Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Salad Days of Summer

One of the joys of having the fair Titania visit is having help in the kitchen. And while it's a delight to cook with the lovely Phoenix, Titania tends to throw herself into cooking with abandon, rarely using a recipe and opting to experiment by taste instead, giving me a chance to learn from her.

We had planned to catch an orchestra concert this evening at Blossom Music Center with Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy, and since we always prefer to listen to the fine music from the lawn area, we also prefer to pack a picnic for our dinner.

With all that good produce from yesterday's trip to the farmers' market, we knew we could throw together several different dishes. And so we did: nearly half a dozen different salads or vegetable dishes to make sort of a tapas buffet of fresh local foods.

Titania set to work on a cucumber-yogurt soup that used fresh dill, borage, and mint from my garden, and she also steamed green beans and tossed them with grape tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette. I whipped up a dilled potato salad, another batch of roasted eggplant and pine nut puree (since she approved of it so highly the other night), and steamed some tender young carrots for a variation on Uzbek carrot salad.

We also supplied the wines, the whole wheat pita, and some truly decadent chocolate mint brownies made with fresh chocolate mint from my garden and two kinds of Scharffen Berger chocolate (the 70% bittersweet and the 82% extreme dark).

Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy added to the meal as well, bringing organic apples and grapes, almond butter, Drunken Goat cheese, crackers, and some delectable Thai peanut noodles from a local Chinese restaurant.

On the whole, it was an enormously satisfying picnic dinner, one that far outshone other picnics being savored all around us. And each of us managed to clean our plates... repeatedly.

With full bellies and happy hearts, we settled back on the picnic blanket and pillows to appreciate beautiful music, the first stars in the evening sky, and good friends.

It's summer... let's enjoy it!


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