At a very young age, my father and mother ingrained a reckless indulgence for all things dairy and sugar. Given my father grew up in New Zealand where there are literally more sheep than people and my mother was raised on a Wisconsin farm, it only seemed natural to take our dairy products very seriously – and that we do.
Quick anecdote… as a young kid, I remember watching my father in awe use heavy cream straight from the cow as his “milk” with cereal like it was no big deal. He later introduced me to my now favorite espresso drink, a Breve. For those of you who have yet to splurge on the “can I get some espresso with my half & half” beverage, PLEASE do because you are missing out! My point is I have been raised to love dairy and I do very much love (mildly obsessed with) cheese, milk, ice cream, and butter BUT sadly I get awful stomach aches every time I EAT these products so am slightly convinced I may in fact be lactose intolerant (NOOOOOO!!!!!).
Thus, I am trying to make a more conscious effort to remove dairy from my diet. I have a good friend who is truly lactose intolerant; I wanted to make a completely dairy-free meal for us so she could equally enjoy it as much as the rest of the guests while I would also be supporting my endeavor to be dairy-free.
I came up with menu that started with a roasted red-pepper and eggplant dip with whole wheat pita (thanks to inspiration from my lovely Ina Garten). The recipe can be found online here. It’s a fun rendition on a much more flavorable baba ganoush. It was simple, easy, and so good! Just threw a bunch of veggies on a baking sheet, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then blended in a food processor. I had some leftover homemade hummus that also made its way to the plate. It would have been nice to have had an assortment of olives to accompany the dips, but they stood just fine on their own.
The main course was a baked salmon served with a grapefruit, basil, and parsley relish on top of my go-to coconut ginger rice dish.
Grapefruit and Basil Relish
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 grapefruit, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons fresh basil and parsley chopped
Salt and Pepper to season
Mix the above ingredients together in a small bowl. Add the fresh herbs last. And serve large spoonful on top of the salmon.
*Note you could probably do the same relish with a different citrus fruit, consider trying tangerines, blood orange, or naval orange.
I learned about this fantastic rice dish from my favorite former Ann Arbor restaurant, Eve. Sadly, Eve closed right before I moved back to Ann Arbor. One of her signature dishes was this macadamia nut encrusted salmon served on top of coconut ginger rice – it never disappointed. With inspiration from Eve, I made my rendition of her salmon dish. It was a huge success. Not too heavy and tons of flavor. Each bite you want to savor slowly so you can enjoy the powerful ginger in the rice compliment the tartness of the grapefruit beautifully. There is so much going on in just one bite!
Coconut Ginger Rice
Courtesy of Eve Aronoff from her cookbook, Eve
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (I omitted this time to be dairy-free)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 cup long grain white rice (I used whole wheat and worked just as well!)
1 cup Coconut Milk
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, generously to taste
1. Heat oil in heavy pan on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and sweat until white, puffy and aromatic. Add rice and saute until grains of rice are shiny.
2. Add coconut milk, Chicken broth and kosher salt to taste – stir once gently and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover pan and cook rice until liquid is absorbed. When adding salt, you should actually be able to taste salt or there will not be enough to penetrate into the rice. It is always better to add salt to a starchy ingredient like rice or pasta before cooking so it can integrate into the ingredient during the cooking process, bringing out the best flavor.
3. Remove pan from heat and let rice stand, covered and undisturbed for 15 minutes. Taste small amount to determine if needs additional salt and pep
I threw together an arugula salad too on the side. Well received all around and if I could eat like this all the time, dairy-free diet doesn’t sound too bad!