Friday, June 13, 2008

My Biggest Lunch Box EVER!


My husband's Rotary Club is hosting a cultural exchange group from India this week. "On Friday afternoon we need someone to fix them all a picnic in the park. They're all vegetarian. Volunteers?"

My husband eagerly piped up. "Why, my wife wrote a cookbook all about vegetarian lunches! I'm sure she'd love to do it! She'll make something fantastic!"

Thanks a lot, dear. Lunch for twenty, coming up!

My first thought was to panic. What could I possibly make for a group from India, where they make some of the most amazing vegetarian dishes I've ever had? It wouldn't be Indian food, that's for sure. Anything I made would only be a dim shadow of the brilliance they are used to at home.

I settled on one of my favorites from Vegan Lunch Box: Tofu Apple Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce. I increased the heat to grown-up levels with extra cayenne and chili oil.

Next to the Spring Rolls is a large green salad with a mini-salad bar of toppings to choose from (hearts of palm, baby carrots, celery, chickpeas, sugar snaps) and Yumm! sauce or vinaigrette for dressing.

I also decided to feature some local Mid-Columbian produce: fresh asparagus from a produce stand down the road mixed with snow peas fresh from our garden, lightly blanched and tossed with a simple soy sauce dressing ("Ted's Asparagus" in my cookbook). And the first picking of Chelan cherries was at the Farmer's Market this week; not as sweet as Bings, but close.

For dessert I made an enormous dish of Thai Baked Rice Pudding (the reviewer is right, it's fine without the eggs...darn, I wish I had taken the plastic wrap off before taking the picture!). I put a little dish of extra coconut milk on the side to sprinkle on top. I thought this baked version would be easier to transport and serve than my more liquid version. It was fine, but after tasting I've decided that I prefer the flavor of my runny, more traditionally Thai version.

Not pictured: lots of juice, lemonade and water to drink, and the crackers and cheese my husband insisted on bringing.

Verdict: After my initial disgruntlement at having been volunteered without my approval, I actually did get into preparing and serving the Big Lunch. It was fun meeting these men and women from India and hearing about their trip. There was a language barrier, but I got the impression that they were enjoying their tour of America. Some of them weren't sure what the tofu was (do they not have tofu in India?), but they all seemed especially taken with the black rice, and a few even asked for the recipe.

One of their American hosts looked over the spread with trepidation. "When I heard you were making the food I just knew it would be healthy." Sorry! Have some crackers and cheese...

24 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

A lunch for 20?!?!??! I commend you for taking on that task; especially after being volunteered to do so, without prior knowledge!! I'm sure that EVERYONE enjoyed the meal :0)

Clare said...

Indeed. Tofu is not an indian dish. It originated in China and only after a long time it made it over to Japan. They might have been worried that it was paneer - the soft cheese that appears in indian cuisine and is quite similar to tofu in consistency. Sounds like you made an awesome picnic though. Well done!

Kay said...

Wow, everything looks great!

Alexis said...

I doubt they would be *worried* it was paneer, as most Indian vegetarians aren't vegan, no? But they might be wondering.

The "healthy" remark sounds like one I get at work a lot. "Your lunch looks so *healthy*!"

I never know what to say. And I haven't even brought in any of your dishes yet, Jennifer! Who knows what they will think of those. :) I really must make the spring rolls though, they sound great.

herbstsonne said...

I THOUGHT I recognized that bottle of Yumm! sauce! :D YAY! Cafe Yumm is amazing...and your lunch beats them on amazingness hands down. I'm so impressed!

Julie said...

Looks like a wonderful big lunch! :]


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Eesh said...

Good job! This looks like a fantastic spread!

Stretch Mark Mama said...

Oh, the "healthy" comment! I am just waiting till the day when healthy becomes mainstream.

Ha.

Tuimeltje said...

Looks like a brilliant lunch, perfect for a nice day in the park.

Though being volunteered for things is annoying.

Gwenevier said...

Yeah... I hate all that *healthy* food... ;)

Seriously though, you did amazing, it's always great to be volunteered for things without your knowledge.

~mama bean~ said...

so, i was born in india but raised in america, and while my family knows what tofu is, indians often call tofu "soya." :) i always wonder why they say soya and not soy, but whatevs.

Ruby Red Vegan said...

making an impressive lunch for 20 sounds intimidating, but it looks like you did a great job! i've always wanted to try those tofu apple spring rolls from your cookbook, and the cherries and thai rice pudding sound like excellent compliments for a summer picnic! yum.

Sarah said...

Oh that is so great to hear about the big lunch for Rotary. I have been a part of their exchange program, hosting and went abroad. And I always loved when we had international guests visiting or here for medical reasons. I bet they really appreciated the welcoming meal. So great!

Phyllis Sommer said...

sounds delightful! will you cater my next party!?;-)

dodo said...

Indians use paneer which almost looks like tofu but much better in taste ( indian bias here ;) ).

But paneer is made out of milk, so it is not vegan

Cacti Girl said...

no we indians don't know what tofu is. sorry.

Aspiring Writer said...

my parents immigrated from india. None of my family from india know what "tofu" is as they don't really eat a lot of meat substitutes there. Veggies and lentils are cool with them.
Good job!

karthi said...

can you give any idea that what tufu is? i think one said that its just a replace of paneer instead... is that...
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Jennifershmoo said...

Tofu is a block of white bean curd that can be sliced and cooked into all sorts of dishes. It is made from soybeans and comes from China:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu

And yes, it does resemble paneer! In fact, I've made Spinach Paneer with tofu instead of the cheese, and it was delicious.

Mikaela said...

Congratulations on your GIHUGIC lunch box success! :D

* spryte said...

Looks like a wonderful meal! Those spring rolls sound great - will definitely try them out when I can get your book (though WITHOUT the extra cayenne and chili oil...too spicy for me!).

I'm curious where you got that tray you used for the salad veggies - it looks like some sort of craft tray but the compartments are bigger than those usually are. Let me in on your secret :)

Jennifershmoo said...

Ah ha, someone noticed the tray! It's one of my new favorite things, and I'll be blogging about it in a week or so...

:-)

* spryte said...

I await with baited breath :)

Dalveer said...

Actually in most parts of Asia (I'm in Singapore), it's called soya and not 'soy', as in soya sauce and soya beans.