As the weather heats up we tend to eat outside more than we eat in. Eating alfresco is one of life's simple pleasures, and I am game for eating on our deck, the neighbor's back porch, at the park, on a bench at a zoo, or sitting in a camp chair during lunch break at a dig. Something about eating outside makes food taste better, or maybe with fewer distractions we notice the taste of food more. This weekend we found ourselves at two different potlucks in two different venues. One was hosted by a colleague, where all food was inside, and we ate on the back porch. The second was hosted by our church was a large gathering, and food was served on folding tables under tents. All options were available for the first potluck since refrigeration or an oven were available. Not so for the second -- knew whatever I made would have to be stable at room temp for a good while. I poured over my stand-by recipes in cookbooks and on the web. I made two very different, but equally tasty, side dishes. Unfortunately, I did not think to take pictures of either, but trust me they looked as good as they tasted!
For the smaller indoor/back porch potluck I made a version of Pimento-Cheese Spoon Bread with Roasted Summer Squash (original recipe here at Cooking Light). I mostly followed this recipe, though I used a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix and unflavored/unsweetened almond milk (and probably 3/4 cup vs. 1/2 cup). I always double the summer squash recipe -- when you roast those delicate squash they tend to really reduce in volume. It received high marks from all who tried it.
The second was inspired be a recipe in a cookbook called the "Vegan Deli" + the Napa cabbage I got from our CSA + radishes in our garden + the fact that it was VEGAN and could sit at room temp.
Cabbage, Apple, and Radish Salad with Gingered Walnuts (original recipe by vegaquarian)
1 medium head Napa cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
4 radishes, any variety, thinly sliced
2 apples (I prefer sweet Fuji), thinly sliced into "matchsticks"
1 scallion, slice and dice the white part and some of the green
Mix all of these together in a large bowl (don't worry, the volume reduces once the salad marinates in the dressing).
3 generous Tbsp apple cider vinegar (though other fruit-infused vinegars would work just as well)
1 tsp blackcurrant mustard (this was in a sampler from Trader Joe's; any fruit, champagne, OR dijon mustard will work)
1 generous tsp agave
1 Tbsp fresh grated/minced ginger
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Whisk the above ingredients together in a large measuring cup. Then, while whisking, slowly pour in 3 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil.
Pour dressing over salad. Mix really well with salad utensils to coat every piece. This can be eaten right away (and so you can now add the Gingered Walnuts), but it is better if it sits for several hours or overnight in the fridge (in this case, do not add the walnuts until just before serving).
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp agave
2 tsp powdered ginger
Mix the walnuts with the agave to coat. Sprinkle with powdered ginger, stirring well. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet (this is EASILY done in the toaster oven), and bake at 375 (or on the toast setting in your toaster oven) for 3 minutes. Stir, put back in oven/toaster oven for 3-4 minutes. Watch carefully -- you don't want them to burn. Remove from oven and let cool. As they cool they stick together in a peanut brittle formation. Use two forks to separate. Sprinkle on top of salad. Enjoy!