Other holidays with family often warp into a wellspring of cake, pie, stuffing, cookies, gravy, hamburger and hot dog buns, and even pizza when all the previous dishes burn and the cook ends up ordering take-out. We have great news, however, because we may have finally found a holiday that we can make completely – or, at least, we can try to make it – gluten-free. What is it? Midsummer’s Eve, or the summer solstice. The secret? Its complete vagueness to everyone not practicing New Age religions. You will be able to convince your friends that the gluten-free dishes you make are completely authentic. Unless your family and friends are neo-pagans with very certain ideas about proper midsummer cuisine, you may finally have one easily gluten-free celebration every year. Get ready for stress-free June 21! If you are running late, you can use any night up to June 26. (And even if you don’t feel like celebrating, these ideas will work for a gluten-free barbeque all summer long.)
Summer solstice traditions were rooted in the belief that the longest day of the year was also the most magical. Today, the biggest bashes are in Northern Europe, especially Sweden. If you want to go all out like our northern friends across the ocean, try a bonfire. (Swedes are always setting things on fire. Their favorite Yule tradition is setting the Gavle goat, literally a giant goat, ablaze every year.) The fairies come out, the witches dance naked, Puck poetically Peeping Toms. Revelers decorate their houses with wreaths and garlands of flowers and herbs, trying to stay awake all night and tempt spirits, falling in love in astonishingly large numbers.
When you start planning your Midsummer feast, it might be that the way you think about cooking it is just as important as what you cook. Eat outside, first of all, whether you go picnic-style or haul all the living room furniture out onto the front lawn. Gaiatribe suggests using “flame-cooked” and “sun-made” food, so that your grill is automatically converted into a much more interesting type of fire and your sun-dried raisins a more inviting source of fiber. Also, everyone seems to agree that summer fruits and vegetables are perfect, and they are already smiling at you from the lush plastic greenery of the grocery store. For us, that means corn on the cob, watermelon or fruit salad, and grilled chicken – a dependably great gluten-free summer meal that has the added benefit of celebrating the earth’s elements. Or at least gives Dad an excuse to make fire.
Here’s a basic menu, which comes from this website:
Brown or Wild Rice – According to The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, Carolina Rice produces whole grain brown rice, which seems appropriate for a festival celebrating the earth’s bounty.
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs – The best are red, green, and yellow peppers together with onions.
Sunny Citrus Chicken (see below) or grilled salmon – Fish is the most popular food in Northern Europe for Midsummer.
Strawberries with Whipped Cream – Also a Swedish Midsummer favorite.
At such a magical time of year (or any time of year, really), looking in unusual places could yield interesting gluten-free recipes. For example, who would have known that Hearth and Home Witchery had such an interesting – and Midsummer-appropriate – chicken recipe? (By the way, you might notice that no other major holiday focuses on chicken. Well, no time better than Midsummer’s Eve!) Here’s the recipe:
Sunny Citrus Chicken
2 tablespoons butter
4 boned and skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 cup chicken stock (Our Grocery Guide lists 19 brands that each sell various types of gluten-free stock.)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate – thawed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon curry powder (Our Grocery Guide lists various brands like Goya and Durkee, whose curry powders are definitely gluten-free.)
salt and pepper
Optional Garnish: orange slices or toasted almonds
In a skillet, melt butter; brown chicken lightly on both sides; remove and set aside.
Mix together chicken stock, honey, orange juice concentrate, and lemon juice; blend in cornstarch and curry powder. Pour into skillet; bring to a boil, stirring as it thickens; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Return chicken to skillet; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes (do not overcook). Arrange chicken on platter; spoon sauce over. If desired, garnish with orange halves and sprinkle with toasted almonds.
Makes 4 small or 2 large servings.
Have you ever been surprised to find gluten-free food or recipes in unlikely places? Where, how, and what did you think of them?
Or, how do you handle (beginning, mid, or end of summer) barbeques? Do you have any good recipes?