Potato Beet Salad

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In 1992, we took our young children to Grand Cayman island in the Caribbean. As all tourists do there, one day we took a boat out to swim with stingrays at Stingray City, followed by picnic on a beach of a local island.


So, what do I remember from this adventure? The creamy potato and beet salad. As well as fresh conch.

I have no Caribbean cuisine resources, so I decided to just make up the recipe. And it’s good.

What I enjoyed on that tropical beach was a tangy, earthy, creamy mixture of potatoes and beets. And now I can have that again, without the beach.

Potato and Beet Salad

6 medium-sized white potatoes, peeled or not
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 cans whole beets, lightly rinsed and well drained
2 shallots, minced
Chives, for serving
Hard-boiled egg halves, optional

Cut the potatoes into fairly uniform 1/2 – 3/4” size cubes. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Toss in the potato cubes and salt. Cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool in the colander.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Whisk until smooth and set aside.


Place the somewhat cooled potato cubes in the bowl with the mayo mixture and stir gently to combine. This allows the potatoes to absorb some of the creamy mixture.

Cube the beets into similar sized cubes as much as is possible, and toss into potato salad. I also let them sit on paper towels until I used them.

then add the shallots and fold in. Pinkness is okay, and will happen, but don’t overstir.


I actually used a ring to make the salad look less than it is – a creamy mess of a salad!


To serve, sprinkle the salad with chives.

Encircle the salad with egg halves, if desired.

I always think potato=based salads need more salt, so serve it as well.

Think of this salad with grilled shrimp, or chicken or sausage… just about anything.

Even beet haters, or people who think they dislike beets would love this salad. There’s nothing not to love!

I know it was almost 30 years ago when we took this vacation, but why do I look alien to myself?!! Who is that??!!!

Cacio e Pepe Salad

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At the end of a certain magazine about People, which I only read on planes and road trips, there are recipes provided typically by chefs, sometimes by celebrities. I seldom take notice, except when something unique really pops out, like David Chang’s bacon fried rice. And that was a HIT!

This time, it was a cacio e Pepe salad, which was intriguing, since it’s well known as a pasta dish.

The contributor is Stefano Secchi, who I’ve never heard of until now, but he chefs at the New York City restaurant Rezdôra, in the Flatiron district. Even though this is called a salad, he serves it as an appetizer.

I was only capable of taking these terrible photos when I initially saw the recipe, because I was in the back seat of a car headed to Nashville, but they were enough to piece together the recipe!

All I needed was Little Gem lettuce, and a girlfriend came through for me!


Cacio e Pepe Salad

1/4 cup canola oil
1 ounce Pecorino cheese, grated
1 ounce Parmesan, grated, plus 1/2 ounce shaved
1/2 cup water ( I used 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons mustard
4 heads Little Gem lettuce
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Process the oil with the grated cheeses, water, lemon juice and mustard, just until emulsified, about 20 seconds.

Spread about 3/4 cup of the dressing on the cut sides of lettuce halves on a plate.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on the pepper.


Add the shaved Parmesan.

So much like a Caesar salad, if truth be told, but oh so good.


Full disclosure: I subscribe to People magazine. Yes, I do.

Salad with Beans and Sausage

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I was recently reading some of my French cookbooks, with the intention of having a French food night with friends, hopefully sooner than later. I’ve previously done this with Indian and Chinese cuisines, serving about 8 different dishes each time, just for the love of those cuisines.

When I was reading Patricia Wells’s book Bistro Cooking, I spotted a recipe I’d bookmarked years ago. I just had to make it.

It’s a salad of dressed greens, topped with warm white beans, warm smoked sausage, then topped with pistachios and chives. Sounds incredible, right?!

From Ms. Wells, “I’m crazy about composed salads, anything with a healthy bed of greens, on which you layer a mixture of full-flavored ingredients.” She was inspired to create this salad after a “mid-fall lunch at Paris’s Quai d’Orsay.”

She recommends using lingots, French white beans, and saucisse de Morteau, sausage from the Jura. And she suggests a young red, just slightly chilled, perhaps a Saumur-Champigny from the Loire.


