Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer In A Bowl

With summer's plethora of fresh vegetables, vegans are always on the hunt for additional ways to use them. However, you don't have to be vegan to enjoy this week's recipe. It's so good even veggie haters will like it.

I hate to cook. I hate it when the weather is cold and when the weather is hot. Particularly when it's hot. And while being in the kitchen is the ultimate happiness for some, it is the bane of my existence that food needs to be prepared at all. No matter what my feelings on the subject, the truth is I'm an excellent cook. I figure it this way: if it has to be done, it better be worth remembering.

I've heard many a friend or television cook claim that their food was prepared with love and that's why it tastes so good. That statement is beyond my ability to fathom. Prepared with love? My food is plopped into a pan or oven or crock pot with great impatience, praying it will cook itself so I can ignore it till serving time. I also hear some chefs claim that food is sexy? Now that one really passes me by. I've never known anyone who got hot and bothered just looking at a bowl of soup or a plate of tofu. Utter nonsense.

Food is food and whether it tastes good or not, it will fill our stomachs and fuel our bodies. That is its purpose. Too often our pesky taste buds get in the way. And we all know what happens when that's the case. Ever notice a baby being fed peas? In the mouth; out of the mouth. My daughter was like that. I honestly believe she was born hating peas. No matter how often I tried getting them into her tummy, they'd make the "baby-food loop" and come right back out on the tip of the tiniest tongue I'd ever seen.

Perhaps it was during those days as wife and mother that I determined to make my food so good no one would ever spit it out or send it to the trash can. And while my oldest child loved vegetables of all sorts, my daughter was as picky as they come. The one saving grace was that she adored beets, eating them with seeming relish. Beets became my hiding place for the other things she needed but wouldn't swallow--like green beans and all baby-jarred meats.

All of that history to say that in my kitchen, food has to be easy to prepare and taste so good that even those who think they hate vegan offerings will love it. As I did last week, I'm passing onto you a family recipe that's been around so long I honestly have no idea where it came from. It was a staple on my mom's table every summer and it's long been a favorite on my table. My mom used whatever was ripe in the garden; I use whatever is in the frig that looks cold and crunchy. Happy chomping.


Make the marinade:

1/3 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil 
3 Tbs. Japanese seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Whisk everything together and set aside.

Prepare the vegetables:
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
3 cups of thin sliced zucchini
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced thin.

Pour the marinade over the vegetables and mix well. It will look like there isn't enough marinade. Don't be fooled. Juice will come out of the vegetables and mingle their own flavors with the marinade. Cover well with plastic wrap. Allow to sit at least two hours. Overnight is better. Easy dish to make ahead.

When I make this salad, I use shredded carrots, diced celery, diced cucumber, sliced radishes, diced green onions--white and green parts, broccoli cut into tiny florets, and if there is leftover fresh cabbage, I'll slice it thin and throw it into the mix. I also toss in a diced and seeded jalapeno or two, depending on how hot they are. Since I don't care for raw zucchini, I substitute the veggies I do like and if I want this salad to fare well for a couple of days, I leave out the fresh tomatoes and use diced red peppers instead. The peppers will remain crisp while the tomatoes turn to mush. 

As long as you keep the ratio of marinade to vegetable mixture accurate, you can make a small batch to a giant batch and use any combination you wish. This summer salad keeps well and I use it as a stand alone salad or atop a veggie burger or tofu dog or black bean taco. My guess is you can find other ways to use it that I haven't thought of.

If you substitute any other vinegar for the Japanese seasoned rice wine vinegar, you will need to add sugar to cut the marinade's acidity. If you choose this route, add honey or sugar to taste, but why not splurge and buy the preferred vinegar. It's not that costly and the taste if worth it.

This summer salad is good just the way it is but if you like a bit of spice, toss in some jalapenos or Serrano peppers. Just remember to remove the seeds and ribs as that is where most of the heat hides.

Copyright 2011 by Sandra L Keith, All rights reserved

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