Don’t be a chicken – Daring dishes to celebrate the end of the summer season |

Don’t be a chicken – Daring dishes to celebrate the end of the summer season

When I was a girl, my friends called me “chicken” because I was afraid of the dark and when I swam, it was only in the shallow end. My knees shook when I held my aunt’s parakeet. My neighbor’s barking schnauzer gave me heart palpitations.

Another fear was a rubber mask named Uncle Mortimer that belonged to my big brother, Andrew. A twisted nose, one eye sewed shut, drooping lips: Uncle Mortimer’s features made Frankenstein look like Rock Hudson.

Andrew delighted in scaring me. Uncle Mortimer occasionally appeared in the mirror when I brushed my teeth. Sometimes he’d sneak up on me as I walked home from school. When my parents were out, Uncle Mortimer turned up at the dinner table.

One evening after watching mild-mannered Clark Kent change into the unstoppable Superman, I decided to chuck my poultry identity. Feigning fearlessness, I roared in front of the mirror and slept without a night light.

My lionesque courage debuted one September morning when Uncle Mortimer rang the doorbell. Instead of cringing before his angry snarl, I launched my body head-first into his stomach.

With his white bucks kicking skyward, Uncle Mortimer toppled over into the rhododendrons. The villain conquered, I roared mightily and returned to the Nancy Drew mystery I’d been reading.

I’m never nervous about creating recipes. I hope you’re equally daring and try these:

Eggplant Relish

(3 cups)

Be bold and convert your lingering purple crop into this effortless no-cook relish.

1 pound eggplant, sliced in 1/4-inch Os

1 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 cup fresh basil, minced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1 cup chopped red onion

Salt and pepper

Salt the eggplant and put it in a colander for 1 hour. Then rinse it under cold water, pat dry, and chop coarsely.

Stir together the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and parsley. Add the eggplant, mix thoroughly and spread it in a pan. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for 24 hours or until the eggplant is tender.

Stir the eggplant occasionally while it marinates. Before serving, add the onion and salt and pepper. We relished this relish on chunks of heated Ciabatti.

Citrus Tofu Salad

(Serves 4)

If you’ve previously been edgy about making savory tofu dishes, this delicacy should boost your courage.

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut in 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup torn cilantro leaves

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 carrot, grated

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

2 handfuls of mixed salad greens to use as a bed for the tofu salad


Whisk together:

2/3 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Spray a frying pan with cooking oil. Put in the tofu and sauté over a medium flame until at least 2 sides are a golden brown.

If you’re a patient perfectionist, brown all 6 sides on each tofu cube. Turn the flame down and pour in just 1/2 cup of the marinade.

Simmer until almost all the liquid is gone. Let the tofu cool and then refrigerate it for about 1 hour. Put the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with the remaining marinade.

Carefully mix in the tofu. Make a bed of salad greens on a serving platter and mound the tofu salad in the center. Serve this topped with a dollop of your favorite spicy chutney.

Sesame Rice

(Serves 6)

Warm September nights are slipping away. Prepare this for a feast that honors the end of a magnificent summer.

11/2 cups raw brown rice

5 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup peas

1 can water chestnuts, sliced in half-moons

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1/4 packed cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted


Whisk together:

2 teaspoons powdered ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

Cook the rice according to directions and let cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and add the remaining ingredients and the cooled rice.

Stir until well blended and serve at room temperature.

Spicy Carrot Salad

(Serves 4)

When my basket overflows with freshly picked carrots and radishes, I whip up this expeditious side dish.

11/2 cups grated carrots

1/2 packed cup minced radishes (about 1 bunch)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup raisins


Whisk together:

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons non-fat yogurt

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

Stir everything together until well blended. Be bold and decide whether you want to serve this chilled or at room temperature.

Excuse me, but I just heard someone knocking at the door. Oh my gosh! What if it’s Uncle Mortimer?


Ronnie Paul is a freelance writer and vegetarian chef. She can be reached at

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