End of Summer Salad Party

I have a theory. Simply stated, most people don't truly dislike as many foods as they think they do. I pose it's more a matter of preparation than actual hatred of that specific food. Granted there are definitely a few foods on my "rather not eat" list (sea urchin, any type of aspic and egg salad are a few that come to mind) however, I can honestly say that I have tried them all at the height of their preparation and come to my conclusion legitimately. Consequently, I'm always shocked when I run into an adult that says, "I don't like vegetables." What do you mean you don't like vegetables?!? Do you even know how many types of vegetables there are? It's impossible for you to dislike them all! The truth is, most of these poor people suffered through childhoods filled with canned, boiled or microwaved vegetables. It's no wonder they now won't touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole! If that was my only knowledge of vegetables, I wouldn't either. In 9th grade I practically lived at my best friend's house, a sprawling multi-level place where kids ran free and parents escaped to the opposite side of the house. Her parents were lovely people but not what I would call culinarily inclined. To give you an example, twice a week they microwaved broccoli and served it with spray butter. Now, I have always been a broccoli lover but even I couldn't get myself to stomach this zapped, rubbery "vegetable". (They also cooked their morning eggs and bacon in the microwave. OY!) In retrospect, I still don't know why I didn't just eat before going over there. I'm pained deeply when I hear stories of gray asparagus and carrots boiled to mush not only because it brings back microwave memories but because it makes me wonder how we could be made to put such yucky stuff into our mouths year in and year out. I should say kudos to parents for trying. I truly appreciate you wanting to get vegetables into your children but I'm sure we could have found a more delicious way.

When I met my husband, he too had a laundry list of things he didn't eat, including kale and asparagus, my two all time faves. The first time I said I wanted to make him a kale dish he stared back at me, horrified, and said, "Are you sure that's safe? I used to feed it to my Iguana Spud. I don't think it's for human consumption!" And so goes the life of kale, relegated as garnish or lizard food. As a girl who likes a challenge, I made it my mission to make him fall in love with everything that he refused to eat. Once I had won him over with my braised kale (he was surprised not only by its deliciousness but by the fact that he didn't die!), I moved on the asparagus. When spring came, I found the most beautiful tender asparagus and roasted them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Let me just say, he mowed through those asparagus so fast I only snagged two spears for myself. Since conquering Gray's taste buds (he eats anything I put in front of him now and just last night requested more dark leafy greens. I adore this man!), I now work on friends and family. Yes, I love hosting dinner parties for the sheer joy of feeding friends but my devious side also enjoys sneaking foods into the menu previously deemed inedible.

Enter the summer salad party. First, I wanted to make dishes that reflected the bounty of summer before it left us. I also wanted to show the men folk that YES you can have salad for dinner and be quite full and satisfied. Lastly, we have this friend, who shall remain nameless, who does not like beans or potatoes. Again I ask you, what the WHAT??? How is this possible? Beans and potatoes are the easiest foods to like because you can do anything with them. Mashed, fried, baked, broiled, they taste amazing every which way. But no, she doesn't like them in any form. We've decided she is a communist! So, of course, I couldn't contain myself and made a bean salad which I promptly insisted she try the second she walked in. She filled her plate with the other salads and took just a smidgen of beans. Whatever, as long as she tried them. About an hour into dinner I notice my friend get up for seconds. Now as a health coach I'm in a complete moral dilemma with seconds. I encourage people to try and stick to one plate, especially if they are no longer hungry, but the cook in me takes seconds as the most supreme form of praise and wants people to load up. Anyway, I noticed that when my friend sat back down, plate fully reloaded, she had indulged in a lovely scoop of beans. YES! Mission accomplished.

And while I'm sure that our friend will probably continue to voice her objection to beans, I now have proof that with the right preparation, she is open to bending the rules. Now it's time to move on to potatoes!

End of Summer Salads

Here is the menu I put together for the party:

Green salad with orange, avocado, and tamari roasted pumpkin seeds

Grilled chicken breast and fresh green bean salad

Farro salad with fresh corn and roasted red onions

Bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette

Farro salad with fresh corn and roasted red onions

Serves 4

4 cups water 1 cup farro, soaked overnight 1 teaspoon salt 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 3 large torpedo onions, sliced into 1/2 inch strips (Regular red onions will work well too) 1 teaspoon organic butter or ghee 2 cup organic fresh corn, cut off the cob 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped Salt and pepper taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the strips of onion on a 8 1/2 x 11 pyrex baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, stirring once half way through, until the onions are soft and a little crispy at the ends.

Place the water, farro, and salt in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until the farro is tender but still toothy. Drain excess water and set aside.

In a heavy skillet, heat the organic butter and sauté the corn until just tender, about 4 minutes. Place the cooked corn, farro, and onions into a large bowl and season with the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the parsley and enjoy!

Bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette

Serves 4-5

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 1 can red beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 3 stalks of celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces 1 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (If they are oil packed, simply chop them. If they are dried, reconstitute them in boiling water for a few minutes then chop.) 1 handful arugula 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped A pinch of smoked sea salt

For the Dijon dressing

1 garlic clove, minced 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed skillet at the beans and heat through. **You can also quickly blanch them at this point if you prefer. Place them in a large bowl and add the celery, onions, tomatoes, arugula, parsley, and smoked salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, dried herbs, Dijon mustard, and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to whisk until the dressing comes together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle the dressing over the beans, toss well, and serve immediately. Yum!

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