Gluten-Free Picnic
June 16, 2011 5:15 AM   Subscribe

I need some picnic food ideas for someone with celiac disease. I have plenty of ideas for side dishes and dessert, but I am coming up short on what to serve for the entree. We will not have access to a grill or any form of cooking, so the food has to be served cold, right from the cooler. Help!

My dad was diagnosed with celiac disease last fall. Every year for Father's Day, we go on a father-daughter hike, followed by a huge picnic that I prepare. In the past, I would always bring fried chicken, gourmet sandwiches or a hearty pasta salad with meat/cheese as the entree for the post-hike picnic. Now that my dad can't have anything with wheat in it, I'm sort of stumped about what to serve for the entree.

I want to avoid sandwiches on gluten-free bread, because he will only eat gluten-free bread if it's toasted or grilled. He doesn't like gluten-free pasta unless it's served hot/fresh, because apparently, it gets hard or mushy (depending on the brand) in cold dishes.

I'm stumped! Any ideas?
posted by MorningPerson to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Pesto, with a non-gluten pasta like rice or buckwheat noodles.
posted by LonnieK at 5:16 AM on June 16, 2011

Fried chicken in gluten-free bread crumbs? Fried chicken in a nut crust?
posted by jeather at 5:17 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the idea, Lonnie - but my dad won't eat any gluten-free pasta in cold dishes. I mentioned that near the end of the post. He's tried about 20 different gluten-free pastas, and while he has found some he likes in hot dishes, he does not like any of them cold. :-(
posted by MorningPerson at 5:19 AM on June 16, 2011

Hmm. Well, you can still make fried chicken, if you use gluten-free flour. I have done this and it works out fine. (I can send you my recipe if you like.) What about grilled or broiled chicken? Or a salad that's rice-based rather than pasta-based?

If you fry the chicken, make sure you use a stainless steel skillet. Actually, that goes for anything you make him -- don't use nonstick unless it is his or brand new.
posted by sugarfish at 5:20 AM on June 16, 2011

I would love the fried chicken recipe, sugarfish!
posted by MorningPerson at 5:24 AM on June 16, 2011

This is amazing. Use just a cup of quinoa, and add more fresh corn and beans (and throw in red onion) than suggested. I use red pepper instead of green and trade the jalapenos for a little bit of cayenne in the dressing. Swap balsamic for the red wine vinegar, and top with avocado if you're feeling extravagant.
posted by availablelight at 5:27 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chicken salad, served on romaine lettuce leaves? Collard leaves, lightly microwaved/steamed to soften them up, make great wraps for sandwich-y fillings.
posted by lizifer at 5:29 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Potato salad?

Has your Dad tried Asian noodles? There's bean vermicelli, potato vermicelli, and rice vermicelli, among others, in many shapes and forms. Millions of recipes, and they're perfect cold, hot, in wrappers (spring rolls) and in soup.

Vietnamese cold noodles
Vietnamese cold spring rolls
Bean vermicelli Wikipedia article
Korean potato noodles (chapchae) (also good cold)
posted by TheGoodBlood at 5:37 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vietnamese Spring Rolls. These are my go-to summer potluck offering, as they work for just about every diet (I don't use shrimp or peanut, and they are thus kosher, halal, sugarfree, vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free), plus they are gorgeous to look at and don't go toxic in the heat.
posted by apparently at 5:48 AM on June 16, 2011

What about rice salad? That's what I'm having for lunch - rice, oil and vinegar dressing, some chopped up veggies, and pork chop chunks, but that's just what I had on hand when I made it, you can put in pretty much anything.

