Recipe Inspiration

I love vegetables! I know that’s probably not a surprise to you since I am in the fresh fruit and vegetable business, but apart from the business, I just love eating vegetables. I love the crunch, I love the colors and I particularly love the flavors.

So, when I go out to dinner and am deciding what to order for my meal, I always look at the vegetable appetizers and side dishes.

Over the July 4th weekend, we went to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort near Coos Bay, Ore., and each evening chose a different option for dinner. On our last night at the golf mecca, we went to the highly recommended Pacific Grill. It had the look of your typical golf clubhouse, but when I saw the chef walking around the dining room when we arrived, I had a feeling I was in for a delicious surprise.

I immediately spotted what I was going to order: Grilled Carrot Salad.

Have you noticed that carrots are being featured on many menus these days? I refer to carrots as the “vegetable of the year,” as I have noticed that small fresh carrots, with the tops still on, have made a comeback. I see them on almost every menu when I go out to dinner.

Pacific Grill’s room-temperature carrots, arranged over a Mediterranean-inspired yogurt sauce, were to die for! I literally licked the plate.

Fast forward one week. This past weekend we had some friends over for dinner and I decided to make dinner for them. My most challenging decision each time I prepare a meal is which vegetables to make! And this was no exception.

All of a sudden it came to me—I would attempt to replicate the Grilled Carrot Salad from Bandon Dunes!

Most restaurants have started to list the main ingredients in their menu items to make their side dishes seem more enticing. So, I did a quick search of the menu, and—sure enough—all the ingredients were listed.

Spiced labneh (I substituted plain greek yogurt) and dukkah were the main ingredients (I made fresh dukkah using my mortar and pestle … another first!). I figured out a quick way to pickle raisins (I soaked them for a few hours in balsamic vinegar). And I roasted two bunches of long, fresh carrots (with a bit of the stem left on) early in the afternoon, then arranged them on a serving platter at room temperature so they would wilt and wrinkle a bit.

When dinnertime came, I felt so accomplished! I had created a new side dish for my dinner guests, inspired by a recent visit to an upscale restaurant.

Have you ever thought of doing this? Perhaps you are flipping through a magazine, or see photos on Instagram, and get the idea for a dish to prepare. You don’t have a recipe, but you can surely use your eyes to give you a vision of a recipe to create. 

Cooking this way makes me feel more creative and less like someone who has to follow a recipe exactly.

I would love to hear if you have created a new vegetable side dish recipe after being inspired. Please do share!

Karen