Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

There are certain food combinations that strike one as just so naturally compatible, you couldn’t imagine them any other way. Consider the seminal chocolate and peanut butter, for instance: could there be a happier marriage of sweet, salty, creamy, smooth, and enticing? Or what about vodka and orange juice, or pancakes and maple syrup, or french fries and gravy, or macaroni and cheese, or apple and cinnamon or–I could go on.  On the other hand, it’s always gratifying to discover alternate matches that may seem bizarre at first glance, yet actually work once you give them a try (funny, why did the HH suddenly come to mind?)

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my wacky room mate had a friend who ate her pizza with peanut butter where the tomato sauce should have been.  She swore it tasted great (I declined to sample a slice). During my childhood in Montreal, my friend Gemini II used to eat liver sandwiches with cream cheese (again, I believe I passed on that one).  The well-known duo of french fries and mayo always struck me as odd until I was served sweet potato fries with mayo at one of my favorite vegan restaurants  (which, of course, prompted me to head straight home and prepare spicy sweet potato fries with avocado mayonnaise, and now I’m hooked).  I’m sure you’ve got your own personal favorite fixings that, any disparaging comments aside, you adore nonetheless (and please feel free to ‘fess up in the comments section!).

Well, as some of you may recall, the HH and I have just a smidge of surplus mint around here this summer.  Yes, indeed, I’d venture to say that my garden is in mint condition!  I’ve been concocting as many beverages, appetizers, dips, entrées or desserts containing the stuff as my little hands can muster, and even thought I was doing pretty well until the other day when I stepped round the corner of our house and saw that those darned wanton herbs had been propagating over night–it appeared as if I’d used nary a leaf!

And so, by dint of mint, I was forced to come up with yet another recipe showcasing the stuff.  Which actually worked out perfectly, since Holler and Lisa’s No Croutons Required event this month requests a salad focusing on a favorite herb.  Well, if by “favorite,” they meant “so much that I could rip bagfuls from the yard and still have enough left to freshen the breath of the entire town of Gilroy, CA on July 25, 26 & 27th in the month of July”; or “so much that I will have to start using it as packing filler when I mail trunks of fine china or glassware across the Atlantic” or “so much that even the thought of mint makes me feel a bit queasy, which, as it turns out,  is actually okay, since mint helps to aid in proper digestion” or “so much that I will have to cook at least one dish with mint in it every single day for the forthcoming 11 months, until it sprouts up again next summer, just to use it up”–well, if that’s what they meant by “favorite herb,” then yes, mint is indeed my favorite, and definitely deserves to be featured in my submission to the event.  

I do enjoy a good fresh peach, but when I saw three of the fuzzy spheres nestled in our organic produce box a couple of weeks ago, I almost despaired.  A properly ripened peach is a wonderful thing, but there seems to be a terribly small window of maturity wherein peaches are at their apex of flavor and texture–firm, juicy and sweet-tart–before they quickly decline into dry, powdery mush. If not eaten precisely on the right day (sometimes the right hour), the peach becomes unappetizing at best, perhaps suitable for a sauce or baked good; at worst, it’s both tasteless and unpleasant, and destined for the compost bin.

Given the capricious nature of the downy stone fruits, I decided a salad would be the perfect context in which to combine it with other ingredients that could overshadow their potentially less-than-stellar consistency.  Mint was a given, of course, and for some reason, I felt that cucumbers would also suit the flavor palette.  The final addition was sweet corn kernels–partly because they just called, “pick me!” and partly because I thought the color would work well with all the other summer hues, which always elicit a desire in me for fresh fruits and veggies.

In the end, we both adored this random combination of ingredients and have now consumed it four times in the last 2 weeks.  The peaches are tart and luscious (and even the sub-par slices soak up the dressing and seem more juicy); the cucumber is cold, watery and mild; the corn is crisp and sweet; and the mint is pungent and peppery, all culminating in a perfect pastiche of color, flavor and texture.

It’s true, peaches, corn and mint may not have been born for each other; but their arranged marriage in this dish makes for one very harmonious union.  

Minted Peach and Corn Salad

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

This salad comes together quickly, resulting in a fresh, crisp, juicy, altogether irresistible side dish for almost any warm weather meal.  It’s best eaten right away, but will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

To me, summer means potato salad season. And coleslaw season, and watermelon season, and ice cream season, and gin and tonic season. . . but primarily, potato salad season.  So, quick: when you think of potato salad, what type do you think of?

