Good Ole American Potato Salad

Good Ole American Potato Salad

I got inspired this 4th of July to make a good ole American potato salad as part of the day’s festivities. It’s so easy to make with fresh ingredients rather than buying the pre-made grocery store stuff. The original inspiration came from my mother-in-law’s recipe. The recipe below yields about 8 -10 servings.

It's nice to know what goes into your potato salad.

It’s nice to know what goes into your potato salad.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds of potatoes (preferably new potatoes or red skinned potatoes which have less starch and more sugars which them better for boiling vs. russet/baking potatoes which are higher in starch and are better for mashed or baked potatoes.
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs diced
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ of a medium/large white or Vidalia onion grated
  • 2 stalks of celery finely diced
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • Paprika for on top when serving
Mixing all the Ingredients Together.

Mixing all the Ingredients Together.

Preparation:

  • Wash the potatoes and boil with skins on.  Let cool.
  • Peel potatoes
  • Slice or cube potatoes and place in bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients except the paprika.
  • Gently mix together.
  • Make salt and pepper corrections.
  • Serve and sprinkle the top with Paprika.
  • The American Flag on top is optional.
Good Ole American Potato Salad

Good Ole American Potato Salad

Chow Down!

Happy 4th of July!

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Mi Chimichurri Es Tu Chimichurri

My friends have been after my Chimichurri sauce recipe for a while now. I have experimented with various recipes over the years and have finally put the following recipe in writing.

Parsley, Green Onion, Cilantro, Garlic, and Lemon and more.

Parsley, Green Onion, Cilantro, Garlic, and Lemon and more.

Chimichurri is a sauce originally from Argentina and is widely used in Latin America cuisine. It is a herb sauce used on grilled meats, both as a marinade and as a finishing sauce. The origin of the word has two possible explanations. One is that the word came from the Basque region of Spain, from the Basque word tmimitxurri, which translates “a mixture of things in no particular order”. The other explanation is that the word originated during the English invasion of the Rio de la Plata Region of Argentina when the prisoners of war would request condiments for the food and say “che, mi curry” where “che” is an Argentinian expression for friend or man so it would translate to “ hey man my curry”.

There are many variations of chimichurri. Some use parsley as the main herb, some add oregano, and others use cilantro and parsley. I like to use cilantro, parsley, and green onion. I also like to make my sauce thicker with more of a dipping sauce consistency. My family loves chicken with chimichurri sauce. I brine the chicken (a recipe soon to come), I then pan fry or grill the chicken, cut it into cubes, and then we dip the chicken into the sauce. Alternatively, you can cook the chicken breast and when ready to serve drizzle the chimichurri on top.

My recipe makes about 1 ½ cup to 2 cups of chimichurri sauce. The sauce freezes very well, so what we don’t use in the first serving, I place in an appropriate container, label, and freeze for later use. When I defrost the sauce, I let it come to room temperature and then serve it. The sauce is never heated.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro or about 3 – 4 cups (can keep some of the stems)
  • 1 Bunch of Flat Italian Parsley or about 3 – 4 cups (remove most of the stems)
  • 3 Green onions chopped  (about 1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar (I like the fruitiness of the cider vinegar but you can use red wine vinegar as well)
  • 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice (about the juice of 1 lemon depending on size)
  • 1 tsp. of salt (or more if needed)
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper (or more if needed)
  • Optional ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • Optional red pepper flakes if you want a kick
  • ¾ cup of canola oil

Preparation:

Place all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. As you start mixing, slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture.

Mix all ingredients except oil in food processor.

Mix all ingredients except oil in food processor.

When everything looks well chopped and mixed with the oil remove and place in serving dish.

Slowly add oil as the food processor is chopping.

Slowly add oil as the food processor is chopping.

Serve as a dipping sauce or drizzle over meat, pork, or chicken.  Chimichurri can also be used as a marinade.

Mi Chimichurri

Mi Chimichurri

Buen Provecho!

Cannellini Bean Soup with Sausage

If you are looking for a hardy family meal then try this easy to make cannellini (white  bean) soup with sausage. I prefer to use fresh herbs but dry herbs will work fine. I prepare the sausage in the same pot that I will eventually make the soup in. For extra flavor I save some of the sausage pan drippings and saute the mirepoix* in it.

