Let’s keep celebrating love all month. A few weeks ago, Jan Roth, a friend, invited me to her house in Topeka for lunch with her twin brother’s sweetie, Abbe. She thanked me for driving up for lunch, and I thanked her for the incredibly delightful meal and excuse to have some girl time.
She made incredible salmon and incredibly delicious and flavorful green beans, and we sat and chatted, sipped a little wine and connected. The thing I love about meals shared is that we all slow down and connect. Whether the conversation is just about the food or something political, telling stories of family or of growing up – we all can use a bit more connection in today’s world.
I mentioned in last week’s column that I hosted a Galentine’s luncheon for a dear friend. It was a sweet day of sharing the love, sharing some food and connecting. I think our lifestyles are all too harried. We run from work to home to activities to commitments and need to just slow down. Make the moments meaningful and celebrate friendships more often.
I served this lovely salmon, the green beans, heart-shaped herb biscuits (Julia Child’s recipe, but add more flour if you make them into anything but drop biscuits – that dough is way too wet for cut biscuits) and panna cotta, which I shared with you last week. About 22 ladies gathered, chatted, ate and hopefully left feeling the love.
I realized that serving salmon was a bit of a risk because some people have a strong aversion to it. This recipe’s acidity from the lime zest and lime juice coupled with the whole grain mustard really cuts that fishy flavor some people don’t care for. One of the ladies who came told me she isn’t a big salmon eater but called anyway for the recipe. I considered it a very nice compliment because she’s known to be an incredible, very seasoned cook.
Another friend, Joan, came to my rescue when I realized I was way short on white ramekins. Where in the world did they all go? I used to have 25 and I was down to nine. She not only dropped what she was doing to go buy them for me, but she also stayed the whole evening helping me bake the heart-shaped biscuits, candy the pecans, make the panna cotta and zest the oranges and limes. And we connected over meaningful conversation.
Life is rich when you have such incredible friends.
This should make you laugh: We remodeled our kitchen more than six years ago, and last week was the first time I realized I didn’t have broil on my big oven. So I cranked the oven up to 500 degrees. My salmon didn’t have the crust on it I’d hoped, but it was tasty anyway. Even funnier, I later realized the griddle had “broil” on its dial and that the two knobs had been switched. Joke’s on me. They’ve been switched back to their proper places, and I swear I won’t drink wine next time I’m cleaning.
The only thing different I’d do when making these mouth-watering green beans is make more pecans. You can hardly keep your hands out of them. The maple syrup standing in for the usual suspect ingredient, brown sugar, makes them absolutely irresistible.
Just as a note, I skipped the cayenne, sage and flour when making these beans. When you’re serving a large crowd, I think it’s better to not have heat in the food. Some people don’t tolerate it well. I love sage but quite honestly ran out of time to run to my garden to pick some. I skipped the flour, well, because I’m gluten-free and its purpose in this recipe is to thicken the sauce a bit. It was just fine without a thicker sauce.
I added a recipe in this article not served at the luncheon, but one worth sharing while we’re all spreading love and eating delicious sweet treats. I haven’t written to my gluten-free, dairy-free people much in this column, except for maybe healthy eating last month. So here’s your shout-out: You, too, can have super delicious sweet treats and not miss the days of old when you could eat whatever you wished. I’ve made these Peanut Butter Cup Bars so many times I can’t count, and I keep ingredients for them in my pantry at all times because you never know when you might need some. And to keep yourself from overindulging, remember that they freeze beautifully.
A few notes on the Peanut Butter Cup Bars: I use 2 cups of Earth Balance Coconut & Peanut Spread – the chunky version. This is slightly more than what the recipe calls for but it’s in a jar, and using the whole thing makes cleanup easier. I do still add 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted.
Kinnikinnick brand makes great gluten-free “graham style crackers.” They can be purchased at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Sprouts. I even saw that Sprouts carries them already ground up.
I also use Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate mini-chips. These chocolatey little morsels will have you fooled that they are real chocolate made with dairy, but they are in fact dairy-free. You can find them anyplace – Dillons, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Sprouts.
BROILED SALMON WITH ZESTY LIME MUSTARD
2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce salmon fillets
Preheat boiler. In medium bowl, combine mustard, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Place salmon, skin side down, on broiler pan and brush top with mustard mixture. Broil 5 inches from heat, until center is opaque, 8-10 minutes.
Recipe from Colorado Collage
GREEN BEANS WITH ORANGE ESSENCE AND TOASTED MAPLE PECANS
3/4 cup pecans, chopped coarse
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon grated zest plus 1/2 cup juice from one large orange
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed
2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
Ground black pepper
Toast pecans in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about three minutes. Off heat, stir in 1 tablespoon butter, maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return skillet to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until nuts are dry and glossy, about 45 seconds. Transfer to plate and set aside.
Wipe out skillet. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add shallots, orange zest and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, about two minutes. Stir in flour until combined, then toss in green beans. Add chicken broth, orange juice and sage; increase heat to medium high, cover and cook until beans are partly tender but still crisp at center, about four minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about four minutes. Off heat, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle evenly with pecans, and serve.
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
PEANUT BUTTER CUP BARS
1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups gluten-free graham crackers, crushed
1 15-ounce bag nondairy chocolate chips, melted
Mix peanut butter, coconut oil, vanilla, sugar and graham crackers together. Press into a parchment-lined 9-by-13-inch pan. Pour the melted chocolate over the top. Refrigerate for two to three hours. Remove from pan with the parchment paper once fully chilled and slice into squares.
Recipe from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking – see story for a few tips