Savoring Our Company As Well As Our Food

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Slow Dining For Peaceful Evenings

Slow dining is a grand concept but actually making it happen can be hard to wangle when everybody is rushing off to various meetings and engagements. Sadly, once the habit of leisurely dining is lost, it can be difficult to recreate. To encourage lingering, serve dinner in courses. Attractively presented individual portions seem festive, as do candlelight and flowers.

Wondering what to make? Something simple, of course, so we can concentrate on congenial company. Why not celebrate spring with a salad based on Bigleaf maple blossoms? The delicately honey-flavored flowers are also delicious sprinkled over vanilla ice cream with a few shreds of candied ginger. When the maple flowers are gone, you might substitute rose petals or nasturtium or squash blossoms. Always use organically grown edible flowers (without toxic pesticide residues).

Bigleaf Maple Salad With Scallops And Maple Dressing

2 cups baby spinach
2 cups Savoy cabbage, finely sliced
2 cups Romaine, finely sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
12-16 ounces bay scallops, rinsed
1 teaspoon Grade B maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup bigleaf maple flowers, pistils and stamens removed *

* Remove the fuzzy bits at the center of each blossom to eliminate pollen, a possible allergen.

Gently toss greens and divide between four dinner plates. In a wide, shallow pan, cook oil and garlic over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Add onion, pepper, and salt, cover and cook, stirring, until barely soft (2-3 minutes). Stir in scallops, cover pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and pepper, cover pan and cook until opaque (2-3 minutes). Spoon over greens and serve warm, garnished with flowers. Serves four.

Marvelous Maple Syrup

Grade B maple syrup is cheaper than the paler Grade A and has a fuller, rougher, more robust flavor. It’s terrific in dressings and sauces and can replace honey in many recipes. Rice oil is almost flavorless and really lets other ingredients shine.

Maple Dressing

1/3 cup canola or rice oil
2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons Grade B maple syrup

In a bowl, whisk oil, vinegar and soy sauce together, then add maple syrup to taste. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week. Makes about 1/2 cup.

A Bounty Of Beets

Here’s another spritely spring dish; Beautiful Beet Salad, lively with fresh mint and tart-sweet CaraCara oranges, which are extra rich in flavor as well as in carotene and other phytonutrients.

Beautiful Beet Salad

1 cup diced cooked beets, drained
1 organic CaraCara orange, rind grated
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1/4 teaspoon shoyu or soy sauce

Combine beets, orange rind, mint and soy sauce, set aside. With a sharp knife, slice all white rind off orange, dice the fruit and add to beets along with any juice. Toss gently and serve. Serves four.

Sumptuous Coconut Curls

This made-in-minutes dish is lovely on both plate and palate. I make it with Bob’s Mill unsweetened coconut, which comes in generously wide, curling shavings. Coconut milk and oil provide healthy fats and a pleasant feeling of satiety, so a little goes a long way.

Curried Salmon Stew With Coconut Curls

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 organic orange, juiced, rind grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garam masala OR curry powder
1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cubed
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups organic coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange coconut Lon a baking sheet and bake until golden (6-8 minutes), set aside. In a soup pot, combine onion, fennel, and pepper, orange juice and rind, salt and garam masala. Cover pan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add salmon and cook until opaque (2-3 minutes). Add coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with coconut curls. Serves 4-6.

Mushrooms Are Always In Season

In any season, Fresh Mushroom Soup is a quick and delicious treat. It features baby Portobello mushrooms (often sold as Criminis), shallots, and spicy-hot daikon radish sprouts.

Fresh Mushroom Soup

8-10 ounces baby Portobello (Crimini) mushrooms
2 teaspoons virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or any)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup daikon radish sprouts, rinsed, roots removed

Remove mushroom stems, trim cut ends and chop. Slice mushrooms caps thinly, set aside. In a saucepan, combine oil and butter over medium high heat until melted. Add shallots, mushroom stems, and half the salt and cook until soft (2-3 minutes). Add sliced mushrooms and remaining salt, stir to coat, cover pan and cook over medium low heat until soft (8-10 minutes). Stir in flour, cover pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth 1 cup at a time, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 5 minutes. Season with pepper and serve, garnished with daikon sprouts. Serves four.

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2 Responses to Savoring Our Company As Well As Our Food

  1. KathyG says:

    Bigleaf maple blossoms are also yummy stirred into an omelette. I learned about the edibility of these flowers in a wildcrafting/herb class years ago. Our instructor cautioned us to always try a little bit of any new wild food before diving in and eating a lot of it right off. Most of us have pretty wimpy digestive systems, after a lifetime of eating domesticated crops — not to mention prefab and emasculated ‘food’ created by our food ‘industry’. Wild foods have so much more vital life force energy in them that they can cause digestive excitement in some people.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Yes, and some folks have pollen allergies that can make edible flowers less appealing. I also think that home grown and locally grown food, picked fresh, is more potent than the tired store-bought produce many folks are used to eating. The flavor is different and the nutrients are at their peak, which makes fresh foods far more valuable in our daily diets. To me, it seems wise to enjoy something freshly picked at least daily of not at every meal.


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