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Sweet Summer Raspberries

July 30th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

If I had any say in the matter, I would wish to line the road to Heaven with wild summer raspberry bushes.

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There is nothing more rewarding and satisfying on a warm morning in late July to find the narrow country road upon which you’re walking lined with loaded wild raspberry patches. I was back-tracking on the road, having first traversed it’s dusty and worn tire tracks to the end where it meets the noisy highway, weaving along behind the properties that dot the lakeshore around our cabin when I suddenly lifted my nose to the wind and thought to myself  ‘I smell raspberries!’

I should have had a clue from the mass of deer tracks in the mud by the road that something was amiss in that area, but upon closer inspection, I saw the red orbs hiding deep within their brambly branches. The deer, and the delightful scent had led my eyes to the right spot. The ditch dipped away from under my feet, a steep incline on both sides that was littered with thick slabs of sharp shale, partially covered with tall grass,  and dangerous underfoot. I couldn’t reach to the farthest those branches spread, and gazed longingly at the dark red fruit hanging just out of reach. With a gentle hand drawing back the thorns, I pulled free what I could, and then moved on.

Barely 50 yards further down the road, with the sun high, another broad patch of berries caught my eye. This one was more accessible, hovering slightly under a stand of wild apple trees, the ditch was flatter and more easily stepped through without fear of slipping. And it was full of fruit. My bare legs bore the brunt of careless foraging among the thorns, but my mouth was leading the way. The fruit, at once warm and tart where the sun played on it all day long to sweet and cool underneath the canopy of trees, was abundant, deep shades of dark reddish purple and perfectly ripe. Just lifting the branches caused many of the berries to simply let go, falling to the undergrowth, and the ones that I could cup my fingers around fell easily into my hand. Their sweet flavor burst over my tongue, the purest taste of raspberry that one can get, with a memorable hint from the humid touch of our lake and the very grasses in which they grew present in almost every bite. In many spots the berries were as big as the end of my thumb; others they were miniscule, hardly more than that half a dozen tiny spores, but swollen with summer goodness and thick with the essence of late July. I walked among the bushes, plucking, lifting, slurping and sweating, brushing aimlessly at the lazy buzzing flies, my eyes riveted on the bushes for the next spot to pounce upon.

Among the Bee Balm, Crown Vetch, Indian Paintbrush, Black-Eyed Susan and thick woodland ferns, the bounty rose undisturbed under my feet, save for the lucky birds and a trio of Does and their Fawns that I startled out of their morning snack. The Does gazed at me, indignation apparent in their faces as I plundered their stash; the Fawns, with their huge startled eyes and flashing puffy white tails glanced about nervously, eyes darting from their mothers to me as if to say ‘Aren’t we supposed to run or something??’ I quietly slipped away from them, hoping they would just return to the same enjoyment that I was having, and since I didn’t hear the thunderous crash of their hooves through the woods, I imagine they did. Why wouldn’t they?

Wouldn’t you?
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Along the whole length of road, I wove back and forth, my eyes trained on the ditches in order to not miss one stand of bush. With each handful passed to my mouth, my thirst sated with their endless juice and the sunshine pouring down on my head, I almost felt like I was drunk with my bounty, filled to bursting with the very flavor of summer. When I finally emerged onto the paved road that led to our cabin, stuffed with fruit and drenched in sweat, I had to heave a huge sigh of contentment. The wind had picked up, some thick puffy clouds were dragging themselves lazily across the abundance of blue sky overhead, and across the road from our place, a field of amber wheat waved carelessly, paths rippling across the top of the grain sheaths in endless and hypnotic patterns. I longed to just drop into the tall grass with a sigh and take it all in, the parade of summer that passes far too quickly. Instead I retired to our screen porch to watch the lake pulse and dance from the touch of the wind, with a happy raspberry filled tummy.

Regrouping….again (with a recipe)

July 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

My goodness, I’ve been MIA on the food posts for a week!! What in heaven’s name have I been doing? Playing hooky in the summer sunshine? Ah, sadly no….

