Potato Salad, My Way.

I believe in choice, my choice of potato salad being no exception. This choice is gut-driven and deeply personal.

The egg-rich salad insisted I use local eggs.

My grandmother made a simple potato salad that accompanied her fried chicken and hickory nut cake to our family reunions in Selma. She made that same salad when a tragedy befell a friend, the bowl of love left quietly on their porch.

My mother made the same salad that followed me through youth. I assumed that rightfully there would always be a Tupperware container of this piquant, cold, soul-satisying potato salad tucked into a corner of the fridge.

Pushing the yolks through a sieve is a technique I’d long since forgotten.

And, like so many things that one takes for granted,  I only realized its importance in times of crisis, when it was gone.  I knew the mayonnaise was made from scratch, but that’s about it. It was a taste, amongst so many other tastes, that I thought I’d lost forever.

I’ve tried to fall for other potato salads. Like a woman wandering the streets unattached, despondent, never attaching herself to a man because of the haunting ghost of a past lover –I’ve never tasted a potato salad worthy of my passion.

Making a mayo by hand is easier than you’d think..

A decade ago, I successfully recreated a similar old-school potato salad that also sniffed of buried treasure, reminding me of my college days in Michigan– Mashed Potato and Pickle Relish Salad.

Through the years I’ve blogged about other family’s favorite potato salads–A Tale of Potato Salad, my friend Susan’s family recipe for German Potato Salad.  It saddened me that attempts to recreate my own family’s  bare-boned, deceptively simple potato salad were failures.  Of late, I need my very own tater salad more than ever )-:

 My grandmother and mother–both instinctive cooks–  passed without penning a recipe. So I purchased the cookbook, “The Gift of Southern Cooking” by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. and hit pay dirt.

Opening it and thumbing through the recipes, I nearly cried with delight, especially when seeing their recipe for potato salad. This had to be the one! Chef Peacock  was raised in my era about three hours south from where I grew up in Alabama, and Chef Lewis in Virginia. Close enough.

They put egg yolks through a sieve, and stirred it into the mayo giving the salad an egg-rich, velvety mouth feel–just like my family did. I’d forgotten that technique. As expected, their mayonnaise was homemade and emulsified with a whisk–not a blender. For that satisfying depth of piquant flavor, they used  lemon juice AND apple cider vinegar–I’ve only used lemon juice in homemade mayo.

The times call for a throw-back dinner.

Out of necessity, I made a couple of changes to the recipe but it did not affect the final salad. Out of dry mustard, I used good Dijon, instead. (Trader Joe’s has a delicious, authentic Dijon, made in Dijon, France, of course.) I also used half of the onions as I was making the salad a day in advance to eating.  Raw onions bloom in recipes if not consumed on the day they are made. (Recipe below.)

During this crazy era we’re inhabiting, my taste buds are on full throttle nostalgia.  I served the salad cozied up to a grilled Delmonico. Hubby and I don’t often eat beef these days, and when we do, we don’t mess around. Here’s my absolute favorite way to grill steak.

What screams more of old-world steak house accompaniments than  a classic Wedge Salad? Of course, the salad is constructed atop the backbone of the least nutritious salad leaves available, with gobs of blue cheese dressing and chopped bacon piled atop–be still my heart–but that’s what makes it so delicious.

A fine bottle of Cab and, oh yes, my dreams were pandemic-free, filled with generous hugs, family reunions and ghosts from the past.

BOOK NEWS: My dear friend, Alison Ragsdale, has a new book out, DIGNITY AND GRACE.

A Scotswoman to the core, her books are set, primarily, in her mother-land, this being no exception. An Amazon review:

DIGNITY AND GRACE is the atmospheric, heartwarming story of a young woman retracing the steps of her mother’s last journey, on which she uncovers long buried secrets and difficult truths about the people she loves. Ragsdale confronts the emotionally charged issues of a tragic death with sensitivity, courage, and forgiveness.

This recipe is adapted from THE GIFT OF SOUTHERN COOKING’s recipe for Potato Salad.

Recipe: Potato Salad, My Way

Ingredients

  • 5 extra-large Yukon Gold potatoes (apx. 5-inches long X 3-inches wide)
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion*
  • 6 hard-cooked egg yolks, pushed through a fine sieve
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, preferably homemade (recipe follows)

*The original recipe calls for double the onions. (See above notes)

Instructions

  1. Scrub Potatoes, put them in a large pot and cover with water. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, until quite tender when pierce with a knife (but not bursting). Drain.
  2. When cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and place into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Toss with cider vinegar, onions and season to taste with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and a cup of the mayo. Carefully mix into the potatoes. Add additional mayo, to taste. (Leftover mayonnaise is a wonderful base to tuna fish salad or spooned onto summer tomatoes.)

Active time: 45 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 8 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe:Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt*
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or dry mustard
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups light oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

*Kosher salt may cause homemade mayonnaise to break. Sea salt dissolves more quickly and should eliminate that problem.

Instructions

  1. Place the vinegar, lemon juice , sea salt and mustard into a bowl, and whisk until mustard is dissolved. Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth.
  2. Initially, whisk the oil into the egg mixture, drop by drop. Then, slowly pour in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until you have a very thick emulsion and then whisk in the hot water. Refrigerated mayonnaise will keep seven to ten days, tightly covered and refrigerated.

