Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gourmet Oils and Vinegars

At last year’s Connoisseur’s Marketplace in Menlo Park, I discovered a vendor of oils and vinegars that really impressed me. I was originally searching for Meyer lemon olive oil, but after I tried most of the flavors, I went home with quite a few of my favorites. I selected dipping sauces, specialty olive oils and flavored balsamic vinegars. Pastamoré is distributed in California by Nan’s Gourmet Foods. This year I added even more of their products to my collection. I use the fig and the pomegranate balsamic vinegars frequently for salad dressings and marinades. The new blackberry balsamic vinegar is great with fresh blackberries over vanilla or homemade balsamic ice cream.

For an easy summer entrée, we grilled zucchini, yellow squash, onions, red peppers and boneless chicken breast brushed with the Meyer lemon olive oil. I served the mixture over the new Pastamoré Artichoke Hearts linguine tossed with a little more of the same olive oil. Add Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme for a colorful dinner on the patio.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday Night, Late

My mother wasn’t much of a cook. She could have been, she had the skills, but she wasn't interested. She was coerced into teaching the cooking badge to my Girl Scout troop when I was in the fifth grade and she did an excellent job. She taught us basic cooking skills like how to measure solids and scrape the measuring cup with the back of a straight knife, when and how to sift flour and the importance of following the recipe when baking. I think she grew up with very little money and her sense of frugality never allowed her to find pleasure in cooking or eating. Being a working mother of three children probably didn’t help either.

When my mother died, we had only four days to empty her apartment. It felt like we were erasing her life. We sold/donated/discarded and otherwise disposed of most everything. I packed just a few special items to ship home to California. When my box arrived, I was unhappy to see that my husband had slipped in other items he thought I’d want later. We already have a problem with too much “stuff” at our house.

One item Larry packed was my mother’s recipe box. For the first time, tonight, when I couldn’t sleep, I looked inside the recipe box. I’m sure she never made most of the recipes on the magazine and newspaper clippings or the typed or handwritten index cards in the box. We shared only two recipes that I could find – two that I had requested from her over 30 years ago. A squash casserole and a strawberry jello salad. Maybe she made a couple of others for church potlucks and a few of the cookies sounded familiar. She did like to bake cookies at Christmas for her neighbors. I also found a recipe in my grandmother’s handwriting, which was a pleasant surprise.

Today is the 5 year anniversary of my mother’s death. And I just realized it was also my grandson’s due date. I am so glad he arrived early and did not have to share the date with her. It was so difficult to leave him and return home just a few days after his birth. Maybe I’m not just suffering from my version of post-partum depression having to leave this child who began laughing at four days old. Maybe I’m missing my mother, too.

I’ll keep the recipe box. Maybe I’ll try a recipe or two for the fun of it. My mother didn’t spend much time with my son, but I’m hoping I’ll spend far more time with his son. Maybe I’ll even teach him how to cook. At least I can show him how we collected recipes in the days before there were computers, by keeping his great-grandmother’s recipe box.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Breakfast Treat

I am still in Southern California with my new four day old grandson. He takes after his mother – he is already laughing. Prying myself away today is going to be difficult. I’ve spent so much time admiring him, I’ve done little else in recent days. But we did go out for breakfast this morning. There were plenty of choices near our hotel and we settled on a local chain called Eggs "n" Things. Located in a strip mall, like everything else here, I didn’t expect much personality from the restaurant. But it was light and airy and the aroma of pancake syrup wafted through the air when we first stepped inside. Off to a good start!

I was pleasantly surprised to be treated to a Swedish pancake after we placed our order. A pancake is too large to qualify as an amuse bouche, but I’m not complaining. When’s the last time you got a special surprise in a chain breakfast restaurant??!!
I ordered banana nut pancakes, since I’ve been on a pancake binge lately. Note: Donuts do not qualify as a binge since they are a permanent craving. I forgot to ask if they actually put the bananas and nuts in the batter the way I like it. As you can see, they did not. Plain pancakes with stuff on top. Nevertheless, it was pretty good and I couldn’t eat it all the serving was so large. I think my pancake cravings will be satisfied for a while.

We’ll head home today and I’ll be back to the kitchen, etc. Missed the farmers’ market this week, so I have no idea what we’ll find to cook and eat on returning home. We’re not likely to go hungry.

Friday, July 23, 2010

More Donut Paradise

Today I am in Southern California again, greeting the arrival of my son’s first child – my grandson. It was such a joy to meet him within an hour of his birth. I am completely mesmerized. I spent hours yesterday holding him, just watching him sleep.

