Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Vegetarian Picnic

I fell in love with my friend Sharyn the day I met her, more than a few years ago. We discovered we had a multitude of things in common and I immediately felt as if I had always known her and her kindnesses, warmth, and direct humor. Since then she got married and gave birth to a beautiful boy. Given our respective schedules, we don't get to see each other that much but I do think that great, lasting friendships don't rely on time or place to exist as we grow older; we all have our lives and it's just enough to know that with good friends we're happy to know that they are in the world, that we're always thinking of each other and when we are able to finally convene, it's a lucky thing. Recently, we committed to a plan to get together for a picnic on our sundeck with her family and me and Baby.

It's not often that I make a meal that's strictly vegetarian but as that's what our guests required, I pulled out several of my favorite recipes from The Book of Whole Meals by Annemarie Colbin. I love this book and its menus to create balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners--it even lists the order of steps to throw all the dishes together to bring to the table.

Here's an abbreviated version of what Baby and I did and brought up to the sundeck on a platter, stacked in Chinese take out containers with lacquered chopsticks and sriracha hot chile sauce! Rich, sumptuous vegetables, tahini-coated noodles, naturally brewed shoyu soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil all came together for a fun and most delicious dinner.

MENU--All recipes adapted from The Book of Whole Meals below serve 4 people.

Sauce Istanbul
This sauce is so good!
1/2 cup sesame tahini
2 tb shoyu natural soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Place tahini in a bowl and slowly stir in shoyu until mixture stiffens. Slowly add 3 tablespoons of water and continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture has reached a light, creamy consistency. Adjust ingredients to taste and serve cold over soba noodles.

Steamed Garlic Kale
This recipe uses broccoli but we decided to use kale!
1 bunch kale, 2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Chop kale. Place in large saucepan with water and garlic; cover and steam until wilted. Uncover, give a stir, add some salt and steam until cooked through. Set aside.

Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
1 lb buckwheat noodles
1 tsp sea salt

In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil; add salt if noodles are unsalted.
Add pasta, stirring, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.

Hiziki with Mushrooms and Tofu
We found wakame seaweed instead of hiziki; it worked wonderfully!
4 washed, chopped Shiitake mushroom caps
2 cups water
1/2 cup hiziki seaweed
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Soak mushrooms in 1/2 cup water; retain soaking water. Heat oil in saucepan; add hiziki and saute briefly. Add mushrooms. Pour mushroom soaking water into hiziki, careful not to add the gritty residue. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes longer. Add tofu, shoyu and simmer for 15 minutes longer.

Arrange in your Chinese take out boxes with the soba noodles and dress with Sauce Istanbul. Cover with the hiziki, mushroom and tofu mixture and top with your steamed vegetables, perhaps as we did, with kale and a little more of the Sauce Istanbul.

Enjoy your picnic with some white wine, homemade sangria or beer!

Songs for Sharyn: Seals and Croft, Greatest Hits; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, So Far; Neil Young, After The Gold Rush; Joseph Arthur, Redemption's Son

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