I was invited to my friend Pia's house for dinner this past weekend, an invite I was most happy to receive because Pia is a chef/cook extraordinaire.  She loves food as much as I do but with her own unique spin as she brings her rich European background to the table.  Dinner at Pia's as always an event! (You can get all of Pia's wonderful recipes for free on her Facebook page >> Cooking with Pia). My contribution was to be sides to go along with the roast chicken but I didn't know what kind I would make until I visited my garden.  I had high hopes of having enough to choose from to create something wonderful for Pia and her guests.  Once in my little Eden I found loads of crispy, curly kale, purple onions and basil, oregano, parsley and garlic, Romano beans, cucumbers, rhubarb, radish and more.  I filled my trug with my harvest and tromped up the hill past the dormant daffodils toward my kitchen contemplating what I would create from this bundle of living food.

With no particular recipe at hand I decided to let things develop of their own free will.  Looking at the handfuls of cucumbers it seemed right to make a salad out of them.  Using the mandolin I sliced them thinly thinking as I went that the radishes would look pretty if I sliced them similarly.  So in they went.  The colours were gorgeous.  But what to dress them with?  I have been experimenting with all kinds of pestos as I purposely planted loads of cancer fighting herbs in my garden this year.  Out came the food processor and in went garlic, purple onion, parsley and cilantro, olive oil and lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper.  After a quick whizz out came a lovely green dressing.  Uncertain as to its' flavor I sampled a bit deciding it was a touch acidic but that was set to rights with a bit of local maple syrup. The cukes and radishes got a douse of dressing and were rendered into the darkest corner of my fridge while I gave thought to the next recipe.

What to do with all that kale?  And Roman beans?  Did they even go together?  Borrowing an idea from my daughter Kiersten who had recently made a massaged kale salad I felt it might be fun to give that a try.  Once again I made use of the food processor tossing in a just right avocado, garlic, tahini and sesame oil.  Whirring it up in to a paste (massage oil perhaps?) I dumped it into a big prep bowl and introduced the raw kale to the mix.  Then I began to rub the avocado mixture into the kale and it obediently became soft (more relaxed?) in my hands.  I was picturing how pretty it would look to mix the kale with purple basil and onion and then hit it with Romano beans.  The beans needed a chop and a steam which they got whether they liked it or not and into the kale they went.  Next I toasted pumpkin seeds and they too joined the party along with some finely chopped purple onions.  The contrasting colours looked beautiful.  Giving it all a good toss, the kale salad joined the cukes in the fridge until dinner time at which point everything got eaten with none to spare.

The lesson?  Let the fresh ingredients dictate your cooking.  It was delicious (and so was the wine!).

Tell me about your free style clean eating cooking.  We just might be onto something.

Love and healthy hugs, Tosca