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Archive for the ‘picnic’ Category

I rushed home from work in order to get started on using up our glut of produce.  I improvised a raw beet salad, popped the zucchini pie in the oven, then I went out to the garden for my new favorite pastime of caterpillar picking.  Those bums have burrowed holes in more of my green tomatoes – they’re infuriating, so I’m being vigilant and trying to smoosh them before they do any more damage.  I’ve gotten over any squeamishness I may have had at first, because after all – this is tomato war.  It’s not uncommon for a neighbor to hear faint mutterings outside their window while I curse these green wriggly bastards.

Anyway.  On to the point of my story, which is that a gathering of our neighbors started to form, Chris came home from work, and we all congregated for a nice evening.  The zucchini pie came out of the oven, the beet salad came out of the fridge, and we talked the night away.  Everyone said they enjoyed the pie, but I think it still needs some tweaking, so I won’t share that one right away.  My salad creation, however, is ready for print. 

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Community Beet Salad

A note: you may want to break out the food processor for this one if you want a quick salad.  Don’t worry about rinsing it between ingredients – they’re all going to turn red anyway. 

For the salad:

2-3 large beets, peeled and grated
4-5 carrots, grated
8-10 radishes, grated
a small handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into small pieces
one large handful sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

yikes – this is going to be a bit rough, as I measured nothing.  Here goes…

about 1/3 cup good olive oil
about 3 Tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar – I found this at Trader Joe’s – you could use another mild vinegar and some orange juice for the same effect
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the instructions.  Toss, stir, serve.  Perfect for an evening you’d rather spend outside with lovely company.  Here’s a vague idea of the solar lights – I’ve not gotten any better at photographing them, unfortunately…

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After flipping on the oven and stove to prepare last night’s meal and dessert, I knew that drastic measures needed to be taken – namely, we needed to vacate the hot sticky premises.  A quick search of the property yielded some serving tables, and we were all set for a summer meal outdoors.

This meal is the perfect way to use up the abundance of summer veggies – a big kitchen sink salad (with carrots, goat cheese, apricots and avocado), Corn and Squash Simmered in Coconut Milk with Thai Basil on top of brown rice, and biscuits from the can.  I swear, I don’t know why I ever try to make biscuits – the Pillsbury ones are baked crack.

From Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets:

Corn and Squash Simmered in Coconut Milk with Thai Basil

1 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

1 package fresh, firm tofu, drained and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

2 medium zucchini (I tripled this), diced into 1/2-inch cubes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 large ears sweet corn

1 serrano chile (I used 2)

1 heaping Tbsp cilantro

1 heaping Tbsp Thai basil leaves

1 bunch scallions, including half of the firm greens, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 (15-oz) can coconut milk

1 tsp mushroom soy sauce

3 cups cooked basmati rice (I used brown)

cilantro and basil for garnish

Heat the oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the tofu and zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to brown all the sides of the tofu.

While the tofu is cooking, slice the corn off the cob, then, reversing your knife, press out the milk.  Set aside on the cutting board.  Finely chop the chile(s) with the cilantro and basil.

Add the scallions, chile-herb mixture, and corn to the pan.  Add the coconut milk to the pan, then rinse out the can with a little water and add that as well.  Stir in the soy sauce, an additional 1/2 tsp salt, and a few twists of black pepper.  Simmer until the corn is heated through, 3-5 minutes.  Taste for salt.  Serve over rice garnished with the additional herbs.

Hey, somebody took a layer off that biscuit!

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How lucky are we? I’ve had a lovely picnic basket for YEARS now, without using it once.  It sits in the closet, taunting me with its gingham print and promises of sunny days on a comfy blanket.  Finally, a perfect opportunity presented itself.  I prepped a huge lunch, complete with Reed’s Ginger Brew, afternoon coffee, fruit salad, goat cheese biscuits, and Chris’ favorite summer salad.  We found the perfect spot on the cliffs by our house, relaxed and feasted.  There’s just no excuse for us to leave that picnic basket in the closet.  It begs to be set free!

Fruited Millet and Lentil Salad

1 cup millet

2 cups vegetable stock or water

1 Tbsp ghee

1 tsp ground cumin

First, the millet – Rebecca Wood’s The Splendid Grain is my grain bible – her steamed millet is the best way I’ve found to transform these round, hard nuggets into a perfect bowl of steamy comfort.  The cumin is optional, and if you’re just eating the millet plain, I’d also recommend her addition of 1 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs…

Put the millet in a saucepan over high heat to toast, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes or until the millet is aromatic.  Remove from the heat when you hear the first grain pop.  Immediately pour into a bowl and fill with cold water.  Rinse the grain, scrubbing them lightly between the palms of your hands for 5 seconds or so.  Pour into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under running water until the water runs clear.

Bring the stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the millet, ghee, pinch of salt, and cumin.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer about 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

1/2 cup red lentils

1/2 cup (1-2 medium) shredded carrots

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped dried dates

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

3 Tbsp lemon juice (when the trees in town were brimming with lemons, I went scavenging and juiced a ton of them.  I froze the juice in ice-cube trays, so whenever I need fresh lemon juice, it’s right there in the freezer – this has come in so handy!)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 orange, optional

pine nuts, toasted, to sprinkle

salt and pepper to taste

Combine lentils in a small saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch.  Cook over medium heat until tender, about 7 minutes.  Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again.

Combine the rest of the ingredients with your fluffed millet and toss to mix.  Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy the view…

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