Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the Homefront: Dalmatians in Paradise Table

Decked out in Hawaiian shirts and cool shades, Delilah and Dexter
Dalmatian welcome you to a casual Hawaiian celebration for
Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

Well, it's that time of year again -- my own holiday creation, Dalmatian Appreciation Day!  This year I included both brown and black with white for the table colors, in honor of our current Dalmatian who is liver-spotted, the rather atrocious name for brown spots (I prefer to think of her as the "chocolate chip Dalmatian").  Our girl Gia is a senior who is starting to suffer from some health issues and I don't know how many of these holidays she has left, so I felt now was the time to make her the focus.  Since we had some brown, black, and cream-colored kapa or bark cloth place mats from Hawaii, what better theme for the day than the tropical island paradise that is Hawaii?  Gia will never actually set foot there, but I can create the ambience that will have her feeling like a Dalmatian in Paradise!

The Karen Donleavy Dalmatian dinner plate in the foreground
will hold the dessert cookies.

Kapa (bark cloth) place mat from Hawaii many moons ago; white square dinner plate by Denmark Tools for Cooks from HomeGoods this year; Dalmatian salad plate by Karen Donleavy Designs; spotted flatware from Cow Depot Cow Kitchen; brown napkin; black-stemmed wine glass; white coastal design water glass from Big Lots eons ago; green paper tropical leaf from Oriental Trading.

Twin Dalmatians on either side of a moth orchid placed inside
a Dalmatian dog bowl, another Karen Donleavy creation
(sorry about the color -- my little digital camera could not
compensate for the abundant sunlight coming in
from the window).

A pack of Dalmatian pups surrounds the centerpiece candle.

A white tea light in a coconut shell candle holder sits atop
still more green paper tropical leaves.

Gia has always been an opportunistic eater (i.e., if it can't get away from her she will consume it!), so I decided to create a menu for Dalmatian Appreciation Day full of foods that are listed as potentially harmful to dogs, as a warning about what edibles to help your dogs avoid since they are not very sensible about such matters.  Besides, doesn't every Eden paradise have its forbidden foods?  And don't forget to check out the entire list, as my menu does not include all of these temptations!

DANGEROUS-FOR-DOGS Menu (dogs should avoid all items in bold red):

Green Salad with Avocado, Tomato, and Red Onion/Creamy Garlic Dressing*
Salt-Roasted Salmon** (but no raw salmon)
Parmesan Cheese-Roasted Green Beans***
Walnut and Chocolate Chunk Cookies****

*Creamy Garlic Dressing

1/2 C. buttermilk
1/4 C. light mayonnaise
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Makes about 1 C. dressing.

**Salt-Roasted Salmon

1 T. olive oil (plus extra for serving)
1 1/2 lbs. salmon filet (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch thick), center cut and skin on, cut into 4 equal pieces
8 eggs, whites only
4 C. kosher salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the salmon pieces, skin side down, and cook 2-3 minutes until the skin begins to crisp.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs whites and salt with your hands until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with a layer of the salt mixture.  Lay the fish on top and then mold more of the salt tightly around each piece of fish until they are entirely sealed up.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 6 minutes for medium-rare (sides are cooked but top looks lightly rare).  Remove from the oven and brush the salt away from the fish.  Transfer the fish pieces to a clean work surface and brush away all remaining salt.  Plate each serving and drizzle the tops with olive oil.  Serves 4.

Note: I prefer my salmon more completely cooked, and I used bigger filets, so I roasted my fish for 12 minutes.  I also quickly rinsed off my filets with water and patted them dry to get more of the salt off.  It was still excellent (and I don't even like salmon!).

From For the Love of Cooking

***Parmesan Cheese-Roasted Green Beans

1 lb. haricots verts (thin green beans), trimmed
1-2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 C. grated Parmesan cheese

Place the beans on a rimmed baking sheet.  Toss with the oil, salt, and pepper and spread out in a single layer.  Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the beans.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Lift the beans out onto a platter and serve.  Serves 4.

Note: Don't overdo the oil as the cheese will add even more and you will end up with beans swimming in oil!  Also, cheese is not actually toxic to dogs, but too much can cause digestive problems.

****Walnut and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 C. plus 2 T. flour
1/2 Tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter, softened
3/4 C. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. dark chocolate, cut into chunks
2/3 C. coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine the first ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture until well mixed.  Stir in the chocolate and nuts.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls one inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool the cookies for one minute on the baking sheets.  Remove the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Makes about 3 dozen.


The candies on the table today are chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, courtesy of my thoughtful husband, who ordered them online for me when I mentioned that I could not find them anywhere in our area.

He also ordered me a bountiful supply of red torch ginger from Hawaii (my favorite flower!) to enhance the Hawaiian setting in our dining room.  What a great guy!

Have a happy Dalmatian Appreciation Day, Gia (dog-appropriate snacks will be provided)!

This is Gia in 2012 (and notice her non-Dalmatian sister's nose
on the right as she sleeps on her dog bed almost out of camera
range, hoping no one will notice her lack of spots!).

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