Help me work around some complicated food allergies.
December 11, 2007 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me feed thirty people with a lot of food allergies with the fewest possible dishes. All vegetarians, a few vegans, and a bunch of people with gluten intolerance.

Not everyone needs to be able to eat every dish, but everyone needs to be able to eat SOMETHING at every meal. And there are five days, including lunches, to plan for.

Breakfast is mostly cereal and rice/soy/almond/cow milk, so not a big deal. Lunch is usually soup. Dinner is the main meal. This is a vegetarian gathering, so no fish, shrimp, meat, or products derived from above (fish sauce, chicken broth). The food budget isn't huge, and stuff that is fairly quick and easy to toss together is a definite bonus (although I will have a lot of people willing to help chop and whatnot). Attendees will be late-teens to mid-thirties.

Several people have allergies to gluten. Some of the GF people have overlapping allergies with other foods:
-oats, rye, barley, millet, quinoa, corn
-members of the allium family (garlic, onion, leeks, etc.)

-no eggs, whey, mushrooms, bananas, sesame seeds, peanuts, kidney beans, navy beans
-no MSG

At least one non-GF person is a vegan. There are also a few soy allergies but I'm not sure where they fall (whether they're GF or not). A few other people dislike beans and lentils (but it's not an allergy, so I'm less concerned with accommodating them).

I think it'll be easiest if the GF dishes are also vegan (to avoid milk and eggs). The non-GF vegan will be completely happy eating GF for the week. I might just shoot for vegan across the board to simplify things.

I saw this thread and it was very helpful, but working with a few more constraints than I have. I read Gluten-Free Girl regularly and will trawl her archives again for ideas.

Things that are already planned: ratatouille, an Indian food night with several different dishes, a build-your-own-burrito night, miso soup, some kind of pumpkin-and-coconut-milk Thai soup, popcorn for snacking.

I'd love suggestions for more soups, sides, and mains. Tasty sweets or snacks that are GF/vegan that would be great too. It would also be really awesome to have something particularly nice for breakfast on one morning - it's a gathering that stretches across New Year's and it would be cool to have something extra tasty on the first.
posted by fuzzbean to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you ask each guest to send you a few favorite recipes in advance, and you can list out the ingredients and have them on hand. With 30 people, I don't think it's unfair to ask them to cook a meal or two and have several different potluck type dishes for each meal with people sharing their favorite recipes. If you have the recipes and maybe choose 3-5 for each meal, you could probably have at least one dish out of the 3-5 to meet the requirements of just about everyone. Everyone ends up in the kitchen anyway, let them show others how they prepare their favorites and make it part of the event.
posted by 45moore45 at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2007

roasted potatoes, oven fries, sweet potatoes, and oven-roasted beets can round out your carb section- all are about equally easy to cook and you can do multiple batches. also mashed potatoes.

some varation on chilled fruit soup should work for one of the meals, maybe the breakfast. you can sub in vegan yogurt for the creaminess.

fruit salad with a bit of white creme de menthe is nice too. creme de menthe is a clear pepperment liquer, and contains no dairy. it gives the fruit salad a nice refreshing taste. good with berries, mangoes, and pineapple.

as a snack, i like this korean treat: buy sheets of nori. turn on an electric stove element on medium low. when it's hot, gently stroke the nori across the stove element two or three times on each side, til it crisps slightly. brush with oil (sesame is good, but whatever) and sprinkle with salt. yummers.

maybe make vegan truffles? food-process almonds and dried fruit (mangoes? apricots?) until they are a bally consistency, and make little balls. roll in food-processed smashed up almonds to coat so they aren't sticky.

vegan lunch box is a blog that will probably yield some great ideas.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:35 PM on December 11, 2007

Brown rice is gluten free. You could whip up some sort of veggie-tofu stir fry quickly and for a lot of people. There aren't any soy allergies, right?
posted by Alison at 8:39 PM on December 11, 2007

The only bad in this is the sesame oil... but I love this! (I think Mirin is optional)

Braised Hijiki Salad: (found here)

1 ounce hijiki
1 medium carrot
1/2 medium burdock root
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablepoons gluten free soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 cup water (or dashi if you have it)

Rinse hijiki well, then soak in filtered water to cover for about 20 minutes or until plump. Drain (you can use this mineral rich soak water for your plants - they'll love it).

Julienne carrot and burdock root, and soak burdock root in cold filtered water until ready to use.

Heat 1/2 sesame oil in large skillet, and add carrot and burdock root. Stir over medium heat about 2 minutes. Add hijiki, soy sauce, mirin and water (or dashi) and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed into the seaweed.

