Go with what you know when dinner guests require special diets

08/29/2013 12:20 PM

08/29/2013 12:20 PM

“Oh, just go out to eat,” a bartender friend suggested as I explained my predicament while sipping a bourbon, describing the narrow path I’d be walking to serve the three friends coming to dinner at my home.

I enjoy cooking for guests, but after issuing the invitation I learned that two in the group are vegan and one of the two is gluten-free. The third grew up in a Jewish home and declines pork. He also thinks red meat is an anathema.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the middle of cattle and hog country and that certainly influences how and what I cook. See why I might want a drink?

My solution: Go with what you know.

Pasta primavera, a favorite, feeds a crowd, and my favorite recipe from

Giada De Laurentiis

is easy.

Thinly slice bell peppers, zucchini, carrots and yellow squash with an onion. Toss in about a half cup of olive oil, herbs de provence and salt. Bake on a foil-lined cookie sheet, or two. Serve with chicken breast strips — seared in oil — and Parmesan cheese.

For the vegan visitors, I put the chicken and cheese in separate containers instead of the big bowl that usually holds all the ingredients. I used pasta made from corn and rice.

Had the meal been later in the year, I would have made lentil soup. I vaguely remembered seeing a recipe for lentil salad ... somewhere. Google is such a time saver.

Again, it was a

Giada De Laurentiis recipe

. I made it the day before, tossing the cooked, chilled lentils with grapes, nuts, onions and dressing. I plated it with Romaine leaves the next day.

And lentils have protein! Something I had thought would be difficult to serve.

In my first attempt at vegan cooking, I encountered only two things I hadn’t tried before: tofu and the gluten-free pasta.

I seared strips of tofu coated with course-ground mustard in olive oil. When the mustard was fragrant, I turned it. Waited another couple of minutes and took it off the heat. It was a hit.

The biggest hit, however, was a last-minute dessert. I had planned to pass around whole, beautifully ripe nectarines, but decided that was lame.

I sliced them instead and added a couple of teaspoons of sugar, a teaspoon of bourbon, some crumbled chocolate (no dairy, I checked) and a tiny bit of water. I stirred in individual cups, microwaved for about a minute and let the mixture chill while we finished the primavera.

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