You may recall that I was not pleased when my son and his wife decided to leave the beach and move inland. But my dismay was somewhat relieved when I discovered there was a Paciugo’s gelato shop very near our hotel. We stopped there last night. I had a combo of cinnamon and Texas pecan caramel sea salt. Mmmmm good.

Just before our departure for SoCal on very short notice, I had read someone’s blog post about a donut shop in Westwood. Turns out, they have a second shop on the same street as our hotel! Gelato, donuts, I’m starting to like it here more and more. Stan’s Doughnuts has been around for nearly 40 years feeding others like me who have a donut addicton.

So in my continuing saga of the search for donut perfection (see previous Donut Paradise), or at least an adventure trying new donut shops, we headed for Stan’s this morning around 9am. Clearly we were late arrivals since many of the shelves and racks were already empty.

We selected six donuts to try. A couple of standards for comparison to regular favorites and some new varieties. A chocolate covered cake, cinnamon crumb, regular glazed, plain cake, orange glazed cake and this decadent looking orange cinnamon glazed buttermilk torpedo shaped thing. Taste testing must be accompanied by milk and coffee.

Overall, our taste test was enjoyable. But have you ever really had a bad donut? The plain glazed didn’t quite meet my standard for fluffiness – I like them like air surrounded by the sugary glaze. That cranberry orange buttermilk was heavy as a rock and really sweet. Tasty, but I couldn't eat much. It made the plain cake taste really good in contrast. Normally I don’t like icing on a donut, but the orange glaze on the cake donut was excellent. The glaze was really fresh and tangy. Compared to iconic Randy’s Donuts near LAX, I might like Stan’s a little better. Maybe we’ll go back at 6am and see what we missed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Balsamic Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce

I had no idea that Sunday was National Ice Cream Day. I didn’t even know that such an event existed until I read about it on several other bloggers’ posts from Sunday. Apparently in 1984, Ronald Reagan decreed the third Sunday in July would be National Ice Cream Day. I have no objection. As far as I’m concerned every day could be an ice cream day.

But as it happened, we had already made ice cream on Sunday, even before I learned of the day’s special status. I had been eyeing a recipe for Balsamic Ice Cream in a new cookbook acquisition, Oils & Vinegars by Liz Franklin. After loving the olive oil and black pepper gelato at Pacciugo’s, I thought we might like balsamic ice cream as well. Unfortunately, I left the whole milk off the grocery list and since I only drink non-fat milk, we had to do a little improvising. No harm done. A mixture of non-fat milk and heavy cream worked nicely instead. We used    1 5/8 c heavy cream and 3/8 c non-fat milk.The resulting ice cream was delightfully rich, creamy and smooth. Is your mouth watering yet? Here is the recipe with some editing based on what I know about ice cream making.

Balsamic Ice Cream with Crushed Strawberries

½ c sugar
3 egg yolks
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 ¼ c cream
¾ c whole milk
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Crushed Strawberries (I made a far smaller amount of sauce for just the two of us, so this is my version)

6 large strawberries hulled
½ tsp sugar
2 tsp framboise

Beat the sugar, egg yolks and vinegar with electric mixer until thick and creamy. Heat the milk/cream mixture in saucepan until simmering. Remove from heat and stir into the egg mixture, starting by first whisking a tablespoon at a time of the simmering milk so as not to curdle the eggs. After a few spoonfuls, continue to slowly add the warm milk mixture to the eggs while continuing to whisk. Return to the pan and stir over very low heat until slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface of the liquid mixture to prevent formation of a skin. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours.

Before transferring mixture to ice cream maker, add coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Transfer to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions to churn, etc. You may need to remove from ice cream maker and store in the freezer prior to serving.

For the strawberry sauce, put the strawberries in a small blender and puree to desired consistency. Add sugar and framboise. Serve sauce over ice cream in chilled glasses.

The strawberry sauce is interesting. I’d never used framboise before and I have to say I’m not sure it was worth the expense. For the small amount that I used, $9 seems pretty excessive. I mistakenly thought framboise was strawberry liqueur and would keep for a while, but it turns out it’s a malt beverage with raspberries added. The bottle says, “..a beer of exceptional flavor and complexity."  I don’t like beer so that could be part of my hesitation. Topping the balsamic ice cream, the tart, fizzy sauce was almost eerie. It had a serious bite to it. I think I would prefer one of my standard fruit sauces, or even just pureed fruit. I like peaches and blackberries with balsamic vinegar, so they would be great on the balsamic ice cream also. But I must admit I made the strawberry sauce again tonight for a second serving and my husband is actually drinking the rest of the raspberry beer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heirloom Heaven

The heirloom tomatoes are finally arriving in volume at the farmers’ market. The “Tomato Guy,” as I call him, says his are all about two weeks behind schedule due to the cooler than usual weather this year. But he had a good selection today and so did several other vendors. Today was the Tomato Guy's first day of the season at the market and I wasn’t the only one really excited to see him.