And if you don't want to go to the trouble of making gluten-free fried chicken, what about some nice baked chicken (maybe in g-free barbecue sauce)?
posted by mskyle at 5:53 AM on June 16, 2011

A frittata could be a main dish. It's good cold (or at least not warm), and it's pretty easy to make.
posted by Francolin at 6:09 AM on June 16, 2011

Maybe something like a white bean and tuna salad would be nice, with a dressing of olive oil and lemon. Really, and pasta salad dressing recipe you like with beans instead of pasta would be tasty I'd imagine. You could also go for a caprese salad with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella.
posted by itsonreserve at 6:09 AM on June 16, 2011

This Rice Salad Primavera is one of my absolute favorite summer dishes. I use a package of the savory flavored baked tofu from Trader Joe's and cut it (and everything else) into tiny dice.
posted by something something at 6:26 AM on June 16, 2011

Make your pasta salad with a good boilable potato instead? If you dress potatoes while they're still hot and immediately pop them in the fridge in small batches to cool down quickly, they absorb the dressing nicely without spending any time in the unsafe temperature range.
posted by gingerest at 6:30 AM on June 16, 2011

I would do a salad with meat on it, personally, and skip the gluten-free "alternative" flour options because they tend to be gross. (Actually, I would just request that you bring whatever you're sticking in the sandwiches and eat them plain, but I am excessively unpicky.) Lettuce wraps would also work fine for sandwich-y options.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:40 AM on June 16, 2011

What about homemade wrap bread? It's a very different texture than GF sandwich bread, since it's more like a thick tortilla. I used this recipe. I avoid ungrilled, untoasted GF bread too because it's kind of crumbly and terrible, but the wrap bread I made was very soft and has a little bit of sweetness to it from the rice flour, and it was really good with picnic-type sandwich meats (cold cuts, chicken salad, tuna).
posted by mochapickle at 6:48 AM on June 16, 2011

Cold roasty meats are often good - like fried chicken, but skip the breading and just roast chicken with herbs. Or pork tenderloin. Not as sandwiches, but maybe served with a quinoa pilaf?
posted by aimedwander at 6:51 AM on June 16, 2011

There are a bunch of great recipes and techniques at Gluten Free Girl's website. She gives instructions for how to swap gluten-free flour for wheat flour in recipes for example.
posted by Kimberly at 7:14 AM on June 16, 2011

Came in to say a bean salad. Pilakhi is very nice cold with a little lemon juice, on its own or over lettuce.

Any rice dish that can be served cold is another option.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:35 AM on June 16, 2011

Substitute the pasta part of your hearty pasta salad with quinoa and black beans.

Roasted vegetables served cold / room temperature (roasted fennel! roasted potatoes!).

Nicoise salad? Any salad really - make it hearty. Again, throw in some quinoa and beans.
posted by valeries at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2011

Just a note, if you're using pre-seasoned meats, look through the ingredient list carefully. Often gluten-full ingredients are hiding and are easy to overlook.
posted by valeries at 7:41 AM on June 16, 2011

My recipe for gluten free Chick-Fil-A style nuggets. The breading could be used for chicken breasts or strips. It's so good.
posted by sugarfish at 7:59 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tortillas, of course! Corn tortillas, grilled flank steak, salsa, corn salad, some crumbled Mexican cheese - yum.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:07 AM on June 16, 2011

Cold cut roll ups in lettuce wraps are super quick and easy. Pick up some big fresh looking romaine leaves and the fillings you like. You can add sliced cheese (provolone or muenster are awesome), thinly sliced tomatoes, mustard, and mayo too. They hold together well with toothpicks. Just be sure to get g-free presliced meat (like Boar's Head) since the meat slicer at the deli could be contaminated. Sidenote: Burgers can also be served in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun! Hardee's sells low carb burgers made like that.
posted by sunnychef88 at 9:22 AM on June 16, 2011

Have your dad try Udi's bread if he hasn't already. It's a LOT better than the average, brick-like gluten free bread.

I think the best solution is fried chicken with a gluten free coating. Try coating the chicken in Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread mix, which you can generally get a Whole Foods. I bet you would end up with something BETTER than your standard flour-drenched fried chicken.

Also, you might try a thai peanut sauce with sauteed veggies (and chicken) with rice noodles for the picnic. This is tasty served hot or cold. (You can make the peanut sauce yourself using organic, no sugar added peanut butter, or use San-J Gluten Free Thai peanut sauce.)
posted by cnc at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2011

I make gluten free "lunchables" by slicing up meats and cheeses and eating them with gluten free crackers.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:35 PM on June 16, 2011

Tortilla! The Spanish-Potato-Omlette kind
posted by Flashduck at 3:58 AM on June 18, 2011

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