Fresh rosemary and thyme

Fresh rosemary and thyme

Serves 4 – 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots diced
  • 2 stalks of celery diced
  • 1 medium onion or 1½ cup of onion diced
  • 6 chicken or turkey sausages (pork or chorizo) cooked then sliced
  • 1 tsp saved pan drippings from the sausages
  • 1 tsp canola oil (or 2 tsp if discarding pan drippings)
  • 3 – 15 oz or 400 gm cans of white beans (cannellini beans) with their liquid
  • 1 ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs fresh rosemary chopped or 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 ½ tsp fresh thyme chopped or ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Sauté sausages in a “pot” at medium heat. This is the same pot in which the soup will be prepared. When sausages are partially cooked, slice them, and return them to the pot to complete cooking. Once the sausages are cooked set aside.

Partially cook the sausage, slice, then continue cooking.

Partially cook the sausage, slice, then continue cooking.

For extra flavor, save 1 tsp of pan drippings in the pot and add a teaspoon of canola oil. If you prefer not to use the pan drippings then add 2 teaspoon of canola oil to the pot. Heat up oil and/or pan drippings. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté on medium heat. Lightly salt the mirepoix. Sauté uncovered for about 2 minutes, cover, and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

The mirepoix cooking in the sausage pan drippings

The mirepoix cooking in the sausage pan drippings

Add the beans with their liquid and the chicken broth. Add rosemary and thyme herbs.

Add the Cannellini Beans

Add the Cannellini Beans

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Reserve one cup of the bean soup. Place the rest of the soup in a blender and blend until creamy. Return to pot and add the 1 cup of reserved bean soup.

Add salt and pepper.

Reheat sausage slices.

Reheat the Sausage

Reheat the Sausage

Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sausage slices. Accompany with delicious crusty bread and salad.

Cannellini Bean with Rosemary Soup with Sausage

Cannellini Bean with Rosemary Soup with Sausage

This is recipe can be made ahead of time.

*Mirepoix is the term used of the mix of diced onion, celery, and carrot. Generally, the mix is about 50% onion, 25% celery, and 25% carrot.  Some stores sell already prepared fresh mirepoix. This may save you time when preparing this soup.

Note: If you are using chicken or turkey sausages you may need to cook them with additional canola oil.

Note: Omit the sausage and this soup makes a delicious vegetarian meal.

You Don’t Have to Be Italian to Make Homemade Italian Sauce and Meatballs

Pomodori

Pomodori

I have always loved Italian food. The closest I came to authentic Italian food as a child was eating at my parent’s Italian-Argentinian friend’s home. Their lasagna was to die for. There was always pizza from the local Queens or Brooklyn pizzeria. Then there was the annual trek with my parents to the San Gennaro feast in Little Italy in New York City every September. We would eat Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches and greasy delicious zeppole (fried dough). But even San Gennaro did not answer my prayers for I continued to live in an Italian food deprived home and continued to be fed Italian sauce out of jars for many years to come. Especially coming from a Colombian home where Italian food was defined by: catsup used as a substitute for Italian sauce, canned tuna fish added to spaghetti with catsup (one of my abuelita’s favorite, not mine), Ellio’s frozen pizza, and where arroz and papas (rice and potatoes) ruled over pasta, oh, and if there was pasta it was in Hamburger Helper. Mamma Mia! What to make of my early culinary influences!

Fast forward to when I met my future mother-in-law who happens to be of Hungarian, Scottish, and German descent. When she married a 100% Italian American she learned to cook delicious traditional Italian meals and added these to her northern European cooking repertoire. When I first had Italian sauce and meatballs at their home I was surprised to hear them say, “Pass the gravy”. Italian Americans from New Jersey refer to their Italian sauce as gravy. I also learned that although my mother-in-law worked full-time back then, she always made her gravy from scratch. Why would she buy gravy in a jar if making it from scratch, was so easy, better tasting, and less expensive. It took me years to accept this axiom. During my working career years and before children it still made sense to me to just open a jar of Prego sauce. Then came the children with their finicky ways and we quickly learned that they only liked white pasta (no red sauce in it). Finally, two different forces collided in the universe: our children miraculously started eating “red” sauce, and I had a moment of culinary enlightenment. I could make a more nutritious sauce, hide vegetables like carrot in it, make it free of additives and preservatives, make it with less sodium and sugars, and in general better tasting and healthier. And henceforth I started making homemade Italian sauce. My recipe varies each time I make it. Sometimes I use “a little of this or a little of that”.  You are welcome to get creative with the recipe.  I sometimes make the meatballs or sauté some Italian sausages and add them to the sauce. Other times we go vegetarian and have the sauce with roasted vegetables or by itself. And perhaps, why not, I should add some Tonno (Tuna Fish) to it.  

