Tuesday, June 23, 2015


By Marilyn Michael

Mmmm... Potato Salad!
If you grew up in America and your life experiences aren’t too far out of the ordinary, potato salad is a comfort food. Though commonly appearing in the summertime, for me, Christmas Eve comes to mind. It’s when we would open gifts and was always celebrated at my grandparent’s home. As the big holiday meal was the next day, a buffet was laid out for munching. The star of that buffet, at least in my mind, was my Grandma’s potato salad. My mouth waters as I think about it…the tang of cider vinegar the creaminess of added thick cream, mmmm. It truly celebrated the simple ingredients of potatoes, eggs and onions. 
As a young adult, I was not very inspired by cooking until a new friend offered to teach me how to prepare Indian cuisine. My Indian adventures making pulaos, curries and biryanis began to pique my interest in the broader adventure of creatively combining ingredients into something greater than the sum of their parts. In all my food-challenged years, though, I was known for my (my Grandma’s) potato salad. Its simplicity might have been the secret. There are as many potato salad recipes as there are American families. Many have odd and sundry ingredients like olives, pimentos, relish, pickles, you name it. And, have you ever had a restaurant potato salad beside a sandwich you’d ordered and wondered who in the world thought it had any taste worth serving? Now, I’m not going to pick on family food heritages, but my Grandma’s potato salad has never met a person who hasn’t found its creamy, tangy simplicity delicious. Most say so. It’s like ‘the essence of potato salad’ not cluttered with odd and sundry things for reasons of texture, or color or just automatically following the family’s oft made recipe. OK, I’m not insulting other potato salad recipes by calling them cluttered, but on a consistency scale, I bet my Grandma’s potato salad would be more universally well liked than other more “kitchen sink” versions.

I think it’s partly that the onions are chopped very fine, leaving almost an essence of onion with every bite rather than crunching down on an onion chunk every other bite or so. Also, the extra eggs, it’s a very eggy salad. You don’t have to wait for the pleasure of finding an egg chunk. And then the creaminess created by that quarter cup of unwhipped whip cream (or in my Grandma’s day, thick cream delivered by a local farmer). Its creamy texture creates a pleasing sensation in your mouth unlike some, more dry, potato salads where the potatoes are separate chunks barely blended. My only problem is that I can make the full recipe using 5 lbs. of potatoes and eat it all myself over several days.

My love of my Grandma’s potato salad has kept me uninterested for many years in ever making another version. But, the other day, I went to a potluck and, unbelievably, the desire to try a different potato salad overtook me. I munched on the proffered ‘unique to my taste buds’ version and couldn’t stop munching. How unusual and interesting it tasted. I knew it wouldn’t have the universal appeal of my Grandma’s potato salad, but it was quite the taste treat. I also knew several people, including my husband, who would really enjoy how it incorporated its unusual ingredient – wasabi (also called Japanese horseradish). Yes, that ‘take your breath away’ green paste mostly appearing in Japanese restaurants. Interestingly, it’s something you usually really love or you really don’t love. I’ve been in the camp of not loving it – but then I don’t hang out at sushi bars amidst where it’s served as an accoutrement. 
Here I was, though, savoring bite after bite of this intriguing take on potato salad. What was it? I had learned with Indian cuisine that often even stubbornly intrusive ingredients like cumin added in a blend of other spices do not assault the taste buds in the same way as when alone. Yes, I could still taste the wasabi but it blended somehow with the creaminess and other flavors and didn’t assault me as it does eaten straight. 
The long and short of this potato salad saga is that I actually made it, making a potato salad other than my Grandma’s for the first time in my life. It isn’t the comfort food staple that began on my childhood Christmas Eves but it intrigues my taste buds in a very pleasing way.

I requested the recipe from the gal who brought it and found that it’s available on the Internet. I cut it in half and left out the chives (I didn’t want to run them down) and parsley (I could never understand it but for some sundry green color). Here’s the link:

And, for a delicious, comfort food summer treat, here’s my maternal grandma’s potato salad recipe.