Picnics in the gentle July breezes? No again……

Oh yeah….. *sigh*
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Despite it being high summer, where sunshine and warmth and summer vegetables should be in abundance, instead we’ve had copious rainfall (a good thing, according to my crunchy grass) cool temperatures and a totaled Audi, our best and most reliable vehicle.

Thankfully no one was hurt. Both Mike and Griffin were in the car and have some very minor whiplash, both completely treatable, but the poor car was a total wreck. The frame was badly bent, the cargo area crushed, the fender pushed under against the wheels and the entire back end twisted to the right due to an unattentive driver who rear-ended it. Our insurance settlement was fair and very favorable, now it’s on to focusing our intentions to the purchase of a new vehicle. We loved this Audi, the A6 wagon, and fully intend to get another one, a newer model with lower mileage. Already we’ve seen some very promising vehicles. And once again, when faced with something difficult and trying, the outcome could have been so much worse and we’re really so very fortunate and blessed in that regard.

So there’s been my focus for the past week. The Audi was my car primarily, and having to clean it out and leave it at the salvage yard was like saying goodbye forever to a trusted and reliable friend. While it’s only a chunk of metal, I really loved it, and it was as close to a dream car as I’ve ever owned so for a day or two I simply felt heartbroken.

Dinners have been almost an afterthought, and even when effort was made they remained pretty simple; grilled chicken, delicious chicken sausages stuffed with hearty portobella mushroom chunks, some of the first summer sweet corn, grilled eggplant and zucchini and still, lots of hearty summer salads made with tons of fresh vegetables and the nicest greens found from the farmers market. We’ve done BLT’S, making Griffin nearly dance with joy over the prospect of BACON for dinner, but now that he’s off for a week of service with his youth group, Mike and I, once again, declared the house a Meat-Free Zone.

And to celebrate, I made Quinoa, rich with a hearty helping of fresh vegetables.

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This was one of those dishes made out of the odds and ends that accumulate over a short window of time in your fridge from various meals. I couldn’t possibly create it in this same way again, but the idea of it is open to infinite possibilities. All you need is cooked quinoa for the base and the rest is up to your taste, imagination and whatever leftovers you have on hand.

What did go in to this version was about half a chopped red pepper, a clove of thinly sliced garlic, an ear of leftover sweet corn, two slices of grilled eggplant and about four of grilled zucchini (i’ve been crazy for grilled veggies lately- maybe because of my spiffy new grill???) , the remains of two store-bought deli salads left from a party, half an avocado and four slices of tomato. It didn’t need any seasoning but salt and pepper.

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It was a nice dish to enjoy in the company of an attentive and interested cat too….
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This isn’t a whole lot different from what I posted recently….my apologies if repetition annoys you but that post brought forth a few inquiries that were deemed noteworthy to address,  so here’s a few good tips……

Cooking quinoa:
Measure 1-1/2 cups of water into a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mesh colander, rinse 1 cup of quinoa well, lifting it with your fingers to make sure it gets saturated. Quinoa is a very dusty grain, and although most commercially available sources have already removed the bitter saponin from the outer husk, a thorough rinse is always recommended. When the water boils, add the washed grain and cover the pan, bring it back to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The water should be absorbed and small ‘eyes’ will have appeared in the top of the grain. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes or more to steam. I’ve left the grain for up to half an hour once cooked with no issues. Steaming is necessary to ‘finish’ the process.

