The holidays are a time of joy. These are the days you spend with your loved ones, huddled around a fire or listening to some ancient carols on the stereo. It’s a time for parties, for getting decked out in your Sunday best and shimmying down to the latest tunes at beautifully decorated rooms. And most of all, it’s a time for good food.
But for those of us with dietary restrictions and food allergies, the holidays can also be a time of intense pain and suffering. They can mean acute stomach pains, or entire dinners passed around a table in abject discomfort. They can signal bad skin days, or bad hair days, or days when your stomach is so bloated you can hardly move.
They can mean a time of emotional discomfort as you go from one party to the other, always refusing what the hosts are offering because you can’t be sure there was no cross-contamination, or because there simply wasn’t anything there that didn’t contain dairy, or eggs, or sugar, or gluten.
When I have guests over at my house, I always try and think of what my guests can and can’t eat. If I’m unsure of who is coming, like at a potluck or dinner at a friend’s, I’ll try to bring something neutral: a vegan and gluten-free vegetable casserole, or a dessert that manages to tick most of the boxes. I try to be careful about cross-contamination, though I would never swear by it.
In other words, even during holiday parties, I try to make sure I can offer foods that everyone can eat. Who am I kidding? Especially during holiday parties, because I know how rife with temptation this time can be.
So today I’d like to offer you what I consider the ultimate Middle Eastern appetizer platter. It’s fresh, inviting and visually appealing. There are vegan options and gluten-free treats and even a nod at those of us who are paleo.
Trust me: you won’t find any stale hummus or dry carrot sticks or store-bought baba ghanoush here!
Instead, I like to serve crackling gluten-free almond lavosh that will make those going without gluten feel like a million bucks. I pair it with whipped labaneh, sprinkled with za’atar and sesame and pomegranate seeds (the combo of creamy, sweet and savoury is truly fantastic). I ladle out a big bowl of my spicy Moroccan carrot salad, which goes beautifully with the rest of the strong flavours in the appetizer platter. I remember to offer both green and black olives, and a good selection of nuts.
And lately, I’ve been boosting up my Middle Eastern appetizer platter with a generous serving of Natural Delights Almond Date Rolls. Containing nothing but dates and almonds, these babies are luscious and soft, with a texture like a brownie, but with the sweet, caramel flavour of dates. Each date roll delivers a nutritional powerhouse in one quite bite, and I find that they pair well with both sweet and savoury dishes.
With this Middle Eastern appetizer platter, I try to make everyone feel welcome at my table, regardless of their dietary restrictions. For that’s what I think holiday entertaining should really be about: fuss-free, pain-free time spent with your loved ones.
Because that just leaves you with more time to drink wine.
I received product and monetary compensation in exchange for this post. However, I am proud to only work with those companies whose products I truly love. And as always, all opinions expressed here are my own; you can always expect me to be honest with you guys!
- Gluten-free almond lavosh crackers
- Spicy Moroccan carrot salad
- Whipped goat labaneh - recipe to come! (If you're feeling fancy, you can also serve labaneh balls)
- Pomegranate seeds
- Toasted almonds
- Toasted pistachios
- Natural Delights almond date rolls
- Optional: Eggplant zaaluk, baba ghanoush, or homemade hummus (recipe to come!)
- Prepare spicy Moroccan carrot salad.
- Prepare lavosh crackers.
- Serve everything mixed together on one large platter, except the olives, which should be served in small bowls. Serve additional bowls for the olive pits.
- Dig in with gleeful abandon!