Tag Archives: Make Ahead

Potato Salad with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing

I grew up loving my mother’s potato salad.  It was a simple mixture of boiled and peeled russet potatoes she cut into cubes then added chopped onion, celery, hard boiled eggs, and pickles.  The dressing wasn’t fancy — a generous dollop of mayonnaise mixed with enough juice from the pickle jar to make it tangy and tasty.  I’m thinking garlic salt was involved.  Me?

I don’t have a go to potato salad recipe because I’m more of a green salad lover.  But when the hubster’s sister invited us to spend a day at the beach with her this summer while they were camping there, I thought potato salad was in order.

I knew they wouldn’t have refrigeration, so needed to make something that wouldn’t spoil.  And then there was the consideration of continuing to make dishes that I could cut out as many bad calories as possible.  Is that possible when the main ingredient is potato?  Something easy, fresh, and with a bit of a tang.  Not quite German potato salad, but trying hard to get there.

If you need a salad for a weekend get together, then give Potato Salad with Bacon and Buttermilk Dressing a try.  Putting your own spin on it is always a good thing.

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Southwest Tomato Gazpacho

For the past five years or so, my very best friend and I have diligently gone to Tomatomania each April when it comes to town.  We may have missed a year somewhere in that time, but still buy tomato plants elsewhere so we can make like suburban farmers and enjoy our own home grown, warmed by the sun orbs of summer lusciousness.  I have to fess up and say my friend’s plot is quite huge so she can let her tomato plants grow wildly over the sunny terraced hillside behind her house, whereas I am only a poser who keeps two large pots near the side of my house.  And if those tomato plants are lucky, they’ll get most of the sun they’re supposed to have.  I’ve had good years, and then I’ve had not so good years — like this year.

My plants are tall and scraggly, have been producing lots of blossoms, but very few tomatoes.  Yes, they’ve been appropriately watered and fertilized.  I even remembered to plant them making sure the first sprout of leaves was buried.  I tried egg shells around the stems this year, too, and ironically, this is the first year I’ve had stems rot.  I’m about ready to rip them out of their pots to plant something else.  However, my friend is having a bumper crop.

After paying $6 for a gorgeous heirloom tomato at one of our fabulous farmer’s markets last Sunday, she called to say she wanted to drop off some tomatoes, then the very next day sent me home with more.  What does one do with so many tomatoes outside of occasionally enjoying one sliced and lightly salted?

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Simple Green Bean Corn and Tomato Salad with Vinaigrette

I often hear others say they don’t like salad.  My first reaction is, really?  How can someone not like salad?  And then I wonder if the person is suffering from the idea that salad involves a head of lettuce and a few tomatoes slathered in bottled white creamy dressing and understand.  That would get old quickly.  But salad doesn’t have to involve lettuce.  I think the first time the idea of salad without lettuce was presented to me was when we lived in Spain.  Thinly sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes were arranged on a big plate and drizzled with a light dressing of water, vinegar, and olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  It was delicious.  Over the years, each time my mother made this salad, she added sliced red and green peppers to the mix and would allow it to sit so the vegetables could marinate a bit.  We loved this salad in the summer, picking at it as we went in and out of the house on hot days.  The crunchy, briny vegetables were always a treat and we never tired of them prepared that way.

We eat salad all year long unless I’m going through one of my lazy streaks when doing something a bit different with a salad takes more time than I am interested in giving it.  That’s deplorable when you consider that it doesn’t take much to be creative if you’ve got the right ingredients on hand — and I usually do.  We’re lucky to have an extremely long growing season here, and with Mexico just to the south, are able to benefit from what is grown there when it isn’t available here.  Our farmer’s markets keep locally grown vegetables and fruit available every day of the week in communities around San Diego all year long so there’s no excuse not to be creative with a salad.

Some of our favorite flavor combinations are derived from classic combos:  basil, tomato and mozzarella; tomato, avocado, jalapenos, and cilantro; bacon, lettuce, tomato, and blue cheese; cucumbers, onions, roasted peppers, kalamatas, and feta.  When we want to add something more substantial to our salads, then prosciutto is added to the basil tomato combo.  Grilled shrimp, chicken, or steak can be added to the second.  White beans added to the third.  It’s fun to mix and match everything sometimes to make sure there’s a nice balance of crunch to creamy, and tart to sweet.

In the extreme heat of summer, a good salad can be a one dish meal.  All you need is fresh tender crisp ingredients, a good vinaigrette and a bit of creativity.

If you’re just home from work and not relishing the idea of prepping all the vegetables then get all the ingredient possibilities out of the fridge and put everyone to work.  Pour a cool beverage to sip while you’re prepping and talk about the day.  If you’ve got picky eaters in the house, the place the ingredients in separate bowls, salad bar style — but make the best possible combo on a plate first and allow the others to see it to give them the idea of what is possible.  Make a big deal over the art of a perfectly loaded fork.  If you don’t have converts after a few sessions, then at least you’ll have had fun in the process.

This simple green bean corn and tomato salad is a simple combination of summer vegetables that is perfect for a barbeque, picnic, or just to have ready for a hot day when even plugging in the slow cooker is more than you can deal with.

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Crab Stacks with Ginger Lime Dressing

If the end of January is approaching then I know I can expect a variety of things:  emails from sites I subscribe to sharing the perfect Super Bowl snacks, bloggers swapping their tried and true party dish faves, and people talking about whether they’re planning on a game day get together or not.  None of it has been discussed in our house yet, because we’ve been busy, busy, busy with life enjoying a long weekend making like tourists in West Hollywood, soaking up the last bits of our youngest’s company before he returns to San Francisco for the spring semester, celebrating family birthdays and anniversaries, and in the past couple of days, nursing one of our cats back to health after a run in with a neighbor’s kitty.  Goodness!  And it’s not over yet.  Any time now, my husband will ask about what’s on our  Super Bowl agenda.  It always seems to be a last minute sort of thing most years, and that’s just fine with me because it doesn’t take too much thought to decide which snacks football fans will expect to have at their fingertips whether they’re for our small family, or a larger group.

I doubt there has ever been a time we haven’t had fresh salsa or pico de gallo with guacamole and tortilla chips.  A pot of chili with all the fixin’s and a salad for halftime eats are also the norm even though the chili recipe varies from one year to the next.  But I’m also known for sneaking in something that may raise eyebrows, causing certain guests to cast one another a nervous glance before pointing and asking, “What is that?” then politely suppressing the urge to continue with, “Do I have to eat it?”  as they reel their fingers back in.  Actually, they now ask, “How do I eat it?” because it seems my food often has rules that accompany it — or must seem like it does.   Is it supposed to be dipped, or layered?  Which of the ingredients on the plate create the best bite?  Is it finger food, or do I need a plate and fork?  To their credit, they seem much more enthusiastic than they did years ago, so I know my risks to encourage people to try something new haven’t failed, and that makes me happy.

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Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

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