Grilling Vegetables:
I’ve had several queries lately about how I grill vegetables, and this will mainly cover eggplant and zucchini as those are my most current obsession.  The key to cooking eggplant is NOT to add too much oil. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb an enormous amount of oil which is then released when cooked, turning the vegetable to mush. I cut the eggplant into thick slices and brush one side only with olive oil, usually seasoned with dried basil and garlic. Resist the urge to add more. For zucchini, I cut them into long slices, and as thick as possible. This will vary depending on their size. I brush them with a bit of seasoned oil as well, then sprinkle them all with sea salt and a little pepper and a nice dousing of McCormick’s Parmesan Herb seasoning mix. (this is optional, but it’s pretty darn good)

I use a gas grill, and this is my method:
Heat your grill on high until it’s good and hot, then scrub your grates well with a stiff wire brush. I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to keeping my grill grates clean, but it keeps them from getting anything gunky or off-tasting on my food. Once they’re scrubbed, using a pair of tongs, dip a wad of paper towel into some cooking oil- I use canola- and wipe the grates well to prepare them. The more you scrub them off, the more you need to season. Turn down the heat to low- remember, it’s already really hot- and then place the vegetables oiled side down on the grates and shut the lid. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 3-5 minutes but keep an eye on them. The edges should be curling slightly or showing wrinkles, then flip them over and allow to cook on the other side for about five minutes more. They should be soft but not soggy, and have some nice grill marks.

This is really amazing

July 25th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0&hl=en&fs=1&]

This was done by a local couple about a month ago in St. Paul. It’s so awe-inspiring, joyful and free. A guaranteed smile-maker!

Recovery from eating?

July 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments »

Really? You need to recover from eatng? In my family, for certain, and probably in many of yours too. Families are just like that. When you get together, across generations and siblings and cousins, there is certainly a lot of good eating. Any gathering of Mike’s large clan is always a celebration of food.

In this place especially.

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Our lake home, the beloved Loveless; Summer weekends are most often spent within it’s well worn walls, following the same rituals and routines each year, only with bigger kids at each passing season. The food is always good and there’s plenty of it. My everyday food needs are usually not followed as diligently when I am there as it would most likely mean making a meal completely different from what everyone else will eat. I’m not particularly interested in doing that when there’s relaxing, boating, sunning, snoozing and hanging out with cutie pies like these.

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*sigh* Don’t you just love little girls in jammies with bed head, framed by morning Summer sunshine? That’s Nina (17 mos) on the left and 4-year old Bella on the right, the two youngest cousins.

For this particular weekend, the place was jammed, hopping with activity, chatter, games, some indignant tears and cries of  “No FAIR!!!” (always, always happens) as well as lots of good boating. My nephew Joe, age six, got up on his wakeboard for the first time and the smiles were miles wide at that achievement.

Breakfast is my favorite meal to make when we’re at the lake. I always make pancakes because they are crowd friendly and endlessly versatile, maybe some kind of meat and plenty of fresh fruit.

Griffin always enjoys a plate of fluffy pancakes.

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Apparently taking lessons from his cousin Matt on how best to eat Kate’s breakfasts.

weekend funD 029Usually, by the time we head home from a weekend’s respite overlooking Loveless, with peaceful quiet nights and sleepy mornings with plenty of dark coffee and good conversation on the screen porch,  my tummy is crying out for relief from the excessive and usually heavier food than I’m used to eating. I have been collecting a lot of very simple, easy and light summer recipes lately, the kind that require little else besides the bounty of produce available now and a few quick spices or seasonings.

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These ultra quick Chipotle Black Beans came together in about 5 minutes. We keep canned chipotles on hand for our burritos, and they add a warm and spicy kick to black beans, red onion, garlic and tomato. Stir in some chili powder, cumin and cilantro and give it an hour in the fridge and you’ve got a healthy side dish guaranteed to start you back to better eating.

Chipotle Spiced Black Beans
adapted slightly from Eating Well magazine

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed well
2-3 t. canned chipotles in adobo, minced fine (add as much or as little as desired to your heat level)
1/3 c. minced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. chili powder
1-2 t. ground cumin seed (use standard ground cumin in same measure)
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 c. minced cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well, mashing some of the beans slightly with your spoon. Taste and season with salt, if desired, and pepper. Chill in refrigerator for an hour or so, and stir to blend flavors just prior to serving. We served this with rice topped with cubed avocado and mesquite grilled chicken.

