About a month ago, Duck and I went to Ireland to participate in his sister’s wedding to a lovely Irish boy. (Boy? Man? He’s younger than me and quite hip, but maybe getting married gives you an automatic bump up to “man.”)
Things I was prepared for as I headed to Ireland: Serious difficulty and perhaps impossibility in sticking to our normal food regimes (vegan for him, gluten-free vegetarian for me). Ireland has has a much better climate for raising food from the animal kingdom than the plant one, and that means meat in and with everything. An unavoidable abundance of gluten; after all, drinking Guinness is one of the national pastimes, and that’s basically a big, dark, delicious glass of wheat. A whole bunch of new people to whom I would have to explain my dietary requirements and get funny looks or a frenzy of worry.
What I totally did not expect on my journey: Walking into the local Super-Saver and finding nearly half of a huge aisle devoted to gluten-free products. Pita bread, tender and fluffy; garlic-coriander naan, the perfect combination of crisp and soft; ciabatta rolls with a toothy crust an Italian grandmother would approve, just waiting to be layered with fresh mozarella, basil, and tomato. Table water crackers and digestive biscuits, which I thought I would never eat again. Scones with raisins. Pizza crusts that make Kinickinick look like rank amateurs. All of it packaged, not bakery-fresh and on the verge of going stale, happy to sit quietly on the shelf and be brought alive with the barest of toastings. I even found Worcestershire sauce that is both gluten-free and vegan, which I thought was like a mermaid or a unicorn, something only to be dreamed of but never actually encountered. Ireland even came up with the coolest not-that-healthy health food ever – thin rice cakes topped with a layer of that sweet yogurt that coats yogurt-raisins. (They come in chocolate-orange, too!)
Needless to say, I came home with an entire carry-on full of food. I’m trying to ration my new treats (they all have expiration dates around mid-July), but this week’s (retroactive, as usual) menu plan includes some full-on celebrations of Irish, gluten-free bounty.
For other marvelous menu plans, check out the huge Menu Plan Monday compendium over at Organizing Junkie. For more gluten-free menu plan madness, pay a visit to Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness. She is hosting this week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap.
Monday: Homemade falafel with baba ganouj, heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce, and Sriracha hot sauce, stuffed into an incredible gluten-free Irish pita, kale with kale sauce
Tuesday: Broiled tempeh marinated with fennel, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar (Moosewood at Home), roasted broccoli with lemon zest and pine nuts, quinoa with coconut oil
Wednesday: Gluten-free Irish pita stuffed with broiled eggplant (marinated in balsamic, olive oil, and herbes de Provence) and feta and buffalo mozarella marinated with balsamic, olive oil, and fresh basil, fruit salad, green salad
Thursday: Rice, lentil, and potato pilaf with cardamom, Impressionist cauliflower, spicy collard greens, gluten-free Irish garlic-coriander naan
Friday: Sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and chile flakes in a gluten-free Irish pita with Bravo farms cheddar cheese
Saturday: Gluten-free Irish pizza crust topped with pesto, tomatoes, mushrooms, and broiled eggplant marinated in balsamic, olive oil, and herbes de Provence, salad
Sunday: Dal with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and ginger, red and white quinoa, raita of goat yogurt with mustard seeds and spices
The thing of it is, I don’t even care much for bread products. But until this week, I had forgotten how amazingly convenient they are. One night I was super tired but I really wanted to cook up two gorgeous bunches of organic broccoli rabe (my absolute favorite veggie, but I rarely find it organic, so it was a real treat). But after cooking them I was so tired that I was kind of like, well… what now? Will I just have vegetables for dinner? But then I grabbed a pita, tossed it in the toaster for a minute, and made a mouth-wateringly scrumptious sandwich with white cheddar cheese and sauteed broccoli rabe. No long-cooking grain, no need for mind-bending creativity, and absolutely no stiff, crumbly, barely-worth-the-title GF bread. Most of the time I love the challenge and creativity of GF cooking, and I love that it calls on me to make, not buy, most of the elements of my meals. But sometimes it sure is lovely to have a break – and not feel cheated or deprived when I do.