Aligot

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Recently I was looking something up on the internet, and came across photos of melted cheese. That is exactly the way to get my attention – melted cheese. It didn’t look quite like raclette or fondue, and I read that it was Aligot. Why have I never heard of this?

Aligot (ah-lee-go) is a specialty of the Auvergne region of central France – a potato purée beaten together with cheese to make a stretchy mixture. Stretchy indeed!

The following photo is from the French cooking blog Papilles et Pupilles.

From a New York Times article, “somewhere between buttery mashed potatoes and pure melted cheese lies aligot, the comforting, cheese-enhanced mashed-potato dish.”

The recipe I’m using is from the book, The Food of France – a journey for food lovers, published in 2001. I was gifted this book but used it mostly as a coffee table book because it’s so beautiful. This recipe and the one from Papilles et Pupilles are very similar.


Aligot
Slightly adapted
Printable recipe below

1 1/2 pounds floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
4 ounces butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 ounces cream
10 ounces Cantal, grated

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. I weighed both the potatoes and cheese to make sure I had the correct ratio, not knowing if it was that critical or not.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the garlic.

Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill; don’t use a food processor or they will become fluent.

Place the riced potatoes in the saucepan over gentle heat and add the cream.

Mix together well and then add the cheese, handful by handful, beating vigorously with each addition.

Once the cheese has melted the mixture will be stretchy.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

It starts out a little lumpy, but indeed, with serious stirring, the potato and cheese mixture becomes smooth.

This dish is meant to be a “backdrop” side dish, so yes, stronger aged cheeses like a cave-aged Gruyere can be used, but I think it’s important to stick with authenticity. By using the proper cheese, aligot is similar to a plain polenta, that lets the sausages, or daube, or coq au vin “shine”.

Serve as quickly as you can, because it does stiffen when cooling.

I served the aligot with sausage and a lightly dressed green salad.

Aligot is basically cheesy mashed potatoes on crack! Crazy good. And a fabulous cheese that I’d never tried before. So much excitement on this end!!!

And now I need to travel to the Auvergne region of France to see what else I’ve been missing.

 

 

Salmon Brandade

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This recipe comes from the 2018-published cookbook entitled Everyday Dorie, by Dorie Greenspan. I bought it recently after seeing quite a few bloggers share some of this book’s recipes on Instagram.

Personally, I’ve never gotten to “know” Ms. Greenspan. It’s probably because I first learned about her when the book, Baking with Julia, was published. Ms. Greenspan and Julia Childs were co-authors.

Well, I won’t bake with Julia, or anyone else, so I kind of ignored Dorie Greenspan and her award-wining books over the years, until now.

The book? Fairly straight forward, simple food. Her goal with the cookbook is to “turn out food that’s comforting, satisfying, inviting and so often surprising. I love when there’s something unexpected in a dish, especially when it’s in a dish we think we know well.

So, she added Dijon mustard to gougeres, to carrot and mustard rillettes, to honey-mustard salmon rillettes, and to a tomato tart with mustard and ricotta. And that’s just the appetizer chapter. I wasn’t really impressed with her “surprises,” but the photos of the food are really pretty.

I chose to make Ms. Greenspan’s salmon brandade, because I love traditional brandade, made with salt cod. If you’re interested HERE is a Jacques Pepin recipe for it.

According to Dorie Greenspan, “This brandade celebrates everything that’s warm and comforting about the original while adding a touch of luxe – it’s brandade for dinner parties. Serve with a salad and white wine. Maybe even Champagne.

The dish isn’t gorgeous, but it’s perfect comfort food, especially served during cold months. And for pescatarians.

It’s basically a salmon shepherd’s pie!

Salmon Brandade
Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound smoked salmon, or lox
2 – 2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into medium chunks
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus 1/2 tablespoon butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped, rinsed, and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, minced
6 – 8 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 – 3 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley, and/or tarragon
Plain dry bread crumbs, for finishing

Bring the milk just to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in half of the smoked salmon, turn off the heat and let steep while you make the potatoes.

