You might think from my earlier Thanksgiving post that traditional holiday foods don’t do much for me. Au contraire—one of the more difficult things about food allergies has been dealing with family holiday gatherings where everyone, including me, has specific ideas about what we should be eating, how it should be constructed, and how it should taste.
Yet I’m also an adventurous spirit, and food can be nothing if not an adventure. My best friend, who has recently moved to California and who has been diagnosed with food allergies in the last six months, was coming home to celebrate Thanksgiving and to meet her new, first niece.
After I told her Dan and I were spending Thanksgiving alone, she proposed that we get together to make a holiday meal we could both eat the day after Thanksgiving. With my party-hosting ways, I extended the invitation to a variety of our friends and family, specifying that the meal was a potluck, that all offerings should exclude gluten, eggs, soy, dairy, tomatoes, almonds and lemons to cover the allergies she and I have, and that anyone who wanted to come but didn’t feel comfortable making food could bring wine. T-Day 2 was born.
On Friday afternoon, 10 of us—11 if you count baby Marie—gathered to share in a delicious feast that excluded my and Margaret’s allergens but lacked nothing in taste or texture.
Here’s what we served:
Drinks: White, red, and pomegranate wines, plus a pitcher of water with lime and orange slices in it
Salad: A light starter of spring greens with avocado, jicama sticks, orange pieces, and a simple muscat orange vinaigrette with olive oil
Turkey: A turkey from Greenberg Smoked Turkeys (Oprah calls it the best turkey she’s ever eaten, and I’d have to agree it was incredible and completely reasonable at about $5 a pound including shipping. It came entirely cooked and ready to eat—so simple, and it left us room in the oven for other dishes! (Oh, and the smoked turkey stock I made from it later was out of this world.)
Autumnal Squash Puree: Rich yet somehow light, and incredibly flavorful, this recipe is definitely a keeper. Nikki and Thomas, who made the dish, advise cutting the spices from the original recipe in half (or doubling the squash and leaving the spices the same). Next time they make it, they intend to roast the squash to see whether that makes the dish even more wonderful. (The only sub we had to make was to use ghee or olive oil in lieu of the butter.)
Dressing With Dried Fruit: An actual great use for the dry, heavy white rice bread that’s available in the gluten-free section of most grocery stores! Savory, sweet, and delicious. (I did add extra kinds of dried fruit and doubled the chicken seasoning it calls for.)
Cranberry Relish: A sliced orange—peel and all—combined with a 16-oz. (or so) bag of cranberries and agave syrup, sugar, or maple syrup to taste (1/2-1 c.) in the food processor, starting with the orange to make sure it breaks up well. (I doubled the recipe for 10 people. Tastes great the same day but better the next day, so I make it in advance when I can.)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts with the ends cut off, sliced in half, and any tough outer leaves removed—combined with some olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Roasted at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, tossed to give the opposite side a chance to brown, and popped back in the oven for 10-20 minutes. (I used three pounds of Brussels sprouts for 10 people.)
Deconstructed Apple Pie (We were too busy eating this one to shoot it): Vanilla-flavored coconut milk ice cream scoops topped with apples sauteed with cinnamon, roasted and salted pecans, and homemade caramel made with coconut milk yogurt. (We used up three pints of ice cream, 2 cups of nuts, and a single batch of the caramel.)
We ate to our hearts’ content, talked until we were sleepy, and wandered down the street together to watch a movie to end our evening. It was a rejuvenating, lovely gathering that filled me with gratitude for my friends.