Active Time: 10 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 1 1/2 cups

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A Smiling Bull And Other Silver Lining Observations

Crisis fatigue. Yep. It’s a thing. Especially this year as we’re unilaterally being overwhelmed by consistent and unrelenting pressures brought on by pandemic fallout and civil unrest. And then there are the normal life stressors to add to the mix, varying widely in degree from household to household.  Our hearts are heavy and tired.

The Big Green Egg:                                   A Great Pandemic Escape!

It’s challenging for me to stay informed, empathetic and helpful to my family and community while––at the same time––remaining physically healthy and clear-headed. In this collective crisis, insisting upon “me time” may sound churlish, but I must take regular station breaks––alone and away from the noise.

Escaping into a book, writing my next chapter and cooking the next meal—my whisk pounding against stainless in time to Pandora–are my panacea.

Most certainly walks are essential. Yesterday I passed by a bull, a couple of deer and a scampering wild turkey, none of them caring a whit about our mess. And then, above the apple orchard, I looked at the wide Michigan sky and thought of some quotes from my dog-eared copy of Matthew Quick’s novel, The Silver Linings Playbook:

“It hurts to look at the clouds, but it also helps, like most things that cause pain.”

“Most people lose the ability to see silver linings even though they are always there above us almost every day.”

When the bull smiled for my camera, I laughed out loud. Are smiling bulls also a thing? Maybe. I’ve enjoyed Laughing Cow Cheese most of my life.  I continued giggling for the duration of my walk––I’ve never had the privilege of earning a smile from livestock (-:

At home, I zoomed in on the frame, looking at the picture more carefully. What I thought to be a smile was simply a trick of reflection on his snout. But who cares? It is all about perspective and fed my soul a heaping slice of pleasure–a Silver Lining Moment.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce–don’t knock it ’till you try it!!!

As far as cooking these days, I’ve been minimized masked trips to the grocery store, and have been quite creative using up products in my cupboard and freezer.

But with summer spreading wings, I’m looking forward to getting back to my Big Green Egg. After reflecting on the smiling bull, however, it seems wrong to be posting meat recipes right now (-:

Here are two meatless recipes that I pull out year after year, this year certainly being no exception: Grilled Caesar Salad and Grilled Seafood Paella.

♥♥♥

Be safe, friends, and enjoy your Silver Lining Moments.

 

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How Mushrooms Are Keeping Me From Scratching Through The Walls

The other night I watched Louis Schwartzberg’s “Fantastic Fungi” and then dreamed I was living in a dense, surreal, Disneyish forest of mushrooms. Yep. Covid quarantine may be getting to me, but after that movie, I’ll never look at a mushroom––or tree, for that matter––in the same light.

Fascinating, educational and absolutely entertaining, the movie described the complex mycelium earthscape beneath our feet. As Jeannette Catsouis wrote for The New York Times, “Louie Schwartzberg’s lightly informative, delightfully kooky documentary, “Fantastic Fungi,” offers nothing less than a model for planetary survival.

Baked Turnips with Spinach, Blue Cheese, Walnuts

Baked Turnips with Spinach, Blue Cheese, Walnuts

Which got me craving, and thus including, a variety of mushrooms on my last masked trip to the grocery. Here are my three favorite vegetarian recipes featuring mushrooms that I’ve made time and time again.

Pictured above are Buckwheat Crepes stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Watercress and Goat Cheese, and to the right, a heavenly recipe for Baked Turnips stuffed with Mushrooms, Spinach and Blue Cheese. And I can’t forget a lovely citrusy and thyme-scented recipe for Lemony Pasta with Mushrooms and Thyme, pictured below.

Lemony Pasta with Mushrooms and Thyme

Lemony Pasta with Mushrooms and Thyme

The movie also delved into the ancient rituals and hallucinatory properties of  Psilocybin mushrooms, which are intriguing.

Although I’ve never confessed this to any of my contemporary peers––much less in a  forever out there WordPress blog––I tried Psilocybin mushrooms back in the early seventies. I was an experimental eater even then.

It was back in high school, English class, 1973. We were studying Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, or some similar ode to the natural world, and my friend (I won’t disclose her name) passed me a note, which read: “Take a bite and wait ’till night. The mushrooms undo your mind, sometimes.

I shrugged, but accepted her gift of a ‘shroom after class.  Later that evening, after dinner, I ingested the mushroom in the confines of my bedroom. The rest of the night was spent under my bed, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It was an experience I don’t ever wish to recreate, and I was lucky to survive–reality is enough of a mind-bender for me.

Ahem. Clearly, physical partitions erected during Covid solitude have obliterated boundaries while blogging.

Frivolity aside, be well, friends. With the nicer weather, I’m paying more attention than ever to safe behavior practices. Here’s a  non-food related article, “Scratching on the Walls” I wrote for “Women Writers, Women’s Books”, that was recently published on how I’m coping when not commandeering a sauté pan.

♥♥♥

By the way, I’m one of the authors in a lovely Facebook group, Blue Sky Book Chat, which I’ve mentioned before.

We’ve just begun a free monthly newsletter, which you might fancy receiving. It’s will be a glass-half-full bite including bookish news and other amusing tidbits. Sign-up for our newsletter and get a recipe book PDF with some of our favorite dishes (-:

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