Another year, another great success! The second annual My New Roots Potluck Picnic in the Park was So. Much. Fun. But no surprise there. Combining several of my favourite pastimes: cooking, eating, picnic-ing and meeting new friends, this little get-together has become a real highlight of my summer. I loved seeing so many familiar faces from last year, as well as all the enthusiastic newcomers, arms full of tasty delights in tow.
This year, everyone really went all out and as a result the food was incredible. So many amazing colours, textures, creative combinations of superfoods and super tastes! I was in heaven. I often joke that the only reason I hold this event in the first place is to get a good meal, but I cannot tell a lie. It’s hard to believe that you can put one dish together to share, and get a plate loaded with so many insanely delicious and healthy delights in return (plus get a few dinner invites out of it too). Some favourites of mine this year included the quinoa and kimchi stew, raw pickles and saurkraut, oven-roasted baba ganoush, the chunky toffee bites, and raw cacao-bee pollen truffles. Gorgeousness!
Last year I had planned out what I wanted to make for the picnic days in advance, but for some reason this year, I had drawn a complete blank! The only thing I knew for sure was that I had a huge bag of purple heirloom carrots from some generous farming friends, and the urge to use rosewater. Random. After much consideration on how I could possibly combine these two, I decided playing up the purple pigment angle with some red cabbage and dried black mission figs to create a kind of Moroccan-flavoured salad would be yum. Mint, parsley, and some warming spices came to play, as well as crunchy, toasted pumpkin seeds. All together with the tangy-sweet rosewater dressing, it was a surprising and delightful combination that only comes along when I try to hook up two seemingly unrelated foods. Hmm. I should do that more often.
Purple Equals Power
The colour purple is your hot ticket to healthy town! This particular pigment signifies the presence of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that combats inflammation, contributes to heart and brain health, while protecting and preventing a number of diseases. For instance, studies show that anthocyanins may aid in the prevention of macular degeneration by protecting the eyes from free radical damage, increasing circulation and stabilizing collagen structures (which hold tissues together).
For more purple pigment power load up on beetroots, eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries, black raspberries, açaí, black currants, plums, elderberries, bilberries, raisins, and pomegranates.
Although I found that the flavours and colours in this salad were perfect, if I do say so myself, don’t make an extra trip to the store for purple carrots, black mission figs or rosewater. Orange carrots would be just fine instead, and any dried fruit in place of the figs would be fabulous. Prunes, dried black cherries, currants, and dark raisins would still give you all the benefits of the purple pigments however, so try and stick with one of those if you can. As for the rosewater, it’s a really special addition that lends a unique, floral-kissed flavour to the salad. It can be overpowering, so if it’s your first time working with it, use a light hand – otherwise your salad will taste like grandma’s perfume instead of a rosy whisper. You can find rosewater at Middle Eastern grocery stores and gourmet food shops.
Purple Power Salad for a Potluck Picnic
Serves a crowd!
3 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice + zest
1 Tbsp. liquid sweetener (raw honey or maple syrup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cumin
pinch cayenne, if desired
2 tsp. rosewater (optional, but delicious)
1 ½ tsp. sea salt (to taste)
1 cup / 140g pumpkin seeds
1 red cabbage /1kg
1 cup / 150 g dried black mission figs, chopped
1 bunch purple carrots / 500g (regular orange carrots are fine)
1 cup each chopped parsley and mint, leaves only
1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
2. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. Place in a very large bowl. Slice the carrots horizontally into rounds, or as desired, add to cabbage. Wash the herbs well, spin dry, dice the parsley (including stems) and mint (leaves only). Add to the bowl.
3. In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Pour dressing over the veggies and herbs and toss well to coat. Add pumpkin seeds and fold to combine. Season to taste (the salad may need more salt at this point). Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, toss before serving and enjoy.
A big thank you to everyone who came out this year to eat, drink and meet a few new like-minded friends. I am so grateful to the whole community of awesome people you are – and that we are able to gather in celebration of healthy, conscious, delicious food. Can’t wait until next year!