chocolate quinoa cake from Italy?

Ilva is Swedish but lives in Tuscany with her husband and children. She takes astonishing photographs of the countryside around her. Her recipes always come from whole foods, in original combinations. This week, she featured a chocolate-quinoa cake that took my breath away in the photographs. Quinoa grains in a cake? Why not? Judging from the photographs, it worked. I simply have to try it. So should you.

For those of you who are living gluten-free, simply shift the three dl of flour (just over a cup and a half -- check out the measuring converter on Ilva's site) in the recipe for rice flour, or a combination of rice/tapioca flour. That should do the trick.

I wish the woman I met yesterday could have a slice of that cake. It might make her a believer, and start to treat herself better.

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