Wheatless Wednesday – Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

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Is the dinner party dead?  One of my goals for this new year is to host a dinner party every month. My husband and I are finding that as ’empty nesters’ we are no longer attending school events where we get to hang out with our friends without any planning on our part,and we just aren’t seeing people that we really like as often.  Let’s just say that it takes more of an effort when you have to physically reach out and organize something.  In some ways, our schedules are less busy with soccer and lacrosse games, carpools and school events in the distant past. In other ways we are busier than ever.  Chairing a school committee segues into a new hobby, like volunteering at WildCare, competing in triathalons or starting a blog about something you enjoy (sound familiar?). There is more time for hikes and hot yoga classes if you are so inclined.  Unless you have a Boomerang kid (of which we have had our share) it’s easier to take off and travel. Many of my friends never seem to be around any more.  So this is where the dinner parties come in.  I’m going with the “You build it they will come” theory. We had a dinner party last weekend, a group of 10 fun people for no specific reason, and hopefully, just the first of many in 2015.  January, done and great fun!

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Arugula + fennel bulbs + blood orange + red onion+fresh cilantro from my CSA box + oranges from my tree + an avocado and olives from the market = a gorgeous salad for dinner.  Along with the Fennel Citrus Salad, I served Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon, a deliciously easy main course that can serve many people, along with one of my favorite GMD dishes, Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate followed by Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse for dessert. You can click on the links to go directly to those recipes. My guests asked what the trick is to having a successful dinner party without being really stressed out. One friend claims she runs around like a crazy person when she has just a couple of people over. I think she is not alone which is probably why people don’t have very many dinner parties.  I think the key is to keep it simple.  I like to have only one item that needs my immediate attention during a dinner party.  The Fennel Citrus salad and dressing can be made ahead and tossed right before serving.  The Black and Wild Rice dish is best served at room temperature so perfect for making ahead.

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The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse is a very easy, no-cook recipe I’ve been making since the 80’s and prepared the day before and put right into small jelly jars so they’re ready to serve.  Only the salmon required my attention.  It was pre-cut and resting in the glaze needing less than 10 minutes in the oven for a perfect golden finish. Set up a lovely buffet and you’re all set. I used the lovely china from Nana Rosella, my husband’s grandmother, because I like an excuse to use them and I don’t have ten of my regular plates that aren’t chipped, however you could use paper plates and the salad would still be beautiful and delicious, just don’t use plastic forks unless you’re at a picnic.  I don’t know anyone that can eat with those dreaded implements.  Dinner parties are fun but only if you’re relaxed and enjoying your guests.  It’s not really about the food.  It’s about the friends…

FENNEL CITRUS SALAD
2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl

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  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula

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  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds

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  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.

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  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally. Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown) but take them out before tossing.

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  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Fennel Citrus Salad with Avocado and Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 cups fresh arugula
2-3 small fennel bulbs
2 large naval oranges (grapefruit or blood orange)
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 firm avocado
1 Tbsn fresh herbs (cilantro, mint or parsley)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsn lemon juice,1 Tbsn apple cider or red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

  • Wash and dry arugula and place in the bottom of a salad bowl
  • Trim fennel bulbs taking care not to cut too much off the bottom end.  Cut each bulb in half lengthwise, then into quarters lengthwise.  Slice quarters as thinly as possible. Place in the bowl with the arugula
  • Slice both ends off the oranges and place one cut end on a cutting board.  Using a downward motion, slice the peel and pitch away from the fruit.  Go back and get any remaining pith then slice horizontally into wheels.  Use wheels whole or quartered.  OR if you like perfect slices, check out this handy short video: How To Peel An Orange in 5 Seconds
  • Slice the onion in half lengthwise and then into quarters.  Slice each quarter as finely as possible.
  • Slice avocado in half and then slice horizontally.
  • Add all vegetables into bowl with arugula.  If you aren’t serving right away include the avocado pits (to keep the avocado from turning brown)
  • Whisk together the dressing and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Meatless Monday – Roasted Tofu with Miso Glaze and Black Barley, Fennel & Radish Salad

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Game of Thrones Season Finale meets Father’s Day meets GoodMotherDiet!  So the long anticipated Game of Thrones Season Finale happened to fall on Father’s Day (No spoilers for those that haven’t seen it yet, except to say that the show did have an interesting Father’s Day theme). In order to honor both of these important events, we decided to create a feast that was Father’s Day worthy as well as authentic to GoT. We were even lucky enough to have “Daenerys, The Mother of Dragons” show up for dinner.