Put the potatoes in a tall pot, cover generously with cold water, salt the water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they’re so tender that you can easily crush them against the side of the pot with a fork, 15 – 20 minutes. Drain well.

The potatoes must be mashed, a job best done with a food mill or ricer, which produces fluffier potatoes. Mash them in a large bowl, and then, using a spatula, stir in the salmon-milk mixture, followed by the 6 pieces of butter.. The potatoes will be softer and looser than you might be used to. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9″ pie plate and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I used a small baking pan and two ramekins.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper – go light on the salt – and stir in the cubed fresh salmon.


Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and cook, stirring, until the wine almost evaporates, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs and remaining smoked salmon.

Taste for salt and pepper and scrape the mixture into the buttered pan.

Top with the mashed potatoes, spreading them all the way to the edges of the pan. Dot with bits of the cold butter and sprinkle over the bread crumbs.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are hot all the way through, the juices from the onion and salmon are bubbling, and the top is golden brown. If you want the brandade to have more color, put it under the broiler.

Serve immmediately – the brandade is meant to be so hot that you’ve got to blow on every forkful. See the steam in this photo? Nah, I can’t either, but it was steaming hot.

The two layers are exceptionally good, especially the soft potatoes with the bits of salmon.


But the bread crumbs (I used panko) really add a fun crunch to each bite.

I would consider this recipe excellent, but salt the potatoes!

And, the individual brandade in the ramekins turned out perfectly as well.

Boeuf Bourguignon

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Back when I was single, I’d often cook myself beef liver for meals. It was cheap and I loved it, especially with eggs, which were also affordable. I had no other meat experience. Nor with vegetables, other than salad.

So I marry at 25 and know I need to learn how to cook and put daily meals together for my husband and myself. Plus, my husband didn’t eat liver.

Fortunately I was fearless in the kitchen. I jumped into this set of cookbooks from Time-Life – called Foods of the World – that my mother gifted me when we married, and proceeded to cook. My naïveté helped me.

Peking duck? Sure! Tempura? Of course! Rogan Josh? Certainly. Nothing intimidated me, except crazy desserts and pastries, which still do…

When it came to the Provincial French cookbook, I dove in with the same enthusiasm I had for every other cookbook, with glorious results.

Take this boeuf bourguignon. Every aspect of this dish is prepped separately prior to being added together at the end.

I learned how to use salt pork, a new ingredient for me, poaching it first to get rid of all of the salt. I learned how to respect mushrooms, those water-gorged fungi. I peeled pearl onions, not my favorite chore. And I quickly learned how to use good wine in cooking, not one that turns everything purple.

So if you’re willing to spend a little more time to create an outstanding French Burgundian specialty, you will be so happy you did. Nothing is hard, well, except for those darn pearl onions. This recipe just takes a bit of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine
To serve 6 – 8

To ensure that no one element in your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. Although the different steps may be taken simultaneously, it is easier to deal with them one at a time.

The onions
1/2 pound lean salt pork, cut into strips about 1 1/2” long
and 1/4” in diameter
1 quart water
1 tablespoon butter
18 – 24 peeled white onions, about 1” in diameter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To remove excess saltiness, the salt pork should be blanched by simmering it in 1 quart of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry.


In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over moderate heat, and in it brown the pork, stirring the pieces frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the rendered fat left in the skillet, brown the onions lightly over moderately high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to roll them around and color them as evenly as possible.

Transfer the onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons of pork fat. (Set the skillet aside, leaving the rest of the fat in it.) Bake the onions uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until they are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, sliced in large

While the onions are baking or after they are done, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a skillet. When the foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, tossing and turning them frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are slightly soft.


Add the mushrooms to the onions and set aside.

The beef
3 pound lean boneless beef chuck or rump, cut into 2” chunks
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrots
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock
2 cups red Burgundy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350 degrees F. Pour almost all of the rendered pork fat from the skillet in which the onions browned into a small bowl, leaving just enough to make a thin film about 1/16” deep on the bottom of the pan.

