an all green Buddha bowl laced with herbs and roots and fruits
a bright kale salad with a creamy low fat vegan poppy seed dressing
with creamy cranberry tahini dressing
All summer long, I have been obsessing over the stunning eggplants at the farmers markets. Beautiful shades of light and speckled purple, striped and red and blank white. I never picked up a single one because I was totally uninspired as to what to do with them. Then I saw Sarah’s beautiful Heirloom Tomato Eggplant Caprese Stacks. They looked bright and summery and craveable and reminded me of a strained yogurt and spicy tomato eggplant thing I used to make. I don’t know what it was called, or even where I got the recipe, but I do recall that it was of Middle Eastern origin. And I had recently acquired a generous amount of sumac, my favorite all-time Middle Eastern spice. I think I like sumac even better than I like thyme. So sumac + eggplant + farmer’s market whatever = fattoush something.
I used these pretty Dancer eggplants, shining in a lovely amethyst hue. After roasting, they were so creamy, almost melting on my tongue. I never want another supermarket eggplant again. But I’ll probably change my tune once the farmer’s market closes for the season and I’m huffing around the Kroger produce section, kicking at the wheels of my cart. I actually like Kroger produce, but nothing can ever compare to fresh-from-the-dirt. There is a nice tomato-headed kid who always helps me out, showing me cotton candy grapes and such. Digging up the plumpest Brussels sprouts when he catches me poking at the bruised brown-leaf ones. So I guess going back won’t be so bad. Maybe.
Since I love sumac so much, I made a pseudo-hummus out of lemons and chickpeas and sumac. A little garlic and salt. It really brings makes the Middle Easter flavor spark, like a hot hum of the last days of summer.
I used beautiful Dancer eggplants, a gradient white-lilac variety known for their low bitterness. If you use darker eggplants such as Nadia, Galine, or Traviata, you may want to increase the salt-and-sit time to 20-25 minutes.
Silky raw “fried” avocados, the best summer produce, and a creamy low fat vegan dressing come together to make this yummy salad.
Earlier this week, I went to TJ Maxx in search of some work dresses and running gear. Save for an eight dollar pair of shorts, I found neither work clothes nor sweat-in clothes. That’s how it usually is at TJ Maxx-y type places, you either find armfuls of cute outfits or nothing at all. This was a nothing-at-all day.
I didn’t leave totally empty handed, because I wandered over to their random foodstuffs section and kinda hit the jackpot. Saigon cinnamon, Himalayan salt, peanut butter powder. And best of all — hemp hearts! I usually don’t buy hemp hearts because they are rather pricey, but these were so discounted that I just had to have them. Funnily enough, a few days later, I came across this article in Bon Appetit, all about how our TJ Maxx food purchases are mostly fueled by FOMO.
Guilty. But not too guilty because those are ingredients that I really want anyways, and can definitely put to good use. Big Lots also has an excellent food section, the Bob’s Red Mill stuff is cheaper than it is anywhere else.
I was very pleased with my hemp-heart purchase. Paired with avocado, they create a lovely crust — a little crunchy, a little soft, very reminiscent of fried avocado. Only better, because I dislike hot avocado.
Another purchase I was happy with this week was a bag of ground cherries from our Saturday farmer’s market. Ground cherries are relatively new to me, but I’m already crushing hard. They look delicate beneath their gossamer shell, but they are actually firm and juicy. The papery husk peels back to reveal a small golden fruit that tastes like pineapple and honey. I just cannot get enough of all this wonderful summer produce. Also, when you’re peeling them, they look like little Golden Snitches.
I did have a little problem while I was shooting the cherries, though. They are toxic to cats, and Clover likes to poke her little nose whatever I’m doing. I kept having to shoo her away, and finally I gave up let her play outside so she would leave me alone. Then she climbed a tree, and looked cute doing that, so I stopped taking pictures of food and started taking cat videos. Which defeated the whole purpose of letting her out to play. In the end, I just gave her her lunch a little bit early. As a new cat mama, I’m learning that the feline-human relationship is hierarchical — and we’re on the bottom.