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For inspiration I went, of course, to the Game of Thrones Food Blog (Yes, there really is such a thing!)  to find many dishes shown, discussed or inspired by the show or books.  As you might expect, much of the food is heavy with meat and not on the Goodmotherdiet,  so my son, Eric, is cooking a more authentic GoT menu including miniature pork pies and leg of lamb.  For the non meat eaters, I thought to attempt a Game of Thrones imagined meal, or rather what would they do with tofu if they had it.

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I marinated extra firm  tofu in a thick and flavorful sauce overnight and then broiled it on high heat.  I paired it with black barley which was widely consumed in Medieval times, (more on that if you’re interested in the history of medieval barley in my Mushroom Barley Soup Blog Post). We know that GoT is not really set in Medieval times, nor is it even set on this planet or in any time but it seems most similar to Medieval times than any other. In preparing the barley, I tried a recipe for Black Barley, Fennel and Radish Salad from Bon Appetite.  This is a large and hearty salad. Next time I make it I will half the amount of barley (1 cup).  Black Barley is a substantial grain, chewy and flavorful but pearl barley, which is lighter and softer, can be substituted.

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Roasted Tofu with Miso Glaze

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 containers extra firm, organic tofu
1/4 cup Miso paste
1/4 cup Mirin (or Rice Wine Vinegar with a bit of sugar or honey added)
1/8 cup soy sauce (wheat free if necessary)
1/8 cup water (if needed to mix the paste in)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsn fresh ginger
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
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  • Drain tofu and slice lengthwise into 1 inch rectangles.  Cover with papertowels and place a heavy object on top to help press out the liquid. Let drain 10 minutes or so.
  • Put tofu in a zip lock bag or container with a lid.

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  • Combine all other ingredients and pour over tofu, making sure to coat all sides of every piece.  Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

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  • Place marinated tofu  in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and broil 5 – 10 minutes, or until browned.  Turn and broil the other side
  • Serve hot or room temperature
 
 

Black Barley, Fennel and Radish Salad

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups black or pearl barley, rinsed
Kosher salt
1 large  or several small fennel bulbs (about 10 ounces), 2 tablespoons fronds set aside, bulb cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill plus 1/2 cup dills prigs, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zes4 large radishes, thinly sliced, divided
1/4 cup oil-cured olives, pitted, halved lengthwise(optional)
  • Place barley in a medium pot and add water to cover by 1 1/2 inches. Season with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until barley is tender and water is absorbed. Depending on the type of barley and your taste preferences, this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours.  Add water if necessary. Spread out barley on a large rimmed baking sheet; let cool.
  • While barley is cooking, toss fennel slices and 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread fennel slices out in a single layer on another rimmed baking sheet. Roast until fennel is crisp-tender and beginning to brown in spots, about 18 minutes. Let fennel cool on baking sheet.
  • Whisk orange juice, lime juice, shallot, 2 Tbsp. dill, and zest in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup oil; season orange vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer barley to a large bowl; add roasted fennel, along with any accumulated juices on baking sheet. Add half of radishes, olives, and 1/4 cup dill sprigs. Drizzle 1/2 cup orange vinaigrette over and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on a large platter.
  • Scatter remaining radishes, reserved fennel fronds, and remaining 1/4 cup dill sprigs over salad. Pass remaining orange vinaigrette alongside for drizzling over.

TIPS:  You can halve the amount of barley for a lighter, smaller dish with more veggies and flavor.  You can also substitute pearl barley if you can’t find black barley or you prefer a softer dish.  If you don’t have dill, the fennel fronds make a good substitute.  Enjoy!