Glorious Greens, part 2

July 15th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

So you want to hear something that sounds a little weird to me? I like beets, and not only do I like beets, but I absolutely LOVE beet greens. I think I can officially be called a grown-up now. I think….

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Anyway, why is this such a revelation? Due to the fact that just a few short years ago, I couldn’t be persuaded to even consider the beet, it stands to reason that for me to kindly elbow my way to the front of my favorite Farmers Market organic vendor and snatch the last bunch of his bi-colored beets off the table is little short of miraculous. What’s more miraculous is that he is but one of only a few vendors that I see at my local weekly stops that A) actually has beets other than red ones, B) has beets with stunningly gorgeous greens and C) has beets with the green still attached, period.

Why farmers hack off those nutrient rich leaves I’ll never know. Beet greens are nutritional powerhouses, chock full of Vitamins A, B-6 and C, antioxidants like beta carotene and lutein and they are full of fiber, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. There’s no saturated fat and no cholesterol in beet greens, and with a quick saute and a few seasonings, you get a delicious option for your plate. A cup of greens will set you back a measly 10 calories or so.

I recently experimented with Spinach Pesto, much to our delight (and Griffin’s chagrin) and so it wasn’t without much thought that I considered another go-round of Pesto with the slowly growing pile of beet greens that I was accumulating. A quick search for recipes or methods turned up little on actually making a Pesto with the greens, and not like it’s much to consider what with a food processor, some good olive oil, a little garlic and a few seasonings, that I would be well on my way to a glistening dish of green goodness without much of a recipe to follow. Pesto is pesto…. the method is still the same.  I knew the greens couldn’t be used raw like spinach can, so I decided a quick sauté was in order.

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I decided to use caramelized leek and garlic as a good base for this pesto, something that would have a lot of flavor to stand up to the commanding taste of the beet green. After a slow saute to a deep golden brown, I dropped the beet greens into the same pan, stirring and tossing them with the hot leeks, and watched carefully to get them to a point of losing their crunchy texture, but not so far as to make them fully cooked. I left them dark green with some toothsome bite, then scraped them onto a baking sheet to cool. The whole thing was placed in the food processor, with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then whizzed to the perfect consistency.

Wow. This is one amazing flavor, let me tell you. Perfect for pasta, as would be expected, but also good for spreading on my favorite herb flatbread and topping with an array of roasted and julienned beets, a drizzle of good herb vinaigrette and a sprinkle of nuts.

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Perfect Herb Flatbread

1- 3/4 c. AP flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2-3 T. fresh herb of choice
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. good quality olive oil

Heat oven to 450° and place a round baking stone in oven.

Blend dry ingredients, including herbs together in a bowl. Slowly add water and oil and blend until a somewhat stiff dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead gently about 4 or 5 times to pull the dough together. Roll into a large 10-12″ circle with a rolling pin, sprinkle with sea salt and a drizzle of oil and place, with parchment, on heated stone. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned in some spots. Remove from oven and cool. Do not leave on baking stone or it will continue to bake!

Dough can be divided into smaller portions and rolled out separately to smaller circles.

If you don’t have a baking stone, place the dough (on the parchment) right onto the rack of your oven. It may come out a little rippled.

I roasted these beets, wrapped in foil and in a 400° oven until they were nice and tender. The skins slip right off once cooled and they keep for several days in the fridge.

This girl is a happy chef

July 10th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Anyone remember this?

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Ok, so I’m not trying to compare myself with some crazy looking statue….one that’s squatting, for goodness sakes, but yesterday was a day to make me one utterly happy and excited home chef.

I got a brand new grill!

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Our old grill hung around for nearly seven years, but should have been replaced at least two years ago. The shield over the burners was corroded and crumbling, it didn’t heat or cook evenly and the ignition was busted, requiring a torchiere to light it every time. The burners were not very well protected, and a strong wind would blow out the flames if you weren’t paying attention. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous a running propane tank can be now, do I?