Turn off heat and drizzle with remaining sesame oil. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, if desired.
posted by mildred-pitt at 8:42 PM on December 11, 2007

Oh yeah - add tofu to this in the frying section for even better results....
posted by mildred-pitt at 8:43 PM on December 11, 2007

Consider a salad bar as well as a build your own taco/burrito kind of thing. Baked potato/sweet potato bar is another thought.

Also: roasted squash (roast it with olive oil and herbs of your choice) with rice pasta. Drain the pasta over a bowl full of greens (kale, mustard, chard) and let the greens wilt in the pasta water for one minute, then toss the greens in with the pasta. Provide goat cheese, feta, or soy cheese crumbles for anyone who'd like to add them.

In a situation where so many different eating styles come into play, I'm always inclined to offer lots of choices, and when it takes place over a period of days, I wouldn't hesitate to bring back leftovers in kind of a buffet style, just to make things easier on both the cooks and the people choosing. And I would encourage people to participate in cooking, so that they can feel comfortable seeing just what ingredients have gone into what dishes.
posted by padraigin at 8:50 PM on December 11, 2007

oh, this recipe for vegan fondue looks fun! (scroll down to jan 12 entry).
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:53 PM on December 11, 2007

Remember that popcorn can be spiced up with well...spices. Cayenne is nice, as would some olive oil. I personally like garlic and Parmesan reggiano but clearly that won't work for all your guests (but then again it doesn't sound like popcorn alone will work for everyone)
posted by mmascolino at 9:05 PM on December 11, 2007

A number of dishes in Japanese food might fit the bill, as long as you stay away from fish based dashi stock. This is easy to avoid as dashi can also be made by simply soaking dried shiitake mushrooms, or boiling konbu kelp as well.

See the "Vegetable" section at "Bob and Angie" here.

A variety of recipes at "Black Moon" here.

"Cooking Cute" is a website about bento lunches here. There is a big section on vegetarian/gluten free. As well as a lot of adorable pictures of bento.

"Japanese mom's home cooking" is here.

Some hints about working with Japanese food:

-when making vinegared dishes (sunomono), there is often a necessary step of salty sliced vegetables and squeezing the water out. Don't overly salt them, and squeeze hard.
-when making boiled dishes, periodically check that taro, potatoes, or burdock root aren't overdone or underdone by piercing with a chopstick or testing bite.

Good luck!
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 9:08 PM on December 11, 2007

Nasi Goreng Indonesian fried rice essentially.
posted by whoaali at 9:19 PM on December 11, 2007

Oh wait it has shallots, but you could leave that out. Sometimes I use cilantro in mine, so maybe you could substitute that. Oh crap and it has soy sauce, ok sorry this is hard.
posted by whoaali at 9:21 PM on December 11, 2007

Oooh, roasted chickpeas might work for people who are allergic to popcorn as a snack, but can handle beans. I drizzle them with oil, then salt and pepper or whatever seasonings you like.

My method is to spread them out on a baking pan and cook them at 450 until they're just barely crunchy, stirring occasionally.
posted by padraigin at 9:33 PM on December 11, 2007

Arrowhead Mills makes a really great gluten-free all purpose baking mix. I can eat gluten just fine and I like it. It might be nice to have pancakes with a variety of toppings (I like fruit & yogurt) for your celebratory breakfast.
posted by cali at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2007

Seconding anyone who mentioned potato-based dishes. My son is highly allergic to many things (we're talking anaphylactic emergencies here) but he's usually able to eat potato dishes at potluck dinner situations... Make sure you write down the ingredients of your dishes (on a post-it note or an index card), which will be much appreciated by the attendees, who don't want to ask "what's in this?" about every dish.
posted by amyms at 10:07 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

hummus can be made sans tahini (which is made from sesame seed paste) and sans garlic, but it'll be pretty boring if you don't spice it up. If you have access to a food processor, it would be VERY easy to make about 6 different varieties of hummus that pertain to everybody's food interests. If you wanted to keep the Mediterranean theme going you could also make baba ganush.
posted by onalark at 10:34 PM on December 11, 2007

I just had this vegan, gluten-free meal, and it was delicious - orange coconut curry with grilled vegetables - yields 4 to 5 servings. It's good with cooked rice.

