I’m still a little bit confused by New England weather. I mean, I lived here a few years ago when I went to The College (how’s that for subtle?), so I was ready for a long Winter. I was even prepared for the little peek of early Spring followed by a couple more snow storms. But I keep trying to figure out Summer, and I want to compare it to places that I am familiar with. I thought perhaps summer might be a little bit like LA’s “June Gloom”. Or San Francisco where the fog rolls out every morning. But I think it’s just unique with its own, er, charm. I’ve decided that it’s just predictably unpredictable.
All I know is that when I pulled together a last-minute potluck picnic last weekend to celebrate my friend Marina’s coming to town and fully anticipated that it would be held on my living room floor, I awoke last Saturday morning after a week of drizzle to a gorgeous sunshiny day. I even cleaned up my place anticipating a toddler’s grabby hands (or at least took care of the things that reached about waist-level for me).
So my friends and I were blessed with a beautiful day, an outdoor picnic, a bounty of food, and of course a fun afternoon with each other (and I got a relatively mess-free home…at least up to toddler-eye-view).
Here’s the menu, and like I did for my last dinner party, I’ll try to fill out the recipes as I go along.
the prettiest Challah I’ve ever made thanks to a new braiding technique
Corn Edamame Salad (below)
Mayo-free Egg Salad (below)
Quinoa-Mango Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (made with Spinach)
Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs (below)
Simple Chocolate Cake
Contributions from friends (feel free to send recipes or include in comments): Green Salad, Wine, Fruit Salad, Halva
Here are the salads that I made.
I normally add tomatoes to my guac, but I didn’t have any this week. However, I did have a jalepeno so this one came out nice and spicy.
Mash together flesh of 2 avocados, 1/2 finely diced jalapeno = ~1t (seeds removed – and don’t attempt to put on your contact lenses after dicing like I did!), 1T grated onion (optional), 2-3 generous pinches salt, and 2-3 T lime juice. You can also add some cayenne pepper or cumin.
2) Corn Edamame Salad with Pink Salt
This is a very easy salad that I threw together with things I had in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, adjusting and tasting as I went along. This made about 4-5 C salad and there was about 1/2 C remaining for me to take a picture of the next day (but my pic came out blurry).
Roast 3 ears of corn in oven as directed a few weeks ago. Cut kernels off of cob.
Cook 1 bag (10 oz) frozen shelled edamame — I microwaved in a bowl with 3T water and a pinch of salt for 1-2 minutes. Drain water.
Mix corn with cooked drained edamame and add some quartered baby tomatoes (15-20).
Dress with rice vinegar (2-3T), toasted sesame oil (2T) and a pinch of salt. Serve with Hawaiian pink sea salt. I bought this pink sea salt at Target (I can’t seem to find it on their website any more) and its ingredients are sea salt and Hawaiian Alaea. A quick online search revealed that alaea refers to a harvested Hawaiian reddish clay that contains iron oxide; alaea salt is traditionally used in ceremonies to cleanse, purify and bless tools and canoes and imparts security on the item being blessed, and in healing rituals for medicinal purposes.
3) The Baking Architect‘s Egg Salad with Mushrooms
Ellie, aka, The Baking Architect, serves this no-mayo egg salad before many of her lunches. She forwarded me this recipe guide in the middle of a busy Friday to help me prepare for my picnic when I realized I had no mayo and was already boiling my eggs. I have put in my own measurements, but you can obviously adapt for whatever sized crowd you have.
Boil 8 eggs. The fail-proof method I learned for perfect boiled eggs is as follows: Prick a hole in the end of each egg with a clean pin. Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Drain out hot water and refill with cold water to stop cooking. Shake eggs around in pot to crack eggs. Shells will come off easily when cool, and yolks will be creamy.
Sautée sliced mushrooms (I sliced about 10 cremini mushrooms) with 1 diced onion and a pinch of salt and some garlic powder — or minced fresh garlic (1-2 t) — in plenty of olive oil (3T).
Allow eggs to cool and then dice the eggs in two directions on an egg slicer. Add the mushroom-onion sautée and mix well. Serve cold or at room temperature.
And now for the chicken:
4) Pomegranate Chicken Kabobs
Since this was a last-minute picnic, I tried to avoid doing a major shopping trip and used as much food as I had in my kitchen as possible. I remembered that I had a fair amount of dressing left over from that salad with beets and ruby red grapefruit that I made for my dinner party the prior week and figured it might make a good chicken marinade. It did and this chicken would also be great thrown atop the salad if you decided to make the two dishes together. This is a really easy dish to make on a grill, grill pan, or my old stand-by, the George Foreman.
Make pomegranate marinade (see original post for more detail): Whisk together 1/3 – 1/2 C pomegranate juice, ~1T sugar, 6T orange-flavored olive oil, and salt, and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Cut 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Soak in marinade in fridge for at least 2 hours.
Thread onto bamboo skewers (I put 4 chunks per skewer and made a dozen skewers, putting a beet on the end of each) and grill a few minutes on each side until fully cooked.
I let the kabobs cool a bit before packing them up in an rinsed out salad container for easy transport the next day (I was still hoping for nice weather, and my wish was granted).
These kabobs were a favorite of Mo’s — Jamie and Brad’s toddler — as he wandered around the mini Japanese zen park down the street from my place, navigating the huge “upside-down wok” and fake grass (that we were happy to discover does not seem to retain rain water from previous nights). They were also a hit with Lola, Dani’s puppy, who kept sniffing at our licked-clean skewers after gobbling up the one chunk that slipped through Mo’s fingers.