Summer Salad Week

It just happened to be that this last week, I conjured up several salads for the family. Must be the post-vacation urge to eat healthy. By healthy I DO NOT MEAN LIGHT. I am not a fan of “light” food. I need satiety. I need fat. And I need calories. Have you seen me in person???

Anyhoo, here’s a roundup of our summer salads this week, with links to some of the recipes. The Nicoise Salad vinaigrette will be posted here tomorrow morning. I’ll list here what I paired with what, with absolutely no forethought to whether it was a good match or not. However, the pattern that you may or may not see emerge, is that almost all of the produce is seasonal (which is certainly not difficult in the midst of Texas summer), and much of it is from local farms. I shop mostly now at either farmers’ markets, Wheatsville Co-op, and occasionally the Indian market and Whole Foods Market.

And it also just so happens that most of our dinners this week were prepared either within an hour (shocking for me) or an hour and a half, and right before dinnertime. Need I remind you of our family’s dietary restrictions? I have to balance our meals to include protein for my vegetarian daughter, exclude grains/lentils for my semi-Paleo husband while including meat for him daily, and fulfill my obsession with cooking from untouched recipes trapped in my labyrinth of a recipe binder.

  • Wednesday: out to the movies! We went to a double feature (Prometheus and E.T.) with Parkside Happy Hour sandwiched in between.
  • Thursday: Nicoise Salad with Smoked Trout; Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Sunflower Seeds; Ridiculous Roasted Okra; Orecchiette with Cherry Tomato Olive Oil Sauce

  • Friday: Roasted Eggplant Salad in a Peanut-Soy Sauce; Soba Noodle Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Julienned Vegetables in a fermented black bean and garlic sauce; Salmon with a Coriander-Honey-Soy Glaze

So, remember the calories I mentioned earlier? I got extra, in the form of Delish cupcakes, twice, and Upper Crust Bakery, once. (After trying Delish’s Pineapple Upside Down cupcake, my cupcake score with them has improved. You can see my sum-up of Austin bakeries here). I ended the week making Nancie McDermott’s Coconut Cream Pie from her book Southern Pies. I used some tips from Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise for perfecting the meringue. I’m still working on the perfect meringue. I think I need to use ALL her tips!

What is your favorite summer salad? What seasonal produce is your favorite to tuck into a hearty and energetic salad?

Here are a few other salad links on some of my favorite blogs:

  • A wonderfully nutritious chopped salad from 5 Second Rule: http://5secondrule.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/07/cliftons-chopped-salad.html
  • And strawberries paired with arugula! Here at Rustic Garden Bistro: http://www.rusticgardenbistro.com/arugula-and-strawberry-salad-with-spiced-walnuts-goat-cheese-and-balsamic-vinaigrette/
  • Tortilla Salad recipe (and more!) at 101 Cookbooks: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/tortilla-salad-recipe.html
  • And her beautiful Friday Flowers series, from Cooking on the Weekends: http://cookingontheweekends.com/2011/09/friday-flowers-thai-basil-flowers-and-tomato-salad-recipe/

The Impossible Meal Plan: Week 2 of 4

Last week I posted about my family’s Impossible Meal Plan Challenge.  A compromise, if you will, between a Paleo diet and a vegetarian diet. And intermixed is a sudden intention of mine to purchase 100% locally grown produce. Let me tell you first how I managed last week and then I’ll give you this week’s meal plan.

By the way, the meal plan from that post was actually from the week before. We ended up taking a week off (already! I know!) last week for Thanksgiving and our houseguests.

Meatless Monday’s enchiladas went very well. Tuesday’s meal of fish, quinoa, and veggies worked well too. Wednesday, Mr Paleo ended up being home for dinner so he scrambled and had leftover vegetables with smoked salmon and we had baked pasta with a side of roasted broccoli. Thursday’s gumbo was delicious, but of course not to the kids so they had cheese quesadillas (boo-hiss).

This is what I’m planning for this week and it was mostly planned after carefully perusing the local produce options at Wheatsville, the little local grocery store of my choice where I now am able to find just about everything I need except my Indian ingredients.

Locally sourced produce!

I found abundant local produce this week at the store: Valencia oranges, Jonagold apples, sweet yellow onions, lacinito kale, radishes, escarole, salad mix, collards, Japanese turnips, broccoli, spinach (triple -washed too!), Chiogga beets and yellow beets, rainbow chard, and kohlrabi. I’ve never ever cooked kohlrabi, so I bought some and used my Epicurious app to find a recipe while I was shopping.