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra olive oil for roasting the vegetables
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 can coconut milk
salt to taste
About 4 to 5 cups sliced vegetables such as asparagus, red or yellow bell peppers, zucchini, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fennel, green beans, broccoli, etc.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F while you slice the vegetables to a thickness of about a half inch. In a bowl, toss the vegetables with a little salt and olive oil to coat lightly. Place on baking sheets in a single layer, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables start to brown. Vegetables should be tender, succulent, and some of them should be lightly browned. Set the veggies aside while you make the sauce.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a sautee pan. Add the seeds and saute for 1-3 minutes until they pop. Add the onion and saute over low/medium heat until translucent. Add the curry powder and continue to saute for another minute. Add the orange juice and coconut milk, and simmer for another 5 minutes. Do not overcook. Season with salt to taste.

Arrange grilled or roasted vegetables on a plate, and pour the sauce over them.

My personal variations from the recipe: I doubled it to serve a hungry group and used a full can of orange juice concentrate - about 1.5 cups, instead of the one that would be called for. It was a huge hit.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

For dessert, check out the healthy baking blog Pattycake, with a number of GF recipes.
posted by avocet at 10:54 PM on December 11, 2007

whoaali, I think soy sauce would be ok as long as it doesn't contain wheat. The soy beans wouldn't be a problem I think.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 10:57 PM on December 11, 2007

fan_of_all_things_small: almost all soy sauce contains gluten. Fuzzbean should only use special soy sauce marketed as gluten free.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:25 PM on December 11, 2007

Briam (or "Briami") is fabulously delicious (one of my favorite meals!), and suits your requirements except for the allium-allergy. For that person, set aside a smaller roasting dish and leave out the garlic and onion in that mix.

Here's the recipe I use.
posted by taz at 2:17 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

30 People is a reasonable size to cook for in pans, but access to a decent sized (catering) oven will make things easier. Guide to estimating quantities.

Substantial enough for a main course by itself.
3kgs of Arborio rice
7.5 kg of mixed veg -- e.g. peppers, courgettes, aubergines, carrots, fennel, celery according to cost & availability
Gluten free vegetable stock (not hard to find in health food shop).

Slice vegetables and fry in olive oil adding in order of hardness. Start with carrots/fennel/celery (dice them if you are feeling fancy) then other vegetables in larger pieces, aubergines first.

Make up stock with boiling water.

Add rice to mix and fry for a couple of minutes or so. Add stock and cook till done.

You can also transfer the boiling mix to containers with tight fitting lids and place in hot (180-200C) oven when the water boils and cook in there.

You could also grate some parmesan and serve on the side for the non-dairy allergic.


Buckwheat is gluten free (despite its name) so we can use it here as a substitute for bulghur wheat in tabbouleh

(sort of) Tabbouleh
1.5 kg of buckwheat groats (boiled for 20 minutes and cooled -- try not to overcook and keep crunchy)
Mix with:
30 diced tomatoes
10 diced cucumbers
6+ cups fresh flat leaf parsley
2-3 cups of fresh mint

Season and dress with olive oil & lemon juice.

Carrot and Orange Salad

3kg of Carrots
1L of Orange Juice
1/3-1/2 L of Olive Oil
(orange flower or rosewater if available)
3 bunches of Coriander (6+cups)

Grate carrots & mix with roughly chopped coriander.
For the dressing mix olive oil and orange juice with a dash of orangeflower and/or rose water and ground cinnamon and ginger.

5 cups lentils of green lentils cooked with bay leaves
15 red peppers , diced
7 cups of fresh mint
mix and serve with a dressing of cumin, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (adapted from some one elses recipe -- it originally came with feta( & onions) It worked fine as vegan dish, but you could always serve feta on the side).

Seve with Hummus.
posted by tallus at 3:48 AM on December 12, 2007

Whew...I'm allergic to wheat, corn, soy and milk, so some of this sounds familiar. I am not however, vegetarian; not sure I could do that, so my hat is off in admiration.

Sidenote to croutonsupafreak: awesome recipe, I'll try it too, thanks.

You don't say if the same person is allergic to wheat and corn or wheat and soy - if they are, I can tell you that almost anything that comes prepackaged is going to be right out the window. Usually either corn or soy is used as a substitute for wheat in gluten-free products, and it is damn near impossible to find anything without corn or soy in it if it comes in a box, bottle or can. Sensitivities vary, but any number of preservatives/flavor enhancers in canned/boxed/bottled things are derived from wheat, corn, or soy. Many packaged spices use corn starch as a slip/non-caking agent; McCormick is *generally* safe, but be sure to check the labels.

I've not found a wheat-free soy sauce, so I'm no help there.

