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COOL DINNERS FOR DAD’S DAY 2017

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are celebrated quite differently. Traditionally, the idea was that Mother needed to get out of the house, especially the kitchen, and deserved dinner in a restaurant. This wouldn’t do for Father, who might feel obligated to pick up the check. Besides, he spent long hours out of the house at work, and was entitled to a special dinner in his ‘Castle’.

Times have certainly changed. Now, both parents usually work away from home, and contribute mutually to any fund which would cover the restaurant cost. If either parent stays at/works from home, it’s as apt to be Dad as it is Mom.

Yet restaurants are still crowded on Mother’s Day. I think it’s because girls just naturally like to get dressed up and go out to celebrate. On the other hand, Father’s Day, especially the dinner, has evolved. Men have expressed a preference for spending time on an interest, hobby or sport, then relaxing in a casual atmosphere. The dinner is still a special one, but the presentation has altered to suit the mood, while the recipes have changed to fit the general concern for healthier eating habits.

Gone are the large roasts and rich side dishes. The emphasis now is on freshness, light treatments and natural flavors, The preparations, whether done in advance, or at mealtime, are best when designed to allow everything to come together with minimal fuss, maintaining the, hopefully, mellow atmosphere. With the warm weather starting, grilling is an option and perfect for the occasion, but meat cooked indoors, whether prepared in advance or just before serving offers many possibilities too. It’s all a matter of Dad’s preference and the particular details of the occasion.

It’s also a matter of preference if the dinner is served warm, room temperature or cold, because in early summer all those presentations are acceptable. In fact, there are some wonderful recipes for dinners that can be served all three ways and are great for spur-of-the-moment people, loose schedules or ‘iffy’ weather problems. I’m talking about the new take on salads which I mentioned last week and have discussed in detail in the posts of 8/12/15 and 1/26/17. These are not classic ‘dinner salads’ like Cobb and Nicoise, which are recognized dishes, but ones that become part of the entrée in a ‘free-form’ way, resulting in a nutritious and very personalized meal.

These salads have a wide ingredient range, basically everything found in a salad bar, and often include the usual roasted or steamed entrée vegetables, but usually ignore the ‘starchy carbs’. They go light on carbs in general, though I’ve seen torn yams, corn, beans and of course grains included. In fact, they rely on grains to provide substance, but not as bedding or a side as we’ve seen in the past, rather tossed with the greens or scattered over them. The usual quantity would be 1-1 ¼ cups cooked grain per 4 servings.

As a Note for those who doubt the suitability of serving salad on Father’s Day. The majority of comments I’ve received from previous posts mentioning including grains in our diets, have come from men. They thanked me for providing new recipes and ideas, because they are increasingly adding grains to their diets in place of other carbs, with lower fiber content and nutritional value.

The flavor composition of these salads is focused on the meat featured. They use the highest quality, but lesser amounts of it, increasing the protein value with nuts and seeds. Nor is the meat tossed in with the other ingredients, as in the past, but rather slices are placed on one side of the plate and the salad is arranged over the remainder. In this way the meat remains the centerpiece of the entree. The effect is one of elegant simplicity, with a promise of bright, fresh flavor; a dinner able to be totally consumed without guilt, adding the satisfaction of having eaten not just well, but wisely.

The following recipes are examples of these salads.* Please understand that they’re more suggestions as to quantity and compatible foods than set dishes. Feel free to change them, remove or add ingredients, or invent new dressings as you like. When considering these changes, think in terms of salad bar offerings and you’ll see the scope of ingredients available to you. Also note that these salads are assembled in layers, rather than chopped and tossed. A knife is still a must, but a mandolin is a handy kitchen tool to easily slice vegetables into even layers for a nicer presentation.

Grilled Steak Salad: Serves 4 ( Illustrated-I highly recommend this)
1-1 ½ lb. boneless sirloin or top round
2small Japanese eggplants
3 zucchini
2 red bell peppers
2 medium onions
4 oz. button mushroom caps
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. oil
2 oz. snow pea or bean sprouts–optional
1 small head green leaf lettuce
1 cup cooked wild rice
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
½ cup fresh basil leaves sliced thin
Trim meat of fat. Combine juice and oil and marinate beef at least 1 hr. Slice eggplant and lay flat, covered in salt until it ‘sweats’, about 15 min. Rinse well and pat dry. Meanwhile slice zucchini into 1 inch pieces, peppers into ¾ inch strips and onions into thick rings, halve rings and large mushroom caps. Remove beef from marinade, add vegetables and marinate at least 30 min. at room temperature, tossing often. Grill meat on a lightly greased rack about 2 min. on each side to sear. Remove to cooler side of grill and cook an additional 2 min. per side for medium rare. Cool on a plate and slice thinly. Drain vegetables and grill in batches until golden and crisp tender, about 5 min. per batch. Combine balsamic and oil in a bottle and shake well. Arrange meat slices around one edge of each plate. Fill the rest of the plate with torn lettuce leaves topped with the vegetables tossed with the rice. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the sprouts, if using, and basil.
This can be served hot as made, or done ahead with the lettuce, meat and garnishes chilled, while the rest is held at room temperature. The meat and vegetables can also be cooked under the broiler.

