The Dinner Project: Week 12

April 6, 2011

I was getting ready to write something profound about my dinners this last week, and believe me, some of them, like the potluck at Jenny and Will’s or the BBQ and bonfire at Kristy and Duncan’s, or pretty much the best shepard’s pie I’ve ever eaten at the Family Wash, were a bit profound. I actually had no idea a shepards pie could taste light and fluffy and had I known that fact on St. Patrick’s day, I wouldn’t have even bothered making my own. Sometimes, it’s just best to stick with the professionals.

But enough about last week, tomorrow my friend Jasmine is coming to visit from Minnesota, or simply, The North, as anything not The South is referred to down here. And I am so excited. I love being a northern southern tour guide, especially to people who’ve never been here before, which, if you’re from The North, seems to be pretty much everyone.

It dawned on me recently that we have had more visitors in Nashville in our first year than we ever had in all our years living in Boulder and Minneapolis combined, that’s eight years to be exact. It makes me happy to write that sentence because one of the main reasons we moved here was to be closer to everything and everyone, to be right in the middle of all the action. And lo and behold, it seems to be working out quite nicely. I like it here.

When I was quite young my grandparents lived in Arlington, Virginia, right across the street from Shirley Maclaine’s parents, I remember being told. I have only two vivid memories from our visits, since at the time I was barely even five years old. One is of my grandmother’s costume jewelry box full of long beaded necklaces, clip on earrings and rings with stones the length of my fingers and twice as wide. My sisters and I would sit on the floor rifling through the velvet lined box, it may not have actually been velvet lined but in my five year old memory it was, trying on our favorite pieces and posing for the camera pretending to be young glamourous movie stars. My other memory is of bright blue skies and blooming apple blossom trees. A few weeks ago I asked my dad why it was that I remember the apple blossoms so well, and he told me that it was probably because we would have been visiting my grandparents around Easter and that there is nothing more beautiful than Virginia in the springtime.

And that’s the truth, there really is nothing like springtime in the south. It was enough to infuse my five year old self with a sense of awe and wonder that only now, 25 years later, I can finally relate to again. I don’t know what it is exactly, everywhere I’ve lived spring is beautiful, but down here it feels like an explosion. Like out of the blue one day, everywhere you look there are pink trees and purple trees and daffodils and crocuses and tulips of all colors. Suddenly everyone is dressed in their summer threads, the patios open up at neighborhood bars, farmers markets begin and you can’t go three blocks without smelling something delicious cooking on a grill.

Perhaps it’s the tough midwesterner in me, but I assumed that a person’s enjoyment of spring was directly correlated to how many inches of snow they endured that winter. But down here winter is only three months long and it hardly ever snows more than two inches. And I’m pretty sure the Nashville kids had more snow days than their counterparts in Minnesota, even when a blizzard collapsed the roof of the metrodome.

I’m fairly certain I’ve lost my midwestern edge when it comes to the cold but at the same time I think I’m getting more in touch with my roots, with that whole side of my family that left Ohio and New Jersey and made a home in the south where the pace of life is a little slower, the heat in the summer a little hotter, the winters a little less wintery. And all these years later, come springtime, it’s still the flowering trees that really do it for me. It reminds me of the fall colors in northern Minnesota or when the Aspen trees turn golden in Colorado, those types of epic seasonal changes that leave you feeling pretty good that you picked a beautiful place to live.

Cabbage Slaw with Cilantro, Ginger & Lime

Adapted from Suvir Saran’s American Masala

Preparation time: about 20 minutes of chopping

Serves: 8


For the salad:

1 smallish head of green cabbage (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint (I only add this if I happen to have it around, it’s wonderful both with & without it)

About 8 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts


For the sauce:

The juice of 2 -3 limes (depending on how much citrus you like or how juicy the limes are)

3 tsp citrus vinegar, white wine vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar

A 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated

2 – 3 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cumin

A dash of cayenne (optional)

3/4 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground pepper


1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt & pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, scallions, jalapeno, cilantro & mint, add the sauce & mix together thoroughly with your hands (be sure to have clean hands!).

3. At this point, the salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with the chopped peanuts. Enjoy!



Monday, March 28 – Tuna, garbanzo beans, red pepper, green onion & brown rice all mixed together with a bunch of lemon squeezed on top

Tuesday, March 29 – Pint & Pie Night at the Family Wash

Wednesday, March 30 – Leftover Alfresco Pasta ravioli from the small time photo shoot I did for a brochure I designed for them (with Drew as my food stylist since I had to make it look all professional and I am not always one to pay close attention to detail)

Thursday, March 31 – Potluck at Jenny & Will’s! Oh goodness, where do I begin, everything was so fresh and wholesome and delicious. I made cauliflower almond couscous & Drew made these decadent vegetables fritters topped with marinara sauce. Some of the dishes made by other people included coconut rice pudding, quinoa tabbouleh, fennel & beet salad, pickled beets (I found out I actually like beets…sometimes), chickpea salad with injera (a spongy Ethiopian bread), and so much more I can’t remember. Yum. I cannot wait for the farmers market.

Friday, April 1 – Leftover Israeli couscous topped with leftover marinara sauce that we mixed with a bit of ricotta cheese

Saturday, April 2 – BBQ at Kristy & Duncan’s! I made cabbage slaw with cilantro, lime & ginger (photo & recipe above)

Sunday, April 3 – Soft corn tortillas filled with chipotle shrimp, homemade mango salsa & a dollop of sour cream


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