Over moderately high heat, bring the fat almost to the smoking point. Dry the beef with paper towels, then brown it in the fat, 4 or 5 chunks at a time to avoid crowding the skillet.

Add more pork fat as needed. When the chunks are brown on all sides, remove them with kitchen tongs to a heavy, flameproof 5-6 quart casserole. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all the beef if browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the pan and cook them over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored. Stir in the flour. (If the mixture looks dry, add a little more pork fat.)


Return the skillet to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, let cool a moment, then pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.


Blend in the wine and the tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens.

Mix in the garlic, thyme, sautéed pork strips, salt and a few grinding of black pepper, and pour the sauce over the beef, stirring gently to moisten it thoroughly. the sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat; add more wine or stock if needed.



Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly, and place the casserole in the lower third of the oven. Let the beef cook, regulating the oven heat so the meat simmers slowly, 2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Then gently stir the browned onions and mushrooms, together with any juices that may have accumulated under them, into the casserole.

With a large spoon, gently mix the beef and vegetables with the sauce in the casserole. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the bouquet garni, and skim off any fat from the surface.

Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the beef with parsley and serve it directly from the casserole.


In the past I’ve served this luscious stew over fresh pasta, but this time I was lazy and cooked some fettuccine.

It’s also wonderful, as you can imagine, over any kind of potato – mashed, roasted, a gratin…

The full flavors of this beef stew are so intense. It’s rich in a way, but rich with flavors of wine and thyme. The onions and mushrooms add delightful texture as well.

Use a good wine – something you’d serve with this dish.

You can serve the stew as you would chili, in a warm bowl without toppings, of course, but I prefer a base of pasta or potatoes.

My Last Meal

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I’m not dying nor on death row. My last meal is something I’ve occasionally thought of, especially while enjoying favorite foods or dining at a fabulous restaurant. Or I’ll see a beautiful meal on a food blog and think, “That could easily be my last meal!”

It’s not a morbid thing in my mind. My last meal is a happy, celebratory thing, because if I could plan my last meal, then I’d also have the ability to eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, cause there wouldn’t be. It would be a day-long meal of happy eating and drinking.

Upon rising, I would enjoy coffee, as I have for decades. My day never starts without espresso. Maybe with a croissant with butter and seedless raspberry jam.

Two perfectly-cooked soft-boiled eggs.

Chicago pizza. From Giardano’s, cause they deliver.

Next would be warm, boiled, fresh potatoes with unsalted butter and slices of Fontina or Taleggio or Morbier. Or all three.


Then mimosas with my two daughters.

An everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. And I’d eat the whole bagel.

A baked Brie with a cherry chutney, and good bread.

I’d stop for some fresh spring radishes spread with unsalted butter and coarse salt.

Lasagna. No, make that pastitsio. Or both.

I’m not big on sandwiches, but my last day-long meal would have to include a BLT. Good uncured bacon, garden-fresh summer tomatoes, and lettuce.

Chips with fresh salsa, spicy queso, and guacamole. And a Pacifico.

Paté. My mother’s recipe. Or foie gras, medium-rare, served on grilled bread.

Pasta Trapanese. Or maybe Puttanesca. Let me think. With a favorite pinot noir.

There would have to be a full raclette spread, with at least 6 friends.

Fire-grilled octopus. Maybe mixed with other fire-grilled seafood, but lots of octopus. And squid.

Then my husband’s burger, made by him, served on a brioche bun, toasted with butter. With lots of ketchup and mustard. Eaten with my husband.


A glass of Sauternes.

Roasted chicken, just out of the oven, cooked to perfection. I will eat it right out of the roasting pan.

Dim sum. All of it. Except chicken feet.

Last but definitely not least – a cheese platter, with all of my favorites old and new.

I’m not a big dessert eater, but I do love ice cream. I’d eat so much of it that I’d need a blanket to warm myself up!