Well, there are the “smooth and creamy potato salad” people.  There are the “tangy, vinegary potato salad” people.  There are the “small cubed potatoes potato salad” people and the “big, honkin’ chunks of potato potato salad” people.  There are the “grilled potatoes potato salad” people. And there are even the “radishes and potatoes potato salad ” people (an iteration I’d never encountered before this summer).

And moi?  I like ’em all.  The HH is a huge fan of potatoes in any form, prepared using any cooking method and dressed with any and all toppings or seasonings (unfortunately, his sole requirement is that they be plated alongside a piece of animal protein). 

(“And Mum, don’t forget the ‘canine potato salad people’. . . oh, actually, we’ll just take that piece of animal protein instead.”)

Since I adore leafy green vegetables and have also been trying to incorporate more of them into my diet lately, I’m eternally scouting out recipes that make use of greens in novel and interesting ways.  A few nights ago I remembered this old favorite that we haven’t eaten in a couple of years at least. The recipe is from a book I found over a decade ago, in the remainder bin at a local bookstore. Called, simply, The Greens Book, it’s a slender volume offering a multitude of esoteric recipes with a handful of more accessible ones (of which this salad is one).  Mostly, I’ve used the book as a reference source when I want to identify some mysterious or previously unencountered green that’s crossed my path (sometimes literally), as it also provides sharp and stunning photographs of each type of leaf. 

I’ve proclaimed my affection for raw dandelion greens in an earlier post; this salad uses barely-wilted stems and leaves and pairs them with cooked, still-warm potato chunks and a lemony, garlicky, olive-oil dressing.  It’s quick, easy, and perfect as an accompaniment to a Bar B Q buffet or as a main course if served alongside another salad.  Because the flavors are so pronounced, this dish can easily liven up a humble or mildly flavored main course.

Although they’re not technically herbs, dandelions do grow in my very own backyard, so I’m submitting this recipe to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, started at Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Simona at Briciole.

Warm Dandelion and Potato Salad

from The Greens Book by Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dille

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Cooked on the stovetop in no time at all, this salad won’t overheat the house on a hot summer’s evening.  Though it’s great served warm, this is also wonderful at room temperature.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

[Sorry about the poor focus. . . that free point-and-shoot camera of mine has been rather uncooperative lately. Maybe time to bite the bullet and finally buy a real camera?]

Well, last Wednesday evening was our final Total Health class.  As it’s been all along, the meeting was terrific, though this final gathering wasn’t about education so much as eating.  We were split into groups of three or four people and asked to cook up a couple of recipes each; then we all sat down together and devoured the feast we’d made.  It was a great way to end the course in a social, relaxed fashion.  When the end of session arrived, no one wanted to leave!  We lingered and chatted for an extra 45 minutes before finally filing out of the house (sorry about that, Caroline).  And so, the question remains: what now?  Do I continue to consume my fruit-and-vegetable, raw-leaning diet?  Or do I slide like a 300 ZX on black ice, right back to my chocolate and high-grain days? 

That, my friends, is the 64,000 Calorie question.  Only time will tell, dear readers, only time will tell. . .

But in the meantime, I sure am going to give it my best shot.  And with salads like this one, veggies and fruits never tasted so good.

This is my own adaptation of a Thai-inspired salad the HH and I had many years ago at a cooking class we attended.  The class was a birthday present for my friends Gemini I and Gemini II (whose birthday, as it turns out, is on the same day!) about ten years ago.  Six of us cooked together and then shared our meal (sort of like Wednesday’s class, come to think of it, except the Thai meal wasn’t nearly as healthy).  I’m not sure why, but I still have a crystal clear vision of the HH that long-ago night, as he chopped onions, sliced mango and juiced limes. . . hmm, perhaps because that was the last time he voluntarily chopped onions, sliced mango, or juiced limes?  Oh, no, silly me–he juices limes all the time; you need those for gin and tonics. 

Anyway, the original salad didn’t contain avocado, of course, but one day I just threw it in, and it made such a perfectly compatible addition to the mix that the mangos and avocados have been keeping company ever since (they’re practically engaged by now).  I’ve also tinkered a little with the seasonings over the years to create what I think is the perfect dressing for this salad.  In fact, the combination of tastes is so summery, so refreshing and so tantalizing that I’ve even been known to eat this salad for breakfast (What? Fruit for breakfast is good for you!).  I use a combination of mint and cilantro, but if you’re not a fan of either, you can leave it out.  (And if you’re short on mint, feel free to drop by my place and grab some from the massive waves of green beside the house–see right). 