Mangia e Buon Appetito!

My Italian Sauce and Meatballs

My Italian Sauce and Meatballs

Il mio Sugo di Pomodoro con Polpette di carne

English Translation: My Italian Tomato Sauce with Meatballs

New Jersey English: My Italian Tomato Gravy with Meatballs

Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce/Gravy)

Making sauce is as simple as the two pictures below.

The Basic Ingredients

The Basic Ingredients

The herbs and spices

The herbs and spices

This recipe makes approximately 8 servings. I usually make the meatball recipe as well. I like to serve it to our family of four. This recipe makes excellent leftovers. I prefer to freeze the leftovers and enjoy another meal of Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs at a later date. When I freeze foods I make sure I use an airtight container and that I label the container with the description and date.

A note about tomatoes: If it is not tomato season (July & August in the northern hemisphere) then the next best option is to use canned (tinned) tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are stewed and canned when they are fresh. However, if you grew 15 tomato plants like my husband did three summers ago, and ended up with an 80 lb. harvest, then you’ll have to learn to stew and can your own tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs Olive oil
  • 2 – 800 gm/28 oz cans plum tomatoes
  • 1 onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 carrots cut in ½ inch cubes or slices
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic minced (use more if you like garlic)
  • 1 red pepper diced (optional)
  • ½ to 1 Tbs dried oregano (can use fresh sprigs)
  • ½ to 1 Tbs dried basil (can use fresh sprigs)
  • 1 good handful of fresh Italian Parsley (flat)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs sugar (This is optional, but I feel that it balances the acidity of the tomatoes and you are still using a lot less sugars than store-bought jars)
  • ¼ tsp – ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup of red wine (optional) Use good wine, do not use cooking wine.
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Preparation

– Heat olive oil in large pot.
– Add onion, garlic, carrot, and red pepper to pan. Sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, then reduce to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Sweat the vegetables.

DSC_4501

Sweat the vegetables.

– Open cans of tomatoes, pour into onion/carrot/garlic mix. Note: Break up tomatoes with your hand as you pour them in or pour them and then break them up with a wooden spoon.

– Make a bouquet garni (bundle of herbs) with the bay leaf and fresh parsley. If you are using fresh basil and oregano sprigs add them to the bouquet garni.  Place in the sauce.  If using dried herbs add them to the mix.  Add Sugar. Add the wine and red pepper flakes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

DSC_4508

Add bouquet garni, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper.

– Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes

Cool for 10 minutes.

– Use immersion blender or blender to blend until smooth. If you like your sauce with some chunks, just blend part way.

Blend smooth

Blend smooth

– Keep sauce in pan. Make any corrections for seasoning.
– Make meatballs. See recipe below.

Polpette di Carne (Meatballs)

Makes approximately 28,  1 ½-inch to 2-inch meatballs.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground meat – I like to mix 1 lb of ground beef with either 1 lb of ground turkey or ground pork.
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ to 1 cup parsley coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic cut in half
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs

Preparation

– Add to a food processor: eggs, parsley, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt, and black pepper. Blend and make a purée. The reason I started making a purée was to hide all the herbs and garlic from our children when they were little. I still make the purée because I find it so much easier to blend the ingredients together with the meat.

Making puree of egg, cheese, parsley, and garlic.

Making puree of egg, cheese, parsley, and garlic.

– Place the ground meat in a large bowl and break up.

– Add the egg parsley purée.

– Add the bread crumbs

Add the puree and breadcrumbs to meat.

Add the puree and breadcrumbs to meat.

– Mix together gently.

Mix together gently.

Mix together gently.

– Assemble the meatballs. When you assemble the meatballs, handle the meat gently, and keep the meat loose. Don’t squish together the meat to form hard compressed balls. That will toughen the meatballs.

Assemble the meatballs gently

Assemble the meatballs gently

And here is where my recipe varies from others. I do not bake or fry the meatballs. I drop them raw into the red sauce and allow them to cook in the sauce. This saves preparation time and imparts additional flavors to the sauce.

– Bring the Tomato Sauce back to temperature and drop the meatballs into the sauce. Make sure they are covered in sauce.

Bring sauce to temperature, and drop the raw meatballs in the sauce.

Bring sauce to temperature, and drop the raw meatballs in the sauce.

– Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour to 1½ hour. The longer you let the sauce simmer the more flavorful it will become.

Simmer for 1 hour

Simmer for 1 hour

– Serve over a bowl of spaghetti or your favorite type of pasta

For further reading: About San Gennaro feast in New York City:

http://gonyc.about.com/od/autumninnewyork/a/san_gennaro.htm 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feast_of_San_Gennaro

Great Italian food website my husband discovered: 

http://www.italianfoodforever.com/

Before the food network was popular we watched cooking shows on PBS. One of our favorite Italian chefs was Mary Ann Esposito, on the show Ciao Italia, which celebrates its 23rd year this year, making it the longest running cooking series in America. http://www.ciaoitalia.com/recipes

For some history of Italian food: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall10/hoppner_v/history.html

Colombian Kheema Matar

 

Kheema Matar – Ground (Minced) Meat and Peas

A Story of Food, Friendship, and Finicky Eaters

When we lived in Westport, CT one of our dearest and closest friends were from India. We spent countless evenings talking, laughing, dancing, drinking, and mainly eating. Some gatherings were planned and others were very spontaneous. We would telephone each other and the next thing we knew we would have planned a feast of Indian, Colombian, and/or American foods with whatever ingredients were in our houses. The beauty of having friends from different cultures is that as we get to know each other we come to the realization that we have much more in common than we think. As my girlfriend and I cooked together we realized how similar Colombian and Indian food was. Sure, there were differences, but more often than not, she would identify a Colombian dish I’d make with an equivalent Indian dish and visa versa.

My children were finicky eaters when they were young. There was a New York Times Article in 2007 that explained how being a picky eater was a “genetic” trait. My children took after my husband who had also been a picky eater as a child and had outgrown this trait. At the time, my children’s main diet consisted of pasta with white sauce (no red sauce), chicken nuggets, and mac-n-cheese with a limited selection of vegetables. Being the foodies and cooks that both my husband and I are, we made countless attempts to try to get the children to sample new foods and to eat what we cooked for the adults at home but these efforts were in vain. Then one day my friend made Kheema matar, which is an Indian ground meat and pea dish. It is typically made with ground lamb but she had used ground beef that evening. She used beef because she knew I was not very fond of lamb. (who’s the finicky eater now!) The dish is beautifully seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, hot pepper, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, and garam masala (more on this later).

Coriander, Cumin & Cayenne

To my surprise, my children ate the Kheema at her house that night. I don’t know why they ate it since it was so different to what they typically liked, was it that food always tastes better at other people’s houses, were they being polite and obedient and doing as they were told, or was it the magic combination of flavors that woke up their taste buds. Whatever it was, that Kheema dish was a turning point for our family. It marked the beginning of the changes in our home cooking and my children’s eating habits. I looked up my Madhur Jaffrey Indian cook book, made some adjustments to her Kheema Matar recipe, and made it a family staple. It opened up a whole new world of adventurous eating for my children and a gradual farewell to their culinary finickiness. It also made my life easier. I could now cook one meal for the whole family. And as many of you know, this is HUGE!! Sure, I initially hid some of the ingredients by blending or food processing them, something I no longer need to do. But even today, I have kept some of these techniques out of convenience. I prefer to food process a bunch of onion, garlic, and ginger than dice it.

We moved from Westport, CT to West Chester, PA and missed our friends terribly. We have visited each other over the years. We now live in London so it’s even harder to get together. The thing we missed the most was the spontaneity of our gatherings and the culinary experiences we shared.

So below I share my version of Kheema Matar. It is a recipe of delicious comfort food that brings back wonderful memories of our friends in Westport. It is a recipe of a meal that marked a pivotal moment for our family cooking and of the triumphant accomplishment of a mother who finally got her children to move beyond “white pasta”. Today, our 14 and 13-year-old children are foodies-in-training developing amazingly sophisticated palates. This makes my husband and I very happy because now the whole family can share and enjoy exciting culinary adventures together.

Kheema Matar by a Colombian

My cooking technique reflects more of an American/Colombian style. This dish is relatively mild but you can add more spice and more heat as you like. If you have never cooked “Indian”, this is a great introductory recipe.