This grill is the same that resides at our lake home. We loved it so much that as soon as we spotted it on sale this year we snatched one for home. It has a huge cooking area.
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The four burners are highly conductive, providing even heat all around. The grates are super sturdy cast iron, and it provides terrific conditions for indirect cooking or smoking methods. It’s also fully protected, and despite strong breezes off the lake it has never been snuffed out by the wind.

There’s also a lip at the edge of the grates so that nothing can roll or slip off.
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This is perfect if you, like we do, regularly grill hot dogs or bratwurst. Nothing like a little crunchy grit on the ol’ dogs, huh?

So, with a bounty of produce from the Farmer’s Market and a kid-free evening, I made this amazing Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad for Mike and I. The summer night wasn’t all that warm, but the salad was perfect; light, flavorful and simple, not to mention just chock full of nutrition. Our tummies were so very happy!

It started with some perfectly roasted gold beets.
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Some delightful grilled zucchini…

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I added in roasted red pepper, cubed fresh mozzarella and half of an avocado.

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Drizzled it with lemon juice and some good olive oil, seasoning with fresh ground pepper and a bit of Penzeys Shallot salt.

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And served it with quinoa, topped with unsalted roasted almonds.

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Variations are endless with this fresh and wonderful salad. I thought some chickpeas might make a nice touch. You could try a more southwestern touch with the seasonings, like cumin, chili powder or chipotle powder, use roasted poblanos or jalapenos,  stir in some black beans and use lime juice instead of lemon. Eggplant would be a nice addition too, as it grills up some beautifully. If you like raw onion, use some minced red. Add some goat cheese or feta instead of the fresh mozzarella. Grilled tomato or sweet onions would also be delightful. Millet, wheatberries or possibly even barley would make a good substitute for the quinoa.

Regardless, it’s a terrific, light and easy summer option for the abundance of summer produce, and those warm and muggy nights.

Potato Salad Nostalgia

July 8th, 2009 | 7 Comments »

If you had asked me a week ago if I liked potato salad, I probably would have done some type of combination eye roll with a detestable smirk to show you in no uncertain terms how much I really can’t be bothered with all that cold potato with mayo and god knows what else kind of food that is everywhere this time of year.

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And oh, I would have been so wrong but really, give me a moment to get you up to speed on the saga of Potato Salad In My Life. I’m sure when I’m done you’ll understand the reason behind that particular face I was prone to making.

You see, Potato Salad was everywhere when I was a kid. Everywhere. My mom made it all the time -always the same way- for every picnic or family gathering we had, and in our extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and the 10 cousins, we gathered often. There was always potato salad. We always had a big hunk dumped on our plates and were expected to eat it. This was the 70′s. We were supposed to sup without question and usually when Mom was out of earshot, someone inevitably would make gagging noises and shove the mess aside, or maybe if it was a certain bespectacled scrawny little dark blonde girl, she would eat the hard-boiled eggs off her portion, maybe one piece of potato, but never a radish and then muck up the rest in an effort to look like she at least tried.  Who me? Well, yeah, probably.

Potato salad. Just the words conjure up images of gloppy yellowed blobs of indistinguishable potato, maybe a piece of celery or egg, certainly nothing that anyone ever leaps on in ecstasy, eyes sparkling for joy kind of way. Yet if there is one thing that makes for the most impassioned arguments or a hotly tested debate it’s the humble potato salad. People are nothing if not vocal about how it MUST be done; vinegar based or mayo, mustard or not, eggs- some say yuck, to others it’s a must- and celery, of course. Wax spuds or russets? Colored or not? Boiled, baked, roasted, grilled…..just doing an Internet search for ‘potato salad’ not only gets you forty-trillion recipes, but several lengthy and impassioned debates, some with plenty of CAPS!!! to indicate their point.

Gah. It’s a potato. And a salad.

But back to Mom’s, the salad that wouldn’t die. And can my sibs help me out here? Did Mom actually like the potato salad or did she just make it because everyone expected her to bring it? I seem to recall a lot of grumbling when it was being made (oh wait… that might have been me) and not a lot of excitement.