The closest I found were sausages from Toulouse, the same sausage used in Cassoulet, and I substituted flageolets for the lingots, cause they’re French and in my pantry and I couldn’t find the French ones, which are a white kidney bean. Who knew?!

Salads aux Lingots et Saucisse de Morteau Quai D’Orsay

Beans:
10 ounces dried white beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt

Dressing:
4 shallots, minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

Sausage:
10 ounces smoked pork sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
Several sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup dry white wine

Salad:
2 cups young curly endive, cleaned, dried, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup salted pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Rinse the beans. Place them in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove the pan from the heat. Set aside, covered, for 40 minutes. Drain the beans, discarding the cooking liquid. Rinse the beans and cover again with cold water. Add the oil, bay leaves, and thyme and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, about 1 hour. The beans should not be mushy, rather cooked through but firm. Add salt to taste.


Whisk the shallots with the lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream and whisk until blended. Season to taste. (I just used a jar.)

Drain the beans thoroughly. Add half of the dressing to the beans/ set aside and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, being careful not to pierce it. Add the thyme, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and wine, and bring just to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Drain. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the greens in a large, shallow salad bowl. Pour on the remaining dressing and toss gently.

Divide the greens among 4 large plates, spreading the greens out and pressing them down to lie flat. Place several spoonfuls of the beans in the center. Cut the sausage into thin slices. Arrange them in a fan-like fashion around the edge of the beans.

Sprinkle with the pistachios and chives.

Serve warm.

White beans would have definitely been prettier, but this salad was spectacular.

Strawberry Pie

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A while back I posted on Avocado Pie, a recipe given to me by a friend during my college years in the 70’s. He was one of three male classical musicians who shared a beautiful home in Santa Barbara, California.

I moved away from, S.B. in 1978, but retrospectively, I know one of them had the AIDS virus. It saddens me to think back on all of the beautiful and gifted gay men I’d known who most likely died from the horrid disease.

In this particular house there was also a young woman renter who was working on her PhD in Russian Literature. And oh, she was brilliant. I could talk to her for hours, soaking up her insane intelligence, all while listening to Beethoven’s Pathetique in the background…

It’s so sad that in my life I’ve moved so often, and maybe out of self-preservation, I’ve not been good at staying in touch. I so wish I could know where she is and what she became, because I know she’s somebody really special. But the reason I bring her up from this time in my life, is that we actually shared a joy of cooking. Or, maybe I should say I had a joy of eating, because I hadn’t started cooking seriously yet.

And it is from this girlfriend that I got her hand-written recipe for strawberry pie. (Isn’t it funny that some brilliant people have the worst handwriting?!)


The crust is made with saltines. I remember being a bit skeptical, since I was already a food snob at 20; my only familiarization with saltines was that they were for sick people. But once I tasted the pie, I knew it was a keeper.


Strawberry Pie with Walnut-Saltine Crust

Crust:
17 saltines, crushed
1 cup white sugar
Approximately 1 cup walnut halves, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla powder
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a deep-dish pie pan. And I mean grease the hell out of it.

Place the crushed saltines in a medium bowl. Add the white sugar, chopped walnuts and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, place the egg whites, and using an electric mixer, whip the whites until peaks form. Add the saltines, sugar, walnuts, and vanilla, and using a spatula, fold everything together.

Place the mixture in the pie pan, and spread around to shape into a crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes; crust should be firm.

Let the crust fully cool before continuing with the pie filling.

Filling:
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces whipping cream

Place the berries in a medium-sized bowl and toss with the sugar. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Place the cream in the crust, overlapping the sides. I used a whipper, hoping the cream would look better. It didn’t.


“Plop” the strawberries on top and serve immediately.


What I forgot is how challenging it is to get a slice of pie intact onto a plate. What a mess.


Next time I might form the crust into a 10” disc, baked on greased parchment. Or maybe even cut out squares to serve as a “cookie” served with the strawberries and cream. Ideas?


The slightly sweetened strawberries plus the cream, plus the nutty meringue crust pieces – fabulous.

Maybe I should put this recipe in the “Why I Don’t Bake” category!