And there would be lots of port. Or sherry. Or both.

So all of this is unlikely to happen, but maybe the point is, we can enjoy our meals like they are our last meals? Each and every one? Not to the point of gluttony, of course, 😬

The French have it figured out. Aperitif. Long lunches. Fabulous food. Wine. Hors D’oeuvres. Dinner. Often with friends. Definitely with family. Dessert. Dégustation.

A croissant or crème caramel isn’t viewed by the French as calories or with guilt, unlike us Americans. It’s about enjoyment and moderation. My mother, at age 91, still enjoys chocolate every day, and a cookie.

Let’s enjoy our meals. You never know – one will be our last.

Season

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In his first book, entitled Season, published in 2018, Nik Sharma writes the following.

“I take pride in incorporating flavors, techniques, and ingredients in new and exciting ways. This, my first book, celebrates diverse cultural influences and, I hope, helps to erase labels like “ethnic” and “exotic” in the West by shedding more light on some of these ingredients. Season is a collection of flavors from my two worlds – India and America.”

Sharma’s story is fascinating. Born in India to bi-cultural parents, he came to the USA as a young man to study molecular genetics. Eventually his love of food and cooking averted his career path and he started his now famous, award-winning blog, a Brown Table.

He also became a weekly food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and is working on his second cookbook, entitled A Brown Table.

Reading Season (I love that title!) and studying the recipes was a fascinating experience for me. Sharma’s food truly is fusion food, but unlike the “let’s see how many weird ingredients we can put together” attitude that I find smug and pretentious of many chefs, Sharma’s approach obviously came from his love of foods from his homeland, blended with what he discovered after moving away.

Examples of such fusion dishes include Caprese Salad with Sweet Tamarind Dressing, Turmeric and Lime Mussel Broth, and Hot Green Chutney Roasted Chicken. But the recipe I wanted to make was Chouriço Potato Salad, using freshly made chouriço, or sausage from the Goan region of India. Goa is a state on the west coast of India, on the Arabian Sea.


According to Sharma, “This (salad) is great for breakfast with a couple of fried eggs, or in a taco, or by itself for lunch.”

Chouriço Potato Salad

8 ounces chouriço, (recipe below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
1/4 cup crumbled Paneer*
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 fresh lime juice
1 lime, quartered, for garnish

Break the meat into small pieces and set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 5 – 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the chipotle chile and paprika and fold to coat evenly.

Add the chouriço, and cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, or until the sausage is browned and cooked through, stirring frequently.


Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for 1 minute longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a large bowl. Cool for 5 minutes. Gently stir the chives, paneer, cilantro, and lime juice into the warm potatoes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges, if desired.

I can’t describe well enough how wonderful this potato and sausage salad is, besides wonderful. The sausage along is exquisite, but with the potatoes it’s, well, magical.

You taste the spiciness immediately, the creaminess of the potatoes, the flavorful sausage, the freshness of the cilantro and lime, and the slight crunch of the pepitas.


*Paneer is easy to prepare, but the author recommended a swap of crumbled Cotija or queso fresco, which I happened to have on hand.

Homemade Goan-Style Chouriço

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 whole cloves
1 pound ground pork, preferably with fat
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Kashmiri chile
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grind the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, and cloves with a mortar and pestle and transfer to a large bowl.


Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a fork to blend well. Shape into a log, wrap with wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight.

Curry Ketchup

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I’ve mentioned a few times that my eating life practically revolves around condiments. I love them all. Mustards, ketchups, chutneys, chimichurris, mayos, butters, you name it, I love them. I look at a condiment, and immediately know what food I’m pairing it with.

I’m so excited to have discovered a new condiment for my repertoire – curry ketchup. I was “shopping” on Amazon and somehow this popped up. I had to have it. German curry ketchup!

Shortly afterwards, I was on the blog called the Daring Gourmet, and there was Kimberly’s recipe for home-made curry ketchup, of German origin.

You can imagine how excited I was. Everything home-made is so much better than what you can buy.

