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finishing this casual menu for six

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We have friends coming over for dinner on Thursday, and have almost-completed the menu. I'm not actually sure when dinner will be, since both my boyfriend and another friend are getting off work late, so people are showing up at 7pm or a little later, aiming to eat at 7.30pm. And since my boyfriend will possibly be running late, I don't want to be in the kitchen last-minute, or making things which need to be served piping hot and straight from the oven.

So far, it is:

cherry tomato gazpacho
some sort of dip with vegetable crudites

slow-roasted pork belly
ciabatta bread (and rye for the wheat-intolerant guest)
coleslaw
fresh pickled baby cukes
green salad

maple syrup creme caramels

For dipping, maybe skordalia or tarator? Other suggestions? Since I don't know how long people will be grazing, I don't want heavy nibbles, since pork belly will be substantial. Do you think adding crisp toasts with goats cheese would make this too heavy?

I'd like suggestions for a simple-ish green salad, too, please, keeping in mind that it's spring here in South Africa, so summery ingredients aren't available yet.

I'm also toying with the idea of some fruit with the creme caramels, but strawberries are the only spring fruit on the shelves yet, and several guests are allergic, believe it or not!

All and any suggestions welcome.

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  1. At least here in the U.S., rye bread often has wheat in it so I wouldn't count too heavily on it for those with wheat intolerance. Have you thought about a potato salad? It's a nice wheat-free starch. I don't often serve cole slaw and green salad at the same meal UNLESS the cole slaw is made with crushed pineapple and miniature marshmallows. Then I just pray for leftovers! '-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caroline1

      The protein known as "gluten" is present in wheat, barley and rye. If your guest suffers from Celiac disease you may want to look at a corn flour substitute but if you buy it commercially be careful to check the ingredients to make certain it is gluten free. Even if it says it contains no wheat flour but doesn't indicate it's gluten free it may contain an amount of wheat flour that is below the FDA requirement for including that fact on the nutritional label.
      I agree with Caroline1 about the green salad/cole slaw conflict. I wouldn't serve them both. However, I might serve a nice green salad as an individual course ahead of the rest of the dinner and include a red cabbage cole slaw as part of the main course.
      For your nibbles, a variety of fresh roasted nuts might be an easy way to include something to munch on. Keeping in mind that your gluten free guest couldn't partake in the toast and toppings items.

      1. re: Caroline1

        hehe... actually, this coleslaw would be a vehicle for raisins (although marshmallows are... creative). Boyfriend requested it. Usually I'd say there's enough crunch from the pickles, and enough green stuff in the salad.

        We usually finish with salad, so maybe I could serve the pork with coleslaw, and then serve the salad after.

      2. For the green salad I love doing a rocket, segmented citrus (generally orange) and toasted pinenuts. I usually dress this salad with a good squeeze of the citrus remains, EV olive oil and balsamic.

        I can believe the strawberry allergy - my uncle worked one summer picking and packing strawberries and loved to help himself to a lot of the produce, the end result is that if he eats them now he gets a rash on his bum.

        1. i echo the others that say maybe not salad and slaw.

          for some other nibbles, maybe some lightly stuffed endive leaves (perhaps an herbed goat cheese); perhaps cubes of melon with thin slices of prosciutto, skewered cherry tomato w/ mozzarella cube and basil drizzled with olive oil; parmesan fricos...

          for salads, i love a simple blend of hearts of palm and artichoke hearts, but not sure about that in south africa. i'd also suggest something simple like spinach tossed with sundried tomatoes or roasted pears, some chopped figs, olives, a little blue or goat cheese, and some light balsamic vinegarette - a small portion goes a long way and whets the appetite.

          with dinner, i'd suggest maybe doing a quinoa pilaf, so that the wheat intolerant friend can have a starchy or somewhat grainy dish to go along (i'd be wary of serving rye bread, though i'm celiac so i have a stricter issue, but that's just my take). you could also do a lentil and/or bean and/or quinoa salad of sorts.

          and i'm allergic to strawberries! :-)
          for dessert, how about also some meringue shells filled with fruit - different fruit
          and another random dessert idea would be a flan or creme caramel (easily wheat free)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Emme

            My wheat-intolerant friend does not have coeliac, thankfully (you have my sympathies!); she tolerates rye just fine, and it is what she eats at home. I know a good bakery where I can get 100% rye, so would work with that.

            I wonder if there's a link between wheat intolerance and strawberry intolerance; my friend can't do either. Although it's interesting to note that both my boyfriend and I are steering clear of strawberries too, this spring. We've found them difficult to digest. I'm hoping this won't impact my enjoyment of raspberries, that other seedy berry, later this season, though!