Besides tasting great, this dish offers a sweet treat for the eyes as well.

As I mentioned earlier, avocados are a fantastic source of heart-healthy monounsaturates.  But mangos are no slouch in the hale-and-hearty department, either; they’re rich in antioxidant vitamins C and beta carotene, fiber, and potassium.  With all these cardiac benefits, I’ve decided to submit this recipe to Ilva of Lucullian Delights, who is hosting her monthly Heart of the Matter event featuring heart-healthy salads this month. 

Mango Avocado Salad

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

This refreshing salad combines all five flavors common in Thai cooking: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, in perfect proportions.  Great as an appetizer or side salad, this dish is best eaten fresh–though we’ve never had leftovers to worry about in our house, anyway!

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Years ago, I visited a career counsellor to determine the profession best suited to my personality (turns out I should have been a Human Resources professional or a researcher). Part of the assessment was a test in which you enumerate your ten most prominent personality traits.  To help me decide, the counsellor suggested I ask friends or family members who knew me well for their ideas, as they’d be better able than I to assess my personality objectively. 

The trait that surfaced most often for me was “reliable.”  It took a while to get over being slightly offended by the label; I’ve since come to understand that “reliable” doesn’t necessarily equate with “stodgy, boring, predictable.”  Besides, as my HH is fond of saying, it’s just one of my “dog-like qualities.”  (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right, Mum?”)

Well, so far this week, “reliable” seems to characterize the foods I’ve been drawn to as well.  For the first few days of the cleanse, I found myself experiencing odd cravings (which might have been alarming if I weren’t past child-bearing age) for raw veggies and other simple, unadorned foods. Curious, since I’m not particularly enamored of salad as a rule (sort of how I feel about Dancing with the Stars: if it’s there in front of me, I can watch it and even enjoy it; but I’d never actively seek it out.)

Of course, if I stopped to think about it, I’d likely discover that a good portion of my typical dinner entrées lack grains, and I generally cook them up without another thought.  So why, now that I’m actually trying to prepare interesting dishes for the Grain Drain, do I seem to be stumped?

Enter old reliables.  You know the type: like that gay pal you had as an undergrad, your perma-date who accompanied you to every important family function or work-related event; like that pair of respectable pumps you store in pristine condition in their original shoebox, just in case you’re summoned unexpectedly to a job interview; or like your most cherished friend, the one you could call without hesitation at 11:38 PM on a weeknight after you learned that Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) was returning to his old girlfriend, and you needed a shoulder to cry on (thanks, Gemini I).  In the realm of food, these are my go-to salads. 

These are the salads we consume time and again, making minor adjustments depending on availability of local ingredients, what’s on hand in the kitchen, or shifting tastes as the seasons drift from one to the next. And since they are so familiar to so many of us, I thought I’d collect them here–a trio of fruits, roots and leaves (isn’t that what a panda eats?  Or is it some weird grammatical construction?).

Most of our salads in the DDD household are fairly rudimentary, tried-and-true affairs that probably appear on many of your own tables in slightly varied formats.  Tossed greens, coleslaw, three bean–they’re comfort foods you turn to when cooking feels like an onerous task, the dishes you could whip up without a recipe, the ones that over time, perhaps, become your signature dishes.  Even if they’re tweaked a bit over the years, they still retain their original essence and appeal.  These recipes are as reliable as that newspaper rolled in its heavy, scuffed elastic band, delivered to your front porch each morning; as basic as your little black dress; as comfortable as the warm sand between your toes on a sunny beach. 

First up is a standard greens-and-veggies combo.  This Greens with Hearts of Palm and Pine Nuts is the same salad that accompanied my Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers a while back, about which some of you expressed an interest.  The colors are remarkably vivid, and for a salad that’s this easy to make, the taste is astonishing.  This is one of my all-time favorite green salads.

I also enjoyed a coleslaw that I’ve been preparing since my twenties.  Originally the recipe of my room mate’s older sister, it was the first in which I’d tasted fruit (raisins) in coleslaw, and I was instantly smitten.  In those days, I made the dressing with a combination of plain yogurt and mayonnaise, but I find that any vegan mayonnaise works just as well.  It provides a lovely tang along with the soft sweetness of chewy raisins and juicy crunch of fresh cabbage. Both refreshing and satisfying!

