Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Big Fat Gluten-Free Luncheon

We have a good friend with celiac disease. We had him and his wife over for lunch yesterday. Clever cooking was involved. I experimented with a few recipes and came up with a menu that was such a crowd-pleaser, I have barely any leftovers.

For starters, I served bought Mediterranean-type salads, like caponata, Turkish eggplant salad and hummus. I also served vegetarian chopped liver, made from eggs and onions.

For the main course, I needed something for the crock pot, so as to have a hot dish, a Sabbath tradition. Here's my variation on a cholent casserole, with my celiac friend's seal of approval.

First, parboil about 3/4 package of baby lima beans in the microwave. Basically, put them in a glass bowl, cover them with water and cook them on highest power for 10 minutes. While the lima beans are cooking, whisk together about a quarter cup each honey mustard and ketchup; set aside. Put your meat in the crock pot first. I used about 2 pounds of stew beef for this dish. Cut 3 or 4 Yukon Gold potatoes into chunks and spread them around the meat. Add the whisked mustard and ketchup. Sprinkle a packet of onion soup mix on top. Add a generous dash of Hungarian paprika, maybe nearly a tsp. Now add the beans, water and all. You'll probably still need to add more water to cover everything if you're going to cook it overnight, as I have to. I set my crock pot on a timer, cooking the food on the high setting. I put the dish up around 1 or 2 pm; the timer shuts off around noon the next day. Normally, I put a cup of barley and less beans into this cholent, but barley has gluten, so no barley this week. Everyone loved the way it came out. I think my friend with celiac had 3 helpings.

For side dishes, we had plain veggies and a corn salad made by DD#1.

For dessert, I got inspired. I bought big Rome apples and cut them into chunks into orange juice, so they chunks wouldn't turn brown. While I was cutting the apples, I soaked some dried blueberries, cherries and raisins, maybe a half cup each, in enough rum to cover. You can speed the hydration along by sticking this in the microwave for 20 seconds on high. I put the apple chunks and a little orange juice into a 9" by 9" baking dish and added 2 tbs of brown sugar, mixing well. A generous dusting of cinnamon was mixed in next. Then the dried fruit plus the rum was added. After a final mix, I dusted the top with more brown sugar and a final bit of cinnamon. I love cinnamon, in case you couldn't tell. The mix gets microwaved on high for 15 minutes. That keeps everything nice a juicy. This is great warm or cold, and with a dairy meal, excellent with vanilla ice cream on top. None of this is left. DD#1 came over this morning to roust the last serving and eat it.

The second dessert I made was coconut custard. Silly to make pie if my friend can't have crust, right? Plus DH won't touch crust. So I never bother; I just make custards in pie plates. For this, I mix up 2 eggs with a cup of sugar, a tsp of vanilla extract, and normally 2 tbs flour. With my friend coming, I used potato starch left over from Passover, but corn starch should work just as well. To this mix add 7 ounces of flaked coconut. where I live, flaked coconut comes in 14 ounce packages; I make 2 custards at a time. They go fast, believe me. Pour into prepared deep dish pie plate (I spray with Pam for baking) and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. Since I made 2, we have one tucked away for the week.

On the work front, I finally confronted the person who'd been avoiding my phone calls. I got clever and called from a phone she wouldn't recognize. I listened to apology after apology. Turns out she's waiting to hear back from her redac editor. Great; in two months she couldn't let me know the editor flaked off? I'll keep calling her from different phones until we get this resolved.

On the other work front, The Firm's asked me to work on two other projects, starting last week. In addition, they want me to do a presentation in Europe at the end of April. Nice. DD#1 says she's coming to Europe with me as my unpaid assistant. I'm hoping for the south of France. DD#1 hope it's Scotland. Stay tuned!

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