How to Feed Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Friends: Roasted Squash Gratin
Feeding people with dietary constraints is both rewarding and challenging. It can be tough to find recipes that suit restricted diets but are still delightful enough for those without dietary constraints. But when the recipe works beautifully, and everyone goes home with smiles and full tummies, it can be incredibly rewarding.
As someone who is lucky enough to be free of dietary restrictions, I can only imagine how it must feel to go to a friend’s house for dinner and have to navigate the dinner table with caution. With more types of eating habits cropping up here in North America, the importance of knowing how to handle them when they come through your front door becomes very relevant.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to ensure a delicious meal is tailored to multiple dietary constraints. Granted, I’m also someone who cares tremendously about eating together. For me, being able to feed someone, and feed them dishes they really enjoy, is one of the most satisfying things about cooking!
Because of the stress I’ve had in the past about serving a meal to those with dietary restrictions or allergies, I’ve decided to do a series of recipes that you can serve when hosting a dinner party and you’ve got some diets to work around. The series, entitled “How to Feed,” are my suggestions if you have a minimum of two dietary restrictions at your table. My hope is that you either find a recipe that works well for you, or you are inspired to try your hand at something a little different.
My other goal with this series is to make dishes that are both low-stress for the cook and delicious for everyone. As the host, it is up to you if you want to serve one menu to everyone, or tailor a particular dish to those with the restricted diet.
For my first recipe in the “How to Feed” series, I’m going to talk about squash. But not just any squash; I want to talk about creamy, sweet, orange-coloured squash stuffed to the brim with a garlic-y wild rice mixture filled with stringy mozzarella cheese and sauteed mushrooms. This dinner is perfect for guests that are gluten-free and vegetarian (general definitions are provided below if you aren’t sure!).
Squash is a big favourite at my house, particularly because of its good shelf-life and sweet, nutty taste. Depending on the variety, you can get squash that is slightly sweet and creamy, or more mild and stringy. For this recipe I’ve chosen Delicata Squash, which is slightly smaller and sweeter than the more common Butternut Squash. The stuffing, a mix of wild rice, mushrooms and mozzarella, is a perfectly savory contrast to the sweet squash, and is choked full of good-for-you fiber to fill you up! Stuffing a squash is actually really easy to do, and always look impressive. Best of all: you can pre-bake the squash halves in advance, and then stuff and re-heat right before serving!
Yields 4 squash halves
20 minPrep Time
40 minCook Time
- two medium delicata squashes, sliced in half length-wise and the seeds and pulp scooped out
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsps butter
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms (about 200g)
- 1/2 cup wild rice, cooked
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup mozzarella, cubed in 1-cm thick pieces
- 1/3 cup certified gluten-free bread crumbs (but you can omit this if you can't find any)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush the squash halves with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 20 minutes or until soft but firm when pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, add the butter to a frying pan and melt over medium heat. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then the mushrooms. Cook for another 2 minutes then add the balsamic vinegar and wild rice. Remove from heat and stir in the cubed mozzarella.
- Remove the squash from the oven and flip it over so the cut-side is facing up. Stuff the middle with the mushroom mixture, sprinkle with the panko crumbs, and season again with salt and pepper. Put them back into the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and the cheese has melted.
You can also make this recipe in advance. Following the instructions right until you've stuffed the filling into the squash, then keep them in the fridge before you do the second and final bake. Feel free to swap the wild rice for other whole grains (barley also works well).
Gluten-free: someone on a gluten-free diet avoids anything that includes gluten, which is a type of protein that helps bind flour-based products together and is most commonly assoicated with anything made with wheat. Best to avoid anything with wheat flour, including almost all breads, pasta, and cereals if you’re gluten-free! If you have a gluten-free guest, try serving dishes with lots of vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes or rice. Meat, poultry and fish do not include gluten (but be wary if they come pre-seasoned!). Always best to double-check with your guest about what items they can or cannot eat, and always mark the dishes that contain gluten if you’re not leaving it out entirely from the menu!
Vegetarian: someone who is vegetarian does not eat meat, poultry or fish. Try serving dishes with lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits, eggs or dairy products. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask your guest directly!