Finally, I mixed up a three bean salad–you know the one, the centerpiece at all those family Bar B Q’s from your childhood, the same one that occupies a huge bowl on almost every restaurant buffet.  I adapted this one from Chuck and Gurney’s 125 Best Vegan Recipes, as I couldn’t find my original (cadged from another graduate student way back during my PhD). I imagine you could substitute almost any beans you like, but for me, it wouldn’t be “classic” without kidney beans and chick peas.

These are the multiple-encore salads in our house–and you can count on a great performance from all three.

And since Salad Number 3 in the lineup is a perfect choice for Lisa and Holler’s No Croutons Required event (this month, the focus is on soups or salads with beans or legumes/pulses), I’m sending it along there as well. You can check out the roundup after the 20th of the month.

Greens with Hearts of Palm and Pine Nuts

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

 Because the vegetables here are so radiant on their own, I snapped the photo before dressing the salad.  With so many flavors coexisting in harmony here, the dressing is actually very light. And you can vary virtually every part of the salad: use your favored greens instead of the organic mixed greens; use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts; or artichoke hearts for hearts of palm–it all works!

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Dilly Coleslaw with Raisins and Walnuts

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This is a perfect side dish for a Bar B Q or light lunch on a really hot day.  It makes a great partner to classic potato salad.  The fresh dill adds some zest to this classic salad.

 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Classic Three Bean Salad

adapted from 125 Best Vegan Recipes by Maxine Effenson Chuck and Beth Gurney

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

 

I love the sharp pungency of the dressing in this salad.  Added fresh mint and tarragon elevates it beyond the buffet table.

 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

In the past, I’ve always thought of radishes as kind of a poor cousin to beets: smaller and more anemic, they obviously missed out on the family jewels.  Without well-heeled connections or an established vocation, they’re much like the street punk with the pugilistic attitude, slamming your jaw with a peppery punch every time you dare take a bite.

And besides, radishes seem to me more or less a one-hit wonder:  like the obnoxious neighbour (you know the guy: loud, grating voice; beer belly) who always gets drunk at the annual Bar B Q and tells the same joke every year, radishes were used for one thing and one thing only: salad.  And they were always raw.  And they were always sliced.  Not horrible, but not exactly inspiring, either.  Sort of like Julia Roberts: no matter what the context, no matter what else surrounds them, no matter what time of year, they’re always pretty much exactly themselves.  Even when carved into one of those fancy garnish “roses”–a radish is a radish is a radish.

Well, last week, I intended to change all that. 

I’ve been hanging on to this recipe, originally from the LCBO’s  Food and Drink Magazine from early 2004 (LCBO is “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”–that’s right, the government is the sole purveyor of alcohol in our time-warped province), since I first saw it. I’d kept it all this time simply because I loved the photo in the magazine so much (have you ever seen the production values of that mag?  No wonder the Ontario government is short on cash).  Well, I can thank my blogging habit once again for prompting me to finally make the dish and take my own shot of the colorful mix.

It must have been some weird synergy in the not-quite-summer air, but in the interim since I made this salad, I’ve noticed two other bloggers with radish recipes as well: Lisa just whipped up some fabulous looking Potato and Radish Salad, and Karen actually roasted the little roots, something I’ve never thought to do (she swears they’re pretty darned good that way).

This salad was deceptively simple–only seven ingredients–but it was the particular combination that sounded so enticing.  Radishes, sliced paper-thin (unfortunatelly, not in my case–must get that mandoline!), embraced by thick, juicy wedges of grapefruit; with thin rounds of young green onion and glossy olives tinted like black plums scattered throughout. Like a little dinner party with your most eclectic group of friends, all in one place!

It came together in no time at all, and didn’t disappoint.  The result was unusual, yes, but oddly pleasing: tart, salty, peppery, juicy–the perfect side to a light summer dinner of lentil patties (more on those anon).

Based on this salad, I’d say the lowly radish has finally broken free from the previously predictable, nondescript dishes it’s graced in the past.  I actually enjoyed experiencing the radish in a starring role in this dish.

Now, if only I could say the same for Ms. Roberts.

Radish and Grapefruit Salad

from Food and Drink, Spring 2004

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE , PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Crisp and light, this will remind you of summer, even though it can be prepared any time of year.  The singular mix of flavors and textures creates a uniquely appealing salad. The original instructions advise: “Do not add the dressing until just before serving or else the salad will give off too much liquid.”

