Earlier this week, we invited our friends Trevor and Owen over for dinner. They just got married a few weeks ago here in D.C. (We were honored to get to participate -- Clay stood up with Trevor, and Zach sang a song during the ceremony.) It was a beautiful event.
Right after the wedding, T&O took off for a honeymoon in Hawaii. They just got back this past weekend, and we wanted to catch up and hear about their trip. So we invited them to swing by for dinner on Monday night.
The previous night, on Sunday, we had thrown a dinner party for 8, which we'll write about soon, after the Super Awesome Cover-to-Cover project. The Sunday night dinner ended up being a fairly lengthy affair, with plenty of wine consumed by the group.
The next day, the evidence remained -- empty wine bottles and wine-streaked glasses still stood on the dining room table. And at 7 pm on Monday, they were still there. Trevor and Owen were due to show up at 7:30.
Mission 1: Clean up from the previous night's dinner.
Is it possible to simultaneously both believe in "light" cooking and not believe in "light" takes on fried foods?
We think that's where we stand. We're all for lightening a diet, and we do it all the time. Yes, we sometimes post aboout decadent dishes, but when we're not cooking for the blog, we eat a simple, sane diet: lots of vegetables and protein, healthy snacks, light breakfasts and lunches, and dinners that are calorie conscious.
But we totally understand the impulse and popularity of light takes on fried foods. We all want to eat whatever we want to eat. And sometimes, we want to eat what's bad for us, so we look for ways to do that without going overboard.
The problem is, these faux-fried recipes are so rarely successful. And these Not-Fried Tomatoes fall into that category.
We're honestly not sure we would have made this if it had been called "Skillet Corn, Edamame, and Tomatoes with Basil," just because it sounds like a dish we've already made a hundred times. But add "basil oil" to the title, and we were totally on board.
Essentially, this is a succotash, even though it's not called that. And Lord knows we love a succotash. (Would a succotash by any other name still taste as amazing? YES.)
But the basil oil intrigued us. We almost always throw a handful of chopped basil into a corn succotash -- the flavors are perfect together. But the idea of infusing oil with basil, and then using that as a dressing, made us really eager to try this dish.
Well, we did have one big takeaway from this recipe. But it wasn't the basil oil.
But we were eager for eggplant season to start this year. And we were ready. We have old standby dishes like this Eggplant Parmesan recipe (we've already made it once this month). And earlier this year we found another eggplant recipe that we loved, with these Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango (and it's on the docket to make again).
But we were especially excited for eggplant season because we've been waiting to use this recipe we learned back in November when we were traveling in China. During a visit to Yangshuo, near Guilin in Guangxi Province in the Southern part of the country, we spent most of one day in a cooking class. We made five great dishes, but this eggplant was a standout.
There are a few reasons we love -- no, adore -- this carrot salad:
First, it's absolutely delicious. The lemon dressing, tart and spiced by harissa (which we wrote about extensively last year), takes carrot salad (which, let's face it, can be a bit blah) and makes it into a side dish worth getting excited about. The raisins are sweet, the feta is salty. The whole package is an amazing combination. An amazing carrot salad -- we honestly didn't know it was possible.
That may be because this is also a recipe by Susan Feniger, a chef we fell for when she was on Top Chef Masters. We've been to the restaurant she owns with Mary Sue Milliken -- Border Grill in Los Angeles -- and had some amazing tacos there, including one that was a quinoa-crusted avocado taco unlike anything we've had before or since. There's a spread featuring party food from Susan in the latest Food & Wine. It's a dreamy L.A. party and worth checking out.
The other nice thing about this carrot salad is how light and refreshing it is. Sure there's richness from the olive oil and feta, but it's mostly veggies. We felt great eating this salad.
And believe us, we need something light. We're just back from a rather decadent week away at the beach, where we ate and drank to our hearts' content. Now that we're back, it's time to start eating like sane people again.
Our friend Jim just graduated from business school, and we invited him over for a celebratory dinner. Nothing fancy -- just a few friends for backyard cocktails and some food on the grill. (We did do one little thing to make it special. We made Jim's self-proclaimed all-time favorite cake.)
The biggest rule for the dinner? No indoor cooking. It was a steamy Saturday, and we didn't want to turn our apartment into a hotbox.
So we were very pleased to come across the feature in the June Fine Cooking on grain salads. The mag proclaims them "the new summer side," and we couldn't agree more.
We love food magazines for introducing us to new ingredients. But we really love learning how to combine familiar foods in new ways. That was the case with this Red Lentil Dal. It's made from relatively familiar ingredients -- lentils, asparagus, chiles, fennel, onions, coriander, even tamarind, which we've cooked with before -- but the sum of the parts was a completely new thing for us.
This recipe leapt out to us from the pages of Food & Wine. It was a no-brainer, really. We adore red lentils. And between our CSA and overpurchasing at the farmers market, we're swimming in asparagus right now.
We've both had busy days at our jobs, and we forced ourselves to go to the gym afterwards. Now it's late, and we're ready to eat. Fortunately, we've planned ahead: Earlier in the week we purchased all the ingredients to make these Edamame Falafel with Spicy Coriander Sauce.
Three facts make us think this dish will be a home run: We love edamame; we aspire to eat more vegetarian meals; and this dish only takes 35 minutes.
It is firmly in our sweet spot. We are ready to cook.
So we get to work. The chickpeas have been soaking all day, so we pulse them with edamame, parsley, cumin and salt. Falafel are rolled into balls. Oil is heated. Coriander sauce (a mix of sour cream, mayo, coriander and cayenne) is made.