Brunch for Dietary Misfits
[This is a guest blog by Laura Goodbody]
The day before Halloween, I threw a brunch in honor of my brilliant husband who had just passed the Massachusetts Bar exam and was starting work the following day. It was our first foray into entertaining, not only as a newly-married couple but also at our Boston apartment. I invited only close friends: three couples, two children, and my cousin who had recently moved to the area. Eleven people in all.
Of this group, two are lactose intolerant, one has celiac disease, one is a vegetarian, one is allergic to eggs, and I am diabetic. Whew! The menu was a challenge, to say the least.
After putting some thought into what would be both efficient and could contain certain ingredients without cross-contamination, I devised a menu I’m pretty proud of.
We had two “stratattas.” This is a dish I invented on the spot because I wanted to make traditional stratas but didn’t want to line the baking dishes with bread. These were baked and so could not be classified as fritattas; they emerged from the oven beautifully thick and puffy and not at all like the Spanish omelet. One was made with spinach and goat cheese and “real” milk, the other with lactose-free milk, sausage, peppers, and scallions.
I also decided to serve pumpkin-pecan bread and half a dozen bagels with cream cheese. I was careful to set these out after the egg dishes were prepared and safely in the oven to avoid any risk of gluten contamination. I finished off with a simple green salad and cut fruit. (Here’s a secret that made the salads easy: Buy a really good pre-made fruit salad at a store like Whole Foods. I knew the produce quality would be high and it was a huge time saver.)
The “strattata” turned out to be a pretty big hit. The sausage variety was more popular than the spinach and I think I figured out why: The ratio of spinach to egg was off. Because I was only cooking for about 10 people I didn’t want to make two large dishes. I used a small Pyrex dish for the spinach stratta, for which I estimated seven eggs (most recipes for a full-size strata call for at least nine), two cups of milk, and a full ten-ounce package of frozen spinach. Were I to make this again, I would definitely cut back on the spinach, perhaps only using half the package. Using the full amount dominated the dish so that it was more spinachy than eggy. It still cooked up well and had a nice consistency, but had way too much green. Using sweet Italian sausage, browned on the stovetop beforehand, in the second strata created a nice spicy flavor which the peppers complemented well. I will definitely repeat both in the future, with adjustments.
Overall the brunch was a lovely way to spend a morning/early afternoon and the food was popular enough to encourage me to do it again. I would like to attempt a traditional strata sometime with the bread included — maybe during the holidays. But for our purposes as a group of folks with dietary special needs, the menu suited us all perfectly.
copyright © Laura Goodbody