As far as I know, my Dad is still alive. You see, he threw a surprise party for my mom.
This was a real surprise for her because well, it wasn’t her birthday. No date in the calendar that would tip her off that 35 of her closest family and friends would gather in Ottawa for her.
In fact, she thought she was going to to be driving down to Toronto for the weekend. Did I have any plans? she asked. Of course not! I knew that while I wouldn’t meet her in my kitchen, I would be sharing breakfast with her that weekend. In Ottawa, instead of Toronto.
For months, my Dad had plotted and schemed.
He kind of needed that long because he was down to one working hand. After a broken wrist, and slicing through a handful of fingers, my Dad had to be a master to make chicken skewers without my Mom figuring things out… nevermind the 3 cakes and couscous salad he also made.
My brother and sister-in-law were in charge of appetizers, whereas I was the Salad and Dip Queen.
I tried to follow my mom’s salad party suggestions: 1 leafy green salad and 1 bean or grain salad. However, since we were feeding 35 people, my Dad asked me to diversify with more salads rather than fewer salads.
I mixed up both new and old recipes, and all but one was a hit, so I thought I would share them this week since I had a few requests for the recipes.
For the leafy green salad, I kind of went along with what my Dad had lying around at home… Romaine was thrown together with strawberries, almonds and a maple-based vinaigrette. It was gone before I even made it to the buffet line. Someone had actually already removed the bowl before I was there, it was finito.
For the heartier salads, I had a no-brainer up my sleeve: the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants. I have made it so often, and now that my family has tried it, I can’t think of anyone who has not sampled it. It will have to be retired for a bit… at least until potluck season picks up again next summer.
Since Sarah’s lentil salad was such a hit, I thought it would be great to try another one of her salads for the party. She had a lovely tarragon string bean salad that caught my eye. I hesitated about bringing another bean salad to the party, especially with tarragon, but once I tasted it I knew it would be alright. Green beans aren’t so scary, are they?
This salad was simple. Lightly steamed green beans were paired with Great Northern white beans in a light tarragon vinaigrette. Like most of Sarah’s recipes, I decreased the oil, and in the hubbub of the party, I forgot to add the toasted hazelnuts. No worries, though, because the salad was gobbled up.
Thank you for all your suggestions on how you bookmark your recipes on my last post. For some reason, Google Reader doesn’t always search every post, so sometimes I resort to searching through the archives of my favourite blogs.
We all know the heavy hitters in the food blogging circles. We could argue about our top 3 blogs, but I enjoy Heidi’s blog at 101 Cookbooks and have had success with many of her creations. Even after 3 cookbooks to her name, she continues to post recipes that feature fresh and natural ingredients. One of the benefits of having a blog, instead of her cookbooks, is that it is quickly and easily searchable. When I wanted to know what to do with some leftover dill, I looked through her archives for inspiration.
I eventually settled on this seemingly simple white bean and carrot salad. It is simple to make but the flavours work really well together. This is definitely where food synergy is at play. I added my own spins to the dish, adding more carrots, using less oil and no sugar. Instead, I opted to caramelize the shallots and carrots to capitalize on their natural sweetness. Slivered almonds confer a satisfying crunch.
I froze extra flageolet beans from my last flageolet bean salad, so this was easy to whip together. The broth-infused creamy white beans were the definitive star of the salad. If you can’t find flageolets, any white bean could work like great Northern or pinto (Heidi used alubias, a kind of pinto bean). In a pinch, tinned beans could work as well but they don’t brown up as well as home-cooked beans (be mindful that they don’t turn to mush).
This salad tastes great fresh from the stovetop but also works wonderfully after a few days when the flavours have melded together even longer.
Fruit is a perfect snack food. Take an apple: Wash and eat. It satisfies a need for something crisp, quenching with a touch of sweetness. It is also a lot more filling then processed snacks. There are so many different kinds of apples, you can mix up the texture and flavour each time. Lately, I have been happily exploring new apple varieties: Cameo, Pinata (also called Pinova), Jonagold, Fuji and Braeburn apples, which have all been great for snacking.
The apple is my standard fruit. I usually eat one or two a day and have yet to grow tired of it.
Berries and tropical fruit make me giddy, though. If they weren’t so expensive, I’d be eating them all day long (score for when they are all on sale at the same time!). Most often, like apples, they are great untouched. They are so sweet, you don’t need enhance their unblemished taste at all. Certainly you don’t need to do anything, but yes, it can get better. I dare you to make this salad.
Adapted from my favourite cookbook Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, this is a Thai salad with a multitude of tropical fruit (I used pineapple, mango, kiwi) with lime-tamari tofu. It is tossed with a sweet and zingy sesame-lime dressing. Served overtop of a bed of baby spinach and topped with a sprinkling of dried coconut and crushed cashews, this is a very tasty main-course salad. You do not need dessert with a main dish as succulent as this. :)
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month, featuring mango, to Healing Foods featuring pineapple, to E.A.T. World for Thailand, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for pineapple and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
My winter jacket, mitts and hat are now in the front of my closet.
I cleaned the dust off my winter boots.
Winter is here.
And what else does snow make me do?
Snow simply screams, “Soup!”.
I will happily succumb.
Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Eat Well Cookbook, this is a hearty and creamy wild mushroom soup (sans creme) with barley and thyme. Something great to warm up with this winter.
It is for serious mushroom lovers, with both dried shiitake and fresh cremini mushrooms. Tomato paste adds a deeper body to the soup, and the sherry adds a special flavour. Thyme, a perfect pair to the mushrooms, is a nice accent, along with the lemon juice. Nowhere have I mentioned cream, but this is a substantial soup with the pearl barley. The trick is to puree a portion of the soup for the creaminess.
There are many recipes for broccoli salad. It usually includes chopped red onion, raisins, sunflowers seeds, crumbled bacon and a mayonnaise dressing laced with sugar and vinegar. It is delicious. I even asked for the recipe after I ate it a few summers ago. But I haven’t made it yet. I find I get turned off of recipes when I know exactly what goes inside. Bacon and mayo are delicious, but I just don’t cook with them that often.
This is why I perked up when I saw a mayo- and bacon-less broccoli salad on 101 Cookbooks. There are many different crunchy aspects to the salad; tender-crisp broccoli, crisp apple pieces and toasted almonds. The magic ingredient was probably the crispy onion. They were crunchy and added a unique flavour. I cheated and used store-bought crispy onions that I found in Kensington Market a while back but I included the directions to pan-fry your own shallots, if you choose to do so. The dressing was a bit on the thick side for me, which was probably due to my almond butter. It spread out more than I thought once it dressed the salad. It certainly is not a mayo-dressing, but a decent alternative.