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!
Middle Eastern appetizer platter
- 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!