In the summer, our standard Sunday lunch is heirloom tomato salad, cheese and an herb roll from Acme bakery. Sometimes Larry stands in a really long line to get that one 70¢ roll. Today the tomatoes included Purple Cherokee, Black Brandywine, Green Zebra, an orange and a pink one that weren’t labeled and one called Caltrans. I’m pretty sure Caltrans is not an heirloom! In addition to our usual lemon cucumber, we also purchased a cucumber new to us, the Armenian white. One stand had samples to try and I loved its lacy edges. I keep the heirloom salad simple and just put salt and pepper, a little red spring onion, lots of basil and a mixture of high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s the individual flavors of each tomato variety that I love and this simple preparation allows them to shine through. Doesn't the salad look beautiful?!!

It was a banner day at the market in addition to purchasing the tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet basil (mine isn’t ready to pick yet), we also came home with blackberries, strawberries, corn, figs, and lots of peaches and nectarines. I’m going to try Chef Dennis’s Peach Blueberry Custard Pie minus the blueberries and the crust and see if it will work more like a pudding. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Electrolux #splits: Banana Split Tonight

On my way home from work the other day, I was thinking I should write about ice cream. It’s summer, and it’s pretty hot for Northern California, so it’s definitely ice cream season. My VERY pregnant daughter-in-law called and she was eating ice cream. It must be destiny. When I opened my email, I had a notice from FoodBuzz to their Featured Publishers (and I’m one of those) with a banana split blog post challenge as a fund raiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. On Monday, there will be a Top 9 Takeover where all nine of the featured posts on will be about banana splits.

I know about banana splits and unfortunately I know about ovarian cancer. Too many women have ovarian cancer and often it has spread before they know about it. Progress in both early detection and treatment is needed. So if you go to and click on the link, you can create a virtual banana split. For every virtual banana split, Electrolux will donate a dollar to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. And for each Featured Publisher who submits a post, FoodBuzz will donate $50, up to $5000. Check it out and support ovarian cancer research.

So much for virtual banana splits. How about the real thing! When I was in college, I used to go to the local ice cream shop and have a banana split as my lunch. I had very little money for food and I decided with a banana, the nuts and the calcium from the ice cream involved, at least there was some nutritional value in the pleasure of a banana split.

I am very particular about how to build a banana split. And the banana cannot actually be split. I don’t like looking at all those seeds, end to end on the banana. The banana has to be sliced into rounds. The ice cream on top is one scoop each of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Next comes the toppings – chocolate sauce on the vanilla, marshmallow sauce on the chocolate and crushed pineapple on the strawberry. My nuts of choice are toasted almonds. And I don’t like maraschino cherries or whipped cream (am I weird, or what?), so forget that.

But for this special banana split, I had to take my husband into consideration, since I couldn’t manage the whole thing alone. So I made some compromises. He wanted strawberry sauce, so I ditched the canned crushed pineapple and we used pureed fresh strawberries. I also decided to switch out the marshmallow cream sauce for butterscotch, top it all with the toasted almonds and roasted Williams Sonoma handmade vanilla marshmallows. Yum! I revived that college tradition and we split a banana split for dinner.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Meatless Not Monday, but Tuesday

For some reason, going meatless on Monday just never seems to work out. We ate so much at the churrascuria on Saturday night, I had no interest in meat on Sunday, or again Monday. But when I was ready to prepare dinner on Monday night, my husband objected to the menu. He said he was HUNGRY and did not want a vegetarian meal. So we had meat on Monday and it was meatless Tuesday instead.

Once again, my friend Bina has provided new Indian recipe inspiration. She brought me a bag of spice mix that I am now calling Bina’s Magic Indian Spice. She said she might tell me how to make it, if we like it. And we did. Bina said my recent post about fresh corn reminded her of her favorite way to prepare corn on the cob, so we tried it tonight. Grill the corn until charred. Slice a lemon in half and dip the cut edge in the spice mixture. Then squeeze the spice covered lemon on the corn. Larry described the flavor as “compelling.” It was a perfect mixture of sweet corn, acid from the lemon and HOT from the spices, all rolled into one bite. Either I have to get the recipe for the spice mix or Bina will just have to be my perpetual supplier. And she’s admitted she does like being the subject of my posts!