For best results, make the dressing a few hours (or even 1 day) prior to serving. This allows the flavors to mellow and mingle. If your strawberries are extra sweet, you might may want to omit the maple syrup. This dressing lasts about a week in the fridge, and makes way more than is necessary for this salad -- so you'll be able to enjoy it on other summer goodies as well.
This recipe can be eaten as a main meal for one, or as a side salad to share between two.
In the past few years, there’s been an ever-growing trend where all sorts of foods get their own day. National Cheese Curd Day. National Blueberry Chia Smoothie Day. National Your Mom’s Cookies Day.
I truthfully don’t know if any of the aforementioned foods have their own day, and I don’t feel like Googling it at the moment. If you float around the food blog world at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed this movement. Since I am thoroughly uncool, I never notice the fad until it’s over. Or I get it entirely wrong.
Tuesday was National Tater Tot Day. This really was supposed to be a Tater-Tot Thai Brussels Sprout Salad, but I clearly missed the target. Ain’t no sharpshooter.
I was on my way home from my fieldwork/residency on Friday, thoroughly exhausted, but I needed to stop at the grocery store first. I was only going to make one stop, and if they didn’t have what I needed, I was gonna deal with it.
Well. They didn’t have what I needed. They did have three brands of tater-tots, all of which contained ingredients that were off-limits to me. Fine. I’d been feeling kinda heavy lately, and tots weren’t going to help that problem. I chucked a can of chickpeas into my basket and left.
And I’m really glad I did. Instead of being a heavy carby side dish, this became a tasty protein-laden salad. I used my quick-roast method of cooking Brussels sprouts, wherein I nuke them for a few minutes before tossing them under the broiler. Also, you can broil them naked — by which i mean sans coconut oil — and still get a crispy result. Not as crispy, but still toasty on the outside and soft in the middle.
I roasted the chickpeas for good measure.
The spicy Thai peanut sauce is probably my favorite part of this dish. Which is odd, because usually my favorite part of a Brussels sprout dish are the sprouts. But this spicy Thai peanut sauce is thoroughly addicting. The recipe makes more than you will need for the salad, but it makes an awesome sandwich spread/taco filling/spoon filler. Is there a National Thai Peanut Sauce Day? Yeah. There is. It’s today.
(actually, i didn’t google that either, so if i’m wrong about that……💁)
Ah, but Annie, um….this isn’t real grape salad.
Truth, but grape salad isn’t real salad.
I first sampled grape salad this past July at a baby shower. It was my second day in Ohio, so I mentally classified it as a Midwestern dish. I want to tread carefully here, since a highly respected publication made a similar declaration a year or two ago, and received a harsh scolding.
But I’d never even heard of it before I stepped foot in Ohia, (not typo) so to me it’s a Midwestern thing. Pronouncing words that end with “O” as if they ended with “A” is both a Midwestern thing and a southern thing. Carrbora for Carrboro. Greensbara for Greensboro (can you tell that I still miss NC?)
Even though I still miss Raleigh terribly, I promised Jason that I’d work harder at being comfortable here. Thus the grape salad. It’s a piece offering to Ohio. Sort of.
It’s also a very New Year’s dish. Eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight is apparently a Spanish tradition, one grape for each month to bring you good luck. Probably thought up by some genius parents who didn’t want to share their vino. Hey why don’t you kids eat some grapes and then go to bed, mmmkay?
I don’t know why Spanish parents sound like Mr. Mackey from South Park. It just seemed to fit.
Traditionally, grape salad is supposed to have sour cream and cream cheese, pecans and walnuts and heaps and heaps of sugar.
I traded the sour cream and cream cheese for nonfat Greek yogurt, and traded the nuts and brown sugar for….uh…. oatmeal cookies.
But the cookies really work here, trust me.
I threw the Greek yogurt into the ice cream churner with a little bit of lemon juice and sugar, and it came out tasting exactly like the tart flavor from the yogurt shop. I only ever get tart if they are out of tarro, which is my all-time fave. But tart is pretty good too, and it’s easy to reproduce at home.
The tart, cold, creamy yogurt is a perfect complement to the bright sweet grapes and the chewy oatmeal cookies. And then I threw in some nuts because salty and sweet is almost always a good idea.
P.S. Happy New Year, everyone. If your 2015 wasn’t great, here’s to a fresh start. I’m ready.