You can make any number of sauces using fruit juices as a base; my staple is apple juice (non-sweetened, not from concentrate - Martinelli's has one, but it is expensive; there is usually a house brand available at my store), but pineapple juice (Dole's if I recall correctly is still nothing but pineapple juice and citric acid not derived from corn), lemon and lime juices work well also. These make great bases for curries.

Thickeners: potato starch/flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour should be safe for your group. Use extra-light olive oil or canola oil as a butter substitute.

You've had a lot of suggestions for mains and sides, but veggie spring rolls (make sure you get rice wrappers) can be baked or fried, and stuffed with any happy variety of julienned veggies. Ditto wraps using whatever leaves look good in the produce department.

For desserts, fruit crisp: a couple of cups of fresh fruit (blueberry, apple, pear, or a mix). Mix rice flour, brown sugar, cinnamon (or apple pie spice) and a bit of canola oil until crumbly - sprinkle over the fruit and bake at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour and serve warm...good even without whipped or ice cream.

Fried plantains served with real maple syrup.

For snacks: I make my own version of trail mix for snacks; this one can easily be done ahead of time, and I make whonking big batches of it at a time (it can be frozen and thawed later). Mix 2 cups of safe crisped rice cereal (ingredients: crisped rice...Erewhon makes one that is readily available at natural food stores, and there are other brands as well), 2 cups perky rice cereal (like grape nuts, only rice...and only rice), 2 cups puffed rice cereal (again, rice is the only ingredient) with whatever raw seeds you can find - sunflower and pumpkin are usually available this time of year. If everyone can do tree nuts, throw in some almonds too. In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of honey or real maple syrup just to the boil; pour over the rice/seed mix and bake at 325F for 2 hours, stirring every half hour. Remove from oven and let cool, then mix in whatever dried fruit everyone can eat - pineapple is awesome, but apple, raisins, etc. work well too. If no one is allergic to chocolate (sadly, I am), throw in some chunked up corn/dairy free chocolate as well. Instant (almost) snack food.

Also as a snack: one exception to the "if it comes in a package, it's probably not safe" is potato chips - any number of manufactuers are doing 'organic' versions made with nothing but potatoes, sea salt, and either canola, safflower, or sunflower oil. Not sure if they're easily accessible in regular grocery stores, but any health food store should have a good selection. Not the healthiest snack ever, maybe, but a good indulgence.

Hope at least some of that helps...I'll post more if I think of anything useful after the coffee kicks in.
posted by faineant at 4:30 AM on December 12, 2007

Spaghetti squash with an assortment of sauces (marinara, perhaps a vegan "cream" sauce like this one) and veggies could be a yummy dinner. Set out the options and let everyone pick what to pile on.
posted by bassjump at 6:15 AM on December 12, 2007

Fried plantains served with real maple syrup.

Wow. Yummy. But just get some really good maple syrup and give everyone spoons...that sounds like a good dessert to me.
posted by mmascolino at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2007

I used to cook on a large scale for a group just like this. I found this Moosewood cookbook rather helpful.
As for individual items, big hits included:
- Mac N Yeast (like mac n cheese but vegan)
- Lentil or black bean soup with plenty of brown rice on the side
- Roasted root veggies (beets, potatoes, carrots, garlic, turnips, yams...roast with olive oil and sea salt)
- Tempeh "chicken salad"
- Tofu and veggie stir fry with separate sauces like curry, thai peanut, soy-ginger, etc
- Quinoa salad
- Grilled portobello caps
- Non-vegan antipasti plate of olive oil drizzled tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves

Hope your event goes well!
posted by wowbobwow at 9:12 AM on December 12, 2007

black beans and rice (saute onions and garlic, add black beans, simmer until beans are a good texture and warmth. season to taste - cumin, cayenne, black pepper, etc) Sides: salsa, guacamole, fresh tropical fruit (I like mango, some people are allergic to it)

risotto (veggie stock, normally I would do it with onions and garlic and cheese added at the end)

squash and potatoes - acorn squash halved with brown sugar, salt ,pepper, olive oil; acorn squash with maple syrup for the vegan; roasted potatoes beets and sweet potatoes (cube them, oil salt and pepper, and roast)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:16 AM on December 12, 2007

In terms of finding wheat-free soy sauce, San-J makes a wheat-free Tamari (soy sauce made with Japanese methods).