To go with the spicy corn on the cob, we made grilled Portobello mushroom "burgers". I used my favorite recipe from a 10 year old Bon Apetit magazine. This time I made some adjustments, adding Indian spices to the red pepper mayonnaise to complement the flavors of the corn. It was an excellent match and there were no complaints about a vegetarian dinner for the second time this week.

Grilled Portobello “Burger” with Red Pepper Mayonnaise

Red Pepper Mayo
1/2 c drained roasted red peppers from jar
1/4 c light mayonnaise
1 clove garlic chopped
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Dash of cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

Portobello “Burger”
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
4 thick slices of red onion
4 slices of crusty bread
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Arugula (or spinach)

Spray mushrooms and onions with olive oil spray; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender. Grill or toast bread.

Mix 2 Tbsp of the red pepper mayonnaise with rice vinegar and whisk together in bowl. Add arugula and toss to coat. To assemble “burger”, place toast on plate, top with arugula mixture, grilled mushroom, then onion, and top with 2 Tbsp of red pepper mayonnaise.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brazilian Barbecue - Churrascuria

We first dined at a churrascuria in a small seaside village in Brazil. We walked to the restaurant on cobblestone streets a few blocks from our hotel. There were no cars on the streets. The cooking was done inside the building and all the seating was on the patio outside. A full moon, warm ocean breezes and Brazilian soft pop music (in Portuguese, of course) set the scene for this dinner. A large platter of grilled meats was delivered to our table. Lamb, pork and beef, cooked several different ways. Traditional Brazilian accompaniments were included – fruit juice, green salad, malagueta pepper salsa, beans, rice, bread, sliced tropical fruits and some of the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten. I asked about the potatoes and understood enough Portuguese to learn that it was a combination of yucca and potatoes that made it so good. I don’t know if this was “all you can eat”, but we certainly had more than we could eat for the equivalent of about $40 American money.

Maybe if we had been in Rio or Sao Paulo, the churrascuria would have been more like our dining experience at Pampas in Palo Alto. The restaurant interior was crisp and modern and the entertainment provided by a jazz trio. We chose to order the rodizio, which means you get unlimited access to the side bar accompaniments, as well as all the grilled meats.

There was a large selection of salads, fruits, cheeses and vegetables on the side bar, many that I wouldn’t think of as Brazilian, such as tabouleh. But my traditional Brazilian dining is mostly limited to Bahian cuisine, which is a very specific regional style, unlike the rest of the country. I passed on the ordinary salad and vegetable choices on the side bar and found some real favorites in the coconut sweet potatoes, mango slaw and tropical fruit salad.

I also tried most of the grilled meats that came my way, as well as the grilled abacaxi (pineapple). It was some of the best pineapple I’ve eaten. All the meats I sampled were well seasoned and nicely cooked. My favorites were the picanha (top sirloin) and fraldinha (skirt steak). The maminha (tri-tip) was my least favorite as it was a little tough and not as flavorful as the other cuts.

The service at Pampas was excellent. Every time we indicated with our token that we were ready for another serving of meat, one or two servers would magically appear with a new selection. Even our water glasses were never allowed to be less than half full. It’s a little expensive, but if you have a big appetite and can eat all night, it’s a fun way to try a lot of different preparations of grilled meats and sample the sides. More than anything, it makes me want to brush up on my Portuguese and head back to Brazil.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Farmers' Market Menus

I don’t know if it’s possible to become addicted to visiting the farmers’ market, but I’m pretty close. It just doesn’t seem like the week goes quite right if we don’t make it to the farmers’ market on Sunday morning. It’s a great way to start the week, wandering up and down the rows, perusing all the variety of fruits and vegetables, tasting all the samples and just absorbing all the beautiful colors of the flowers and produce.

In addition to the nectarines, this was a good week for basil. The vendor where I usually buy a bush-size bundle of Thai basil for $1 each week had lemon basil this week as well. So I changed my routine and I’ve been using the lemon basil in pretty much everything. It adds a lovely, refreshing citrus flavor to salads and other dishes. I also bought three basil plants for my herb garden. I’m getting a late start this summer, but maybe I’ll have a variety of homegrown basils well into cold weather.

