forge on (project picnic.2)

I realize that we’re already into the double digits of May, but I’m still stuck on April. For what it’s worth, it has come to my attention that I am currently behind on just about every aspect of my life. So indulge me. All the way back to April. Almost always, I consider April to be the home plate slide into spring. But not this year. This year, April was cruel. This year, April boasted more “snow events” than March. Less overall accumulation, but still, it’s  painful. After 7 months of cold, snowy weather I start to get anxious for some heat and humidity. Yes, I said humidity. I’m sort of sick in the head that way. But that’s a whole different post. What I really want to talk about is our April picnic. Which is tricky, because it didn’t happen. The weather on our proposed date was a gusty, snowy, grey 27º F. I couldn’t take it anymore. I put the picnic basket back in the shed and we went out to dinner.

I reasoned that we could just double up in May. I have high hopes for May. And things are looking up weather-wise, despite the fact that there were flurries on May Day and the day after. Snow flakes aside, last week we had our make-up picnic. Not at all what I was intending, the affair ended up being a late night dinner with the picnic blanket spread out on the floor in front of the wood stove. Did I mention that I am struggling to keep up lately? Mealtime appears to be no exception. Still, it did feel sort of picnicky.
I decided to go Asian. I made my first ever batch of steamed buns, filling them with spicy kimchi. I had never attemped theses delights before, but I was inspired because I thought they would make the perfect hand food for a picnic. All in all it went pretty well, though there were a few stages in the process where I was longing for a Chinese grandmother by my side to gently guide me. But I managed to muddle through with the help of a YouTube video. While the buns steamed I made a simple soy sauce dressing to dip them in.
And then I started in on one of my all-time favorite salads. It also happens to be my potluck offering of choice when I’m pinched for time. Super quick, not fussy, and it doesn’t violate my “no nondescript rice dish” policy for potlucks. Plus, I know it’s a winner because someone generally asks for the recipe. I typically make this salad with shelled edamame, but this time I mixed it up. I’ve been in Minneapolis more than I’d care to be lately. As an incentive I have been rewarding myself with an ongoing tour of my favorite grocery stores. At Bill’s Imported Foods, my latest and most treasured destination, I found a bushel basket of plump fava beans that I couldn’t resist. So I used them in the salad in place of edamame. The result was as tasty as usual – nutty and fresh. And it got me especially revved up for the two rows of favas that are just starting to poke up in our garden.
I kept the rest of the picnic fare pretty simple, rounding the meal out with some zingy wasabi chick peas – one of my latest addictions, and fortune cookies for dessert. My cookie presented me with some particularly timely wisdom. “You could accomplish many things that you give up in despair.” Wow. If this isn’t exactly what I needed to hear. Especially lately when it sometimes feels easier to give up rather than catch up. I taped my fortune to the top edge of my keyboard and glance at it throughout my workday. At the most basic level it keeps me plowing through and forging on. But it also reminds me to live large, dream big, and check my skepticism at the door.
Corn and Bean Asian Salad
Adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon

Dressing:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Salad:
2 cups shelled edamame or fava beans
1 1/2 cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
salt to taste

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the edamame for about 5 minutes, If using favas, boil the beans for one minute, drain, let them cool and slip the beans from the tough outer skins. Return the shelled beans to a pot of boiling water and simmer for 2 – 4 minutes until they are bright green and tender. In the last two minutes of cooking (either type of bean) add the corn. Drain the corn and beans in a colander and run under cool water. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the dressing, Add the sesame seeds and salt to taste. Chill salad prior to serving.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

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