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

When it comes right down to it, (and like most Canadians), I’m pretty happy living in this country.  Oh, sure, I complain about the health care system and the excessive taxes, but secretly I’m proud.  When I went to Europe, I openly displayed a Maple Leaf on my backpack (in those days, only actual Canadians did that). I don’t mind the stereotype that we’re all hockey-and-beer obsessed (both of which I can’t stand), since it seems to be balanced by another stereotype, that we’re the peacekeepers of the world

Over the years, I’ve also appreciated the fact that, as opposed to a “melting pot,” we here in Canuk Country offer a “multicultural mosaic.” Because Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, its denizens contribute generously to that multi-faceted, multi-colored variegation.  A quick mental tally tells me I’ve taught students from six continents and almost 70 countries over the years. 

In an English class a few years back, I received a collection of essays from students who’d immigrated to Canada.  They told stories about landing at the Toronto airport on December 25th, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts; or having an in-house bathroom (with running water!) for the first time; reuniting with siblings they hadn’t seen for a dozen or more years; or being introduced to “Canadian” food (ie McDonald’s).  They also told stories about the information pamphlets they’d received from the government before they arrived. 

These days, they informed me, our multicultural populace is no longer referred to as a “mosaic.”  In fact, these days it seems Canada is more than just a peaceful, tolerant, polite country.

Canada, you see, is a salad.

Yep, that’s how the Canadian government, in all its gubernatorial solemnity, describes our great land.  Does this sound suspiciously like an episode of Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans?  Would that it were.  You see, a salad is presumably the perfect metaphor for our diverse population:  just as with a colorful tossed salad, people from all around the world are welcome to join us in this big bowl o’ Canada.  Once squished together in that ol’ Salad Bowl of the North, we mingle and mix, yet the separate elements each retain their individual characters, colors, and flavors–a harmonious coexistence, the sum greater than the individual parts; yet we never meld into each other.  As Doug and Bob McKenzie might say, Beauty!

So when I came up with this idea for a salad to contribute to Lisa and Holler’s No Croutons Required event, I immediately thought of this Canadian metaphor.  Not only is the salad a fusion of different colors and flavors, it’s also filled with items hailing from countries around the globe–Swiss “cheese,” mangoes from Southeast Asia, basil (originally) from India, balsamic vinegar from Italy–and perfect for a Canadian salad. In my mind, I envisioned a newfangled version of Caprese salad , except with a twist–the combination of mango and tomato offering an unexpected contrast in both color and flavor alongside the mild cheese and perfumed basil. (In this case, of course, the cheese in question would be “Un-Cheese,” the “Mostarella” from Joanne Stepaniuk’s Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook). Since Holler was asking for salads with cheese, this seemed the perfect occasion to finally try one of the “block” cheeses in the book.

The “Mostarella” started out well: I ground some oats and mixed them with nutritional yeast, soymilk, and a few other ingredients.  And while the mixture did appear a little too soft when I spread it in the mold, the recipe had cautioned that it needed overnight refrigeration to set, so I popped it in the fridge and waited. 

To my horror, the next morning it was still more like cheese sauce than cheese.  Oh, well, back to the cutting board.  Attempt number two: this time, I used a recipe for mild Swiss “cheese.”  With 5 tablespoons of agar, I had a feeling this one would set.  And set it did!  It produced a mild, firm yet soft, slightly tangy cheese with a hint of that acerbic zing characterizing most Swiss cheese.  I cut it into cubes and prepared the salad.

Based on this recipe (and switching basil for the cilantro), the salad sounded as if it would be a perfectly compatible match for the cheese.  Unfortunately, this international vegetable bowl didn’t produce the same harmonious result as a tossed Canada.  The mango and tomato competed for gustarory prominence, while the dressing seemed out of place against the sweet mango and basil.  In fact, I must admit that the only part of this salad I truly enjoyed was the “cheese.” 

I know the event asked for salad with cheese, but I just wouldn’t feel right recommending this salad recipe.  However, if you’d like to try some homemade vegan Swiss cheese, here’s a terrific choice.  I know: just eat it in Toronto, Canada, and you can pretend it’s surrounded by tossed salad.

Vegan Swiss Cheese

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

This cheese is lighter than dairy cheese, and not as filling (so you can eat more!). It holds its shape perfectly, so it can be sliced, cubed, or grated–and it lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.