Split Pea Soup

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Split pea soup. Easy. Cheap. Satisfying. Healthy. Well, depending how much sour cream you dollop on top…

My husband reminded me that he could eat split pea soup every day. The foods I could eat every day are in a very different category, but this soup is what he loves, so I make it for him, although obviously not often enough… and why not? For 99 cents and a little time, a hearty soup is hardly an effort. Plus some ham hocks.


Even though the weather is getting warmer, split pea soup with ham is still a springtime soup in my mind, but certainly satisfying during cold months as well. Here is a recipe I used to make my husband happy.(Trust me, he’s never unhappy with the many meals I continue to prepare for him. But I do like cooking for an appreciative soul.)


Split Pea Soup with Ham

16 ounces dried split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ham hocks
8 ounces diced ham
Sour cream, optional

Soak the split peas in warm water for about 4 hours, then drain before starting the recipe.

Add the olive oil and butter to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it a stir, then immediately add the soaked split peas and chicken stock. The broth or stock should cover the peas by at least 1/2 inch.


Add the seasoning, and bring the stock to a boil. Place the 2 ham hocks in with the peas, cover the pot, then simmer the peas for about 45 minutes; you can’t overcook the split peas.

Let the soup cool, either overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Remove the hocks and try to remove all of the ham bits from the bones. Set aside to use as garnish. If you choose, use an immersion blender to blend the soup smoother. It’s just prettier that way, but optional.

Add the diced ham to the soup, and heat. Then taste for seasoning.

Serve the hot soup with sour cream and the chopped smoked ham.

This soup could also be made with chopped carrots and/or potatoes.

When my daughters left home, they knew how to cook a pot of legumes, lentils, beans, and split peas. I think I taught them that cooking doesn’t have to cost a fortune, as well as the fact that home cooking isn’t difficult.

Salmon Rillettes

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There are many salmon recipes on this blog, because of all fish varieties, salmon is my favorite. It’s such a versatile protein – one that goes beyond basic grilling, poaching, or smoking.

A while back I had a dilemma facing me with two leftover salmon filets. And this is how my salmon rillettes recipe was created.

Salmon Rillettes
Makes about 24 ounces of rillettes

1 or 2 salmon filets, approximately 12 ounces total, pin bones removed
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
Fresh chopped parsley, about 3 tablespoons

Rinse and dry the salmon filet. Bring it to room temperature if it’s not already. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the salmon by browning it on the flesh side first. The browned butter will help color the salmon.

Turn it over, lower the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the salmon is medium rare, about 6 minutes total, depending on the thickness. Turn off the heat.


While the fish is still in the skillet remove the skin and discard. Using a spatula, chop up the salmon coarsely. Let cool slightly.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and white pepper. Beat until smooth.

Fold in the sautéed salmon, along with the butter from the skillet, as well as the smoked salmon. Try to keep some of the pieces of salmon in tact. At the last minute, add the parsley, gently “pushing” it into the salmon and cheese mixture.

Place in a jar or serving dish, and serve with bread or crackers.

These rillettes are definitely best just made, still slightly warm. If they must be refrigerated, bring them to room temperature before serving.

Rye crackers or bread are fabulous with anything salmon.


Rillettes of pork, or those made from duck or goose are almost purely meat, softly ground to make spreadable.

These salmon rillettes contain some cream cheese and goat cheese for creaminess. If you want “meatier” rillettes, cut back on the cream cheese. The important thing with rillettes is that they’re soft and spreadable.

Brie with Roasted Strawberries

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I am a cheese-aholic. I love stinky cheese the best, if I was forced to choose. My favorite stinky cheeses would include Époisses, Reblochon, Délices, and raclette. The ones I love the best tend to be washed rind cows’ milk cheeses.

However, there’s also nothing much more appealing to me than ooey, gooey cheeses – baked cheeses or those gently warmed. Brie and Camembert come to mind, but feta and goat cheeses serve the same lovely purpose. Why they’re so much fun to me is that you can change up the toppings, and really create seasonal presentations as well. I’ve made baked Brie with sautéed mushrooms in the fall, and also one topped with tomatillos in the summer. It all works!

Years ago I made something similar to what I’m doing with strawberries here, but with cherries, and the result was outstanding.