Shrimp-Avocado Salad: Serves 4
1 lb. cooked large shrimp
2 avocados-peeled, each half cut in 4 slices
(1) 8oz. bag spinach leaves
1 small cucumber thinly sliced
2 large oranges – sections removed and ½ tsp. grated peel
2 oz. watercress
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 Tbs. olive oil
1Tbs.lemon juice
1 ½ Tbs. orange juice
¼ tsp. honey
1 tsp. chopped parsley
Place the last 5 ingredients in a jar and shake well to make the dressing. Arrange the spinach on plates or a large platter, top with watercress, tossed with the quinoa, if using, then onion rings. Place the avocado slices and orange segments in a circle and pile the shrimp in the center. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the zested orange peel.
This salad should be served as made, but all the components can be prepped ahead and kept chilled.

Asian Chicken Salad: Serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or 1 whole chicken in 4 parts.
1 tsp. grated ginger root
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 large clove garlic-crushed
2 Tb. oil –to lightly grease the grill or sauté indoors
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
1 avocado-peeled and sliced
3 scallions sliced diagonally
1 1/2 oz. snow peas sliced diagonally
1 head of red leaf lettuce
¼ cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. oil
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts or pistachios
Marinate the chicken in the next 3 ingredients at least 3 hours or overnight. Grill the chicken or sauté in oil, drain and cool. Place the cooked rice in the used pan or a lightly oiled one, spread it out and allow to crisp in the bottom. Remove pan from heat. Quickly blanch snow peas. Place Chili sauce, 2 Tbs. vinegar and 2 Tbs. oil in a jar and shake to make dressing. Place the chicken pieces around one side of a platter or each plate. Place pieces of the ‘rice cake’ around the opposite one and fill the center of the platter or plate with the torn lettuce leaves, top with the snow peas, avocado slices and scallion. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the nuts.
This too can be served hot as made or prepped ahead and the ingredients, except the nuts, kept chilled, but the flavor of the meat is best at room temperature or above.

Lamb Salad with Mint: Serves 4
1-1 ½ lb. boneless lamb—a small rolled leg or tenderloin are best*
1 large head red leaf lettuce
3 scallions sliced diagonally
4 oz. grape tomatoes- halved
1 cup cooked barley–optional
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. chopped mint + extra for garnish
½ tsp. sugar
4 oz. crumbled Feta cheese
1 Tbs. oil
¼ cup chopped, toasted pecans or cashews
Combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar and mint in a jar, add barley, if using, and shake well.
Trim meat well and sauté over medium heat in 1 Tbs. oil until medium rare, about 8 min., turning often, or grill on a lightly oiled rack. Cool meat, thinly slice diagonally and tent until ready to serve. Place the sliced lamb around a platter or plates. Tear the lettuce and toss with tomatoes, scallions and barley with dressing and fill the remainder of the plates. Top with cheese, and garnish with extra mint and nuts.
This like the other dinners can be stored, chilled separately until ready to be served or served warm.
*Note: Very thinly sliced rib chops can be used as well. 12 chops =2 ½ lbs. will yield the same amount of meat as the recipe states, allowing for the weight of the bones. The same cooking directions apply.

Ham and Cabbage: Serves 4—A wonderful ‘special event’ presentation with a baked ham, the salad in a large bowl and the garnishes passed on the side.
1 – 1 ½ lb. Deli ham sliced ¼ inch thick—or freshly carved from a baked ham
8 oz. red cabbage- shredded
8 oz. green cabbage-shredded
2 baked medium sized yams, cooled and torn in bite size pieces
4 scallions thinly sliced
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. caraway seeds-divided 1 tsp.in reserve
Combine the last 5 ingredients in a jar and shake to make a dressing. Allow flavors to meld for several hours. The yams can be cooked in a microwave until tender and torn when cool. Toss the yams and cabbage with the dressing. Place in a bowl and garnish with the reserved seeds. Slice the ham at table and pass the salad with extra caraway seeds on the side.
Alternatively, line one side of each plate with sliced ham and fill the rest of the space with the cabbage mix. Garnish with the caraway seeds.

Sweet and Sour Pork Salad: Serves 4
1- 1 ½ lb. pork tenderloin*
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. warm honey
1 Tbs. dry sherry
1 Tbs. oil
8 oz. Chinese cabbage-shredded
1 carrot- shredded with a vegetable peeler
3 scallions thinly sliced diagonally
4 red radishes—thinly sliced
½ cup Bulgar
(1) 15 oz. can pineapple rings-drained, juice reserved
2 Tbs. oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 Tbs. Wasabi cashews if available or toasted chopped walnuts
Marinate the meat in the next 3 ingredients overnight. Saute pork in the 1 Tbs. oil, basting with the marinade, until just done, about 10 min. or grill on a lightly oiled rack; cool, thinly slice and tent. Meanwhile, measure reserved juice minus 1 Tbs. and add water to make 1 cup. Place ½ cup Bulgar in the juice and allow to sit for 30 min. Combine vinegar, 2 Tbs. oil, 1 Tbs. juice and brown sugar in a jar and shake to make a dressing. Toss the vegetables with the Bulgar. Plate the meat slices around the edge of a plate, or to one side, fill the center with the cabbage mix and lay the pineapple rings decoratively on top. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with the nuts if using.
*NOTE: Very thin, boneless center-cut chops will do, in the same weight as stated above. The same cooking directions apply.
*NOTE: Most of these recipes are adapted from ones in Confident Cooking’s Sensational Salads published by Konemann.

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