  • Meatless Monday:  J requested chicken-less noodle soup, so I purchased egg noodles and celery. I already have carrots at home. Delicata squash (bought at end of last week) with an apple fennel relish (from Chef Suzanne published at the Food52 site). Wheatberry salad with an orange juice vinaigrette. Roasted root vegetables (will do the turnips, beets, and radishes). Mr. Paleo will have to have his protein during the day or have a couple of eggs with dinner.
  • Tuesday:   French Onion soup (the weather is perfect right now for this); Mixed Basic Salad; Roasted Butternut Squash and Kohlrabi; Quinoa Skillet Bread (from 101 Cookbooks blog); and some easy fish –will have to go to market and see.
  • Wednesday:  Can’t decide yet: Chicken with 40 garlic cloves OR Moroccan spiced lentils/rice and lamb for Mr. Paleo.
  • Thursday: A night out for me, so Veggie Chili and Texas Chili for the rest of them. My girls love it-they call it “chocolate” chili, because of the little chocolate I put in it.
  • Friday: I’m teaching a class so kids will have a pizza night with Mr. Paleo, who might order some Thai or have leftovers. I’m pretty lucky since he always tries to be self-sufficient with this new diet.

Delicata squash rings with Apple-Cardamom Relish

That’s it for the meal plan this week. It seems to be getting easier and I’ll be making more warming spicy dishes I think next week if the winter is really here. I’m thinking spicy hot rasam and steaming rice, maybe some biriyani….Mmmmm.

Bollywood Bash

How do you throw a Bollywood-inspired and masala-infused bash for a group of 40 adults?

How about donating the dinner for a school silent auction? You can spread cultural awareness, get to know your children’s friends’ parents, and raise money for your school.

That’s what my friend Kavita thought of when she planned an elaborate dinner with live entertainment as part of a multi-course meal for all the guests.  And of course she persuaded me to join, and I’m glad to be part of it!

We’ve had a few “meetings” to come up with a dinner menu, beverage selection, and entertainment, and we have a fun-filled ngiht planned.

In our beautiful month of October, we’ll have a gorgeous atmosphere to house a live band, The Sacred Cowgirls, led by singer and co-host Pauravi Rana. We’ll also have henna artist Nikki Pham decorating our guests’ hands or feet, perhaps miniature versions of traditional Indian “mango” or “peacock” designs like this one:

or designs similar to this Western-inspired one:

And of course, we’ll be teaching a few Indian dance moves, though not Bollywood-style. To go along with the Indian Gujarati-predominant holiday of Navratri, we’ll be teaching our guests a little garba-raas dance!  Raas, the simply choreographed “stick” dance as (non-Guju Indians like to mock ;) ), looks a little like this:

This surely ought to help further increase their appetites for a long and luxurious family-style dinner.

About 10 people are hosting this together, so not only will it be easy to cook for (I’m in charge of only 2 dishes!), but also the menu will reflect either the hosts’ regional culinary background or a national culinary jewel.

For example, we’ll be serving up Chhole, of course, a very typical and often requested chick pea curry. Delicious with naan–the two go together like mashed potatos and gravy. This dish hails from the state of Punjab, but no Indian equates it to only that area. It’s served at restaurants all over India and served steaming hot from colorful streetside stands.  It’s also served in most Indian restaurants in the U.S.  It’s a great healthy vegetarian weeknight meal as well.

Multiple family recipes exist for chhole; mine (learned from my mom) can be found here.

Another dish we’ll be preparing is Pulihora, or Tamarind Rice. This is a South-Indian style rice dish. I’ve been wanting to draft a recipe for pulihora for a couple of years but I’m always behind on recipe-testing. It’s one of those pleasing, uniquely delicious, and SIMPLE rice dishes with which any curry can properly accompany.  We will have pictures and hopefully a recipe by one of our co-hosts after the bash, so keep checking back!

And finally, I’ll give you an inkling of another type of dish, an appetizer. Hints:

  • made with cauliflower
  • taught in one of my classes before
  • has origins from China’s influence on East India
  • is spicy hot hot hot!!

It’s Gobi Manchurian, and it is the perfect bite to whet the appetite!

There are almost a dozen different dishes we’re preparing, and I can’t give away the menu details to the guests who are reading this blog post. Stay tuned for a fully detailed list of the menu items. And pictures of the FOOD!