Ever since I began the ACD last year, I’ve been on a mission to find restaurants that can accommodate my dietary restrictions. Luckily, I’ve discovered two or three, and the HH and I tend to frequent those establishments regularly. On our recent vacation in Florida, I was elated to discover Wish, where I enjoyed a tasting menu of four vegetarian dishes.
Then, for our anniversary last week (and thanks again for all the good wishes!), the HH and I had our hearts set on our favorite special occasion place. Eating at this place is like splurging on that adorable Christian Lacroix jacket at Holt’s–you really can’t afford to do it very often (in fact, we do it only once a year–usually on our anniversary), but boy, is it worth it.
At least, until this last time.
Normally at our annual visit, I enjoy the portobello “steak” (marinated mushroom), but since fungi are a no-no on the ACD, I called in advance to ensure there would be something I could eat. And since the HH and I are such long-standing patrons there, I thought the place would be willing to accommodate. “No problem,” the lovely hostess told me on the phone. “See you Saturday evening.”
First course: baby spinach salad with green apple and pine nuts. So far, so good.
Then came the main course. I was given (with impeccable service, mind you) a slab of grilled sweet potato draped over a mix of grilled chickpeas, puy lentils, sautéed, spinach and white asparagus. (Looks eerily like a piece of salmon, doesn’t it?)
To be fair, the sides–as usual–were astoundingly good. If I could figure out how to reproduce those grilled chickpeas, I could die a happy woman. But, um, excuse me? A piece of sweet potato as a main dish? This is the best they could come up with?
LOSE. (Or, to use twitter parlance, FAIL. And Epic Fail, at that.)
True, they almost redeemed themselves with our desserts–mine, a simple bowl of fresh berries. But behold the presentation:
Nevertheless, we are seriously re-thinking whether or not we’ll continue to patronize the place.
With cooking, as well, there are the “let’s-pop-the-cork,” “you-just-won-the-lottery,” “you-came-first-in-your-class,” “you-mean-the-size-eight-is-too-big?” types of successes, as well as the brilliant failures. To wit, a recent comment from Michelle made my day; she asked about how I create recipes. The comment concluded this way: “Always love your recipes, Ricki! You must spend a lot of time developing them? I’m curious!” Of course, that got me thinking about my process of recipe creation.
Like most cooks, I am often inspired by something I ate somewhere else or something I read about, and begin there. Other times, I have a need to use up some ingredients, and the recipe is born of necessity. Or, perhaps, I just want to challenge myself to see what I can come up with.
Depending on the recipe, I do, indeed, sometimes spend a lot of time creating it. My soy-free whipped cream, for instance, was tested about 50 times before it hit my cookbook. Sometimes I chronicle the various iterations of a recipe, as when I wrote about chocolate pecan pie. Other times, I hit on a recipe on the first go-round (though that is a rarity). In other words, you win some and you lose some. (Happily, the difference between recipe creation and dating is that you can throw away the loser recipes).
In a recent issue of the McDougall newsletter, I noticed a reworked recipe for this salad from Martha Stewart’s website. This is my own remake of the remake (sort of like Canadian Idol–you know, a poor imitation of American Idol, which was an imitation of–and has since surpassed–the original Pop Idol). Only this time, the salad was a total success. Not only that, it worked out perfectly–on the first try.
Like the spring air, this salad is characterized by crispness and the heady aroma of tender green shoots. The sprouts are both crunchy and juicy, complemented perfectly by the natural sugar of the peas and lemon scented tang of the creamy dressing. The original recipe called for raw, julienned asparagus spears, but the HH refused to even taste it unless I steamed them first; next time, I’ll stick with the raw, as I’m sure the salad would be even more appealing that way. As it was, we managed to polish it off in two meals, and wished there were more.
“Hey, Elsie–oops, I mean, Ellen, I guess we could apply this principle to anything, couldn’t we? Like, say, treats: you win some, you lose some. Or frisbee: you win some, you lose some! Or how about–“
“Zip it, Chaser. When it comes to sisters: you win some, you lose some. *Sigh.*”
Asparagus, Pea Shoot and Pea Salad
adapted from this recipe
Remarkably quick to make, this fresh, crisp, quintessentially springtime salad is a perfect first course. I streamlined the recipe even more by using a flavorful nut-based mayo as the only dressing ingredient–it was sensational.
For the dressing
1 cup (155 g) raw or lightly toasted cashews
juice of one large lemon
1 small clove garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp (5-10 ml) fresh dill, chopped, or 2 tsp (10 ml) dried dill
1/8-1/4 tsp (.5-1 ml) fine sea salt, to taste
2 Tbsp (10 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1/4-1/2 cup (60-120 ml) water or unsweetened nondairy milk, as needed
freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the salad:
3/4 cup (180 ml) fresh shelled peas or frozen peas, defrosted
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb or 500 g), lightly steamed or raw, cut into thin strips or shredded
4 ounces (120 g) pea shoots or sprouts (about 4 cups/1 liter)
Make the dressing: place all ingredients in a high powered blender (start with 1/4 cup or 60 ml liquid) and blend until perfectly smooth. Add pepper and blend again.
Place the peas, asparagus and pea shoots in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 2 days.
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