Ingredients

Serves 6 – 8 (great as left overs)

  • ½ Large Onion (4 – 6 oz)
  • 7 – 8 garlic cloves
  • 1” – 1 ½“ of fresh ginger, peeled cut  into 4 pieces
  • ½  to 1 hot green or red pepper
  • 2 oz. of water
  • 2 Tbs Canola Oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz. of water
  • 2 lbs of Ground Meat (you can mix ground beef with ground chicken or turkey)
  • 10 oz. frozen peas defrosted ( I like to be generous with the peas)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 – 2 lemons juiced (or limes if that is all you have)

Method 

  • Begin by making a paste with the first five ingredients.

Make a Paste with:
Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Hot Red Pepper, and Water

  • Then heat the oil, and stir fry the paste for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Add the ground coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and sauté for 1 -2 minutes.
  • Add the additional 4 oz. of water and the ground meat.  Stir, bring to a boil, lower the temperature, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

The Paste with Ground Meat

  • Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add peas, cilantro, garam masala, and salt.

Add the Lemon Juice

  • Adjust salt if needed.
  • Serve with white or Basmati rice.

Extra Tips

GingerI like to buy fresh ginger. With the skin on I cut the ginger into 1 ½ “ pieces. I wrap the individual pieces in plastic wrap, I place the pieces in a small freezer plastic bag and freeze them. When I am ready to use, I pull out however many pieces I need, I defrost them for a couple of minutes, peel, and prepare as needed. I always have fresh ginger available for use.

Cilantro: I buy a fresh bouquet of cilantro. I place it in a container with water as soon as I get home. I store it in the refrigerator. It keeps for up to two weeks. Remember to check the water level in the container.

SeasoningsYou should be able to find ground cumin, cayenne pepper, and ground coriander at a regular food store. However, garam masala is a special indian blend of spices that you may only find in an Indian store or specialty store. There are many types of garam masalas. A typical garam masala is a blend of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns, and nutmeg.  If you live in a big city you’ll have ample access to these more exotic ingredients. But do not fret, if you live in the US you can order spices from Penzey’s online.  http://www.penzeys.com/

RiceWe eat a lot of rice in our home. I love to use a rice cooker because I get perfect rice each time. I put the rice in the pot, add water, and salt and program the cooker for when I need my rice.

About picky eaters being a genetic trait:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/dining/10pick.html?pagewanted=all          

Guacamole, A Family Affair

There is nothing more delicious than freshly made guacamole and it’s so easy to prepare. Our family loves cooking together and we often make guacamole. Recently, my son, Connor, who loves to help in the kitchen with anything that involves chopping, helped prepare the onion and smashed the guacamole. My husband, Curt, and daughter, Clara, the family photographers, helped stage the photo shoot.

And well, Maya of course helped by making sure that the floors remained free of any food particles.

Vacuum Cleaner Extraordinaire

Our Family Guacamole Recipe

Ingredients

– 2 Hass avocados: cut, peeled, and smashed 

– ¼ to ½ of a medium onion depending on how much onion flavor you like (I use yellow or red onion): finely chopped

– ½ to  cup of fresh cilantro: chopped 

– 1 to 2 limes depending on their size: squeezed 

– ¼ to ½ of a jalapeño pepper or hot red pepper (depending on how hot you want your guacamole): finely chopped. If you don’t have fresh peppers then use a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce.

– Salt to taste: Be generous
Note: There is no mayonnaise or sour cream added to an authentic guacamole recipe.

Preparation and Tips

I like to buy avocados that can be ripened at home. They start out feeling hard to the touch and are a very dark green color. Over a few days they will ripen, feel softer to the touch, and the skin will turn dark brown. If I feel the avocados are ripened but I am not ready to use them then I store them in the refrigerator for later use.

First I cut the avocados in half lengthwise…

Then I quarter them…

Then I peel the skin off. When an avocado is perfectly ripened the skin should peel off easily.

 Then I cut the avocado quarters, place the pieces in a bowl, and smash.

I add the rest of the ingredients, the chopped onion, cilantro, hot pepper, lime juice, and salt to taste.

I mix well. I am very generous with the salt.

I plate the guacamole…

 And serve.

Fresh Guacamole

The Mexican Molcajete

In our US home, I mix the ingredients in our “molcajete”, a Mexican mortar and pestle made from lava rock. You can also prepare salsas or grind spices in them. It is said that molcajetes impart a special flavor to the food prepared in it. We hand carried our very large and heavy molcajete back from Mexico eleven years ago and only spent ten dollars on it. I have seen them available on Amazon.com ranging in price from $18 – $60 depending on the size. It’s a great way to prepare and serve guacamole.

A Mexican Molcajete
A mortar and pestle carved out of lava rock