The menus for this week included:

Grilled feta burgers with fresh tomatoes
Sweet Onion Red Potato salad

Medley of mixed mushrooms, green beans, asparagus and peas over
Creamy polenta
Mixed green salad with artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes

Nectarine and tomato crostini
Grilled chicken
Grilled nectarines with adobo sauce
Corn pancakes

Grilled mahi mahi with Thai coconut sauce
Spicy Thai noodles
Sliced mango

The corn pancake recipe was a very pleasant surprise. It came from a magazine called Farmers’ Market Cookbook. When I mixed up the batter it just looked like a bowl full of corn and I didn’t think there was any way it would hold together and make a pancake. Surprise! They were great. Light and fluffy and very intensely flavored with the sweet fresh corn. This is my version that is approximately a half recipe since I’m only feeding the two of us. We still had 12 pancakes, even though the original recipe said 12 pancakes.

Corn Pancakes
Corn kernels from 3 ears fresh corn
½ c whole milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp butter, melted
½ c all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Crème fraiche

Cook kernels 1 minute in boiling salted water. Drain. Whisk together milk, egg and butter in bowl. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into separate bowl. Stir flour mixture into milk mixture, and fold in corn. Let batter rest 20 minutes. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Spoon batter into skillet into 4” pancakes. Cook until bottoms are set and golden. Flip and cook other side. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped chives.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Rest of the Nectarines

We're still eating those nectarines from the farmers’ market this week. So my challenge was to come up with multiple ways to use them in recipes. Not that I mind just eating them. The white ones are my favorites. That is, until the nectaplums arrive. Have you ever tried a nectaplum? None have shown up yet. I don't think they arrive until August. Cooking the nectarines was a challenge I set for myself.

I’ve been experimenting with crostini recipes lately, so I decided to try a nectarine crostini. I already had a La Brea Bakery garlic loaf on hand, so I didn’t buy a new baguette, I just cut the garlic loaf into small pieces. I was pretty satisfied with the outcome of the experiment.

Nectarine and Tomato Crostini

1 white nectarine, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 small red spring onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp chives, diced
Handful of arugula, chopped
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp high quality peppery extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp chili garlic paste
Redwood Hill Farm goat cheese feta, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

1Tbsp olive oil for toasting baguette

Slice baguette thinly and brush both sides with olive oil. Toast both sides lightly under broiler. Mix all other ingredients except feta cheese in small bowl. Top each toasted baguette slice with nectarine mixture. Broil until warm. Top with feta cheese to serve.

We also grilled some of the white nectarines. Larry strongly objected to cooking them, but he finally created a mixture of chopped adobo chili, apricot preserves, red wine vinegar, olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper to brush on the sliced nectarines. Just grill 2-3 minutes on each side. This was a perfect accompaniment with grilled chicken. I liked our experiments this week, but maybe next week I’ll just enjoy eating them in their natural perfection.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nectarine Season at Last

The stone fruits have been slow to ripen this year due to our unusually cool and wet spring. Finally this week, there were really sweet nectarines at the farmers’ market on Sunday. I tour and taste-test the entire market before making my selection. I don’t usually like yellow nectarines and I only recently learned that I like the white ones. But this week we discovered a new yellow hybrid that met my standard for sweetness. It will be a banner week for nectarines at our house with all that we purchased. The yellow hybrids were destined for our first attempt at gelato.

The gelato was Larry's endeavor. He used a recipe from Taste of Home magazine for peach gelato, but substituted the nectarines, threw in a peach and also swiped one of my favorite white nectarines when I wasn’t looking. With only the fruit and a little water simmering on the stove, it already smelled like a heavenly cobbler. I stuck my finger in the pureed fruit for a taste (no one but us will be eating it) and I could have just taken a spoon and eaten it as is. That’s one of the problems I have with cooking good fruit. It almost seems like desecration to cook or add to it. I just want to savor it in its purest form. But we’re making gelato here.

We used the ice cream maker we’ve had for years but rarely use. It's the kind you put the insert in the freezer. I'm still rather fond of the old-fashioned kind with all the salt and ice where everyone takes a turn at the crank. We have one of those, too, but we have never used it that I can remember. While the mixture was chilling, I looked up some other recipes for ice cream and gelato. They all seemed pretty much the same except for the fruit or flavor you choose to add. So I’m not sure what was supposed to make this recipe gelato, as opposed to ice cream. And sure enough, it was really ice cream. Tasty, nectarine ice cream. Definitely not what I would expect for gelato. But we enjoyed it all the same. We’ll have to experiment further on how to get my idea of gelato.