Ruth Allen’s Potato Salad

1 - 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into 2" chunks
2 teaspoons of salt (for boiling potatoes)
1 large sweet onion, chopped very fine
8 large eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
2 cups of Best Foods Mayonnaise
½ cup of cider vinegar
¼ cup of whipping cream or heavy cream (not whipped)
2 teaspoons of salt

Place eggs on to boil. When they are hardboiled, peel and place them in the refrigerator to cool. (I sometimes boil them with the potatoes.)

Bring 9 cups of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt. While heating water, peel all the potatoes and cut them for boiling. Add the potatoes to the boiling water just topping them and keep them boiling uncovered for around 15 minutes (a potato chunk should break easily in two when cut with a spoon.)

While the potatoes are boiling peel and very finely chop a large sweet onion. I have to use a food processor to get the right texture. Pulse so you don’t go too far and puree the onion.

Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool, ideally in the refrigerator.

In a very large bowl, slice the potatoes and eggs, mixing chunks together (the potatoes may be a little flaky.) Add the finely chopped onion, 2 cups of Best Foods Mayonnaise; slightly mix the mayonnaise into the ingredients. Add ¼ cup of whipping cream and continue mixing. When the potatoes and eggs are coated, add ½ cup cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well. It’s very creamy. It gets even better after sitting for a bit in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 1, 2015

By Barbara Winters

What state are affairs are we in when we go to the supermarket and willingly, without thought,

purchase powdered lemonade flavored drink mix. Sad.  Sad, sad, sad.

The weather, though awfully wet in my sector of the U.S. has turned to spring.  We're enjoying all sorts
of spring and summer food and activities.  People are so careful about their recipes for cookouts and barbecues, and yet,
they buy glorified Kool-Aid (or maybe real Kool-Aid), as a substitute for lemonade.

Anyone remember real lemonade?  You had to juice a lemon.  Or two.  And when it is just the right
combination of sweet and tart, you can't beat the refreshing taste.  It defines summer.

I had my mom's 1942 edition of the Betty Crocker Cook Book, and in it is the best ever lemonade
recipe.  I don't remember my mom ever making it, but I have made it many times.  I passed that cookbook
to my daughter, who learned to  make lemon meringue pie from its recipe.  Fortunately I remembered to write down 
how to make lemonade before it disappeared forever.

The first time my daughter made lemonade she was about eleven.  She had become interested about
what goes on in the kitchen and occasionally surprised us with the product.  (More about this in another post.)
I was busy doing some copy editing upstairs and she was in the kitchen, doing what I didn't know.
Soon she came with a glass of ice and opaquely yellow liquid.  "Mom, here!  I made lemonade!"
I was so proud of her, figuring this out on her own.  I took a deep sip of this lemon concoction and tried
to keep my composure as I had a reaction similar to having sipped chlorine bleach and the enamel on my teeth began slowly
 to dissolve.  "Honey? I finally choked out, "did you have a recipe for this?"  

"No! I figured it out!"  "How much sugar did you add?" I asked.  "Oh, a spoonful."

We learn from our mistakes, I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mrs Stewart telling us.   
She made those horribly embarrassing moments of  adolescence much better for many of us.  It's ok.  
We all do it.  Do better next time.  My daughter was  never daunted by the possibility of error.  She always 
did better next time.

When I had recovered we went downstairs and I had her take a sip herself.  "Oh," she said, wincing the lemon face
wince.  Then I pulled out Mom's cookbook and we went to work. 

Admittedly I don't make lemonade often, but when I do we slurp it up, enjoying the sweet-tart, icy cold goodness
that means summer time.  


5 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 quarts water

Juice the lemons and put aside.
Cut the rind into 1/2 inch slices, pour sugar over, and let sit for one hour.
Boil water; pour over sugar and lemon rinds.  
Cool for 20 minutes.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Remove rinds, strain reserved juice into the sugar mixture.
Stir well,  put into a pitcher and chill.  Pour over ice.