This week’s guest post is compliments of Carol Fenster, author of many gluten-free cookbooks. Most recently, Carole published 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes, a book that caters to a sadly unrepresented demographic in the publishing world: gluten-free folk who eschew meat. Everyone who follows this diet will thank her for this collection of lovely dishes!
Please welcome Carol as she shares with us suggestions for the gluten-free vegetarians in your New Years Eve entertaining plans. You might be surprised how many there are in your midst — or how many people who don’t adhere to this sort of diet will appreciate the healthy options in your buffet.
It used to be that the hostess made the food and the guests ate it. Today, entertaining has become more complicated because not all of your guests can eat everything. About 21 million Americans have a gluten intolerance (3 million have actual Celiac Disease, while another 18 million have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity). Combine that with the 3 percent who are vegetarian and the 23 million who follow a vegetarian diet “some-of-the-time,” (we call them flexitarians) it is quite likely that your New Year’s party will include a gluten-free vegetarian.
What can you serve a gluten-free vegetarian? Actually, there are many good choices.
As I went through the process of writing my new cookbook, 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes, I was amazed to learn how many foods are appropriate for the gluten-free vegetarian — and many of these foods are just right for entertaining because everyone can enjoy them.
There are several ways to entertain on New Year’s Eve. One of the easiest ways is with a buffet. That way, guests can help themselves, taking as much food as they please, whenever they please ― leaving you free to have a good time with your guests. Whole grains and vegetable dishes are especially nice for a buffet because they taste good at room temperature. So here are my suggestions (all from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes unless otherwise noted) that will delight all of your guests.
It’s always nice to have a few little munchies that can be either left on the buffet table or passed around as appetizers before dinner:
- Gazpacho Shooters (cute, served in shot glasses or espresso cups)
- Greek Salad Skewers with Greek Salad Dressing
- Warmed Olives in Herbs (from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes)
- Savory Spiced Nuts (from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes)
Heartier dishes for the buffet table can be healthy and delicious. I’m especially fond of whole grain dishes because we Americans don’t usually get enough fiber in our diets — only 40% of us eat any whole grains at all, and that 40% only eats one daily serving, which falls short of the 3 to 5 daily servings recommended by the USDA. You can do your guests a favor by serving whole grains. And, we all need to eat more vegetables, so I try to make them fun and tasty to eat. Here are my recommendations:
- Sorghum Salad (see recipe below―I added shrimp, but you can omit it)
- Wild Rice Salad
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- Crostini (the Italian version of toast with toppings; make your own easy French Baguettes and then use them for the Crostini)
- Kale Salad (OK, if your guests resist kale, then serve Spinach Salad with Cannellini)
- Hummus (served with spears of red, yellow, and green bell peppers to add color to the buffet table)
I always like to serve something with chocolate because that’s my favorite dessert flavor. I also serve a non-chocolate dessert for those who don’t share my obsession. Bars are perfect for a buffet because they are small and guests can carry them around the room without another plate and fork.
Carol’s Tips for a Successful Party
- Plan ahead. This sounds obvious, but write down everything you plan to serve, the ingredients required, and where you plan to buy them. Then organize a shopping list. Buy the non-perishables a week or so ahead of time. The perishables can be bought a day or two ahead.
- Take your menu and plan when you will assemble each dish. I draw a timeline, indicating when I will prepare each dish, the serving bowl/plates/utensils required, and when a dish requires the oven or microwave or cooktop (e.g., so I don’t try to heat everything in the microwave at the same time). Most of the dishes in this menu can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. Even the Stuffed Mushrooms can be made ahead and reheated just before the party.
- Position the buffet dishes in differing heights for a prettier, more interesting display. Overturn a large bowl, drape it with a large, colorful napkin, and use it as a pedestal for a platter of food. Place these higher dishes toward the back of the table so guests can easily reach them.
- Create a party that is within your ability. That is, keep it simple. Don’t try a large elaborate buffet if you’re a beginning cook. Your guests will feel more comfortable if you are calm and collected; that’s why carefully planning and not doing more than you’re capable of is the best approach. So, relax and have a great time.
Happy New Year!
- 3 cups gluten-free vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup whole grain sorghum
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or pomegranate seed
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled and cored, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 unpeeled Honey Crisp or Gala apple, cored and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 whole green onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 1 whole garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups baby spinach
- For non-vegetarian: Shrimp (optional)
- Soak the sorghum in water to cover overnight, then drain and discard the water. In a large pot bring the broth to a boil, add the salt and sorghum and cook, covered, until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. (Or, cook in a slow cooker all day.) Drain well.
- Transfer the sorghum to a medium bowl and stir in the cranberries, pecans, apple, onion, thyme, and parsley.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, oil, agave nectar, garlic, salt, and pepper until well blended. Drizzle over the sorghum and toss to coat well, using as much of the dressing as you like. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours to meld the flavors.
- To serve, let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Arrange the spinach in a single layer on a large serving platter and top with the sorghum salad. Garnish with shrimp, if using, and chopped parsley and serve immediately.