Ideas: Veggie curry (use vegan yogurt) with brown rice, I think you could get away with a dahl (you'd be surprised how many people realize that "hmm, maybe lentils aren't that bad" after having it), rice and beans... (just leave the alliums out of the recipes, you won't really miss them)

But, wow, that's going to be tough. I'll chime in again if I can think of anything. Good luck.
posted by General Malaise at 10:07 AM on December 12, 2007

Just one thing, I'm sure you know this, but...make sure not to make anything with peanuts. If someone's allergic, just an accidental dusting anywhere could set them off.
posted by General Malaise at 10:08 AM on December 12, 2007

How about some sweet treats? GF baked goods can be made with a mix of rice flours and tapioca or potato starches. Use baking soda + cream of tartar + potato (not corn) starch in place of baking powder. The Arrowhead Mills GF mix contains corn starch - here's a recipe to make your own GF mix. I suggest finding a good vegan cookie recipe, and substituting the GF dry ingredients.

Seconding that any packaged or processed food will be hard to handle with this group of restrictions. You can get wheat-free tamari in Asian food stores or places like Whole Foods. That doesn't help the person with the soy allergy, though. But you can get some condiments that fit all your criteria. Look for ketchup/mustard/mayo made with apple cider or rice vinegar instead of generic white vinegar. Spectrum, Annie's, or the Whole Foods house brand are worth looking at. Also, check out the Manischewitz aisle. Anything that's marked "kosher for Passover" will, by definition, not contain any wheat, corn, other grains, or legumes.
posted by expialidocious at 10:44 AM on December 12, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are awesome (AGAIN!). We're still sorting out what we'll do, but it looks like we'll have:

Japanese night
-miso soup
-suomono (cucumber and wakami salad)
-Roll-your-own veggie sushi
-Maybe some kind of stir-fry to go along with, or the veggie spring rolls

Indian night
-a fried green pepper-and-chickpea-flour thing
-garlic daal
-gobhi matar rasedar (cauliflower, green peas, and potatoes)
-maybe a curried-potato thing (sorry, my vocabulary is failing)

Burrito night
-corn and wheat tortillas
-refried black beans
-Mexican rice
-toppings: tomatoes, onions, scallions, avocado, cilantro, cheese, salsa
-maybe a few (admittedly non-Mexican) baked potatoes for people with extra grain allergies

Italian night
-gluten free and wheat pasta
-roasted veggies (potatoes, butternuts, carrots, parsnips, zucchini)

I still need to come up with one more night and I'm thinking about a Vietnamese night with spring rolls, vegan pho, a fried-rice or rice noodle stir-fry, with maybe tapioca or coconut rice pudding for afters. Crouton's orange curry also sounds hella tasty. I'm still thinking about soups (I don't think ANY soups exist that don't have onions!) but I think a navy bean soup and a potato-leek soup might be good, with leftovers to fill in the gaps (both of those will have onions).

Any more suggestions for side dishes that would coordinate with the meals we've got planned would be really awesome.

The other two food coordinators are very familiar with what is and isn't GF including soy sauce (I think they usually go for Bragg's liquid aminos instead), so as long as I give them a list of ingredients they can sub in GF alternatives. And yes, General Malaise, no peanuts go in the kitchen - apparently if people want to bring peanut butter it needs to stay in the car :) Processed foods are pretty much right out, but that's how I usually cook so that's not a huge deal.
posted by fuzzbean at 11:24 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fields of Greens has a carrot-leek soup that does not have onions as a base. The leeks are cooked separately with thyme and garlic, then added in after the soup is pureed. You could separate a few servings and make them without the leek mixture, but that'd probably require more seasoning to be added.

Recipe: Carrot-Leek Soup with Thyme
posted by expialidocious at 12:35 PM on December 12, 2007

You might skip vietnamese and go Thai instead—you can knock down a lot of vegan curries pretty easily, drop 'em on some brown rice, and serve with some side noodles for the glutenates. If you want to borrow my cookbook from the Thai cooking course I took, just c'mon over.
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 PM on December 12, 2007

Sounds great!

If you do roll-your-own, check out temaki-zushi, which is essentially that. I've had it at house parties a couple times and it's great. Basically give your guests a nori square (half a sheet is usually good) and lay the ingredients out so they can pick whatever they like and roll it.

An excellent video on how to roll temaki here.

I made cucumber and wakame sunomono several times before coming to Japan and it never turned out quite right; turns out the methods are quite a bit different from western cooking.

Particularly with this salad observe the don't salt too much/squeeze tightly rule I wrote above, as well as cutting the cucumber slices really thin. Using a mandoline or something similiar is easier on your hands, though I just do it with a knife.

Also taste test as you go; it can be easier to make the salad too sour if you're not careful. It should have a strong balance between salty, sweet, and sour, but shouldn't be too overwhelming overall. Good luck with the dinner.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 3:55 PM on December 12, 2007

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