Best German Curry Ketchup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 small clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons high-quality curry powder*
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup natural ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper, optional

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onions just until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder, paprika, cloves and allspice and cook for 30 seconds.


Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and purée until smooth.


Let the mixture cool completely and then refrigerate for a day before using to allow time for the flavors to meld.

To use, Kimberly recommends serving the curry ketchup with prepared bratwurst (currywurst) and fries. She recommends sprinkling the brats with curry powder, just like in her photo, below, which I forgot to do.

I’m not a big French fry person, so I roasted some red potatoes instead.

This ketchup is magnificent. It’s multi-faceted, and not strong in any one way. And it’s nice and thick. I have no idea why mine isn’t as red in color as hers.

And, the ketchup is really good with the potatoes also.

I tried a bratwurst with the purchased curry ketchup, left, and my home-made version, on the right. There was truly no comparison. The purchased ketchup tasted anemic compared to home-made!

I can’t wait to make more curry ketchup, and next time I’m making a quadruple batch. Thanks for the recipe, Kimberly!

*When I want a prepared curry powder, I reach for Penzey’s sweet curry powder. To me, it’s a perfect blend when not using individual spices.

South American Salad

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According to Amazon, I purchased this cookbook in May of 2006. I don’t remember why I purchased it – for one thing I’d never heard of David Rosengarten, and secondly, it turns out the book is about party menus.

Menus are my favorite things to put together! So I didn’t expect to like the book.

Not only does he have a chapter for every theme party, like Love Me Tandoor, Tunisia for Twelve, and Zorba the Grill, plus recipes for food and drink, there are ideas for set dressing and table dressing, what we now call tablescapes. Plus, he provides resources.

Now, I’ve never been Martha Stewarty enough to buy lanterns for the garden for my themed party – heck, I’ve never had a themed party. Although I have many playlists. My Mexican playlist doesn’t usually last beyond the first hour. Such picky friends.

In any case, I ended up loving this book. The guy knows his cuisines, and the menus really are wonderful.

The book, published in 2005, shows five testimonials on the back cover, from Lidia Bastianich, Chef Marcus Samuelson, Ted Allen, Gale Gand, and Stanley Lobel. Turns out the guy has won two James Beard Awards. And I’ve still never heard of him!

The recipe I want to share I’d made once for the blog, when I was so excited to share special dishes I loved, but before I could take decent photos of them.

This salad is one of those. It’s from the South American Steak on the Grill party, which has the least cutest name of all featured in the book. I’ve actually made most all of the recipes from his South American menu, but this salad really stands out.

The salad contains tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, purple onions, hard boiled eggs, and a parsley vinaigrette. So it’s also lovely.

South American Salad
Serves 12
Slightly adapted

1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled
4 firm ripe Haas avocados
Fresh lime juice
Kosher salt
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 medium purple onion, cut into 1/2” dice
8 firm, ripe medium tomatoes, cored, cut into 1/2” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked but still firm. Drain and cool. Quarter, and cut quarters into 1/2” slices. Place in a large serving bowl.

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh in one motion using a large spoon, then cut into 1/2” dice. Drizzle with fresh lime juice over all surfaces, toss with salt, then add the avocados to the bowl with the potatoes.


Add the parsley to the potatoes and avocados. Add the onion and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vinaigrette (below) to taste, tossing gently but well.

Cut the eggs into quarters lengthwise then cut each quarter in half. Add the eggs to the salad, and toss just enough to combine the eggs with the other ingredients.

Or, just lay the eggs on top of the tossed salad, which is what I do.


Taste for season, serve with more vinaigrette on the side.

The only negative of this salad is that it can look a bit messy. That’s actually why I use bigger chunks of potatoes, and try to use ripe but firm avocados, if possible.

But the most important thing is to not mess with it much. Toss gently, and leave it alone.

The salad is truly magnificent with the fresh vinaigrette and the lovely colors, flavors, and textures.

Parsley Vinaigrette
Makes 2 cups

2-3 shallots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into a blender jar. Blend until smooth.