I prefer savory toppings, or at least partially savory. Lots of restaurants serve baked brie topped with honey, and that’s just too sweet for me. So for my roasted strawberries, I grabbed a fun product my daughter bought me – black pepper simple syrup. I’ve only used it on roasted Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving. The black pepper flavor was there, but also a sweetness.

Brie with Roasted Strawberries

2 cups strawberries, approximately 12 ounces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons black pepper simple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 pound Brie, approximately 5.5” across

Preheat oven to 375 convection roast, or to 400 degrees F. Chop the strawberries.

In a small baking dish, combine the olive oil, syrup, and salt, then add the strawberries and toss to coat.

Roast the berries for about 15 minutes.

Place the brie on an oven-proof serving dish. Gently heat the Brie using your microwave, or if you prefer, your oven. You just want to warm the Brie, not cook it; actrual baking of the brie isn’t necessary.


Top the Brie with the roasted strawberries, and serve with crackers or bread slices.

This brie was so good my husband actually devoured it!

If you don’t have the black pepper simple syrup, you could use a mild syrup like maple syrup and add some cayenne pepper.


Or, you can mix the roasted strawberries with a chutney and then add some white pepper.

Green Goddess Chicken Salad

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I discovered this recipe at the Food and Wine website. It’s a recipe for a salad with green goddess dressing, by Melissa Rubel Jacobson.

Green goddess is a really wonderful dressing that uses lots of fresh herbs, which accounts for the green color. Sometimes an avocado is included as well. According to Food and Wine, the dressing was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920’s, as a tribute to an actor starring in a play called The Green Goddess. Never heard of it, but it’s slightly before my time.

Today I’m following Ms. Jacobson’s recipe for green goddess dressing, but not so much her salad.

Create any kind of salad you want with your favorite ingredients, and drizzle on the beautiful green goddess dressing, which I made exactly as printed. It’s good!

Green Goddess Chicken Garden Salad
Moderately Adapted

Dressing:
2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or chopped
1 head romaine or butter lettuce, chopped
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
Approximately 1/2 garbanzo beans, well drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Peas or asparagus, optional
Hard-boiled eggs, optional

In a blender, purée mayonnaise with the herbs, lemon juice, and chives until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

This makes approximately 1 cup of dressing.


For the salad, there are so many options for preparing and serving. I chose to create a composed salad, just because they’re pretty.


Alternatively, you could combine chopped chicken, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes with some of the dressing, and serve on top of the lettuce and cabbage.


But that’s not as pretty, especially if you have company.


Just about any salad ingredient that goes well with an herby dressing will work perfectly.

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce

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A while back I saw a recipe for lamb meatballs, cooked in a red sauce. It really appealed to me because I love lamb. And, I think I could eat shoe soles cooked in red sauce.


But did I print this recipe? Or even take notes as to where I found it? Stupidly no, although I’m typically organized about such important things as recipes.

So I’m creating the recipe for slightly Greek-inspired lamb balls, baked in a red sauce, along with goat cheese. The meat balls are gently seasoned with oregano, allspice, and a hint of cinnamon.

Lamb Balls in Red Sauce with Goat Cheese
Makes about 36 meatballs

Approximately 42 ounces favorite red sauce or simple Marinara
2 pounds ground lamb
3 eggs, mixed well
1/3 cup panko crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Panko bread crumbs, approximately 1/2 cup
10-12 ounces soft goat cheese
Freshly chopped parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the red sauce into a 9 x 13″ baking dish; set aside

In a medium bowl, mix together the lamb, egg, panko crumbs, parsley, salt, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper.

In a large skillet, (you’ll be using it for another purpose), sauté the onion over medium-low heat until soft. Stir in the garlic, then remove the skillet from the burner. Let the mixture cool, then add to the lamb mixture.

Using the same skillet, add approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Have a bowl of panko crumbs next to the meatball mixture. Form the lamb into medium-sized meatballs, I used a 1 1/2” scoop, roll in the bread crumbs, then sauté them in the skillet, about 8-10 at a time.


When the balls have browned well on all sides, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the skillet and place them in the baking dish with the red sauce. This should only take about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.