Then comes last week, the day that a not so unusual dish of potato salad landed on the counter at a pool party I attended, whereas I scooped up a small amount and raised the first bite to my mouth, utterly without any expectation, delight or joy at all and it positively bowled me over in how it brought back such a rush of memory that I could almost hear my Mom’s laughter again. Me, who got so sick of potato salad that I just about cringe when I even hear the words; me, who to this day, despite loving cold cooked potato with a simple sprinkle of salt never ever wants them mixed with mayo, I had to quick email my sister and ask her to help me remember how to make Mom’s Potato Salad because suddenly I had to have some or I might have had a little meltdown.

Me and meltdowns…..so not pretty. I do what I can to avoid them at all costs.

And talk about recipe karma…..Kris named the simple ingredients that she remembered- potato, radish, celery, cooked egg, mayo and Durkee’s Famous Sauce. Season with salt and pepper, please. That was it, and it was all available in my kitchen. Before the day was out I was staring at a bowl of perfect cooked potato dressed in a simple mix, with colorful radish and ca-runchy celery. I took a bite.

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It was all I could do not to break down in tears right then. The wave of nostalgia that came over me was overwhelming; sweet and lovely but almost paralyzing in it’s sadness. I scorned this dish growing up, and crossed my blue eyes at my Mom so many times that I’m sure she never looked straight at me when she announced her intention to make this dish in order to NOT see me do that AGAIN, her precious #5 of 5, making faces at her. I mocked it, mushed it, stuck my tongue out at it and gagged at the very idea of it. Then I shunned it for decades, somehow convinced my life would be just fine, thank you very much, because I don’t want Potato Salad. I don’t like Potato Salad. Oh how very wrong I was. And how so very sorry I am that I was like that to her.

Now I’m sure that this won’t be my BFF for long. God knows I probably don’t have enough tears in me to continue making this all summer but it was so perfect and easy to pull from the fridge to serve alongside our BLT’S, or BLATZ as I likened to refer to the mile- high creation on my plate….  what’s that you ask? Why, it’s bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato and grilled zucchini.  Delicious in it’s own right, but amazing next to this potato salad.

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Kate’s Mom’s Potato Salad

(weights and amounts are approximate- you will know best how much to use)

2# potato of choice, scrubbed with skin on
1-2 stalks of celery, sliced fine (amount depends on your love of the ca-RONCH factor)
4-6 radishes, scrubbed and sliced thin (again with the ca-RONCH deal)
2-3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 c. real mayo
1/4 c. Durkee’s Famous Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until a fork slips in easily. Time will be dependent on size and type. Drain, reserving some of the potato water and sprinkle with sea salt while still hot. Toss slightly and sprinkle on more salt. Allow to cool and dice or slice to your liking. Leave the skins on.

Mix potato, celery and radish in a large bowl. Combine the mayo and Durkees and drizzle about 1/8 c. (or 3 T.)  of the potato water into it, then whisk to emulsify. The starch in the potato water will help the dressing stick better. Pour half over the potato mix and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it. Add more dressing if you like it creamier, or more salt and pepper. Add the eggs and fold in gently. Serve at room temp or cover and chill thoroughly.

KATE’S NOTES:
Why yes, you do spot bacon in the photos above. While the original recipe does not call for bacon, I had some on hand and added a crumbled piece to see how it would be. What can’t be improved with bacon? Wait, don’t answer that!

The bacon was OK, but not perfect. And I am aghast to say it, but it’s true. The salad just doesn’t need it, and it isn’t Mom’s Potato Salad any other way.

My apologies for running away

July 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments »

So this is how I am, hmm? Wax philosophic about blogging for three years and then vamoose for parts unknown? Some ‘reach out and touch someone’ blogger I am. In my absence I have been astonished, overwhelmed and sometimes moved to tears by your comments and I hope I adequately thanked you individually for your support, your love and your unimaginable kindness. You, dear readers, are the ‘raison d’etre’ that keeps me chug-chug- chugging along.