Fondant Potatoes

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Never, have I ever, seen fondant potatoes on a restaurant menu. But on cooking shows they seem quite common.

So much so that after watching children make fondant potatoes on my favorite show, Masterchef Junior, I knew I finally had to make them.

So what are they exactly? They are a russet potato cut into a barrel shape, browned in butter and oil, then cooked in broth.

So nothing fancy, really, but they’re crispy on the outside, rich and luxurious on the inside, and look good on a plate.

So here’s what I did, based on this recipe, from The Hairy Bikers.


Fondant Potatoes

3 large Russet potatoes
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 ounces grapeseed oil
Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
Fresh or dried thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the ends of the potatoes off. Stand the potato upright and, using a flexible paring knife, cut off the peels, forming multiple ridges around the potato.


Lay the potato on the cutting board and slice crosswise in half. Continue with the remaining 2 potatoes; you will have 6 barrels.

Place the barrels in cold water for 5 minutes to get rid of some starchiness. Dry them well with paper towels.


Heat the butter and oil over high heat in a heavy skillet. Using tongs, add the barrel potatoes to the butter and oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn down the flame to medium-high, and let the potato ends brown.

Meanwhile, have the chicken stock simmering on the stove, or somehow heated.

When the ends of the potatoes have browned, turn them over and repeat the browning, adding a little more salt and pepper, adjusting the heat as necessary.

When the ends of the potatoes are browned, pour in the hot chicken stock – carefully.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and let the potatoes cook for about 45 minutes.

When done, the potatoes should be nice and crispy on the outside but tender and fully cooked on the inside.

Place the potato barrels on a serving plate, and drizzle on the remaining butter-oil mixture, if you don’t mind that sort of thing. Sprinkle with thyme leaves.

Often a few sprigs of fresh thyme are in the butter while the potatoes are browning, but I opted for dried thyme.

Sneak a taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

I made these potatoes for a steak dinner, and I now know that I will be making them again – with or without the steak.

Note: The ends of my potatoes burnt a little, as you can tell in the photos, and the burning occurred in the oven. I didn’t mind the flavor but I don’t think they’re supposed to brown that much. I went through a lot of recipes to get an idea of how to make fondant potatoes, and some required the oven to be heated to 425 degrees F. I lowered the temp to 400 degrees F, but when I make these again, I’ll use a 375 degree oven.

Potato Halloumi Pancakes

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I’ve always enjoyed making savory vegetable pancakes. Thankfully my husband enjoys eating them, often right off the plate as I cook them.

My typical potato pancakes involve LOTS of potatoes, and very little flour. These are not pancakes with a little bit of potato. These are raw, grated potatoes with just enough flour to hold them together.

The other day I was shopping out-of-town and I happened upon goat Halloumi. So I had the idea to grate the Halloumi along with potatoes and make potato pancakes. I figured the Halloumi wouldn’t melt easily so the pancakes would have that lovely salty cheese flavor, but without the mess.

Here’s what I did.

Potato Halloumi Pancakes

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute
3 medium-sized white potatoes, scrubbed
6 ounces goat Halloumi
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
Flour, white or whole-wheat, about 3/4 cup
Butter, for frying

First place the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Whisk them together and set aside.


Grate the potatoes and add to the egg-milk mixture.


Grate the Halloumi and add to the potatoes.

Add the shallots, parsley, and black pepper, and stir well.

Add just enough flour to bind the ingredients. You are not making a dough, although it will not feel like traditional pancake batter either. Mostly it should not be runny.


Heat a large skillet or flat griddle over medium-high heat. Add a couple tabs of butter and let it melt. A little browning is good also.

Add a blob of the pancake batter to the skillet and spread it out slightly. It won’t be thin, but it can’t be too thick either. Continue with however many pancakes will cook in your skillet.

After about a minute or two, turn over the pancakes, and reduce the heat. This will allow the pancakes to brown on the other side as well, but also allow time to cook through. The total cooking time is about 6-7 minutes.