Celebrate Summer

I love summer food. After our ritual Sunday morning trip to the farmers’ market and before departing for the annual Independence Day BBQ with friends, we enjoyed a light summer lunch on the patio. I sometimes forget how delicious a simple meal can be. We had grilled chicken leftover from the barbecue we hosted Saturday night, Cypress Grove Chevre Purple Haze on crackers and fresh figs from the farmers market. The Purple Haze is a light sweet goat cheese with lavendar and fennel pollen. Along with the figs, it paired perfectly with a glass of Dry Creek Fume Blanc. Lunch was divine.

Saturday night’s barbecue was successful as well. We needed a fairly simple menu since we would be spending all afternoon at a memorial service and I knew all the prep had to be done in the morning. We served grilled chicken and shrimp marinated in a lemon juice/olive oil/garlic mixture with a chipotle chive aioli, melon salad, La Brea garlic bread and Larry’s favorite potato salad. Perfect menu for a hot summer evening. And we made authentic Brazilian caipirinhas. A caipirinha is a very refreshing drink made of sugar, cachaca (sugar cane liquor) and lime juice. Our friends, one of whom is half Brazilian, were very familiar with the “real” way to make caipirinhas with cashaca, not American substitutes like many restaurants tend to do. They enjoyed them without over-indulging.

The potato salad is Larry’s adaptation from a recipe in a Sunset recipe annual over 20 years ago, but he continues to get requests for it year after year.

Sweet Onion Red Potato Salad
3 lbs medium-sized, red thin-skinned potatoes
1 large mild, sweet onion, finely diced
3/4 cup finely diced celery
1 large Golden Delicious apple, cored and diced
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 ½ cup lite mayonnaise
1 tsp creamy Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

In a 4- to 5-quart pan, boil potatoes in 1-inch of  water over medium heat until tender when pierced, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and cool. Dice potatoes and put in large bowl. Add onions, celery, apple, and pickle relish.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Then spoon sauce over potato mixture and stir gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the next day. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

We had lingered at our friend's memorial service, and therefore our barbecue was a little behind schedule. I needed to create a  quick appetizer. Larry had returned from grocery shopping previously with Redwood Hill Farm Camellia cheese, which had not been on list, and I had never tried. So I cut off a slice, to see what I could do with it. Already a fan of RHF cheeses, this one was no exception. Camellia is a soft Camembert-style goat milk cheese with a mild, buttery flavor. I grabbed the apricot jam, chopped up some fresh basil to blend in and made a tangy spread to top the cheese. It was well received and quickly disappeared.

The afternoon and evening of the Fourth were spent at another excellent barbecue with our godchildren and their parents. Gib's famous ribs have been ingrained in our family's traditions for about 20 years. I'll share that another day.....

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Indian Flavors

After my success with the curried vegetable recipe, my friend Bina decided I need more education on Indian food – or either she likes it when I write about her! Once again, I arrived at work to find another homemade Indian meal sitting on my desk waiting for me to take home for dinner. This time it was a spicy ground turkey with peas and potatoes, naan and raita. And once again, it was delicious. I’m getting really spoiled having her cook for me.

A few days later, Bina was headed to the Indian grocery during lunch hour and said she would bring me her favorite frozen naan to try. She thinks it's almost as good as homemade. She later returned with three bags of groceries. “Is my naan in there somewhere? “ I inquired. All three bags of groceries were for me! She got carried away and brought me some of her favorite frozen Indian foods that she likes to keep on hand for when she's in a hurry or doesn’t feel like cooking. Bina says these are the real deal. And I know she’s particular, because once, when we dined in a well-known Indian restaurant, she kept pointing out the dishes that weren’t authentic.

So for dinner one night this week I served the frozen cauliflower masala dosa she had gifted me. You just heat it in the oven for 10 minutes and then I browned it further in a skillet on the stove for a few more minutes to make it crispier. It came with a green chutney that you thaw in the microwave. I was really surprised at how good this was since we don’t eat much frozen food. The masala dosa was very spicy, with authentic flavors and the chutney was a cool, refreshing accompaniment. Along with it, we made the Bihari Green Beans Masala recipe that was recently posted on The Wednesday Chef. Mine doesn't look quite like her photo, because I substituted slivered almonds for the sliced almonds, which changes the color. These two dishes definitely quenched my weekly craving for Indian food. And since our favorite Indian restaurant closed recently, I’m looking forward to trying more of Bina’s frozen treats and maybe I can even coax her into sharing more of her traditional family recipes.