But I’ll tell you, I needed escape in a big way. I went to our lake home, a mere hour’s drive from where I reside in real time but eons of light years away in terms of the ultimate escape, proving that you don’t need to go far to leave it all behind.  Remember Mike’s broken back? The huge perspective shift? It’s been six weeks and he’s doing pretty well, but the constant vigil that I have laid down in order to help him has drained away a large portion of the ‘Me’ that makes me who I am. And in the empathy that I feel for him, I sense every wince of pain, every ache and twinge and see the frustration in his eyes in dealing with his limitations and it wears on me. It’s love, plain and simple; nothing he hasn’t done for me in spades, but still,  I needed to recharge my batteries.

After a few days of feeding all of our souls (again) with this beautiful face,

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I took my leave…..

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And Loveless Lake, in Western Wisconsin was just the place I needed. It’s been at the heart of my life with Mike in so many ways; we shared our first kiss there, I fell in love with him (and his family) there and we announced to everyone that we were getting married on the beloved screen porch to shouts of riotous cheer. It’s in my blood, my very bones. And this summer, with Mike’s back injury and the often rotten weather, I just haven’t been there as much as I need to- and I need to;  my heart has missed its solace, the sunsets and the ripple of the water, lulling the harshness of life out of me and replacing it with a steadier pulse. A glass of wine is often more indulgent on the deck at sunset, and coffee just never tastes so good as it does on the screen porch as the new day unfolds over the backyard and the first ripples touch the glass surface of the water. The smell of the lake, the call of the Oriole in the evergreens…..I need it like oxygen. And food.

And I need time away to just cook a few simple and favorite things- food for me, for my restoration. It always changes when I go, depending on the time of year and my current tastes. I craved fresh fruit and more greens- rabbit that I am- but I also wanted meats, like a good steak and some bacon. And I shamelessly wanted to be selfish. The steak, generously rubbed with a spicy jalapeno and garlic rub, was sputtering and so delightfully charred and burnished as it came off the grill that I couldn’t manage a photo before my knife and fork tackled it forcefully. It was  more rare than I ever imagine myself eating, still I contemplatively devoured each bite, delighting in the flavor, and the solitude as a gentle rain shower left it’s fragrance outside the open patio door. My bacon served it’s purpose across many meals, most notably atop a crispy slice of ciabatta, toasted on the grill and smeared with natural grainy peanut butter for a delicious and decadent breakfast treat.

What else did I do? Well, I watched the resident eagle fish for it’s breakfast; the great blue heron survey the water as the eager English Spaniel several doors down kept vigil over it from the dock. I spied hummingbirds on the lakeshore plantings. I stared at the leaping flames of an aromatic fire for a very very long time with nary a muscle twitch, nodding off in my chair outside and awoke, most likely just a few minutes later to a heavy splash in the water behind me, the flames still crackling, barely a few feet from where I was dozing.

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Seriously!? I fell asleep outside by the campfire. Honestly, if I could have I would wrap up in blankets and sleep under the stars. I indulged too, in that simplest of campfire offerings.

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I listened to the chipmunks chatter and chase each other around the yard, and I walked. I walked in casual pace along a gravel road, the peace of a Tuesday morning held tight around me, touched by cool breezes in the refreshing morning air. I listened to the wind, sipped another cup of coffee and napped if I felt like it. I absorbed ‘Treasure Island’, losing myself in Jim Hawkins’ narrative, cursing the fickle Long John Silver, cheering the bravery.  By all accounts, I disappeared; and I’ve never wanted it so much. Some people crave chocolate, or ice cream; I wanted uninterrupted time to just be me.

But I’m trying to refocus now on another round of blogging; I’m scheming, making plans and thinking about summer’s bounty. After a delightful holiday weekend, most likely back at Loveless, life will resume some semblance of normal, hopefully, and the blog will be back on it’s sumptuous feet. Thanks for your patience.