You must be patient; the potatoes can’t be served raw.

Continue cooking in batches.

Because I don’t require meat at a meal, I served the pancakes with a simple cherry tomato salad.

But of course, these would be fabulous with sausages!

The experiment with using Halloumi worked well. The slight melting of the cheese in the skillet was not problematic, and as a result it didn’t burn, which was my hope.

You could definitely taste the goatiness!

Potato pancakes like this are definitely best crispy on the outside, just out of the skillet. But it’s also fun to cook a big batch like this and reheat as needed.

This recipe makes about 14 – 3 1/2″ pancakes

Warm Mediterranean Salad

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There is a nice shopping mall about 2 hours away that I visit when I have to go to a mall. Well, truth be told, I probably only shop at Williams-Sonoma there, unless I’m Christmas shopping. Then I’m a bit more adventurous.

The mall has a nice restaurant that I go to because of the convenience. But it’s good! You’ll all probably be shocked that it’s a chain restaurant, called Pepperoni Grill.

The menu is nice, the restaurant is always clean, and the service great. Surprisingly great.

Oddly enough, I’ve always ordered the same thing, which is a warm Mediterranean Tortellini and Vegetable salad, served with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

I say this is odd, because typically, I would order something new on the menu. But, after 20+ years, I keep ordering this salad. It’s so good, so well prepared, and so satisfying.

Then I had the brilliant idea to replicate the salad at home. It doesn’t look exactly the same because the restaurant uses tricolor tortellini, but mine tasted just as good! Being that it’s not springtime, I opted for green beans instead of asparagus.

Warm Mediterranean Salad
inspired by Pepperoni Grill’s salad
Serves 12

Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:
2 pounds small, red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound trimmed green Beans
1 pound yellow squash, coarsely chopped
32 ounces cheese tortellini
10 uncles spring lettuces
Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, the kind stored in oil
Kalamata olives, drained, halved
Grated Parmesan

To prepare the vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients in a small blender jar. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt. Can be made a day ahead, but bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before making the salad.


The vegetables must be prepared separately for the salad, in order to have them all at the proper cook. It’s also best for all of the vegetables and the tortellini to be warm when served, so one must move quickly!

In a steamer basket, cook the potatoes just until tender. Place in a large bowl, toss with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and set aside. If you don’t like a lot of dressing, use some olive oil instead.


Cook the green beans in the steamer basket and add them to the potatoes. Toss together gently, adding a little more vinaigrette to keep the vegetables moist.

Do the same with the yellow squash, making sure not to overcook. Add to the potatoes and beans.

Cook the cheese tortellini according to package directions. Drain and let cool slightly.

Add the still warm tortellini to the vegetables. Add the desired amount of vinaigrette and and toss gently.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives to taste.

Then sprinkle on a generous amount of Parmesan. No mixing necessary.

Serve warm.

I like a lot of vinaigrette on my salads, but I’m aware that not everyone does. So when I suggest to add the desired amount of vinaigrette, that’s exactly what I mean!

My mother’s secret to a good potato salad was to always add some olive oil to the warm, just-cooked potatoes. So that’s what I did in this salad, using the vinaigrette instead of just olive oil, as well as adding some vinaigrette to the cooked tortellini. This keeps them moist and prevents sticking.

In anticipation of making this salad, I googled it to see if I was making something fairly unique or not. Turns out, there are tortellini/pasta salads, and there are potato salads. This salad really combines the two – a pasta salad with a significant amount of veggies.

The vegetables are along the lines of “primavera” vegetables, and can definitely be changed depending on what’s in season. Zucchini, broccoli, baby carrots, asparagus… all would be good. They could be grilled as well.

And of course this salad would be wonderful with grilled meat, but I prefer it the way it is.

So would I visit Pepperoni Grill for a special night out? No. But the fact that I can expect quality with what I’m ordering and enjoy a leisurely lunch, with a decent glass of wine, during a day of shopping, is really nice.