Repeat with remaining meatballs. If you have any bread crumbs leftover you can sprinkle them over the meatballs in the red sauce.

Bake the meatballs for approximately 20-25 minutes and remove the baking dish from the oven. Turn off the oven.

Add the goat cheese to the meatballs, adding a generous tablespoons interspersed amongst them, eturn the baking dish to the oven to allow the cheese to melt, approximately 10-15 minutes.


Before serving, sprinkle the lamb balls with freshly chopped parsley.


Serve directly from the baking dish, if desired, along with crusty bread.

Make sure there’s a generous amount of red sauce served with the lamb balls.

If desired, the meatballs and red sauce can be served over pasta or polenta, but today I used pasta.

The meatballs are tender, with a slight crunchy firmness on the outside.

The goat cheese is spectacular with the lamb and red sauce.

The crusty bread is a must!

Fancy Deviled Eggs

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My daughters always loved deviled eggs, so I used to make them often at Easter and other holidays. Now that they’re grown and gone, I realized I haven’t made them in years!

I typically made them with mayonnaise and sour cream, and sometimes a smidgen of Dijon mustard. But deviled egg filling is something with which you can get really creative. You can add herbs like basil or parsley, or chives, chopped pickles or sun-dried tomato bits, and so forth.

Today I’m making deviled eggs with smoked salmon. And, I’m adding some capers. For this recipe, make sure to buy small, unsalted capers.

To make these eggs, I’m also testing out a gadget I bought after seeing it on Instagram.

These are silicone egg cookers. Because I purchase the freshest eggs available, the shells are sometimes nearly impossible to remove, and that makes me crazy.

Here are the directions for the egg cookers: Crack, Boil, Pop. You can make eggs hard- or soft-boiled, or even create egg-shaped omelets. Why I’m not sure, but maybe kiddos would like them.

No directions came in the box. I started water on the stove. I wiped a few drops of olive oil in the cookers, then cracked an egg in each of them. The cookers don’t remove the shells for you, there just aren’t any shells.

When the water was at a full boil I added all 6 of the egg cookers.

I have no idea if they’re supposed to stay upright or fill up with water.

After 15 minutes I removed one and it seemed firm, but it wasn’t. I ate it like the soft-boiled egg that it was.

And then I gave up, threw everything away, and made eggs the old-fashioned way. I can’t tell you how I cook my eggs, and I hadn’t been prepared to write it down because I had these “fabulously innovative” egg cookers.

But I bring eggs to a boil, let them boil a bit, turn off the heat, wait a while, then submerge them in ice water. My head tells me when they’re ready.

So make hard-boil eggs your way. And do not buy this product. Fortunately it was only $8.99.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Capers
printable recipe below

8 large high-quality eggs, hard-boiled, chilled
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
2 ounces smoked salmon, or to taste
1 ounce drained capers
Finely chopped shallots, optional
Sweet paprika, optional

Peel the hard-boiled eggs. There seems to always be one bastard in the bunch that won’t peel, which is why if I want them to look pretty, I typically boil a couple of extra eggs.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise, using a Sharp knife. Keep the knife clean between eggs by wiping it with a paper towel.

The next step is to gently squeeze the egg half to loosen the yolk. Place the yolks in a medium bowl.

Once you’re done, use a fork to mash the yolks. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and mash until smooth.

Finely chop the salmon and fold in gently.

Place the egg white halves on a serving platter. Using a small spoon, carefully place a teaspoon or so at a time into the center. Try not to make a mess, which I usually do because I’m hurrying.

Right before serving, sprinkle some capers on each egg. If you really like caper flavor, you can include some in the egg yolk mixture.

Finely diced shallots are another possible topping for these fancy deviled eggs. It usually depends on my company whether or not I use raw shallots.

Serve at room temperature. These are really good with champagne or rosé, and with a charcuterie platter.

Tasting the egg filling is important, because both smoked salmon and capers are salty.

This is a photo I happened upon online of Bobby Flay’s deviled eggs with smoked trout. I don’t think it’s as pretty as using smoked salmon, but it’s certainly an option, and I love options.

I promise I will never buy another product I see advertised on Instagram.