Culinary Challenge: vegetarian, gluten-free dinner for twenty


I had family in from out of town that we rarely see and big news to celebrate, so my husband’s family descended on our home for the festivities. The challenge here came largely from the fact that many of them are Celiac and on a gluten-free diet, while another is a strict vegetarian. Yikes, right? Just trying to find a place for twenty people to sit down in my house is hard enough – throw in all the diet issues that comes with the family can turn dinner into a nightmare. Luckily, I have an awesome, forgiving family and lots of help, so I was able to pull this off.

I decided to go with a Greek theme, because Greek food is usually a crowd favourite and just generally awesome. And I wasn’t strict about the gluten-free or vegetarianism, meaning: I did cook meat, and I did have some gluten-type items in there, I just made sure everyone would at least be able to have something. Here’s what I came up with:

Pita with Dips (hummus, tzatziki and kopanisti), with a separate Celiac area with rice crackers

Roasted Greek Potatoes

Yigandes Plaki (baked beans and tomato casserole)

Yogurt Greek Chicken

I’ve included the recipes for the Yigandes Plaki, a recipe I found after a random search for vegetarian Greek mains. I found it on Greek food, which kind of makes me laugh. The recipe is delicious, though. I thought few people would go for it, but it was such a big hit I didn’t have any leftovers. The chicken recipe is a family favourite of ours, courtesy my Mom. The recipe of kopanisti can be found on my blog here: I believe I’ve said it before but it is essentially like crack for lovers of all foods savoury.

As for dessert, well, you’ll have to wait for next time for that one. I do have to say that I think I’ve outdone myself.

Yigandes Plaki

1 pound of yigandes (or big lima beans), soaked for 12 hours, drained

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 pound of ripe tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped (or 16oz. of canned chopped plum tomatoes)

2 small cubes of vegetable bouillon (or beef for non-vegetarians/non-vegans)

sea salt (optional)

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups of water (1 1/2 cups if using canned tomatoes)


Add the beans to a pot with enough cold water to cover well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook at a slow boil for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Using a wooden spoon, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes (if using canned, add all liquid as well), bouillon cubes, salt, pepper, parsley, and water, and allow to boil gently for 10-30 minutes, until it begins to thicken.


Place the beans in an oven-proof pan, add tomato mixture, stir and spread mixture out evenly. Bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beans are soft. (Check the dish during cooking and if needed, add a small amount of boiling water.) The dish will look crispy on top.


Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Greek Yogurt Chicken

Tub of Greek-style plain yogurt

4 tsp oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

4 tsp grated lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt and pepper

16 chicken thighs


Combine everything but the chicken together in a large bowl. Add thawed chicken and marinade in the fridge for 2 hours or longer, up to a day beforehand. Place chicken into ovenproof dish and bake for 40 minutes on 325F until no longer pink, turning once during the bake.


Word of the day:

Didactic: intended for instruction; instructive: didactic poetry; inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring, didactic speaker


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